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Title: Love of the Wild
Author: McKishnie, Archie P.
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: “She took the rifle once again, and glanced at the boy.”]



                          Love  of  the  Wild

                                   BY

                          ARCHIE P. McKISHNIE


                        M. A. DONOHUE & COMPANY
                   CHICAGO                  NEW YORK



                          Copyright, 1910, by
                        Desmond FitzGerald, Inc.
                          _All Right Reserved_


                            Made in U. S. A.



                                CONTENTS

          CHAPTER                                           PAGE
               I. THE WORLD OF THE UNTAMED                     1
              II. GLOW AND GLOSS                              10
             III. THE BABES IN THE WOOD                       18
              IV. BUSHWHACKERS’ PLACE                         26
               V. COMRADES OF THE HARDWOODS                   35
              VI. THE GO-BETWEEN                              44
             VII. WHERE THE BROOK AND RIVER MEET              53
            VIII. THROUGH THE DEEP WOOD                       64
              IX. AND THE TWILIGHT                            75
               X. COLONEL HALLIBUT                            82
              XI. THE WILD OF THE WILD                        95
             XII. INJUN NOAH                                 107
            XIII. ON THE CREEK PATH                          115
             XIV. PAISLEY RECONNOITERS                       122
              XV. WAR TACTICS                                132
             XVI. PREPARING FOR THE LOGGIN’                  145
            XVII. THE LOGGIN’-BEE                            155
           XVIII. OLD BETSY                                  170
             XIX. OF THE TRIBE OF BROADCROOK                 183
              XX. MR. SMYTHE VISITS THE COLONEL              196
             XXI. WIDOW ROSS BACKSLIDES                      209
            XXII. THE SHOT IN THE DARK                       222
           XXIII. IN THE FIRE CIRCLE                         232
            XXIV. THE NIGHT ATTACK                           240
             XXV. AND THE DAY AFTER                          254
            XXVI. IN THE MANACLES OF WINTER                  267
           XXVII. WHILE THE RAIN FELL                        277
          XXVIII. A CLEAR TRAIL                              285
            XXIX. BLUE SKIES AND A CLOUD                     295
             XXX. THE DAWN OF A NEW DAY                      310
            XXXI. A MATING TIME                              318



                            Love of the Wild



                               CHAPTER I
                        The World of the Untamed


The hazy October sunlight sifted through the trees and lay, here and
there, golden bits of carpet on the mossy woodland. A glossy black
squirrel paused on one of these splashes of sunlight, and, sitting
erect, preened his long fur; then as the harsh scolding of a red
squirrel fell on his ears he sank on all fours again, and bounded into
the heavy shadows of the wood. A pair of pursuing red squirrels sprang
from an opposite grove and with shrill chidings crossed the open to the
snake fence. By taking this fence they might intercept the quarry’s
flight, their object being to make short work of the black, whom they
hated with an hereditary hatred harking back to the dim past.

In and out they flashed, their yellow-red bodies painting zigzag streaks
of gold upon the forest background of green. Suddenly they halted and
with tails slashing angrily poured out a tirade of abuse upon the human
frustrator of their designs.

He stood leaning against the fence, his young face moody, his eyes
focused somberly on the new schoolhouse with its unpainted boards,
hanging to the face of the hill across the creek. He turned now, his
tall form erect, accusation in his glance. Nineteen years among the wild
of the wild had schooled him in the knowledge of signs such as that
which confronted him, and which were forerunners of the tragedies so
numerous in the wooded fastness. “So you would, eh?” he grated, “you
little murderers, you.”

At the sound of his voice the male squirrel, less courageous than his
mate, sprang to earth and scurried up a scraggy beech. The female, not
to be cheated out of her wicked pleasure, attempted the old ruse of
dropping to the bottom rail of the fence and darting past the boy in
this way. But the boy had learned the ways of squirrels as he had
learned the ways of all the things of the wild, and as the little animal
sprang forward his tall body bent earthward. A muffled squeal came from
the buckskin cap he held in his hand, and when he arose his brown
fingers nipped the animal securely by the back of its neck.

“So it’s you who’ve been drivin’ the black squirrels out of the bush?”
he said. “Well, you won’t drive any more out, I guess. You’ve had your
last run except the one me and pup’ll give you, and that won’t be a very
long one. Here, Joe,” he called, “come here, old feller; I’ve got
something for you.”

From the far end of a long fallow came loping a gaunt Irish setter. He
hurled his shaggy form upward, but the boy held the prize out of his
reach.

“Come into the clearin’ and we’ll have a chase, pup,” he said. They
passed over to an open spot in the wood and the boy turned the captive
about so that it faced him.

“Now, Joe,” he said, “I’ll just——” He broke off and stood gazing at
the animal which had ceased to struggle and now hung passive, its little
heart throbbing under its white breast-fur.

“Joe,” whispered the boy, “she’s got young ’uns somewhere.”

The dog sprawled on the warm moss and rolled over and over.

“I reckon some little codgers’ll be missin’ their mammy, pup.”

Joe cocked his ears and looked up at his master.

“They’ll be lookin’ to see her maybe by now,—but,” savagely, “ain’t
never goin’ to see her no more.”

The squirrel twisted and attempted to dig its long yellow teeth into the
hand that held it prisoner.

“She’s just like everythin’ else that has babies,” frowned the lad,
“savage and foolish. Here, you,” he called to the dog, “where are you
goin’, Joe?”

The setter was trotting slowly away.

“What’s got into him, I wonder,” muttered the young man; “never knowed
Joe to run away from sport before, unless it was that time the old
she-’coon slashed his nose, after we’d cut down her tree and found her
babies.”

Once more he turned the animal about and looked into its big soft eyes.

“I’m goin’ to give you another chance,” he said. “Pup don’t seem to
hanker for your life, and I guess if a dog thinks that way about it I
ought to think the same way. It’s a mighty good thing for you that
you’ve got young ’uns. And now, you thievin’, murderin’ little
devil—get.”

He tossed the squirrel on the moss. The frantic thing crouched for a
second, then sprang away and sought the sheltering branches of a nearby
tree. From this secure refuge she cursed the boy viciously in squirrel
language. The boy nodded, then scowled.

“You’re quite welcome, I’m sure,” he said, and cramming his hands deep
into the pockets of his buckskin trousers he walked thoughtfully back to
his old post.

Slowly he climbed the fence and perched himself on its topmost rail, his
knees drawn up, his chin sunk in his hands. Once more he gazed somberly
across the stumpy clearing to the new schoolhouse on the hill. He hated
it; hated the brazen sound of its bell. Mentally he combated it as he
combated other elements of civilization. All the young soul of him
rebelled against what he considered the defacing of Nature. Those wide
swaths which man had mowed through the forest to him meant no
advancement. They were scars made by interlopers upon the face of a
great sweet mother. Nature had endowed the boy’s spirit with her own
moods. His soul held the shadows of her quiet places as it retained the
records of her swishing songs of trees and waterfalls. He knew no order
save that of the great Brotherhood of the Untamed. His was a broad
kingdom. It was being usurped and would soon be a toppling power.

Moody and unmoving be sat until the gold splashes crept from the open
spaces of the wood and the patches of the yellow-tops of the slashing
turned from yellow to bronze-brown and from bronze-brown to gray. A
covey of brown quail scurried from a tangled patch of rag-weed to a dry
water-run, to scuttle, a long animated line, to the thicket of sumach.
Far down in the corner of the fallow another scattered brood were
voicing the shrill, mellow call of retreat, and all throughout the
darkening wood there sounded the medley of harmonious voices of wild
things in twilight song. Only in the soul of the boy was there a discord
that rose and fell and disturbed an old-time restfulness that had been
his for nineteen years. Perhaps the indefinable something that whispered
to him pitied him also, for resentment and combativeness sank away from
his heart with the hazy glow of day. Like his great Wild that nestled in
the peace of twilight, his soul threw off its struggles and seemed to
rest. When darkness came he climbed down from the fence. Through the
forest-trees murmured the low song of early night-breezes, and to him
they voiced a prophecy. Something brushed against him, and the boy bent
down and drew the shaggy head of a dog over against his breast.

“Damn ’em,” he cried chokingly, and shook a clenched fist toward the
swaths of civilization. Then slowly he passed out into the darkness, the
dog at his heels.

At the edge of the hill he halted and gazed down the long dark hollow of
the creek-bed to where a white splash of water slept beneath the rising
moon. All along the wooded vista whip-poor-wills piped their wakeful
joy-notes, and the musical whistle of migrating woodcock made a shrill
treble note to the harsher wing-song of incoming wild ducks. Dew-mists,
laden with the scent of dead leaves and moldy woods, crept to him, and
he breathed the sweetness in long, sensuous breaths. But all the while
the boy looked toward the bay and the golden trail of moonlight across
it, to the uneven, scrag-line of Point aux Pins Forest, and wondered
vaguely at the savagery of civilization that sought, as it was seeking,
to destroy God’s life and beauty.

A pair of woodcock arose from a swale and passed between him and the
water. Against the moonlight their bronze breasts flashed out for a
second and faded, and their mellow wing-notes reverberated dyingly from
the shadow. Right across their track a flock of ducks came speeding,
their goal the reedy ponds of Rond Eau Bay.

“Joe,” the young man said wistfully, “it’s funny, isn’t it, now? Some
goin’ and some comin’. Woodcock flyin’ south ’cause they hate the cold;
ducks flyin’ north ’cause they love it.”

They passed on, the dog taking the lead. At the edge of a wide clearing
they paused alert. The dim outline of a log-house lay before them. From
the windows streamed the glow of candlelight. Across the open from the
house a figure was advancing, and to the dog’s low growl the boy chided
a whispered, “Be still, Joe.” When the figure came close to where they
waited the boy stepped out and stood before it. His arms were folded
tight across his breast and his mouth narrowed to a thin line.

“Did you tell her?” he questioned quietly. The tall man thus accosted
stepped back with a startled exclamation.

“Well, Boy McTavish, is it you?”

Young McTavish half crouched, then quickly drew himself up again.

“Yes, it’s me, teacher,” he said. “What I want to know is, did you tell
her?”

“Yes, I told her.”

“All right, get out of my way, then.”

“Wait a moment, Boy,” returned the man. “You understand, don’t you, that
it is my duty to report all pupils who do not attend school regularly?”

The boy changed his position so that the moonlight would fall full upon
the face of the man before him.

“Do you suppose I care for your reportin’ me?”

The tone was wondering, contemptuous.

“Why, teacher, you can’t hurt me, and you know it. Do you suppose I was
thinkin’ of myself when I asked you not to tell her? And do you suppose
any _man_ would have done what you’ve done?”

“Hush,” warned the other, “I can’t let you talk to me in this way, Boy.
Remember who I am. I won’t have it, I say.”

“Well, I can’t see how you’re goin’ to help it. I want to tell you
somethin’, Mr. Simpson, and you’ve got to listen. Don’t you move or by
God I’ll sic Joe on to you. I’m goin’ to tell you again what I told you
before. Ma’s sick in bed and maybe she ain’t never goin’ to get up no
more. I told you that, remember?”

“Yes, you told me that—well?”

“Well, she’s been thinkin’ that I’ve been to school and you and me know
I haven’t. I couldn’t stay in your school and live, but I was willin’ to
take the hick’ry or anythin’ you said, if you wouldn’t tell her.”

The teacher was silent.

“Pup,” said the boy, “see that he answers up better.”

The dog growled, and the man spoke quickly.

“I was only doing my duty.”

“And it’s your duty to tell a dyin’ mother that her boy’s goin’ to
hell—I say goin’ to hell, and her so near the other place? Do you call
that duty?” demanded the boy bitterly.

The moon floated further into the open, lighting up the two; the boy
erect and accusing with the shaggy dog beside him, and the tall man
before them in an attitude half defiant, half ashamed.

“I didn’t quite understand, Boy,” apologized Simpson. “I am sorry;
believe me, I am. No, I didn’t understand.”

“And you never will understand. You’re maybe all right in your own
world, teacher, but you ain’t at home in ours. You don’t fit this place,
and there ain’t no use of your ever tryin’ to understand it or us.
Teacher, you take my advice—go back to the clearin’.”

The boy spoke slowly, weighing each word and closely watching the face
upon which the white moonlight fell. It was a young face, not many years
older than his own. But it was weak and conceited. It grew sullen now,
as the significance of young McTavish’s words became apparent.

The man turned toward the path to the creek, and the boy stood tall and
straight before him.

“Of course, you understand why us Bushwhackers can’t just be friends
with you, teacher,” said the boy. “It’s because you are one of
_them_—and they are doin’ all they can to break into our little world.”

He pointed toward the open.

“Out there is where they belong; them and you. Go back there, teacher,
and tell _them_ to go. It’s best, I tell you—best for everybody.”

Away down across the clearing on the far bank of the creek, a burst of
yellow-red light fluctuated against the skies, and the metallic ring of
a saw twanged out, silencing the whip-poor-will’s call. Colonel
Hallibut’s mill was running overtime. All this stimulated that
restlessness that had lately been born in the soul of the young
Bushwhacker. He stepped out from the shadow and shook his fist at the
red glow.

“Damn ’em,” he cried. And paying no heed to the figure which stood, with
bowed head, on the path, he stepped away across the clearing toward the
pale light streaming from the log-house window.



                               CHAPTER II
                             Glow and Gloss


Boy opened the door and passed silently inside. Beside the wide
fireplace the long gaunt figure of a man was bent almost double. He had
a thick shock of sandy hair tinged with gray. His bewhiskered face was
hidden behind tobacco-smoke. A time-stained fiddle lay across his knee,
his sock feet rested on the hickory fender, and the ruddy glow of the
log fire threw a grotesque shadow of him against the whitewashed wall. A
pair of high cowhide boots, newly greased and shiny, rested on his one
side, while a piece of white second-growth hickory, crudely shaped to
the form of an ax-handle, lay on the other. In one corner of the room a
bunch of rusty rat-traps lay, and across deer antlers on the wall hung a
long rifle, a short one, and a double-barreled fowling-piece.

The lad simply glanced at the man without speaking, and taking the
dipper and wash-basin from the bench, passed outside again. When he
re-entered, a girl of about eighteen years of age was pouring tea from a
pewter pot into a tin cup. Her face was toward him, and a smile chased
the shadow from the lad’s face as his eyes rested upon it. He dried his
hands on the rough towel hanging on the door, and crossed over to the
table. He drew back the stool, hesitated, and asked of the girl in a low
tone:

“Is she sleepin’, Gloss?”

The girl shook her head. Her hair was chestnut-brown and hung below her
waist in a long, thick braid. Her eyes were large, gray, and long-lashed
like a fawn’s.

“You’d best not go in yet, Boy,” she said. “Granny’s readin’ her the
chapter now.”

“I’ll just go in for a minute, I guess.”

He entered the inner room and stood gazing across at the low bed upon
which a wasted form rested. An old woman sat beside the bed, a book in
her blue-veined hands. When she closed the book, Boy advanced slowly and
stood beside the bed.

“Are you feelin’ some better, ma?” he inquired gently.

“Yes, Boy, better. I’ll soon be well.”

He understood, and he held the hot hand, stretched out to him, in both
his own.

“You’re not nigh as well as you was this mornin’,” he said hesitatingly;
“I guess I know the reason.”

She did not reply, but lay with her eyes closed, and Boy saw tears creep
down the white cheeks. He spoke fiercely.

“He threatened as he’d do it, and he did——”

He checked himself, biting the words off with a click of his white
teeth.

“I know just what he told you, ma. I know all he told you, and he didn’t
lie none. I haven’t been to his school. I can’t go to his school. I’ve
tried my best to stay ’cause I knowed you wanted me to. But I go wild. I
can’t stay still inside like that and be in prison. It chokes me, I tell
you. I don’t want more learnin’ than I have. I can read and write and
figure. You taught me that, and I learned from you ’cause—’cause——”

His voice faltered and feebly the mother drew him down beside her on the
bed.

“Poor old Boy,” she soothed tenderly, smoothing the dark curls back from
his forehead; then sorrowfully, “I wonder why you should hate that for
which so many people are striving?”

“Don’t, ma—don’t speak about it. You know we talked it all over before.
You called it enlightenment, you remember? I don’t want enlightenment. I
hate it. I’ll fight it away from me, and I’ll have to fight it—and
_them_.”

He shuddered, and she held him tight in her weak arms.

“Dear Boy,” she said, “it will be a useless struggle. You can’t hope to
hold your little world. Now go, and God bless you. Kiss me good-night,
Boy.”

He bent and kissed her on the forehead, then springing up crossed the
room. At the door he halted.

“Yes, ma,” he said gayly, in response to her call.

“Did you meet the teacher?”

One moment he vacillated between love and truth. Once he had lied,
uselessly, to save her. But he hated a liar. He went back to the bed
slowly.

“Yes, I met him, and I told him that he best be leavin’ these parts.”

Her eyes rested upon him in mingled love and wonder.

“I don’t like—I don’t trust that man,” said the mother earnestly. “Now
go, Boy, and God bless you.”

When Boy sought the table again the tea and meat were stone cold. He
smiled at the girl, who was standing beside the fireplace, and she said
teasingly:

“I told you you better not go.”

The man with the fiddle across his knees straightened up at her words,
and he looked over at Boy with a puzzled expression on his face.

“Thought maybe you’d joined a flock of woodcock and gone south,” he
remarked. “Wonder you can leave the bush long enough to get your meals.
Where’ve you been, Boy?”

“Nowhere much,” answered the boy, looking hard at his plate.

“Well, we had that teacher chap over again to-night,” said the father,
“—smart feller that.”

Boy glanced up quickly and caught a gleam of humor in the speaker’s blue
eyes. Then he looked at the girl. She was laughing quietly.

“The teacher says that you’ve been absentin’ yourself from school,” went
on the man. “I asked him if absentin’ was a regular habit in scholars
same as swappin’ jack-knives, and you ought to have seen the look he
gave me.

“‘It’s a punishable offense,’ says he.

“‘Well, I don’t mind you whalin’ Boy some,’ says I; ‘I’m sure he needs
it.’

“‘I won’t whip a big boy like him,’ says he. ‘I don’t have to, and I
won’t.’

“‘Well, I don’t know as I blame you for not wantin’ to,’ says I. ‘Boy’s
some handy with his fists, bein’ a graduate in boxin’ of long Bill
Paisley’s.’”

The big man stood up and stretched his six-foot-two figure with
enjoyment. In his huge fist the old fiddle looked like a hand-mirror. He
threw back his shaggy head and laughed so loudly that the burning log in
the fireplace broke in twain and threw a shower of red and golden sparks
up the wide chimney.

“When we were talkin’ and I was coaxin’ the visitor to set up to supper
and make himself to home, who should drop in but Bill Paisley himself.
Gosh, it was fun to see how he took in the teacher. ‘Nice night, sir,’
says Bill, bowin’ low and liftin’ off his cap. I shook my head at him,
but he didn’t pay any attention, so I went on eatin’ and let ’em alone.
Bill got out his pipe and felt in all his pockets, keepin’ his eyes
right on the teacher and grinnin’ so foolish that I nearly choked on a
pork-rind.

“‘Would you mind obligin’ me with a pipeful of Canada-Green?’ he asks;
‘I suppose you have a plug of twist in your pocket, sir?’

“The teacher frowned at him. ‘I don’t smoke Canada-Green,’ says he,
short and crisp-like.

“‘Chaw, maybe?’ grinned Bill, puttin’ his pipe away and lickin’ his lips
expectant.

“‘No, nor chaw—as you call it.’

“‘Dear me,’ sighed Bill, and after while he says, ‘dear me’ again.

“By and by Paisley limbered up and told the teacher he was right down
glad to meet a man fearless enough to come to this wild place in the
cause of learnin’.

“‘You’re a martyr, sir,’ says Bill, ‘a brave man, to come where so many
dangers _be_set the paths. Swamp fevers that wither you up and ague that
shakes your front teeth back where your back teeth are now and your back
teeth where your front ones should be. There are black-snakes in these
parts,’ says Bill, ‘that have got so used to bitin’ Injuns they never
miss a stroke, and they’ll travel miles to get a whack at a white man,
particularly a stranger,’ says he. ‘Then there be wolves here big as
two-year-old steers, and they do get hungry when the winter sets in.’

“The teacher squirmed. ‘I’ll get used to all that,’ says he.

“‘Sure,’ agreed Bill, ‘but just the same it’s a good thing you’re a
brave and a husky chap. Met any of our Injuns yet?’

“‘A few,’ said the young feller, lookin’ scared.

“‘Injuns are mighty queer reptiles,’ says Bill, ‘but you’ll get along
with ’em all right if you humor ’em with presents and attend their
pow-wows. Might be a good idea to let on there’s Injun blood in you. But
whatever you do, if you should happen to have a little nigger blood in
you, don’t tell ’em. Injuns naturally hate niggers.’

“Bill got up and went in to say ‘howdy’ to ma. ‘She wants to see you,
mister,’ he says to the teacher, when he came out. ‘I suppose you’ve
learned, among other things, that there’s such a thing as talkin’ too
much, so be careful.’

“When Bill went away Gloss and me sat down and listened to what Simpson
and your ma had to say to each other. He told her all about you stayin’
away from school and a lot of things that seemed to worry her. I thought
it queer, ’cause ever since he has been comin’ across here we’ve tried
to make him feel at home. But I just put it down that he had it in for
you, Boy, on some account or other.”

Boy glanced at the girl and her eyes fell.

“If it hadn’t been our own house I would have throwed him out,” McTavish
declared.

“I met him down by the creek as I was comin’ home,” said Boy absently.
“I told him he’d best be leavin’ these parts.”

The girl came over and leaned across the table toward him.

“Boy,” she said, “do you think he will go?”

“Would you rather he’d stay?” he asked quickly.

“No.”

“Then he’ll go.”

She passed from the room, and Boy sat huddled before the table, his head
in his hands, his eyes fastened upon the guns hanging on the wall. From
the shadows Big McTavish’s fiddle was wailing “Ye Banks and Braes.” The
fire died and the long-armed shadows reached and groped about the room,
touching the dried venison strips and the hams and bacon hanging from
the ceiling, glancing from the oily green hides stretched for curing on
the walls, hovering above the bundles of pelts and piles of traps in the
corners of the room. But Boy’s mind was not on the trapping activities
that soon would bestir the times once more. In his soul he was pondering
over the question of his new unrest: a question which must be answered
sooner or later by somebody.



                              CHAPTER III
                         The Babes in the Wood


The father arose and hung the fiddle on its nail.

“Best go to bed, Boy,” he yawned, picking up the huge clasp-knife with
which he had been shaping the ax-handle and putting it in his pocket.
When he withdrew his hand it held a letter.

“Well, now, if I didn’t forget all about this here epistle,” he
exclaimed, frowning. “Jim Peeler gave it to me this afternoon. That man
Watson, the land-agent at Bridgetown, gave it to Jim to give me. You
read it, Boy, and see what he wants.”

Boy took the letter and broke it open with nervous fingers.

“Watson says he’s comin’ over here to see you to-morrow, dad. Seems like
he wants to get hold of this place.”

He threw the letter from him and walked over to the window.

“By hickory!” expostulated the father, “what do you think of that?”

“What do I think? It’s just what I expected, that’s all.”

Boy lifted the window and leaned out. The moon was flooding the outer
world with a soft radiance. The bark of a wolf came faintly to his ears
from the back ridges. Old Joe lay stretched in the moonlight beside the
ash-leach. As Boy watched him the dog arose, shook himself happily,
turned three times around, and lay down again. An owl hooted mournful
maledictions from a neighboring thicket, and in the nearby coop the fowl
stirred and nestled down again, heads beneath wings. Boy came back and
stood beside his father.

“I guess maybe I’m selfish, dad,” he said slowly. “It isn’t for me to
say what I think, although it’s mighty good of you to ask. This place
ain’t mine; it’s yours. You’ve worked hard and long to clear what you’ve
cleared here, and that’s a great deal more than any of the other
Bushwhackers have done. I haven’t been anythin’ of a help to you much.
’Course I could be from now on. I’m a man growed, nearly, and as soon as
the trappin’ is over I might pitch in and help you with the loggin’.”

The father laid his pipe down on the table and combed his long beard
with his fingers.

“Boy,” he said, “every hanged stick of timber and every foot of this
four hundred acres of bushland is as much yours as mine, and you know
it. I ain’t wantin’ to clear the land any more than the rest of the
Bushwhackers are. What do I want with cleared land? Gosh sakes alive,
I’d be so lonesome for the woods that I couldn’t live. I can’t sleep now
if I don’t hear the trees swishin’ and the twigs poundin’ the roof
nights. And ain’t we tolerably happy, all of us together here, even if
the little ma is purty sick and it’s mighty hard not to be able to help
her? And ain’t we hopin’ and prayin’ that she’ll get to be her old self
once more, here where the woods breathes its own medicine? And don’t we
know them prayers’ll be answered?”

He bent over and laid his big hand on the lad’s shoulder.

“Then we’ll naturally put in some great nights, crackin’ hickory-nuts by
the fire and playin’ the fiddle. Why, I wouldn’t part with one acre of
this piece of bush for all the cleared land in western Ontario.”

Boy stooped and picked up the letter.

“Watson writes that he has a cultivated farm near Clearview that he’ll
swap for this of ours,” he said. “Where’s Clearview, dad?”

“Why, it’s a strip of sandy loam between Bridgetown and Lake Erie. It’s
too light even to grow Canada-thistles. Well, I guess maybe Watson
_would_ be willin’ to swap that sand for our place. I don’t like that
man Watson. I can’t say why, unless it’s on account of some things I’ve
heard of him and that other feller, Smythe, who’s a partner of his in
some way.”

“You mean the Smythe who keeps the store at Bridgetown?”

“The same. You know him pretty well, I guess. He cheated you out of a
dozen mink-hides, didn’t he?”

“He tried to,” answered Boy with a smile.

“Mr. Watson’ll find that we’re not wantin’ to trade farms,” affirmed the
father.

“There’s Gloss,” suggested Boy. “If she was where there was a good
school——” He hesitated and looked at Big McTavish.

The man laughed.

“Why, bless your heart,” he cried, “you couldn’t drag the girl away from
this bush. She loves it—loves every nook and corner of it.”

Boy sighed.

“She sure does,” he agreed. “She sure does.”

The father brought a pine board from the wood-box and began to whittle
off the shavings for the morning fire-making. This done, he gathered
them together with a stockinged foot, glancing now and then at the boy,
who had resumed his old attitude.

“Watson and Smythe want to get hold of our property for some reason,”
said the father, “and I reckon it’s pretty easy to guess who they’re
trying to get it for. It’s that big landowner, Colonel Hallibut, who has
his mill on Lee Creek. I hear that Colonel Hallibut swears he’ll own
every stick of timber in Bushwhackers’ Place.”

“That’s what troubles me,” returned Boy quickly. “You know what them
rich Englishmen are like, dad. They have always got hold of everythin’
they wanted, and now this one is goin’ to try and get our place. But we
ain’t goin’ to let him,” he cried, springing up. “We’ll fight him, dad;
we’ll fight him off, and if he tries to take it we’ll——”

“Hush, Boy; there’s no reason to take on that way. What makes you think
he’ll try to drive us?”

Big McTavish stood up straight. Something of the boy’s spirit had
entered into him for an instant.

“You see, dad, we’re poor. That is, we have no ready money, though we
have everythin’ we need for comfort. Then we’re lackin’ in that
somethin’ called sharpness among businessmen. We’ve never learned it. We
are like the other wild things that creep farther back into the woods
before what they can’t understand. We don’t know their ways. I tell you,
Hallibut would steal this bushland from us, and he’s goin’ to try. It’s
valuable. There’s enough walnut and oak and the highest class of timber
on this place to make us rich—rich, d’ye know that, dad? And ain’t
Hallibut and his agents tryin’ to get every other Bushwhacker under
their thumbs same as they’re tryin’ to get us? But, dad, listen—they
won’t get us, by God; they won’t get us.”

The lad was trembling and his face was white and perspiring.

“Boy,” chided the father sternly, “you mustn’t swear. Watson nor
Hallibut nor any other man is that bad. You’ve let the woods get into
you until you’re fanciful. Read your Bible, and pray more.”

“I didn’t mean to swear, dad. I’ve swore more to-day than I have for
years. I can’t stand to think that them men will steal this beautiful
spot that is ours now, and cut and cripple it and drive its wild things
away.”

“Hallibut’s sawmill is runnin’ nights,” said the father thoughtfully.
“He made French Joe an offer for his timber through Watson the other
day, but I guess it wasn’t much. Joe owed him money.”

“Well, us Bushwhackers are goin’ to hang together,” said Boy. “We own
over two thousand acres of the best timber in Ontario. We can keep it by
fightin’. If we don’t fight——”

He turned and walked toward the door.

“Boy,” warned the elder man, “don’t you do anythin’ you’ll be sorry for.
Just forget all about Watson and Hallibut for a time, ’cause I want to
tell how we all come to be in this place we love so much.

“Before you were born, Boy, I lived in the States; ranched it in
Arizona. And there was a man down there who as much as stole everythin’
I had in the world. It was because of a woman that he lived to enjoy it
all for a time. That woman was his wife, your ma’s more’n friend, little
Glossie’s mother.”

Boy looked up quickly, then dropped his head again.

“That woman was a lot to me and your mother. She was a lady, every inch
of her, and educated, too. She taught your ma to be the scholar she is,
and she was the kindest-hearted, sweetest woman that could be found in
the world. Seems as she run off from a fine home and rich people to
marry that man. He was a bad ’un, her man; bad in every way a man can be
bad, I guess. He drank and he abused her——”

Big McTavish caught his breath hard.

“’Course,” he went on, “we might have killed him—lots of us there would
have done more’n that for his wife. But you see that woman stuck to him
in spite of all he did to make her life hell; so we let him alone. Your
ma worshiped her, or as near it as mortal can worship mortal, and they
were a lot together. Women are not very plentiful on the Plains, Boy.
When I lost everythin’ to her husband, through his cheatin’ me on a
deal, and made up my mind to quit ranchin’ and strike for some new
country, she promised us that after her baby was born she’d come to us,
no matter where we might be. You see it had come to such a pass that she
simply couldn’t live with that man no longer.”

The big man paused to light his pipe, and Boy asked:

“Did she come?”

“No. We came direct here to Ontario and settled in this hardwood, me an’
your ma and Granny McTavish. All we had in the world was the clothes we
wore and three hundred dollars in money. I took up as much land as the
money would buy from the Canadian Government and started in to cut out a
home. You was born soon after we’d settled here. Peeler came and he
settled alongside us and soon after that Declute came.

“We wrote to the poor little woman out West and told her the
latch-string was out for her whenever she could come. You see I’d built
this house by then, and we all felt tolerably happy and well-to-do. We
never got an answer to our letter, and the followin’ spring I left you
and your ma and Granny with the neighbors and struck the back trail for
Arizona. I found that her man had been killed in a quarrel with a
Mexican, but nobody seemed to know where she and her baby had gone. I
hunted high and low for them, but at last had to give it up. I thought
maybe she had gone back to the home of her people, ’cause I learned that
her husband had left some money behind him. When I got back here I found
two babies where I’d left but one. You had a little girl companion
sleepin’ in your hammock beside you, Boy. Your ma picked her up and put
her in my arms and she cried a good deal, your ma did, and by and by she
showed me a little gold locket that she had found tied about the baby’s
neck. I opened one of the doors and a tiny picture lay there. Then I
knowed at once whose baby it was that God had sent to us, and I knowed,
too, that the baby’s mother would never come now. An old Injun was
there, and he told me how a man in Sandwich had given him money to tote
the baby down to us. He couldn’t tell us much about the man. We called
the youngster Gloss, ’cause that was the name the old Injun gave her.”

McTavish arose and knocked the ashes from his pipe.

“Now you know how we all come to be here, Boy,” he said gently, “and you
know why old Injun Noah seems so near to us all. He was the man who
brought our girl to us.”

Boy did not speak, and the father quietly left the room. At the door he
turned and looked back. The boy was sitting with his chin in his hands.
Outside, the moon was trailing low above the tree-tops, and the owl’s
hoot sounded far-off and muffled.



                               CHAPTER IV
                           Bushwackers’ Place


On that triangular forestland of extreme south-western Ontario there was
a block of hardwood timber, consisting of something over two thousand
acres. This was known as Bushwhackers’ Place. On its left lay a
beautiful body of water called Rond Eau, and so close to this natural
harbor grew the walnut trees that when the night was old the moon cast
their shadows far out across the tranquil waters. From the edge of the
bay northward and westward the forest swept in valleys and ridges until
the lower lands were reached. Then the hard timber gave way to the
rugged softwoods of the swales, where the giant basswood, elms, and ash
trees gripped the damp earth with tenacious fingers that ran far
underground, forming a network of fiber, which to this day wears down
the plow-points of the tillers of the soil.

Why this upland was called Bushwhackers’ Place, or why the people who
held possession there were called Bushwhackers, has never been
explained. In fact, those simple people were not bushwhackers, but
hunters, trappers, and fishermen. True, each landowner had cleared a
little land, quite sufficient to raise the vegetables necessary for his
table and fodder for his sheep, oxen, and pigs, during the winter
months; but the common tendency among the Bushwhackers seemed to be to
let the timber stand until it was required for firewood.

All buildings in Bushwhackers’ Place were constructed of logs mortised
at the ends. The beams, rafters, and floors of the homes were split or
hewn from the finest grained timber procurable. When the walls were
raised to a sufficient height doors and windows were cut in them, the
rafters of the roof were laid, and the wide slabs, split from
straight-grained ash blocks, were placed on the roof, overlapping one
another so as to shed the rain. Blue clay was dug from the earth to fill
in the chinks between the logs. The Bushwhacker’s home was roomy, warm,
and comfortable.

Nineteen years ago Daniel McTavish, or Big McTavish, as he was commonly
called on account of his great size, had settled in this spot with the
determination of making it a home for himself and wife. The shadowy
bushland appealed to him. He set to work with an ax and built a home.
Shortly after it was finished a little McTavish was ushered into the
world. Meanwhile, two other families had taken up claims near by. These
were Jim Peeler and Ander Declute, and they with their wives came over
to help name the baby.

Naming a baby in those old days was just as hard as it is in these. Each
person had a particular name to fasten upon the new arrival. Peeler
wanted to name him Wolfe, after a famous general he had heard of, but
his wife protested on the grounds that the Government was offering a
bounty for wolves and somebody might get mixed up and “kill him off.”

Mrs. Declute wanted to call the boy after some Bible hero. Moses, she
thought, would be a good name. He looked just like Moses must have
looked at his age, she said.

“I’ll tell you how we’ll decide,” said Ander Declute, after the debate
had lasted some three hours. “We all of us have a different name we want
to hitch to the youngster. I move that we let Mac here write out them
names on a piece of paper and we’ll pin it to a tree and let the little
chap decide for himself.”

“How?” asked the others.

“Well, after we’ve tacked up the paper somebody’ll hold a rifle and
we’ll let the baby pull the trigger. The name the ball comes nearest to
we’ll choose. What do you say?”

Everybody thought it a capital plan. The names were written on the sheet
of paper and it was pinned to a tree. The baby’s mother held the light
rifle and pressed the baby’s finger on the trigger. The little
Bushwhacker did not so much as blink at the report.

The bullet bored one of the names through the letter O, and the name was
B-O-Y.

“That’s the one I picked on,” grinned Declute, “an’ it’s a good one.”

So the baby was called Boy.

Others came to Bushwhackers’ Place and took up homesteads.

One, Bill Paisley, drifted in, from nobody knew where, and started
“clearin’” near to Declute’s place. He was a tall, angular young man,
with blue eyes which laughed all the time, and a firm jaw with muscles
that had been toughened by tobacco-chewing. His hair was long and
inclined to curl, and altogether he was a hearty, fresh, big piece of
manhood. He could swing an ax with any man on Bushwhackers’ Place, and
cut a turkey’s comb clean at eighty yards with his smooth-bore. He
needed no other recommendations. The neighbors had a “bee” and helped
Paisley up with his house. The Bushwhackers loved bees and “changin’
works,” for it brought them together. And although on account of much
talking, one man could have accomplished more alone than three could at
a bee, there was no hurry, and, as Peeler said, “a good visit beat work
all hollow anyway.” Whiskey was plentiful and a jug of it could always
be seen adorning a stump when a bee or “raisin’” was in progress. But
because it was good, cheap, and as welcome as the flowers of the
woodland, nobody drank very much of it. Maybe it would be a “horn all
’way ’round” after work was done, or a “night-cap” after the evening
dance was over; for, be it known, no bee or raising was considered
complete without a dance in the evening. Every Bushwhacker’s home had a
jug of whiskey in it—usually under the bed,—a dog on the doorstep, and
sheep, pigs, and cattle in the barnyard. These barnyards had tall
rail-fences around them. In the winter months the wolves sometimes tried
to scale the fences, and bears tried to dig beneath them. Then the dog
would bark and the man would come out with his long brown rifle, and
besides bear-steak for breakfast next morning there would be a pelt for
the Bushwhacker.

And so the years passed, and the Bushwhackers lived their simple, happy
lives and found life good. Little Bushwhackers were born, named, and set
free to roam and enjoy the Wild as they wished. Sometimes one of them
might stray away too far into the big forest, and then there would be a
hunt and the little strayaway would be brought safely back.

When the youngsters were old enough to be taught reading and writing,
their mothers washed their faces with soft home-made soap and sent them
over to “Big Mac’s” for their lessons.

Mrs. McTavish—a self-educated woman—found great pleasure in teaching
these children. They were quick to learn and slow to lose what they were
taught. As Peeler put it, “every child should know how t’ read and write
and do sums,” so the children of the bush were not allowed to grow up in
ignorance.

Bill Paisley, also, took a hand in instructing the youngsters of
Bushwhackers’ Place. He taught the boys how to shoot and handle a rifle.
It was quite necessary for one who shot to shoot well, as ball and
powder were costly commodities. He took the lads on long tramps through
the woods when the autumn glow was on the trees. He showed them how to
watch a deer-run and taught them how to imitate the wild turkey call.

Boy McTavish was his constant companion, and as a result Boy came to
know the wild things of bush and water well. He knew the haunts of the
brown and black bears, the gray wolves, and the wary deer. He knew just
what part of the clear, deep creek the gamey bass or great maskilonge
would be lying in wait for some unsuspecting minnow, and he could land
the biggest and gamest of them, too. Many a glorious summer morning’s
sport did he have drifting down the creek in his canoe and out on the
white bosom of Rond Eau Bay, trolling for bass. Boy loved those
beautiful mornings of the summer season when the air was all alive with
birds and their voices. Through the mist arising from the face of the
water he would watch the great bass leap, here and there, a flash of
green and gray high in air, and tumble back to glide and sight and dart
upon the shiners—wee innocent minnow-fish these, swimming happily
upstream like little children just out of school. There would be a
shower of little silvery bodies as the minnows in sheer terror leaped
from the water before the greedy cannibal’s rush, and Boy’s hook, with a
shiner impaled upon it, would alight amid the commotion, and there would
come a tug at his line that made the strong sapling rod bend and dip.

Many a string of great, beautiful bass did he catch on this creek close
beside his home, sometimes with Paisley, sometimes with Gloss, sometimes
alone.

Boy loved those early mornings of his dominion of marsh and wood; for
Rond Eau was very beautiful with morning tints upon her face, as up
above the pine-studded Point the lights of dawn came bounding. With that
dawn, swift-winged almost as its arrows of crimson, the wild,
harsh-voiced ducks came dipping and swerving, to settle and feed in the
rich rice-beds of the bay.

Along the marshes, blue-winged teal would hiss and whistle in their
irregular flight. Earliest of all the wild-ducks, they came when the
time was between darkness and daylight. Next came the blacks and grays,
quacking their way noisily along the shores. High above them a long,
dark line would whistle into view and pass onward with the speed of a
cloud-shadow. These were red-heads, newly arrived from the south. Still
swift of wing, though weary, they would follow on until their leader
called a halt. Now lost against the slate sky, now sweeping into view
against a splash of crimson, they would turn and flash along the farther
shore, sinking lower with diminished speed as they passed an
outstretching point of land. A number of their kind, arrived the night
before, would be feeding and resting there. Onward the line would pass,
and then turning drop down slowly and the ducks would settle among their
fellows with muffled spats and heads facing the wind.

Far over the pines of the Point another dark bunch would grow into
space, and, turning, throw a gleam of white upon the watcher’s sight.
These were blue-bills, hardiest of all wild-ducks. They were tired and
unafraid and ready to make friends with any water-fowl, whether they
were of their own kind or a flock of despised coot. Great flocks of
peerless canvasbacks, their wings dipping in unison, their white backs
gleaming in the morning light, would grow up and fade and grow to life
again. They would sweep around and around the bay, craning their long
necks suspiciously, settling ever lower, and passing many a flock of
dozing ruddy ducks, that were resting, having fed long before the dawn
of day.

Boy would watch these wild, free things with all the joy of a wild thing
in sympathy with them. As far as the eye could reach were ducks, and
beyond the bay was the wild Point, and above all the wild sky with angry
darts of light like ragged knives, slashing its breast here and there.

Naturally Boy resented the advance of anything that tended to destroy
the pictures of his world.

A big man from Civilization, who owned the strip of timber across the
creek, had built a mill thereon, and all day long, now, that mill sang
its song of derision, and the swaths in the wood were growing wider. It
was his own timber the man was cutting—nobody could gainsay that fact;
but he was destroying, each day, the creek, that silver thread that had
been for so long a home for duck and mink and water-rat. He was
destroying beauty and crippling the usefulness of the best trapping and
fishing ground of the Bushwhackers. A discord had been set vibrating
throughout that wooded fastness. The sibilant song of Hallibut’s mill
was driving the fur-bearing animals to seek more secluded haunts. The
wood-ducks that had nested close in along the wooded shore drifted far
back to another creek, and the black ducks did not flutter lazily along
the marsh throughout the breeding season now, but high in air and remote
from the noise and smoke and jar that was a new and fearful thing to
them.

Boy McTavish hated that mill; and that schoolhouse of white boards
clinging to the hill he hated, too. Hatred was a strange element with
him. It sickened his soul, crushed him, and robbed him of all his
old-time restfulness of spirit. The discord could not pass him by.



                               CHAPTER V
                       Comrades of the Hardwoods


Even in this golden, hazy dawn it was with him, as he stood gazing
across the creek. The crimson sun warmed his cheeks and the heavy scent
of over-ripe woods-plants stole to his senses like a soothing balm. But
that scar upon which his eyes rested had reached his inmost soul, and
for him the old gladness of sweet, dewy mornings must hereafter be
tempered with a new and strange bitterness.

From the tall smokestack of Hallibut’s mill a thin wreath of blue smoke
ascending cut a spiral figure against the fleecy clouds.

Boy turned and walked up the path, his head bowed and his hands deep in
his pockets. Behind him trailed the setter, looking neither to the right
nor to the left. His moods were always suited to his master’s. For some
reason Boy was sad. Therefore, Joe was sad.

Where the path forked Boy turned and, catching sight of the dog’s
wistful face, he threw back his head and laughed. Then he turned and,
bending, caught the setter about the neck with strong arms.

“Joe,” he whispered, “you’re an old fool.”

The dog submitted to the caress gravely and sat down, looking up into
his master’s face with deep sympathetic eyes.

Adown through the woods came a voice in rollicking song:

        “_Massar gone away, de darkey say ‘Ho! ho!’_
        _Mus’ be now dat de kingdom’s comin’_
        _I’ de year ob jubiloo._”

“That’s Bill, pup,” laughed Boy. “He always sings when he’s washin’ his
breakfast dishes. Come on, let’s go over and borrow his pitch-fork. You
and me have got to dig taters to-day.”

A few hundred yards further on they found the singer. He was clad in
Bushwhacker buckskins from head to foot.

“Hello, Boy, how’s your ma?” he called as he caught sight of the
visitors.

“Just about the same, I guess,” Boy answered. “Nobody up when I left, so
I can’t just say how ma spent the night. Want to borrow your fork,
Bill.”

“Take it and anythin’ else you see as you’d like. Say, won’t you step in
the house and have a cup of tea?”

“I ain’t much on tea drinkin’, as you know, Bill, and I must be hittin’
the back trail soon, ’cause we want to get the taters dug before night.”

“All right, as soon as I put these dishes away I’ll get you the fork.”

Boy’s eyes followed his friend sympathetically, and when Paisley
rejoined him he asked hesitatingly:

“Say, Bill, why do you live alone here like you do? Ain’t it lonesome
for you?”

“Some.” Paisley dried his hands on a towel and sat down on a stump.
“It’s some lonesome; yes. But I’ve sort of got used to it, you see.”

Boy seated himself on a log and leaned back, nursing his knee in his
hands.

“How about Mary Ann?” he asked.

Bill shook his head.

“Too good and too young for me, Boy. She don’t just think me her style,
I guess. That young teacher chap, now, he is just about Mary Ann’s
style.”

Boy’s eyes narrowed.

“He’s just about Gloss’s style, too,” he said slowly. “He’s some
different from us bush-fellers, is Mr. Simpson.”

“I don’t take to him very well myself,” said Paisley, looking away,
“but, of course, Mary Ann’s bound to see him a lot, him boardin’ at her
mother’s, and maybe he’ll see as he can’t afford to miss gettin’ a girl
like Mary Ann, pervidin’ she’s willin’.”

“How many times have you asked her, Bill?”

“Twice a year—every spring and fall, for the last three years.”

Paisley laughed queerly and stooped down to pat the setter’s shaggy
sides.

“Boy,” he said, “don’t ever get carin’ for a woman; it’s some hell.”

Boy leaned back with a deep breath. His eyes were on a tiny wreath of
smoke drifting between the tree-tops and the sky.

“I ask her twice a year regular,” went on Paisley. “It’s got to be a
custom now. It’ll soon be time to ask her again.”

A yellow-hammer swooped across the open and, alighting on a decayed
stub, began to grub out a breakfast. He was a gay, mottle-breasted chap,
with a dash of crimson on his head. The drab-colored thrush that had
been preening himself on a branch of a nearby tree ruffled his feathers
and flew further back into the bush. Boy frowned at the intruder and
arose slowly from his log. He glanced up, to find Paisley looking at
him.

“Somethin’s wrong with you, Boy,” said the man; “what is it?”

“I was watchin’ them birds,” Boy answered. “You saw what the big greedy
chap did to the thrush—he drove him away; and it made me think of what
Hallibut and his agents are tryin’ to do with us Bushwhackers.”

“They can’t do it,” cried Paisley. “Just let ’em try it on.”

“Hallibut threatens that he’ll own all this part of the country. He’s
too much of a coward to come over and try to get it himself, but he’s
tryin’ to get it through others, as you know.”

“Watson?” questioned Paisley.

Boy nodded.

“Watson’s likely comin’ over to-day. Dad got a letter from him.”

Paisley crammed his hands in his pockets and shrugged his shoulders.

“I scented trouble when the Colonel built that mill over on Totherside,”
he declared, “but there was no way of stoppin’ him. It was his own land
he built on; it’s his own timber he’s been sawin’. I understand he’s
layin’ plans to get our timberland, and there ain’t no tellin’ just what
a man like him will do to gain his ends. But, Boy, we’re here
first—don’t you forget that.”

“I’m not forgettin’ it,” returned Boy grimly.

“Say,” said Bill, abruptly changing the conversation, “when is Gloss’s
birthday?”

The shadow left Boy’s face and he looked up with a smile.

“Why, it’ll soon be now,” he answered; “she’s nineteen next month.”

“I didn’t figger on lettin’ you in on this,” grinned Paisley, “but I
reckon you need cheerin’ up. You know them silver-fox furs that Smythe
offered me my own price for? Well, I’m not goin’ to sell ’em to Smythe
nor anybody else. They’re for Gloss.”

“For Gloss?” repeated Boy, “—for Gloss? Say, Bill, you can’t afford to
give them furs away—not even to Gloss.”

“Me and Injun Noah are makin’ her coat,” chuckled the man. “Such a coat,
Boy! No lady in this land has ever had such a coat before; never will
have such a coat again. Silver-fox pelts at three hundred dollars
apiece. Think of it, Boy! And there’s six of ’em—four grays and two
blacks. And the coat’s to be lined with mink-skin, too—think of that!”

He took his friend by the arm and led him into the house. Boy liked
Paisley’s home; it was always so bright, so tidy, and so cheerful. The
wide table of heavy oak with solid legs artistically carved, standing in
the center of the main room, the carved high-backed chairs fashioned by
a master hand, the crude charcoal sketch of marsh and wood and water
scenes on the whitewashed walls, gave him a sense of restfulness.

A great iron tea-kettle suspended over the fire of hickory logs was
disgorging a cloud of steam that drifted to the rafters. Paisley came
forth from an inner room carrying a huge platter piled high with fowl.

“Never seen the pa’tridge in better condition,” he avowed. “I shot six
last night and I’ve been feastin’ ever since. Just pull up and devour,
Boy, while I give old Joe some of his choice bones. I’ve been savin’ ’em
up for him. I’ll get you some of my special brew of tea soon’s I wipe
the reproach out of that setter’s brown eyes.”

Boy drew up to the table and fell to with an appetite such as only men
of the woods possess.

Having attended to Joe’s wants, Paisley placed a pot of fragrant tea at
his guest’s elbow, and, leaning back in his chair with a smile of
content, lit his well-seasoned clay pipe and smoked.

His eyes followed those of Boy, who was gazing on the smaller of two
rifles hanging above the fireplace.

“You’ve often wondered why I never use that little gun,” he remarked,
drawing his chair forward and leaning upon the table, “and I’ve never
told you. I’m goin’ to tell you now. I won that rifle from a man down
near Sandwich. He was a bad man all round, and up until I met him just
about made the laws of his community. I happened along there one night,
and bein’ in no hurry, made up my mind to stay around for a time. The
feller I speak of owned that rifle. He was a big chap, about five years
older than me, and was supposed to be a fisherman. In reality he was a
smuggler, and he was a slick one, and no mistake. When he wasn’t
smugglin’ he was gamblin’ with the sailors and passengers of the lake
boats. A poor little hunchbacked sister kept house for him, and he used
to ill-treat her. Once I happened along and stopped him from strikin’
her with a whip. Of course, he always hated me after that. One afternoon
there was a shootin’-match in the neighborhood, and he beat me
shootin’.”

Paisley sat back and smiled.

“Yes, he beat me shootin’, Boy. Then he got boastin’; but I didn’t say a
word. He finally offered to bet his rifle against mine that he could
beat me again. I didn’t want more hard feelin’s; but I simply had to be
game. A man couldn’t just take a dare in that wild country, so we had
the match right there, and I won his rifle. He didn’t say anythin’, but
he looked murder. I left the place soon after that, and about a year
later I came along that way again. I heard then that the fisherman chap
had cleared out to no one knew where, and left his sister sick and in
want.

“I went over to their shanty and found the little woman dyin’. She knew
me, and she seemed to want to tell me somethin’. But the end came before
she could say it.”

Paisley nodded toward the rifle.

“I’ve never shot that gun since, and I won’t. I’d be ashamed to shoot a
gun that belonged to a man who’d leave his crippled sister to starve.”

“Did the sister know where her brother had gone?” asked Boy.

“No; or if she did she couldn’t tell me.”

Boy pushed back his chair and arose from the table.

“I don’t understand how any man could do such a thing, Bill. What was
the feller’s name?”

“His name was Watts, Jim Watts,” answered Paisley, swinging the kettle
off the fire. “I ain’t thinkin’ as I would know him again, now, even if
I happened to run across him. This all happened sixteen years ago.”

He followed Boy outside and the two walked over to an out-house standing
in a grove of beeches.

“I haven’t had much use for this fork since the wolves got poor old
Mooley last winter,” said Paisley. “Guess I’ll be gettin’ another
milk-cow soon, ’cause it’s quite a bother havin’ to go to Peeler’s for
my butter.”

“I was goin’ to ask you about Peeler,” said Boy. “I wish, Bill, you’d
see him and persuade him not to sell one stick of his timber to Hallibut
or his agents. Jim’s an easygoin’ sort, who might be led off quite easy,
and it’s up to us to see that he isn’t.”

“I’ll see him—leave that to me,” Paisley replied. “And I’ll see the
rest of the Bushwhackers, even old man Broadcrook and his sons, who
haven’t any particular use for me, somehow.”

“I guess what the Broadcrooks do won’t matter much,” laughed Boy. “They
hate everybody and everything it seems. I don’t know why.”

He picked up the fork and turned toward the path. A west wind had piled
up a bank of long drab clouds above the wood. The wind was damp, and
from the distance came the dull boom of the waters beating upon the
mucky shore of the bay.

A few yards down the path Boy halted.

“Say, Bill, dad was tellin’ me about the talk you had with the teacher.
I wish you’d get better acquainted with him and make him see that his
place isn’t here.”

“If he was half as smart as he thinks he’d see that it isn’t,” replied
Paisley.

“And, Bill,” called Boy from the edge of the wood, “I guess Mary Ann
knows a real man when she sees one. Keep askin’ her till she says ‘yes,’
Bill.”

As Boy found the creek path a gust of wind, damp with the spray of Rond
Eau, smote against his face with biting force.

From across the creek came the jarring notes of the school bell.

Then the wind fell, and the clouds parted to let a misty web of warm
sunlight through to the world.



                               CHAPTER VI
                             The Go-Between


A big man, past middle age, and seated astride a small white horse, came
picking his way between the huge beech and maple trees, down through the
quiet morning of the woods. He had shaggy red brows and a big mouth that
drooped at the corners. The little eyes, flashing sideways in search of
the blaze on the trees, were sharp and calculating. Where the ridge
sloped to the valley he reined up.

“Must be somewhere about here,” he mused aloud. “Don’t know how I can
miss seeing McTavish if he happens to be outside—land knows he’s big
enough to see.—Hello, who are you?”

Something animated in the shape of a boy had stirred from a log directly
in the path. Leaping out it stood before the rider—a boy with long
yellow curls and big brown eyes. The old white horse shied, and the boy
rocked backward and forward on the path, voicing low, plaintive sounds.
As the rider watched him a small animal crept from the thicket and
climbed upon the lad’s shoulder. The horse reared, and the boy, lifting
his brown arms, began to wave them to and fro. At the same time he broke
into a wild, tuneless chant, the words of which were unintelligible to
the wondering observer. It was a shrill, weird note, fluted and varying
like the call of a panther. Suddenly boy and animal vanished as though
the Wild had reached forward and gathered them into its arms.

“Heavens!” shuddered the man, and struck the horse sharply with his
spurs. Where the trail curved off abruptly to the valley he reined up
once more, and, turning about, looked back.

“Well, I’ll be shot!” he soliloquized. “No matter where you find the
Creator’s handiwork and beauty you’ll find His imperfections, too. Ugh!
how those big eyes did probe me! It’s enough to make a saint shiver, let
alone a chap who has climbed up as I have—not caring who I have tramped
on.”

He shivered again, and felt in his pocket for his pipe. His hand brought
forth a leather wallet. A hard smile warped his mouth as he opened the
wallet and drew out a small photograph. It was the likeness of a young
woman with sweet face and great eyes. He tapped the likeness and a lock
of brown hair leaped out like a snake and twined about his finger. He
brushed it back with a shudder, and, snapping the case, put it back in
his pocket.

“I’ll find that Big McTavish and get this deal closed,” he mused as he
rode along.

The horse stumbled and a grouse whizzed along the trail, passing close
to the man’s head, with a thundering, nerve-wracking sound. He sat erect
and sank his spurs into the old gray’s heaving flank.

“Get epp, you lazy old bag of bones,” he commanded. “Let’s find that big
innocent and get hold of his deed. We’ll give him a dollar or so to see
us back along that lonesome trail. I wouldn’t go back along that spooky
path for all old Hallibut’s money. I’ve seen enough snakes and wolves
and bears since two o’clock this morning to last me a lifetime. And that
last animal—that crazy boy!—ugh!”

He slashed the old mare into a faster walk and sat huddled up and
pondering until a twist in the path brought an open glade into view. The
buzz of a saw and the pant of a weary engine came to his ears like
welcome music.

“Totherside,” he chuckled. “Let’s see, Bushwhackers’ Place lies just
across from it. But there’s the creek. Guess I’ll have to ride down to
the narrows.”

Finally, with much grumbling, he reached the farther side of the creek,
and, pulling in his horse, he gazed about him.

“Ha, look at that for timber!” he exulted. “And to think that Smythe and
I will have control——”

He did not finish the sentence aloud, but sat nodding his head up and
down. Very soon he drew up before the long log-house. Big McTavish
stepped out and pointed to a log-building in a grove of butternuts.

“Put your horse in there,” he invited.

“I will, and more,” agreed the arrival. “I’ll enjoy a bite of bread and
a slice of dried venison or anything else your larder affords. I’m
hungry as old Nick.”

“You’re welcome to the best we have,” replied McTavish. “You’re Mr.
Watson, I suppose. Am I right?”

“Watson I am—Robert W. O. Watson, that’s me. I’m pretty well known
through these parts; that is to say, better maybe a little east of here.
This place is kind of off the map, you know. Just give the lazy skate
anything that’s handy,” he growled, referring to the patient steed that
stood with drooping head and sanctimonious air, “but you needn’t be in
any hurry to feed her. She’s Smythe’s horse and used to waiting.”

“I always see that my oxen get their meals same as I do,” said Big
McTavish. “I wouldn’t feel just like eatin’ unless they had their
fodder, too. We’ll step inside and I’ll have Gloss fix you up a meal.
She’s down at the spring now gettin’ the cream ready for the churnin’,
but she’ll be back direct.”

As they crossed from the stable a small form flitted by them and
vanished among the trees. Watson gasped and he clutched McTavish’s arm.

“That’s him,” he cried; “that’s the crazy boy I met a couple of miles
away. How did he get here this soon, do you suppose?”

“Oh, that’s Daft Davie,” smiled McTavish. “Nobody knows exactly when
he’ll turn up. He runs like a deer and is as shy as the wild things he
plays among.”

“Plays among?” repeated the other. He followed McTavish into the house
and sat down heavily on a stool. “What do you mean by ‘plays among’?”

“I mean that he moves among the wild things and they are not scared of
him same as they are of you and me or anybody else. They do say that he
can fondle the cubs of bears, and wolf-kittens. I’ve seen him playin’
with a big snake, myself,—not a poisonous one, of course. Seems as
though Davie can pick out the things that are harmful quick enough.
Nobody pays any attention to him much in Bushwhackers’ Place, but leaves
him to himself, knowin’ that God’ll protect the soul He didn’t give
over-much reasonin’ power to.”

“Humph,” grunted the other, “I see you’re a pious man, McTavish—pious,
God-fearing, and honest. Good plan to work along that line. Had a good
bringing up myself. Mother’s prayers, early teaching, and that sort of
thing have a lot to do with making a big man. My mother is largely—I
should say was largely—responsible for my success. She’s dead now, poor
old lady. Of course, a fellow who climbs has a right to some credit
himself, I suppose. Made up your mind, I can see, to swap this forsaken
wilderness for a piece of cultivated land,” he said, abruptly opening
the subject nearest his heart and fixing on the big man his little
pig-eyes.

“Aha, I thought you would, McTavish. Says I to Smythe this morning:
‘Smythe, it doesn’t seem to me that this is a very good piece of
business judgment on our part; but,’ says I, ‘Smythe, we must consider
others rather than ourselves in this matter. McTavish now,’ says I, ‘he
has a couple of youngsters growing up, and they should secure an
education such as the Clearview school can give them, and if that’s the
case, we can’t blind our eyes to our duty as Christian men.’ Smythe is a
good Christian man and just that soft-hearted that it’s no wonder my
words affected him. He says: ‘Mr. Watson, money is not everything. Go
forth on an errand of mercy, and offer Mr. McTavish of Bushwhackers’
Place one bright and fertile hundred acres of loam in Clearview in
exchange for his bit of wilderness.’—His very words, McTavish. So I
wrote you briefly in order to break the good news gently, and now I am
before you to perform an act which, believe me, gives me as much
pleasure, in a sense, as it does you. I have all the necessary papers,
and although the journey has been a trying one, I will not complain. I
have been five hours in the saddle and have endured a cowardly nigger as
guide as far as the Triple Elms. Seems like, between loneliness and
mosquitoes, I’m just about fagged out. They are a d—I mean they are a
hanged nuisance, mosquitoes.”

While his guest unburdened himself, Big McTavish steeped strong tea, and
fried strips of bacon. Gloss had not yet returned from the spring. The
savory smell of the frying meat whetted Watson’s appetite, and he needed
no second invitation to “set up and eat hearty.” He ate wolfishly, his
little eyes darting from his food to the face of McTavish, his heavy
jaws working, and the muscles of his throat contracting with boa-like
elasticity, as he gulped down huge mouthfuls of meat and bread. At last
he pushed his chair back from the table and wiped his mouth on the back
of his hand.

“Now, Mac,” he said affably, “we’ll just have you sign those papers, and
I’ll turn you over this deed I hold here in exchange for the one you now
have. Says I to Smythe this morning: ‘Smythe, it’s a nice sort of glow a
fellow feels after doing a worthy act, anyway. Think what this will mean
to the McTavishes.’ And do you know he was that soft-hearted he couldn’t
answer me, and stood there swallowing with tears in his eyes.”

“I’m thinkin’ that we won’t make any swap,” said Big McTavish quietly.
“Neither me nor Boy nor any of us care to leave this big woods. We’ve
been here so long we’ve grown into it somehow. You see we’re not
hankerin’ to leave.”

Watson sat up with a jerk, and the pipe he was filling fell to the floor
and broke into a dozen pieces.

“What!” he cried, “do you mean to say, McTavish, that you won’t deal?”

“That’s what I mean,” nodded the big man.

“And you won’t exchange this block of tangled brush for one hundred
acres of good, cultivated land?” Mr. Watson leaned forward. “Are you
sure you realize what you are missing?” he asked impressively.

“All I know is, we’re thankful to God for what we have now,” said Big
McTavish fervently. “We don’t feel like insultin’ Him by tradin’ what
He’s given us, sight and unseen.”

“Oh, come now, McTavish,” blustered Watson, “you must be crazy. Why,
man, you will never get another chance such as the one we offer you.
Besides, you can’t stay here very much longer, anyway. Of course, you’ve
heard what Colonel Hallibut intends to do with you Bushwhackers?”

A deep line appeared between Big McTavish’s eyes.

“We don’t want any trouble with Colonel Hallibut,” he said. “We hear
that he has his eyes on our timber. When he comes after it he’ll find us
here. As for you, Mr. Watson, I wouldn’t take your sand farm as a gift,
thankin’ you just the same.”

“Then why in hell have you been letting me waste my breath on you for
the last hour?” snarled Watson, his face purple.

McTavish stood up.

“That’ll do now,” he warned. “There’s Gloss comin’ up the path, and
swearin’ is somethin’ she has never heard in this house, and before I’ll
have her hear you usin’ cuss-words I’ll cram this down your throat, and
don’t you forget it.”

He lifted a hairy fist, then sat down and resumed his smoking.

Gloss entered the room, singing blithely. Her shapely arms were bare to
the elbows. Her big gray eyes, dancing with life and health, swept the
room and rested wonderingly on Watson. He in turn gazed at the girl, and
an ashy whiteness wiped out the mottled color of his cheeks. He drew
back whispering something under his breath.

“This is Mr. Watson, Gloss,” said Big McTavish.

“Good-morning, sir,” saluted the girl. “I didn’t know that we had a
visitor. I see uncle has got you your breakfast, but surely you’ll enjoy
a glass of fresh buttermilk. I’ll fetch it.”

She slipped from the room, and Watson looked across at Big McTavish.

“That girl,” he asked quickly, “is she your own child?”

The big man looked up, astonishment written on his face.

“No,” he answered, “but she’s just as dear as though she was our own.
Her dyin’ mother sent her to us. Why do you ask that?”

Watson was reaching for his cap and rifle. Perhaps he did not hear the
question. At any rate he did not reply.

Fifteen minutes later he mounted the weary gray horse and without so
much as a word of adieu rode away through the timber.

McTavish stood on the edge of the clearing, his long arms folded, and
watched his visitor disappear. Turning, he found the daft child beside
him.

“Well, Davie,” he said kindly, “hadn’t you best run home now, lad?
You’re all wet with the dew.”

The boy waved his arms above his head and imitated an eagle’s scream.
Then he pointed to the white patch that marked the first blaze of the
long trail.

“You mean the man on the white horse, Davie?” asked McTavish, smiling.
“Yes, lad, I know.”

The boy gazed about him with wide and expressive eyes. Then once more he
waved his arms like an ascending eagle, gave a wild call of victory and
defiance, and, bending, sped swiftly away and was lost in the heavy
shadow.



                              CHAPTER VII
                     Where the Brook and River Meet


Big McTavish walked slowly back to the house. In the doorway stood Gloss
awaiting him.

“Is he gone?” she asked.

“Yes, Glossie, he’s gone.”

McTavish picked up the ax which was leaning against the ash-block and
turned toward the bush.

“You might just keep your eyes on the soap-fire, Gloss. I’m goin’ down
to the swale to cut some sassafras for the yearlin’s—they seem ailin’.
While I’m down there I might as well mark some basswood saplin’s that’ll
make good sap-troughs. Promised myself last sugar-makin’ that I’d have
new troughs before another syrup-boilin’.”

“The potatoes must be about ready to dig,” said the girl.

“Yes, Boy’s over to Paisley’s after a fork, and when he gets back we’re
goin’ to start in on ’em. There’s this satisfaction about raisin’
taters,” he laughed, “—the squirrels and crows don’t molest the crop
any like they do the corn. It does seem we can’t keep them out of the
corn, though.”

“It looks fine since you’ve got it cut and shocked up,” declared the
girl; “and it does seem so good that we’re gettin’ such a nice piece of
land cleared. Granny was tellin’ me what that man who just left wanted
you to do, and I had to laugh when I thought how he could be so foolish
as to think we’d be willin’ to leave Bushwhackers’ Place. ‘Why, Granny,’
says I, ‘what do we want of a farm in Clearview when we’ve got one right
here?’”

The big man’s face lit up.

“You’re sure good medicine, Gloss,” he said. “Yes, we are gettin’ quite
a nice plot of ground cleared, and I look for quite a nice yield this
year, both in corn and taters. Trappin’ don’t seem to promise much for
this winter, though. The noise and clatter of Hallibut’s mill seems to
be drivin’ the mink and rats across the bay.”

“Can’t we make him take the mill away from Lee Creek?” asked the girl.
“I hate the sound of it. Its noise drowns the song of the birds and its
smoke hides the blue of the sky between the trees. What right had he to
put that mill there, uncle?”

“Well, he owns a strip of bush on Totherside,” explained McTavish. “It
comes right up to Lee Creek. So you see the mill is on Hallibut’s own
property.”

“Oh, look, uncle,” cried the girl, “there’s some black squirrels
crossing the corn-stubble now—five of them. I do believe aunty would
relish a bit of stewed squirrel. I meant to tell Boy to shoot one or two
for her this mornin’, but he was gone before I was up.”

Joe, the setter, broke from the thicket and loped across the cornfield.
All summer he had acted as custodian of the field, and even now the
squirrels stood in mortal terror of him, and the crows cursed him in
guttural croaks from the tops of tall trees beyond the danger-line.

As the squirrels took to a lone hickory in the center of the field, Boy
McTavish came quickly around the corner of the house. He stood the
clumsy hand-made fork he carried up against the lean-to, and mopped his
face with his sleeve.

“Whew!” he whistled, “but it’s turned out a fine day after all. Never
knowed Injun summer to hang on so long. Hope it keeps up, dad, and we’ll
get the corn all husked yet before trappin’-time. Suppose we have a bee
and a dance at night, same as we did at the wood-bee? Declute is goin’
to have a loggin’-bee soon.

“Hello, Gloss,” he called, catching sight of the girl, “how’s ma this
mornin’?”

“Better, and hungry for squirrel,” she answered, her eyes on the treed
blacks.

She ran into the house and returned with a rifle. She handed Big
McTavish the powder-horn and, bracing her feet, cocked the gun.

“How far?” she asked, throwing it to her shoulder with a practiced hand.

“Sixty yards, anyway,” answered Big McTavish.

“Nigher eighty,” asserted Boy. “Too far, Gloss; you’ll miss sure.”

A gleam of mischief shone in the gray eye sighting along the brown
barrel. Then the rifle cracked, and a black ball detached itself from
the hickory and went swinging down to earth in tiny circles. The dog
gave a low whine and came bounding forward, the squirrel in his mouth,
and allowed Boy to take it from him.

“Right between the eyes,” said Boy proudly.

Big McTavish reloaded the rifle and handed it back to Gloss. His face
was wrinkled in a grin of mingled surprise and admiration.

“Neither you nor me could do any better, Boy,” he said hesitatingly by
way of admission.

“The one on the left next,” motioned the girl, and the rifle spoke once
more.

“Missed,” gasped the man. “Can’t always make a bull’s-eye, Glossie.”

“Missed nuthin’,” cried Boy; “there he comes now.”

The second squirrel spun about on the limb a couple of times, then went
crashing through the branches.

“As Bill Paisley would say, ‘that’s remarkable shootin’,’” chuckled
McTavish. “That distance is well over eighty yards, else I don’t know
distance.”

“Nearer a hundred, I should judge,” contended Boy. “She’s got all the
rest of the McTavishes beat, dad.”

“Try another, Gloss,” suggested McTavish, placing the cap on the nipple
of the rifle with clumsy fingers.

“I thought maybe two would be enough,” said the girl.

She took the rifle once again and glanced at Boy.

“Oh, go on, Gloss,” he encouraged, “only one more. Fact is I’m a bit
hungry for corn-fed squirrel myself.”

“And I’m thinkin’ I wouldn’t turn up my nose at a plateful of stewed
squirrel either,” seconded the father.

“All right, just one shot more, then, hit or miss,” laughed Gloss. “See
that chap’s two ears and part of his head stickin’ up above the knot?
I’ll take him this time, I guess, though it’s no easy shot.”

She fired, and the squirrel dropped from the limb. Another whine from
Joe proclaimed it a clean kill.

Big McTavish, without so much as a word, took the gun inside. Boy held
the animals up by their bushy tails and the girl who was watching him
said:

“You ain’t carin’ much to see the blacks killed ever since the time you
had Tommy for a pet, are you, Boy?”

“Well, I don’t know as I’m carin’ much either one way or t’other,” he
answered slowly. “Tommy was a cute little beggar, but he wasn’t really a
black. He was a gray squirrel. Grays are gentler and make better pets
than blacks. Tom Peeler one time had a black for a pet, and used him
mighty good for two years. But one day that black pretended he wanted
Tom to play with him and tickle him as he was used to doing, and it gave
him a bad bite. No, the blacks are too cross for pets.”

“Boy,” said the girl suddenly, “I meant to tell you before—old Injun
Noah was tellin’ me yesterday that there’s a big gray fox who makes his
home on the Point. Noah says he’s the biggest silver-gray he ever saw.
Says he’s as big as a timber-wolf. But he is so cunnin’ nobody can get a
shot at him.”

“Well,” smiled the boy, “I guess we needn’t go after that feller, and
you needn’t worry about one little silver-gray. Just you wait a while
and you’ll know what I mean.”

He winked mysteriously, and Gloss laughed. Then her face grew grave.

“That man Watson was over here this mornin’, Boy,” she said. “You know
what he wanted and you know how he’d get it. Well, I guess him and uncle
had words. I was hidin’ in a bunch of willows at the spring when he was
goin’ back, and when he passed me he was swearin’ awful.”

“Was he ridin’ toward the trail or goin’ toward Totherside?” asked Boy,
his face darkening.

“I watched him cross th’ creek, and when he got across he rode toward
the schoolhouse.”

Boy turned away. Then he paused and looked at the girl.

“Boy,” she said wistfully, “I wish we didn’t have no school in this
place. I wish Simpson would go away.”

“Why?” he asked quickly.

Slowly her eyes sank and her bosom heaved as her breath came in quick
gasps.

He reached out and caught her, and for the first time in their young
lives the girl struggled in his arms. He let her go and stood back,
wondering. She looked at him and smiled. Her face was pale, and her long
lashes did not conceal a look of dumb entreaty.

“Gloss——” he commenced.

“Boy,” she whispered, “we’re built for chums, and chums we’ll always be.
But the old rompin’ days are over now. Boy, you mustn’t take me—you
mustn’t hold me like that again. We ain’t boy and girl no more.”

He bent and picked up the squirrels. When he stood up again she had
gone.

“‘We ain’t boy and girl no more,’” he repeated.

He walked to the spring repeating the words over and over—“‘no
more.—Boy and girl no more!’”

From Totherside came the clang of the school bell.

“I wonder what she meant. I wonder why she wished that school—I wonder
why she wishes Simpson——”

Suddenly he flung the squirrels from him, and, bending forward, gazed
with hard eyes toward the white schoolhouse clinging to the hill.

“If he thinks harm to her, then God curse him,” he breathed, “and help
me to kill him.”

A wee hedge-sparrow, drunk with the hazy Indian summer sunshine, perched
itself on a branch above his head and poured out the simple little song
that he had always loved above all other songs of wood-birds, because it
was always the first song in new spring; the last in dreary fall. The
little singer was about to leave the wood wherein he had nested and
enjoyed a season’s happiness. He was about to fly far south, and was
trilling a promise to Boy to come back again another springtime. And Boy
listened to the simple song and wondered at the gladness in it. Nothing
of the deep unrest of his own soul was there,—only the gladness of a
heart brimful of God’s deep joy. Boy sat down on a log and watched the
bird.

“Little chap,” he murmured, “you’ve got a long ways to fly. I guess I
know you about as well as anybody could know you, unless it’s Daft
Davie, who’s wild like yourself, and I can’t understand why you should
be glad when you’re leavin’ all this——”

He looked about him. “—All this big nestin’-place. The great woods has
been mighty good to you, little feller—mighty good. There’s a nest you
built here, and you’ve got to leave it behind.”

A shadow floated across the hazy sunlight and a cold wind swept in from
the bay. With a last sweet note of good-by the bird sprang to wing, and
beating skyward high above the trees, faded, a little darting speck in
the somber clouds rolling up in the south. Boy watched it until its tiny
gray body was lost against the sky’s gray fringe. Then he sighed, picked
up the squirrels, and proceeded to strip them, deftly, of their glossy
coats. This done, he washed them carefully and carried them to the
house. Gloss was standing by the table in the kitchen and spoke to him
as he entered.

He answered her almost rudely and strode outside. The hazy light of
morning had vanished. The skies had darkened, and a low wind was shaking
the dead leaves from the trees. Boy plunged down the path and into the
wood. A shaggy dog, snoozing beside the ash-leach, watched him furtively
from half-closed eyes. When Boy’s figure disappeared behind the slope
the dog arose, shook himself, and with stiffened muscles trailed his
master stealthily.

Deep into the woods, Boy paused before a small grove of baby maples.
Beneath their spreading branches stood a playhouse built of rough bark
and twigs. He and Gloss had built this house; she, girl-like, to play at
mimic life therein; he, boy-like, that she might own her little joy.
There stood the table, a basswood block, set for a feast, with broken
bits of crockery and glass for dishes. It seemed but yesterday that he
and Gloss had sat before that table and eaten an imaginary repast of
earth’s luxuries from those broken dishes. It all seemed so poor, so
lonely, and deserted now.

In the twig high-chair slept Peggy, the rag doll, her arms dangling, her
whole attitude one of peaceful repose.

Boy crept in and shamefacedly swept the cob-webs from her poor little
face. Then he sat down on the stump-chair, and, laying his arms on the
table, rested his head upon them.

In the open the clouds scudded low above the trees, and it began to
snow. Boy arose and walked about the little house, his eyes searching it
for the small trinkets the girl had treasured there. A bunch of dead
flowers rustled in the cracked cup on the bark shelf. They were tied
with a gorgeous bit of red flannel, which, he remembered, Gloss had been
careful to explain was watered silk. Boy smiled and pressed the knot
between his fingers.

On the floor lay a home-woven straw hat. Its decorations, too, were of
woodland flowers faded to ashes and scentless. Boy caught it up and held
it at arm’s length; then he threw it from him and sprang out into the
darkening wood again.

He hurried on, passing the tree-swing where he and the girl had played
so many summers. He passed through the hickory grove where they had
garnered the nuts for the winter’s cracking; through this and into the
heavier timber and deeper shadow where the light was very dim and forest
whispers stirred and vibrated. A fox glided across his path, switching
into a clump of hazel-bushes. A cock grouse, drumming upon a decayed
log, arose on thundering wing to dip into a clump of trees far to the
left. Farther into the wood the cluck of a wild turkey sounded. Boy
heeded none of these things. On and on he strode,—his an aimless goal;
his one desire, to come up with that something urging and
elusive,—something he feared though treasured and could not understand.

Later, he stood in the low-lying wilderness of the Elm Swamp. And there,
perhaps, his great Mother pityingly solved for him the problem of a new
unrest. There where day’s light wavered faintly like foggy starlight,
his soul shook off its brooding, and the old glad fearless light came
back to his eyes.

“No, we ain’t girl and boy no more,” he whispered; and lifting his arms
high he laughed.

What he had received from the forest soothed his spirit as the starry
snowflakes, falling on his upturned face, soothed his burning flesh.

At mid-day the setter crept back to his old place by the ash-leach and
lay down. A little later Boy came up the path. He stooped down and
patted the dog’s head, and noting his tangled hair, laughed softly.

“Joe, old pup, I thought it was me who had to roam among the briers and
the burrs, but I see you’ve been there, too.”

And Joe looked up and yawned sleepily, just as if he had been awakened
from his forenoon’s nap.

Boy ate his dinner in silence. When he arose he glanced at Gloss. She
was standing before the window, and Boy saw her perfect face, crowned by
a mass of heavy chestnut hair, clear-lined against the light of an outer
world. Her great eyes were looking into space: she was dreaming. The
young man sought the open with surging pulse. The whistle of Hallibut’s
mill sounded its challenge, and, squaring his broad shoulders, he
laughed. Something new had come to him. Not strength; though strength
was of it. Not defiance; though it held the power to defy. Boy did not
attempt to define that new thing: it was enough for him to know that he
possessed it.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                         Through the Deep Wood


Gloss, standing in the kitchen doorway, gazed outward across the
bronze-tipped trees to the drab-colored sky resting above Rond Eau.

There was a smile on her lips and her eyes were alive with the light of
genuine girlish happiness. She did not know why she should be so glad;
but to-day she felt like singing; like racing out into the hardwoods and
tramping the long leaf-carpeted aisles. She wanted to be out in the
open. A flock of wild geese wedged their way between two tiny strips of
blue sky and were lost in a heavy snow-cloud above the Point. The girl
clapped her hands joyfully and, springing backward like a young gazelle,
she snatched her cap from a peg and tiptoed into the inner room.

Granny McTavish looked up from her knitting, a smile on her wrinkled
face.

“Lass,” she said softly, “but ye are gettin’ mair like your dear mither
every day. And she was bonnie, aye, she was bonnie, lassie.”

The girl sank on her knees and took the old hands in hers.

“Am I like my mother, Granny?” she asked eagerly. “Very like her?”

“Aye, dearie, ye have her eyes and ye have her beautiful hair; ye have
her face and ye have her smile. Ye tak me awa back to the time I first
saw your mither, Gloss. Ye will na gangin’ oot i’ th’ snaw, pet,” noting
with concern that Gloss had on her cap and coat. “I ne’er lak ta see ye
ramblin’ aboot i’ th’ woods after th’ snaw falls on account o’ th’
wolves, cheeld.”

“And she was beautiful, and I am like her,” said the girl softly. “Oh,
Granny, I’m beginnin’ to miss my mother!”

“Cheeld, cheeld,” said the old woman, drawing the girl over to her
bosom. “It’s ever the way. The mither is missed always, but the cheeld
canna miss her lak the woman. And ye are growin’ into a woman, Gloss; ye
are growin’ into a woman fast, lassie.”

She picked up her knitting and rocked to and fro, crooning to herself.
The girl arose and, bending, kissed her softly on the smooth white hair.
Then she crossed the kitchen and peeped into the larger of the bedrooms.

“She’s sleepin’, lass; best slip awa’ and no disturb her,” whispered
Granny. “She’ll no last much langer, dearie; she’ll no last much langer,
I fear.”

A look of sorrow came into the girl’s eyes and her mouth trembled.

“God won’t let her die, Granny,” she said chokingly; “He knows we need
her so much.”

“Maybe He needs her th’ mair, lassie.”

“No, no, He can’t. And, Granny, she wouldn’t—she wouldn’t be happy away
from Boy and—and us.”

“Ye dinna ken, lassie, ye dinna ken; it’s a braw warld and your mither
has been lookin’ for her comin’ full lang, I ha’ noo doot. They were
greet friends. They looed ain anither reet weel.”

“But mother would not mind waitin’ some longer, Granny. I know she would
rather let auntie live a while longer for our sakes. She has got used to
waitin’.”

“Lass, you mus’na cry,” said the old woman gently. “If she gangs awa’ it
wull be God’s good pleasure. If she bides ’twull be His mercy. We wull
hope and pray for the best, Glossie.”

When Gloss sought the wood a white, sweet-scented mist was rising from
the leafy carpet where a thin veil of snow had rested. The low calls of
the feathered denizens of the Wild sounded mellow and indistinct from
the soft-wood swales, for the sky was changing to the slate-blue of
eventide. Down in the stumpy potato-patch Boy and Big McTavish were
busily engaged in turning the snowy tubers out of the black soil.

Gloss skirted the patch, keeping a thicket between her and the workers,
and passed on southward until she reached a wide ridge of giant beech
trees, whose long outstretched arms were fruited with the toothsome nuts
which the first frost of autumn would send in a shower to the earth.

Black and red squirrels were busy among the trees, garnering their
winter’s food. They worked noisily, chattering and scolding. They were a
busy little body of workers, and they could not afford to pay much
attention to the wood-nymph whom they had become accustomed to see in
their kingdom. The old-time restfulness and happiness had stolen back to
the heart of the girl. Her great eyes were alive with life and joy, and
she passed on, humming a merry tune to herself, drinking in the golden
beauty, the songs, and the scents of nature.

Beyond a tangled clump of trees Gloss came unexpectedly upon another
creature of the wood. A young doe was browsing among the tender shoots
of the brush-pile, and at the girl’s soft footsteps it lifted its
shapely head and stood quivering, its nostrils dilated and its sides
heaving. And so the two animals of the Wild gazed at each other with a
deep and growing wonder.

Nature had built those two after the same fashion. Both were slender and
graceful; both were alert and watchful; both possessed long-lashed eyes;
both were wild, free, and beautiful.

The doe stood with her slender muzzle lifted, her sensitive lips
a-tremble, her humid eyes fastened upon the girl of the forest, who,
instinctively, she felt, would do her no harm.

For a moment the two creatures stood gazing at each other. The doe
reached forward timidly and plucked another mouthful of the juicy twigs,
then with a sudden start leaped into the thicket on the right.

Gloss turned quickly. A little man with a small face fringed with
whiskers, and light-blue eyes blinking from beneath a coon-skin cap,
stepped out from behind a tree and lowered the hammer of his long rifle.

“Jinks and ironwood!” he ejaculated; “you stud right in my way, Glossie.
I’d o’ had that doe sure pop if I hadn’t been a trifle timid about
hittin’ you.”

“Did—did you want to shoot that pretty little thing, Ander?” asked
Gloss, her cheeks aflame.

“Wall, I don’t know,” laughed the little man, coming forward. “I tell
you that war as fine a doe as I’ve seen this season, girl.”

“Poor thing,” sighed Gloss; then hotly, “I’m glad she got away; I’m glad
she got away.”

“Somebody else’ll get her,” said the man. “She’s pretty tame and she’ll
get shot sooner or later.”

The girl stood looking away through the wood.

“Ander,” she said, “I know you are a pretty good man. I want you to
promise me that you won’t shoot things—things like her. It’s terrible.
Why, they are so young they don’t know any danger. You’ll give them all
a chance, won’t you?”

Declute looked puzzled. He scratched his head and grinned; then he
looked down.

“Why, I don’t mind promisin’ that,” he stammered. “I ain’t carin’ much
to shoot—any deer without givin’ it somethin’ of a chance. And I will
say that to shoot ’em _without_ goes somethin’ again’ my grain. All
right, Gloss, old Ander’ll promise not to shoot that doe or any other
like her. Dang me, but you and her seemed a lot, a lot alike to me
somehow. I reckon I’m good enough of a shot to have got by you, girl;
but somethin’ kept my rifle down. I see you two lookin’ at each
other—her eyes, your eyes—wall, I can’t say what makes me think you
two are alike, but you are. No, siree, Ander won’t shoot any more
does—at least, not this season. Now, Gloss, I want you t’ come along
over to my place and see my missus. She’s bound to have a loggin’-bee
right soon, and she wants you to help her lay out the eatin’ line. I
can’t say much—you know what Rachel’s like. When she takes a notion to
do a thing I might as well give in right on the start and save trouble.
I don’t know why we wanter log, but that don’t matter—we’re goin’ to
log ’cause Rachel says so. Come along over and sorter give th’ old woman
a tip or two about what she should get together for the table. I’ll see
you back through th’ bush, ’cause I wanter see Boy about some traps.”

They started out, the man keeping up a running fire of conversation, his
short legs taking two steps to the tall girl’s one, and his little eyes,
by force of habit, shooting here and there through the bush.

As they approached Declute’s home, a house of logs close to the shore of
Rond Eau, a couple of wire-haired mongrel curs came yelping out to meet
them.

“There’s David and Goliath,” said Ander. “Rachel named them dogs. She’s
great on Bible names, is Rachel—too danged great,” he finished in a
lower key.

Gloss opened the door and stepped inside. Mrs. Declute turned slowly
from the table and a smile spread across her flour-streaked face.

“Oh, you dear,” she said, pounding forward and implanting a resounding
smack on the girl’s rosy cheek. “You little dear, to come just now of
all times, when I most wanted to see you.”

Mrs. Declute smiled again and a bit of powder fell from her face. It was
a big matronly face, with big-heartedness written clean across it, and
real kindness gleaming in its large black eyes. She was a big woman,
“nigh two hundred and thirty,” as Ander put it.

“Where are the babies?” asked Gloss, sitting down on a stool and
glancing about the small room.

“Sleepin’ like angels, th’ troublesome little good-fer-nothin’s,” smiled
the woman fondly. “Moses is just that troublesome I think sometimes I’ll
have to tie him up. Only this mornin’ he upsot the cradle and spilt
little Martha out on the floor ker-bump. Give my life if I wasn’t so
provoked I could have beeched him if he hadn’t been just gettin’ over
th’ jaundice.”

“Ander tells me that you are thinkin’ of havin’ a loggin’,” said Gloss.
“Is there anythin’ I could help you to do, Mrs. Declute?”

“Just what I was wantin’ to see you about,” cried the beaming woman,
sitting down and wiping her face with her apron. “Thought first as I’d
run across to Totherside and ask widder Ross to come over. Then I
thought about her havin’ that teacher boardin’ there, and I didn’t want
to put her out any. Fine cook is the widder, but somehow I can’t think
as anybody can cook meats and sarve ’em up quite like you, Glossie. I’m
fixin’ up some dried-apple pies. Sent over to Bridgetown this mornin’ by
Jim Peeler for the dried-apples. Guess he’ll be along soon.”

“He’s comin’ right now,” called Declute from the door. “I’ll go along
and give him a hand, I guess. He’s got some tobaccer for me—leastways I
hope he has; I sent for some.”

“Ain’t that a man for you?” winked Mrs. Declute. “Ain’t that a man,
though? Glossie, my dear, don’t you ever marry a man; don’t you ever do
it. You’ll be sorry all the days of your life if you do. Even I am
almost sorry sometimes, an’ Ander’s an exception of a man. There ain’t
no other like him. And sakes alive, he’s bad enough, dear knows.”

Ander and a short, heavy-set man entered, and the latter laid a number
of parcels on the table. He had a jolly round red face with crow’s-feet
about the corners of brown eyes, stamped there by much smiling. It was
said of Jim Peeler that he had never been known to lose his temper. He
stood a short rifle in a corner and sat down near the table. Mrs.
Declute arose and brought a steaming teapot from the hearth, also a
plate of bread and cold meat.

After disposing of a goodly portion of the victuals before him, Jim
turned to Gloss with the question:

“How’s the sick?”

“No better,” answered Gloss, her face growing grave.

“Dear me, how thinkless I am!” exclaimed Mrs. Declute. “I knowed there
was somethin’ I wanted to ask you, Gloss. That’s it. How’s th’ dear
little woman?”

Ander was cutting off a piece of black chewing-tobacco from a big slab.

“Why don’t you tell old Betsy ’bout her, Glossie?” he asked.

“Shet up, Ander,” flashed his wife. “Be you a Christian, or be you a
heathen as believe in witches?”

“There, there,” laughed Peeler soothingly, “I guess Ander is a good
Christian. But I was talkin’ to a _real_ Christian to-day; a real pious,
right-down good man.”

“Smythe?” questioned Declute, the piece of tobacco poised half-way to
its expectant goal.

“The same,” answered Peeler. “And, by the way, I met that man Watson as
I was comin’ home. He must have been over here, eh?”

“He was here this mornin’,” said Gloss. “He was tryin’ to—to buy our
place.”

“Oh, was he?”

Peeler’s face lost its smile and his bushy eyebrows met in a scowl. “How
about you, Ander?”

Declute squirmed.

“Oh, I ain’t thinkin’ much about it, Jim. I ain’t worryin’ none.”

His wife gazed at him contemptuously.

“You ain’t brains enough to worry about anythin’,” she exclaimed. “Was
Watson ridin’ alone, Jim?”

“Well, no, he wasn’t. That teacher chap was with him. He was ridin’ the
bay belongin’ to Hallibut’s engineer.”

Gloss looked up, her eyes wide.

“Then they were together?” she asked.

“Yes,” replied Peeler. “I suppose the teacher was seein’ him through
part of the bush. I was talkin’ to Blake, the sawyer, over at the mill a
while ago, and he tells me Colonel Hallibut has hired Smythe and Watson
to help get our timberland.”

“Where’bouts on the trail did you meet ’em?” asked Declute.

“Why, they had only got nicely started, I guess. It wasn’t more than two
or three miles out at most.”

“Where has Watson been all day, I wonder?” cried Gloss. “He was at our
place shortly after sun-up.”

From the next room came a commotion, and three round-eyed youngsters,
between the ages of three and six, protruded their heads from beneath
the buckskin door-curtain.

“Get back in thar, Moses and Zaccheus,” commanded the mother; “you ain’t
had half enough sleep yet.”

“Oh, let me hug them, Mrs. Declute,” pleaded Gloss.

She ran across and gathered the babies up, all together, in her arms.
They twined their chubby arms about her neck and rubbed their sleepy
eyes against her face. They were sweet, wholesome youngsters, and the
girl loved them. She kissed them all, three times around, then set them
down.

“Guess we’d better be goin’, Ander,” she said, “that is, if you _have_
to come. But I’m not the least timid about goin’ alone.”

“Course he’ll go,” declared Mrs. Declute, “and you, too, Jim Peeler,
’cause I’ve got to get on with them pies. Tell Libby the bee’s next
Thursday, and I’ll want her to help with the table. Much ’bliged for
your kindness, Jim. Good-night, Glossie.”



                               CHAPTER IX
                            And the Twilight


“Guess I’ll step through the oak ridge here and look in on Bill Paisley
for a minute or so,” said Jim Peeler, as the three found the path
leading to the creek.

“He’s singin’ his old pet song,” smiled Gloss. “Hark, can’t you hear
him?”

Upon the tree-fringe of Rond Eau a red disk of a sun was dripping gold
and amethyst glory and all the wild-wood was full of life and harmony.
From the thickets the hardiest of the song-birds were bidding good-by to
the wood. It was their last night in the old nesting-place.

Mingled with the symphony came Paisley’s voice, trilling happily:

        “_Massar’s gone away, de darkey say, ‘Ho, ho!’_
        _Mus’ be now dat de kingdom’s comin’_
        _I’ de year ob jubiloo._”

“He’s a happy beggar,” chuckled Declute. “He’s a happy beggar, is Bill,
and the biggest-hearted, softest-hearted baby of a man as ever lived.”

“God built some big things,” said Peeler: “that,” waving a hand toward
the mellow glory above; “this,” looking about him; “an’ Bill. Yes, He
built Bill, and nobody has ever spoiled His work.”

“And nobody can spoil His work,” said Gloss gently, “dear old Bill.”

“Run along, children,” laughed Peeler, “I’ve got my pockets full of
things that Paisley sent to town for. Silk thread, silk cloth—three
dollars a yard; look here.” He tapped one of his large, bulging pockets.
“Bill’s gone into the dressmakin’ business, it seems.”

Gloss clasped her brown hands and her eyes danced.

“Oh,” she begged, “won’t you let me come too? I want to see all those
things. I surely do.”

“Tut, tut,” scolded Peeler, screwing up his face, “that wouldn’t do at
all. I’m tellin’ too much. I’m a poor hand at keepin’ secrets.”

He plunged among the trees, his face frowning and his eyes laughing, and
when he had put one of the wide ridges between himself and Gloss he
clapped his hands and laughed like a boy.

“She don’t know that Bill is gettin’ all this costly finery for her.
Bless her,” he murmured, wiping his eyes, “she don’t suspect a
thing—not a thing. God bless her dear heart. Ah, but all the silver-fox
hides in all this big woods couldn’t make a coat good enough for our
girl, let alone six as Bill has. But it’s Bill’s little wish,” he added;
“it’s just Bill’s little wish. And Bill’s one of God’s big men.”

Bill scarcely looked his part on this particular evening. Peeler found
him sitting just outside his home, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows,
and his sinewy arms shining with bear-oil. Across his seamed face were a
number of greasy smears, left there by brushing away a troublesome
mosquito. Between his teeth he gripped a short clay pipe. At his feet
lay a pile of traps, tangled together and red with rust.

“Got back, eh?” he grinned as Peeler approached. “Get them things, Jim?”

“Sure, Bill,” and Peeler commenced emptying his pockets.

“Jim,” said Paisley, “I guess I’d best have your good wife help me out
on this coat. I thought maybe she’d do the linin’. Suppose she would?”

“Do I suppose? Wall, I do better,” answered Peeler, “I _know_ she will.”

“Then don’t empty out till you get home. I’ll drop over to-morrow night.
I’ve got to get these traps in shape if I’m goin’ to do any trappin’
this season. Who’d you see over at Bridgetown, Jim?”

“Just a few that Declute wants over to his loggin’,” answered Peeler,
seating himself on a bench, “an’ that man Smythe who keeps the store.”

“What do you think o’ that feller?”

Paisley made a dip for the pan of bear-oil and started scrubbing another
trap.

“Well, I don’t just think I’m takin’ to him much,” replied Peeler. “I
don’t like the way he has of shiftin’ his eyes, and he always seems to
be expectin’ somebody. He sort of makes me nervous. He tried to find out
all about every person that lives here, but I wasn’t sayin’ much.
Somehow I wish Tom Gray hadn’t sold out his store to this feller, Bill.
I don’t know why, but I can’t take to him.”

“Pshaw,” grunted Paisley, “I guess we’re all too quick at takin’
dislikes. I’ll own I feel purty much the same as you. Did he tell you
that he was hand in hand with Watson? I haven’t ever seen Watson yet,
but I’m anxious to meet him.”

“He was askin’ me about widder Ross,” said Peeler. “Wanted to know how
much property she owned, and all that. Said that he liked her—what he
had seen of her.”

Paisley dropped his trap and stared through the twilight at his friend.

“By gum!” he exclaimed, “what _do_ you think of that?”

“He told me quite a lot of things about Colonel Hallibut,” said Peeler,
coming over and seating himself close beside Paisley. “Bill, it looks as
if Hallibut was bound to scoop us off this place. Smythe says as he is a
bad man to hinder, once he has made up his mind. He says as both him and
Watson is in sympathy with us, and if we’ll only let on we’re agreeable
to leave, that him and Watson’ll see he don’t get hold of the leases.”

Paisley took his pipe from his mouth and laid it on a nearby block.

“Jim,” he said, “I don’t know Smythe very well, but you can bet on
this—the man’s a liar. Him and Watson are hand in hand with old
Hallibut, and it’s my impression they’re all a pack of rascals. Hallibut
threatens to drive us into the bay if we refuse to be reasonable—as he
calls it. I was talkin’ to one of the fellers who runs that mill of his,
this afternoon, and he says Hallibut rides over to Bridgetown most every
day and lays plans with Smythe and Watson. He said as to-day Hallibut
intended goin’ over there. Didn’t see him, I suppose?”

Peeler shook his head.

“No, but I met Watson to-night—him and Simpson.”

“There you are,” cried Paisley; “there you are. Watson intended to come
here to-day, and you can bet that old reprobate Hallibut has a hand in
anything Watson does.”

“Then you think them fellers are goin’ to try some funny work, do you,
Bill?”

“Jim,” answered Paisley, “it’s my opinion that there’s goin’ to be
trouble here soon. Them people have laid plans to get our woods, and of
course we’ll naturally see that they don’t. But what I’m afraid of is
that Boy McTavish is goin’ to kill somebody sure. You know what he’s
like, Jim, so I want to ask you to do this: no matter what you see or
hear, don’t tell Boy. I’ve just about raised him, you might say, and I
know his moods. There’s enough trouble over there at Big Mac’s now. If
we just keep cool everythin’ ’ll come out all right. We’ll keep our eyes
and ears open, and whatever we see and hear we’ll try to meet without
Boy knowin’ anythin’ about it. What d’ye say, Jim?”

“Sure,” answered Peeler. “I think same’s you, Bill. It won’t do to be
too hasty if things come to the worst, which I hope they won’t.”

“Amen to that,” said Paisley fervently. “I trust there’ll be no trouble,
Jim. Old Injun Noah was here to-day, and I could see that somethin’ was
worryin’ him. You know he won’t talk—only to Gloss; so I couldn’t get
anythin’ out of him.”

“When old Noah worries there’s somethin’ in the wind all right,” said
Peeler. “Good old Noah!”

“He stayed here with me quite a time,” said Paisley, “and he never said
a word till he was leavin’. Then he said:

“‘Bushwhacker no shoot, no kill big man. That mean bad, bad for
Bushwhacker. Bushwhacker wait—wait and see.’ And before I could ask him
anythin’ he was gone.”

“He comes mysterious and he goes mysterious,” said Peeler slowly, “but I
reckon he knows even more than we do about old Hallibut and his gang.”

He arose and walked toward the path.

“Will you come over to Big Mac’s, Bill?” he asked.

“Sure, I will.”

Paisley dived into the house, washed his hands and face, threw on a
jacket, and came forth a bright and smiling six feet of manhood.

“I’m wantin’ some to see the little sick woman,” said Peeler, “and hear
Big Mac’s fiddle again.”

“Boy was here this mornin’,” said Bill as the two struck off down the
path, “and he says the ma is awful sick. I guess she won’t be stayin’
long.”

When the men reached the McTavish home night had fallen, and a big moon
was lifting her face from the forest far eastward.

A damp wind off the bay bore on its wings the scent of bog and marsh,
and from high overhead came the wing-songs of inflying wild ducks. From
inside came the music of the fiddle playing “Ye Banks and Braes.”



                               CHAPTER X
                            Colonel Hallibut


“Jno. T. Smythe; Seller of guns, ammunition, and provisions; Buyer of
furs and game.”

This sign creaked and complained against a dingy little building of
unplaned boards. It was gray and forsaken-looking, being one of about
two hundred others just like it, of gloomy and sullen aspect. This was
Bridgetown. On its one side, stretching eastward, lay a drab-gray fallow
of partly cleared land. Here and there stood a clump of trees; here and
there a solitary stub, ax-scarred or fire-blackened. In these, Nature
seemed to be voicing her resentment of the ravishes of man. In this, the
close of an October day, the little town seemed as dead as the slain
beauties that had once reigned in her place. Westward, beginning with a
stubble of second-growth beeches and maples, the land rolled and
undulated, at each step southward and westward taking on a more
picturesque appearance of natural grandeur. For ten miles inland lay the
scars that civilization had left upon the forest. Then the marks were
seen no more. A yellow ridge of golden-oak marked the boundary-line, and
behind this line lay Bushwhackers’ Place.

Mr. Smythe, the storekeeper, stood gazing out from the dirty pane at the
dreary panorama, occasionally lifting his shifting light-blue eyes
heavenward. A big storm-cloud was rolling in above the forest from the
west.

“Watson ought to be back by now,” he mused for the twentieth time in
half an hour. “God forgive me if I did wrong in letting him take gray
Fan. He’s three stone too heavy for the mare.” He turned from the window
and glanced toward the door. A heavy step was approaching. From without
came a sonorous voice calling and scolding a pack of hounds that now
came scrambling and barking up the deserted street.

“It’s Colonel Hallibut,” whispered Smythe in dismay. “Why does he want
to show up just at this time of all times? Watson might have known that
he would put in his appearance just when he wasn’t wanted. All right,
sir. Yes, sir, I’ll open for you, Colonel. Come in, sir; come in.”

A big form filled the doorway and a big voice spoke.

“Nice storekeeper you are, Smythe, to have your door locked this way.
What’s the matter with you, anyway? Let the dogs come in; poor chaps,
they’re tired.”

“They don’t take to me, your hounds don’t, Colonel,” ventured the
storekeeper. “That brindle fellow took hold of my leg the last time I
let ’em in. However, there you are. Nice doggies, come in and make
yourselves to home.”

“Finest pack in Ontario; finest pack in the whole Dominion, I say—those
fellows,” laughed Hallibut, jolting, in the semi-darkness, against a
pile of furs and toppling it over on the floor.

Immediately three of the tired dogs stretched themselves out on the soft
bed, as though it had been arranged for them, and went to sleep.
Hallibut threw himself into a chair by the fireplace and laughed at the
other’s dismay.

“Better not try to disturb ’em, Smythe,” he cautioned. “They’re ugly, I
tell you. Get them something to eat, will you? And say, Smythe, just
have that nigger of yours get me up a snack, too, like a good fellow;
I’ve been riding since morning.”

“St. Thomas?” asked Mr. Smythe, shifting his light eyes to the Colonel’s
face and patting his thin hair with his long fingers.

“It doesn’t matter,” returned the other. “Where is Watson?”

“I’m sorry to say,” commenced Smythe; but the Colonel turned upon him,
his black brows knit in a frown.

“You needn’t finish. I know.”

He arose stiffly and walked around behind the counter.

“Give me the key, Smythe,” he demanded, holding out his hand.

The Colonel took the key and unlocked a small oak cupboard, extracting
from it a bottle of red liquor.

“I’m afraid if Watson persists in drinking I’ll have to find a new
agent,” he said, walking to the door and throwing the bottle across the
street.

“Seems he can’t resist the drink, Colonel,” stammered the groceryman.

His long face had turned to a yellow-white, though, it was hid by the
advancing night-shadows from the black orbs of the ponderous man before
him.

“I’ll go and have you a meal prepared. Make yourself comfortable,
Colonel Hallibut.”

Not until the door of the inner room closed upon him did the soul of
Smythe vent itself in whispered imprecations. He clenched his claw-like
fists and shook them fiercely. He let forth a tirade of murmured oaths
that would have made a Newfoundland fisherman gasp in wonder. Finally,
he turned and, prying through the gloom, sought out the recumbent figure
of his colored man-of-all-work, who was peacefully sleeping on a cot of
willow-boughs. Smythe crept forward and bent above the sleeper. A
prolonged snore met him. He reached forward and, feeling down the wide
bridge of the negro’s nose until he got the desired hold, he
deliberately gave that member such a violent twist that Sam came out of
Magnolialand to this trying sphere with a suppressed snort.

“Yes, massar,” he cried, struggling up.

“Light the candles and put some bacon to fry,” commanded Smythe.
“Colonel Hallibut is here.”

“Lawd save us!” groaned the colored man. “Where am dem candles at, I
wonder? Hab he got de dorgs, sah?” shading a match with his hands so
that its flickering light showed the apprehension in his white eyeballs.

“Some of them, yes. Don’t stand there shaking. Get his supper ready,
then go down to the Triple Elms and wait for Watson. They mus’n’t meet
until I’ve seen Watson. You tell him the Colonel is here and to lie low
until he leaves.”

Sam had lit the candles and now stood tongueing his thick lips.

“It’s gwine to be a bad night, sah, an’ dey do say a-pack of wolves——”

Smythe lifted his hand.

“Hurry up—I hear him tramping out there. What did I tell you?”

The heavy voice of the Colonel was heard requesting that lights be
brought and the fire be made more cheerful.

“You’d better take a rifle with you,” said the storekeeper, turning to
the negro, his hand on the latch.

Sam waited until the door had closed behind his master. Then he gave way
to silent mirth.

“Massar Smiff don’ want Watson t’ meet de Kennel. An’ de Kennel
a-waitin’ out dar fer Massar Watson ter pop in any time. He! ho! he!
ho!”

He quickly prepared the visitor’s meal, and, lifting the rifle from its
pegs, slipped out by the back door.

After he had eaten his supper Hallibut pushed his chair back from the
table and felt for his pipe.

“When was Watson over to Bushwhackers’ Place last?” he asked, his eyes
on Smythe’s face.

“Let me see—why, I think it was on Tuesday, sir. He said you asked him
to use his influence with those misguided people who prefer savagery to
civilization.”

“Your friend has a vivid imagination,” remarked Hallibut. “He came to
see me and told me a lot of nice things the Bushwhackers intended doing
to me if I didn’t mind my own business. Knowing Watson to be even a
bigger prevaricator than you are, I believed half what he said and let
the rest go by me. However, I know the Bushwhackers haven’t any use for
me. I don’t know why. Guess they think I’d do anything to gain what I’d
set out to,—and they’re not far wrong. He suggested that I let you and
him handle this deal for me, and after consideration I thought maybe I
had better. I’m too short-tempered to ever use diplomacy, and as I’m no
hypocrite I couldn’t soft-soap the Bushwhackers into coming to my way of
thinking. I’m willing to pay them whatever the timber is worth. It ought
to be a good thing for them, and I’m inclined to think they’ll be
sensible and sell the timber. I only want the biggest of the hard
stuff.”

“They’re a bunch of bad ones,” declared Smythe; “a regular band of
cut-throats. They know no law and they hold life as cheap as water. Big
McTavish has incited the others against you. They swear they will kill
you if you set foot on Bushwhackers’ Place.”

“I’m not anxious to set foot on Bushwhackers’ Place, providing I can
secure the timber through an agent. But the timber I must have. I gave
Watson money with which to start the ball rolling. Maybe I’ll see that
money again and maybe I won’t. As I said before, I don’t trust either
you or Watson very far. But both of you know me.”

“We will do our very utmost to get the timber,” said Smythe; and as the
Colonel turned toward him he added, “for _you_.”

“It might be a good idea,” said Hallibut. “As for those Bushwhackers,
I’m not caring a cent what they think of me. I tried to show them that I
was interested in their welfare by building that schoolhouse, that they
might educate their children, and by giving it to them—it and the land
it stands on. I’ve hired young Simpson to teach the school, or you did
with my money, which amounts to the same, and after all this you say the
Bushwhackers want to kill me. Grateful, aren’t they?”

“If you hadn’t built that mill until after you had got possession of the
timber——” faltered Smythe; but the Colonel interrupted him.

“See here, I built that mill on my own land, didn’t I? Surely I don’t
have to ask permission from anybody else when I want to do anything with
my own.”

“I was merely going to say that the mill has driven the fur-bearing
animals out of the creek,” smiled Smythe. “The Bushwhackers say you have
spoiled the best trapping, sir.”

“Well, I’m sorry for that; but my intentions were good. I looked upon
those people as a simple-hearted lot of men and women whose friendship
was worth the winning. It’s funny—me wanting friends at my age. But I’m
getting old and fanciful, I guess.”

Smythe scratched his chin and squinted along his beak-like nose as
though he were aiming the remark at a crack in the floor, as he said:

“They’re not particular about having the trees cut down. They live
mostly by shooting and trapping. But I do know that two thousand acres
of walnut, beech, and hickory is worth a fortune to somebody.”

“Humph! And how long have you known that? Seems queer to me that you and
Watson haven’t tried to corner this timber for yourselves.”

The storekeeper lifted his hands.

“Surely you know us better than that,” he protested.

“I know dogs better than I do men,” said Hallibut, “and I can trust
dogs. I’ve never seen many men that I could trust. It was a man stole
the best thing I ever had in life.”

“Ah,” Mr. Smythe rubbed his hands together and smiled, “a woman?”

Hallibut looked at him, an expression of disgust on his face.

“Yes, but not the kind of woman you know. This one was my sister.”

“Just so,” smirked the grocer; and then he whispered again, “just so.”

“Did you or Watson tell the Bushwhackers what I intend to do with the
boat?” asked Hallibut after a little time had elapsed.

“Yes, and they say that as soon as you try and put your schooner up Lee
Creek there will be trouble. They told Watson to tell you so,” said
Smythe.

“So they warn me, eh?”

Hallibut left his chair and paced up and down the floor.

Smythe sat with a smile of satisfaction on his weasel-like face.

“Of course, they can’t stop you from entering the harbor and sailing
across Rond Eau; neither can they prevent you from sailing up the creek.
But,” he added impressively, “they can burn your boat.”

“Don’t talk foolishness,” cried Hallibut. “They aren’t quite crazy. If
they tried anything like that on with me, I’d wipe ’em out; you hear
me—wipe the whole bunch of ’em out.”

“I think Mr. Watson and I may make some amicable arrangements with the
misguided people,” said Smythe.

“Well, see that you do. Neither of you are honest, and you should make a
success of any job that requires underhand work. But this is a straight,
fair, and square offer. See that you make the Bushwhackers understand
that I want to treat them squarely.”

He sat down and gazed across at Smythe. Slowly the purple died in his
face, and he relighted his pipe and smoked it thoughtfully.

“It’s hard to understand some men,” he said, “—mighty hard. But then
it’s mighty hard to understand some dogs, too. I’ve seen dogs, and owned
’em, intelligent enough to understand most everything I said to them.
But somehow I never got to know their language. Still I’m called a dog’s
superior. Strange, isn’t it? Now, your friend Watson reminds me of a dog
that would wag and fawn all he could out of you.”

He nodded his great head slowly and sent a cloud of smoke ceilingward.

“As the case stands, I’ve trusted him with my money. The question is,
will he play square?”

Mr. Smythe opened his milk-blue eyes wide.

“Oh, you may trust him, my dear Colonel,” he said earnestly. “Mr.
Watson, sir, is an honest servant; a faithful Christian.”

“Humph, think so? Well, maybe you’re right. I’m not feeling exactly like
myself to-night, Smythe, and I’m fanciful, I guess. The fellow who’s
rigging my schooner told me a story this morning—not a nice story,
either—and I’ve been thinking ever since about a poor little woman who
died with not a single friend near her. Here’s the sailor’s story:

“A man by the name of Watts, who was supposed to be a ferryman, lived on
the Detroit River somewhere near Sandwich. A crippled sister kept house
for him, and he, according to report, was a bad one all round. One night
he brought across from the American side a woman and her baby. They had
come a long distance, it seems, and the woman was sick—in fact, she was
dying. This Watts saw she had money, and he took her to his home, where
she died that very night. Before the end came she consigned the baby to
the care of Watts and obtained a promise from him that he would try and
find a man—the sailor couldn’t remember the name—and place the baby,
along with a certain parcel she was carrying, with him.”

Smythe laughed uneasily.

“That was a pretty big contract for Watts to take on.”

“Of course, he never intended to keep it,” said Hallibut. “She gave him
money with which to seek out her friends. The sailor says he put it in
his pocket and let the County bury the poor woman.”

“And the baby?” queried Smythe, his face twitching.

“I’m coming to that. It seems this Watts’ hunchback sister was a good
woman at heart. She wanted to keep the baby. But he sent the child away
into the forest with an Indian on a wild-goose chase and kept the
parcel.”

Smythe made five dots on the paper before him.

“What was in the parcel?” he asked, wiping his eyes.

“The sailor didn’t know, but it was reported to be money. You’ll make me
wish I hadn’t told you this harrowing story, Smythe.”

“Poor mother; poor little orphan,” sighed the storekeeper.

The Colonel stared at him.

“Did I say that the baby’s father had died?” he asked. “You’re right
though, its father was dead. The woman told Watts as much.”

Hallibut arose and stretched his long arms. He was a man far past middle
age, with iron-gray hair, a large face, and deep, kindly eyes. He stood
over six-foot-two, was broad of shoulder, and straight as an arrow.

“That’s the story the sailor told me,” he said grimly. “I’ve been
thinking of that poor woman all day. Poor little thing—sick and dying
amongst strangers. And that man—think of what he did, Smythe. Could you
imagine any man being so inhuman?”

Smythe sat huddled up on his chair.

“How long ago did this thing happen?” he asked.

“It was nineteen years ago; maybe twenty. There’s no doubt about the
baby being dead long ago. Of course, the Indian would reason that it was
less trouble to let the baby die than it was to keep it alive.”

The Colonel locked his hands behind him and paced up and down the room.
He paused before Smythe at last and looked down upon him with misty
eyes.

“I guess I’m not very well,” he said with a short laugh, “—why, this
thing happened twenty years ago; and maybe after all the sailor was
lying.”

Mr. Smythe raised his head.

“Sailors have a habit of lying,” he agreed.

The door opened and Sambo burst into the room.

“I put de hoss inter de stable, Massar Smiff,” he cried.

“Why, who had your horse, Smythe?” asked Hallibut.

Smythe’s weasel eyes shifted from the big man to Sambo.

“I loaned her to—to Alexander Wilson this morning,” he faltered.

“That’s funny,” returned the Colonel. “I met Wilson driving a span of
oxen as I was coming here. Say, Sambo, feed my dogs, like a good fellow;
I want to push on.”

Half an hour after the hoof-beats of Hallibut’s horse had died away
Watson crept into the room. He was breathing heavily and his swarthy
face was drawn and haggard. Mr. Smythe wisely asked no questions.

The agent sank into a seat before the fire. He sat fumbling in his
pocket and from it finally drew out a leather wallet. He opened it and
extracted from it a photograph. He held it out in a shaking hand and
looked at Smythe.

“I’ve hung on to this,” he faltered, “because you thought we ought to
keep it—because you thought if the baby was alive we might know it from
this likeness.”

Smythe nodded, and Watson leaned forward and put the photograph in the
red coals.

“You were right,” he shivered. “I found it. I found it to-day, and I
knew it by that likeness of its mother. Yes, I found the girl, Smythe.”

Smythe glanced fearfully at the snoring Sambo in the corner.

“Where was she?” he asked in an awed whisper.

Watson did not reply. He picked up the poker and bent above the fire.
The cardboard he had tossed in the coals lay there charred and curled.
As he gazed upon it, fascinated, a little baby flame sprang out and
kissed it to glowing life so that from it a face flashed out, sweet,
glad, and triumphant. Then a breeze from the Wild swooped down the wide
chimney and carried it away.



                               CHAPTER XI
                          The Wild of the Wild


Colonel Hallibut rode the lone trail, his hounds at his heels. A spent
moon draggled across a spiteful, crumpled sky, low down above the fringe
of ravished forest. The wind had died, and the night was still, except
for the calls of the forest things that voice their woes and joys at
night. There were the low “whoo-hoos” of the owls, the “perru-perrs” of
the night-hawks, and away far down toward the westward came, now and
again, a fluted call dying in a wail that bespoke the lynx’s
unsuccessful stalking. Deeper down in the forest a stray timber-wolf
called hopelessly to a wandering pack. Anon the call was answered
faintly, but clearly, far above; then a new note came into the strayer’s
voice, and the yelp was sharper, clearer than before.

Colonel Hallibut rode on, his head low and his rifle thrown across his
saddle-pommel. Occasionally his lips moved and he sat erect with a jerk.

“Hate me, do they?” he mused. “I wonder why? And I wonder why I should
care? I am growing old and fanciful, I guess. Thank God I have my
dogs—and a dog is a true friend.”

The thin moon dropped down behind the heavy fringe and the night
blackened as the trail narrowed.

“I don’t know but I’ve made a mistake in making Watson and Smythe my
agents,” thought the man. “I can’t trust either of them, and——”

From far ahead there came again the long, low cry of a wolf; not the
undulating cry; but the long-drawn, unvarying note that bespoke the
rejoining of the pack. Hallibut lifted his head and half-reined in his
horse.

“Howl, you devils,” he cried. Then he slapped the horse’s neck with the
rein. “If it were mid-winter now,” he soliloquized, shrugging his
shoulders, “I wouldn’t just feel safe in this place.”

Miles of the trail still lay before him—miles of lonely land. But the
man was inured to the Wild; he had ridden the night trail many, many
times. Still the life had taught him caution. He knew that in
mid-winter, when the food was scarce, the timber-wolves grew fearless
and were bad company. In winter he would not have thought of journeying
on this trail alone. But it was barely autumn now, and he gave himself
not the slightest thought of danger, but rode boldly on.

The Colonel was the big man of his particular day. The village of St.
Thomas, miles onward, he practically owned, as well as the greater
portion of the partly cleared land surrounding it. St. Thomas was simply
a drab-colored blotch on the Wild as yet, but the lake lay close to it
and its natural resources promised to make of the half-cleared country
about it a great land some day not far future. Hallibut owned the grand
home of the country-side; a big, rambling house of planed boards, with
wide rooms and oiled hardwood floors. It sat on the crest of a hill
among a grove of butternuts, and near it stood the stables and kennels,
famous far and near.

Horses were a rarity in those old days, but in Colonel Hallibut’s
stables were some of the best blood-horses of the time. He loved riding
and he loved the chase. Being of English birth he had adopted the
customs of his homeland and carried them to the limit. His cellar
contained bitter ale, beer, and choice wines. He loved to sit beside his
wide fireplace with his long pipe alight, a mug at his elbow, and hounds
snoozing about him, and there dream, with his pets, of the events of the
day’s chase. He was a power in his land. No man dared to gainsay his
command. He held more than money-power; he represented the law as well.
He was a monopolist. He had secured land for the asking; land for a
pittance; land for an hour or two of patient head-work. He owned
thousands of acres. The scarcity of hard timber, occasioned by heavy
northern forest fires, had recently enhanced its price so materially
that one thousand acres of prime hardwood was worth a small fortune,
provided there were facilities for shipping the timber. Hallibut owned
the facilities in the shape of a trim schooner, which he now felt he
could use to advantage; for he had long realized the wealth resident in
those beautifully timbered ridges of the Bushwhackers. Having seen the
great maple and beech, the magnificent walnut and the yellow and black
and white oak, now worth many dollars a thousand, Hallibut was willing
to pay a good price for the timber. He had purchased a strip of timber
along Lee Creek across from the Bushwhackers, and erected a portable
mill there.

In order to show the Bushwhackers that he wished to be neighborly, the
big man had built them a schoolhouse and supplied a teacher for it, in
doing which he felt that he had been actuated by pure magnanimity,
without thought of gain.

But the Colonel was finding out that the Bushwhackers resented his
advances of friendship, and he wondered why. Now they were threatening
him, and they must learn that he did not fear them.

The Colonel had never married, but kept as his housekeeper an
old-country woman of advanced years. Her name was Davis, and her
grown-up son, Dick, lived with them and looked after the kennels and
stables.

Austere as he appeared to be to the people in village and country-side,
Colonel Hallibut was in reality a man of great and generous impulses. He
was a man of reserve, for in his heart rested a pitiful little
story—pitiful because so simple.

Years ago, on a fine estate in England, he had possessed a little sister
who was all the kin he could claim in the world. He more than loved the
girl—he worshiped her as few men have been known to do. She could not
make a wish he would not gratify. And the girl—she loved the big
brother better than anything in the world, until that other love
awakened within her. One day she forsook the brother, leaving a brief
note behind. She had married a man who was beneath her station in life,
and fled with him across the ocean. Hallibut faced his grief and went
the way alone. From that day his world had been a lonely world. Change
of scenes, excitement, or even the chase could never make him forget.
The sister’s face was always there. He sold the estate and sought
forgetfulness in travel. Then he did what he should have done at
first—he sought the girl. But he found her not. He joined the army, but
even the thrill of the fight gave him no respite from sad memories. At
last he turned for solace to the Wild; and in the big house, with one
old family servant, he had lived for years now. Out in the open all day
long, and at night by his fireplace with a picture in the glowing coals
and a portrait looking from the wall—this was the man’s life as it was
lived.

As the horseman penetrated deeply into the forest gloom and the heavy
shadows settled more closely about him, making the trail hard to keep in
its blackness, he began to wish he had asked Dick to come out and meet
him, as he sometimes did when forced to return after night. The woods
had a way of playing pranks upon him. He was not bred for the bush, and
therefore there were things about it that he could never hope to learn
at his age. Still he knew the trail he was on well enough to have
followed it blindfolded, had it been necessary. He settled lower in the
saddle, and with his mind on Smythe and Watson and the Bushwhackers, he
passed down the trail.

He had been perhaps two hours in the saddle, and was nearing what was
known as the Fire-Lick, a low, charred scar of territory that had been
swept by fire years ago, when he was aroused from his meditations by the
growls of his hounds. The dogs were acting in a most peculiar manner,
running ahead for a few feet and then retreating almost beneath the
horse’s heels. The horse, too, seemed to catch their spirit, for he
reared once or twice, and would have thrown the rider had he been other
than Hallibut himself.

“What the devil!” cried the man, striking the horse with the quirt and
whistling to the hounds.

“What’s the matter with you all, anyway?”

The horse leaped forward so suddenly that an overhanging branch caught
the rider’s cap and swept it from his head. With a promise that he would
teach the animal to act differently, the Colonel slid down from his
saddle and with the bridle-rein over his arm stooped to feel in the
darkness for his cap. A hound almost beneath the horse lifted its head
and howled, and the frightened beast with a snort reared and, jerking
away from the man, sprang down the trail in the direction from which he
had come.

Hallibut arose and fumbled the hammer of his rifle. He had his hands
full with the dogs, for they crowded around him whining and growling and
in every way manifesting fear of the unseen enemy. He did not understand
it. It was a pretty predicament for him to be in, surely. It meant ten
miles of a walk, and he was tired. He stepped out and, followed by the
dogs, made to cross the Fire-Lick that stretched like a black lake
before him. At its border a circle of gleaming eyes met him.

“Wolves!” he shuddered, and throwing forward the rifle he drew a bead on
those shifting balls of fire and pulled the trigger. The hammer fell
dead. No explosion followed, and the circle narrowed toward man and
dogs. Hallibut sprang for a nearby tree and drew himself up into its
branches.

As he swung aloft a dark shape hurled itself into the air, and he heard
the wolf’s teeth snap within a few inches of his pendant legs.

“They’ll get my hounds,” thought the man. “Back, Pinch; back, Gabe;
Nell, you fool, get back there,” he cried excitedly.

But the fighting blood was up in the dogs. In numbers they were inferior
to the foe, but in fighting tactics they were superior. The master knew
each dog by its voice. And now it was Pinch gurgled a challenge, and the
whimper of Nell bespoke her eagerness to back him. Gabe, the heaviest of
the hounds, had closed on the wolf which had first sprung. Hallibut
heard the snapping of bones—then a number of other wolves hurled
themselves forward. He could hear the dogs snarling as they fought, and
he lent his voice to their encouragement.

“Easy, Gabe,” he shouted; “Nell, girl, easy now. Lead ’em into the open.
Don’t let ’em get you in the thick timber.”

Hallibut had placed another cap on the nipple of his rifle, and as the
struggling mass surged back into the charred space he fired into it
point-blank. A wild howl told that a wolf had been hit.

“That’s all I can do, poor chaps,” he called.

His powder and ball were in the saddle-bags.

“They’ll kill them all,” cried the man. “They’ll kill my dogs. Ha, if
Dick only knew and would loose the big ’uns.”

The “big ’uns” were a pack of wolf-hounds which on account of their
vicious natures Hallibut kept in confinement.

Even as he spoke upon his ear fell the sharp crack of a rifle far
eastward on the trail, and as its echo died there arose the deep musical
bay of the wolf-hounds. Hallibut scrambled upright on a limb and probed
the darkness with his eyes. Those gallant hounds beneath had heard the
baying, too, and they were fighting as they never had fought before. One
of the dogs retreated backward, fighting feebly with two gaunt shapes
that strove to bear it to earth. Hallibut, with a cry that was half a
sob, forgot all caution in the animal love he bore his best and dearest
companions.

“They’d do it for me,” he cried; and clubbing his rifle he leaped to the
ground. He was barely in time to save the brave Nell, who with torn
sides and lolling tongue had fallen at last, fighting still and snapping
with all her remaining force. Just as one of the wolves sprang, Hallibut
brought the heavy rifle-barrel down upon its head, crushing the skull as
though it had been an egg-shell. The dog scrambled up and met the other
wolf as it sprang toward her master. Then a cyclone of panting, bounding
bodies swept in and there was grand play in the Fire-Lick for a brief
space of time.

“Oh, Colonel!” cried a voice.

“This way, Dick, lad, and be quick,” the man responded breathlessly.

Dick found his master leaning weakly against a tree.

“Are you ’urt, sir?” he asked, dismounting.

“No. See if they’ve killed Gabe and Pinch, Dick. Lord! but how those
little hounds did fight!”

Dick returned in a short time.

“I found two dead wolves, and I can’t find any of the dogs, sir,” he
said. “Listen!—they’re givin’ of ’em  ’ell, sir, an’ no mistake.”

Hallibut sat down on a log and drew the maimed dog over against his
knee.

“Nell, old girl,” he said chokingly, stroking her long ears, “you’re a
tartar, Nell.”

The dog whined and licked his hand.

“Pinch, sir,” cried Dick, “’e be limpin’, but he be none the worse
beyond bein’ sore as anythink, sir.”

In half an hour the rest of the pack had returned and were gamboling and
leaping about Hallibut. Great, deep-chested, throaty dogs those
wolf-hounds were. Their one consuming desire being to tear down and
kill, they felt for the man before them only the blind devotion of dog
for master. Hallibut had given them more blows than pats, but he knew
how to command respect among dogs.

“How many was in the pack, sir?” asked Dick. He had drawn two dead
wolves into the open and was now dragging a third.

“Somewhere about ten, I should judge,” replied the Colonel. “But I can’t
understand why they should be on the rampage at this time of year.”

“Look at this one, sir,” cried Dick. “’E’s so thin that ’e must ’ave
nigh starved to death. All of ’em are thin. There’s only one reason as I
can think of that would make ’em vicious, sir: they’re starvin’—that’s
why.”

“Nonsense,” cried Hallibut. “Why, the heavy timber is alive with food.”

“Yes, sir, I know that. But you see, sir, these wolves can’t get into
th’ ’eavy timber; at least they won’t go. They won’t go through a
peopled settlement, an’ they can’t pass back into the woods by the way
they came, sir.”

“And why can’t they?”

“Well, sir, I think it’s ’cause you’ve put that mill on the creek. You
see they must ’ave come by way of the lower swale—hit’s the only way
they could come. An’ when you built th’ mill the saws frightened ’em
back further so that they’ve been all through th’ second-growth and
they’ve naturally been starvin’ slow, an’ it’s come to such a pass as
they’ve growed desperate, sir.”

“By George, Dick, I believe you’re right,” cried Hallibut.

He arose stiffly and looked about him.

“Well, my putting that mill there might have been the death of me all
right,” he said. “But, lad, you haven’t told me why you came to meet me
with the hounds.”

“Yes, sir; it was this way. A man from the village was chased by this
’ere pack last night. ’E was over at the stables to-night an’ ’e told
me. I came out a ways and listened for a time, an’ when I ’eard ’em ’owl
I let the big ’uns loose, thinkin’ as you ’ud not mind my doin’ it under
th’ circumstances, sir.”

“You did just right, lad,” said Hallibut. “But did you bring their
leashes, Dick?”

“Right ’ere in my saddle-bag, sir.”

“Well, you’d better tie ’em up before they happen on an Indian. This
country is getting so’s Indians are becoming more valuable every day.”

Dick chuckled.

“They do ’ate Injuns an’ niggers, sir; an’, sir, that reminds me,
there’s an old Injun from the Point by the name of Noah Sturgeon waitin’
up at th’ place to see you, sir.”

The Colonel knit his brows.

“Sturgeon,” he repeated; “Noah Sturgeon,—don’t think I ever heard of
him——”

“Your ’orse, sir?” questioned Dick, looking about him.

“Never mind about my horse—I’m going to ride yours. You follow up and
keep a tight grip on the hounds. I don’t want that old Indian to get
eaten up.”

They passed on down the black trail, and the spot that had witnessed the
struggle between the “big ’uns” and the starving things of the Wild grew
silent again with a great and oppressive silence. Only the tiny bare
branches of the trees clicked under the restless wind that slumbered
fitfully when the night grew old. The clouds crept from the sky away
down and below the forest-fringe; then the white stars came out and
rested, looking down on the Fire-Lick. Their soft light swept the open
and fell across the crumpled forms of the dead things that had roamed
the forest-Wild. They lay pitifully silent and huddled, their red
tongues lolling; their starving days at an end. Further into the
second-growth bushland there were others of them, lying cold, beyond all
life of the Wild. They had been cut off from their own; they had starved
and fought and died. But they were only wolves after all.



                              CHAPTER XII
                               Injun Noah


The cold dawn was stealing across the lake when Colonel Hallibut rode
into his yard and, dismounting, turned the horse over to Dick. The
hounds leaped and fawned upon him and he sternly commanded them to keep
down. He led them through the door into the great kennel-yards and there
arose a bedlam of glad yelps and growls of rage, as some favorite was
petted or felt the fangs of jealousy of a stronger fellow. The master
played the whip among them, laughing and shouting.

“Oh, you beauties!—Black Dan, you fire-eater. Down, Gabe, you branch of
the devil. Poor old Jep; come on, pup, and let me pat your old sides;
poor old Jep, noble old Jep. Weren’t in the fight last night, were you?
Too old, boy; too old and stiff. Every dog has his day, Jep, and every
man, too. Egad, boy, I thought for a while last night that mine was
over!”

The old hound laid his wrinkled chin in his master’s hand and gazed up
at him with age-weakened eyes. Some of the younger dogs of the pack
retreated snarling, with bristles erect, and lying down a short distance
away, licked the wounds received in the night’s encounter. Hallibut
walked across to a wide, low building and unlocked the door.

“In there, all of you,” he shouted; and the dogs sprang toward the door.

Old Jep came last, limping painfully, his whole attitude one of protest.

“Not you, old fellow,” said the man; “you can stay out, and you’d best
hang close to me.”

He shrugged his broad shoulders, and with the old favorite following,
crossed the yard and entered the stables. Dick was cleaning out the
fetlocks of the horse the Colonel had just ridden in. He looked up as
his master entered, then went on with his work.

“Where’s Fury?” asked Hallibut, peering into an empty stall.

“Turned ’im hout in th’ yard, sir,” stammered Dick. “’E was kicked in
the night some’ow, sir. I’m sorry, but hit couldn’t be ’elped; ’e broke
’is ’alter, sir.”

“That flame of Hades is always breaking his halter,” cried Hallibut.
“Well, of course that wasn’t any fault of yours. Here’s ten dollars—buy
a halter he can’t break, and keep what’s over to get yourself a new
jacket. I see this one you’re wearing has been played with recently,
eh?”

“Why, sir, that’s so,” laughed Dick. “It do seem, sir, as I can’t keep
anythink whole any, more, that stud Dobo is that playful, sir.”

“Well, you best look out that Dobo don’t get your head some time. And
now when you’ve eaten and rested a bit I want you to put the saddle on
Bay Tom and ride some of the kicks out of him. Go after the mare that
turned traitor last night and fetch the wolf-pelts back with you.
They’ll make the hounds a nice warm bed for the winter, and I guess they
belong to the hounds all right. Don’t know but what I owe those dogs
something myself.”

“I don’t think, sir, as Bay Tom’ll take like t’ carryin’ raw furs. ’E do
seem t’ ’ate th’ scent of blood. ’E’ll like raise the mischief, sir, ’e
will, and maybe kill me, sir.”

“Well, if he kills you,” said Hallibut dryly, “I won’t ever ask you to
ride him again. Now, you understand. And, Dick, I want that horse put
through his paces. Use quirt and spur, and lather him till he weakens.
I’d do it myself only I’ve got to get the schooner stocked for a
cruise.”

“Very well, sir. And sir, the old Injun, ’e be waitin’ to speak with
you.”

“By George! I had forgotten. Yes, I’ll go in and see him now.”

The Colonel’s housekeeper met him at the kitchen door.

“Oh, sir,” she cried, raising her hands, “I’m so glad you’ve returned.
Hall night hi’ve been scared most to death, sir. ’E’s in there yet, sir,
sittin’ by the fireplace. ’E’s hawful to look hat, sir.”

Hallibut chuckled and laid his hand on the old lady’s shoulder.

“You mean the old Indian, Nancy? Bless your heart, woman, he’s harmless
as a baby most likely. Bet a dollar he’s been at my decanters. I’ll go
in and see him. Just lay the table for two of us. Like as not, being an
Indian, he can eat whether he’s hungry or no.”

“But, sir,” protested the old woman, “you’ll not ’ave ’im sit with you,
sir?”

“My dear Nancy, after what I’ve been through I’d welcome the company of
a snake, providing it was a real snake and was clean. You’ll please see
that two plates are laid.”

The big man stalked forward and opened the door into the wide
sitting-room. Before the log fire was bent a slight figure clad in
buckskin. The Colonel saw an old withered man, his thin face seamed with
wrinkles, his black eyes peering from deep hollows that age had sunk
there. His hair was crow-black and long, falling about his narrow
shoulders. He arose with a lithe motion as the Colonel entered.

“How?” he said in good English.

“How?” returned the master of the house, holding out his hand.

The old Indian looked at it, but made no motion toward taking it. He
raised his arm and pointed about the room.

“Good,” he said; “much good.”

“Sit down,” invited the Colonel. “Now tell me what brings you here. You
live on ‘Point Aux,’ I understand. It’s a long way to the Point.”

The Indian’s eyes were fastened upon the portrait hanging on the wall.
They did not leave it as he spoke.

“Much,” he said; “very much. Noah wish to speak of Bushwhacker. You
leave Bushwhacker there; no touch. You know Bushwhacker girl—Gloss—you
know; good.”

He pointed toward the portrait. It was that of a young girl with
glorious long-lashed eyes and smiling lips. Hallibut followed his gaze,
frowned, then going over to the sideboard glanced along the array of
bottles there. He picked up a glass and sniffed it.

“Have you been sampling of any of these bottles?” he asked sternly.

“Noah no drink until he speak. Noah know her,” pointing to the portrait.
“Noah tote her, wee papoose, many day journey. White man pay Noah money
and Noah lay papoose in Big Chief wigwam. You know Big Chief
Bushwhacker. Ugh, you know her,—Gloss!”

He stretched a claw-like finger toward the portrait.

“You know white girl; good. You no touch Bushwhacker.”

Hallibut stood frowning upon the old Indian.

“Listen,” he said, sitting down beside the old man, “you must understand
that the portrait you see on the wall is not of a Bushwhacker girl or of
anyone else you know. That’s the likeness of a sister I had and lost
years and years ago. It was painted in England, a land across the Great
Waters, Noah.”

“No, no,” cried the Indian. “Noah have good eyes. He can see and
understand. Big man need not lie—white girl Noah’ good friend.”

Hallibut arose and wiped his streaming brow. Then he sank into a chair
and ran his fingers through his gray hair.

“I’m hanged if I know what he’s driving at,” he mused. “Apparently he
thinks I want to wipe the Bushwhackers off the map.” Aloud he said: “Who
sent you here, my good man?”

Noah did not answer. He was looking into the coals.

“Bushwhacker know big man would steal bush,” he said at length. “They no
want big man there. Noah no want see big man steal good friend’ home.
Big man no come; no send other man. Gloss big man’ friend.”

Once more Colonel Hallibut looked puzzled. “I’m hanged if I understand
what he means,” he muttered.

“Big man no send vessel,” went on the Indian. “Bushwhacker no want ’um.
Scare duck plenty bad. Noah come tell big man no send.”

“Ah,” exclaimed Hallibut, “I’m beginning to see light. They sent you
over to tell me I mus’n’t send my schooner up the creek, eh?”

“No one send; Noah come himself. Noah know Bushwhacker shoot when big
man come take timber. Big man no come—no send agent again.”

The Colonel arose and paced up and down the room.

“Well, of all things!” he exclaimed. “What do you think of all this,
Phoebe, girl——” turning to the picture, “what do you think of those
impudent Bushwhackers?”

The aged Indian had risen and was wrapping his blanket about him.

“Noah,” said Hallibut, “the Bushwhackers haven’t any particular use for
me, I understand. It’s pretty near war between us. But I’m going to send
my vessel up that creek just the same. I’m willing to promise you that I
won’t do the Bushwhackers any harm until they try to do me harm. They
threaten to burn my schooner, and maybe they will—we’ll see. I’ll tell
you what I am going to do. I’m going to send that schooner around the
Point and into the bay soon. I want you to meet her at the narrows and
act as watchman aboard her. If you don’t want the Bushwhackers to come
to any harm, you must see that my vessel is not burned. I believe you
are honest, and I will pay you well. What do you say, Noah?”

Noah pointed once more to the portrait.

“You do much for her?” he asked simply.

The big man started. Then he smiled and said gently:

“Old man, God only knows how much I would do—if I could.”

“Noah will meet big man’ vessel,” said the Indian, holding out his hand.

After the strange messenger had eaten and gone, Hallibut paced to and
fro across the wide room, pondering deeply upon what he had learned. He
stopped at last before the portrait on the wall.

“I wonder why the poor old chap should think he knows you, Phoebe?” he
said, addressing the girl in the frame.

It was a custom of his to speak all his inner thoughts to the picture.
One may lose summer forever; but he can treasure a dead flower, because
its perfume clings to it and never quite dies.

“I like the old man because he thinks he knows you,” he murmured,
“—just because he _thinks_ he knows you, Phoebe.”

His head dropped and he strode toward the door.

“I don’t know why I should not teach those Bushwhackers a lesson!” he
ejaculated.

He turned and let his frowning eyes rest on the painting, and as he
gazed his face softened. The big eyes seemed to be pleading with him.

“Maybe there really is a girl who looks like you, Phoebe,” he said
gently; “a little girl of the Wild that looks like you.”

And the face smiled on him as he passed out through the doorway.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                           On the Creek Path


It was early twilight when the old Indian once again reached
Bushwhackers’ Place. All day he had kept to the trail, jogging along
without a mouthful to eat, simply tightening his belt when hunger gnawed
at his stomach. It was a long journey from Rond Eau Point to St. Thomas,
and over rough ground—a very long journey for a man of Noah’s age to
attempt. But he was an Indian and his years did not weigh him down. His
sinews were tough like the seasoned hickory fiber, and his spirit was
young like the spirit of the great shadowed woodland. Age counted for
naught where life derived its strength from its environment.

To the old man Gloss was a star that had loosened itself from some
strange firmament and strayed into the green uplands. He had watched her
grow from a slender girl into a graceful creature with beauty that
nothing of the woodland could match. One with eyes that held all the
lights that ever shone on lake or wood, and life that bubbled and
laughed and defied.

For her and her protectors Noah had undertaken the trying mission of
visiting the rich man Hallibut, and advising him to leave the men of the
hardwoods alone.

He had taken the portrait on the lonely man’s walls for that of Gloss,
but this was not strange. The old man’s eyes were growing dim and they
sometimes played pranks on him. But the incident was sufficient to bind
his loyalty to the man who threatened the Bushwhackers.

Noah was willing to act as watchman aboard the schooner. He had lost all
the impetuosity of youth. He was old and wise, and he would watch and
wait—and act, if necessary, when the time came.

Gloss, coming up from the spring with a pail of foaming milk, newly
strained and ready for “setting,” caught sight of her old friend and
gave a call like the trill of a marsh-lark. The Indian, without
speaking, overtook her and reached for the pail, which he carried to the
house and set on the block outside the cellar door.

Big McTavish was chopping logs for the evening fire, and caught sight of
Noah as he came around the corner of the house.

“Well, well, Chief,” he cried, “thought maybe you was on the warpath.
Ain’t seen you here for days. Come along in and get some supper.”

“Good,” grunted the old man, and followed McTavish into the kitchen.
Gloss laid the cloth for the visitor’s supper. Her eyes brightened and
her red lips smiled when the old man turned his wrinkled face toward
her.

“Noah,” she said, “you mus’n’t stay away from Gloss so long again. It’s
heap lonely without you here.”

Noah’s eyes flashed at the words, and he spoke, using only the mellowest
words of the English tongue, as was his custom.

“Wild-bird no lonely where wild world be. Gloss speak to make Injun
heart glad: now Injun speak to make wild-bird sing. Big water,” pointing
southward, “big forest,” sweeping his arm about, “all stay same. No
change. Good, much good. Noah, he know.”

Granny McTavish, coming from the bedroom, caught the words of the
Indian.

“Reet, Noah,” she smiled, “there’ll be na’ change teel God wulls, and
may He na’ wull it frae lang.”

“Ugh, you tell Boy,” said Noah, “tell ’um Noah say it.”

The old lady held up her hands.

“There’s na’ tellin’ him at all whatever,” she sighed. “He’s muckle
disturbed and he’ll na’ listen to reason. He’s oot there noo trudgin’
the wet woods, but he’ll noo get comfort there, mon; he maun seek it i’
the guid Book. I’ve told him o’ it, aye, I’ve told him o’ it aften enoo.
God forgive him for th’ wild creature he is—and he’s a guid lad at
heart enoo, a guid lad at heart——”

“Tush, Granny,” chided Big McTavish. “Boy’s not worryin’ over anythin’.
He’s a bit unsettled, that’s all. He’s out in the woods ’cause he loves
th’ woods. See, you’ve spoiled Noah’s supper for him. He’s thinkin’
Boy’s a bit crazy, maybe.”

Noah pushed back his chair from the table and arose.

“You’re not going so soon, surely, Noah?” cried Gloss.

“Noah must go to Point,” answered the Indian. “Canoe down on Eau shore.”

Gloss snatched up her cap.

“I’ll go down to th’ shore with you,” she cried. “Maybe I’ll meet Boy.”

“No,” said Noah, “Gloss no come.”

“But I say yes,” replied Gloss, dancing nimbly in front of the old man.
“Remember, I haven’t seen you for ages, and I must go. Come along.”

She took his hand and they passed out together. They walked along, Gloss
taking the lead, and neither speaking a word. They understood each other
well, and something unbreakable bound them together while life should
last.

When they reached the canoe, hidden in thick rushes on the edge of the
bay, the girl patted the old Indian’s wrinkled cheek gently and bade him
good-by.

When the black rushes of the moon-lit Eau hid his craft, the girl turned
homeward on the path again. A tender smile was on her face, and the red
blood was dancing in her veins. Her whole young being was alive and
calling—calling for—she wondered what!

Where the woodland trail met the creek path a wide sheet of moonlight
lay shrouding the dead leaves. When she reached this spot she clasped
her hands and raised them to the deep chaotic arch of the skies.

“Boy,” she breathed chokingly, “oh, Boy——” Then the long lashes hid
her eyes and something splashed upon the dead sheeted leaves. “—Oh God,
I mean,” she whispered, “take care of him; take care of Boy.”

Far down in the dark swales a panther wailed and a loon sent its weird
call from the marshlands. A fleeting cloud drifted across the moon and
the path darkened. The girl quickened her pace into a run. As she
rounded a curve in the path she gave a little cry.

Standing directly in the path was a man.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said, “it’s only me.”

“You?” she repeated. “Oh, yes, it’s Mr. Simpson. I must hurry on—I
must——”

He did not attempt to move aside, and the girl’s head went back and her
eyes flashed.

“Please let me past,” she said imperiously.

Simpson laughed.

“All in good time. But I want to say something first. Won’t you listen,
Gloss?”

“If it’s what you said before, I don’t want to hear it,” she answered.
“You—you mus’n’t keep me here; it’s dangerous—dangerous for you.”

“Or you?” he laughed.

He came toward her and she recoiled.

“You held me once—in your arms,” she panted, “and against my will. You
mus’n’t hold me so again. If you do—I’ll kill you.”

“I’ll take the chance,” he said hoarsely; “it’s worth dying for.”

She stood tall and white before him, her great eyes fastened to his, and
looking deep into the craven soul of him. He reached for her hands—then
something, a new and strange helplessness, overpowered him, and he sank
trembling on the moss.

“Mr. Simpson,” said the girl quietly, “you must go—for your own sake.
You must go now.”

“Gloss, oh Gloss!” he murmured brokenly, “how I love you, girl! You
cannot know how much. I was mad—mad. Can you forgive me, Gloss?”

“No, I can’t forgive you. I have no power to forgive you. It wasn’t me
you hurt once—it’s not me you would hurt again.”

“Don’t say that,” he cried. “I merely held you in my arms, and kissed
you. Yes, I held you in my arms—I kissed you——”

He struggled to his feet, trembling, his hair matted to his brow with
perspiration.

“I did kiss you once,” he repeated, “and I would give my life either to
undo it or to do it again.”

“You haven’t the power to do either,” she said earnestly; “believe me,
you have not.”

“You are right,” he sighed. “Oh, yes, you are right. That other night
when I met you on the path I was actuated by a passing fancy—just a
passing fancy. I took you in my arms. You struggled. I kissed you. I
looked into your soul—I looked into your soul, and saw what I must
forever be banished from, Gloss. Am I not punished! Do you think I can
ever forget?”

“I—I don’t know. Now, I must go.”

He stood aside and let her pass.

“Will you forgive?” he asked.

“Will you be strong?”

He shivered, but his moving lips gave out no sound.

When the moon trailed down below the tree-fringe of the Point he was
still standing where the girl had left him. The panther’s howl was
still, but away down in the mucky marshlands the loon sent his weird cry
to the cold stars.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                          Paisley Reconnoiters


The early autumn twilight had fallen when Bill Paisley stepped from the
wood into the fallow. He dropped the long muzzle-loading rifle into the
hollow of his arm and peered down through the gathering dusk toward
Totherside.

“Why, there sure is a light at widder Ross’s,” soliloquized the man.
“Now, it might be that I’d find out some things we should know if I’d
just drop over there casual-like. What I’ve heard concernin’ Watson, and
Peeler seein’ him and the teacher on the trail together, has roused my
suspicions to the boilin’ point. I hope he’s at the widder’s to-night; I
want to ‘get to know him better,’ as Boy put it.”

Paisley leaned against a tree and laughed silently.

“He don’t like me very much. I could see that the other night. And I
suppose it’s natural that I shouldn’t think much of him.”

He walked on, his feet making not the slightest sound upon the sward
that now gleamed gold-brown beneath the moonlight. At the edge of the
creek he stepped into a skiff and with one movement of the paddle sent
it sweeping into the rushes on the farther shore.

Widow Ross’s home was built much after the style of the homes in
Bushwhackers’ Place. It was long and low and constructed of logs. The
chinks between the logs were filled with yellow-blue clay. Paisley
approached the place cautiously, once or twice hesitating as if he would
draw back. He opened the door gently in response to a loud “come in,”
and peered about the room as though in search of somebody. A tall,
angular woman, dressed in native homespun, and working a huge
spinning-wheel, turned as he entered, and, without taking her pipe from
her mouth, said shortly:

“Shut that door, Bill Paisley. And you, Tom Ross, stop terrifyin’ that
cat.”

A freckle-faced lad of about nine arose from a corner and, administering
a last wholesome kick to a sickly looking pussie, came shuffling
forward.

“Hello, Bill,” he said, “what’s new! I heard that you and the rest of
the Bushwhackers was actin’ balky with Colonel Hallibut for wantin’ to
buy your timber. What’s the matter!”

“Want to keep our timber to make bows and arrows with,” answered Paisley
dryly. “How’s things at the mill, Tom? Runnin’ overtime, I see.”

“We’re expectin’ old Hallibut down soon,” said Tom. “I heard the boss
sayin’ that the Colonel was comin’ in with a boat. Says he’s goin’ to
have all your timber before the bay freezes over.”

“Yes?—He’ll get it when Hell freezes over.”

“Bill Paisley,” frowned the woman, taking her pipe from her mouth, “no
swearin’—not here, if you please, sir.”

“Excuse me, Mrs. Ross,” said Bill from behind his hat.

Tom kicked the visitor gently with his bare foot, and Mrs. Ross,
resuming her smoke, went on:

“We are feelin’ the influence of education and refinement since Mr.
Simpson has been boardin’ here. No home that contains a teacher is a
place for perfanity. Mr. Simpson says: ‘Perfanity,’ says he, ‘is the
most useless sin of all sins. No gentleman swears.’”

Mrs. Ross snorted and turned her swarthy face toward her visitor.

“Livin’ in daily intercourse with an educated young man has its
advantages. Look what Mr. Simpson has done for our Tom. Look at him,
Bill Paisley, and tell me, don’t you see a difference in that boy?”

“I do,” said Bill slowly; “I sure do, widder, now you speak about it.”

“That young man of education did it,” said the widow. “The teacher did
it all.”

“Great Christopher Columbus! but he’s smarter than I thought him,”
grinned Paisley. “Wonder if he’d cut mine?”

The widow turned her black eyes upon him.

“Cut _yours_?” she repeated. “What be you talkin’ about?”

“Why, my hair,” said Bill. “I said I wonder if he’d cut mine, seein’
he’s made such a good job of Tom’s.”

Tom tittered and the woman turned her back on the two.

“Swine,” she muttered; “bushwhacker swine.”

“Where’s the teacher to-night?” asked Bill blithely.

“Him and Mary Ann——” commenced Tom.

But his mother, turning, quickly advanced upon him, and catching him by
the collar with one powerful hand, administered with the other such a
cuff that young Tom went spinning to his corner. The mangy cat sneaked
over and crept under Paisley’s chair.

“And how _is_ Mary Ann?” asked Bill after a time. “Ain’t seen her but
once or twice for the last month. I suppose she often speaks of me, Mrs.
Ross?”

“Indeed she doesn’t, then, so you needn’t flatter yourself. Mary Ann’s
got no use for a Bushwhacker, let alone a worthless one who would make a
joke at his own mother’s funeral. So, there.”

“If I ever made a joke at my mother’s funeral it was ’cause I was too
young to know better,” said Paisley pensively. “My little ma died when I
was born. I ought to be worth a whole heap, marm—I was bought at a big
price.”

He picked up the cat and smoothed her crumpled fur with his big hand.

“That was nigh on to forty year ago,” he said, “and I’ve been wanderin’
about the bush ever since, exceptin’ a few years I was down in the
Southern States, ranchin’ it. I picked up a lot down there, but nothin’
worth keepin’, I guess. What I was goin’ to say was, I never see a
mother and her boy together without a big somethin’ I can’t name
standin’ right out before me, and that somethin’ is what I’ve missed by
not havin’ a mother.”

Widow Ross laid her pipe on the table.

“Tommy,” she commanded, “you go right down to the spring and bring up
that bucket of milk, and don’t you spill it, or I’ll pull every one of
them red hairs out of your head. I don’t suppose you’ve lost your
appetite none lately, Bill?”

“Periodically only, marm. I ain’t got over my likin’ for brick-cooked
bread and milk, particularly the bread of a lady I know to be the best
cook on Totherside.”

Mrs. Ross showed two rows of white teeth in a pleased smile. Then her
face grew stern again.

“Totherside,” she flashed, “why, I don’t take that as much of a
compliment, Bill Paisley. Ain’t I the only woman on Totherside?”

“Beggin’ your pardon, I mean on the whole country-side—Bridgetown
included,” retrieved Bill gallantly.

“What be you all goin’ to do about Hallibut?” asked the woman, sitting
down at the spinning-wheel.

Bill shook his long hair and chuckled.

“I got scolded once for sayin’ what I thought about sellin’ our timber,
so don’t ask me.”

The widow’s heavy brows met in a frown.

“Here you are forty years old, and that’s old enough for you to have
some sense if you’re goin’ to have any. And I must say I don’t think you
nor Big McTavish nor any of you Bushwhackers have an ounce of sense
among you. Here you are fightin’ off a fortune, or at least keepin’
money, which you might have, out of your pockets. Bosh! I believe that
Boy McTavish has got you all under a spell.”

“Boy is sure the strongest and bitterest fighter amongst us,” agreed
Bill, “but we’re all of one opinion. We like the woods, and I guess we
have reason to. It has give us all a mighty good livin’, and somehow
wood-life has somethin’ about it that cleared land ain’t got—smells and
sounds and silence and I’ll be——”

“Be careful now, you nigh swore again,” admonished the woman. “There
you, Tom, set the pail down on the table; then go to the out-house and
bring in the bread, the brick-baked loaf.”

“Mrs. Ross,” said Paisley, “you’re not only a good-lookin’ woman, but
you’re a good-hearted woman. Once I hoped I might be your son-in-law and
have all the brick-baked bread I wanted, and the corncake which only you
can bake. But Mary Ann she seems to think different, and I’m thinkin’,
after all, she had some reason, seein’ she is only somethin’ about
twenty-two years old and me nearly twice that.”

The widow put her finger on her lip and glanced fearfully toward the
door. Then she looked with commiseration at Paisley, and approaching him
in a crouching attitude, whispered:

“Mary Ann is goin’ to marry the teacher.”

Bill’s stool, poised on two legs, came to the floor with a thump.

“Marry the teacher!” he repeated; “marry the teacher! Well now, I’ll be
turkey-trapped. I didn’t think he was brave enough to ask her.”

“I ain’t sayin’ that he _has_ asked her, am I?” cried the widow. “But
I’ve got two eyes to see with, haven’t I, Bill Paisley?”

“Aye, marm, to do whatever you like with,” answered Bill pleasantly, his
own eyes on the loaf of bread which Tom had just brought in. Then noting
the widow’s ruffled dignity, he smoothed it with: “I’d know who baked
that bread by the appetizin’ smell of it. Says I to Big McTavish just
yesterday, ‘There are some good bread-makers in this here place, but
none of ’em quite like widder Ross.’”

“Time Big McTavish had his last loggin’-bee he sent for me to come and
help with the cookin’,” said the widow, as she poured the foaming milk
from the pail into the big earthen bowls. “I made a custard in the
dishpan. There was forty-two eggs in it, and it was good, if I do say it
myself. Not one man in the lot of ’em that set down to the table but
asked for a second helpin’. Big Mac he told ’em all who made it, and
since that I’ve liked him better than ever. I’m makin’ another just like
it for Mrs. Declute, and if you’re at Declute’s loggin’-bee next
Thursday you’ll be able to sample it. Big McTavish says that Ander’s
loggin’ ’ll be a good ’un, all right, if I make a custard for it.”

“He’s one man in five hundred, marm, is Big Mac,” answered Bill. “Why,
Mrs. Ross, there’s not an Injun in the bush, no, or on the Point either,
who wouldn’t fight tooth-and-nail for him. He’s been mighty good to the
Injuns, has Mac. Any time they want anythin’ he has, they go to him and
get it. And Gloss, why she can simply tie them Injuns about her little
finger. They all think the world of her.”

“I’d like to know who don’t think the world of Gloss. She’s a dear
girl—bless her sweet face.”

Bill with a spoonful of milk-soaked bread well on the way to its
destination, suspended operations for a moment.

“Widder Ross,” he said, “God never made a better girl, nor a better
lookin’ one, unless it was your Mary Ann.”

His repast finished, he reached for his rifle.

“Must be goin’,” he said in answer to the widow’s invitation to ‘set
longer.’ “I’ll call in on you again soon, widder. Good-night.”

“Good-night,” responded the woman.

She was lighting her clay pipe and did not so much as turn as Bill
walked out.

Paisley skirted the scrubby walk and passed along the edge of the
butternut grove toward the path across the fallow. A whip-poor-will was
voicing its joys from the limb of a dead ash. The moon had sunk above
the bay, and its wide splash of light lay across the fallow, a blanket
of milky haze. Bill lifted his head and breathed in the clear
wood-scented air. From the valley came the monotonous buzz of a saw.
Suddenly Paisley dived into the hazel thicket. He had heard footsteps
approaching, and rightly divined that it was the teacher and Mary Ann.

Not until the young people had passed through the grove and emerged into
the interval beyond did Paisley step out from his hiding-place. Then he
looked toward the sinking moon and sighed.

“She’s not for the likes of you, Bill,” he murmured as he turned to the
path again.

Tommy stood before him.

“Bill,” he said excitedly, “I want to tell you somethin’. I’ve got to
tell you, Bill, or I’ll bust.”

“Why, Tommy,” said Bill, “thought you’d gone to bed.”

“No, I slipped out and follered you, but I saw them comin’ too, and I
ducked same as you did. Say, Bill, you don’t think much of Mr. Simpson,
do you?”

Paisley laughed queerly.

“Well, Tommy, and what if I don’t?”

“Well, I overheard him and that Watson man plannin’ some things together
the other day. I thought I wouldn’t tell anybody, but I can’t keep it
any longer.”

He stood on tiptoe and whispered something in the man’s ear. Paisley
gripped the lad’s arm.

“You’re dreamin’,” he cried.

“No, Bill, I heard ’em make it up between ’em,” gasped Tom. “An’ what I
want to know is, what’s going to be done about it?”

“I don’t know,” answered Paisley dazedly. “I don’t know—I’ll have to
study this thing out.”

His square jaw was set and he toyed with the lock of his rifle.

“You haven’t told anyone else, Tommy?” he asked.

“Nary a soul.”

“Then don’t. I’ll see you in a night or two. Keep your eyes on the
teacher. Remember, if Big McTavish or Boy hear what you’ve told me
they’ll kill him sure. You know what that will mean.”

“I won’t tell anybody, cross my heart,” promised the lad, and then
darted away.



                               CHAPTER XV
                              War Tactics


Paisley paddled slowly across the creek, drew his skiff into the willow
bushes, and picking up his rifle, walked along the edge of the creek
until he reached the bay. It slept gray and cold beneath the moon, and
all about its tranquil waters a ragged tree-frame stood spiral-like and
shadowy—a disheveled cloud in an open blotch of sky. Paisley gazed
across the bay, his face fixed and his whole attitude one of protest.

“They want to take this away from us,” he mused,”—all this. And the
d—— villains want to steal _her_ away from all this. Well, let them
try.”

He turned, lifting his head to catch the low night-calls that floated
from the far-away corridors of the deep wood. The forest was breathing
its nocturnal song—a hushed chant, interspersed with the notes of the
wild things that roamed and fed and voiced their gladness after the
manner of their kind. The shrill bark of a fox sounded from nether
swales, and away beyond a lynx wailed sadly like a lost child. A little
way into the thicket a brood of partridges huddled, peeping with
plaintive voices.

“I guess they can’t understand very well what all this means to us.”

Paisley turned and strode on through the scanty wood-fringe along the
Eau shore until he came to an open spot of nearly two acres. A dim light
twinkled from the window of a log-house, and a couple of dogs came
forward with fierce yappings which changed to whines of welcome as they
recognized the visitor. The door of the house flew open, and a woman,
whose frame filled the doorway completely, sent a scolding command out
to the dogs.

“David and Goliath,” she commanded, “come in here t’ once er I’ll break
your no-account backs with this poker.”

“Night, Mrs. Declute,” called Paisley. “Ander in?”

“Ander,” rasped the woman, “be you hum? ’Cause if you be, Bill Paisley
wants t’ know it.”

The huge form was nudged aside and Declute’s grinning face peered out
into the night.

“Come right on in, Bill,” invited the lord and master. An ironwood pole
leaned against the house, and on it hung a splendid specimen of buck
newly killed. On the floor of the house lay a smaller deer already
skinned, and now being dissected by the trapper. Three children of
various sizes sat about the carcass, each munching a piece of corncake
from a chubby fist.

“How’s the babies, marm?” asked Paisley, carefully stepping through and
over the wide-eyed little Declutes and sitting down on a stool near the
fireplace. “Ander, two deer in an afternoon ain’t such bad luck, eh?”

“I hit another,” cried Ander, “bigger’n th’ one outside. Shot about an
inch too high, though. But I trailed him down an’ I’ll get him in th’
mornin’. Might have killed a doe, too. Had a good chance, but I didn’t
take it.”

“Zaccheus has got a tetch of p’isin-ivy,” said the woman. “That’s what
makes him squirm so uneasy like. I’m treatin’ it with sassafras ’ile an’
potash. How’ve you been yourself, Bill?”

“Feedin’ and sleepin’ like a babe, thankee,” replied Paisley. “What I
dropped round for was to find out just what you folks think of the way
them town-fellers are actin’. Did Hallibut or Watson make you any offer
for your timber?”

“Wall, yes, they did,” answered Ander slowly. “Offered me three hundred
dollars for the big stuff on my place only a day or two ago. Said that
you and McTavish and Peeler and most of the others had taken an offer
they made you for yours, and I said t’ the feller, ‘If th’ other chaps
see it that way I guess I’ll see it that way, too.’ I’m to take my deed
t’ Bridgetown when I tote these furs over next Saturday, an’ they’re
goin’ to give me another deed and the money.”

“Who did you see?” asked Paisley.

“That storekeeper Smythe. He says, says he, ‘The money’ll be ready fer
you when you come, an’,’ says he, ‘don’t tell any o’ your neebors,
’cause we’re payin’ you more’n we are them, an’ they won’t like it.’”

“I don’t take t’ this way they have of wantin’ Ander t’ keep dark,” said
the woman. “I ain’t takin’ kind like t’ lettin’ the timber go anyway. We
don’t really need that money. Ander he makes enough outin trappin’ and
shootin’ fer our wants, and if they come in here what are they goin’ t’
do t’ our property? That’s what I want to know.”

Paisley bit off a piece of tobacco and shrugged his shoulders.

“Ander,” he asked, watching the trapper roll up the green hide, “how
much did you make in furs and deer-meat last fall and winter?”

“He made four hundred and three dollars,” answered the wife proudly.

“Well, then, let me tell you somethin’.” Paisley tapped the stalk of his
rifle impressively with his knuckles. “Just as soon as you take Smythe’s
money your trappin’ days and all other days are over here, for all time.
They’ll have you just where they’ve been tryin’ to get the rest of us.
Once they get hold of your deed you can whistle. This land is worth
thousands more’n they offer you, and they know it. What has Hallibut’s
mill done for the ma’sh-trappin’? I guess you know. They’ll drive the
furs off and they’ll drive you’n me off, and they want to do just that,
too.”

Declute arose from the floor.

“If I thort that——” he commenced; but his wife broke in:

“If you thort! Just as if you could thunk, you thick-head you. Didn’t I
tell you that I suspicioned them fellers, and don’t Bill Paisley here
know? Don’t he allars know? Shet right up, Ander, an’ don’t you try an’
think. You had no right to act without seein’ Bill here an’ Big Mac,
anyway.”

“But I wasn’t goin’ to, Rachel,” drawled Declute. “I war goin’ over to
Big Mac’s this very night, lookin’ in on Bill on the way over. Don’t you
get too danged crusty, wife.”

The ponderous woman waved a hand toward the progeny on the floor.

“You, David an’ Moses an’ Zaccheus,” she commanded, “scramble out o’ th’
road instantly, I’m wantin’ to get over t’ th’ cubboard.”

There was a hurried scramble out of the way, and the mother rolled
across the room and secured a paper from an inner recess of the
home-built cupboard.

“Bill Paisley,” she said, passing the paper over to the visitor, “you be
goin’ to keep this here deed for me an’ Ander—ain’t I right, Ander?”
she nodded, the corner of her mouth drawn down warningly.

“If you say so, ma—in course,” consented Ander.

“Good idea,” grinned Paisley, folding the paper and placing it in his
pocket. “Now, Ander, after you’ve finished cuttin’ up that carcass,
suppose you come along with me and we’ll look in on the rest of the
Bushwhackers and see if we can’t get their deeds, too.”

Declute glanced at his spouse. She nodded, and with much alacrity the
little man arose.

“Don’t know as I’ll be much of a help to you, Bill,” he laughed, “but
I’ll go along anyway.”

It was midnight when Paisley opened the door of the McTavish home and
with a voiceless laugh waved the bundle of deeds above his head. The
candle was burning dimly; the fire in the wide fireplace was almost
dead. Boy sat before it alone, looking thoughtfully into its depths.
Paisley crossed over to him and placed the deeds in his hand.

“They can’t get the timber without the deeds,” he chuckled, “and to get
the deeds I guess they’ll have to get us, eh?”

Boy caught his friend’s hand and pressed it. He tried to speak, and,
noting his feelings, Paisley drew forth his pipe and filled it as he
gave, in an undertone, an account of his great night’s work.

“I guess all the Bushwhackers’ll have reason to thank you, Bill,” said
Boy. “I ain’t sure that they all feel like I do about holdin’ this,” he
swept his arm about him and a glow came into his eyes. “It’s been a lot
to me—a lot. Nobody can guess what it would mean to me to see this
woods crippled. Somehow I haven’t been just myself since they started it
over there. I can’t sleep like I used to. I know it’s foolish, but that
saw gets buzzin’ in my dreams and I’m fightin’, fightin’ all night long
for _this_, Bill, this woods and all it holds. I was thinkin’ that I’d
come over and see you, when you stepped in. Bill, we don’t ever say
much, us Bushwhackers; but to-night I couldn’t help but be glad me and
you have always been what we have to each other. Some things come over
me lately that grip tight hold of me and hold me without hurtin’, and I
seem to like the feelin’, too. It’s like frost that kills without
hurtin’. If I wasn’t strong I’d think I was gettin’ sick.”

There came from the inner room a voice mumbling in troubled sleep. Boy
lifted his head and smiled.

“It was your name she called, Boy,” whispered Paisley wonderingly.

“Ma says she often calls out that way,” said Boy. “Sometimes it’s my
name and sometimes it’s dad’s. Gloss dreams a lot, I guess.”

Paisley noted the smile that drifted across his friend’s face, and he
nodded his head up and down slowly.

“Guess I’ll be hittin’ the back trail,” he said rising, “and you best go
to bed, Boy. I’ll come over to-morrow as we arranged and help you set
your traps in the runs. It’s goin’ to freeze right soon, and trappin’ is
on from now. Declute got a couple of deer this afternoon, so we’ll just
take a whack at ’em ourselves toward night to-morrow.”

“You’d better stay and sleep with me, Bill,” said Boy. “Somehow I’d like
to have you, and we could make an early start in the mornin’.”

“Oh, I’ll hoof it along back, I guess,” laughed Paisley.

He was wondering whether he ought to tell Boy what he had learned
concerning Watson and Simpson. He glanced at Boy and his lips closed
tight.

“He’d kill ’em both,” he thought, “—I’ll watch them fellers myself.”

With his hands on the latch of the door he glanced back. Boy was seated
before the dead fire, his chin on his hand and the bundle of deeds
pressed against his cheek. Paisley leaned his rifle against the wall and
unstrapped his powder-horn. Then he came back and put his hands on Boy’s
shoulders.

“I’d best stay, I guess,” he grinned, “and show you how a real
Bushwhacker should sleep. It strikes me, Boy, that you’re lookin’ some
lonesome and need company. Glad Ander Declute’s goin’ to have a
loggin’-bee. It’ll stir us all up.”

He sat down on a stool and started to unlace his moccasins, whistling an
old tune beneath his breath. Boy arose and, walking to the window, gazed
out across his kingdom. An owl was hooting from a distant thicket. Down
in the deep shadow a fox called, and from the sheep-corral came the soft
bleating of a late lamb. The chickens in the coop stirred and voiced
their uneasiness. Outside on a well-worn spot a dog stretched himself,
arose and sniffed the breeze, then assumed his former position.

Boy turned to the long cupboard near the hearth.

“Seems I can’t be myself these days,” he said. “I forgot that you might
be hungry after your tramp about to-night. Set up, Bill, and have a bit
of turkey.”

He placed the carcass of a cold fowl on the table, and from the
milk-house outside fetched bread and butter. Paisley drew his stool up
to the table.

“Ain’t you eatin’?” he asked.

“Not hungry,” answered Boy. “Seems I ain’t like anythin’ I used to be
any more. All day long I’ve been thinkin’ about a lot of no-count things
that happened years ago. Little things I’ve done and seen here in the
bush. How I tramped with Davie ’cross the ridges and down through the
wild blackberry patches. Why, Bill, it seems, some nights, when I’m
lyin’ awake, that I can see everythin’ just as plain as I saw it then.
Last night I was listenin’ to the rushes sweepin’ against my skiff. My
oar was poked in a bog and my boat-painter was tied to it. I was
trollin’ with a live minnie, and the creek was a clear bottle-green. The
pond-lily roots lay there six feet below me, and the bass swam in and
out—you know how they did before the mill was up, Bill?”

Paisley nodded and looked back over his shoulder. His mouth was full of
turkey and bread.

“And as they’ll do again,” he asserted in muffled tones of conviction.

“I was gettin’ strikes and playin’ bass,” smiled Boy; “playin’ and
landin’ ’em and enjoyin’ it all. Davie was there, and Gloss was there.
We all talked and laughed together. It was real, I tell you, Bill. It
wasn’t a dream, ’cause my eyes was wide open. That sort of thing scares
me. I don’t understand it.”

Paisley put his hand on Boy’s knee.

“I know what’s doin’ it all,” he said. “I know just what’s doin’ it all.
You’re worryin’. That’s what you’re doin’. You shouldn’t, ’cause
Hallibut and his gang ain’t goin’ to get this bush, not by a danged
sight. You’re thinkin’ that you won’t fish no more like you used to;
that you and Davie won’t tramp together no more in your own little
world. But you will. You’ll always own it, Boy. You take old Bill’s word
for it, you ain’t got nothin’ to worry yourself sick about.”

“Somehow I feel sort of helpless,” sighed Boy. “Maybe I’m a coward,
’cause I feel like hidin’; only the fight in me makes me keep to the
open. You’ve seen a young partridge when you walked upon him
unexpected-like. The little beggar just grabs a leaf and turns over on
his back, holdin’ the leaf over him. You and me know where he is,
because we see that leaf movin’ after a time; but nobody who ain’t a
Bushwhacker could find him, Bill.”

“And like him, you naturally want to lay low, eh, Boy?”

“Yes, as though I want to cover up; not because I’m scared, but ’cause
it seems the natural thing to do. Then I get over that feelin’, and the
next thing I know I’m carryin’ my rifle at full cock and keepin’ a
lookout. I don’t know how this is goin’ to end, Bill, I sure don’t.”

Paisley stood up.

“Boy,” he said earnestly, “you’d best be careful what you do. Don’t you
fire first. I ain’t advisin’ you to leave your rifle on the rack, but
you know that us Bushwhackers don’t shoot to scare. Ammunition’s too
scarce for that. If you was to kill one of Hallibut’s gang now, it would
make things bad for us all.”

“The traps ain’t set and the rats have left their houses,” said Boy
drearily. “All along the creek are dead runs, and there’s no use
trappin’ there. The ducks have left our shores and they’ve gone to the
Point grounds. There’s nothin’ here, Bill, but the clash and buzz and
whistle of that mill. The turkeys don’t come on the ridges like they
used to; the deer stay back in the swamplands; and all through this
woods them sounds are chasin’ the fur and game farther back. And now he
is goin’ to send his schooner in here. Think of it, Bill. He’s goin’ to
sail across the bay and up Lee Creek for his lumber. Old Noah was here
this mornin’ and he told me. He’s goin’ to work for Hallibut, too, and I
can’t understand that.”

“What’s the old Injun goin’ to do!” grinned Paisley. “He can’t
work—he’s too old.”

“He’s goin’ to watch the boat. It looks as if Hallibut’s afraid we’ll
burn her. I don’t know why he should think that, but Noah says it’s
better for him to be on the boat than anybody else. And he’s right. He
didn’t tell me much—you know what a silent old feller he is. But I know
he’s been over to see Hallibut. Noah isn’t against us: he thinks too
much of Gloss for that, but there’s somethin’ he knows that we don’t
know. I see him watchin’ Gloss a lot. I’d give a good deal to know just
what’s in his mind, Bill.”

“Why, there’s nothin’ in his mind. Hallibut said, ‘Old Injun, do you
want a job standin’ watch on my boat when I send her down among the
Bushwhackers!’ and Noah he says, ‘Much good.’ Noah knows that he can
watch Hallibut that way better than we can watch him. Of course, I don’t
mean to say Noah would be traitor to any man he worked for—we both know
he wouldn’t. But he’s there to watch things for us as well as Hallibut,
Boy.”

“Colonel Hallibut’s comin’ for more than his own,” said Boy gloomily.

Paisley stretched his long arms.

“Well,” he laughed, “I’ve picked posies when bees have been workin’
among ’em. They didn’t molest me any—not then. Once, though, I dusted a
little chap with flour and trailed him down to his tree. I was hungry
for honey and wanted to hog it. When I started to cut down that bee-tree
I found Mr. Bee, who was quite a good feller among the posies, somethin’
of a hell-terror when it come to protectin’ his own. It learned me a
lesson. Now, when I hanker for honey, I get a piece of maple-sugar and
eat that. We can’t stop Hallibut from comin’ up Lee Creek, but we can
stop him from hoggin’ our homesteads out of us; so we won’t worry no
more. Come on to bed, Boy. Mornin’ will come right soon, and we’ve a lot
of traps to set.”

Boy picked up the candle and led the way to the loft.

“My, but it’s a grand place to stretch yourself out and enjoy rest,
this,” said Paisley, stooping low to keep from bumping his head on the
roof. “You should sleep like a baby up here, Boy. You sure should.”

“I used to,” said Boy. “Maybe I’ll be able to again. It’s restful all
right, Bill, to lie here and listen to the rain patterin’ on the roof.
And in the summer the leaves play little tunes on the thatches. Once Joe
chased a wild-cat across the open and he treed up here. I tried to scare
him away, but every time I struck the roof on the inside he would spit
and snarl out there on the outside. I had to get up and shoot him at
last.”

“Sure,” said Bill dreamily.

He had stretched himself out on the willow bed, and already healthy
sleep was wooing him and leading him from the late day into strange
by-paths of dreams which he never remembered.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                       Preparing for the Loggin’


Next morning at break of day Paisley and Boy, laden with rat-traps,
struck out toward the creek. Big McTavish accompanied them as far as the
stable and gave them a parting send-off.

“If I had the chores done I’d go along and show you fellers how a real
trapper sets a trap,” he said banteringly, “but I hear old Buck and
Bright askin’ for their breakfast, so I can’t go. I want that pair of
oxen to be the best at Declute’s loggin’. They have a reputation to keep
up.”

“Don’t think you can drive oxen any better than you can set rat-traps,”
returned Paisley. “Jim Peeler says his oxen can out-haul Buck and Bright
any day.”

“And Declute says he never caught a single rat in the traps you set for
him,” scoffed Boy.

“Get along with you, you scamps,” laughed the big man.

He passed into the stable and, slapping the hungry and expectant oxen
lovingly, spoke to them as was his habit.

“Buck, you moon-eyed old beggar, I want you to pull to-morrow like you
never pulled before. You heard what Bill said about Peeler’s oxen? Well,
Peeler can’t out-pull us. I guess not.” He reached across the stall and
patted Bright’s broad shoulder.

“As for you,” he said, “course you’ll do your best. If you don’t,
Brighty, I won’t feed you any corn for a whole day.”

He filled the mangers with fragrant fodder and passed outside. The
glorious morning was shooting up above the fringe of Point Aux Pins.
From the pine woods a billion dull-red arrows of light were glancing,
and, striking the bosom of Rond Eau, darting upward again toward a
sullen arch of cloud where they clung and mingling with it painted a
glorious border of orange and crimson. A rooster, high on a stack of
cornstalks, flapped his wings and proclaimed his gladness. Down in the
second-growth beeches a brood of feeding quail were whistling, and out
above the creek a blue king-fisher stood poised, then dived, a streak of
turquoise on the air, for the fish his bright eyes had sighted.

McTavish looked about him, smiling and whispering to himself. At the
dog-kennel he paused and accosted the setter.

“So you’re tied up, eh? Wanted to follow the boys, did you, Joe? Well,
we’ll let you free now to go where you please.”

He unsnapped the dog’s chain and Joe sprang up and left a wet caress on
the man’s cheek. Then with a low whine of welcome he bounded away.

“Get down, Joe, you good-for-nothin’ dog, get down,” commanded a voice,
and McTavish turned to see Mrs. Ross and Mary Ann coming up the path.

“Good-mornin’, good-mornin’,” he shouted. “Well, well now, but you two
are early visitors. Isn’t it a grand mornin’? Come up to the house—the
little ma’ll be glad to see you both.”

“How is she to-day?” Mrs. Ross, rather out of breath from fighting off
Joe, set her basket down on the grass and leaned against a tree.

“I can’t say as she’s any stronger, widder.”

“Verily, ‘all flesh is as grass,’” sighed the good woman, shaking her
head dolefully.

The man glanced up quizzically.

“Ma is quoting scripture,” explained Mary Ann. “She says we all should
work according to some text in the Bible.”

“That godly man, Mr. Smythe, has taught me much, Daniel,” proclaimed the
widow, stooping for her basket, “not sayin’ but what I was disbelievin’
that flesh was anythin’ like grass till Mr. Smythe pointed out them very
words in Lukeronomy, 8th verse. My, but it’s wonderful things the good
Book teaches us.”

McTavish looked at Mary Ann. The girl was smiling and her black eyes
were dancing with more than the zest of life. He took the basket from
the woman’s hand and they passed up the path toward the house.

“I can’t just understand what’s wrong with ma,” said McTavish. “She
don’t seem to suffer any, just grows weaker day by day. She’s too weak
to be carried a long distance to see a doctor, and it’s too far here for
a doctor to come. I wish I knowed what to do.”

Mary Ann laid her hand on his arm.

“Why not get old Betsy to come and see her?” she suggested.

“Mary Ann!” The widow stood still on the path and eyed her daughter
sternly. “Are we cannibals of the disenlightened ages to allow
superstitious rubbage to mold our ways? What does the good Book say
about witchcraft but that it’s ’red in the cup and stingeth like a snake
in the grass’?”

“You’re thinkin’ of the verse as cautions man against strong drink,
widder,” corrected McTavish kindly: “‘look not upon the wine when it is
red.’ Do you know,” he went on slowly, “I’ve been thinkin’ as maybe
Betsy can cure people. We know she cured some of our people right here
in Bushwhackers’ Place.”

“Yes,” nodded the woman, “she did, and it do seem strange that
witchcraft could do anythin’ as is real good, don’t it?”

Gloss met the visitors at the door and clapped her hands with delight.

“Oh,” she cried, “we were all wishin’ you would both come over this
mornin’. What d’ye suppose we are doin’, Mary Ann?”

“That’s easy to tell,” returned the widow, sniffing the appetizing
atmosphere. “If them ain’t cookies you are bakin’ I don’t know cookies
or bakin’. Dear heart, if there ain’t the sweet little woman herself!”

She crossed the room and bent over the willow couch.

“And so you got up early, too, deary,” she said, taking the thin hand
lying on the coverlet in hers, and patting it caressingly. “Goin’ to
help with the bakin’, eh?”

“My, if you’d only heard her bossin’ Granny and me around you’d think
she was takin’ a hand all right,” cried Gloss, “and she’s that wasteful,
Mrs. Ross; bound to use twice as many eggs as are needed, and she won’t
let us use pork-fryin’s for short’nin’. We got to use pure lard, think
of that!”

“They are contrary,” charged the invalid, her eyes resting tenderly on
the tall girl who, with sleeves tucked up above the elbows, was cutting
disks of dough with a can-top, “but I make them obey, Mrs. Ross—don’t
I, Granny?”

“Aye, Mary, that you do,” smiled the old lady, placing a basket of newly
gathered eggs on the table, “but we’ll na stand it fra lang, for in a
wee bit you’ll be up an’ aroon an’ doin’ the cookin’ yoursel’. An’ then
we’ll do the bossin’, won’t we, Bonnie?”

“We will,” cried Gloss, “we’ll make her do all the bakin’, Granny.”

McTavish entered, carrying a big golden pumpkin in either hand.

“Declute says he wants these punkin’-pies made accordin’ to ma’s
orders,” he grinned. “Boy and me raised these punkins just so’s we could
have a feed on ma’s pies, and Declute has been bangin’ around our
cornfield all fall hintin’ mighty broad that we send him a pie when ma
makes ’em. I guess three or four won’t come amiss at the bee, eh, Mary
Ann?”

He piled the pumpkins in the girl’s lap and pinched her red cheek.

“Somehow I wish there was goin’ to be a weddin’ as well as a loggin’,”
he teased. “Haven’t had a chance to play ‘Old Zip Coon’ weddin’ march
since Peeler’s big Jake married French Joe’s little Marie a year ago.
The old fiddle’ll begin to think this big bush place is gettin’ behind
the times.”

“Mr. Simpson don’t take to fiddle-music,” observed Mrs. Ross with a
sigh.

Gloss glanced quickly at Mary Ann, and the eyes of the bush-girls met in
a look of mutual understanding.

“Bill Paisley loves fiddle-music,” cried Gloss, dropping the long pan of
brown fragrant cookies on the table and reaching for the old violin. She
placed it in McTavish’s hands and, catching up Mary Ann from her chair,
wound her long arms about the girl.

“Play,” she commanded, and Big McTavish, sitting on a corner of the
table, struck up the old tune of “Turkey in the Straw.”

In and out, up and down the room the girls flashed, every movement one
of grace. The warm blood showed in their cheeks, the wild life in their
eyes. Not many could gallop to the quick music of that old tune, but
Gloss and Mary Ann had learned how.

Granny McTavish, in her corner, peeled the potatoes with quick,
uncertain slashes, her head moving up and down to the inspiring strains
of the fiddle. Widow Ross arose, clapping her hands in time with the
music, her matronly face agleam with something akin to youth, her foot
stamping the floor in regular thumps twice to each measure. As the music
waxed faster Granny McTavish arose and with trembling hands removed her
glasses. Big Mac, his face hugging the old fiddle, smiled as he noted
the action, and nodding to widow Ross he changed abruptly to an old
Scottish air. The sick woman had struggled up on the couch and tears of
laughter were streaming down her face.

“Dance a Scotch four for me,” she begged, and Granny and widow Ross
faced the two girls on the wide floor.

Oh, such a dance as that was! The young girls could dance, and no
mistake. But they could teach the older ones nothing when it came to
executing that old Scotch dance. In and out they darted, faster and
faster, their feet moving in perfect time to the exhilarating bars of
the music until Big McTavish, unable to contain his joy longer, leaned
back on the table and laughed until the very rafters shook and
threatened to bring smoked hams and dried venison strips down upon the
heads of the merrymakers. Then Granny, her wrinkled face working,
slipped back to her pan of potatoes and widow Ross sank into a chair and
reached for her basket.

“Sakes alive, dearest,” she panted, “I’m too fleshy to stand it any
more.”

“Oh, it has made me feel so much better,” declared the sick woman. “I do
love the fiddle, and it does seem so good to think that dear Granny has
not forgotten the olden days.”

“When the little ma is well, which please God ’ll soon be,” said
McTavish, “we’ll have a real old-fashioned dance here, with all the old
boys and girls and all the young boys and girls right here together. And
then, ladies, ma and me’ll show you how the minuet should be danced.
We’ll have French Joe over to play. He’s a good fiddler, is Joe, almost
as good as anybody I know.”

He hung the instrument up on its nail and, passing on to the couch, sank
on his knee before it.

“Ma,” he said softly, stroking the heavy brown hair away from the little
woman’s forehead, “there’s only one real shadder in all this big bright
bush-world of ours, and God ain’t goin’ to let that rest there long.
I’ve watched shadders long enough to know that they don’t last. When
this one passes there’ll be happy times. You maybe can guess how much I
miss you up and around, ma, so won’t you try and get better for my sake,
and all our sakes?”

She caught the rough, strong hand in hers and held it against her face.

“Mac,” she whispered, “I’ll try even harder than I have been doing.”

He patted her cheek and made to rise, but she held him.

“And Mac,” she said, a catch in her voice, “you mus’n’t worry about me,
or about anything, and you must show Boy that it is useless to worry
about losing this bushland. Nobody can steal it, Mac, believe me; I
know.”

“O’ course you know, ma.” He arose and hastily left the house.

Widow Ross, in white apron and bare arms, was dissecting one of the
golden pumpkins on a block of wood outside.

“Ander’ll likely have a fine day for his loggin’ to-morrow,” she
remarked as McTavish passed.

“There’ll be quite a crowd there, I bet,” returned the man. “I’ve sort
of led ’em all to expect a good feed of custard, widder.”

“Oh, you go along, you blarney,” cried Mrs. Ross. But she cut into the
pumpkin with renewed vigor and started to sing:

        “_Oh, we’ll cross the river of Jordan,_
        _Happy, happy, happy, happy,_
        _Cross the river of Jordan,_
        _Happy in the Lord._”

McTavish listened in wonderment, then with a chuckle made to pass on.
The woman bade him stay a moment.

“I’m not just sure I done right in dancin’ in that Scotch four,” she
faltered. “Mr. Smythe seems to think dancin’ wrong, same’s smokin’ and
such.”

“Humph, well now, it seems as Smythe’s been preachin’ quite a lot to
you, widder. See him often?”

“Pretty often,” answered the widow slowly. “He’s been over to my place
some three or four times during the last few days. He’s a very nice man,
and a good livin’ one.”

McTavish scratched his head and frowned.

“Humph,” he nodded, “quite so, widder.”

“Mr. Smythe is great at ‘leadin’ people to the light,’ as he puts it,”
smiled the woman, wiping the pumpkin seeds off her hands against the
side of the pan. “He’s converted me to true Christianity. He learnt me
that hymn, ‘Cross the River of Jordan,’ that I’ve just sung.”

“Well, well,” grinned Big Mac.

“And I’ve give up smokin’, too,” confessed the widow. “It’s been awful
hard to do it, but Mr. Smythe says it’s wrong for people, specially
women, to smoke. I haven’t had a smoke for several days, Daniel.”

“God bless us,” murmured McTavish, “is that so?”

He picked up a sliver and broke it into small bits.

“You get quite a lot of comfort out of tobaccer, I suppose?”

“No one knows how much,” she sighed.

“Well, missus, maybe I’m wrong,” declared McTavish, “but I tell you what
I think. I don’t believe I’d care to give up anythin’ I had, and was
sure of, for a chance of gettin’ what a man like Smythe gave me his word
I’d get in exchange.”

He laughed, and strode away across the cornfield. Widow Ross followed
him with staring eyes.

“I wonder just what he means,” she muttered. “My, but I wish I could
have a little smoke right now.”



                              CHAPTER XVII
                            The Loggin’-Bee


Logging-bees were not uncommon events among the Bushwhackers. But
usually logging-bees were held after the winter snows had fallen, when
with oxen and sleds the men moved the great logs to where they were
wanted.

But, as Mrs. Declute explained it, this was “a sorter unusual loggin’;”
it was “more of a raisin’ than a loggin’,”—all of which was quite true.
Mrs. Declute had set her mind upon having a new cow-stable erected, one
that would be tight and warm, “with no chinks to let in death to the
poor dumb critters.” Ander, at first adverse to the idea, had
reluctantly given in to having a bee, and bee it was to be.

Thursday morning dawned clear and bright, and with it came all the
Bushwhackers, big and little, in Bushwhackers’ Place.

Buck and Bright, the champion ox-team, bedecked with a new yoke of white
elm in honor of the occasion, were driven forth to the contest by their
proud master, who cracked his whip in time to the rattle of the long
chains, and commanded, “gee there, Buck; haw, Bright,” in a voice that
Mrs. Ross declared could be heard “quite plain on the Point.” Peeler
with his span of oxen was already on the ground, and by the time he and
Big McTavish had got through chaffing each other on the respective
deficiencies of each other’s team, three more span with their owners had
arrived on the scene.

An hour later all throughout the nearby wood could be heard the
“k-whack” of axes, and every now and again a great tree would fall with
a swish and a crash that seemed to jar the earth.

While the young men chopped down and trimmed the trees, the older ones
laid out the foundation of the new building. So thoroughly was this done
that Declute avowed in the hearing of his good wife, who naturally was
close at hand to admonish and advise the architects, that he wouldn’t be
surprised but that he’d desert the house and live in the new cow-stable
himself. Whereupon that good woman flashed a look of scorn upon him and
jeeringly remarked: “A cow-stable is too good for a man what allars
smells o’ rat-musk an’ can’t take a skunk outin a trap without scentin’
up th’ whole neighborhood.” The little man hid his discomfiture by
suggesting that the men who claimed their oxen could haul two tons of
green timber “at a wallop” come along and prove it. Laughing, the men
sought their patient cattle and proceeded with a chorus of “gees” and
“haws” to haul the trimmed tree-trunks up to the clearing.

It was a great trial of strength and patience and endurance on the part
of both team and driver, the hauling of those heavy logs across rough
ground to the wide square marked off in the clearing. The young men left
off trimming trees to watch the oxen pull. There was much excitement
while the rival teams pitted their muscle against one another. The spans
were very evenly matched, and it is likely the friendly contest would
have ended in a draw had not a circumstance arisen to put McTavish’s
Buck and Bright away to the fore.

A great basswood log had nosed itself deep into a bank of moss, where,
held securely by root-tendrils, it refused to budge to the repeated tugs
of Peeler’s red oxen. Two other teams tried to break it out without
success, and then Big McTavish, smiling broadly, declared that he would
show them what a real span of oxen could do when they wanted to. Sure
enough, Buck and Bright after tremendous exertion did break the log out,
and lowering their broad, burly heads, and snorting and puffing, haul
the timber up to the clearing. Peeler declared that McTavish had been
“feedin’ up for this tug-o’-war for a month,” and Big Mac contended that
he had “been starvin’ the poor oxen for weeks just so’s they wouldn’t
beat the other spans too bad.”

Oh, they were a happy crowd, these young boys and old boys; happy in the
hauling up, the mortising of the timber, and the laying “true” of the
first logs for the building. They one and all forgot, for the time
being, that new apprehension which had crept among them and stayed, and
worked them up to disquietude. The bush-world was theirs still, and it
was a very beautiful world with its autumn scents and sounds and colors.

High above, through the tree-tops, was the yellow-gold of the sky; on
the tree-tops the old-gold of late fall; on the forest aisles an
amber-gold commingled with the green moss that glowed through the yellow
leaf-carpet.

By noon the mortised logs had been gathered into a great pile, ready to
be thrown up into a roomy building, and the men went in to dinner.
Dinner was usually a hurried meal, supper being the main “feedin’
event,” as Paisley termed it.

There were twenty-three men at the logging: Jim Peeler and his two sons,
almost men grown; Big McTavish with his “body guard,” as the six Indians
present from Point Aux Pins were called; Alex Lapier, a French trapper
from Indian Creek, and his two swarthy sons; Injun Noah; four men from
Bridgetown; Boy McTavish; and the Broadcrook family. The Broadcrooks
were not popular. In fact, they were not liked any too well by their
honest bush-neighbors. They bore evil reputations, and they were a
sullen, ill-conditioned lot. But on account of their size, and from the
fact that peace amounted to something, they were always invited to an
affair of this kind. Broadcrook, senior, was a tall, lean, white-haired
old man, with hawk-like eyes and hatchet face. He was surly and
quarrelsome, and he never attempted to do anything much save scoff at
the efforts of others. Three of his strapping sons were present with
him, and the old man leeringly assured Declute that Amos, the fourth and
worst of the gang, would be “along in time fer supper.”

“It’s to be hoped he won’t strain hisself none gittin’ here,” returned
that gentleman; “howsomever, he’ll be welcome.”

The captains having chosen their men, the word was given, and the boys
attacked the pile of logs with cant-hooks and hand-spikes. “He-o-heave!”
roared the captains, and in an incredibly short space of time the
cow-stable began to grow and take on the shape of a building. By three
o’clock in the afternoon the four sides of the building were nearly
laid, and now began the finish for first laurels. The side that was
first able to lay its upper plates and rafters would win the day. Men
ran nimbly along the slippery logs shouting orders and handing long,
slender pipe-poles below.

“Now, lads, up with her, all together.—He-o-heave!” rang the cry, and
the boys responded with a will. It was a close race, and excitement ran
high.

All the ladies of Bushwhackers’ Place had gathered outside to witness
the finish. Mrs. Declute had her hands full admonishing the little
Declutes to keep from under the great plates that were being raised.
Mrs. Ross and several other women kept clapping their hands and cheering
the workers on.

Gloss McTavish and Mary Ann Ross stood some distance apart from the
older women, and more than one of those sweating, striving workers threw
a glance in the direction of the two girls.

“Our side is goin’ to win, after all,” laughed Gloss, clapping her
hands. “Oh, look, Mary Ann, do look at Boy running along that slippery
plate. It makes me shudder.”

“And look at Bill Paisley liftin’ that heavy log,” returned her friend.
“My, but he _must_ be strong, Gloss!”

“You young ladies are taking a personal interest in the raising, I see.”

Simpson, the teacher, had come up in time to hear the remarks of the
girls, and his face, in spite of the smile it wore, showed anything but
pleasure.

“I let my pupils go at three o’clock,” explained the man. “I wanted to
see what a Bushwhackers’ bee was like.”

“Better look more and talk less, then,” counseled Mary Ann, turning her
back on him. She moved slowly away, and Simpson spoke in low tones to
Gloss.

“Did you think I would come?”

His voice was not quite steady and he swayed slightly as he spoke. A
look of abhorrence swept across the girl’s face and her big gray eyes
were ominous as she answered:

“I wasn’t givin’ any thought to you at all, Mr. Simpson.”

“But you will,” he almost threatened; “you must, Gloss. Do you suppose I
would come here among these—these people, if it weren’t just to catch a
glimpse of you?”

“Please go away,” she pleaded.

“No, I’m going to stay by you.”

“Then _I_ will go.”

She turned toward the house and he turned and walked beside her.

“You can’t help my seeing you, you can’t help my loving you, you can’t
help my winning you,” he whispered fiercely.

She paused and faced him.

“You will make me hate you,” she said quietly; “please go away.”

They were in the shadow of the milk-house and the building hid them from
the others.

“I ask you to marry me, will you?”

“No.”

He caught his breath.

“I come of good family. I will take you to a big city. I will give you a
fine home,” he urged.

The girl recoiled from him. He reached out for her, but she sprang
aside, and bracing her feet, she struck out with all her young strength.
She was no weak lady, reared in an artificial atmosphere. She was a
woman of the Wild, strong and supple and courageous. It never occurred
to her to call out. She obeyed the law she knew: she struck out.

Simpson caught the full force of her blow on his face and, already
unsteady from the effects of drink, he staggered back and would have
fallen had not the building supported him. He struggled up, sobered
materially by surprise and pain.

She stood before him tall and straight, her eyes blazing, her face set
like marble, her fine nostrils dilated.

From across the clearing came the cheering voices of the winners of the
day.

Once in the low-lying bushlands Simpson had seen a doe brought to bay by
a timber-wolf. He remembered the picture now.

“Why did you do it?” he asked.

“What else could I do?” she answered.

She pulled down a branch of a maple and leaned her head against it. The
rough bark caressed her hot cheek and the sweet sappy aroma entered her
soul and soothed it.

“Why did you not call out or scream like other girls would have done?”

She lifted her head and looked at him with compassion almost.

His eyes fell.

“I understand,” he murmured.

From the newly raised structure came renewed cheering.

“If they knew—if Boy knew——” she commenced, then checked herself.

He started, and the perspiration broke out on his forehead.

“That would mean hanging for him,” he laughed uneasily.

“That’s why I didn’t call out like other girls would have done,” she
returned quietly.

His hands clenched and the blood mounted to his cheeks.

“Then I count for nothing,” he said bitterly.

“I can’t understand why you will take risks,” she said, ignoring his
last utterance. “The folks of the woods have learned a lot from the wild
things here. Nothin’ in all this wide woods ever goes where it’s
dangerous to go, if they know it. You had better go back to the
clearin’, teacher. I don’t want to see you hurt. I don’t seem to want
anythin’ hurt. You had better go back to the clearin’.”

“Boy McTavish advised me to do that in those very words,” he sneered.
“But listen, I’m neither a fool nor a coward. I have made up my mind to
have you, Gloss, and have you I will—remember that.”

He turned away into the timber.

Gloss entered the house and lit the candles. Twilight had swept down, a
twilight fresh with wood-scented dews and fragrant with smoke of the
clearing-fires. On the floor beside the fireplace sprawled the form of
Daft Davie. He was fast asleep, and Pepper, the ’coon, lay coiled up
close beside him. One of the lad’s arms encircled the pet and the little
animal’s pointed nose was hidden among the long golden curls. Gloss bent
and stroked those curls softly and something warm and wet splashed down
and awoke the Nature child.

He scrambled up, his great eyes blinking at the light; then, bending,
the boy raised Pepper and placed him in Gloss’s arms.

She sat down on a stool before the fire and gathered the little
bush-children close to her. The raccoon sniffed her red cheeks and nosed
her soft throat caressingly, and Davie, clinging to her hands, poured
forth the story of his day’s adventures. The girl listened, now and then
smiling, understanding, as she did so well, those little pictures that
the daft child was painting for her. She saw the gray tangle of marsh
with the great dead elm lying across it; saw the ragged home of the mink
and the tall elm where his enemy, the bald-headed eagle, sat poised and
watchful.

When, at last, happy voices were heard coming down the path, she arose
with all the old-time gladness astir in her heart. No new and strange
shadow could linger for long where the joy-songs of many glad days could
be brought to life by memory. And hugging the tiny daft boy close to her
she whispered:

“What could I do without you, Davie?”

“Well, I do declare,” cried Mrs. Declute, as she came panting in, “if
here she ain’t, right here, and that blessed boy Davie with her, too.
Give my life if it don’t beat all, Mrs. Ross.”

“Bless her,” exclaimed the widow, “and to think that we’ve been
wonderin’ where she had slipped off to. I’ll just swing the kettle on,
Mrs. Declute, so’s we needn’t keep them hungry men waitin’. My, but I do
expect they’ll enjoy that custard.”

“Leave us alone for that,” laughed Peeler, who had entered and was
drying his face on the long towel hanging behind the door.

Declute came forward, followed by a tall, broad-shouldered man dressed
in red flannel shirt and buckskins.

“Here’s Amos Broadcrook,” grinned the master of the house, “an’ he
declares he’s fearful hungry.”

“You’re right welcome, Amos,” cried Mrs. Declute, pushing her progeny
into a neat pile in one corner of the room, “but I’m sorry to see you’ve
been drinkin’ again.”

“Goin’ to quit now,” pledged Broadcrook, seating himself on a stool.

His head was small and bullet-shaped, his neck thick, and his hair a
light-red. His heavy face was coarse and made further unbeautiful from
the fact that he had but one eye, having had the other knocked out by an
arrow in early youth while playing buffalo-hunt with his brothers.
Having spoken, he relapsed into sullen silence, and glowered about him
occasionally, venturing no remark and making no move until supper was
announced. Then he sprang up and was one of the first to seat himself at
the long table in the inner room.

Watching him, Mrs. Ross sighed and shook her head so forcefully that the
tea she was pouring from the great tin pot missed the cup and splashed
down on the upturned nose of Goliath, thereby changing that agreeable
canine into a yelping bunch of legs and fur that speedily made its way
out through the open door.

“Poor thing,” sympathized Mrs. Ross.

“Pshaw, he ain’t hurt any. It serves him right. He’s allars snoopin’
’round where he ain’t wanted, anyway,” cried Mrs. Declute, placing a
dripping roast of venison on a big platter.

“I ain’t talkin’ about the dog. I mean Amos Broadcrook,” said the widow.
“Ain’t it too bad he drinks so hard and is so shiftless?”

“I’ll tell you somethin’ that is no secret,” whispered the hostess.
“Thar ain’t no Broadcrook alive that’s wuth anythin’, an’ if thar’s any
of ’em dead as is, then only old Nick hisself knows it.”

Mrs. Peeler, a little, small-faced woman with mild eyes, looked up from
her potato-mashing with a start.

“My, my,” she sighed, “are they that bad, Mrs. Declute?”

That lady nodded grimly.

“While they be eatin’ in my hum I will say no more than what I have
concernin’ them,” she affirmed, “as that wouldn’t be hospitable o’ me.
But after they’ve et an’ gone——” she compressed her lips and frowned
severely, “then I’ll tell you more about them outlaws.”

“Dear me,” sighed Mrs. Peeler again. Then she glanced around. “Where is
Mary Ann and Gloss gone?” she asked.

“Oh, they slipped over t’ Mac’s to see how the little mother was
restin’,” answered Mrs. Ross. “The poor woman took a bad turn last
night, you know. They’ll be comin’ back soon. Libby, dear, just help me
dish out this custard, will you? They are callin’ for it in there, don’t
you hear ’em?”

“I hear your Tom’s voice,” laughed Mrs. Peeler.

“And your boy, Ed. Do you know what that boy said to me when I was in
givin’ a second helpin’ of tea just now? He said, ‘Missus Ross,’ says
he, ‘I haven’t et anythin’ worth while as yet, ’cause I’ve been waitin’
for that custard.’ The sly rascal!”

Mrs. Peeler’s blue eyes danced with pride.

“Ed is awful lively,” she smiled. “There’s no keepin’ him quiet.”

“Mr. Simpson says he’s a smart boy,” said Mrs. Ross; “says he takes to
book larnin’ like a squirrel t’ a nut.”

“Oh, and how do you like the teacher, widder?”

“I like him first-rate.”

“And Mary Ann?”

Mrs. Ross glanced about her. Then she bent over and whispered in the
other woman’s ear.

“No!” exclaimed that little lady; “you don’t say so!”

“Judgin’ from appearances, it looks that way, dear,” smiled the widow.
“But not a word to anyone else, Libby. I haven’t told a single soul but
you.”

“It don’t seem to me that Mary Ann would take to a man like him,” said
Mrs. Peeler. “He don’t seem to fit her somehow. I always thought and
hoped that Bill Paisley would meet her favor, widder.”

Mrs. Ross opened her mouth as if to speak, then closed it again on
second thought.

“My, I must get in with th’ custard,” she cried, and hurried away.

Gloss and Mary Ann entered the kitchen with Daft Davie between them.

“Oh, you’ve come back, my dears, have you!” smiled Mrs. Peeler. “I’m
glad you got back so soon. How’s she now, Glossie?”

“Awful bad,” answered Gloss. “I’m goin’ right back, and will you tell
uncle to come soon? Don’t say anythin’ to Boy, but just whisper to uncle
to come as soon’s he can. She misses him so much. Now, I must go. You
explain to ’em all how it is, Mrs. Peeler, will you?”

“You’re not goin’ back alone,” protested Mary Ann. “Just wait, we’ll
send——”

Gloss put her hand on her friend’s arm.

“I don’t want anyone to know just how bad she is—not to-night. It would
only spoil the evenin’s fun for them, and I’m not scared—why, I have
little Davie.”

She put her arm about the boy’s shoulders. “You don’t know what company
Davie is, and it’s scarcely dark yet. No, I don’t want anybody else.
Good-night.”

She slipped out, her arm still around the daft boy, and the two passed
down the path that stretched like a thread of silver in the moonlight.
The lad talked to her in his strange language and she let him go on
without paying much attention to him, for her heart was heavy with a
great fear. They reached the creek path where the gray rushes stood and
the deep creek slept beneath the moon. The lad laughed and swept his
arms about, as the shrill wing-whistles of a migrating flock of
pin-tails sang out and died away high above them. They turned up the
path, and a whip-poor-will woke up and uttered his plaintive call from a
nearby copse. Davie imitated the call, and then all about them the
night-birds awoke and made the world alive with sound.

Further on the lad hooted like an owl and from the swales the feathered
prowlers of the night answered him. He clapped his hands in glee, and
Gloss’s arm tightened about him.

“Oh, Davie,” she whispered, “you are just like the birds—glad and free.
Are you just what God intended us all to be, I wonder? Are you, Davie?”

He stroked her hand, and Pepper climbed from his shoulder over to hers.

“Do you know we are goin’ to lose her—do you?” said the girl chokingly.
“Yes, you both know.”

When they reached the fork in the path Gloss put the little animal in
the boy’s arms. Then she bent and kissed him.

“Davie must run along to Granny, now,” she said, “and he can come over
to see Boy to-morrow.”

Davie put his hands to his lips and gave a low call, then bent his head
to listen. From a far-off swale there came the answering cry of a lynx,
and the boy with a happy laugh flung his arms in the air and darted away
through the grove. Gloss, standing with the moonlight laving her face,
sweet to-night with a new pathos, prayed:

“Oh, God, who looks after Davie, look after the little ma. Don’t take
her from us, God.” Then, leaning her face against the rough bark of a
beech tree, she sobbed:

“Mother, let her stay with us a little longer—just a little longer.”



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                               Old Betsy


Daft Davie lived with an aged grandmother in a small hut close to the
edge of the bay. She was a very old woman. Her features were rugged and
piercing; and she hated everything in the world, except, indeed, it were
Davie, and on him she lavished very little love. It was thought among
the Bushwhackers that she sometimes beat the daft child. Nobody knew for
certain. The old woman gave little attention to his going or his coming.
The death of her daughter and only child had crippled her reason. There
was a path worn between the hut and the knoll beneath the walnut. Old
Betsy’s life was linked to a tragedy just as her home was linked to an
old, old grave by the path that was kept trodden both winter and summer.

The people feared Betsy, and respected her. It was said that she was
versed in witchcraft and was in league with the devil. The Bushwhackers
brought her meat and roots and such other necessities as she required,
but she never thanked them. Perhaps they were doing it all for the
child. In their rough way they pitied the boy; some of them even showed
him a sort of animal affection. Old Betsy spoke to no one, unless it was
to curse them, and she went abroad only when the sun was hidden, to
gather the herbs she brewed into nauseous evil-smelling decoctions.
Twice, only, in nine years, had she visited the homes of those who were
kind to her.

Once Peeler lay yellow and swollen, dying from the bite of a snake.
Betsy had hobbled into the house, her iron-gray hair hanging about her
shoulders, wet with the falling rain. Without so much as a word she had
forced a black liquid between the trapper’s set teeth and had gone
before Bill Paisley or Big McTavish, who were with the dying man, could
recover from their surprise. Peeler got well, and the Bushwhackers
whispered among themselves in superstitious awe. They laid the miracle
to old Betsy’s witchcraft. One other time a child lay ill with a high
fever. Old Betsy visited the home of the child and all night long sat
beside the little sufferer. The child grew well and strong.
“Witchcraft,” whispered the Bushwhackers.

If Betsy was aware that she was looked upon as being in league with the
Evil One, she gave no sign: it bothered her none whatever. She stayed
within the dark confines of her hut, smoked Canada-Green tobacco in a
clay pipe, and blasphemed to her heart’s content.

To Daft Davie she paid not the slightest attention. But often when the
child lay sleeping she would bend over him, holding the feeble
rush-light close to his face to scan it with knotted brows working, as
she poured maledictions upon the cause of the ushering into this world
of a crippled soul that had never quite learned rest. If she thought the
power the child exercised over the birds and animals of the wood
strange, she gave no evidence of it. She had become inured to having the
squirrels and birds frisk and flutter about in the open spot before her
door, playing fantastic games with the wee yellow-haired child, who
rolled about upon the greensward and gibbered to them.

Once in the dusk, along the path to the grave, old Betsy found a ruffed
grouse lying drunk and helpless. He had eaten too freely of the purple
poke-berry. She picked the bird up and carried him to her hut, and there
held him until he slept off his intoxication. He fought frantically to
get away until Davie came in and, taking the grouse from her, talked to
it in his own way, and it settled on his shoulder and hid its head
beneath his long curls. From that time the old woman realised that the
daft child was also one of the wild things of the wood.

The powdery white-frost lay like a blanket upon the unprotected glades
of the wood and the yellow-drab leaves were being shaken and wafted
earthward in the first swaying gust of morning wind, when Boy McTavish
emerged from the timber and stood gazing toward the lone hut against the
tangle of brown sumach. The setter shook himself and looked up into his
master’s face.

“Joe,” said the boy in a whisper, “you stay here. I’m goin’ up, witch or
no witch. It’s got to be done.”

The dog squatted down among the frost-blackened ferns, and Boy slowly
crossed the open and knocked at the door. It opened quickly, and there
stood the gaunt, bent woman, her gray hair falling down about her
shoulders, her black eyes blazing with a fury.

“Betsy,” said Boy chokingly, “ma’s awful sick. We think she won’t live
till noon. I just thought I’d tell you.”

He turned away as the door slammed with a bang, and with a sigh plunged
into the hard timber. He walked quickly across two ridges, then,
turning, followed a third down to the edge of the creek. There he
halted.

“I can’t just make up my mind to do anythin’, Joe,” he said, bending and
patting the dog. “I ought to build a turkey-trap or two, ’cause it’s the
beech-nut season now, and the turkeys’ll be here in a day or so. But it
does seem as though I ought to be home with her.”

He shouldered his rifle and moved slowly along. Where the ridge met the
margin of the creek Boy paused again and glanced about him with narrowed
eyes.

“Hah, this is a good place for a trap, Joe,” he said. “We’ll build one
or two anyway. Then we’ll get back.”

He stood his rifle up against a tree and unbuckled his belt. Then he
stopped and gazed at the dog blankly.

“Well, now, if we didn’t forget the ax,” he exclaimed. “Can’t build a
turkey-trap without an ax, pup.”

“Here, I’ll lend you mine, Boy.”

Bill Paisley, a gun on his shoulder and a wild gobbler hanging from one
hand, threw his ax down on the moss and grunted:

“Hickory, but I’m some tired. Had quite a job of it, I can tell you.
Built four traps myself this mornin’. Better get yours all up to-day,
Boy, ’cause the turkeys are takin’ to the hardwood fast. Seen eight big
flock this mornin’. Only got one crack, though, ’cause I wanted to get
my traps up. Why, what’s the matter, Boy, you look sort of used up?”

Boy looked away.

“You know the mornin’ after the bee, Bill, how when we got back home we
found that ma had been took bad; and you know what we’ve been kind of
expectin’ since?” he said catchingly. “Well, we think it’ll happen right
soon.”

Paisley dropped his gun and tackled a dead tree with the ax.

“I made my logs about ten foot long,” he said; “reckon you’d best make
yours same length.”

“Ten by six ought to be about right,” answered Boy.

Paisley chopped the tree through and paced off ten feet. He raised his
ax, then let it gently down again.

“Boy,” he said, “it’s a hard thing. How soon?”

“We reckon sometime to-day.”

Paisley spit on his hands and resumed work.

“I’m goin’ to put up four pens for you, and what you better do is get
back home. Don’t say anythin’ to me or I’ll knock your head off. Now,
you strike the back trail and when I get the traps up I’ll be with you.
Here, take this turkey.”

Boy picked up the turkey, then stood awkwardly brushing his face with
his doeskin sleeve.

“Bill, I’m much obliged.”

Paisley snorted.

“I’m goin’ to put your mark on these pens—two narrow notches an’ one
wide one, ain’t it?”

Boy nodded.

“Well, get along then and don’t stand there botherin’ me. I’m goin’ to
build one up in—but never mind now. I’ll come back with you and show
you. Get along.”

For an hour and a half after Boy had gone Paisley worked fast and
furious. Building a turkey-trap was no easy job for one man, for a
turkey-trap was practically a diminutive log-house with a narrow
ground-door and a well-built roof of tough, heavy timbers, strong enough
to hold a horse from within or a turkey-loving brown bear from without.
When pen number one was finished, Paisley stood back and grinned
commendingly.

“Purty good trap, that,” he said, speaking aloud, as was the habit of
most Bushwhackers. “Don’t it beat all how foolish a turkey is, now! Just
think of ’em follerin’ up a trail of beech-nuts or chaff and enterin’
that little log-house with their heads down and findin’ they’re inside,
not seein’ the door they went in by at all.”

He laughed quietly and felt for his pipe.

“Just as soon as they find they’re trapped, up goes their heads and they
never see nothin’ but the roof after that. The scareder a turkey is, the
higher up goes its head. I’ll bet my winter’s tobaccer that this trap is
good for five at least.”

He sat down on a log and lit his pipe.

“Well, well,” he sighed, “what’ll Boy and Big Mac do without that little
mother? What’ll they do?”

He pulled viciously at his short pipe and then sprang up and gripped his
ax again. Then he stood still, looking away through the woods with
unseeing eyes.

“That’s it,” he said huskily. “What’ll _she_ do?—that’s it.”

He tramped slowly onward and found another slope on a narrow ridge.

“I’ll build the other three; close in here,” he told himself, and
started to work.

It was past noon before the traps were finished. Then Paisley, wiping
his streaming brow with his hand, tramped slowly across toward
McTavish’s. Above him was the old-gold of late autumn. Around him rang
the cheerful voices of jay, high-holder, and cock-of-the-woods. Here and
there a yellow splash of sunshine fell through the trees and painted
golden patches upon the dead leaves. But Paisley saw or heard none of
this. He kept repeating in his mind the question:

“What’ll she do?—what’ll little Gloss do?”

As Paisley was about to leave the timber for the path along the creek
his acute ear caught the sound of a paddle dipping the water lightly,
and peering-through the trees he saw two men in a skiff strike the near
shore and glance stealthily about them.

Paisley’s eyes narrowed and his heavy jaw set.

“Teacher’s spendin’ his Saturday hollerday, I suppose,” he muttered.
“Well, I’m waitin’ here to see just what he’s goin’ to do, and learn who
that big man is with him.”

The men in the skiff stood up and, stepping ashore, pulled the boat up
after them.

Bill Paisley’s muscles began to bunch beneath his deerskin jacket. It
was with the greatest difficulty that he restrained himself from
launching forth and giving the visitors a lesson. But he held himself in
check, feeling that he might learn something of far more benefit to his
friends and himself than this gratification of desire would prove.

The men were speaking in hushed accents, but the bushman’s ear caught
every word. As he listened his big hands clenched and his blue eyes
darkened.

“It won’t do to go up too close, I tell you, Watson,” Simpson was
saying. “They’ve got a dog that would like to tear me to pieces; and as
for that Boy, I’d rather face a nest of rattlesnakes any time than him.”

“Bah!” jeered the other; “scared, eh? You’ve got a lot of yellow in you,
Simpson.”

“You needn’t talk,” said the school-teacher reddening. “It was worse
than mere cowardice that got you into this pickle I’m trying to get you
out of. And see here, I don’t want any more of your gibes or I’ll let
you go to thunder and get out of the thing the best way you can.”

“Oh, say, now,” said the other with a forced laugh, “this won’t do, my
boy. We mus’n’t quarrel, you and I. Remember, the Colonel is to give you
your price if we can grab her to-night. We’ll have the horses across in
Twin Elm swale yonder, and get her away before these idiots surmise
anything.”

Simpson shuddered.

“See here, Watson,” he said, “I guess you understand I’m not doing this
for money; all I want is the girl. If we pull this thing off to-night,
I’m away and she goes with me.”

Watson laughed discomfitingly.

“Well, I don’t blame you for not wanting to stay here. It’s not very
healthy for you. All we want you to do before you go is to help us get
hold of the girl, and of course it’s understood she’s yours.”

The two turned up the path, and Paisley lay low and let them pass. Then
he plunged into the wood. As the plotters warily turned the bend in the
path they came unexpectedly upon Paisley, aimlessly sauntering in the
opposite direction.

“You gents got a pass?” he asked, laying his rifle on the ground.

“No, sir,” replied Watson, “and what’s more, we don’t need one.”

“Oh, you don’t eh?—well, then, you had better both get.”

He pointed across the creek and Watson’s purple face flushed a deeper
shade.

“Look here,” he commanded, “we’re your friends. We want to do you
Bushwhackers a favor. Is this any way to treat us, sir?”

“We’re not needin’ friends,” returned Paisley. “Now, you chaps get while
you’re able to walk.”

“We’ll go when we’re ready, not before,” growled the agent, putting
himself on the defensive.

Paisley’s long right arm shot forward and Watson’s burly form executed a
half somersault on the moss. Simpson sprang in, but Paisley’s hand
gripped him by the windpipe.

“So you must learn your lesson, too, eh?” he said grimly, and sent the
teacher to earth with a straight left from the shoulder.

Watson struggled erect with a groan.

“You’ve broken my arm,” he moaned. “You’ll pay for this. Nobody can
assault Thomas W. O. Watson with impunity, sir. When Colonel Hallibut
has you Bushwhackers cornered you will need me, and what if I should
remember this—this assault, then?”

“We’re not afraid of Colonel Hallibut,” said Paisley quietly. “If
Hallibut corners us we’ll be willin’ to stay in the corner. I say, when
he corners us we’ll be willin’—understand? Now, you fellers better be
gettin’ across to your own territory, ’cause I feel my muscle swellin’
again.”

Simpson struggled painfully from the ground and, followed by the bruised
Watson, lost no time in obeying the order. Paisley watched them until
the rushes on the farther, shore hid them from sight, then he picked up
his rifle and walked on.

“The fools!” he muttered, “they don’t know that I’m on to their game.
The fools! to think they could ever steal Gloss away like that. I’ve
seen that Watson feller’s face before somewhere, but I can’t just say
where. I reckon he won’t ever forget old Bill Paisley, though. No, I
mus’n’t say nothin’ to Boy; not yet. Guess he’s most too hot-headed to
meet them devils at their own game.”

As he rounded the bend in the path there came the shuffle of a footstep
to his ear, and the bent form of an old woman passed him. Her hair was
flying in the breeze, her pitted face worked, and her black orbs
gleamed.

“Old Betsy, as sure as I’m born!” exclaimed Paisley. “It’s the first
time I ever seen her out durin’ daylight. She sure come from Mac’s way,
too. Wonder what’s up. Guess I’ll go and see.”

Half an hour later he entered McTavish’s door. Boy was seated by the
table, and he leaped up when Bill entered.

“She’s better, a lot better, Bill,” he cried in answer to the big man’s
look. “Old Betsy was here, Bill, and she gave ma something to drink,
and——”

His voice faltered, and he turned toward Gloss, who had come from the
bedroom.

“You tell Bill all about it,” he said, and walked out.

Paisley looked at the girl and mentally formed the same words that Boy
had spoken not so long ago:

“She ain’t a girl no more; she’s a woman now.”

Gloss was dressed in a homespun skirt and a jacket of raw deerskin, but
it was the wild beauty of her face with its glorious coloring and great
fawn-like eyes that Paisley saw. Remembering what he had so lately
heard, a great anger swept through the man. The girl noticed his working
face, and she came over to him.

“Bill,” she said, “I’ve known you ever since I can remember, and I never
saw your eyes look like they do now. Are you sick, Bill?”

“Glossie,” said Paisley, “I want to tell you somethin’. You’re not to go
outside this here house until I say you can. You know old Bill, and he
knows somethin’ you don’t know. You promise me right now that you won’t
go out, Glossie.”

The girl looked at him quickly, then slowly removed her cap.

“Bill,” said she, “I sure will do whatever you say, and ask no
questions. I know you so well, Bill—and I won’t go out until you say.
I—I—am some scared——”

She caught her breath and clinched her slender hands, her color rising.

“Girl,” said Bill slowly, “you ain’t got nothin’ to be scared over; but
don’t you forget you’ve promised me. Now, Glossie, tell me about the
ma.”

“Why, Bill,” cried the girl, “it was all so unexpected. Auntie was awful
sick. We all thought she was—was——”

“I know; Boy told me.”

“And this mornin’, just when I was clearin’ the breakfast dishes, who
should walk in but old Betsy. She didn’t look at me, but went right on
in where Granny and auntie were. Granny says she kept mutterin’, and she
heard her say somethin’ about Boy findin’ Daft Davie one time when he
was lost and bringin’ him home. And all the time she was pourin’ some
stuff from a bottle into a cup. Granny says it was the spell she was
sayin’. Anyway, she made auntie take some of the stuff, and, Bill, she
has been asleep and restin’ fine ever since.”

Paisley got up from his chair and took the girl’s face between his
hands.

“Glossie,” he said, patting her cheeks, “your auntie is goin’ to get
well. I ain’t carin’ a darn whether it is witchcraft or no witchcraft.
Guess I better go outside and hunt up Boy and Mac, ’cause I’m goin’ to
holler some soon. Now, don’t you forget your promise, Gloss.”

Paisley stepped out into the lengthening shadows of the late afternoon.
Down in the far end of the potato-patch he saw Big McTavish and Boy
working. Beside them stood Daft Davie, his inseparable companion, the
coon, in his arms. As he watched them he saw the big man bend and pat
the child’s yellow hair, then point toward the house. But Davie shook
his head and pointed eastward.

“He’s tellin’ Mac in his way what maybe I ought to tell him in mine,”
thought Paisley. “But I won’t; anyway, not yet a while.”



                              CHAPTER XIX
                       Of the Tribe of Broadcrook


Mr. Smythe stood with, his back to the fireplace, his long arms behind
his back, with sharp elbows almost touching, and claw-like hands clasped
together. The evenings were getting chill. Already the first snows had
come. The trees were bare and creaked in the wind, and the skies were
lead-colored and cold. In the early dusk the two-dozen gray shacks of
Bridgetown looked grayer and lonelier than ever. Mr. Smythe glanced at
the long clock near the door and then out of the smoky window, his
pointed nose fairly sniffing the wind and his big ears fairly pointed
forward in a listening attitude. The long figure of a man, half
reclining on a pile of furs at the end of the counter, stirred, and the
substance of a quid of black tobacco hissed into the hickory coals,
passing perilously close to the clasped hands of Bridgetown’s general
merchant. Mr. Smythe smiled with his thin lips and looked murder with
his little weak eyes. Then he coughed.

“If you wish to make Bushwhackers’ Place to-night,” he said, addressing
his tardy visitor, “you’d better be starting out on your way.”

No response from the man on the furs, except another hiss in the coals.

“Looks as though we’d have a big snowstorm,” suggested Smythe.

“Snow or rain, light’in’ or pitch dark, who’s carin’?” retorted the
other.

“It’s not a nice sort of trip you have before you, that’s all.”

“It’s me as has to take it, I guess, and I’m not goin’ to move an inch
till you give me an extra pound of powder and enough lead for a hundred
bullets. You hear me?”

“I have paid you all your furs are worth; you know I have.”

“Aye, and made me pay ten times too much for what I got here durin’ the
summer. Come now, Smythe, wrap up the powder and give me the package of
lead-leaf, and I’ll be makin’ tracks.”

Broadcrook arose and slouched forward. He was dressed in a heavy shirt
of red wool and homespun trousers of gray. One ponderous hand held a
long rifle and a coat of wolf-skin was slung across a muscular arm.
Smythe eyed him speculatively.

“Broadcrook,” he said suavely, “you shall have it. I wouldn’t do it for
anybody else.”

Broadcrook scratched his short-cropped head perplexedly. Acuteness was
not one of his characteristics. He laid Smythe’s eagerness to oblige him
to fear, and Broadcrook was not so many generations removed from the
Cave Dwellers that he could not understand how this might well be. By
nature he was a bully, one of a large family of bullies, whose
forefathers had been bullies. Accordingly he stretched his person about
four inches higher and expectorated on a pair of beaded moccasins
hanging from the counter.

“Make it two pound o’ powder an’ two sheafs o’ lead,” he demanded.

Smythe, who had taken the powder-can from the shelf, put it back in its
place. Then he leaned over the counter and gazed at the Bushwhacker
through the twilight gloom.

“I guess I’ve changed my mind. I won’t give you an ounce of either,” he
said. “And I’m going to charge you up with those moccasins. You’ve
spoiled them. You can’t bluff me, Broadcrook—you, nor any of your
six-foot brothers, nor your old sinner of a father. You’re all a bad
lot. Now, you get out of my store.”

Broadcrook’s six-foot-two went down to five-foot-ten at a jump, and his
jaw dropped as though he had been struck.

“I didn’t mean to sp’ile nothin’,” he grumbled. “I’m willin’ to take
what you agreed to give.”

Smythe deliberately lit a couple of candles, one of which he took over
and placed in the window. Then he came from around the counter and stood
in his former attitude, his nose pointing forward and his ears cocked
for an expected sound. After a while he turned toward the trapper.

“Broadcrook,” he said, “I’ve been pretty decent with you and your
family, and all the thanks I ever got for it was in being dumped out of
my skiff last fall by one of your murderous tribe. It wasn’t his fault
that I wasn’t drowned.”

Broadcrook seated himself on a keg.

“That war Hank,” he nodded. “Me an’ Hank hasn’t spoke for nigh eight
year.”

“Humph, you don’t say! Well, Hank, as you call him, wants to keep out of
my way. I’ve got a good Christian spirit, Broadcrook, but a nasty
disposition at times. The next time Hank tries to mix in with me it’s
going to be right here.”

“Thar’s not much size to you to be callin’ my draw the way you’ve been
doin’,” murmured Broadcrook. “I reckoned as you’d a gun—one o’ them
pistol kind—in your fist when you was tellin’ it to me a time ago. I
reckon I was right, too.”

“Dear friend,” smirked Smythe, “this is a wild country, and it behooves
us all to protect our fragile and oft too-erring bodies from coming into
violent contact with some more solid substance; but I held no gun, no
pistol in my hand when I told you about yourself and relatives just now.
The fact is, I fear firearms; I hate guns. I never fired off a gun in my
life. Nevertheless, I will not say that I was wholly unprepared, should
you have shown a tendency to repudiate my statements. I’ll show you what
I mean. Sambo!” he called softly, “open the door, please.”

The door of the inner room opened, and there stood Sam, the darkey, with
a cocked rifle in his hands.

“My faithful servitor and aide-de-camp, Mr. Broadcrook,” bowed Smythe.

“Did you have me covered a while ago?” asked Broadcrook sheepishly,
addressing the negro.

“This here,” nodded Sambo, tapping the brass sight of the gun, “was sure
right on a line wif dat bone button on your shirt.”

“I guess I’ll be goin’,” said Broadcrook hurriedly.

“Wait a minute,” advised Smythe. “Now, Broadcrook, I’m willing to play
very decent by you providing you will answer me a few questions and
answer them truthfully. All sin is contamination in my eyes; but lying,”
Mr. Smythe raised his long hands piously, “—I do detest a liar.”

“Do you mean as you’ll gimme th’ powder an’ th’ lead, providin’ I answer
you them questions?” asked Broadcrook eagerly.

“Yes, I will do that,” replied Smythe. “What I am anxious to secure is
some information of the people among whom you live. Number of families
in that lawless section, and all about the bunch. One or two I know
already. I know your family some—that Hank fellow and the one you call
Abe. Any more? What’s your first name—Joseph, ain’t it?”

“Not much, it ain’t. It’s Amos. Then I’ve got three more brothers. Tom,
meanest skunk in the woods, Tom is. Hank he’s not much better’n Tom. And
Alex, who claims as he’ll do fer me some day.”

“Nice loving sort of family, eh, Sambo?” sneered Smythe. “How about the
old man, the father?”

“Dad’s all right in some ways, but I ain’t got no sort o’ use for him
either,” answered Broadcrook. “Fact is, none of us has much use for the
others. We ain’t built that way. Hank shot my eye out with a bow an’
arrer when we was kids and playin’ bear hunt, and we treed Alex and cut
the tree down and broke both his legs once. Jest in fun, o’ course; but
he’s had it in for us ever since, jest for that.”

“And what did you do to Tom? Surely he has not escaped unscathed, has
he?”

“Wall, hardly. Tom he got drowned once by bein’ pushed off a log inter
the creek. If that fool of a Declute hadn’t o’ happened along Tom would
o’ stayed drowned, too.”

“Know a man by the name of McTavish down there, I suppose?”

“Sure, I know him, and I know that boy o’ his, too. I hate him, and he
keeps out of my way, ’cause he’s scared of me.”

“Liar,” breathed Smythe.

He stood gazing into the fire for some time. At last he turned and fixed
his eyes on Broadcrook’s face.

“Never heard tell of an Indian down in that place by the name of Noah
Sturgeon, did you?” he asked.

“Sure, I know him,” answered the other.

“Know him?” Mr. Smythe’s words were like a pistol shot. “_Knew_ him, you
mean,” he cried, leaning forward.

“I say I _knows_ him, and I guess I understand what I’m talkin’ about.”

“But the Noah Sturgeon I mean can’t be alive now. He was an old man
twenty years ago. Must be a son of his you know, Amos.”

“Son nothin’. I tells you, mister, it’s old Noah hisself as I knows. O’
course he’s old—must be nigh a hundred. But he’s spry yet. Often comes
over to Big McTavish’s, he does. Lives on the P’int ’cross the bay.”

Smythe drew forward a stool and sat down with his chin in his hands. He
was disturbed in his meditations by Broadcrook’s standing up.

“Guess I’d better be trampin’,” said that gentleman.

“Wait a moment,” said Smythe, “I’m going to give you two pounds of good
powder and a couple of sheafs of lead. If you will come back here, say,
next Saturday, I’ll give you more—much more. But you must do something
for me, will you?”

“Name it, and I’ll do it,” promised the delighted trapper.

Smythe glanced fearfully toward the door, and, tiptoeing across to it,
shut Sambo in the other room, then bending he whispered something in
Broadcrook’s ear. Whatever it was it seemed to astound and not
altogether displease the burly fellow. His red face screwed itself up in
a horrible grimace and he guffawed loudly.

“Course, if y’ gimme the three hundred, I’ll send old Noah somewheres,”
he wheezed.

“Broadcrook,” said Smythe sternly, “don’t mistake my meaning. I know
there is danger of accident to the aged and frail, and that life’s ruddy
current flows but sluggishly in the veins of old men; but, my dear
Broadcrook, no violence—no violence, remember. However, when I am sure,
without a doubt, that Noah has departed—ahem!—to some remote country
for good, why, the money is yours. You see he won’t let the other
Indians sell me their furs, but makes them carry them to St. Thomas.”

Broadcrook chuckled and poked Mr. Smythe in the short ribs so forcefully
and playfully that the storekeeper’s light eyes filled with tears and
his breath came and went in gasps.

“Oh, but you’re a cracker,” cried the Bushwhacker, “a reg’lar right-down
smart ’un. No wonder widder Ross o’ Totherside thinks you the best man
as ever lived.”

Mr. Smythe raised his eyebrows, not sure whether to receive this remark
as a compliment or otherwise. Being a keen businessman, however, he
allowed it to go on the credit side of his conceit account, and proved
that he appreciated the other’s cunning of conception by reaching a
black bottle across the counter.

Amos laid his rifle down, and with a leer proceeded to take a long pull
at the bottle, after which he corked it and put it in his pocket.

Mr. Smythe watched him speculatively. He was quite willing that
Broadcrook should have the bottle, under the circumstances.

“I hates all them Bushwhackers, I do,” grated Broadcrook. “I be one of
’em myself, but I hates ’em jest the same. I hates Big McTavish, ’cause
he threatened to break my back one time for mistakin’ some of his traps
for mine. I hates Declute ’cause he gets the biggest bucks every season.
And I hates Paisley ’cause he hangs around that Boy McTavish so much.
They be allars together, and they’re a hard pair to handle, I can tell
you, specially Paisley.”

“Do you know Colonel Hallibut?” asked Smythe. He was looking out of the
dingy window again, and his ears were cocked.

“Yes, I know him, an’ I’m goin’ to get even with him, too. He let his
dogs tree me on the P’int last fall. They kept me there all night. Some
day I’ll show him that Amos Broadcrook kin remember.”

Smythe turned quickly.

“His schooner is going to be in the bay very soon,” he said softly, “and
if that schooner should happen to burn,” he suggested, speaking as
though to himself, “it would make Hallibut sure of one thing—that the
Bushwhackers had fired the boat to get even with him for spoiling their
trapping on Lee Creek.”

Amos was tipsy, but not so tipsy that he could not catch a hidden
meaning in the words. He turned on Smythe.

“Now,” he snarled, “if you want the boat burned and you want me to do
it, how much’ll you pay for _that_ job? Quick, answer up.”

Mr. Smythe raised his thin hands.

“My dear Broadcrook,” he smiled, “you talk like a crazy man. Colonel
Hallibut is a friend of mine; a fast friend. I advised him not to send
his schooner into Lee Creek. He laughed at me and offered to wager me
three hundred dollars that no harm could possibly come to his boat. In a
moment of indiscretion I took his wager.”

Mr. Smythe rubbed his hands softly together and raised his eyes
ceilingward.

“I know I did wrong,” he went on; “I know a Christian man should not
bet. But I wished Colonel Hallibut to know that I was greatly concerned
in the welfare of him and his.”

He sighed, and glanced at Amos.

“I would not touch money won in a wager; no, sir. And to prove it to
you, Amos, my friend, I will pay you over the money, providing my
prophecy be fulfilled,—which, let us hope, it may not,” he added
devoutly.

Broadcrook lurched, and fixed his good eye on Smythe’s pensive face,
then, after another drink from the bottle, he picked up his rifle and
made for the door. With his hand on the latch he turned.

“You’ll be expectin’ news, then?”

“Exactly,” smiled the storekeeper.

“And you’ll be on the lookout for smoke?”

“I’ll not be surprised to see smoke,” returned Smythe.

Broadcrook passed outside, and when his uncertain steps had died in the
night Smythe leaned against a pile of furs and laughed voicelessly.

A little later his pricked-up ears caught the sound he was expecting. He
tongued his lips and rubbed his hands delightedly. The door opened and
Watson pounded in. A light cloak of snow covered him from head to foot.

“Who was that man I just met?” were his first words.

“That, my dear Watson, is the very man we’ve been looking for,” smiled
Smythe.

“For heaven’s sake, drop that hypocritical manner of yours and be
yourself,” growled Watson, throwing off his wraps and sinking into a
chair. “You sicken me, Smythe; absolutely sicken me.”

Watson readjusted the bandage across his eye and stirred in his seat
with a groan. Smythe came forward with a bottle and a glass.

“Take that stuff away,” cried Watson. “Look here, Smythe, we’re up
against a piece of work that requires cool heads. No more whiskey for
me. If I hadn’t been half drunk the other day, you can gamble we
wouldn’t have made a mess of things and got half killed by that big
Bushwhacker the way we did. And to think,” he groaned, “that all the
while you were sitting by the fire with widow Ross eating nuts, roasting
your shins, and talking religion. You’ve a good deal to answer for.
Between the din of Hallibut’s mill and the widow’s psalm-singing, the
noise down there is awful. Well, I’ve found out this much from the
people on Totherside. Jake, the engineer, tells me that the Bushwhackers
are getting bitter towards Hallibut. The fools think he wants to drive
them off their property. He tells me, also, that the Colonel intends
sending his schooner around in the Eau for his lumber. I guess we’re
left all way round.”

Smythe set the bottle on the counter and nodded.

“Yes,” he said dryly.

“Yes,” mimicked the other with an oath. “Is that all you have to say
about it, then? What am I to tell Hallibut, supposing he demands his
money back?”

“My dear Watson,” smirked Smythe, “don’t worry about it. I have—hem!
something to say.”

“Well, what is it? Does it amount to anything? Don’t shake your harpy
head off. What is it?”

“Not much, my dear Watson; not much. Simply this: Hallibut’s schooner
might burn, old Injun Noah might go away to the States, and while the
Bushwhackers and Hallibut engage in a fight, somebody else might get
possession of the timber. Don’t you see that they will be so frightened
of his taking their deeds from them by force that they will be glad to
place those papers in our hands for safe-keeping?”

“I hope so, Smythe, I hope so,” said the other man; “but something tells
me we’ll get what’s coming to us yet.”

“Dear Watson, you are weary and fanciful,” smiled Smythe. “Religion
would make your conscience more easy. It must be a terrible thing to
have a conscience such as yours, my friend.”

Smythe meant that, every word of it.

Watson looked at him, then reached for the bottle.

“I’ve changed my mind,” he laughed. “I don’t want to drink, but I have
to in order to forget—not my sins, but the sight of your hypocritical
face.”

“Remember there is business to talk over after supper,” warned Smythe,
“and there is our report to Colonel Hallibut to frame up, which I, as
the surviving party, must reluctantly present in person.”

He reached over with a claw and gripped the bottle.

“After we have arranged a certain campaign of action,” he smirked, “you
may get as drunk as you please. Until then, my dear Watson, you must
stay on the anxious seat.”

And leaving the agent huddled before the fireplace he passed into the
other room to awaken the sleeping Sambo.



                               CHAPTER XX
                     Mr. Smythe Visits the Colonel


Next morning, before daybreak, Mr. Smythe started for St. Thomas. He
reached the settlement just as Colonel Hallibut, with brows puckered
into a scowl, came riding slowly up the brown path through the scattered
timber of the broken land. The Colonel had faced the north winds from
the lake and the veins in his face lay blue beneath his cheeks like tiny
frozen water-runs. As he turned to the right of the path toward his home
Smythe’s white horse rounded a distant copse. The rider was humming a
hymn and his head was bent piously on his breast. The Colonel reined up
and waited for him, quite aware that Smythe’s hawk-like eyes had caught
sight of him fully as soon as he had caught sight of Smythe.

“Humph,” mused Hallibut, “what’s in the wind now, I wonder? Nothing good
brings that man here this day.”

“Well, Smythe,” he called, “it’s easy to see that you couldn’t hire the
old mare this morning, otherwise you’d have walked over. What’s up?”

“Why, bless my soul!” exclaimed the dealer, sitting erect in his saddle
with a start, “if it isn’t the dear Colonel himself. Good-morning, sir,”
he smiled, lifting his old coon-skin cap.

Hallibut grinned broadly.

“Where’s Watson?” he asked.

Smythe rolled his light eyes sorrowfully.

“He patiently awaits his reward, sir. He has been down trying to whack
some sense into those ungodly Bushwhackers, Colonel, and now lies at the
point of death in my house.”

“Dick,” cried Hallibut, “take these horses, and see that Smythe’s mare
gets all the oats she can eat. Lord knows, she looks as though she could
stand a good feed.”

He took Smythe by the narrow shoulders and pushed him into the house.

“You look rather done up,” he said, “sit up to the table and I’ll have
Rachel get you up a snack. Will you have a drink of anything?”

“I have a slight cold that might be remedied by a touch of brandy,”
returned Smythe. “This is the first time I have had the honor of being
in your pleasant and magnificent home, my dear Colonel.”

He held the glass his host handed him to his nose and glanced about the
room furtively.

“There’s nothing here for you to look frightened about,” laughed the
Colonel. “Hang it all, Smythe, can’t you ever look pleasant? Your eyes
have a cast like a nesting grebe’s. What’s the matter?”

Smythe gave a little shiver and drank his brandy at a gulp. The Colonel,
watching him speculatively, shoved the bottle across the table with:
“Help yourself when you want more.”

“Thanks,” replied his visitor, stretching out his long blue hands toward
the glowing fire.

Hallibut lit a pipe and smoked silently. At last he turned impatiently
toward Smythe.

“Well, what’s it all about?” he inquired.

“I’m sorry to be the bearer of grievous and disappointing news to you,
sir,” sighed Smythe. “Esau refuses to sell his birthright.”

“What the——” commenced the Colonel, and Smythe started as though he
expected something stronger than an expletive.

“I mean, sir, the lawless Bushwhackers refuse to sell their timber,” he
explained quickly. “They nearly killed Mr. Watson the other night for
merely venturing on their property. In fact, a man assaulted him and
Simpson, the school-teacher, so brutally, that it is only a matter of
days, sir, before Watson receives the final summons, I fear.”

Mr. Smythe glanced at his listener and fortified his pious soul against
the abuse he expected to hear poured out upon the Bushwhackers by taking
another drink. To his surprise and no small disappointment the Colonel
smoked on without a word.

A snaky gleam stole into the dealer’s little eyes and he sat huddled up,
waiting for the big man to say something. The Colonel turned slowly and
leaned across the arm of his chair toward his visitor.

“What was Watson doing on Bushwhackers’ Place at night? And what was
that school-teacher doing with him? And how does it come about that one
man is able to brutally assault two good-sized men like those two, eh?”
he asked, his bushy brows meeting in a scowl.

“They were simply following the directions laid out by yourself, sir,”
explained Smythe, inclining his head. “The Bushwhacker struck them from
behind with a heavy club. He was not alone, sir. Four other men,
including that Hercules of a Big McTavish, helped him, I understand.”

“Watson says that, does he?”

“He does, and a man by the name of Broadcrook, who was an eye-witness to
the attempted murder, tells the same story, sir.”

“Don’t seem at all reasonable to me that those Bushwhackers would half
do anything, even a murder, if they set about it,” mused the Colonel.
“You say Watson was over trying to get them to come to terms about the
timber, and they clubbed him over the head?”

“Precisely, both him and Mr. Simpson.”

“It’s almost too bad they didn’t finish them,” said Hallibut. “Something
tells me that Watson has given us only his side of this story. Guess I’d
better get the other side from the Bushwhackers.”

Smythe raised his skeleton hands.

“My dear Colonel, it’s as much as your life’s worth to set foot on their
property,” he warned. “They swear they’ll shoot you on sight, sir.”

“What?” Colonel Hallibut sprang up and strode across to where Smythe sat
cowering. “Who told you that?” he shouted.

“Why—why——” commenced Smythe, then he wriggled upright and tongued
his dry lips. “—Broadcrook told me for one,” he finished.

Hallibut paced to and fro across the wide room. The veins in his neck
were throbbing, and Smythe could see his fingers twitching. Finally, the
big man stopped directly in front of his visitor.

“If you heard that,” he said quietly, “and you’ve come over here to warn
me, it’s mighty good of you, Smythe. I’m sorry if I can’t only just
about half believe you—but that’s your fault. I can’t help knowing
you’re a liar, Smythe, any more than you can help being one. Still, I’m
inclined to believe that those Bushwhackers would put me away if they
got the chance. They’ve got a law of their own, I know, and I also know
that they don’t like me any too well. I don’t know why; I never did them
any harm. I wanted that timber, of course, and would have paid them well
for it. I’ve learned, though, that they all have enough natural poetry
in their souls to make them sentimental fanatics as far as their
bushland is concerned, and I’d made up my mind to let them and their
timber go to thunder. Now, after what they’ve lately said, I guess I’ll
show them a thing or two.”

“But you won’t take your life in your hands by going among those
murderous men, sir?” asked Smythe fearfully.

“Well, now, I’m not saying just _what_ I’ll do. One thing is sure, I’m
too much of an Englishman to be scared out by a Bushwhacker, and I do
like a mix-up, I’ll confess. Besides, Smythe, it won’t do to let them
think I’m scared. My life would always be in jeopardy if they thought
that.”

“If you’ll only be patient, sir, we’ll get that timber for you yet,”
promised Smythe.

“No,” returned Hallibut, “I’ve given up the idea of ever securing the
timber. Come to think of it, I was a hog to ever want to put my finger
in their pie. I like those wild devils a lot better since I’ve found
they have the sand to stand up for their own. If your village of
Bridgetown had some of the Bushwhacker manhood you’d have a city there
some day, Smythe.”

“God forbid,” breathed Mr. Smythe devoutly.

“And where did you say Watson was now?” asked the Colonel abruptly.

“He is now at my poor abode,” answered Mr. Smythe plaintively. “He is in
pretty bad shape. They must have beaten him unmercifully. He begged that
I give you this note, sir.”

Mr. Smythe drew from his pocket a square piece of paper and handed it to
the Colonel. The big man placed his glasses on his nose and read the
note aloud.

    “COLONEL HALLIBUT,

    _Respected Sir_: I may never see you in life again. Mr. Smythe
    will explain. I am willing to die in fulfilling my duty to you,
    but, sir, I beg that you will not venture among the
    Bushwhackers. They have sworn to shoot you on sight and to burn
    your schooner if you sail her into the bay. The six hundred
    dollars you gave me toward leasing the timber was taken from me
    as I lay helpless among the ruffians who tried to kill me. It
    proved my salvation, for, as they fought among themselves for
    the money, I managed to crawl away. Good-by, sir, and if we
    never meet again on earth—but I cannot finish.

                                 Yours,
                                           An erring one
                                    who has been led to the light,
                                                     THOMAS WATSON.”

The Colonel folded up the letter, pitched it into the coals, and sat
down. He refilled his pipe, a half smile on his face. Then he turned to
Smythe, whose features were working, and who was vainly trying to force
a tear down his cheek.

“So you managed to convert poor dying Watson?” he observed. “You’ve led
an erring one to the light, have you?”

“In my poor way, sir,” nodded Smythe, “I have.”

“Where does Watson want to be buried?” asked the Colonel gravely.

The other started.

“Buried!” he gasped. “What do you mean, Colonel!”

“Why, judging from his letter, he expects to die very soon, and
sometimes people are fanciful about where they are laid to rest——”

He paused, and his lips met in a thin line.

“Smythe,” he said, holding the visitor with his eyes, “you and Watson
are both danged humbugs. Watson didn’t write that letter: you wrote it.
Watson may be a villain, but there’s not hypocrite enough about him to
dictate a letter like that I just read. I’m not sparing him. He was
quite willing for you to work this game for him. So my money was taken
from him, was it? Well, I suppose it’s just as well to lose it one way
as another. But I want you to confess that you wrote that letter. Did
you?”

“I did,” answered Smythe fearfully. “Watson’s arm was too sore. He asked
me to write it. I didn’t mean anything wrong, sir.”

“Of course not,” agreed Hallibut dryly.

“What do you mean by saying those Bushwhackers will burn my vessel?”

“I mean that they intend to do it,” asserted Smythe. “If you doubt me,
sir, you may anchor off Lee Point and convince yourself that I speak the
truth.”

“Humph!” grunted Hallibut. “Well, let me tell you something. When the
Bushwhackers burn my schooner, I’ll believe they’re ready to shoot me on
sight; not before. I sent word to them that I would ship a cargo of
lumber—my own lumber—from Lee Creek before the Eau froze over, and
I’ll do it.”

He frowned down on Smythe and nodded his shaggy head.

“I’ve just come from seeing that same schooner start on her trip to Rond
Eau Bay,” he said, “and heaven help the Bushwhacker that meddles with it
or any other property of Colonel Hallibut’s.”

“Perhaps some day you’ll know that Mr. Watson and myself have done our
best for you, Colonel,” said Smythe reproachfully. “I know we’ve erred
in some respects; but over-zealousness is perhaps the cause of failure.
You will pardon my suggesting that you have maybe been unduly influenced
against Mr. Watson on account of his not, as yet, having been able to
convince the Bushwhackers of your good intentions.”

“Perhaps you are right,” returned Hallibut coolly.

Smythe reached for the bottle and poured some brandy into his glass with
a hand that shook. His face, always pinched and gray-white, was grayer
and more sunken as he arose to go.

“Have you any word to send to Mr. Watson, sir?” he asked.

“Only that I hope to see him again before he makes up his mind to die,”
smiled the Colonel.

Hallibut called to the housekeeper from the dining-room:

“Rachel, get this pale rider something to eat, will you, while I have
Dick get out his horse?”

He slapped the drooping Smythe between the shoulders and, laughing
loudly, stamped out of the room.

As Smythe viciously attacked the cold meat and bread set before him, a
long, weird howl came floating and trembling on the air. He dropped his
fork and sat erect, fear written in his shifting eyes. Once again came
the cry, and Smythe arose and went to the window. Through the narrow
oaken slabs of the kennel-fence, he caught sight of four heavy-chested,
yellow-white dogs. They were creeping slowly across the inclosure with
heavy jaws half open and saliva dripping from their red tongues. As the
watching man gazed, fascinated, one of them lifted its head and sent a
heart-chilling cry upward. Then, chancing to catch sight of the
fear-stricken man at the window, the huge dog hurled itself against the
solid bars of its prison, only to fall back on its haunches. But it
placed its deeply-cloven muzzle against the narrow opening and drew in
its breath with a whistling, sobbing sound that sent a shiver to the
watcher’s heart, for the dog’s red eyes were fastened hungrily upon him.
Colonel Hallibut, entering, noted Smythe’s look, and followed up the
impression the dog had made.

“I wouldn’t give a penny for your chance if Trailer there caught you in
the open, Smythe,” he said soberly. “Better not watch him if you care to
sleep to-night. Guess I’d better get rid of that Trailer. He scares me,
and I’m used to him.”

“What do you keep those awful animals for?” asked Smythe with a husky
voice.

“Smythe,” said Hallibut, “I’ve kept those dogs—well, because they’ve
been good friends to me, and I can’t make up my mind to kill them.”

Smythe shuddered and reached for his cap. He walked slowly from the room
and climbed into his saddle. The Colonel watched him take the trail,
then, his duty as a host done, he turned into the house with an
expression of disgust.

Once Smythe had rounded the clump of bushes, he slashed the sleepy,
over-fed mare into a gallop, which was not slackened until he was many
miles down the trail. Then he dipped into a hollow, reined up, and
whistled softly. Watson came from among the trees leading a bay horse by
the bridle-rein. He glanced at Smythe’s face and his own darkened.

“I told you he wouldn’t believe you,” he flashed. “What did he say?”

Smythe leaned forward in the saddle.

“‘My friend,’ he answered, ‘tell Watson I hope to see him before he
dies.’”

Watson did not reply. He sprang into the saddle and the two rode for a
mile or two in silence. Then Smythe remarked:

“Hallibut’s schooner left for Rond Eau to-day, and I think Amos
Broadcrook will not allow me to lose the wager he believes I made with
the dear Colonel. He is waiting for the vessel to drop anchor.”

“Then you think the schooner will burn?”

“If I read Amos aright—well, yes, I do. Although, let us hope not; let
us hope not.”

“Then, when will we kidnap the wood-nymph?” asked Watson. “She must be
got rid of, for Simpson threatens to undo our little plans if we fail
him, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” answered Smythe. “Well, we’ll not disappoint Simpson.
Three people there are who must become American citizens soon, and stay
American citizens: Old Noah, Simpson, and——”

He clicked his tongue and Watson looked with some sort of admiration at
his friend.

“Smythe, you’re a great man,” he asserted.

Smythe raised his weak eyes toward the lowering skies.

“God knows,” he sighed. “God knows best, my friend. I try to do my
little part well. ’Tis all that I can do.”

A little further on Watson broke the oppressive silence again. “When
will we do it, then?”

“Say Saturday night,” directed Smythe quietly. “Poor little girl!—But
it must be; it has to be, my friend.”

“You are a great man,” flattered Watson. “You deserve success, Smythe. I
hope you win widow Ross and her snug bit of land. And I hope after the
Bushwhackers are convinced that Hallibut would kidnap their queen as a
hostage, they will realize that they need you and me as custodians of
their deeds.”

He laughed over his shoulder, and Smythe, digging his spurs into his old
white mare, trotted up alongside him.

“Courting was always an unsatisfactory game with me,” he said, “and in
the case of widow Ross it has been no exception. I find she is a selfish
woman. I found her a heathen and I showed her the light——”

“And she showed you the door, eh?”

“Not so fast, my friend,” smiled Smythe, “she did not. It was that boy
of hers who spoiled my visits. That boy played a nasty trick upon me the
last time I visited the widow. I have not been back since.”

“Tell me about it,” said Watson.

“Not now.” Smythe shook his head. “Later, perhaps, but not now. Let us
each earnestly review our plans for Saturday night, my friend, and for
our own personal safety, as well as for business motives, think out a
line of action.”

Watson shuddered back into his saddle.

“I wish to God it was over,” he muttered.

He struck his horse with the quirt and it bounded forward, leaving
Bridgetown’s general merchant far in the rear.

It was quite agreeable to that gentleman to be left to himself. When he
reached the edge of the town he reined up and gazed southward through
the hazy twilight.

Miles away sounded the deep note of a steam whistle.

“Hallibut’s mill on Totherside,” mused Smythe. “I wonder if the widow is
waiting and watching for me? I wonder what she is doing now?”



                              CHAPTER XXI
                         Widow Ross Backslides


Just at that particular moment the widow was frying the potatoes for
supper. She was singing, and snapped the words out as though determined
to do what was right under any circumstances. The mangy cat crouched
beneath the stove, its lanky body sunk between its shoulder blades, its
big yellow inquiring eyes staring out at Tommy, who was molding bullets
over in a corner of the room. He looked back at the cat and shook his
head.

        _“Cross the river of Jordan,_
        _Happy, happy, happy, happy,_
        _Oh, we’ll cross the river of Jordan,_
        _Happy in the Lord.”_

Widow Ross persisted in the task and the cat crept across and talked
close range to Tommy.

“I tell you I don’t know,” whispered the youngster shrilly, making a
kick at the cat. “Get out, you moon-eyed old beggar—you want to know
all about everythin’.”

The woman gave the browning potatoes a stir with the knife and glared
over her shoulder. She had just finished the verse for the fiftieth
time, and she had sufficient breath left to say:

“You’ll get licked yet before you get into bed. What’s the matter with
you now? Who are you talkin’ to, Tom Ross?”

“Cat,” answered Tom shortly.

“What are you sayin’ to her?”

“She wants to know what’s the matter with you, ma.”

“What’s the matter with me? Why, there’s nothin’ the matter with me.
Can’t one be a Christian woman and sing hymns without you and Mary Ann
and the cat even taking objections? Where is that cat?”

Mrs. Ross left the potatoes and seized hold of the broom. The cat sprang
on Tommy’s neck, and, assisted by the claw-hold it found there, bounded
to the rafters of the ceiling. Widow Ross made a sweep at it, but failed
to reach it. Tommy grinned.

“Here you, climb up there and throw her down,” commanded the woman.
“I’ll show her.”

That was just what Tommy wanted to see.

“I’ll get the old beggar down in a jiffy, ma,” he chuckled.

He pulled forth a chest and with much grunting turned it on end. Then he
climbed up on it and reached for pussy. “Nice kitty,” he said, trying to
get hold of the elusive feline. Kitty’s tail swelled and she reached
down and left three little pink scratches on Tommy’s wrist.

“Gol darn,” whispered Tommy.

“Come down here to once,” ordered his mother.

Tom climbed down and stood sheepishly sucking his wrist.

“You said ‘gol darn,’—I heard you,” cried the widow.

“She scratched,” whimpered Tommy.

Mrs. Boss lifted the frying-pan from the fire and laid hold of a long
stick of white hickory.

“Since Mr. Smythe’s been here and talked so nice to me about
Christianity, I’ve been mendin’ my ways a lot,” she sighed, “but with a
trial of a boy like you it’s most useless to try and keep good for long.
You’ve broke up my hymn-singin’ and now you’ve gone and swore. Think
what that God-fearin’ man, Mr. Smythe, would think of me if he knowed I
let you go on in your wicked ways. I must lick you, and I’m goin’ to do
it.”

She made a slash at the lad and he ducked. Out of four sweeps Tommy
received one, and it was not a very hard one. He cried with his dirty
face and laughed in his young heart. He wondered if ever a boy had an
easier ma than he had. The cat in the meantime had taken advantage of
the “whipping” to make herself scarce. Widow Boss went on with her
singing as she set the supper table. Occasionally a smile would cross
her face and she would sigh. Tommy wondered if Christianity made all
people act funny. When Mary Ann came in with a big basket of
hickory-nuts gathered from the ridges, her mother glanced at her and
frowned. She watched the girl swing the heavy basket to a shelf on the
wall, and a gleam of motherly pride lit up her face. Tommy, the
fire-poker concealed beneath his homespun jacket, edged toward the door.

“See the cat as you was comin’ in, Mary Ann?” he asked carelessly.

His sister laughed and grabbed him.

“No, you don’t, sonny,” she said. “I know what you want to do with
Sarah. My, but you’re a wicked imp, Tommy.”

“Imp is a swear-word,” charged the widow. “I’m surprised at you usin’
it, Mary Ann.”

“Why, ma,” exclaimed the girl, “you’re gettin’ awful pious, ain’t you?”

“Mr. Smythe would say that ‘imp’ is a swear-word,” said Mrs. Ross, “and
Mr. Smythe is the best Christian in Bridgetown.”

“Did he tell you he was?” asked the girl.

“He did. Says he, ‘Mrs. Ross, I’m a godly man. I try to do right, and I
love my neighbor.’”

“Maybe you’d like to move to Bridgetown, ma,” laughed Mary Ann.

“I know what you mean,” returned Mrs. Ross, “but I ain’t hankerin’ for
Mr. Smythe’s love exactly. You believe he is a good man, don’t you?” she
asked, fastening her black eyes on her daughter’s face.

“It don’t matter what I believe,” said Mary Ann.

“Well, Mr. Smythe has been a Christian for a long time. He ought to know
swear-words from ordinary ones. He says, ‘Mrs. Ross, I would like to see
the hypocrites in this world taken out of it. It would be a fine world
then,’ says he.”

“He wouldn’t be here to see how fine, though,” smiled the girl.

“Then you don’t believe what he says?”

“I don’t believe what he says, and I don’t believe what that Watson man,
who comes here with him, says. They’re both liars, and Mr. Simpson is as
bad as they are.”

Widow Boss dropped a dish on the floor.

“Why, what are you talkin’ about?” she cried. “You must be crazy, Mary
Ann. What if the teacher should hear you?”

“Well, it wouldn’t hurt him to hear it again. I’ve told it to him once
already.”

Widow Boss stood speechless.

“Well, I never!” she said with amazement, when she could find words.

Mary Ann drew her tall figure up and her big eyes flashed.

“The other day when Mr. Simpson and Mr. Watson came home here half
killed from what they said was a fallin’ tree you believed them, and I
didn’t open my mouth,” said the girl.

“And why shouldn’t I believe them?” snorted the widow. “Why shouldn’t I?
Didn’t poor Mr. Watson have an arm in a sling and wasn’t he that bruised
he couldn’t move without groanin’? And Mr. Simpson, poor man, didn’t he
have the awfulest pair of eyes you ever did see in a head? Didn’t that
godly man, Mr. Smythe, who was here with me all afternoon, believe ’em?”

“Fallin’ trees don’t use people up just that way,” said Mary Ann slowly.
“No, ma, I’ll tell you just what kind of a tree fell on them fellers. It
was Bill Paisley. They thought they would try some sharp wort on the
Bushwhackers, and Bill——” The girl’s face flushed and her bosom
heaved. “—Bill was there and, of course, could whip a dozen excuses
like those two. And he did do it, too.”

The widow sat down on a stool, her swarthy face a picture.

“And do you mean to say that them two men went over there to make
trouble?” she asked blankly.

Mary Ann nodded.

“What for?”

“I don’t know—yet.”

“Do you mean you’re goin’ to know?”

“Yes, and for that reason Mr. Simpson mus’n’t know that we’ve learned
anythin’.”

Mrs. Ross went outside to call Tommy to supper. When she returned she
shook her head once or twice and muttered to herself. “The teacher’s
gone to Bridgetown to-night,” she said after a time.

Mary Ann sat down to the table.

“Mary Ann,” asked the woman gently, “ain’t you carin’ for him none?”

“No, ma.”

“And if he’d ask you, you’d say——?”

“No, ma.”

The widow poured out the tea and dished up the potatoes. She slopped the
tea and spilled the potatoes and then she sat down and, stretching over
her arm, patted her daughter’s brown hand.

“You’re the right kind of girl for a widder to own,” she said, her eyes
humid with feeling; “just the right sort.” She sat erect and slapped the
table so hard that the dishes clattered. “But that Bill Paisley is a
ruffin—a no-count ruffin, Mary Ann.”

The daughter did not reply. She began her supper with a zest born of
open air and sunshine. Tommy was stowing away ham and hashed potatoes,
and spoke with his mouth full.

“Mill ain’t goin’ to run to-morrow,” he said. “I was over to Hallibut’s
shanty just after quittin’ time and Jim Dox says there’s somethin’ wrong
with the boiler.”

“I wish the old b’iler would bust,” exclaimed widow Boss. “Course I’d
want all the men to be in the shanty at the time. But I’m tired of that
noise. I hate that saw and I hate that whistle. This place ain’t seemed
the same nohow since the Colonel built that mill.”

“I think the whistle is just bully,” grinned Tommy. “Wish I could blow
it all day, I’d do it.”

“A whistle is all you need to make you perfect,” said Mary Ann. “What’s
the matter with the boiler, Tommy?”

“Why, there ain’t nuthin’ wrong with it,” laughed the boy. “Fact is, the
mill-boys want to go out on a hunt. Seems that Boy McTavish, Jim Peeler,
and Ander Declute are goin’ over to the Point to hunt a big silver-gray
fox. They say he’s as big as a cow, but I ain’t believin’ that. Anyhow,
Peeler is goin’ and take his hound Brindle. He’s as good as any of
Colonel Hallibut’s hounds,” Jim says, “and he’s a tartar after fox.”

“And them men is lettin’ on that the machinery is broke!” gasped the
widow. “What would Mr. Smythe think of such deceit as that now, I
wonder?”

Here Tommy took a convulsion and it was some time before he got his
breath back. His mother gazed at him sternly until the paroxysm had
passed.

“Now, maybe you’ll explain this un-Christian conduct, sir,” she said.

“I suppose even Christians laugh sometimes,” gurgled Tommy, as he wiped
his eyes. “I was just thinkin’ of the last time Mr. Smythe was here, ma.
You remember Daft Davie came over that same afternoon, and how he scared
Mr. Smythe by lookin’ at him. Well, I’ll tell you somethin’ you don’t
know.

“Davie had a pair of little green grass-snakes in his pocket that he’d
found in the lowlands and was takin’ home to his collection. When you
and Mr. Smythe was talkin’ religion me and Davie went outside for him to
show me his new tumble he’d learned. You know, Mary Ann,” turning to the
girl, “how Davie can turn handsprings? Well, Davie wanted me to hold the
snakes, and I said I would, only I don’t like snakes like he does, so I
put ’em in Mr. Smythe’s overcoat pocket. His coat was hangin’ up outside
the door. We both forgot all about ’em then, and when Mr. Smythe come
out to get his old gray mare he put his hand in his pocket after his
mits, and——”

Tommy laid back and roared again, and Mary Ann joined him. The widow sat
stern and accusing. “Go on,” she commanded.

“Smythe was tryin’ to convert me, I guess,” said Tommy. “‘Young man,’
says he, ‘beware of sin. It’s a bad habit. It lies in wait in quiet
places. It’s a snake in the grass,’ says he; and just then he pulled out
one of the green snakes and howled. Oh, how he did howl and prance
about! ‘Take him off, take him off,’ he hollered. He dropped the snake
and Davie picked it up and put it in his blouse. Mr. Smythe he stood
there shiverin’, and by and by put his hand creepy like into his pocket
again. The other snake twisted around his wrist and he fell down and
rolled over and over. Davie got the snake and I helped the storekeeper
up.”

“‘Did you see ’em?’ he yells; ‘did you see them snakes?’

“‘Why, no, sir,’ I says, ‘what snakes?’

“‘Great big snakes,’ he hollers. And then he swore; cross my heart, ma,
that good Christian man swore somethin’ awful.”

“My gracious,” sighed the good woman, surprise wiping maternal sternness
from her face. “Are you _sure_ he _swore_, Tommy?”

“No one of the Broadcrook boys could swear worse or longer,” asserted
Tommy.

“And what did he do then?” laughed Mary Ann, tears running down her
cheek.

“Why, then Mr. Smythe turned to Davie and asked him if he’d seen any
snakes, and you know what Davie’d do. He just looked at the storekeeper
out o’ them big eyes o’ his and didn’t say a word. I was dyin’ to laugh,
but dasn’t. Just then along comes Jim Dox from Hallibut’s shanty.

“Mr. Smythe was settin’ down on a stump lookin’ mighty used up.

“‘Sick?’ asked Jim. ‘Come over to the shanty and I’ll give you some
whiskey.’

“At the word ‘whiskey’ Mr. Smythe jumped up and pranced about like a
wild man.

“‘I’ve drunk too much whiskey,’ he yells, ‘I’ve drunk too much of the
stuff that stingeth like an adder.’

“‘You act as though you had ’em,’ said Jim.

“‘I have got ’em,’ yelled the storekeeper. ‘I’ve seen snakes, all kinds,
breeds, and colors of snakes. I’m a sick man. I want to get home where I
can pray and pour all my whiskey through a knot-hole in the wall. I’ll
never drink it again, so help me, I won’t.’

“Dox he looked at me and winked and I didn’t say nothin’. After the
storekeeper left I told Jim all about the little grass-snakes, and I ast
him what Mr. Smythe meant when he said he had ’em, and then Jim tried to
get a joke on me about men who drink whiskey seein’ things as are not
pleasant to look at. He didn’t do it, though.”

“I’m mighty surprised, surprised and disturbed,” said the widow. “I
thought Mr. Smythe was everythin’ a man should be. Ain’t it funny how
one can be fooled by a man?”

Mary Ann looked up.

“Somehow Mr. Smythe didn’t fool me,” she said. “I knew he drank whiskey,
because he smelled of it. I knew he swore by the way his tongue and eyes
fought with each other. I knew he lied because he said he loved all men.
There’s nobody alive and natural built that way.”

The girl sat looking steadily across at her mother. Finally she leaned
forward and asked:

“What did Smythe ask you to do, ma?”

“Did I say he asked me to do anythin’?” flared the widow with a start.

“No, but I know he did. What was it?”

The mother’s eyes blazed indignantly.

“I wasn’t goin’ to speak about it,” she said, “’cause Mr. Smythe said it
was the duty of a Christian not to let his right hand know what anyone
else’s was doin’, or somethin’ like that, meanin’ that whatever I did in
the cause of Christianity should be kept to myself. He preached me a
sermon here and he said that the Bushwhackers was a poor lot of
misguided men who needed enlightenment. He said they was in danger of
havin’ their property-deeds took from them by force, and they was in
need of the help of a good Christian man. He said my duty was to go over
there and reason with ’em and, suggest to ’em that they give over their
deeds to him for safe-keepin’. I said I would, and was goin’ over to
McTavish’s to-morrow to try and get ’em to let Mr. Smythe take care of
their deeds for ’em. I’m not goin’ now,” finished the woman; “no, not a
step.”

Mary Ann made as if to speak, then looked at her mother.

“I see the cat out on the shed, Tommy,” she said.

The boy jumped, and when he had vanished, with the poker, through the
doorway, Mary Ann said hesitatingly:

“If Bill Paisley ever asks you if I’m engaged to the—teacher, you know
what to tell him, ma.”

The widow nodded. There was a yearning in her heart to take the wild
wood-girl to her bosom and confess that she had already told Bill
Paisley too much. But mothers are peculiar creatures. She stifled the
impulse and simply said:

“I know what to tell that no-count Bushwhacker, Mary Ann.”

Mary Ann arose and, taking the milk-pails from the shelf, went out to
the cow-stable to milk the three spotted cows. Widow Ross got up from
the table and looked through the little window across toward
Bushwhackers’ Place.

“I don’t blame ’em,” she whispered. “I don’t blame Boy nor Mac nor
Paisley nor Declute. I don’t blame any of ’em for not trustin’ them
men.”

She turned and went over to the fireplace. On the shelf above it lay her
long clay pipe. She picked it up as tenderly as she would a pet.

“He said it was wicked in a woman and mother to smoke. Smythe said that,
and I believed him. I’ve been a fool and a ninny—not only for believin’
him, but for denyin’ myself tobaccer all these long days an’ nights.
I’ll light up and smoke a while.”

Half an hour later Tommy and Mary Ann came into the house with two pails
of foaming milk. Their mother was seated before the blazing log puffing
clouds of blue smoke ceilingward. There was an atmosphere of homely
tranquillity about the place. Tommy sniffed the air. He had missed the
scent of tobacco. Through the open door came draggling a lazy day-breeze
from off the Eau. It was sweet and soft with the smell of ripened
water-plants.

“Can I go to the Point with ’em to-morrow, ma?” asked the boy.

He had divined that the proper moment for making an exceptional request
was now.

“You kin,” answered the mother.

The lean, yellow-eyed cat looked in at the door, and Tommy patted his
patched trouser leg. She came over to him trustingly, and the boy lifted
her up and stroked her scanty fur.

Outside, the whip-poor-will was alive, for the song of the mill was
dead.



                              CHAPTER XXII
                          The Shot in the Dark


For the first night since the long nights had come Big McTavish’s fiddle
was silent. It hung on the wall and the man sat before the fire, his
chin in his hands. Mrs. McTavish reclined on a couch of willows beside
him, and her eyes rested on her husband’s face sympathetically.

“You mus’n’t worry about it, Mac,” she said. “They can’t take our place
from us, I know.”

“It’s not that, Mary,” replied the husband. “It’s the thoughts of what
might happen if they should try. They don’t know the men here in
Bushwhackers’ Place. They don’t know ’em like I know ’em. You know what
the law of the wood is, Mary. Please God, they don’t try to drive our
boys any. I shudder to think of what might happen if they tried that. I
fear trouble now that Hallibut has sent his schooner around.”

Boy entered the house as the father was speaking. He carried a
double-barreled fowling-piece and across his back hung a string of wild
ducks. Gloss, who sat beside the table knitting, glanced up as he
entered, and a soft gleam stole into her eyes. Then, noting the haggard
lines in Boy’s face, she approached him with outstretched hands. He
smiled, and, putting the gun on its rack, let his game fall to the
floor. Then he took the girl’s hands in his and stroked them
caressingly.

“Wild duck, Gloss,” he laughed; “big dinner to-morrow, girl.”

She gazed at him with wide eyes, her hands unconsciously tightening on
his. Boy glanced toward the woman on the couch. Gloss turned to her
work, and he went and sat beside his mother.

“Was it rough, Boy?” she asked fondly, putting her arm about his neck.

“Aye, ma, it was; and the white-caps were dancing all afternoon. Wind
blowin’ from the east and the ducks crazy with not knowin’ where to
light. Never saw such decoyin’ in all my life, although Hallibut’s
schooner lay there in the open water.”

“Were you out on the bay, Boy?”

“No, I was decoyin’ off Lee Point. I got somethin’ like fifty red-head
and blue-bill. They always decoy well when it looks like snow. I left a
bunch of ’em at old Betsy’s.”

Big McTavish raised his head.

“And did she speak cross at you, lad?” he asked with a smile.

“No, sir, she didn’t. She’s changin’ wonderful for some reason. I’ll
always like Betsy after what she’s done for us.”

“Amen to that,” said McTavish fervently. “She has been good to us all.”

“Auntie,” said Gloss, “you are tired. Hadn’t you better go to bed now?
We want you to be hungry for the duck dinner to-morrow. We’ll have Mary
Ann Ross and Bill Paisley over, won’t we, Granny?”

The old lady looked up from her knitting and smiled.

“Aye, lassie, we’ll invite Bill and Mary Ann t’ dinner,” she agreed.

Boy bent and kissed his mother gently on the cheek, and when she and Big
McTavish had gone from the room Gloss came over and stood before the
young man.

“Tell me,” she whispered, her cheeks flaming.

“Tell you?” he exclaimed. “Tell you what, Gloss?”

“Tell me what happened.”

“Why, nothin’, Glossie; nothin’,” said Boy, looking up.

“You are troubled about somethin’,” she persisted. “Won’t you tell me?”

He shook his head.

“Don’t worry about me, little girl,” he smiled, “there ain’t really
anythin’ the matter.”

A slight tremor went through the girl’s form and the long lashes fell
and hid her eyes. She turned slowly and walked toward the door. On its
threshold Boy caught her, and then as quickly let his arms fall.

She leaned against the wall, her eyes still closed. The color had left
her cheeks and her lips trembled. When she opened her eyes Boy was
sitting before the fire, his head drooping.

“Good-night,” she called softly, and passed into her room.

He looked up slowly. “Good-night,” he whispered.

He drew his chair over to the table, which was spread with his evening
meal. He was hungry, and still he could not eat. He arose and, catching
up his cap, opened the door and passed out into the autumn night.

It was late when he returned. As he drew near to the house he noted that
the candles were still burning in the big room. Through the window he
saw three neighbor men sitting beside his father at the table. They
seemed to be conversing earnestly. When he entered the house they all
looked up, and Bill Paisley put his finger on his lips.

“I suppose,” he said dryly, when Boy was seated beside them, “I suppose
you just naturally want that head of yours shot off clean, don’t you?
Else why would you be wanderin’ around this night the way you’ve been,
Boy?”

Boy reached over for a slice of cornbread. His walk in the wood had
soothed the new tempest that had lately come to sway his soul.

“Boy,” said Big McTavish, “you didn’t tell us that you’d been fired on
to-day.”

Boy dropped his corncake and looked about him quickly.

“Well, I didn’t tell anybody, for the matter o’ that. How did you know I
was shot at, dad?”

“I told him,” declared Declute.

“Well, who told you?” asked the boy.

“Never mind that now. We all know as you was fired on and that Hallibut
and his gang is responsible.”

“Tell us, lad,” urged the father; “why do they want to kill you?”

Boy shrugged his shoulders.

“Maybe it’s because they don’t want to be killed themselves, dad,” he
answered.

Paisley chuckled.

“That’s the way to talk, by gosh,” he said, bringing his fist down.
“There’s goin’ to be fightin’—there can’t help but be fightin’. It’s
gotter be first drop and make every shot count from this time forward.”

“I don’t like it; no, I don’t like it,” sighed Big McTavish. “Why do
people want to come here and molest us? Why do they want to shoot my boy
down? Ain’t we humans, I wonder?”

Boy sprang up and climbed the attic ladder in search of dry clothes.

“Listen, Mac,” said Paisley, hitching his chair forward and pinching off
a pipeful of Canada-Green, “there are two reasons why they want to kill
us off. They want to own this little world of ours, and they hope to
drive us back into the bush like they are drivin’ the deer and turkeys.
They ain’t thinkin’ a Bushwhacker’s life is worth a great deal. I’ve
studied this thing out purty well, and I’ve concluded that we’ve got to
stand up for our own. Jim and Ander here think the same. You might as
well fall in with our views, Mac, and if they want fightin’, give it to
’em.”

McTavish shook his head.

“It’s a terrible thing to take life,” he declared, “an awful thing. I’d
give in first and be driven into the lake before I’d shoot a man down.
No, Bill, I can’t take up a gun again’ a human nohow.”

Jim Peeler attempted to speak and Paisley lifted his hand.

“There’s another reason,” he whispered, peering at the dark attic door.
“I’m goin’ to tell you the reason now, Mac, although I had hoped it
wouldn’t be necessary.” He drew the big man into a corner and spoke to
him in an undertone.

“What!” Big McTavish sprang erect, his beard fairly bristling. “What do
they want to do that for?”

He gazed about him with flashing eyes, and Paisley laid a restraining
hand on his arm.

“Boy mus’n’t know—remember,” he cautioned.

“Bill,” said McTavish hoarsely, “if that’s what Hallibut would do, why
of course I’ll fight him.”

“That’s the talk,” nodded Paisley. “But, of course, it may be all a
scare game, and maybe they shot at Boy just ’cause they thought they’d
scare us into sellin’ our timber to ’em for a mere nothin’. I don’t
think there’s an ounce of sand in the whole parcel of ’em myself.”

“Who told you I was shot at, Ander?” said Boy, rejoining the men. “I
didn’t intend to worry anybody by tellin’ about it. There wasn’t anybody
near. It was down on Oak Ridge. I was comin’ in from the bay that way to
have a look at my turkey-traps. It was near the middle trap that this
thing happened. There wasn’t anybody near, except the one that did the
shootin’—that I know of.”

Declute expectorated on the coals and scratched his head.

“You stopped at old Betsy’s on your way home, didn’t you?” he asked.

“Yes, I did—why?”

“Wall, I ain’t sayin’ as she knowed somethin’ might happen you, this
bein’ Friday an’ an unlucky day, ner I ain’t sayin’ as she prevented
that bullet from gettin’ you. I ain’t superstitious at all, although my
wife, Rachel, declares I be. Neither am I sayin’ as old Betsy’s a witch,
as she’s commonly called. But, Boy, she follered you an’ she heard the
shot. It was too dark fer her t’ see the shooter, but we all know he
wasn’t a Bushwhacker. Betsy stopped in to see th’ wife an’ she ups an’
tells about th’ shootin’. When I gets home Rachel tells me. I goes over
an’ tells Bill, an’ me an’ him picks up Jim thar on our way down here.
That’s all.”

Boy glanced toward his father and a spasm of pain crossed his face.

“Suppose we change the subject,” he suggested. “Bill, somebody has been
meddlin’ with my turkey-traps.”

“And mine, too,” complained Paisley. “Some thief is takin’ the turkeys
out of my traps. I’m goin’ to find out who’s doin’ it, right soon.”

“That big Amos Broadcrook, I met him t’other day when I was landin’ at
Mud Pond after bein’ out on the bay, an’ he told me as he’s seen Tom
Dodge, from th’ P’int, carryin’ turkeys along the Eau shore two er three
times,” observed Declute.

“Well, I wouldn’t believe one of them Broadcrooks on oath,” said Peeler.
“They’re all thieves themselves. Not a man among us here but has lost
traps, and who stole ’em, I ask? Why, Broadcrooks, for sure.”

Big McTavish looked up.

“Tom Dodge wouldn’t steal nothin’,” he said. “He’s too honest for that.
I don’t want to hear anybody say anythin’ against any of the Injuns. And
if any Broadcrook tries to fasten turkey stealin’ on to them innocent
fellers, I’m goin’ to break him in two. Remember that, and tell ’em so.”

Paisley punched Boy.

“Fightin’ spirit stirrin’ already,” he whispered. “Well, fellers,” he
said aloud, “suppose we be hittin’ the back trail—it’s gettin’ late.”

The other men arose.

“Things are just at this point,” said Bill, as he opened the door, “we
can expect somethin’ startlin’ right soon. Keep your peepers open, Mac,
and you, too, Boy, and if anybody does shootin’ you see that yours is
done first. And, Mac,” he whispered in McTavish’s ear, “don’t you let
Gloss outside this house very far—certain not into the woods.”

When the men had gone Big McTavish arose and, taking the pine board from
behind the door, whittled the shavings off for the morning’s fire. Then
he stretched his long arms and looked at Boy with deep, awakened eyes.

“Bumpy,” he said, letting his big hand rest on Boy’s shoulders.

Bumpy was an old baby name. He had not used it for years, but to-night
he used it—he couldn’t have explained why.

“Bumpy,” he repeated, “don’t you let ’em get you.” At his bedroom door
he looked back and said earnestly: “Even if you have to fire first,
don’t you let ’em, Bumpy.”

As Boy arose to seek his bed in the attic the outer door opened and Bill
Paisley stealthily entered. He made a sign for silence, and, taking Boy
by the arm, drew him outside. There he spoke to him in low tones.

“Well, now,” said Boy, after Paisley had concluded, “we ought to catch
the turkey-thief that way all right, Bill.”

“It just popped into my mind after I left Peeler and Declute at the
Forks,” explained Bill. “I know some fellers who tried it in the
Michigan woods, and it worked fine. And, Boy,” he added, “if the thief
is who we expect it is, won’t we give him a scare? Now then, remember,
to-morrow night we’ll try it. You drop in on me early.”

He pushed Boy into the house and softly closed the door. Boy removed his
moccasins and as he placed them before the fireplace he turned quickly.
The swish of a dress had caught his ears. Before him stood Gloss, her
long hair down about her waist, her cheeks wet and burning. As he gazed
upon her wonderingly, her lips trembled.

“I heard you all talkin’,” she confessed. “I didn’t mean to listen, but
Bill speaks so loud I couldn’t help hearin’. You were shot at, and, oh,
Boy, you didn’t tell me!”

Boy’s pulses were throbbing.

“Why, Gloss,” he stammered, “it wasn’t really anythin’.”

She raised her head and looked at him then.

“Yes, it was,” she said earnestly: “it was everythin’. Promise me you’ll
be careful, Boy.”

He took a step toward her, drawn by the tempestuous soul of her. But she
stepped back, her lips parted, her great eyes humid and compelling, her
hand raised warningly.

“We ain’t boy and girl any more,” she said softly.

Then once again she was gone, and the great gaunt shadows flickered on
the wall against which the old violin hung pitifully alone and
soundless. And not until the shadows had crept away and the room was
dark and cold did Boy climb the ladder to his rush bed.



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                           In the Fire Circle


White splashes of foam clipped and swayed on the slate-blue waters. A
hundred yards out from the rushes a clay-hued slash across the turmoiled
face of the bay marked the yellow sand-bar beneath. Between the sand-bar
and the rushes lay the wild celery bed. Here, shoots succulent and
tender, sweetest of morsels to the man-hunted, fear-haunted fowl of the
Wild, gripped the oozy muck below. With the lowering of the late
afternoon skies a pair of canvasbacks came skimming on strong, swift
wings high over the sunken bog and tangled marshland toward the white
beaten water of the open. Weary from the flight of leagues, nervous with
the dread of hidden dangers, and hungry from long fasting, their
glistening wings beat the buffeting west wind a little more quickly at
sight of the long dark streak of their kind far in the center of the
bay. There, at last, was rest; food, too, perhaps. So, curving high over
the marsh, the noble pair flashed, now gray against the snowy
cloud-crest, now white against a crumpled sky of slate, wedging the wind
with a new strength, necks outstretched, the drake leading and muttering
now and again to his mate a low croak of cheer.

The wind awoke to greater force, throwing the foam and spray high in
air. Shoreward it bore an empty bottle that had been thrown from the
schooner anchored half a mile eastward, and which had drifted out into
the open water. There it bobbed and glittered, a black dot on the
slate-blue, drifting finally across the yellow shallow of the bar into
the calmer waters in lee of the long point. The rough waves had
overturned it and it rested bottom up in the wild celery bed.

The same winds that had wafted it hither had carried to those frantic
sky-voyagers beating bayward the scent of the wild water-plant they
loved, and with drooping wings and joyful, low-voiced quacks they curved
downward. Inward they sped so as to skirt the shore and alight in the
haven against the wind. But just outside of what they had learned was
the danger-line, the drake’s sharp eye caught the gleam of the glass
bottle, and at his shrill command the pair swerved outward once more on
whistling white-crested wings. To live, the water-wild must learn. The
early night-shadows had crept down and across the waters before the
weary pair settled for rest in the center of the bay. Round and round
the flock they flew, now lost in the darkness, now, gleaming white
against it, swooping ever lower, with bright eyes alert for danger
signals such as a compact bunch of reeds or a tangled spot in the
rush-beds. And, by and by, just as day faded, they sank against the
dying wind among an animated company of their kind.

Not until then did a tall figure arise from the reeds on the shore of
the wild celery bed, and with an imprecation, glance toward the schooner
at anchor, and lower the hammer of his muzzle-loading fowling-piece. It
was Amos Broadcrook. He stood looking across the water until darkness
shut out the tossing schooner from his vision. Then he turned and sought
the wood.

He skirted the open and passed along the thicket toward the lower
ridges. With the coming of night the wind had died away and the
bush-world was very still. It was snowing now; the man could feel the
cold, clinging flakes on his face and hands. As he slunk unerringly
through the heavy darkness there came to his ears a low, wailing cry. He
stopped short and the hand carrying the gun crept to its hammer.

“If it’s a lynx, let it come; if it’s a man, let him come. But if it’s
that old witch Betsy on a ha’nt——”

He stood trembling and listening until the long hair across his forehead
was wet with the sweat of fear. Then he crept forward again. The cry was
not repeated. The man advanced by short steps, his great form crouched,
his head thrust forward. By and by he crept from the heavy timber of the
swale and sought the ridge. After following it for half a mile he paused
abruptly, and, reaching out into the darkness, felt through it with his
hand. Instinct had guided the bushman aright. He had found a pile of
logs—Paisley’s turkey-trap number one. He moved about the trap until he
found the ground floor. Taking the ramrod from his gun he inserted it
through the door and moved it about.

“Empty,” he growled. “Jest your luck, Amos.”

He got up and moved forward cautiously. Lower down was trap number two,
and as he approached it his sharp, ear caught the unmistakable sound of
a turkey in distress. It was a wild, penetrating note which he and all
the Bushwhackers had learned to imitate by sucking wind through a straw.
The man chuckled with delight and drew a sack from under his coat.

Arrived at the trap, he walked around it until he found the door. It was
not necessary for him to feel inside for the game he was sure was there.
After listening intently Amos stood his gun up against a tree and,
dropping on all fours, crawled into the trap. As he drew his feet in
from the doorway a heavy log dropped from without and closed it
effectually. With a growl like a trapped beast the man sprang erect and
dashed his heavy form against the logs of his prison. But his efforts to
throw down those walls were vain. They were too strongly built to
topple, even before his prodigious strength. Then he poured forth a
torrent of incoherent profanity, cursing his trappers. Without, all was
silent as the grave. Suddenly the turkey-thief began to tremble.

“Outside thar,” he called, “for God’s sake, if you be human, speak to
me.”

A low wail came from the heavy timber and grew into a shrill scream,
drawing nearer to the man crouching now on the inside of his prison.

“Witches!” he gasped, and groveled among the leaves.

“Amos Broadcrook,” spoke a voice, seemingly close beside him, “your hour
has come—prepare.”

“Let me out,” begged Amos, “oh, let me out o’ here.”

“Amos,” again came the voice, “we see it’s useless to give you time to
repent. The devil has sent us for you. We must hurry away. Which will
you have, Amos, rifle-ball or fire? Speak quick.”

“Gimme time,” groaned the distracted Broadcrook, “only gimme time.”

Something like a laugh came from the darkness outside, but it was so
closely followed by another long-drawn wail that Amos hid his face among
the leaves again.

“You have been stealin’ turkeys out of these traps,” accused the voice.
“Answer, haven’t you, Amos?”

“Yes, I have.”

“When was you here last?”

“Thursday night.”

“Then it was you fired on Boy McTavish when he surprised you?”

“No, I swear I didn’t.”

“You’re lyin’. Mates, get the fire ready.”

“Hol’ on, devils. I’m speakin’ the truth. I didn’t fire on Boy. I was
scared and my rifle went off by accident. It wasn’t p’inted his way at
all—I swar it.”

The yellow glow of fire came flickering through the chinks in the logs.

“What air you doin’?” cried the wretch in the trap in agonizing voice.

“We’re goin’ to apply the fire. You are goin’ to be rewarded for
stealin’, Amos.”

“Oh, don’t—don’t,” pleaded Amos. “I won’t steal any more if you’ll only
let me off this time, good witches.”

Slowly the log fell away from the opening and a voice said:

“Come out here, Broadcrook.”

The man needed no second invitation. He scrambled out and made a dash
for the heavy timber. But Boy McTavish tripped him up and Paisley
gripped his windpipe. He was dragged back into the light of the fire and
Boy picked up his gun.

“Get up,” commanded Bill. “Now, you thief, what have you got to say for
yourself?”

Broadcrook commended Paisley to the lower regions.

“I’m not goin’ to say a word,” he snarled, “an’ you can’t make me,
either.”

He struggled and Paisley’s knee gripped more deeply into his neck.

“Think you’re a mighty strong ’un, don’t you?” growled Amos. “Think
you’ve done somethin’, I suppose, in trippin’ me up an’ hold-in’ me
down. Any boy could do as much as that. You was scart t’ give me half a
chance, you was.”

“What do you mean by chance, Amos?” asked Paisley, the corners of his
mouth twitching. “You don’t mean to say that you’d fight, do you? Why,
man alive, you can’t fight—you’re too big a coward.”

“If I was on my feet I’d make you eat them words,” spat Broadcrook.

“If I really thought there was any spunk in you I’d let you try,”
grinned Paisley. “By gosh, I’ll do it, but listen, Amos, if you make any
break for the woods, Boy there will sure plug you.”

“Don’t let him go, Bill,” warned Boy. “If he gets away now there’s no
tellin’ what he’ll do. He’s just wantin’ to get a chance to get in the
timber. You know, and I know, he won’t fight. He’s too much of a
sneakin’ coward.”

Broadcrook turned his malignant face toward Boy. In the yellow light it
looked fearful. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could frame
the words he would say a small disheveled form came bounding and panting
into their midst.

It was Daft Davie, his face gnashed and bleeding from scratches of
low-lying twigs. He sank on his knees before the fire and poured forth
some words in his strange gibberish. Boy, quick to understand the daft
child, gave a low cry. Paisley spoke sharply.

“What is he sayin’, Boy?” he asked.

“He says that there are five men tryin’ to get into our house,” gasped
Boy. “Bill, I don’t understand this, but there’s no time to lose. Let
Broadcrook alone till another time. I’ll take his gun. For gawd sake,
let’s hurry.”

Broadcrook crept toward the thicket and Paisley’s heavy boot hurried his
movements materially.

“Nurse that, you skunk, till we meet again,” he cried.

Then he turned quickly and followed Boy. Daft Davie had already vanished
in the darkness.



                              CHAPTER XXIV
                            The Night Attack


The men plunged through the timber toward the settlement. The ground was
soft with snow now and the darkness was so dense that only their
unerring sense of directions made progress at all possible.

“Bill,” panted Boy, “it’s likely Hallibut and his gang.”

“Likely. But they’ll reckon with us now,” fumed Paisley; “that is, if
we’re not too late,” he added in his throat.

A rifle shot rang out on the night and the men quickened their pace.

“That’s at our place, all right,” groaned Boy.

Paisley did not reply. In his heart was a great fear that they would be
too late to lend succor to the man and helpless women in the McTavish
home. At their fastest they could but make slow progress through the
thick timber, and several times were they brought up short and
breathless by coming in violent contact with trees. It was an agonizing
half-hour to both, this frenzied rush through a forest in pitch
darkness. When the timber grew sparser and the footing better they
bounded on, crashing through thick second-growth groves and leaping
white patches of open, their goal the log-house where danger menaced
loved ones. As they emerged into the wide clearing the clouds above them
parted and the starlight showed a number of forms creeping toward the
cover of the wood.

“Come,” whispered Boy. But Paisley, sinking on one knee behind him,
leveled his long rifle.

“May this bullet go true to the leader of the dogs,” he muttered.

Then slowly the rifle was lowered, and Paisley arose.

“No, I can’t shoot until I am sure,” he said, “—but if they’ve harmed
little Gloss——”

He hurried forward. At the edge of the garden-patch his foot came into
contact with a yielding body. The clouds had covered the stars again,
but Paisley with a low word of distress bent and lifted Joe, the Irish
setter, in his arms. The dog was dead. His head sagged over against the
man’s shoulder, as tenderly Paisley carried him forward and laid him
just outside the door.

“It’s Bill,” he called, and the door was opened. On a chair beside the
window lay two rifles and in one corner of the room knelt Big McTavish,
his wife, and Granny, beside the still form of a girl lying in Boy’s
arms. The big man looked up at Paisley appealingly, and the tears
streamed down his seamed face as he said brokenly:

“They tried to steal our little Gloss, Bill, and she’s fainted from
fright.”

Paisley, his temples throbbing and his soul sick, came forward and,
bending, looked into the white face of the girl. Her eyes were closed
and her bosom rose and fell. Her arms were about Boy’s neck and her lips
moved in meaningless words. Bill sank on a stool and took one of the
girl’s limp hands in his own.

“Missus,” he said, addressing Mrs. McTavish, “we’ll find out who it was
tried to do this thing. Will you take care of little Gloss, marm?—I
want to talk things over with Mac and Boy.”

“Let me take her, Boy,” said Mrs. McTavish. “Gloss, dear, do you feel
better now?”

Gradually the great eyes opened and a smile fluttered on the girl’s
lips.

“I’m all right now,” she answered weakly, “only those rough men
frightened me so much I feel like bein’ babied, auntie. Take me like you
used to when I was a little girl and hold me tight. It seems I want you
so much—so much——”

She broke off and her arms tightened about Boy’s neck. Then quickly they
unclasped and she arose, staggering, a flush wiping the pallor from her
face.

“I guess I wasn’t just myself, Boy,” she stammered.

And leaning on the older woman’s arm she passed slowly from the room.

Big McTavish, who was replacing his rifle in the rack, turned.

“Will they come back, d’ye think?” he asked.

“Most likely,” Paisley answered; “but not again to-night, though.
They’re some anxious to live, I suppose. Now,” he cried sharply, “why
were they here, and what do they mean by tryin’ to break into your house
and kidnap little Gloss?”

Big Mac shook his head.

“I was playin’ the fiddle here by the fire, and Gloss, ma, and Granny
was busy in there with the spinnin’ when Davie opened the window there
behind you and dropped in. I could see he was awful excited, so I called
Gloss out. She can understand his language better’n I can, and when she
told me what Davie had seen I scarcely knowed what to do. When I was
gettin’ down the guns and Gloss was lockin’ the door Davie crawled
outside again. I wouldn’t have let him go, but he slipped away. I heard
’em shoot, but I’m prayin’ God they didn’t hit the lad.”

“Davie’s all right,” cried Paisley. “He came for me and Boy. What next?”

“I’m awful glad he wasn’t hit,” said the big man. “Well, about ten
minutes before I heard the shot, old Joe, who’d been tuggin’ at his
leash, broke loose, and I heard him mixin’ things with ’em outside. I
heard somebody yellin’ that the dog was killin’ him. Then the shot was
fired and——”

Paisley turned quickly and looked at Boy. His head was bowed upon his
breast and his hands were clenched.

“And,” continued McTavish, “I didn’t hear poor old Joe after that.”

“Poor old Joe,” said Boy; “poor old pup.”

Then, lifting his head, he looked out of the window at the
silver-crested sky-clouds with smarting eyes.

“He always liked these dark, quiet nights,” he said, as if to himself,
“and when the starlight slipped through like it’s doin’ now, no matter
if it was only early or midnight, he would get up and wag his tail just
out o’ happiness—pure happiness. And now he’s dead, and they killed
him—damn ’em.”

“I found him just in the edge of the garden,” said Paisley. “Yes, Boy,
poor old Joe is dead, and he died fightin’ for you; he sure died
fightin’ for you.”

Boy nodded and looked at his father.

“Go on, dad, let’s hear the rest of it.”

“After that they came up and pounded on the door. They demanded that I
let ’em in. ‘What do you want?’ I asked. ‘You’ll find that out soon
enough,’ they answered. ‘You’re all alone and there’s four of us,’ they
said. ‘If you don’t open the door we’ll break it down.’”

Big McTavish paused, a catch in his voice.

“I reckon the old devil has a purty good mortgage on my soul yet,” he
went on, his voice husky. “I know there’d have been killin’ done right
then if it hadn’t been for ma and Gloss and Granny. They wouldn’t let me
shoot. They begged for me not to shoot. I heard some of the gang say:
‘We’ve got to get that girl, boys.’ I scarcely knowed what they
meant—not then. There was a pot o’ boilin’ pitch on the crane there
that I was gettin’ ready for boat calkin’, and just as they banged the
door open I hurled that pitch plumb into them. I reckon it found ’em all
right, ’cause they scampered back purty quick, and when I peaked through
the crack I could see them runnin’ for the timber. ‘Back everybody,
there’s somebody comin’,’ I heard someone shout. That’s all I know now.
But I wish I knowed why they wanted to steal little Gloss.”

“I reckon we’re goin’ to know why right soon,” mumbled Paisley.

He stood by the open door and the cold night was aglow with big early
winter stars hanging above the tree-fringe. In their light, beside his
old resting-place, the ash-gum, lay old Joe. An owl hooted from a nearby
thicket and the chickens in the coop stirred and voiced their alarm in
shrill peepings and squawks. But old Joe did not awaken and turn three
times around. No more would he arise in the golden or silvery night and
stretch and yawn his thanks for life to the deep skies.

Suddenly, bayward, a streak of crimson darted aloft and licked the
heavens. Paisley started, and pointed toward it. Boy and his father
followed Bill’s gaze.

“It’s Hallibut’s schooner,” exclaimed Boy; “she’s on fire.”

As they watched, a sheet of orange-yellow flame drifted up and the
pointed tree-tops of the forest stood out, a broad expanse of fiery
spikes, fluctuating and drifting between earth and heaven. In silence
they watched the wild lights until they crept down from the skies and
the owl’s low hoot sounded again from the shadow. Then the men looked at
one another.

“Surely hell is awake this night,” said Paisley, wiping his face on his
buckskin, sleeve. “Thank God it’ll soon be daylight.”

Boy picked up his rifle.

“I’m goin’ to look for Davie,” he said.

“In a little while, Boy, in a little while,” soothed Paisley. “It’ll be
light then, and you can see. No use to go yet, lad. See, it’s comin’
dawn now, and it’ll be safer for you then.”

“Aye, lad,” spoke McTavish firmly, “we must make no false moves now. The
fight’s on and our new law must be lived up to. If we sin in killin’
them who wish to kill us, why, sin we must. The only brother I had in
the world was massacred because he found killin’ a red snake hard. We’ll
show no mercy to devils that would try to steal our little girl.”

Boy had drawn the dead dog into the room and was stroking its long red
hair with his hand.

“It’s not in reason to think Hallibut ’ud get in his work here and turn
back and set fire to his own schooner,” said Paisley. “He’s done it,
though, to make a case against us. We can’t deny sayin’ that we’d stand
up for our own. They thought if they could get hold of Gloss that we’d
give up the deeds to our properties to get her back.”

“Who was in the gang?” asked Boy.

“I only saw two of them when I opened the door,” replied McTavish. “I
saw the agent Watson, and I saw Simpson the teacher—he was with ’em.”

He broke off, his jaw dropping. Boy sprang to his feet, his face
twitching in a fury of hate. His strong teeth had bitten blood from his
tightened lips. He gazed across toward the approaching dawn to where the
scar of civilization lay upon the Wild. The two older men glanced at
each other and the father shook his head. The question asked in
Paisley’s glance was beyond all answering from him.

Not until the red sun had cut a disk in the misty eastern skies did Boy
turn and sit down weakly on a stool. Then Paisley was the first to break
the gloomy silence.

“Boy,” he said, putting his hands on the shoulders of that drooping
form, “me’n you have been through close shaves together; have chopped
logs again the two next best choppers in Bushwhackers’ Place; have
hunted and fished together. And I reckon we’re pals now if we’re ever
goin’ to be. It’s ’cause I’ve been through purty much the same thing as
you’re goin’ through now that I want to speak a word. You’ve made up
your mind to get even with the teacher. Boy, don’t you do it—not until
you’re sure o’ what you may only fancy now. Why, you’d about finish him
if you ever got started. Let me help you untangle this riddle, and let
me give Simpson his deserts like a good old pal ought to do.”

Boy shook his head.

“Bill,” he said in hard, even tones, “you’ve a mighty big claim on me. I
know that better’n you do. You know that I’d follow any advice of yours
in reason, same’s I’ve always done. I’ll promise to do this much. I’ll
let you find for sure that he was with the gang before I do it; but it’s
got to be done by me, Bill.”

He wrung Paisley’s hand, smiling bravely, then passed into the next
room.

Paisley felt in his pocket and brought forth a smoke-grimed pipe. He
twisted off a piece of Canada-Green tobacco the size of a walnut,
crammed it into the spacious bowl, and, applying a coal from the fire,
smoked as though his life depended upon his filling the room with blue
smoke in a specified time. Next, he turned to Big McTavish, who sat bent
before the fire.

“It’s funny, ain’t it?” he whispered, nodding toward the other room.

McTavish drew himself up slowly.

“What’s funny, Bill?”

Paisley carried his stool over close to that of the father. His face was
working and the blue clouds of raw tobacco-smoke floated from his lips
in mountains. He placed the stool down and, sitting on it, peered into
the older man’s troubled face.

“Mac,” he said gently, “there ain’t the likes of that boy of yours
anywhere on this continent. He’s got a heart that’s open to everythin’
that needs sympathy, and he’s got a heart that’s hell when it gets sot
on a thing. It’s sot on Gloss, and I reckon no earthly power is goin’ to
keep them two from makin’ a clean job of it. But, Mac, Boy’s heart don’t
stop there, by a long ways. It’s got a hatin’ side to it, and a regular
Injun-hatin’ side it is, too. I’d naturally want to know that I had a
clean slate with the white punter before I tried interferin’ with
anythin’ Boy called his.” Paisley jerked his head sideways. “And I
reckon Gloss is his, ’cause they are just made for each other. Well,
now, this teacher chap he seems to think different—or else why should
he be interested in havin’ Gloss kidnapped away? He’s just about let
himself commit suicide with his conceit. He’s a bad one, and maybe
deserves all he’d get; but you and me mus’n’t let Boy at him. Now, it’s
for you to save Boy from himself. I’m goin’ over and have it out with
Simpson now, and then I’m goin’ to warn him what he’s in for if he keeps
on hangin’ around these parts. Boy’ll never forgive me for warnin’ him,
but I can’t help that. I’m goin’ now,” he concluded, rising, “and you
see that you don’t let Boy out of your sight till I’m back.”

Paisley reached for his cap and gun and stole from the house. It had
frozen during the night, and an open slash across the face of the creek
showed where a skiff had crossed not many hours before. Reaching the
clump of willows where his own canoe lay hidden, Paisley pulled it forth
and crossed the creek, breaking the thin ice with his paddle. At Ross’s
landing he found a three-seated skiff. There were two empty bottles on
its bottom and a crumpled handkerchief beneath one of the seats. Paisley
picked up the handkerchief. It was of linen and of a kind not used by
the people of the bush. He put it in his pocket and walked slowly toward
widow Ross’s home. On the threshold he was met by Mary Ann. There were
dark shadows beneath her eyes and her lips trembled when she spoke his
name.

“Bill Paisley,” she whispered, and, closing the door behind her, she
motioned him into the open lean-to. “Hallibut’s boat was burned last
night. I suppose you know it?”

“Yes, I know it, Mary Ann,” he answered.

“Did you see Mr. Simpson last night, Bill?” she asked.

“No.”

“Well, he went deer-shootin’ by starlight with some men from Bridgetown,
and he was hurt in some way. I heard them come back here three hours
ago, and they were talkin’ about it. They had a couple of extra horses
with them. They took him away with them.”

“A couple of extra horses?” mused Bill. Aloud he asked:

“Is he comin’ back here any more, Mary Ann?”

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I hope not.”

“You hope not?” he said quickly. “Are you sure? They do say you and him
are——”

“I can’t help what they say,” she said wearily. “I’m glad he’s gone,
Bill.”

Paisley stood his rifle against a tree. His face was aglow with hope.

“Mary Ann,” he said gently, “you’ve known me a long time, and you know
just why I ask this question. Has he been square with you?”

She gazed at him in wonderment.

“Square with me?” she exclaimed, and laughed. “Well, you better believe
he has been.”

Paisley caught the girl’s hands and held them tight.

“And didn’t you care for him a lot?” he asked huskily.

“No,” she answered, her face averted, “I didn’t care for him at all. He
wasn’t my style, Bill.”

“Mary Ann,” said the Bushwhacker, “so long’s I thought you liked Simpson
better’n me I kept away. Now, if I could learn somehow that you cared
more for me than you do for anybody else, ‘give my life,’ as Mrs.
Declute says, if I wouldn’t ask you right out to be Mrs. Paisley. I’ve
got a nice home all to myself and three old socks crammed with
greenbacks made out of pelts, hid away again’ a weddin’-day with you.
You see, Mary Ann,” he said wistfully, “I somehow knowed, or thought I
knowed, you didn’t mean right down business with the teacher. Now, girl,
am I to be your old man or am I not?”

“You are, Bill,” she whispered, hiding her face on his shoulder.

Widow Ross, coming out hurriedly from the house with a steaming pot of
potatoes in her hand, saw something that almost made her drop her
burden. There stood long Bill Paisley with his arms about her Mary Ann’s
waist.

“Bill Paisley,” gasped the widow, advancing, “you get right away from
Mary Ann. Ain’t you ashamed of yourself! You’re old enough to know
better. Now, you get right away from my girl or I’ll scald you with this
hot potater water.”

“She ain’t your girl no more, widder,” grinned Paisley. “She’s mine
now.”

“Mary Ann,” commanded her mother sternly, “answer me—be you?”

“Yes, ma,” answered Mary Ann, and she snuggled down again.

“Well,” flared the widow, “if it’s so, it’s so. Bill Paisley,” she
cried, “you get off my property and don’t you come back here no more.
You kin steal a poor widder’s only daughter,” she sobbed, dropping the
kettle and covering her face with her apron, “but you can’t come here
and do it. You’d better get off my place.”

Paisley patted the girl’s hair and picked up his rifle.

“I’m sorry you take it that way, widder,” he stammered. “I hate to go,
and now I smell that bacon you’ve been cookin’ I just naturally hate to
go more’n ever. I always said that widder Ross could fry bacon like no
other woman this side of the creek——”

“Me’n Mary Ann be the only women on this side,” snorted the widow,
dropping her apron.

“I mean anywhere in Bushwhackers’ Place, marm,” bowed Bill. “I always
remember them pies you made for Mac’s loggin’-bee, and the puddin’ for
Declute’s, too.”

“I suppose there’s no hurry for your goin’,” sighed Mrs. Boss, “and I’ll
own I did cook more’n enough meat this mornin’; for why, I don’t know.
So if you want to, you kin come in and eat breakfast. But,” she added,
“you’ll sure have to get off my property after you’ve et.”

The good lady picked up her kettle and whisked into the house. Paisley
smiled at Mary Ann.

“You always have such a way of gettin’ round ma,” laughed the girl.

“Mary Ann, you’ve got a proper good ma,” said Bill earnestly.

As they entered the house young Tom came running up the path.

“Isn’t it awful?” he cried. “They think poor old Noah was burnt with the
schooner. They found his skiff floatin’ near the middle grounds.”



                              CHAPTER XXV
                           And the Day After


It was nearly mid-day when Paisley sought his skiff once more and made
to cross to Bushwhackers’ Place. It had turned bitterly cold within the
last couple of hours and the ice upon the surface of the creek was
almost too thick to break with a paddle. Out across Rond Eau black wisps
of duck were rising from the water and fluttering upward like smoke
puffs, melting in a broken line into the hanging snow-clouds. Declute
was standing on the opposite shore. He spoke as Paisley’s boat parted
the sere rushes.

“They’ll all go to-day, Bill. By night thar won’t be a duck on the bay.”

“Been over to Mac’s?” asked Paisley. His eyes were on the low-lying hulk
of the charred schooner and his shaggy brows were puckered in a scowl.

“Just come from there,” answered the other. “Seems like old Nick has
been loose amongst us las’ night, it does.”

“Then you’ve heard?” Bill nodded toward the black patch on the white
waves.

“It was me seen it first,” replied Declute. “I seen her burnin’ near
mornin’. Man, but it was a wild sight! Red sky above her and red water
all about her. Arter daylight come I gets in my boat and goes over to
the hull. Injun Noah’s skiff was thar floatin’ bottom up near the middle
ground.”

Declute felt for his pipe, lit it, and threw the charred match down with
a shudder.

Paisley stepped from the boat and brushed past him up the path.

“You told Mac, I suppose?”

“Yep, they know it, and Gloss she is takin’ on some. I guess she thought
a lot of poor old Noah.”

“I reckon she did,” agreed Paisley; “he brought her here nigh twenty
years ago.”

They found Big McTavish carrying fodder from the corn-stalk stack into
the log-stable. From the chinks of the barn between the logs came the
white breath of the oxen, and the chickens released from their coop ran
in and out of its open door.

“Bill,” said the big man, his blue eyes humid with feeling, “it looks as
though poor old Noah went with the schooner.”

“It does,” nodded Paisley. “Mac, we all know who it was burned the boat,
and bad as we know Hallibut to be, it’s awful to think he would
sacrifice that old man so’s there wouldn’t be a witness against him when
he tries to prove we did it. It’s awful!”

Boy came up, his face worn and his eyes heavy. He placed the spade he
carried inside the stable door and turned away up the path.

Paisley stepped forward and threw his arm about Boy’s shoulders.

“You’re shakin’,” he said; “you ain’t just yourself. You mus’n’t take on
hard like you’re doin’, Boy. I guess maybe Joe had more soul in his poor
dog’s body than all them cut-throats had among the lot of ’em, but Joe
is done with this life. Boy, don’t you take it hard.”

He drew the young man towards the house, and half-way across the yard
Boy stopped and hurled a look down across the valley.

“Bill,” he cried, “I told you I would wait till you came back, and now
you’re back I’m goin’.”

“Boy,” said Paisley, “_he_ ain’t there.”

“Where’s he gone?”

“He got away last night,” said Paisley. “He was hurt bad. I guess old
Joe did it. They carried him off, and he won’t ever come back here
again, Boy.”

“Let me go,” cried the young man, shaking himself free. “I don’t care
where he’s gone, Bill, I’ll follow him—and——”

He snatched up the rifle leaning against the ash-leach and dashed across
toward the creek. Paisley followed more slowly. He came up as Boy was
pushing his canoe into the ice-coated creek.

“The ducks are leavin’ to-day, Boy,” he said, “look at ’em. They’ve had
a glad time here this season, I guess, take it all round. Look at ’em,
Boy,—they don’t seem to want to go very much, do they?”

Boy glanced up, then he stood erect in the boat and watched the detached
flocks of frantic water-fowl swerve and pitch and at last mingle in the
greater flocks, fading south. Sweetly and shrilly their strong wings
beat the frosty air, the sound of their pinions now rising, now fading,
and at last thundering as the great flocks dropped low as though to bid
the old marsh feeding-ground a last good-by.

“They’re goin’ away, Bill,” he remarked absently. “Even the little teal
that were hatched right here in this ma’sh are goin’. Seems odd, don’t
it? I guess they know it’s come winter.”

“Seems like they know it has,” answered Paisley, “and I’m thinkin’
they’re sorter promisin’ this old dead ma’sh they’ll come back when it’s
spring and nest again. ‘Member the old gray duck’s nest me and you found
down near the otter-run, Boy? Gosh, I’d never believed an old ma duck
could take on like that one did. Kept flyin’ right in my face, and there
her little ducklin’s, just hatched, kept divin’ in the water and
pointin’ their heads sideways like they were sickin’ her on to me and
enjoyin’ seeing me get a whalin’. By gum, my face was sore for more’n a
week where her wings brushed it. And you—why, you just stood there
laughin’ at me gettin’ the whippin’.”

Boy was smiling now, his head lagging on his breast, his hands blue with
the cold, clasping and unclasping the paddle.

“The little devils,” he said softly, “the little devils. I don’t suppose
there is anythin’ cuter than the little wild things of the ma’sh, Bill.
I’ve been out springs with Davie, and you know how he can handle birds
and things. I’ve seen baby snipe, baby rats, baby rails, and all the
little babies of the ma’sh. They’re all like them ducklin’s. There’s
none of ’em scared and all of ’em sassy.”

Paisley bent and pulled the skiff high up on the bank. He took Boy’s arm
in his and they went back along the walk together. And as they turned,
the skies darkened and the snow began to fall in zigzag sheets that hid
the flocks of migrating wild ducks, and the low song of their beating
wings grew more muffled and at last died away altogether.

“There’s somethin’ I want to tell you, Boy,” said Paisley softly, when
at last the companions sought the path to the house. “Me and Mary Ann is
goin’ to be married in the spring. I reckon you’ll be glad to know it.”

Boy did not lift his eyes from the ground.

“I sort o’ knowed all along you and Mary Ann would marry some day,” he
said. “And, Bill, I am glad—glad as I can be to-day.”

The inner door of the McTavish home had been taken from its leather
hinges to make an additional table for the guests assembled. Seated
about that table were most of the fathers and mothers of Bushwhackers’
Place. Fat, tousle-headed children ran and toddled and crept about the
wide floor. The table was laden with all of the good things that the
Bushwhackers were accustomed to partake of. A couple of fragrant boiled
hams, a great deal of cornbread, dried venison, fresh venison, cucumber
pickles, boiled rice, a deep custard made in a milk-pan by the deft
hands of widow Ross, who now sat at the head of the table and dished it
out proudly; strong tea, and cream and maple-sugar to make the rice
palatable. In addition to these delicacies Peeler had brought along some
smoked fish of his own special brand. Widow Ross had brought coffee—a
rarity in those old days, and each of the Bushwhackers had, as was their
custom, brought something eatable to swell the good cheer. It was a big
spread, and the men and women there assembled were doing justice to it.
If there was gloom the good people were doing their best to dispel it. A
lull fell on the assembly as Boy and Paisley entered and took their
places at the table. Big McTavish helped them to meat and potatoes and
then he began:

“We’ve been goin’ on and summin’ up. Seems likely to us that Hallibut’s
gang will come back here right soon again, and we’ve been talkin’ over
what we’d better do. Hallibut’s likely goin’ to bring a bigger force
next time, we think. From what the widder tells us, there’s no doubt
that he burned his own boat. She says they woke her up about three in
the mornin’, and they were in a big hurry. She wanted to get up and
dress Simpson’s wounds, but they told her to mind her own business. She
tried to see who was in the gang, but they kept in the dark. About half
an hour after they had gone she seen the schooner burnin’. Now, it’s
just this way. Hallibut has an excuse to push us off of here, as he
wants to do, for, of course, he’ll say we burned his boat and poor old
Noah. And we, on the other hand, have an excuse to shoot Hallibut. But
we mus’n’t do anythin’ rash, boys. We must be careful.”

Boy looked about the room in search of Gloss. He did not see her and
rightly divined that she was grieving, in some hidden place, over the
death of her old friend.

He arose and passed unnoticed from the room. The sky was dark with
storm-clouds and the snow was falling. He took the path toward the grove
and as he passed the leach no dog lifted his head and watched him. He
entered the bush, but no dog followed him. That part lay behind. In the
old playhouse, cold and dreary and dark, Boy found the girl.

“Gloss,” he said, and she answered without lifting her head.

“I couldn’t help it, Boy; I had to come. I know I did wrong, and after
what happened last night I know I should be careful. But, oh, Boy, I
can’t bear to think of it all. It’s terrible!”

Boy went over and sat on a corner of the stump table. He did not attempt
to pacify her. He did not know how. He felt his impotency, and it made
him miserable.

“Nobody will know, can know, how good Noah has been to me,” sobbed
Gloss. “Oh, Boy, I don’t know how I’ll get along without him. I shut my
eyes and I can see him there, and then I see him on that burnin’ boat,
and I see the fire all about him, reachin’ its red fingers for him. Oh,”
she gasped, “I can’t bear it, Boy; I can’t, I can’t!”

He lifted her up and bore her out to the snow-carpeted open. She had not
mentioned Simpson’s name. He was thankful for that. She clung to him,
her warm breath biting his cheek and her hot tears eating his soul. And
so he half carried, half led her back to the house.

“Go in and lie down,” he said gently.

She loosened her arms slowly, looking into his eyes, and when she had
gone he leaned weakly against the wall.

The guests had finished dinner and Mrs. Declute was blocking the space
between the table and the fireplace with her matronly figure and
discoursing on the probabilities of a hard, long winter.

“As I was tellin’ Ander on our way over, just exactly four years ago
to-day, Moses and Zaccheus was down with chicken-pox and David and
leetle Rebecca war gettin’ the symptoms of it when it sot in dark and
snowy like it is to-day. Winter took a tight hold for nigh three months.
Why, you’ll remember there wa’nt no loggin’ done that winter, and the
wolves starved to death in the timber. Deer, too, and turkey, and I
guess thar wa’nt no visitin’ done much either, and give my life if thar
was one dance in the whole Bushwhackers’ Place. Why, it got cold and
stayed cold, and Joseph, our cat, friz stiff on the ladder when he was
climbin’ to the loft of the barn. And every sign p’ints to jest sech
another winter comin’.”

“It looks as though winter was here to stay, all right,” observed
Peeler, “and we’re like to have a hard one, too. The rats are buildin’
deep and strong.”

“My boy, Tom, he cut down a squirrel tree yesterday,” declared Mrs.
Boss, “and that squirrel had stored up feed for a long winter. Hope,
though, we don’t have one like that one o’ four years ago. I had both
ears and one toe friz that winter.”

“Guess we’d all better get home,” laughed Declute, “else we’ll have to
build some snowshoes t’ travel on.”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Peeler, “and I guess the cattle and sheep won’t care
about standin’ out in this storm.”

Gloss came out and sat at the table. Mary Ann Ross sat down near her,
and Bill Paisley, stepping carefully through the babies, drew close
enough to the girls to say:

“Didn’t know that you intended to come over, Mary Ann.”

“Ma thought we ought to come,” said the girl.

“Did you hear them prophesyin’ a long winter?” asked Paisley.

Mary Ann looked up and smiled.

“It can’t be too long to suit me,” she retorted.

“I wish it was spring right now,” sighed Bill.

Gloss raised her head and looked inquiringly at the two.

“Ask Mary Ann,” said Paisley solemnly.

“Tell Gloss yourself, if you want to, baby,” flashed Mary Ann, hiding
her face.

“Mary Ann is to be Mrs. William Paisley next spring,” grinned Bill.

Gloss drew the blushing head over to her bosom.

“I’m glad,” she said simply.

The babies were being bundled up and there was the commotion that comes
of lingering leave-taking among good neighbors. It had been settled
among the Bushwhackers as to what they should do when the inevitable
should happen. Now they were going to their separate homes, each
satisfied and determined. They would have been glad, even, had not the
gloom of Injun Noah’s death still hung across their simple hearts. Just
as Declute reached for the latch the door opened and Daft Davie sprang
into the room, a spray of powdery snow following him as though he had
been shot down from the scurrying clouds. He stood looking about him.

“Right here, Davie,” cried Boy. “What is it, lad?”

Davie spoke a few low words, then darted under Declute’s arm and out
into the darkening day.

The Bushwhackers looked at one another.

“What does the lad say?” asked Big McTavish.

Boy snatched up his cap.

“I’ll see,” he cried. “Wait here, everybody.”

He glanced at Gloss, then sped out after Davie. For half an hour after
the boys had gone there was almost absolute silence among those gathered
there.

“I’ve been wonderin’ all day where Davie was,” Paisley said at length.
“You didn’t see him when you was over?” turning to Peeler.

“When you said I better go and see if he had got home safe, I went over
there to Betsy’s place,” explained Peeler. “The old Granny came to the
door, and when I asked if Davie had got home she said ‘yes,’ and slammed
the door in my face. That’s all I know, Bill.”

“Boy is comin’ now, and he’s runnin’,” cried Gloss from the window.

She sprang out and ran down the path through the deep snow to meet him.

“Oh, Boy,” she called, “is there anythin’ worth tellin’?”

He caught her in his arms and his voice was husky as he said:

“Noah is alive and well, Gloss. He’s over at old Betsy’s.”

In a flash the good news passed to those waiting inside; and after the
preliminary excitement had subsided they crowded about the bearer of the
good news for his story.

“Noah was asleep in the hold of the schooner,” explained Boy, “and when
he fought his way up through the smoke, the deck and masts were all
afire. He made a run for it and jumped into the water, and when he swam
around to where his skiff was hid he found the painter had been burned
through and the boat gone. He give up, then, but naturally he swam, and
as good luck would have it, he found a piece of driftwood and hung to it
until he reached shore. Old Betsy found him there just at daybreak, and
she and Davie between ’em managed to get him over to her house. She give
him some stuff that made him sleep, and he only woke up about an hour
ago. Old Noah had an awful close shave, and Betsy won’t let him come
over here yet awhile, but he’s all right, people, and I guess we’re all
mighty glad.”

Peeler stood forth and gave vent to his feelings in this wise:

“There’s some among us here, good folks, haven’t give old Betsy her just
dues. We’ve believed she was a witch and we was all scared of her. Now,
neighbors, Betsy has done a mighty lot for us in one way and another,
and I move that to show how much we appreciate all this we build her a
bran’ new house next spring. That is,” he ended with a grin, “pervided
Hallibut don’t push us all off the earth before then.”

“Hear, hear!” cried everybody; and it was decided there and then that
Betsy should have one of the finest houses in Bushwhackers’ Place.

And so each of the Bushwhacker neighbors left the McTavish domicile
happy and determined. The day shortened, the skies grew darker, and the
snow came down in vast white walls. The remnants of the feast lay upon
the long table. Old Granny sat quietly beside the fire, her wrinkled
face sweet with the peace that comes only to the very young or very old,
her worn Bible clasped in her blue-veined hands. Mrs. McTavish sat close
beside her, and Gloss stood in her old place at the window. Big
McTavish, his face caressing the old fiddle, was playing his favorite
tune, and Boy, his head bowed before the fire, was listening to the
music and wondering. And so they waited until the dusk of early night
came down and the chickens crept to their coop and the owl began his
mournful hoot in the tangled copse down near the swale. All was alike,
tranquilly sweet and peaceful, after a night and day of storm: only old
Joe was not in his accustomed place.

He had left his bed beside the ash-gum for one in the hazel-copse.



                              CHAPTER XXVI
                       In the Manacles of Winter


That night winter came and gripped the bush-world, and now as far as the
eye could span distance she held the Wild in her white embrace, and all
the life of nature’s wood, marsh, and water seemed chilled to deep
mysterious silence.

Between the scrag-line of Point Aux Pins forest and the hardwood of the
mainland, Rond Eau Bay lay patched with shingly ice-scale and frozen
snow-drifts. Here and there a strip of white-blue gleamed from her dead
bosom like a smear of slate on white, and sheets of powdery snow whirled
and scudded before the fierce winds that swept her. Along the forest
aisles the snow lay deep—deeper than any of the things of the Wild had
ever before seen it.

Winter had swept down almost without warning, gripping the waters in its
clutch and breathing into the very marrow of the trees, numbing them to
drowsy forgetfulness. They stood in the blue-cold winter morning with
still arms uplifted toward the chill skies, great, silent, unprotesting.
And with each shortening day the frost bit deeper and their sleep became
heavier. Sometimes a dream of golden summer came to bestir the soul of
giant beech or tall maple, and its heart, waking to life, would shiver
its icy manacles with a mighty crash, only to leave it wounded and
shivering, a maimed thing into which spring would breathe her healing
balm after a little while. From the dead face of the bay the creek
twisted, a blue vein betwixt gray lifeless rushes, and all of nature’s
great playground rested lonely and forsaken. On Totherside, Hallibut’s
mill squatted, a white mound upon white, and the schoolhouse against the
hill—its bell always silent now—seemed to sink toward the valley as
though longing to snuggle down and rest in the soft blanket that lay
below it.

Adown the cloaked vista of Bushwhackers’ Place drab smoke-spirals, like
inverted tree-shadows, twisted above the forest. But there were no
sounds—not even the chug of axes biting into the wood. The fiercest
winter this new country had ever experienced had been reigning for three
long months. The snows lay waist-deep throughout the forest, and through
the long nights the wolf-packs howled and protested hungrily to the
cold, low-hanging stars. In the log-stables of the woodmen the cattle
munched their fodder and rested. There was no work for them with the
snows choking the trails and the frost menacing life, neither was there
necessity for the easygoing Bushwhackers to risk life in the wintry
frost. They had plenty of fuel at their command; also meat in plenty.
There was not even an occasion for them to kill the animals and
game-birds that had sought the protection of man when Nature seemed to
have forgotten them in sleep. Food for the Wild in the deep swales and
low-timbers was scarce and growing scarcer. The deer, accustomed to
brouse on the low-hanging branches, found it difficult to secure
sufficient sustenance to keep their blood warm, and they crept nearer
and nearer to the little settlement of man. One morning a Bushwhacker
surprised two of them, a buck and a doe, ravenously devouring the dry
cornstalks that had been cast from the cattle-stalls into the yard.
Broods of quail crept from the thickets across to the fodder-stacks.
Hunger-fearless and defiant, they took up their homes about the
out-buildings, mingling with the tame fowl and roosting in huddling
bunches beneath the warm, protecting stacks at night. Nor were they
molested. The Bushwhackers scattered corn among the straw so that the
birds might understand that a truce was established, and not until the
amber fall dawned again would they have cause for alarm. But the gray
timber-wolves neither asked nor sought favors from man. They held aloof
from him, hating him and suspicious of him. Born to starve, their
vitality outlasted that of the other forest wild things, and they
trailed, tore down, and devoured. For three months of unprecedented
winter no trapping had been done; no more loggin’-bees had been
arranged. But the Bushwhackers had managed to get together by chiseling
paths through the drifts between their homes. However, of their more
remote neighbors, such as the Broadcrooks, who lived some miles west of
Lee Creek, the French trapper, and the Indians on Point Aux Pins, they
had seen or heard nothing for many weeks. It was a risk to go even a
short distance in the benumbing frost. No man could hope to break his
way through the frozen drifts of snow piled mountain-high.

Oftentimes the Bushwhackers met together at the home of a neighbor, and
perhaps Big McTavish would have his old fiddle along, and there would be
long talks over the cracking of hickory-nuts and walnuts, and as the
evening progressed “Mac” would strike up some of the old jig-tunes, and
if the party was a particularly jovial one, there would be a clog-dance
or two.

The deadly winter had put a stop to further encroachment of their
enemies, but of course the one general query among the bushmen was: “How
long before they will come again?” There was something pathetic in the
question these simple-hearted men asked among themselves, as, in their
evening talks together, they discussed how best to meet the big man with
the great power. Directly they connected Colonel Hallibut with the
attempt to kidnap Gloss from her home, and they debated how best to act
when the man capable of planning such a dastardly deed should come
again.

So the Bushwhackers talked and waited, and the long, cold weeks dragged
onward, and it began to look as though the fierce cold would never
moderate. After half the winter had passed without a single thaw they
knew that the impregnable barriers of snow would hold their enemy in
leash until spring had cleared the trail.

But by and by the deadly cold relaxed its grip and for the first time
during Winter’s reign her orange sun dipped through the frost-mist and,
touching the drooping snow-clad trees, painted a picture of a still
bush-world sleeping beneath a blanket of blue-white diamond dust.

“The cold snap’s over,” said Declute, late one night as he sat with Jim
Peeler, Boy McTavish, and Bill Paisley before the great fireplace in the
McTavish home. “Never see it fail yet but when we’ve had three days sun
and no snow the mild weather stays.”

“Purty near time we was havin’ moderate weather,” replied Peeler. “Never
saw such a winter as this one’s been. Think o’ poor Injun Noah bein’
holed up for six weeks like he’s been. No wonder Gloss is some lonesome
for the old man; he’s never had to stay away from the little girl so
long before. And the old man has never seen her in that silver-fox coat
you and him made her, Bill. I’ll bet he’d like to be here.”

“It sure is a beautiful coat,” said Boy, “and Gloss is mighty proud of
it. She speaks about Noah every day. ‘Wonder if he’s warm and has enough
to eat,’ she’ll say, and, ‘Do you think Noah’ll be very lonesome over on
the Point?’ My, but she does think a lot o’ him, boys.”

“Sure she does,” cried Declute. “Bless her, she couldn’t think more of
him if he was her own grandaddy, could she now?”

“Bein’ Gloss, she naturally loves everythin’,” nodded Paisley,
“—everythin’ that moves and flies and crawls; everythin’ that’s alive,
she loves.”

“When she’s sayin’ good-night to me,” said Boy softly, “she always says
good-night to all of us, you know——”

“Same’s she does her prayers,” murmured Paisley; “yes?”

“She spoke about the Broadcrooks. Wondered if they were wantin’ for
anythin’, and said she wished she knew.”

“Ain’t that like her?” laughed Declute, “—worryin’ about them no-count
Broadcrooks? Ain’t that like our Gloss, though?”

“Asked me if I’d seen anythin’ of Amos,” continued Boy, “and that made
me think I hadn’t seen him or any of ’em since the first blizzard came.”

“Of course they’re all right,” said Paisley. “I know they had plenty
wood up an’ lots o’ meat strung. Still it does seem funny that old Amos
hasn’t burrowed his way through the drifts somehow. It ain’t very
comfortable for him at home, I guess.”

“It ain’t likely he’s forgiven you fellers for catchin’ him in the
turkey-trap,” said Peeler; “at least, not yet. He’ll dig his way out
now, though, since the weather’s eased up.—See if he don’t.”

There was a crunching outside on the frozen snow and somebody knocked on
the door.

“Hick’ry and hemlock,” whispered Paisley, “visitors at this time of
night. Will I open the door, Boy?”

Boy glanced at the rifle leaning against the wall, and nodded. Paisley
threw open the door and a tall figure, muffled in furs from tip to toe,
staggered in and sank on a stool.

“I’m nigh played out,” gasped the visitor.

“Why, it’s Hank Broadcrook,” cried Declute. “Get the jug, Boy, he’s just
about tuckered.”

“I’ve been since mornin’ beatin’ my way over,” panted the man. “I’ve
tried to get here afore, but couldn’t.”

“What’s the matter?” asked Peeler. “Anythin’ wrong at home?”

Broadcrook took the mug of whiskey Boy handed him and gulped it down.

“Amos,” he answered, “is he here?”

The friends exchanged glances.

“I see he isn’t,” groaned the man.

“How long has he been missin’?” questioned Paisley.

“Two days afore this awful winter sot in he left hum,” replied the
brother, “an’ none of us has seen him since. He’s allars been a lot o’
worry to us. It’s like him to hole up and freeze like a silly rabbit,
and I guess he’s done it.”

“Maybe he’s on the Point,” suggested Declute hopefully. “Maybe he’s
winterin’ with the Injuns, Hank.”

Hank turned his heavy eyes on the speaker.

“He’s made even the Injuns hate him,” he murmured. “No, he’s not there.”

He arose, threw off his furs, and sat down to the bread and cold meat
Boy had placed on the table. After he had eaten he sat back, lit his
pipe, and gazed into the fire.

“Boys,” he said, clenching his hands, “flesh is flesh an’ blood is blood
when it comes to—to a time like this. Amos has allars been a lot o’
trouble to us, an’ I—I’ve quarreled with him and fought with him an’
thort I hated him; but, boys, I guess I was wrong. I’m huntin’ for him
now. Dad an’ th’ other boys is huntin’ for him too. Why? I’ll tell you
why—it’s ’cause flesh is flesh an’ blood is blood when it comes to a
time like this.”

“Oh, he’s likely all safe and sound somewheres,” encouraged Declute.
“Old Amos knows the weather too well to be caught in a blizzard.”

The brother shook his head.

“Amos was gettin’ whiskey somewheres,” he said. “It’s likely the sleep
come on him—he’s out thar, I tell you,” pointing out at the cold,
moon-kissed wood, “unless the wolves——”

He broke off with a shudder and, springing up, reached for his furs.

“You’re not goin’ out again to-night,” insisted Boy. “See here, Hank,
you mus’n’t. Stay with me, like a good feller, and I’ll help you look
for Amos to-morrow.”

Broadcrook turned and looked at Boy. His face was twitching and his
voice was not quite steady when he said:

“You and Big Mac and all have been mighty good to us all clean through
everythin’, an’ when I guess we didn’t deserve it. It’s like you to
wanter help us now, but you can’t do nuthin’, Boy; you can’t do nuthin’
any more than I kin. But I’ve gotter keep huntin’, huntin’. It’s hell t’
be like this, but blood’s blood, an’ Amos is out thar somewheres——”

He shook off Boy’s hand and passed out. Paisley snatched his coat and
rifle from the hooks.

“He mus’n’t strike the back trail fagged like he is,” he said. “Come on,
Jim and Ander; we’ll coax him over to my place and put him to bed.”

“Yes, make him stay with you, Bill,” said Boy. “I guess there’s
somethin’ in what he said about flesh bein’ flesh at a time like this.”

He stood in the open doorway until he saw Paisley, Declute, and Peeler
overtake Broadcrook far down the snow-packed path. Then he turned into
the house, blew out the candle, and sat down before the fire. By and by
dreams came to him: they always came to him when the night was late and
he was alone by the dying fire. Sweet and restful dreams they were, too,
at times, when they were of the wide wood playground of used-to-be; and
he roamed its forest aisles with Gloss, and they were just “boy and
girl,” and the world was theirs. But there were other dreams—dreams
that brought a shadow to his eyes as unreadable and ununderstandable as
the shadow that sometimes dipped across the ridges, whose spirit he had
caught and held.

To-night the shadow was there, and the dream was not of the water,
marsh, or woodland, nor of the wild things, nor of Davie. But the girl
was there—she was always there, growing up out of the dead used-to-be
in spite of bitter thoughts and gnawing pain. And Boy saw her face
to-night, gloriously glad and strong and beautiful.

His love was a bound prisoner, and only the spirit of worship, sublime
and beautiful, enshrined his world, and the girl’s, with its sanctity.
He did not realize what he was holding bound; he realized only that he
was but a thing of the Wild, whose heart had caught aflame at a low
word; whose soul had surged at the touch of a warm breath. He did not
know that Gloss loved him. He did not realize his power. He was one of
God’s strong men.

Then the dream became of the marsh and water, and there was not a single
cloud in the world of the Wild, and in the deep quiet of his peace Boy
slept before the whitening coals.

When he awoke the gray dawn was peering into the room and he was alone
beside the dying embers. But he saw her face in the coals, and it was
his nature to be content with little. After all, there would always be
something left of which no earthly power could deprive him.



                             CHAPTER XXVII
                          While the Rain Fell


Watson, his feet on the table and his pipe alight, glanced across at
Smythe, who was standing before the window. It was evening, and the
falling rain made soothing, swishing music against the pane and upon the
low roof of the Bridgetown store. Watson watched the storekeeper
speculatively. At last he spoke.

“I told you we were playing a losing game,” he growled, “and here we are
waiting like a pair of trapped fox for the end. A mighty shrewd pair
we’ve been, to be sure. This double game don’t go, Smythe. I’ve played
it all my life—and what have I got by it? Nothing—absolutely nothing.”

Mr. Smythe smiled a faint smile and smoothed his hair with a thin hand.

“I will admit it looks as though we have been a little indiscreet,” he
returned. “That last move of ours was foolish—very foolish; but,
Thomas, we had to protect ourselves, and—ahem! we had to do what
Simpson wished. Otherwise——”

“Do you think I would have let that cur lay a finger on that little
girl?” cried Watson. “Look here, Smythe, I may be a cheat and a villain,
but I tell you I’m not all bad. Simpson’s threat that he would tell
Hallibut everything didn’t frighten me. But, drunken fool I was—and you
were too—to think that those Bushwhackers could be forced into yielding
up their rights through fear for the safety of the girl. Bah! it makes
me sick to think of what a fool I’ve been.”

“And I,” murmured Smythe; “I too, Thomas.”

Watson made a jesture of disgust.

“Yes, you, too. Well, what are we going to do about it? Of course, the
Colonel will go over to Bushwhackers’ Place, now the trail is clear.”

“He will likely go as soon as he can,” said Smythe in a low voice. “If
the weather hadn’t stopped him from going before now——”

“But there’s nothing to stop him now,” broke in Watson. “The trail’s
clear, as you know, and winter is about spent. Cursed one it has been,
too,” he added with a shiver.

Smythe came over and sat on the edge of the table. He picked up a fork
and toyed with it thoughtfully. At length, his light eyes shifting about
the room, and his voice softened almost to a whisper, he said:

“The dear Colonel is taking a big chance in visiting Bushwhackers’ Place
now. It’s almost suicide for him to attempt it.”

Watson glanced at the speaker and wiped his face on his hand.

“I wish there was some way to prevent his going,” he returned, “—if
only for a day or two. We’ve got to get out of here—that’s all.”

Smythe crept over to the window and pulled down the blind. The rain was
falling heavily now and the wind had risen to a roar that shook the
solid structure.

“My friend,” he smiled, “kindly invite our guest up to the
council-chamber.”

Watson bent and lifted a heavy trap-door in the floor.

“Come up, Satan,” he commanded.

In another instant a man’s head and shoulders were thrust through the
opening and Amos Broadcrook swung himself up into the room. He stood
squinting his good eye at the candlelight and rolling a quid of tobacco
from one side of his cadaverous mouth to the other. The man’s cheeks
were sunken and his whole attitude was one of abject fear.

“They ain’t comin’, be they?” he asked with a shudder. “You ain’t givin’
me up t’ them, men, be you?”

“Amos,” spoke Smythe, “playing ground-hog for over three months has used
you up. I guess a glass of whiskey wouldn’t come amiss, would it?”

“Whiskey,” whispered the wretched man; “be I goin’ t’ get whiskey? I
need it now if I ever did. What noise be that?” he asked, gripping
Watson’s arm with trembling hand.

Watson shook off the hand and said something in an undertone. Broadcrook
drank the whiskey which Smythe brought him and sank upon a stool.

“When are you goin’ t’ let me go?” he asked eagerly. “It’s rainin’ now,
and the snow’ll be gone by mornin’. Oh, men, let me go t’-night,” he
begged cringingly.

Mr. Smythe raised him gently and patted his shoulder in a fatherly way.

“Amos,” he chided, “you must be a man. You must bear up, my poor fellow.
Aye, truly but ‘conscience doth make cowards of us all.’ You should
strive to bear up under the burden, Amos.”

Broadcrook rolled his eyes about the room.

“I ain’t sayin’ as I’m sorry fer anythin’,” he growled, “an’ I ain’t
sayin’ as I wouldn’t like t’ do more ner I have fer some o’ them
Bushwhackers neither. It’s ’cause I’m scared Hallibut ’ll get me that
I’m shaky, and besides, old Noah’s ghost has been ha’ntin’ me again.
Gimme more whiskey an’ I’ll be all right.”

Watson poured out more of the spirits, and Amos drank greedily.

Watson’s eyes sought Smythe’s.

“They will be hunting you soon, Amos,” he said. “Colonel Hallibut has
sworn to run you down. He says he will put his dogs on your track.”

“Lor’,” shuddered Amos, taking his head in his hands.

Smythe edged closer and whispered:

“We have ascertained that he will go to Bushwhackers’ Place before
putting the dogs on you. Perhaps he wants something of yours to give the
dogs a scent.”

Broadcrook lifted his haggard face.

“An’ he’s goin’ t’ Bushwhackers’ Place?”

He sat nodding his big head up and down, evolving some wicked plan in
his slow-working brain.

“If I start away to-night I kin get across th’ border afore he kin let
th’ dogs out,” he said eagerly.

Watson shook his head.

“You couldn’t make it in four days, not in this weather,” he asserted.
“Besides, you’d leave a track that anybody could follow. Those dogs are
swift and they would have you in two days if you tried that way.”

“When d’ye think Hallibut’ll be goin’ over?” asked Amos, standing up.
The liquor had steadied his nerves and he spoke in his old voice.

Smythe shrugged his shoulders.

“A man from St. Thomas was in to-night,” he said slowly. “He says the
trail was pretty well blocked yesterday. We know Hallibut will go as
soon as it is possible for him to do so, and we know this rain means a
clear trail to-morrow. Also,” he added sinisterly, “we know that
Hallibut will surely call here on his way over, and that he is taking
his life in his hands by going at all.”

“Do you think he’ll get shot?” asked Amos.

“No danger,” said Watson. “You know what the Bushwhackers are like,
Broadcrook. It was over three months ago they made that threat. They
will never fire on the Colonel now.”

Smythe was walking to and fro, his hands in his pockets, his slippered
feet padding the floor with a soft tread like that of an animal.

“Of course,” he explained, his face smiling and his eyes on the floor,
“Mr. Watson and I both know that the Bushwhackers threatened to kill
Colonel Hallibut. But,” lifting his head and clasping his claw-like
hands together, “let us hope that a Higher Power will guide his
footsteps aright, even though his action in visiting those people is
suicidal to a degree.”

Watson made a wry face and relit his pipe.

Smythe continued to pace up and down, his lips moving as though in
prayer. Broadcrook sat huddled up in his chair, his great hands gripping
each other.

“I orter go back home jest for some things I left as I should have,” he
said craftily. He flashed a look from one to the other of the men, then
his gaze fell. “I’d sorter like company on account o’ the wolves. I
ain’t sayin’ as I’d go along with Hallibut, ’cause I know too much fer
that. But I could foller him like an’ keep close an’ he’d be company fer
me without knowin’ it.”

He settled lower in his chair, and Watson spoke.

“You will make tracks as fast as God’ll let you out of this country, and
if you get away safe it’s more than you deserve. A pretty pickle you’ve
put us in! Now, then, swear you’ll get for the States and never show
your face in these parts again, or down there in that hole you stay
until you can’t tell anything you know. See?”

Watson took a roll of greenbacks from his pocket and held it up.

“When you’re ready to swear that you never heard Smythe here suggest
anything, and that you will go where we want you to go—it’s yours.”

Amos glared up and opened his mouth as though to voice a protest, but at
sight of the money settled back trembling.

“Be you goin’ t’ give me the money as you promised?” he asked, looking
at Smythe and pointing to the bills.

“As soon as you confess that you were lying when you said I hinted
anything to you.”

“Course I was lyin’,” said Amos with a leer. “You never told me t’ do
nuthin’. You hear me, Watson,” he cried, “Smythe thar never told me what
I said he did; I were lyin’.”

“Heaven forgive you, as I do,” murmured Smythe.

“Gimme the money,” cried Amos. “I promise to get across the border right
smart.”

“I think,” said Smythe, taking the greenbacks from Watson’s hand and
counting them slowly, “I think we had better give you the money,
Amos—all but the sixty dollars coming to me for three months’ board,
and allow you to go in hiding in the cellar again. When the dear Colonel
comes, which I am sure he will very soon now, you will wait until he has
left for Bushwhackers’ Place, then you will bid good-by to this place
forever. No one will miss you, Amos, because you have no friends—but
that is your own fault. You will always have a troubled conscience for a
companion, but that is also your own fault. Remember, if you are
caught——”

Mr. Smythe slipped his long fingers about his thin neck and winked his
watery eyes.

“If you are caught, it’s all up with you, Amos.”

Broadcrook arose, his gaunt face twitching.

“Gimme another drink and I’ll go down in my hole again,” he said
hoarsely. “You call me arter Hallibut has been here and gone. I wanter
get away inter the States. You’ll let me have a rifle, won’t you, men?”
he begged. “I’m scart o’ the wolves—they’ve been bad this winter.”

Watson wheeled upon him.

“You swear you won’t shoot anybody,” he said.

“Haven’t I enough t’ answer fer?” groaned the wretch.

“All right, then, you can have the rifle.”

Then the trap-door fell, and Watson, resuming his seat by the table,
looked at Smythe.

“What are we going to do?” he asked.

Smythe shivered and glanced about him.

“You haven’t anything to hold you here, have you?” asked Watson. “This
place is mortgaged for all it’s worth—and you owe for everything in the
store, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Well?”

“I think we will not tempt Providence by remaining much longer,” said
Smythe. “We’ll flit to some far-off land and begin life anew.”

“And it won’t be a partnership affair, either,” said Watson.



                             CHAPTER XXVIII
                             A Clear Trail


Colonel Hallibut sat before the fire smoking and dreaming. The
monotonous winter had proven drear enough for him, accustomed as he was
to out-of-doors exercise, and now the splash of rain upon the roof fell
on his ears like the tinkle of music. Every morning for three months the
Colonel had told himself that he would visit those outlaws as soon as
the trail was clear, and demand that the man who burned his schooner
give himself up. But for three months the trail remained choked and the
frost promised death to anyone venturing any distance from shelter.
However, spring would now soon come bounding in, so the big man nursed
his wrath and said, “To-morrow.”

During the long waiting-time he walked between his house and stable, or
stalked among his dogs with scolding voice. Dick, the man-of-all-work,
kept out of his master’s way as much as possible, but sometimes the
Colonel had him come into the big room and sit before him while he
unburdened his mind.

“Those Bushwhackers have dared to burn my vessel and have threatened to
kill me,” he would say. “Think of it—threatened to kill me! I wonder if
the idiots have an ounce of sense or honor among them. They claim they
have their own laws, but we’ll show them that their laws don’t go very
far when it comes to firing men’s property. Here was I, ready to give in
that they were in the right about wanting to hold their timber. I was
fool enough to let myself be influenced by sentimentality. I was fool
enough to think them a simple nature-loving people who were attached to
their environment. Now I find them a low, lawless band of cut-throats,
capable of any crime. That Big McTavish, their ring-leader, is bad
enough, but he has a son who will stop at nothing, I understand. I have
no doubt that it was he set fire to my boat.”

At such times Dick would listen attentively and vouchsafe no remark.
Experience had taught him that silence was golden. The Colonel would
shake his head, relight his pipe, and go on.

“I blame myself a whole lot for not going among the people and finding
out just what they were, before allowing anybody else to run into
danger. I know they never did like me on account of my hounds. They
claim I slaughtered the deer and fox, and I thought it policy to keep
out of their way. I have nothing in common with those people. When I
took a notion to their timber I naturally thought that Watson and Smythe
could deal better with them than I could. You know how well they’ve
succeeded. Watson has been nearly killed and has been robbed of six
hundred dollars. At least he says so. Well, you numbskull, why don’t you
say something!”

Dick would grin foolishly and shake his head.

“I’m thinkin’, sir, as I don’t know hanythink t’ say,” he would remark.
“I like t’ ’ear you talk about what you know to be a fact, sir, an’
beggin’ your pardon, prefer t’ listen, sir.”

“Lord,” the Colonel would murmur, “it’s awful to have only a
thick-skulled Englishman to pour out my troubles to. But I must talk to
somebody. Your mother, lad, is a good woman, with more brains in one
bump than you have in your whole cranium. But she’s so deaf I’m afraid
I’ll bite her ear off trying to make her hear me. Then, too, she has a
nice way with her of thinking out loud. Of course, she can’t hear
herself, but I can hear her, and when her thoughts turn to me I tell you
I hear a lot that I would rather not hear. ‘Rough on the surface, but a
good man at heart, God bless him.’ That’s the kind of bouquets I get
from your mother, Dick, whenever I open up and tell her what I intend to
do with those Bushwhackers. ‘He wouldn’t hurt a baby, the kind
gentleman. He’s a Hallibut, every inch of him, and I carried him about
when he was a baby.’ That’s the kind of rubbish I get when she’s in the
room. By George! if she wasn’t an old family servant I’d fire her and
I’d fire you, too, you good-for-nothing, you. Why, fellow, just you
watch those dogs get down and crawl when I speak to ’em. Does that look
as though I was a kind-hearted gentleman? Does it?—answer me, sir.”

“It do not, sir. You surely are ’ell, sir, yes sir.”

“Only sensible remark you have made since this cursed winter set in.
Yes, I’m a rough ’un, I guess. I’m a match for that big hairy McTavish,
or any of them, eh?”

“You are, sir.”

“And you think they’ll find it out,—you do, don’t you?”

“They’ll find they have t’ deal with a tartar, sir. They’ll wish th’
’eavens would fall an’ cover ’em, sir, I’m thinkin’.”

Dick would answer solemnly and the Colonel would slap him on the back
and tell him that there was some hope for him yet.

Very often the big man would prefer to be alone, and there in his great
chair he would sit listening to the wind moaning through the bare trees.
Very often his thoughts would stray away back to the far-away days when
he roamed the hills and valleys of the land where he had held and lost
his happiness. And as he dreamed, his head would bend lower on his
breast and his hand would unconsciously tighten on the arm of his chair.
And after his dream he would awaken slowly, and, sighing, arise and
stand before the portrait on the wall. All men have their little
flower-gardens of memory—Colonel Hallibut’s lay away back among the far
hills.

“If she only had not gone,” he would murmur. “If she only had not gone,
or if only I had gone with her. Dear little Phoebe, my heart gets hungry
for you, and now I can only lead you along the old paths in fancy,
girl.”

And the pictured face would grow wistful and he would whisper:

“The part you knew and owned of me is all right, girl. I’m not such a
bad chap; I’m a big bluff, just a big bluff. I remember, dear, even
though the joy of memory is painful. Glimpses are all I can stand, my
little sister.”

Then the shadows would flicker and the Colonel would creep back to his
old place and snooze and forget. Sometimes, very late, as he groped his
way from the room, his eyes would seek the face in the frame, and all
bitter thoughts would melt away from him. He would speak “Good-night”
from the door and the portrait would smile upon him. But many and many
nights these questions would arise to trouble him:

“Why did they burn my boat! Why should they threaten my life?”

And now the first spring rain was falling, whispering a promise of clear
trails and open weather. There was the very essence of spring in the
soft voice and damp smell. The Colonel sat before the fire thinking of
what he would do, and how he would act, now that the weather permitted
his going forth to show the Bushwhackers just how greatly they had
erred. And he intended to show them that he had the law behind him. If
they refused to give the incendiary up to justice, then he would get the
machinery into motion which would speedily make them. He did not believe
for a moment that they would refuse to give over the men who had broken
the law. They well knew that he, Colonel Hallibut, wasted no words, and
made no promise he could not fulfill. As for their threat to shoot him
on sight, he hooted the idea as absurd. They might be murderers, but
they were not fools. Nor would he, as he had first decided to do, take
anyone else with him when he sought an explanation from and made a
demand of the Bushwhackers. To take a body-guard would lead them to
think that he was afraid.

All night long the Colonel sat listening to the rain, anticipating that
of which the elements had deprived him for three long months. As the
night advanced he grew more restless, and only when the tardy day began
to dawn did his eyes close in sleep. The old housekeeper found him
asleep in his big chair. This was nothing unusual, and she simply
replenished the fire noiselessly and slipped out to prepare breakfast.
Dick came in, when it was ready, and gently shook his master’s arm.

“Breakfast, sir,” he apologized; “it’s ready, sir.”

The Colonel arose and stretched his huge person. Then he went over to
the window. Not a single patch of snow was visible. He threw open the
door and stepped outside. From the ground arose a smoky haze that tasted
of earth and roots, and he breathed it into his lungs with long,
grateful breaths. He quickly prepared himself for breakfast and passed
into the dining-room.

“After you have finished your meal, Dick, put the saddle on bay Tom,” he
commanded. “Don’t ask any questions, now. Fact is, I’m going down to
have it out with those murderers in Bushwhackers’ Place. I’m going
alone, but I’m going loaded for trouble. I’ll take my pistols and the
double-barreled rifle. If I don’t come back in two days you had better
come and look for me.”

“Lor’!” breathed Dick, starting.

“There, now, you needn’t get scared,” laughed the Colonel. “I’m going
out now to say good-by to the dogs. Get Tom out as soon as you can.”

Hallibut walked to the dog-kennels. Yelps and whines besought him as he
passed along, but his head was bowed and he did not call out, as was his
fashion, to his friends. Instead, he bent and patted each of those
wistful-faced brutes that nosed and rubbed against him, speaking to each
in an undertone of forced jollity.

“Sprague, you old beggar, you’re glad it’s spring, aren’t you? Hello,
Nell, what are you doing away from your puppies at this time of day?
Poor old Jep—come on, old chap. Ha, ha, he’s a good-for-nothing old
codger, he is.”

He walked over to the corner of the yard, the pack following him, and,
seating himself on a bench, called the dogs in close beside him.

“Boys,” he said, and his voice was not quite steady, “some people would
think me either a fool or a crazy man if they saw me out here saying
good-by to you. But some people don’t know dogs. I do. We’ve been good
friends, old chaps, haven’t we? There, Jep, it’s just like you to speak
first,” as the old dog lifted his head and whined, “but I guess you
voice the sentiment of the whole pack.” The Colonel glanced about him.
“For the first time in a long while,” he said, “I’m going on a journey
without taking any of you along. I wish I didn’t have to go, but go I
must. If I come back we’ll have many a good chase together. And if I
don’t——”

“Your ’orse, sir,” cried Dick from the gate.

Ten minutes later the Colonel rode the trail once again.

It was just coming noon when he drew rein before Smythe’s store at
Bridgetown and sent a hello out upon the air. The new spring day was
still misty with sweet-smelling fog. The wind blew from the south soft
and refreshing. Mr. Smythe opened the door and, seeing who his visitor
was, came forward with an exclamation of pleasant surprise.

“Heaven be praised, it’s the dear Colonel,” he cried.

“Watson,” he called, “come out and greet our dear friend, Colonel
Hallibut. Just please dismount, sir, and I’ll stable your horse.”

“I’ll dismount, but I’ll stable my own horse, I guess. I want to be sure
that he gets fed. He’s got fifteen miles of bush travel before him,”
grunted the Colonel.

Watson came forward with outstretched hand.

“How are you, Colonel Hallibut?” he said.

“Why, I hardly expected to see you, at least not in the flesh,” rejoined
the Colonel, ignoring the hand. “Haven’t found that six hundred in any
of your pockets, I suppose?”

Watson started.

“I have not,” he answered sullenly, a slow flush dyeing his face. “I
don’t hope to, either. You know, of course, that the Bushwhackers stole
the money.”

“So you said in your touching letter,” replied the Colonel, “but I
expect you to repay it—every cent of it. I’ll give you two weeks.
Smythe,” he asked, turning to that gentleman, “how is it Watson isn’t
dead and buried! I understood you to say he was anxious to die and in a
fair way of doing it.”

“Man proposes and God disposes,” said Smythe piously.

“Humph,” returned Hallibut, “it’s too bad the men who tried to dispose
of Watson didn’t make a clean job of it.”

“Come into the other part,” invited Smythe, “dinner is all ready, sir.”

The Colonel sat down to the table, placing his rifle close beside his
chair.

“A little liquor!” inquired the host, leaning toward the cupboard.

“Not any, thanks,” returned Hallibut. “Who’s smoking that rotten
Canada-Green tobacco?” he demanded sharply. “’Tain’t you, is it?” as
Watson turned quickly.

Watson shook his head and glanced at Smythe.

“Man by the name of Jamison was in here just before you came,” explained
Smythe. “He smoked Canada-Green.”

“Funny,” murmured Hallibut, “it seems to be getting stronger.”

Smythe stamped gently upon the floor.

“What are you dancing about?” asked the Colonel, “isn’t it strictly
against your religious code?”

“A touch of chilblain, my dear Colonel——‘ghost’s itch,’ my sainted
mother used to call it.”

“Humph! it must be a ghost smoking that Canada-twist,” laughed Hallibut.

“If I thought it was,” declared Smythe, “I would bid him cease. I
would,” he cried, raising his voice, “I would command him in this way:
‘Stop smoking immediately!’” Mr. Smythe enforced his command by another
thump on the trap-door.

“You must be crazy,” grunted the Colonel, “guess I’d better be pushing
along. I’m going over to let those Bushwhackers know just where they
stand.”

“Dear Colonel, don’t go to Bushwhackers’ Place,” begged Smythe. “They’ll
shoot you as sure as you are born.”

“They certainly will,” confirmed Watson.

The Colonel nodded.

“Let ’em,” he grated, and, picking up his rifle, he passed out followed
by the distressed Smythe.

When they had gone Watson lifted the trap-door.

“You idiot,” he fumed, “you almost cooked our goose with your stinkin’
Canada-Green tobacco. I’ll be mighty glad to see the last of your red
head, Amos. No, you mus’n’t come up yet. Be patient for five minutes
longer; then, away you go. And may you not stop until you’ve crossed the
border.”

“I’ll lose no time, don’t you fear,” whispered a hoarse voice from the
darkness, and Watson let the trap-door fall with a shudder.



                              CHAPTER XXIX
                         Blue Skies and a Cloud


Had Colonel Hallibut known that the Bushwhackers had awaited the melting
of the snows quite as impatiently as he himself had, it might have
surprised him. And had he known that the Bushwhackers were just as eager
to have an explanation from him as he was to have an explanation from
the Bushwhackers, he certainly would have been somewhat puzzled.

During the long evenings, as the loom of the weavers chided and the good
wives turned the spinning-wheels, the men of the wood molded bright
leaden bullets and measured black powder into curved horns. When the
three-days’ rain began Bill Paisley went over to McTavish’s and stayed
with Boy until the snows were licked away. All throughout Bushwhackers’
Place there surged a wave of unrest; a feeling of apprehension held the
people, and they waited for what they felt must soon come. Hallibut, so
they believed, had threatened to drive them from their rights. Behind
him lay a power of which they knew little, but which they were prepared
to combat if necessary with their lives. So during the rains that broke
the manacles of winter the bushmen came together, strong-armed and clear
of eye, strong of purpose and true to the great law that governed them.
On one point they had unanimously agreed, and that was, no shot must be
fired upon the interlopers until they themselves had opened hostilities.
Big McTavish had urged this and was firm in his mandate.

“We’ll fight, men,” he said, his arm about his wife’s shoulder. “We’ll
fight for our own, even if we be but a handful, but we’ll not fire
first. Best to be sure than sorry.”

Now the men had met together again on what they seemed to feel was the
eve of battle. The trails would be clear to-morrow and Hallibut and his
followers would come very soon. So, throughout the night, with the soft
rain falling and the forest waking beneath the kiss of spring, the
Bushwhackers sat speaking in low tones before the fire in the big inner
room, and the wives sat together discussing the probabilities of the
coming conflict.

Big McTavish was for having all remain in their domain until the
appearance of the enemy. Bill Paisley thought differently.

“What I advise,” he suggested, “is that we send out three men along the
trail, and have ’em act as scouts. Let ’em keep to the timber, an’ when
they see Hallibut and his men comin’, let ’em drop back and give the
alarm. We’ll know best how to meet ’em when we know their numbers.”

Declute supported Paisley.

“I’ll go for one,” he volunteered, “and Peeler thar I know’ll go for
another.”

“I’m with you,” nodded Peeler, and Boy sprang up.

“Let me go,” he begged; but the others shook their heads.

“You’re needed here,” they said, and Paisley drew Boy back into his seat
again with:

“You can’t go, Boy; that’s all there is to it. Somethin’ tells me that
Hallibut won’t bring his men down in a rush. Seems it ain’t his way to
do things like ordinary men do ’em. He’s most like to send word by one
of his tools that he’s comin’, first. I wouldn’t be at all surprised but
that he’d come first himself. He’s goin’ to blame us for burnin’ his
schooner, I have no doubt. He’s goin’ t’ do that so’s to have an excuse
t’ wipe us out. He’s deep as he is wily. However, be that as it may, you
men along the line mus’n’t let your feelin’s get the best of you. If
Hallibut sends a spy along, keep clear of him, and don’t cock a gun,
remember.”

Gloss stood in the doorway between the two rooms listening to the
conversation of the men. Beside her was Daft Davie, his hand in hers.
The girl’s face was pale and she looked as though she had not been
resting well. Her great eyes were fastened on Boy’s face, and once he
glanced toward her, but looked quickly down again. She passed across the
room now, and over to him. The men were laying their plans of picketing
along the trail. Boy looked up and smiled. Davie squatted in his old
attitude beside him.

“Boy,” said the girl softly, “won’t you promise me what I’ve
asked—won’t you?” she pleaded, bending over him.

Her breath fanned his cheek and the red blood leaped in his veins. She
brushed back his tangled curls with an old-time caress.

“It seems just as though we was little boy and girl again,” she
whispered, “and you always promised me what I wanted then.”

“I can’t promise you——” he hesitated. “Glossie,” he said tenderly,
“won’t you please not ask it? I don’t want to make a promise I can’t
keep, and you know what I intend to do.”

“And if you do it,” she gasped, “oh, Boy, if you do, I can’t—we
can’t——”

She turned her head away and he saw a shudder run through her frame. He
reached out and drew the girl close to him.

“You’ve got to finish,” he said. “What can’t we do, Gloss?”

“I don’t know,” she answered wearily.

She was looking past him and the despair in her eyes cut his soul.

“Girl,” he whispered, “I’ll promise you not to kill Simpson; ’course
I’ll promise you. I reckon I understand why you want my promise. I
didn’t know before, I only suspicioned and dreaded. If he was a good
man, now,” he smiled, “why, I’d be right down glad for your sake. But I
won’t hurt him, Gloss, not even if he tries to shoot me.”

She stooped and looked into his face.

“Boy,” she said softly, “thanks for the promise; but it’s you I
love—not him.”

Then she ran from the room.

Boy arose. In his heart a song was ringing that set the whole world—his
world—agog with joy. Paisley came over and touched him on the shoulder.

“I’ve asked you somethin’ three times,” he said. “It’s comin’ mornin’,
and the rain is done. The scouts are goin’ out along the trail. I want
to know who is to stay here with you and Mac while the rest of us are
totin’ up what we’ll maybe need for a seige.”

“I guess we don’t need anybody here,” said Boy.

He walked absently about the room and, coming back, put his hands on
Paisley’s shoulders.

“Bill,” he pleaded, “I want t’ go with the scouts.”

Paisley shook his head decisively.

“No good,” he said firmly, “you can’t go; that’s all.”

“Bill,” said Boy, “I’ve give my promise that I won’t hurt Simpson, won’t
that let me go?”

“Nor anybody else?”

“Nor anybody else.”

“Well, I guess that _will_ let you go,” chuckled Bill. “I guess it will.
Fact is, you’re the one ought to go. You’re worth all the others put
together at scoutin’. Here you, Lapier, come back here. Boy’s goin’
along in your place. Your wife’s kickin’ like everythin’ on your goin’,
so you stay here.”

Boy stepped forward and looked into the inner room. On the floor here
and there, on furs, lay chubby-faced babies, sleeping sweetly, and on
fur shake-downs close beside them the mothers of Bushwhackers’ Place lay
sleeping and dreaming perhaps of olden days in the retreat, before
troubles came to cloud its tranquil skies. He tiptoed across the room
and stood beside two sleepers in the shadow. His mother’s arm encircled
the neck of the girl who had let happiness into his heart. He removed
his cap and kneeling kissed the mother’s cheek tenderly, then reverently
he touched the girl’s brow with his lips, and slipped away. And through
the faint light a pair of wide-open eyes, mellow with God’s earthly
happiness, followed him. Boy found his waiting companions outside, and,
slapping Declute’s narrow shoulders, he bounded down the path toward the
creek.

All the world was waking up to spring. The woody doty smells of the Wild
crept into his life and stirred his pulse to the symphony of his world.
His whole being responded to the waking-time and his kingdom was still
his—aye, more than his kingdom was now his. Above his head, a gray
streak against the smoky fog, a flock of home-nesting ducks fluttered
lazily by. They were flying low and the leader’s soft quack sounded to
him like a greeting from friends long absent. The creek, washed of its
snow, lay still ice-fast, but clear and milk-blue with the tinge of
wakefulness upon its face. By night the ice would be broken and the
current would bear it, grinding and joyful, out to the open water of the
bay, and by and by into the clear waters of the lake. A lone grouse
strummed his joy upon a log hidden in a thicket. Down in the fallow a
cock-quail was whistling “Bob-White.” Across the creek the heavy snows
of winter had carried the flimsy roof of Hallibut’s mill to the bank. It
lay where the current would sweep it out into the open water. The
schoolhouse, through the fog, loomed up totteringly, seeming to bend as
though imploring the creek to carry it away from the place from which it
was estranged.

“Think the ice strong enough to bear us?” queried Declute. “It’s some
worn, ain’t it?”

“It’s strong enough,” Boy answered. “We’ll drag the canoes across. This
ice’ll be gone by night.”

Quickly the men secured the boats and with two men to a boat they passed
across the creek, carefully keeping to the white ice. Once a man broke
through, and one of the others, by a quick movement, caught him and
pulled him to safety. So, with a laugh and a “now all together,” they
beached the boats on Totherside and sought the soft-wood where the
Triple Elm trail lay.

Along the trail the men moved, speaking little, for each was occupied
with his own thoughts. To one and all the opening of spring had come as
a blessing after the shackles of a long, harsh winter. They all felt its
spirit and their steps were springy, their hearts, in spite of
apprehension, were glad. Three miles along the trail Boy stationed his
first picket.

“You’d better stay here, Jim,” he said, “and keep a sharp lookout for
Ander. If you hear a high-holder call, you answer it. Then make for
Bushwhackers’ Place fast as your legs’ll carry you.”

Two miles further on Declute took up his station and Boy passed on down
the trail alone. In the wood it was deep and still and gloriously
restful. Squirrels bounded hither and thither and grouse twittered their
joy-notes. A red fox slunk into the thicket and the kittens rolled in
front of him in playful dispute. He had to step over them to keep to the
path. Further on, a pole-cat, or skunk as the animal was called by the
Bushwhackers, was grubbing for food in a decayed log. Boy knew at a
glance that she too had babies sleeping somewhere close by, and he
smiled as she cast a look of inquiry at him from her bright eyes and
went unconcernedly on with her work.

Three miles deeper into the wood Boy stepped aside into the undergrowth
and seated himself upon a log. All through the forenoon he sat there
thinking and dreaming of Gloss and wondering why he had never before
thought she cared. He reviewed bit by bit the events of the past four
months and strove to piece them together so as to make something of the
whole. Why had Hallibut instructed his men to steal Gloss? And why was
Simpson one of the gang? He thought he knew the answer to that question.

The forenoon passed and two hours of the afternoon had gone before Boy’s
ears were rewarded with the sound of hoof-beats along the trail. He
crept forward and peered down the path. Colonel Hallibut, astride a
bright-bay horse, came riding slowly along the trail. His head was low
on his breast and he passed so closely to Boy that he might have touched
the horse’s nose. Boy let him pass, his intention being to drop back
into the timber and run ahead of him. Just as Boy was about to creep
back into the bush he heard the muffled tread of a man’s foot. He
waited, his hand fumbling the lock of his rifle. As he peered through
the brush he could hardly suppress an exclamation, for Amos Broadcrook,
his huge form bent and his face haggard and sunken, crept swiftly past
him. Five paces on the man sank on one knee and threw his rifle forward.
Boy was quick to divine his motive and just as quick to act. His own
rifle was leveled and one second before Broadcrook’s rifle cracked Boy’s
bullet struck the barrel of the other gun and the would-be murderer’s
bullet went singing into the bush on the right.

The shock threw Broadcrook upon his face, and before he could regain his
feet Boy was upon him. In vain the giant strove to shake off that sinewy
form. Boy clung to him and held him. He heard Hallibut give a cry of
surprise and a moment later Amos was pinned down the more effectively by
the Colonel’s weight. The big man held a pistol at Broadcrook’s head and
Boy arose and unbuckled one of the stirrup-straps. In another minute
Amos was fast bound. Then Colonel Hallibut turned to Boy.

“Seems as though life was very uncertain about here,” he remarked. “I
understand that animal tried to shoot me, but can’t understand why you
didn’t let him. Suppose you explain.”

He frowned at Boy and put his pistol in his belt.

“I understand you Bushwhackers made a threat to shoot me on sight. Why
didn’t you let _him_ do it?”

Boy’s eyes gleamed dangerously.

“It won’t do you any good to talk like that,” he cried. “I guess if we
did shoot you on sight it’s about what you deserve. You tried to steal
our little Gloss, you and your gang. And you send us word that you
intend to drive us into the bay. Well, Colonel Hallibut, you’ll find it
pretty hard to drive us people anywhere. I saved you from bein’ killed
just now, but that was only ’cause you wasn’t gettin’ a chance. Us
Bushwhackers are queer. We have a funny way of givin’ things a square
deal. We don’t fire at folks from behind, and we don’t try to steal
women, either.”

The Colonel’s eyes opened in surprise.

“What are you talking about?” he thundered. “Do you mean to say that I
tried to kidnap one of your women? Young man,” he warned, “I’m grateful
to you for what you’ve just done, but don’t you try to be funny with me.
I haven’t been across on your Bushwhackers’ Place. I haven’t done
anything to any of your people, either. I did try to buy your timber,
but that’s all. My agents have been among you, and a nice way you’ve
used them, I must say. Nearly killed Watson, and stole six hundred
dollars of my money from him. Then you up and burn my schooner. That’s
what I call hospitality with a vengeance.”

“You burned your own schooner,” cried Boy, “and if Watson and Simpson
got rough handlin’, it was because they deserved it.”

“What had Simpson to do with this affair you speak of?” asked Hallibut
quickly.

“He was there with you and Watson the night you tried to steal Gloss,”
said Boy, his mouth twitching.

“Young fellow, you’re crazy,” groaned Hallibut. “I tell you if anybody
tried to steal the girl, I don’t know anything about it.”

“Your agent, Watson, says that you threatened to kill a few of us off,”
said Boy grimly. “Broadcrook there heard him, didn’t you, Amos?”
glancing down at the shaggy form on the ground.

Hallibut snorted.

“Humph! and come to think of it, it was Watson heard you say that you
would set fire to my schooner,” he flashed. “You’re Boy McTavish, I
guess, aren’t you?”

“I am Boy McTavish, but I never said that.”

“It was me fired the schooner,” said Amos.

“You?” cried the Colonel.

“He as much as hired me to do it,” said Amos, “—Smythe did. And he
hinted as he’d pay me fer doin’ fer old Noah, and I did.”

“No, you didn’t,” cried Boy; “Noah is alive and well.”

“Then I ain’t got no murder ’gainst me,” cried Broadcrook, “an’ they
can’t hang me, kin they?”

Hallibut stood biting his lip, his shaggy brows twitching. At last he
raised his eyes slowly to Boy McTavish.

“See here,” he said at length, “I can’t just make this thing out. I
guess I’ve been making a mistake and I guess you have, too, Boy. I’ve
done you no wrong, neither you nor yours. And I know now that you and
yours have done me no wrong. I came over here purposely to demand that
you give yourself up for burning my boat, and I’m glad I came. I want to
shake hands with you, if you’ll do it, and thank you for saving my life.
Then I want to go down to Bushwhackers’ Place and shake hands all round.
I—I——”

The big man’s face was working, and Boy found it difficult to keep his
own voice steady as he wrung the Colonel’s hand and said:

“You won’t find any of us hard to get acquainted with, Colonel. We’re a
queer lot in some ways, but I guess we all know real men. You come along
with me and I’ll show you.”

“What are we going to do with this crazed wretch?”

Hallibut pointed down at Broadcrook.

Boy did not answer at once. He stood looking at Amos thoughtfully.

“What made you try to kill the Colonel?” he asked sternly.

“Smythe and Watson told me he was goin’ t’ set the hounds arter me,”
groaned the man, “an’ I thort if I got his horse I would get across the
border too quick fer ’em. Oh, I’ve been in hell, I tell you; shut up in
the dark for three long months. I guess I was crazy.”

“Here are Declute and Peeler,” cried Boy. “We’ll let them bring Amos
back with them. You and I’ll go on, Colonel Hallibut, if you’re ready.”

The Bushwhackers came running up, their faces showing their surprise. In
a few words Boy explained everything, and leaving the two men to look
after the captive, they passed down the trail, the Colonel riding and
Boy leading the way. As they passed into the open of Totherside the
Colonel pointed to the mill.

“That’s got to come out of there,” he said. “There aren’t going to be
any more mills or schoolhouses in these parts until you people want
them. Then you’re going to get what you want.”

Boy did not answer. He could not answer. But there was a crushing,
choking joy in his heart. They stabled the horse in widow Ross’s barn.
The place was strangely silent. The Rosses were over at Bushwhackers’
Place.

The ice in the creek was breaking up and running out fast. The creek,
fed by the rivulets of the wood, was swollen now so as to make crossing
by boat comparatively easy. This accomplished, Boy led Colonel Hallibut
up to the house.

“Come in,” he invited.

The Colonel stepped inside and bowed low to the body of astonished
people who watched him. Boy waved his hand for silence, then he stated
the true facts of the case.

“Now,” he cried, “let every man shake hands with Colonel Hallibut.”

They surged about the big man joyfully. Hands were extended, and the
Colonel with a laugh made as though to speak, but, instead, he stood
gazing across at a tall girl clad in soft deerskin skirt and jacket. She
was gazing back at him from eyes he had known long years ago in that
playground far back.

“So like!” he whispered. “Same face, same hair, same great, glorious
eyes!”

He leaned against the wall, trembling.

“Phoebe,” he said at length, and held out his arms.

Gloss leaned toward him.

“That was my mother’s name,” she said. “Did—did you know my mother,
sir? See, this is her likeness in this little locket about my neck.”

She ran over to him and he took the locket from her hand and opened it.
For a brief moment he gazed on the face of the little picture, then he
raised it to his lips.

“Little girl,” he said simply, “I did know your mother: she was my dear
sister.”

Then, with a dry sob, the man clasped her in his shaking arms. She
stroked his gray hair with her hand, her soul claiming him and clinging
to him, and as she looked into his face she said softly:

“I’m so glad; so very, very glad. I had so much before you came and now
I have you—you.”

The Colonel attempted to speak. The tears were streaming down his
cheeks. Paisley walked from the room blowing his nose on his red
handkerchief. Peeler, his back to the others, whistled a tuneless dirge
and looked through the window. As for the women, they were one and all
behaving like foolish women must behave on such an occasion. Only Boy
stood unmoved, watching, thinking, waiting. It came at last.

“All I have in the world belongs to you now, little girl,” said Hallibut
gently. “I give it all to you for the sunshine you have let into my
gloomy life. You will never leave me again, now I have found you, Gloss,
will you?”

Then Boy went out into his dark-blue open and sought his woods again.
Thank God he was strong and able to fight. It was all over now—his
newly found dream of happiness. His hope was dead, buried and put away
forever. But even a grave may feel the warmth of sunshine. The sunshine
of a girl’s new happiness would always warm the grave Boy dug that
afternoon alone in the awakening forest. It is the nature of a hurt wild
thing to creep away into the dark and heal its wounds or die alone. When
Boy returned that night his scar was hidden, and no one guessed that he
had fought and conquered for love’s sake.



                              CHAPTER XXX
                         The Dawn of a New Day


Colonel Hallibut did not return to St. Thomas that night as had been his
intention. Indeed, in his great and newly found happiness he forgot that
he had cautioned Dick, his man, to come looking for him in case he did
not return within a certain time.

And then the great-hearted Bushwhackers absolutely would not let him go
so soon, now they knew him as he was.

“God bless us,” laughed the Colonel, “it’s so human of us to miss the
worth-while things that might be secured by simply reaching out for
them. Here you good people have been for years, and over there I have
been for years—lonely, God knows, and hungry for such companionship as
I am now enjoying. And to think—to think that I have not understood
until now!”

So the Colonel stayed at Big McTavish’s and all the Bushwhackers came
over in the evening to make merry, and make merry they did, for had they
not reason to be glad?

And after the neighbors had gone Big McTavish sat with Hallibut before
the fire and they talked of Gloss’s mother until the purple glow of
another spring morning bored its way through the fragrant wood-mists.
The Colonel sat with bowed head while McTavish told the story of the
brave little woman he had known in Arizona; how she had endeared the
rough cattlemen to her; how unwavering and unselfish she had been; and
finally how she had intended to come to live with his family in the new
Canadian Wild, and how they had looked for her coming in vain!

At the conclusion of his narrative the Colonel sat caressing a little
gold locket. The tears were running down his seamed cheeks.

“I used to think that God made fewer noble men and women than He did
dogs,” he said huskily, “but I don’t think that now. He made you and
your wife, McTavish. I can’t thank you for what you have done. I know my
thanks don’t count anyway. But, look here, I have always been a rich
man, and, Mac, if I were asked to choose between this new happiness I’ve
lately found and all my lands and money, d’ye know which I would
choose?”

McTavish smiled.

“Us bush-folks believe that best and most lastin’ joys are always close
to us and easy found,” he said.

Hallibut arose and paced to and fro across the room.

“McTavish,” he said abruptly, “I know the man who sent little Gloss to
you.”

Big McTavish looked up quickly.

“You do? Then, who is he?”

“Paisley told me to-night that Watson had reminded him of somebody, and
only lately did he recollect who. Paisley says that Watson’s real name
is Watts, and Watts has five thousand dollars of my sister’s money. He
stole it, McTavish; stole it from a dead mother and a helpless baby.
I’ll tell you the story.”

Hallibut seated himself and related the story which had been told him by
the Sandwich fisherman.

“What are you goin’ to do to him, Colonel?” asked McTavish after
Hallibut had finished.

The Colonel drew in his breath quickly. His eyes were on the tall,
dark-faced girl who had just entered like a breath of spring. The set
look faded from his face and the flashing eyes grew tender as he held
out his arms. She came to him and patted his face caressingly.

“I heard you speaking,” she said. “I heard what you said about Watson.
Uncle, dear, let’s forget all about Watson. Let’s just be happy now, all
of us.”

“But, child——” commenced the Colonel.

“How much am I worth to you?” she smiled, throwing her arms about his
neck.

“All the world, Gloss,” he answered.

“If he had not sent me away with Noah you would never have found me,”
she whispered.

“It’s true, it’s true,” cried Hallibut. “Strange I didn’t see it that
way before.”

“Then you won’t punish him—nor anybody, will you?” she pleaded, “—not
even Amos Broadcrook.”

“But Broadcrook burned my boat,” cried the Colonel. “It is best to put
him in jail, dear, where he can do no more harm.”

“Amos couldn’t live in jail,” said the girl, “for he’s of the woods.
He’ll die if you cage him up.”

Hallibut gathered her close to him.

“Ah, child, but you’re like your little mother,” he laughed. “She was
always pleading for the trapped and downed things, and, egad! she always
got her way with me, as you will be bound to get yours.”

“Then you’ll not punish him,” she cried gladly. “Oh, that is so good of
you!”

She darted away and Hallibut looked at Big McTavish and shook his head.

“I don’t know but that was a mistake on my part,” he said. “Those
fellows deserve punishment if ever men did. They as much as bribed
Broadcrook to burn my boat, and I guess he was after me, too. He tried
to steal dear little Gloss, and intended trying to make you good people
believe I did it, and by pretending to be in sympathy with you get
possession of the deeds of your properties.”

The door was thrown open and in sprang Boy. He was panting as from a
race.

“Hello,” exclaimed his father, “where’ve you been?”

“I stayed with Bill Paisley last night,” explained Boy. “You know we had
Amos Broadcrook locked up at his place. We fell asleep for a few minutes
and Amos got away. Somebody outside helped him—his brother Hank likely.
Anyway, he’s got clean away.”

“And where do you suppose he has gone?” asked Hallibut.

“Across the border likely,” returned Boy. “We’re goin’ after him, sir,
and we’ve got to start right now, ’cause the creek’s risin’ and gettin’
dangerous. In half an hour we can’t get across.”

Hallibut looked at Big McTavish, then he turned to Boy.

“Do you think he’ll go across the line?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Then, let the poor beggar go. I’ve promised Gloss that I won’t
prosecute him.”

Boy whistled.

“Well——” he commenced, then turned abruptly away.

He was glad, glad, glad. He did not know why, nor care why. He could not
bear to think of anything of the bush-world being shut up without a
chance of escape. He passed outside and Hallibut followed him.

“Boy,” said the big man, “I guess you think me an old fool, don’t you?”

He went over and laid his hand affectionately on the young man’s arm.

“I guess I’m getting old and rather childish, Boy. I’ve just received
one of God’s great gifts, and there is nothing much in my old heart this
spring morning but joy—joy I’ve had to do without for many weary years.
Well, Boy, you know how the old trees of the bush lean when they’ve
lived their full years. You know how they topple and sag. You have seen
them do it, haven’t you? But sometimes a strong young sapling props them
up and they go on living and throwing out their leaves—but they’re not
standing alone.”

His arm slipped about Boy’s shoulders.

“Boy,” he said huskily, “I need a prop. I want to hang on because I’ve
just found real happiness. But I’m sagging, lad; I’m just an old tree.”

Boy turned and grasped the Colonel’s hand. He felt a tear splash down
and his throat tightened and burned.

“I guess I understand,” he said softly. “I’ve growed deep into—all
this, and there’s always a saplin’ you can lean on if you care to.”

He sprang away down the path toward the log-barn and the Colonel watched
him, a deep glow in his heart.

From the kitchen came the savory smell of frying bacon and Gloss’s happy
voice singing an old-fashioned song.

When they all sat down to breakfast, Big McTavish bowed his head and
asked God’s blessing on his bounty in these words:

“We thank thee for feedin’ us, O God. We thank thee for thy many
mercies, and we thank thee greatly for the sunshine after the darkness.”

And Granny from her end of the table added a fervent “Amen.”

After breakfast the Colonel drew Big McTavish aside and held a whispered
controversy with him. Then he turned to the “little ma,” and, holding
her hand in both of his, said:

“There is no reward that earth can give you great enough for what you
and yours have done for me and mine, but the great reward awaits you
all. I have received a great and wonderous blessing,” stroking the brown
curls of the tall girl beside him, “ah, so great a blessing! I am going
now, but I will come back soon, very soon, again.”

He turned, his eyes blinking, and glanced about the room at the others.

“God bless you all,” he said heartily, and strode outside, followed by
Big McTavish and Boy.

Coming up the path was a tired, dripping horse, bestrode by a weary,
dripping rider.

“Dick,” murmured the Colonel. “Of course, I might have known that he
would come searching for me.

“Why, lad,” he called, “you’re a bigger ninny than I thought you. You’re
half drowned.”

Boy ran forward and helped support the man as he dismounted.

“What’s wrong, Dick, lad?” asked Hallibut, catching sight of the new
arrival’s face.

Dick fumbled in one of his pockets.

“’Ere’s a letter, sir. I found it tacked to a tree houtside the lawn,
sir.”

Hallibut took the letter. It was a dirty, crumpled thing, and scrawled
across it were the words “Kenul Halbut.”

“Listen,” said the Colonel, “it’s from Amos Broadcrook. This is what he
says:

    “‘i intnted to git even with Smyth an Watson but they had skiped
    fer the stats but i have burnt the stor an hope you will be
    plesed i am goin away an haint ever comin back dont you put your
    dorgs onter me i be goin to live strate

                                               ‘amos broadcrook.’”

The men exchanged glances.

“Did he do it, Dick?” asked the Colonel.

“Yes, sir, the place was in hashes as I passed.”

“So endeth the——” began Hallibut, but he was abruptly checked by a
wet, bedraggled something that hurled itself against him with a low
whine of joy.

“Old Zip,” cried the Colonel, “you poor, crippled old devil, Zip.
Where—how——”

He staggered back, wiping the wet kiss from his cheek, and tears of
laughter stood in his eyes.

“’E jist wouldn’t stay ’ome, sir,” stammered Dick. “’E chewed three good
tie-reins clean through, sir, t’ git t’ you; ’e did, sir.”

Then the Colonel said a most extraordinary thing.

“He’d crawl through hell for me, boys, that old dog. And he’s come
to-day because we’ve always shared our joys and sorrows together. Come
and meet little Gloss, Zip.”



                              CHAPTER XXXI
                             A Mating Time


Spring held the world of the Bushwhackers in her soft arms. She awoke
the sleeping things with her warm breath. Her light shone on land and
marsh and sky. The great trees shivered and stretched their long arms
wakefully. The dry rushes along the creek quivered and sang in low
whispers, as the blue waters laved their drowsy roots. When the sun
flashed out at intervals the quiet waters of the flats would break, here
and there, and the flashing body of a pike would leap upward with a
mighty flop and, tumbling back, would twist and dart from rush-clump to
rush-clump, her mate, a long, mottled fish, following slowly, one length
behind, his blue-green dorsal-fin standing up above the water like a
tiny sail. Of the wood and marsh mating time, the strong, swift fish
claimed first right. They sought the quiet waters even when the ice
still crashed and ground, onward and outward. Up against the cold
current a school of them would move steadily, parting and mingling
again, a fragment detaching itself here where the rat-run offered a
haven, a fragment detaching itself there where the quiet water of the
flats rested beneath the white, smoky fog. This was the pike’s spawning
season, their play-time and love-time. In the early morning sunbeams
they would dart and leap and play until the shallow waters of the
rushland were white with foam, and there, after the manner of their
kind, they would mate and drift and move out into the deeper waters
again in twos and threes and fives, and seek the harbored spawning-beds
among the rushes further inland.

Next came the wee brown song-thrush, tumbling, an animated fragment,
from a fleeing snow-cloud, dropping from the sky and alighting with a
low chirp of joy on the bare twig of a baby tree of the woodland. Its
sweet, shrill little song, simple and glad, would travel into the quiet
places of the wood. “Gray-bird” it was called, and last to leave in
dreary fall, first to come back in springtime, it was Daft Davie’s
choice of all the birds he loved so well.

He stood beside the margin of the creek this morning, his face aglow
with the gladness of the spring. He looked across the swollen waters and
waved his arms toward the low-lying V-shaped water-fowl that swerved and
twisted and called in honking voices. It was Davie’s time of rejoicing.
His wild things were coming back to him. Ere long the black duck would
sweep above the marshland tinged with shooting green, and, trailed by
his mate, find his old nesting-ground. The boy’s soul craved what it
knew and understood. He was glad with the gladness of the wild, free
thing of wood and marsh. The gray-bird sang to him a little song which
he understood full well, and the wind, soft and balmy, sighed him a
promise that he knew would be redeemed. It was the first day of _his_
coming back, for he, too, had been away from his own just as the wee
bird had been. He turned from the creek and, followed by his pet
raccoon, sped upward across the hardwood ridge until he came to a lower
one of tall maple trees. Down across the soft, springy moss that
breathed him an essence he went. Davie’s joy-season had been born again.

Soon the green shoots would peep above the water and the rush-clumps
would rustle lullabys to tiny wide-mouthed fledgelings that gapped and
stretched in soft nests in the swinging reeds. The blackbirds would
swoop back again soon; and the marsh-birds that nested in the low
swales. In his basswood canoe Davie would explore anew the old haunts
and watch the tiny wood-duck dive and hide and peer with beedy eyes from
behind the tangled weeds. He loved the baby wild things with a love too
great to be understandable. Across the blue Eau, Point Aux Pins was
taking on a deeper tinge of green. Davie would go there and seek out the
nests of the timid grouse. He knew exactly where to find these nests and
the joy of watching the little baby grouse hide from him. He loved to
play hide-and-seek with them; to watch them scamper and dart and vanish.
They did not hide from Davie because they feared him, but because it is
the nature of all young things to play at hide-and-seek.

Down across the ridge the sugar-camp fire sent up a spiral of white
through the trees. In the early morning Boy McTavish stood before the
boiling sap, dipping from a large kettle into a smaller one. Big
McTavish, coming in with a barrel of newly gathered sap on a stone-boat,
stopped his oxen and laid his hand on Davie’s bare head.

“How’s Pepper?” he asked, smiling as he watched the raccoon roll and
sprawl upon the ground.

“Goad,” answered Davie simply in his own language.

McTavish laughed and proceeded to empty the barrel on the stone-boat
into the one alongside the kettles. This done he went over and sat down
beside Boy on the log.

“Never saw such sugar weather in all my life before,” he declared. “It’s
a good thing old Noah understands sugar-makin’. Don’t know what we’d do
without him, us havin’ to keep the pot a-boilin’ night and day this
way.”

“Did the Colonel leave this mornin’?” asked Boy, his eyes fixed on a bit
of blue sky in the open.

“No, but I guess maybe he will this afternoon though,” replied the
father. “He says that if he don’t go to-day Dick’ll likely come huntin’
him same’s he did before.”

“Dad,” said Boy, “don’t it all seem so queer? Think of Gloss bein’ the
Colonel’s niece, and think what that means to her. She can be educated
and all that now. The Colonel says he is goin’ to make her one of the
first ladies in the land. Says he’s goin’ to take her back to England
with him.”

Boy’s voice was husky and a film dimmed the spot of blue in the skies.

“Don’t he think a lot of Gloss, though!” agreed the father in emphatic
tones of satisfaction. “D’ye notice how he watches her, Boy? He says
it’s just like havin’ his little sister back with him again. Seems so
odd to hear him take on the way he does, and I guess he’s a big man in
more than size, Boy. You heard him say as he wouldn’t take her away from
us, didn’t you?”

Boy nodded.

“Yes,” he said with a sigh, “and that was big of him; but it would be
mighty selfish on our part, dad, if we tried to keep Gloss here now when
all he owns is hers, as he says. I guess it’s best that she goes along
with him. Maybe we can get a chance to see her once in a while. I don’t
think the Colonel will ever forget that Gloss sort of belongs to us
Bushwhackers, d’you?”

“Well, no,” mused McTavish, “I don’t think he will. He asked me to
explain just what he intended to do for her, and I couldn’t do it.
Wanted me to tell Gloss that she was to have an education and was to
live in a big, beautiful house in England. I said, ‘No, Colonel, it’s
your place to tell her yourself. I’d like break down on the job.’ And so
he’s goin’ to tell her this mornin’, Boy.”

Davie came over and put his raccoon on Boy’s knee. The animal rubbed its
sharp nose against Boy’s cheek, and he softly stroked its thick fur.

“I guess me’n you is built for the bush, Pepper,” he said. “We
understand, me’n you and Davie, what it means to belong to just one
place.”

Down on the clear air a girl’s voice came ringing.

“Boy,” it called, “oh, Boy!”

Boy sprang erect.

“It’s Gloss and the Colonel, dad,” he cried. “He’s told her and she’s
just so happy she wants us to know.”

“Hello, Gloss,” he called back, “just in time for a sugar-off. I was
gettin’ one ready for Davie.”

The Colonel was puffing and wiping his brow on his handkerchief.

“Gracious,” he cried, “our Gloss is a tartar on the walk. She has me
about winded.”

He drew Boy aside and spoke to him in a low tone.

“I can’t understand the darling,” he confessed. “She thinks a whole lot
of me already, Boy—I can see that. But she actually turned white when I
told her what we all thought would be good news to her. Says she, ‘Does
Boy know?’ And I said, ‘Why, dear, of course he knows, and he’s tickled
to death.’”

Boy bit his lips.

“Of course,” he agreed; “I’ll see what I can do, sir.”

“Yes, do,” cried the Colonel. “She seems to think what you say is about
right.”

Boy tried to laugh, but the attempt was a failure. He passed over to
where Gloss stood with Davie’s hand in hers.

“There’s some adder-tongues just peepin’ up in the valley, Gloss,” he
said. “Would you like to see ’em?”

She passed down the path beside him, and when the thicket of hazel hid
them from the others she put her hand on his arm.

“Tell me, Boy,” she said wistfully, “why am I to go away from you all?”

She looked at him with wide eyes and waved her hand outward. “—And all
this?” she added with a sob.

“Why, Gloss,” began Boy, then stood unable to go on, his whole being
revolting at the very thought of what he must say. “You see,” he managed
to say at last, “you’re the Colonel’s niece. You come of different stock
from us, Gloss. He has any amount of money and we all want you to go
with him and be educated like a lady. Oh, we’ll miss you, girl—but
there, that’s all there is to it. We want you to go. It’ll be best for
you.”

She caught her breath.

“Of course, if you want me to go,” she said, “why—why, Boy, I’ll go.”

“That’s a good girl,” smiled Boy bravely. “Now for the flowers.”

“I think I would rather go back,” she whispered. “I—I don’t want the
flowers.”

They walked back slowly and in silence. McTavish and Injun Noah were
piling fresh wood beneath the kettles.

“I guess we’ll all go up to the house,” said the big man. “Noah’ll watch
the boilin’ for an hour or so.”

They went back along the mossy, springy bush-path, drinking in the
breath of wild flowers, drinking in the songs of wild mating birds.

“I’ll come after her again in two weeks,” spoke Hallibut softly, when
Boy, as they walked side by side up the path, told him that Gloss had
consented to go with him. “God bless her; she has made a new man of me.
You don’t know what she has done for me. I’ve been so lonely for years
and years—and now it’s just like having little Phoebe back with me
again. Oh, but God is good!”

They were a happy enough gathering at dinner. The Colonel told some of
his amusing stories and Paisley recited his little experience in hunting
bee-trees. Boy spoke little, but seemed to enjoy listening to the
others. After dinner they all went out again into the sunshine. Widow
Ross was there, and she and Mrs. McTavish had their heads together, and
Paisley, who had drawn a little apart with Mary Ann, said he knew they
were plotting a custard or something equally delicious. Ander Declute
was there also; Ander and his large wife and all the little Declutes
with the big Biblical names. Peeler, too, with his family, and in fact
all of Bushwhackers’ Place seemed to be congregated to celebrate the
good tidings that McTavish’s Gloss had come into a “fortun’.”

After dinner was over Colonel Hallibut, beaming and smiling, shook hands
all round.

“What I’ve missed by not knowing you good people long ago,” he
exclaimed, “I’m going to make up for from this time on. As soon as I get
our Gloss comfortably settled in a young ladies’ college in the old land
I’m coming back here. I love all this wild place just as you all love
it. I know you will let the little girl and me share it with you at
times.”

“We’ll all be glad to have you,” shouted the Bushwhackers.

Gloss was standing with one hand on the old ash-leach and now she lifted
her face and looked at the Colonel.

“Uncle,” she said softly. The big man turned, then came over and stood
beside her.

“Dear little Gloss,” he said, patting the hand that grasped his. She
raised her head and looked across at Boy. Then she held out her other
hand. He came over, his heart beating wildly, the blood pounding his
temples. He took the hand and stroked it with a caress belonging to
childhood.

Colonel Hallibut’s brows puckered, then he smiled.

“Well, I’ll be——” He checked himself, and glanced from one to the
other of the young people. “Suppose we understand one another,” he said.
“Gloss,” he asked, “do you—do you love Boy here?”

“Yes,” she answered simply.

“And you love all this big, beautiful Wild, too?”

“So much!” she said.

“And you don’t want to leave it, dear?”

“No.”

The Colonel’s mouth twitched and the girl patted his cheek with her
hand.

“You love it, too,” she smiled. “Why not all stay here together?—surely
there is enough for all.”

“Hurrah,” seconded the Bushwhackers.

The Colonel chuckled and put an arm about each of the two young lovers.

“That’s a splendid idea,” he nodded, “—a splendid idea. Good people,
I’ll take you at your word. I’ll come and we’ll live here together. I
can’t say that I want to leave this place since I’ve been initiated into
the Brotherhood of the Untamed.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Twilight had scratched its purple tally-mark in the fringed west, and
the ducks were sweeping in from south in long lines, when Boy and Gloss
paused before a spot beside the path.

“That’s poor Joe’s grave,” said Boy. “Seems I miss him an awful lot
since the birds are comin’ back and the world’s alive again.”

“Poor old Joe,” sighed Gloss. “He won’t lie and watch and sleep by the
old ash-leach no more, Boy.”

He drew her close to him.

“Let’s don’t talk of Joe to-night, girl,” he said. “Let it be you and me
and the Wild.”

And so they passed up the path and the streak of crimson faded to orange
in the low sky, and from orange to gray-drab. In the lone tree beside
the path a little gray-bird sang its song.

                                THE END



                            PEERLESS SERIES
               _Bound in cloth. Jacket printed in colors_

     An Old Fashioned Girl                          Louisa May Alcott
     Black Beauty                                         Anna Sewell
     Children of the Abbey                                      Roche
     Child’s History of England                       Charles Dickens
     Christmas Stories                                Charles Dickens
     Dog of Flanders, A                                         Ouida
     East Lynne                                       Mrs. Henry Wood
     Elsie Dinsmore                                     Martha Finley
     Hans Brinker                                    Mary Mapes Dodge
     Heidi                                              Johanna Spyri
     Helen’s Babies                                    John Habberton
     Ishmael                                   E. D. E. N. Southworth
     Island of Appledore                                        Aldon
     Ivanhoe                                         Sir Walter Scott
     Kidnapped                                 Robert Louis Stevenson
     King Arthur and His Knights                               Retold
     Last Days of Pompeii                                      Lytton
     Life of Kit Carson                               Edward S. Ellis
     Little King, The                                   Charles Major
     Little Lame Prince                                   Miss Mulock
     Little Minister, The                                J. M. Barrie
     Little Men                                     Louisa May Alcott
     Little Women                                   Louisa May Alcott
     Oliver Twist                                     Charles Dickens
     Pilgrim’s Progress                                   John Bunyan
     Pinocchio                                             C. Collodi
     Prince of the House of David                 Rev. J. H. Ingraham
     Robin Hood                                                Retold
     Robinson Crusoe                                     Daniel DeFoe
     Self Raised                               E. D. E. N. Southworth
     Sketch Book                                    Washington Irving
     St. Elmo                                 Augusta J. Evans-Wilson
     Swiss Family Robinson                                       Wyss
     Tale of Two Cities                               Charles Dickens
     Three Musketeers, The                            Alexander Dumas
     Tom Brown at Oxford                                Thomas Hughes
     Tom Brown’s School Days                            Thomas Hughes
     Treasure Island                           Robert Louis Stevenson
     Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea                Jules Verne
     Twenty Years After                               Alexander Dumas
     Uncle Tom’s Cabin                          Harriet Beecher Stowe
     Under Two Flags                                            Ouida

_For Sale by all Book-sellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of 60 cents_
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                           TRANSCRIBER NOTES


Misspelled words and printer errors have been corrected. The author's
use of the term ‘Wall’ versus ‘Wal’ has been maintained.

Inconsistencies in punctuation have been maintained.

A frontispiece illustration has been added from a different edition.





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