I AM going to say but little concerning the peaceful and
fruitful years which followed that eventful Winter and Spring. Like the
stream which flows its happy course between level meadows a-flower with
God’s choicest offerings, our lives flowed on their way, sweet with the
contentment that comes of honest toil and the satisfying fruits of
Swiftly the forest disappeared, and more broad farms grew
up until as far as eye could see lay a vast checker-board of waving
The crude log houses and barns vanished, and in their
stead appeared more commodious ones of lumber. We were a flourishing
community indeed. God had been good, and well we realized it. Great
schooners now winged their way across the lake and through the narrows
of Round Water to the big grain warehouse at Shooper’s Wharf, and went
away laden to capacity with our wheat and other grains.
And standing shoulder to shoulder with us throughout
these fruitful years were those indefatigable and loyal men of inventive
mind, to give us the wonderful labour-saving tools of our craft, without
which, I reiterate, the farming industry could never have been what it
Like my neighbours, I had gradually extended my holdings
of land until I now owned five hundred acres, most of which was
tillable. I had as helpers a man named Bob Shaver and his two sons,
Frank and George. Mrs. Shaver looked after my home, as well as their
own, a pretty frame cottage standing near the creek on the back pasture
lands. And so for twenty-five years the Shavers were my loyal
helpers—and are to-day.
Of course, time cannot go on without registering its
changes. The little cemetery beneath the twin elms, in which my dear
mother and father lay, had grown. Neil Cameron and his wife and many
others now slept beside my loved ones. Red McDonald and his gentle wife,
Anne, were resting on some heath-ered steep in those old home hills;
for, with the coming of age, homesickness had drawn them to the land of
Sometimes, after a long day’s pleasant work in my fields,
with the scented wind to cheer and the glory of heaven itself on
varitinted growing things, as filled with the contentment of having
fulfilled a task and with the weariness that comes of healthy mind and
muscles, I returned at twilight up the road to my home, would come the
realization that I was nearing the milestone of staid middle-age. I was
a trifle slower. I was given to pausing longeT to listen to song of
twilight bird, also I was more content to sit at dusk beside my door and
dream than stray, as had been my custom, down old and dear by-paths.
I say these things brought home to me the fact that youth
lay far behind me, although my heart has never grown old.
Then there were my children—I called them my children—
those bright-faced, eager youngsters of this new generation— who would
come trooping to my door with laughter and merriment, and take
possession of me and mine. Young men and women grown, almost, and yet to
me they were simply little folk who were willing to lend some of their
sunshine toward my happiness.
Jack Cameron had grown into a thoughtful and thrifty man,
one of the wealthiest farmers of the district was he, excepting only Bob
McDonald, who had married Kathie O’Doone and possessed a family of six
strapping boys and girls. The old rivalry between the Camerons and
McDonalds was as active as in the days of their fathers; but it was a
friendly rivalry, and no better friends than they could be found
throughout the countryside.
To sweet Flora and Dan Whitelaw had been given a
daughter, and through that stretch of years—so like the sluggish current
of the meadow stream—little Anne was of endless comfort and cheer to me.
I watched her grow from a slender bloom of a thing into a blossom of
wonderful beauty, and lived much of my youth again; for she was
wonderfully like her mother as I had known her in the olden days. I do
not think that had I possessed a daughter of my own, I could have loved
her more than I loved little Anne Then, too, of the youth of the
neighbourhood, Malcolm, only child of my friend Jack Cameron, was most
like a son to me. What more natural than with the passing of years, I
should take to dreaming of the future of each of these young people, and
hope that some day they would join hands at the altar and so add another
flower to my wreath of fulfilment.
And the years went on. There was in Flora’s face now less
of the look of girlish carefreeness, but more of maternal tenderness.
Yet in her fathomless eyes of grey were still those lights which land
nor sea have never known. And I was thankful that she was as much mine
as she ever was, and could still feel the sweet intoxication of her
presence. For she and Dan came often to the Elms—for such my home was
called—and in the big heart of him I knew lay only pity for me whose
secret he had guessed.
The morning that saw Anne Whitelaw and Malcolm Cameron
wedded was white with apple blossonjs. Little clouds flecked the skies,
drifting like homing doves against the unfathomable blue. It was after
the happy pair had gone on their way, and I stood bareheaded in the
orchard of flowering apple trees, gazing after them, misty-eyed, that
Flora came to me, and placing her hands on mine, spoke softly.
“Big John, you love them both?”
“Aye, Flora,” I answered, “I love them both.”
“John,” she whispered, “why have you never married?”
I do not know what she read in the face I turned to hers,
but the wide eyes opened wider still and the lily face of her grew
whiter. And then she raised these big, calloused hands and pressed her
warm lips against them—and was gone.
That was the last I saw of Flora for many days.
Followed a glorious Summer, a fruitful harvest and the
garnering of the Fall crops. Autumn hovered with her cloak of haze and
magic coloring of leaf and bramble. Then came shorter days with lowering
skies and spiteful winds a-down which came the whistle of wild ducks’
wings, as the flocks sought the marshes. The sheep huddled in a corner
of the pasture; the horses stood with their necks one across the other;
the cattle strayed into the barnyard in early afternoon.
The Winter which followed was severe, and it was at the
beginning of this Winter that the smallpox plague swept down upon us and
took deadly toll of the lives of young and old.
A half-breed named Babette, whose French father had been
friend to Jake Hood, who, after leaving our Settlement had lived
squarely as a timber-marker in the Quebec forest, and who had lost his
life in the waters of the St. Lawrence, had come up from the Three
Rivers with papers, left by Hood for his daughter Nance, and had
unwittingly carried the terrible scourge into our midst. Two days after
his arrival he took ill. The doctor from the nearest village was
summoned, but made light of the case. Babette died a day later. Jack
Cameron took down with the diesase, and before its deadly power was
known, case after case had developed throughout the neighbourhood. Death
stalked amongst us like a grim spectre. Bob Shaver, my farm helper, went
down and died two days later. His wife was stricken also, but, through
the help of skilled doctors brought from a great distance, we managed to
save her life. The two sons, now married, took the disease. Frank, the
older, never recovered.
Word reached me that Dan Whitelaw, whom the plague had
claimed, was dying. I had done my utmost—God knows it was little
enough—to lend a helping hand to those who had been laid low by the
dread scourge (why I myself never took it I cannot explain), and now I
lost no time in going to Dan’s home.
Flora met me at the door. Her face was white as the snow
that banked the bleak hillside. Her eyes were wide with a new sorrow.
“He is dead, John,” she said calmly, and fainted in my
We buried Dan Whitelaw, chiselling a grave through the
frozen earth in the plot beneath the bare elms. And that night sweet
Flora succumbed to the disease.
The way of God is past all understanding. We bow humbly
to His wisdom, knowing that “Whatever is, is best.” And still, as I sat
beside Flora as slowly she was wafted back to the faint billows of life,
I could not but wonder why she had not been allowed to follow him whom
she loved into the Valley of the Shadow.
But this was not to be. Flora lived. And when at last she
came into the sunlight—it was late spring again, I remember, and the
wild birds were a-song—and gave me her two dear wasted hands, I could
have wept at the ravages the disease had made on her beauty. Her cheeks
were sunken and deeply pitted, and grief had frozen the tranquil pools
of her eyes, so that the lights I had seen so often come and go there
were shut out from me.
But, God bless her, she was still sweet Flora, and when I
lifted her frail form and carried her into the grove of leafing maples,
and placed her in the seat prepared for her, I was a-tremble with a
Summer saw a cessation of the disease, and by early Fall
it had been entirely stamped out. Malcolm Cameron and Anne had taken
Flora home with them.
Never a day passed but I managed to see her, and strove,
in my poor way, to cheer her. At such times she had always a smile for
me, although she might sit silent after, her eyes staring into distance
and heedless of my presence.
She had little strength; but when she spoke—which was
seldom—in her voice was the same soft cadence of olden, golden days.
Never had I loved her as I loved her now in her pitiful
frailty and helplessness.
A year passed, two. Flora was now greatly improved in
health and spirits.
It was on a June night, with the scent of fern and water
plants astray in the walnut grove beside the bay marshes, and a full
moon lifting above the Point of Pines to sheen the bay with golden
glory, that she and I stood at the water’s edge, drinking in the beauty
of the night and listening to the low call of a whip-poor-will, fluting
from the bramble shadows to his mate.
“John,” she spoke softly at length, “surely there can be
no more perfect farming community than this one which we and ours have
shaped out of the wilderness we found here.”
“I doubt if there is any,” I answered.
“Everything is changed, John,” she sighed,
“except—pointing to the dim forest across the bay, “the Point yonder and
the bay and marshes.”
I was silent.
Her hand stole into mine with the old familiar trust and
“I was wrong, Big John,” she smiled, “for you have not
“No, Flora,” I said. “In one respect, at least, I have
I felt her hand flutter in mine.
“But I have, John,” she spoke wistfully. “Look at me,
dear. I am a faded, scarred, old woman. Isn’t that what you see? Answer
me truthfully, John.”
I stood gazing into her eyes, and what I saw there was
the same sweet charm, the same warmth and tenderness of soul that had
held my heart in her keeping for so many years.
And then I did that which I had struggled against doing
all my life. I forgot myself, and in the urge of a love I could no
longer master, I drew her to me and held her close in my arms.
I do not know how long I held her thus. There was in the
love I bore her a tranquility akin to the soft mood of that June night;
sweet, passionless, pure, and alive like the soft glow resting on the
When we went back along the path, the frogs were piping
and all the world was white with the silvery wash of a high moon. And my
soul was a-song with a great joy, for sweet Flora had given herself into
We were married quietly a month later, and I do not think
there was one, old or young, in the neighbourhood, but was glad I had
found such happiness. .
* * *
By rights I suppose my story should end here—as most
stories do, with marriage bells and hopes fulfilled and the promise of
happiness ever after. And indeed there is little more I have to tell,
for although a long span of years bridges that sweet moment when I knew
Flora was mine, and mine alone, they have been for the most part
uneventful years. But they have been years of fruitful progress for that
sturdy, staunch-hearted army to which I have the honour to belong—the
To-day as far as eye can measure distance, throughout
this fertile farming community, as monuments to their thrift and
endeavour, stand splendid homes, great barns and lofty silos. The old
order has changed. The tractor purrs its course across level,
well-tilled acres; the grain is garnered by machinery which marks the
last thought in efficiency; glimmering rails of steel link up the
distances; the telephone and the automobile are ours, our electric light
and power have been drawn from the harnessed rivers.
And again I say, not only to the pioneers who faced great
odds so heroically, but also to those makers of farm machinery, who so
nobly stood behind them, belongs the glory of success attained in the
making of these splendid farms from the wilderness.
* * *
To-night I am alone by the fire, and the big room with
its empty banqueting table, is very still. On that table are ninety
burned-out candles, each representing a year of the life of the narrator
of this tale. And I know that it cannot be long before one known as Big
John Wallace will, like the meadow brook, pass beyond the Mill, as sweet
Flora passed twelve years ago.
But I am content. God has been good, and I am in His