It was haying time. Over the fields of
yellowing fall wheat and barley, of grey timothy and purple clover, the
heat shimmered in dancing waves. Everywhere the growing crops were
drinking in the light and heat with eager thirst, for the call of the
harvest was ringing through the land. The air was sweet with scents of
the hay fields, and the whole country side was humming with the sound of
the mowers. It was the crowning time of the year; toward this season all
the life of the farm moved steadily the whole year long; the next two
months or three would bring to the farmer the fruit of long days of toil
and waiting. Every minute of these harvest days, from the early grey
dawn, when Mandy called the cows in for the milking, till the long
shadows from the orchard lay quite across the wide barley field, when
Tim, handling his team with careless pride, drove in the last load for
the day, every minute was packed full of life and action. But though
busy were the days and full of hard and at times back-breaking and
nerve-straining work, what of it? The colour, the rush, the eager race
with the flying hours, the sense of triumph, the promise of wealth, the
certainty of comfort, all these helped to carry off the heaviest toil
with a swing and vim that banished aches from the body and weariness
from the soul.
To Cameron, all unskilled as he was, the
days brought many an hour of strenuous toil, but every day his muscles
were knitting more firmly, his hands were hardening, and his mastery of
himself growing more complete.
In haying there is no large place for
skill. This operation, unlike that of turnip-hoeing, demands chiefly
strength, quickness, and endurance, and especially endurance. To stand
all day in the hay field under the burning sun with its rays leaping
back from the super-heated ground, and roll up the windrows into huge
bundles and toss them on to the wagon, or to run up a long line of cocks
and heave them fork-handle high to the top of a load, calls for
something of skill, but mainly for strength of arm and back. But skill
had its place, and once more it was Tim who stood close to Cameron and
showed him all the tricks of pitching hay. It was Tim who showed him how
to stand with his back to the wagon so as to get the load properly
poised with the least expenditure of strength; it was Tim who taught him
the cunning trick of using his thigh as a fulcrum in getting his load
up, rather than doing it by "main strength and awkwardness"; it was Tim
who demonstrated the method of lifting half a cock by running the end of
the fork handle into the ground so that the whole earth might aid in the
hoisting of the load. Of course in all this Cameron's intelligence and
quickness stood him in the place of long experience, and before the
first day's hauling was done he was able to keep his wagon going.
But with all the stimulus of the harvest
movement and colour, Cameron found himself growing weary of the life on
the Haley farm. It was not the long days, and to none on the farm were
the days longer than to Cameron, who had taken upon himself the duty of
supplying the kitchen with wood and water, no small business, either at
the beginning or at the end of a long day's work; it was not the heavy
toil; it was chiefly the continuous contact with the dirt and disorder
of his environment that wore his body down and his spirit raw. No matter
with how keen a hunger did he approach the dinner table, the disgusting
filth everywhere apparent would cause his gorge to rise and, followed by
the cheerful gibes of Perkins, he would retire often with his strength
unrecruited and his hunger unappeased, and, though he gradually achieved
a certain skill in picking his way through a meal, selecting such
articles of food as could be less affected than others by the unsavoury
surroundings, the want of appetising and nourishing food told
disastrously upon his strength. His sleep, too, was broken and disturbed
by the necessity of sharing a bed with Webster. He had never been
accustomed to "doubling up," and under the most favourable circumstances
the experience would not have been conducive to sound sleep, but
Webster's manner of life was not such as to render him an altogether
desirable bed-fellow. For, while the majority of farm lads in the
neighbourhood made at least semi-weekly pilgrimages to the "dam" for a
swim, Webster felt no necessity laid upon him for such an expenditure of
energy after a hard and sweaty day in the field. His ideas of hygiene
were of the most elementary nature; hence it was his nightly custom,
when released from the toils of the day, to proceed upstairs to his room
and, slipping his braces from his shoulders, allow his nether garments
to drop to the floor and, without further preparation, roll into bed. Of
the effeminacy of a night robe Webster knew nothing except by somewhat
hazy rumour. Once under the patchwork quilt he was safe for the night,
for, heaving himself into the middle of the bed, he sank into solid and
stertorous slumber, from which all Cameron's prods and kicks failed to
arouse him till the grey dawn once more summoned him to life, whereupon,
resuming the aforesaid nether garments, he was once more simply, but in
his opinion quite sufficiently, equipped for his place among men. Many
nights did it happen that the stertorous melody of Webster's all too
odourous slumbers drove Cameron to find a bed upon the floor. Once again
Tim was his friend, for it was to Tim that Cameron owed the blissful
experience of a night in the hay loft upon the newly harvested hay.
There, buried in its fragrant depths and drawing deep breaths of the
clean unbreathed air that swept in through the great open barn doors,
Cameron experienced a joy hitherto undreamed of in association with the
very commonplace exercise of sleep. After his first night in the hay
mow, which he shared with Tim, he awoke refreshed in body and with a new
courage in his heart.
"By Jove, Tim! That's the finest thing I
ever had in the way of sleep. Now if we only had a tub."
"Tub! What for?"
"A dip, my boy, a splash."
"To wash in?" enquired Tim, wondering at
the exuberance of his friend's desires. "I'll get a tub," he added, and,
running to the house, returned with wash tub and towel.
"Tim, my boy, you're a jewel!" exclaimed
From the stable cistern they filled the
vessel full and first Cameron and, after persuasion and with rather
dubious delight, Tim tasted the joy of a morning tub. Henceforth life
became distinctly more endurable to Cameron.
But, more than all the other irritating
elements in his environment put together, Cameron chafed under the
unceasing rasp of Perkins' wit, clever, if somewhat crude and cumbrous.
Perkins had never forgotten nor forgiven his defeat at the
turnip-hoeing, which he attributed chiefly to Cameron. His gibes at
Cameron's awkwardness in the various operations on the farm, his
readiness to seize every opportunity for ridicule, his skill at creating
awkward situations, all these sensibly increased the wear on Cameron's
spirit. All these, however, Cameron felt he could put up with without
endangering his self-control, but when Perkins, with vulgar innuendo,
chaffed the farmer's daughter upon her infatuation for the "young
Scotty," as he invariably designated Cameron, or when he rallied Cameron
upon his supposed triumph in the matter of Mandy's youthful affections,
then Cameron raged and with difficulty kept his hands from his cheerful
and ever smiling tormentor. It did not help matters much that apparently
Mandy took no offense at Perkins' insinuations; indeed, it gradually
dawned upon Cameron that what to him would seem a vulgar impertinence
might to this uncultured girl appear no more than a harmless pleasantry.
At all costs he was resolved that under no circumstances would he allow
his self-control to be broken through. He would finish out his term with
the farmer without any violent outbreak. It was quite possible that
Perkins and others would take him for a chicken-hearted fool, but all
the same he would maintain this attitude of resolute self-control to the
very end. After all, what mattered the silly gibes of an ignorant boor?
And when his term was done he would abandon the farm life forever. It
took but little calculation to make quite clear that there was not much
to hope for in the way of advancement from farming in this part of
Canada. Even Perkins, who received the very highest wage in that
neighbourhood, made no more than $300 a year; and, with land at sixty to
seventy-five dollars per acre, it seemed to him that he would be an old
man before he could become the owner of a farm. He was heart sick of the
pettiness and sordidness of the farm life, whose horizon seemed to be
that of the hundred acres or so that comprised it. Therefore he resolved
that to the great West he would go, that great wonderful West with its
vast spaces and its vast possibilities of achievement. The rumour of it
filled the country side. Meantime for two months longer he would endure.
A rainy day brought relief. Oh, the
blessed Sabbath of a rainy day, when the wheels stop and silence falls
in the fields; and time tired harvest hands recline at ease upon the new
cut and sweet smelling hay on the barn floor, and through the wide open
doors look out upon the falling rain that roars upon the shingles, pours
down in cataracts from the eaves and washes clean the air that wanders
in, laden with those subtle scents that old mother earth releases only
when the rain falls. Oh, happy rainy days in harvest time when,
undisturbed by conscience, the weary toilers stretch and slumber and
wake to lark and chaff in careless ease the long hours through!
In the Haleys' barn they were all
gathered, gazing lazily and with undisturbed content at the steady
downpour that indicated an all-day rest. Even Haley, upon whose crops
the rain was teeming down, was enjoying the rest from the toil, for most
of the hay that had been cut was already in cock or in the barn.
Besides, Haley worked as hard as the best of them and welcomed a day's
rest. So let it rain!
While they lay upon the hay on the barn
floor, with tired muscles all relaxed, drinking in the fragrant airs
that stole in from the rain-washed skies outside, in the slackening of
the rain two neighbours dropped in, big "Mack" Murray and his brother
Danny, for a "crack" about things in general and especially to discuss
the Dominion Day picnic which was coming off at the end of the following
week. This picnic was to be something out of the ordinary, for, in
addition to the usual feasting and frolicking, there was advertised an
athletic contest of a superior order, the prizes in which were
sufficiently attractive to draw, not only local athletes, but even some
of the best from the neighbouring city. A crack runner was expected and
perhaps even McGee, the big policeman of the London City force, a hammer
thrower of fame, might be present.
"Let him come, eh, Mack?" said Perkins. "I
guess we ain't afraid of no city bug beating you with the hammer."
"Oh! I'm no thrower," said Mack modestly.
"I just take the thing up and give it a fling. I haven't got the trick
of it at all."
"Have you practised much?" said Cameron,
whose heart warmed at the accent that might have been transplanted that
very day from his own North country.
"Never at all, except now and then at the
blacksmith's shop on a rainy day," replied Mack. "Have you done anything
"Oh, I have seen a good deal of it at the
games in the north of Scotland," replied Cameron.
"Man! I wish we had a hammer and you could
show me the trick of it," said Mack fervently, "for they will be looking
to me to throw and I do not wish to be beaten just too easily."
"There's a big mason's hammer," said Tim,
"in the tool house, I think."
"Get it, Tim, then," said Mack eagerly,
"and we will have a little practise at it, for throw I must, and I have
no wish to bring discredit on my country, for it will be a big day. They
will be coming from all over. The Band of the Seventh is coming out and
Piper Sutherland from Zorra will be there."
"A piper!" echoed Cameron. "Is there much
pipe playing in this country?"
"Indeed, you may say that!" said Mack,
"and good pipers they are too, they tell me. Piper Sutherland, I think,
was of the old Forty-twa. Are you a piper, perhaps?" continued Mack.
"Oh, I play a little," said Cameron. "I
have a set in the house."
"God bless my soul!" cried Mack, "and we
never knew it. Tell Danny where they are and he will fetch them out. Go,
"Never mind, I will get them myself," said
Cameron, trying to conceal his eagerness, for he had long been itching
for a chance to play and his fingers were now tingling for the chanter.
It was an occasion of great delight, not
only to big Mack and his brother Danny and the others, but to Cameron
himself. Up and down the floor he marched, making the rafters of the big
barn ring with the ancient martial airs of Scotland and then, dropping
into a lighter strain, he set their feet a-rapping with reels and
"Man, yon's great playing!" cried Mack
with fervent enthusiasm to the company who had gathered to the summons
of the pipes from the house and from the high road, "and think of him
keeping them in his chest all this time! And what else can you do?" went
on Mack, with the enthusiasm of a discoverer. "You have been in the big
games, too, I warrant you."
Cameron confessed to some experience of
these thrilling events.
"Bless my soul! We will put you against
the big folk from the city. Come and show us the hammer," said Mack,
leading the way out of the barn, for the rain had ceased, with a big
mason's hammer in his hand. It needed but a single throw to make it
quite clear to Cameron that Mack was greatly in need of coaching. As he
said himself he "just took up the thing and gave it a fling." A mighty
fling, too, it proved to be.
"Twenty-eight paces!" cried Cameron, and
then, to make sure, stepped it back again. "Yes," he said, "twenty-eight
paces, nearly twenty-nine. Great Caesar! Mack, if you only had the
Braemar swing you would be a famous thrower."
"Och, now, you are just joking me!" said
"You can add twenty feet easily to your
throw if you get the swing," asserted Cameron. "Look here, now, get this
swing," and Cameron demonstrated in his best style the famous Braemar
"Thirty-two paces!" said Mack in amazement
after he had measured the throw. "Man alive! you can beat McGee, let
"Now, Mack, get the throw," said Cameron,
with enthusiasm. "You will be a great thrower." But try though he might
Mack failed to get the swing.
"Man, come over to-night and bring your
pipes. Danny will fetch out his fiddle and we will have a bit of a
frolic, and," he added, as if in an afterthought, "I have a big hammer
yonder, the regulation size. We might have a throw or so."
"Thanks, I will be sure to come," said
"Come, all of you," said Mack, "and you
too, Mandy. We will clear out the barn floor and have a regular
"Oh, pshaw!" giggled Mandy, tossing her
head. "I can't dance."
"Oh, come along and watch me, then," said
Mack, in good humour, who, with all his two hundred pounds, was
lightfooted as a girl.
The Murrays' new big bank barn was
considered the finest in the country and the new floor was still quite
smooth and eminently suited to a "hoe-down." Before the darkness had
fallen, however, Mack drew Cameron, with Danny, Perkins, and a few of
the neighbours who had dropped in, out to the lane and, giving him a big
hammer, "Try that," he said, with some doubt in his tone.
Cameron took the hammer.
"This is the right thing. The weight of it
will make more difference to me, however, than to you, Mack."
"Oh, I'm not so sure," said Mack. "Show us
how you do it."
The first throw Cameron took easily.
"Twenty-nine paces!" cried Mack, after
stepping it off. "Man! that's a great throw, and you do it easy."
"Not much of a throw," laughed Cameron.
"Try it yourself."
Ignoring the swing, Mack tried the throw
in his own style and hurled the hammer two paces beyond Cameron's throw.
"You did that with your arms only," said
Cameron. "Now you must put legs and shoulders into it."
"Let's see you beat that throw yourself,"
laughed Perkins, who was by no means pleased with the sudden distinction
that had come to the "Scotty."
Cameron took the hammer and, with the easy
slow grace of the Braemar swing, made his throw.
"Hooray!" yelled Danny, who was doing the
measuring. "You got it yon time for sure. Three paces to the good.
You'll have to put your back into it, Mack, I guess."
Once more Mack seized the hammer. Then
Cameron took Mack in hand and, over and over again, coached him in the
poise and swing.
"Now try it, and think of your legs and
back. Let the hammer take care of itself. Now, nice and easy and slow,
not far this time."
Again and again Mack practised the swing.
"You're getting it!" cried Cameron
enthusiastically, "but you are trying too hard. Forget the distance this
time and think only of the easy slow swing. Let your muscles go slack."
So he coached his pupil.
At length, after many attempts, Mack
succeeded in delivering his hammer according to instructions.
"Man! you are right!" he exclaimed.
"That's the trick of it and it is as smooth as oil."
"Keep it up, Mack," said Cameron, "and
Over and over again he put the big man
through the swing till he began to catch the notion of the rhythmic,
harmonious cooperation of the various muscles in legs and shoulders and
arms so necessary to the highest result.
"You've got the swing, Mack," at length
said Cameron. "Now then, this time let yourself go. Don't try your best,
but let yourself out. Easy, now, easy. Get it first in your mind."
For a moment Mack stood pondering. He was
"getting it in his mind." Then, with a long swing, easy and slow, he
gave the great hammer a mighty heave. With a shout the company crowded
"Thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five,
thirty-six, thirty-seven! Hooray! bully for you, Mack. You are the lad!"
"Get the line on it," said Mack quietly.
The measuring line showed one hundred and eleven and a half feet. The
boys crowded round him, exclaiming, cheering, patting him on the back.
Mack received the congratulations in silence, then, turning to Cameron,
said very earnestly:
"Man! yon's as easy as eating butter. You
have done me a good turn to-day."
"Oh, that's nothing, Mack," said Cameron,
who was more pleased than any of them. "You got the swing perfectly that
time. You can put twenty feet to that throw. One hundred and eleven
feet! Why, I can beat that myself."
"Man alive! Do you tell me now!" said Mack
in amazement, running his eyes over Cameron's lean muscular body.
"I have done it often when I was in
"Oh, rats!" said Perkins with a laugh.
"Where was that?"
Cameron flushed a deep red, then turned
pale, but kept silent.
"I believe you, my boy," said Mack with
emphasis and facing sharply upon Perkins, "and if ever I do a big throw
I will owe it to you."
"Oh, come off!" said Perkins, again
laughing scornfully. "There are others that know the swing besides
Scotty here. What you have got you owe to no one but yourself, Mack."
"If I beat the man McGee next week," said
Mack quietly, "it will be from what I learned to-night, and I know what
I am saying. Man! it's a lucky thing we found you. But that will do for
just now. Come along to the barn. Hooray for the pipes and the lassies!
They are worth all the hammers in the world!" And, putting his arm
through Cameron's, he led the way to the barn, followed by the others.
"If Scotty could only hoe turnips and tie
wheat as well as he can play the pipes and throw the hammer," said
Perkins to the others as they followed in the rear, "I guess he'd soon
have us all leaning against the fence to dry."
"He will, too, some day," said Tim, whose
indignation at Perkins overcame the shyness which usually kept him
silent in the presence of older men.
"Hello, Timmy! What are you chipping in
for?" said Perkins, reaching for the boy's coat collar. "He thinks this
Scotty is the whole works, and he is great too—at showing people how to
"I hear he showed Tim how to hoe turnips,"
said one of the boys slyly. The laugh that followed showed that the
story of Tim's triumph over the champion had gone abroad.
"Oh, rot!" said Perkins angrily. "Tim's
got a little too perky because I let him get ahead of me one night in a
drill of turnips."
"Yeh done yer best, didn't he, Webster?"
cried Tim with indignation.
"Well, he certainly was making some pretty
big gashes in them drills," said Webster slowly.
"Oh, get out!" replied Perkins. "Though
all the same Tim's quite a turnip-hoer," he conceded. "Hello! There's
quite a crowd in the barn, Danny. I wish I had my store clothes on."
At this a girl came running to meet them.
"Come on, Danny! Tune up. I can hardly
keep my heels on my boots."
"Oh, you'll not be wanting my little
fiddle after you have heard Cameron on the pipes, Isa."
"Never you fear that, Danny," replied Isa,
catching him by the arm and hurrying him onward.
"Wait a minute. I want you to meet Mr.
Cameron," said Danny.
"Come away, then," replied Isa. "I am
dying to get done with it and get the fiddle going."
But Cameron was in the meantime engaged,
for Mack was busy introducing him to a bevy of girls who stood at one
corner of the barn floor.
"My! but he's a braw lad!" said Isa gayly,
as she watched Cameron making his bows.
"Yes, he is that," replied Danny with
enthusiastic admiration, "and a hammer-thrower, too, he is."
"What! yon stripling?"
"You may say it. He can beat Mack there."
"Mack!" cried Isa, with scorn. "It's just
big lies you are telling me."
"Indeed, he has beaten Mack's best throw
many a time."
"And how do you know?" exclaimed Isa.
"He said so himself."
"Ah ha!" said Isa scornfully. "He is good
at blowing his own horn whatever, and I don't believe he can beat
Mack—and I don't like him a bit," she continued, her dark eyes flashing
and the red colour glowing in her full round cheek.
"Come, Isa!" cried Mack, catching sight of
her in the dim light. "Come here, I want Mr. Cameron to meet you."
"How do you do?" said the girl, giving
Cameron her hand and glancing saucily into his face. "I hear you are a
piper and a hammer-thrower and altogether a wonderful man."
"A wonderfully lucky man, to have the
pleasure of meeting you," said Cameron, glancing boldly back at her.
"And I am sure you can dance the fling,"
continued Isa. "All the Highlanders do."
"Not all," said Cameron. "But with certain
partners all Highlanders would love to try."
"Oh aye," with a soft Highland accent that
warmed Cameron's blood. "I see you have the tongue. Come away, Danny,
now, strike up, or I will go on without you." And the girl kilted her
skirts and began a reel, and as Mack's eyes followed her every step
there was no mistaking their expression. To Mack there was only one girl
in the barn, or in all the world for that matter, and that was the
leal-hearted, light-footed, black-eyed Isa MacKenzie. Bonnie she was,
and that she well knew, the belle of the whole township, driving the men
to distraction and for all that holding the love of her own sex as well.
But her heart was still her own, or at least she thought it was, for all
big Mack Murray's open and simple-hearted adoration, and she was ready
for a frolic with any man who could give her word for word or dance with
her the Highland reel.
With the courtesy of a true gentleman,
Danny led off with his fiddle till they had all got thoroughly into the
spirit and swing of the frolic, and then, putting his instrument back
into its bag, he declared that they were all tired of it and were
waiting for the pipes.
"Not a bit of it!" cried Isa. "But we will
give you a rest, Danny, and besides I want to dance a reel with you
myself—though Mr. Cameron is not bad," she added, with a little bow to
Cameron, with whom she had just finished a reel.
Readily enough Cameron tuned his pipes,
for he was aching to get at them and only too glad to furnish music for
the gay company of kindly hearted folk who were giving him his first
evening's pleasure since he had left the Cuagh Oir.
From reel to schottische and from
schottische to reel, foursome and eightsome, they kept him playing, ever
asking for more, till the gloaming passed into moonlight and still they
were not done. The respite came through Mandy, who, solid in weight and
heavy of foot, had laboured through the reels as often as she could get
a partner, and at other times had sat gazing in rapt devotion upon the
"Whoop her up again, Scotty!" cried
Perkins, when Cameron paused at the end of a reel.
"Don't you do it!" said Mandy sharply, her
deep voice booming through the barn. "He's just tired of it, and I'm
tired looking at him."
There was a shout of laughter which
covered poor Mandy with wrathful confusion.
"Good for you, Mandy," cried Perkins with
a great guffaw. "You want some music now, don't you? So do I. Come on,
"No, I don't," snapped Mandy, who could
understand neither the previous laugh nor that which greeted Perkins'
"Allan," she said, sticking a little over
the name, "is tired out, and besides it's time we were going home."
"That's right, take him home, Mandy, and
put the little dear to bed," said Perkins.
"You needn't be so smart, Joe Perkins,"
said Mandy angrily. "Anyway I'm going home. I've got to be up early."
"Me too, Mandy," said Cameron, packing up
his pipes, for his sympathy had been roused for the girl who was
championing him so bravely. "I have had a great night and I have played
you all to death; but you will forgive me. I was lonely for the chanter.
I have not touched it since I left home."
There was a universal cry of protest as
they gathered about him.
"Indeed, Mr. Cameron, you have given us
all a rare treat," cried Isa, coming close to him, "and I only wish you
could pipe and dance at the same time."
"That's so!" cried Mack, "but what's the
matter with the fiddle, Isa? Come, Danny, strike up. Let them have a
Cameron glanced at Mandy, who was standing
impatiently waiting. Perkins caught the glance.
"Oh, please let him stay, Mandy," he
"He can stay if he likes," sniffed Mandy
scornfully. "I got no string on him; but I'm goin' home. Good-night,
"Good-night, Mandy," called Perkins. "Tell
them we're comin'."
"Just a moment, Mandy!" said Cameron, "and
I'm with you. Another time I hope to do a reel with you, Miss
MacKenzie," he said, bidding her good-night, "and I hope it will be
"Remember, then," cried Isa, warmly
shaking hands with him. "I will keep you to your promise at the picnic."
"Fine!" said Cameron, and with easy grace
he made his farewells and set off after Mandy, who by this time was some
distance down the lane.
"You needn't come for me," she said,
throwing her voice at him over her shoulder.
"What a splendid night we have had!" said
Cameron, ignoring her wrath. "And what awfully nice people."
Mandy grunted and in silence continued her
way down the lane, picking her steps between the muddy spots and pools
left by the rain.
After some minutes Cameron, who was truly
sorry for the girl, ventured to resume the conversation.
"Didn't you enjoy the evening, Mandy?"
"No, I didn't!" she replied shortly. "I
can't dance and they all know it."
"Why don't you learn, Mandy? You could
dance if you practised."
"I can't. I ain't like the other girls.
I'm too clumsy."
"Not a bit of it," said Cameron. "I've
watched you stepping about the house and you are not a bit clumsy. If
you only practised a bit you would soon pick up the schottische."
"Oh, you're just saying that because you
know I'm mad," said Mandy, slightly mollified.
"Not at all. I firmly believe it. I saw
you try a schottische to-night with Perkins and—"
"Oh, shucks!" said Mandy. "He don't give
me no show. He gets mad when I tramp on him."
"All you want is practise, Mandy," replied
"Oh, I ain't got no one to show me," said
Mandy. "Perkins he won't be bothered, and—and—there's no one else," she
"Why, I—I would show you," replied
Cameron, every instinct of chivalry demanding that he should play up to
her lead, "if I had any opportunity."
"When?" said Mandy simply.
"When?" echoed Cameron, taken aback. "Why,
the first chance we get."
As he spoke the word they reached the new
bridge that crossed the deep ditch that separated the lane from the high
"Here's a good place right here on this
bridge," said Mandy with a giggle.
"But we have no music," stammered Cameron,
aghast at the prospect of a dancing lesson by moonlight upon the public
"Oh, pshaw!" said Mandy. "We don't need
music. You can just count. I seen Isa showin' Mack once and they didn't
have no music. But," she added, regarding Cameron with suspicion, "if
you don't want to—"
"Oh, I shall be glad to, but wouldn't the
porch be better?" he replied in desperation.
"The porch! That's so," assented Mandy
eagerly. "Let's hurry before the rest come home." So saying, she set off
at a great pace, followed by Cameron ruefully wondering to what extent
the lesson in the Terpsichorean art might be expected to go.
As soon as the porch was reached Mandy
"Now let's at the thing. I'm going to
learn that schottische if it costs a leg."
Without stopping to enquire whose leg
might be in peril, Cameron proceeded with his lesson, and he had not
gone through many paces till he began to recognise the magnitude of the
task laid upon him. The girl's sense of time was accurate enough, but
she was undeniably awkward and clumsy in her movements and there was an
almost total absence of coordination of muscle and brain. She had,
however, suffered too long and too keenly from her inability to join
with the others in the dance to fail to make the best of her opportunity
to relieve herself of this serious disability.
So, with fierce industry she poised,
counted and hopped, according to Cameron's instructions and example,
with never a sign of weariness, but alas with little indication of
"Oh, shucks! I can't do it!" she cried at
length, pausing in despair. "I think we could do it better together.
That's the way Mack and Isa do it. I've seen them at it for an hour."
Cameron's heart sank within him. He had
caught an exchange of glances between the two young people mentioned and
he could quite understand how a lesson in the intricacies of the
Highland schottische might very well be extended over an hour to their
mutual satisfaction, but he shrank with a feeling of dismay, if not
disgust, from a like experience with the girl before him.
He was on the point of abruptly postponing
the lesson when his eye fell upon her face as she stood in the moonlight
which streamed in through the open door. Was it the mystic alchemy of
the moon on her face, or was it the glowing passion in her wonderful
eyes that transfigured the coarse features? A sudden pity for the girl
rose in Cameron's heart and he said gently, "We will try it together,
He took her hand, put his arm about her
waist, but, as he drew her towards him, with a startled look in her eyes
she shrank back saying hurriedly:
"I guess I won't bother you any more
to-night. You've been awfully good to me. You're tired."
"Not a bit, Mandy, come along," replied
At that moment a shadow fell upon the
square of moonlight on the floor. Mandy started back with a cry.
"My! you scairt me. We were—Allan—Mr.
Cameron was learnin' me the Highland schottische." Her face and her
voice were full of fear.
It was Perkins. White, silent, and rigid,
he stood regarding them, for minutes, it seemed, then turned away.
"Let's finish," said Cameron quietly.
"Oh! no, no!" said Mandy in a low voice.
"He's awful mad! I'm scairt to death! He'll do something! Oh! dear,
dear! He's awful when he gets mad."
"Nonsense!" said Cameron. "He can't hurt
"No, but you!"
"Oh, don't worry about me. He won't hurt
Cameron's tone arrested the girl's
"But promise me—promise me!" she cried,
"that you won't touch him." She clutched his arm in a fierce grip.
"Certainly I won't touch him," said
Cameron easily, "if he behaves himself." But in his heart he was
conscious of a fierce desire that Perkins would give him the opportunity
to wipe out a part at least of the accumulated burden of insult he had
been forced to bear during the last three weeks.
"Oh!" wailed Mandy, wringing her hands. "I
know you're going to fight him. I don't want you to! Do you hear me?"
she cried, suddenly gripping Cameron again by the arm and shaking him.
"I don't want you to! Promise me you won't!" She was in a transport of
"Oh, this is nonsense, Mandy," said
Cameron, laughing at her. "There won't be any fight. I'll run away."
"All right," replied the girl quietly,
releasing his arm. "Remember you promised." She turned from him.
"Good night, Mandy. We will finish our
lesson another time, eh?" he said cheerfully.
"Good night," replied Mandy, dully, and
passed through the kitchen and into the house.
Cameron watched her go, then poured for
himself a glass of milk from a pitcher that always stood upon the table
for any who might be returning home late at night, and drank it slowly,
pondering the situation the while.
"What a confounded mess it is!" he said to
himself. "I feel like cutting the whole thing. By Jove! That girl is
getting on my nerves! And that infernal bounder! She seems to—Poor girl!
I wonder if he has got any hold on her. It would be the greatest
satisfaction in the world to teach HIM a few things too. But I have made
up my mind that I am not going to end up my time here with any row, and
I'll stick to that; unless—" and, with a tingling in his fingers, he
passed out into the moonlight.
As he stepped out from the door a dark
mass hurled itself at him, a hand clutched at his throat, missed as he
swiftly dodged back, and carried away his collar. It was Perkins, his
face distorted, his white teeth showing in a snarl as of a furious
beast. Again with a beast-like growl he sprang, and again Cameron
avoided him; while Perkins, missing his clutch, stumbled over a block of
wood and went crashing head first among a pile of pots and pans and,
still unable to recover himself and wildly grasping whatever chanced to
be within reach, fell upon the board that stood against the corner of
the porch to direct the rain into the tub; but the unstable board slid
slowly down and allowed the unfortunate Perkins to come sitting in the
tub full of water.
"Very neatly done, Perkins!" cried
Cameron, whose anger at the furious attack was suddenly transformed into
an ecstasy of delight at seeing the plight of his enemy.
Like a cat Perkins was on his feet and,
without a single moment's pause, came on again in silent fury. By an
evil chance there lay in his path the splitting axe, gleaming in the
moonlight. Uttering a low choking cry, as of joy, he seized the axe and
sprang towards his foe. Quicker than thought Cameron picked up a heavy
arm chair that stood near the porch to use it as a shield against the
"Are you mad, Perkins?" he cried, catching
the terrific blow that came crashing down, upon the chair.
Then, filled with indignant rage at the
murderous attack upon him, and suddenly comprehending the desperate
nature of the situation, he sprang at his antagonist, thrusting the
remnants of the chair in his face and, following hard and fast upon him,
pushed him backward and still backward till, tripping once more, he fell
supine among the pots and pans. Seizing the axe that had dropped from
his enemy's hand, Cameron hurled it far beyond the wood pile and then
stood waiting, a cold and deadly rage possessing him.
"Come on, you dog!" he said through his
shut teeth. "You have been needing this for some time and now you'll get
"What is it, Joe?"
Cameron quickly turned and saw behind him
Mandy, her face blanched, her eyes wide, and her voice faint with
"Oh, nothing much," said Cameron,
struggling to recover himself. "Perkins stumbled over the tub among the
pots and pans there. He made a great row, too," he continued with a
laugh, striving to get his voice under control.
"What is it, Joe?" repeated Mandy,
approaching Perkins. But Perkins stood leaning against the corner of the
porch in a kind of dazed silence.
"You've been fighting," she said, turning
"Not at all," said Cameron lightly, "but,
if you must know, Perkins went stumbling among these pots and pans and
finally sat down in the tub; and naturally he is mad."
"Is that true, Joe?" said Mandy, moving
slowly nearer him.
"Oh, shut up, Mandy! I'm all wet, that's
all, and I'm going to bed."
His voice was faint as though he were
speaking with an effort.
"You go into the house," he said to the
girl. "I've got something to say to Cameron here."
"You are quarreling."
"Oh, give us a rest, Mandy, and get out!
No, there's no quarreling, but I want to have a talk with Cameron about
something. Go on, now!"
For a few moments she hesitated, looking
from one to the other.
"It's all right, Mandy," said Cameron
quietly. "You needn't be afraid, there won't be any trouble."
For a moment more she stood, then quietly
"Wait!" said Perkins to Cameron, and
followed Mandy into the house. For some minutes Cameron stood waiting.
"Now, you murderous brute!" he said, when
Perkins reappeared. "Come down to the barn where no girl can interfere."
He turned towards the barn.
"Hold on!" said Perkins, breathing
heavily. "Not to-night. I want to say something. She's waiting to see me
Cameron came back.
"What have you got to say, you cur?" he
asked in a voice filled with a cold and deliberate contempt.
"Don't you call no names," replied
Perkins. "It ain't no use." His voice was low, trembling, but gravely
earnest. "Say, I might have killed you to-night." His breath was still
coming in quick short gasps.
"You tried your best, you dog!" said
"Don't you call no names," panted Perkins
again. "I might—a—killed yeh. I'm mighty—glad—I didn't." He spoke like a
man who had had a great deliverance. "But don't yeh," here his teeth
snapped like a dog's, "don't yeh ever go foolin' with that girl again.
Don't yeh—ever—do it. I seen yeh huggin' her in there and I tell yeh—I
tell yeh—," his breath began to come in sobs, "I won't stand it—I'll
kill yeh, sure as God's in heaven."
"Are you mad?" said Cameron, scanning
narrowly the white distorted face.
"Mad? Yes, I guess so—I dunno—but don't
yeh do it, that's all. She's mine! Mine! D'yeh hear?"
He stepped forward and thrust his snarling
face into Cameron's.
"No, I ain't goin' to touch yeh," as
Cameron stepped back into a posture of defense, "not to-night. Some day,
perhaps." Here again his teeth came together with a snap. "But I'm not
going to have you or any other man cutting in on me with that girl.
D'yeh hear me?" and he lifted a trembling forefinger and thrust it
almost into Cameron's face.
Cameron stood regarding him in silent and
contemptuous amazement. Neither of them saw a dark form standing back
out of the moonlight, inside the door. At last Cameron spoke.
"Now what the deuce does all this mean?"
he said slowly. "Is this girl by any unhappy chance engaged to you?"
"Yes, she is—or was as good as, till you
came; but you listen to me. As God hears me up there"—he raised his
shaking hand and pointed up to the moonlit sky, and then went on,
chewing on his words like a dog on a bone—"I'll cut the heart out of
your body if I catch you monkeying round that girl again. You've got to
get out of here! Everything was all right till you came sneaking in.
You've got to get out! You've got to get out! D'yeh hear me? You've got
to get out!"
His voice was rising, mad rage was seizing
him again, his fingers were opening and shutting like a man in a death
Cameron glanced towards the door.
"I'm done," said Perkins, noting the
glance. "That's my last word. You'd better quit this job." His voice
again took on an imploring tone. "You'd better go or something will sure
happen to you. Nobody will miss you much, except perhaps Mandy." His
ghastly face twisted into a snarling smile, his eyes appeared glazed in
the moonlight, his voice was husky—the man seemed truly insane.
Cameron stood observing him quietly when
he had ceased speaking.
"Are you finished? Then hear me. First, in
regard to this girl, she doesn't want me and I don't want her, but make
up your mind, I promise you to do all I can to prevent her falling into
the hands of a brute like you. Then as to leaving this place, I shall go
just when it suits me, no sooner."
"All right," said Perkins, his voice low
and trembling. "All right, mind I warned you! Mind I warned you! But if
you go foolin' with that girl, I'll kill yeh, so help me God."
These words he uttered with the solemnity
of an oath and turned towards the porch. A dark figure flitted across
the kitchen and disappeared into the house. Cameron walked slowly
towards the barn.
"He's mad. He's clean daffy, but none the
less dangerous," he said to himself. "What a rotten mess all this is!"
he added in disgust. "By Jove! The whole thing isn't worth while."
But as he thought of Mandy's frightened
face and imploring eyes and the brutal murderous face of the man who
claimed her as his own, he said between his teeth:
"No, I won't quit now. I'll see this thing
through, whatever it costs," and with this resolve he set himself to the
business of getting to sleep; in which, after many attempts, he was at