WHAT a wonderful thing is true friendship, but a still
more wonderful thing, I think, is a friendship that has been broken and
For years the people of the Settlement spoke of the grand
reunion of the Camerons and McDonalds, the feast and the dance which
followed the gripping of hands between Red McDonald and Neil Cameron
when the true facts concerning the burning of the wheat stacks became
I can see them yet, these two gaunt men, seated side by
side beside the ruddy fire, the light of true understanding in their
seamed faces and the spirit of happiness stirring their hearts to song
and mirth, the while the younger folk danced and made merry in the
great, brown-raftered room.
Flora McDonald was here and there like a fairy, chatting
with this one, laughing with that and dancing with still another.
Fiddler O’Doone, at his best, played reel and cotillion with a power
sufficient to make the staidest set of toes itch to tap the floor,
opening his eyes only at the end of the set to peer about for the squat
demijohn from which he derived his inspiration.
Kathie O’Doone and Bob McDonald danced much together that
night, and even I, stupid about such things as I was, sensed something
more than mere friendship in the manner they held together.
One event of that night stands out very clearly in my
memory. It was the dancing of the “Scotch Four” by Anne McDonald, Neil
Cameron, Flora McDonald and myself, to the sweet music of the pipes
played by Red McDonald. Always to me, who could scarcely play even three
bars on the jewsharp without discord, and was never allowed to sing in
chorus on account of my bellow drowning the voices of the other singers,
music has had the power to draw me back to those things sweetest and
most tender in life; and this night, as the pipes called and my soul
answered, the big room with its shadow-painted walls faded back—and in
its place was the sward of my native hills, soft in the moonlight; the
spice of the mountain craigs and forest was in my mouth, and the daring
of youth which trusts aljl things was in my heart, while near me hovered
the sweet Flora McDonald of yesterday, grey-eyed and tender as in those
days before the realization had come to me that she must leave me.
Never before had I seen her so beautiful. In her face was
the rapt look of one who dreams, and while the casual looker-on might
think her smile and merry quip was for me alone, I knew better. Dull as
I was, I sensed in her that intoxicating spirit of daring and adventure
which bids the lured one seek new paths for old; and I knew that soon
she would go out from my life and I must face the trail alone. God help
me, that time was closer at hand than I thought.
I say we danced the dance of our home hills that night,
and when it was done, with a dewy tenderness shining in her eyes, she
beckoned to me, and led the way out into the dark, spacious store-room.
“John,” she whispered when we were alone, “he was here
“Yes?” I answered, knowing too well to whom she referred.
“He talked with father, John.”
I waited to hear more. It was too dark to see her face,
but I knew from the tremor in her voice that tears stood in her eyes.
“Father sent for me after he had gone,” she faltered. “He
says I must never see Dan again.”
I sought her hand and held it close in mine. “And your
mother?” I questioned, “what did she say, Flora?”
“Mother would have me do even as she herself did,” she
answered, “marry the man I love.”
“In spite of what your father commands?” I asked.
She was silent, but I felt her form tremble.
“John,” she almost choked, “some day you will love, and
then you will understand that there can be no obstacle to that you
Great God, if she could have but read my heart!
I could not speak to her. My veins were frozen; my heart
and voice numb with the pain her words has so unwittingly brought.
Neil Cameron’s voice was heard calling lustily.
“John, Flora, come! Supper is waiting and we are
languishing for food.”
He came striding into the store-room, laughing happily as
“There was something more I wished to tell you, John,”
Flora whispered as we followed Neil into the dining-room.
In my soul I was glad that Neil Cameron had come when he
did. I was beginning to be afraid of myself. I was but flesh and blood
I did not see Flora alone again that night. Others
claimed her. She fluttered like a butterfly among her guests.
I went home early. Strangely, the realization of the
unutterable loss I was about to suffer—aye, was already suffering
—struck me this night more forcibly than ever before.
In the darkness of my cabin I sat down with my misery;
the dog, Snarl, beside me, his head on my knee.
It was in the chill, drab dawn of a wintery morning when
a knock on my cabin door stirred me from a half sleeping stupor. Snarl
raised his heavy head and whined. I knew then who stood without, and for
a moment, numbed by the chill that had crept into me, I was powerless to
rise; then the conflicting emotions that swept hotly through me at the
knowledge of sweet Flora's nearness, dispelled the numbness which bound
me and, springing up, I threw open the door.
There against the shadow of the forest, like a lily
against the sable meshes of night, she stood, tall and beautiful. The
light of love and happiness was in her face, and in the clustering
ringlets that framed it was dawn’s pale sheen and sunset’s russet gold.
“John,” she faltered, “dear John.”
“Flora,” I cried, taking her wee, cold hands in mine,
“what is wrong? Why are you here and dressed as though for a journey?”
She pointed toward the dim corduroy; and then it was I
discerned waiting in the edge of the grove, a man on horseback. Another
saddled horse was beside him.
“Flora,” I said, drawing her into the room, “you are not
She nodded, laughing happily; for love, like the warmth
of spring, knows only its own fire and power and sees naught of the
frozen banks between which it melts its way.
“With him, Flora?” I asked.
“Yes, Big John,” she answered softly. “I love him. You
would have me happy, wouldn’t you, John.”
“God knows I would,” I answered, “and that is why I fear
the consequences of this rash thing you are doing, Flora.”
“There is no other way, Big John,” she sighed. “You know
my father. He would never consent to my marrying Dan. By and by, when he
learns to know how he has misjudged him, he will forgive.”
I stood there gazing down on her dear face. There was no
conflict within me; only a doubt, grim and sharp-taloned, ripped my
soul. I loved Flora McDonald, had loved her always. But never during
those wilderness years when our paths ran parallel had I for one moment
forgotten that she was of the Clan McDonald and I but the servant of her
pe6ple. And I had told myself that some day she must go out from me as
she was going now.
“Wait you here a moment,” I said almost gruffly, and
turned to the door.
“John,” she whispered agonizingly, “you will not hurt
him?” I shook my head, unable to trust my voice, and striding out, went
down to where Gypsy Dan waited in the shadow of the elms. He saw me
coming and dismounted. He was standing there slender and graceful when I
came up to him.
For a long moment we looked into each other’s eyes. Then
he spoke. “John,” he said earnestly, “I love her. You may set your fears
“Gypsy Dan,” I answered him, “God help you if you harm
her in any way, for if you do, I shall seek you out and tear you limb
At my words a look of surprise and pity came into his
handsome face. He reached out a hand and laid it on my arm.
I shook it off angrily.
“John,” he said gently, “I didn’t know it was like this;
you’re a real man, by God!”
I turned fiercely upon him. “She must never guess" I
commenced, but his grip on my hand told me he understood.
I took a strong hold on myself and faced him. “Where do
you go?” I asked.
“To St. Tobias,” he answered. “The circuit minister is
“Then,” I said, “I go with you.”
He stared at me. “Surely you trust me now, John,” he
said. “I swear ”
“It is not that I do not trust you,” I told him, “but it
is her great day, and I would be there to see it dawn for her and wish
“But Red McDonald will think perhaps that you abetted
us,” he protested, “I would not have him misjudge you.”
“Let him think as he will,” I flung back, “I am going
So it was that we three rode away down the dim trail
together toward the lifting dawn. The horse I bestrode was a powerful
roan which I had recently purchased from a dealer who was glad to let
him go on account of his vicious temper. The slender-legged mounts of
Flora and Dan—two from Hallibut’s string of thoroughbreds, I knew them
to be—minced their way through the silent-sheeted forest, paying not the
slightest heed to my stallion’s snorted threats and evil rolling of eye.
And as I watched those twain who rode before me, young, handsome, each
with the poise that is born of blue blood, my heart sunk like lead in my
breast and a mist came to my eyes.
But, like one who follows the bier of one long loved and
soon forever lost, I followed Flora and Gypsy Dan. It was my hour. She
was still mine until the law of God made her another’s.
The light of morning grew up and painted the dead forest
with glories. Their happy voices came back to me; but I rode with head
bowed and chin on my breast.
* * *
At noon I returned to the Settlement. Red McDonald was
waiting for me in my cabin. He got up from his chair as I entered, and
the look in his face smote me. He had aged greatly during the past few
weeks. I had expected a stormy time with him, and was unprepared for
what he now did.
“John,” he said brokenly, “is this thing that Anne tells
me true? Has Flora gone with with?”
“It is true,” I answered. “They were married this morning
by the preacher, Lloyd, at St. Tobias.”
He rasied his eyes, and there was a dazed, hurt look in
them. “She disobeyed me, John,” he said, and his voice quavered. “Sweet
and obedient as she has always been, she disobeyed me in this thing.”
“It broke her heart to be obliged to do it,” I answered.
“Aye,” he nodded, “I can understand that. But, John, the fact stands
that she went against the wishes of her father. She is no longer
daughter of mine, John.”
“Then, Red McDonald,” I cried, banging my first on the
table so that the cabin shook with the impact, “I am no longer your
friend and neighbour!”
“Tut, tut!” he exclaimed, “surely you would not turn
against me, Big John?”
“Flora has not turned against you,” I told him, “and you
know it. She has married the man she loves. Would you have her do
“Her first duty was to me,” he said doggedly.
“Supposing,” I said, “the girl Anne whom you wooed and
won in the Highlands, had told you that her first duty was to the father
*who refused you her hand? What about it, Red McDonald?”
His big head drooped. “Then,” he said brokenly, “I must
have lost a great deal, John.”
He was silent for a long time, and I did not interrupt
When he looked up his eyes were misty.
“Big John,” he said, “will you go and bring them home?”
“Gladly,” I answered.
Just here a voice raised in profanity mingled with the
growling of dogs sounded without.
I opened the door. Seated astride a beautiful black horse
was a big man whom I guessed at once to be the eccentric Englishman,
Colonel Hallibut. Half a dozen lean dogs frisked about his horse’s
heels, baying and snarling and behaving as dogs will after loosed from
“Hullo!” exclaimed the rider, catching sight of me.
“Young man, will you oblige me by taking your gun and shooting every
damned dog in this pack?”
He leaned over and brought his heavy quirt down close
beside an angry hound. The dog whined, and leaping up, left a damp
caress on the hand that was doubled on the whip.
“Curse me!” exploded the man, “they’ll be the death of me
yet, those dogs.”
“They don’t appear to be greatly frightened at you, at
any rate, sir,” I said, coming forward.
A smile lit up his coarse, red face. '
“I’m afraid I spoil the devils,” he confessed. They know
I love ’em, and they take advantage of it.”
I ran my eye over the dogs. I was glad that Snarl was
safely shut in the stable. He would be gazing through a chink in the
logs, I knew, voiceless and tense, and eager to resent the coming of
these strangers into his realm.
“I’m Hallibut,” my visitor informed me, “and from your
looks, I take you to be this Big John Wallace I’ve been hearing about.”
“I was told that Red McDonald was here,” he went on. “May
I have a word or two with that gent?”
“He’s inside,” I answered.
The Colonel dismounted, puffing and rubbing his stiffened
joints; for he was no longer a young man, and high living had given his
great frame too much weight.
He went inside and I led his horse to the stable.
When I returned to the cabin, Colonel Hallibut and Red
McDonald were seated opposite each other at table. I could see at a
glance that McDonald was greatly interested in what our visitor was
“This chap known to you as Gypsy Dan,” Hallibut was
saying, “is my nephew. His true name is Dan Whitelaw. He comes from good
English stock, and in spite of the fact that I’ve done my best to spoil
him, the young beggar’s got a lot of good in him. I’m glad he married
your daughter, McDonald. It’ll be the making of the boy.
“Now,” he rap on, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do, you and
I. I’m Dan’s uncle, but I’m more than that. Since he lost his father and
mother I’ve been his foster father. And I’ll say this: he’s always done
what I commanded him to do.
“You’ll wonder perhaps why he didn’t tell you all I’ve
just told you? Well, the reason is likely this: Dan’s got a lot of
pride, and the chances are, when he approached you, and asked you for
your daughter, you put the gaff in him and froze him up. Nevertheless,
the young cub should have enlightened you, and I told him so. But I’m
doing it now, and I hope it isn’t too late to put a different aspect on
“Now, here’s what I’ve got to propose. He’s got money of
his own, a good education, and he’s an A1 judge of timber. He wants to
start in business in this section, so I’m going to build him a big
sawmill near the mouth of Indian Creek. And I want to say right here,
McDonald, with you and Flora and myself believing in him—he’s going to
He sat back, his booted legs spread wide, a smile of huge
satisfaction on his big face.
I went into the bedroom and brought out the bottle which
my father had carried with him from Scotland. Heaven only knows how old
the amber liquor it contained was, but, judging from the way that
connoisseur Hallibut and Red McDonald smacked their lips after drinking
to the health of the newly wedded pair, and again to their prosperity,
and once more to their own better acquaintance, and again to myself—I
know it was sufficiently potent to bring those two men into closer
understanding of each other; and that was a great deal.
In the weeks that followed I was busy with the
woodcutting and the building of new racks and outbuildings. My stock of
cattle was growing. Twelve new lambs were among my sheep and others were
expected. In March I bought another horse. I did not sell my oxen.
Somehow, I couldn’t bear to see them go. Father had broken that span of
steers, and—of course, I know it was only a fancy—but somehow, when they
raised their heavy heads in the morning when I went out to feed them,
their soft eyes seemed to watch for him, their ears twitch for the sound
of his footstep.
Jack Cameron and Nance were now living in a house close
to the Cameron home. Dan Whitelaw and Flora were living with her parents
until his own house of lumber could be built near the site of this mill
in the spring. Colonel Hallibut often rode over to visit McDonald now;
the two had become great friends.