Old Man Savarin
And Other Stories
EDWARD WILLIAM THOMSON
WILLIAM BRIGGS, WESLEY BUILDINGS.
C. W. COATES, Montreal, Que. S. F. HUESTIS, Halifax, N.S.
Entered, according to the Act of the Parliament of Canada, in the year
one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five, by William Briggs, Toronto,
in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture, at Ottawa.
|I.||Old Man Savarin|
|II.||The Privilege of the Limits|
|III.||McGrath's Bad Night|
|IV.||Great Godfrey's Lament|
|V.||The Red-headed Windego|
|VI.||The Shining Cross of Rigaud|
|VIII.||The Ride by Night|
|X.||A Turkey Apiece|
|XI.||Grandpapa's Wolf Story|
|XII.||The Waterloo Veteran|
For liberty to issue these stories in present
form the author has to thank The Youths'
Companion, Boston; the proprietors of "Two
Tales," in which "Old Man Savarin" and "Great
Godfrey's Lament" first appeared; and "Harper's
Weekly" and Mr. S. S. McClure's syndicate of
newspapers, which, respectively, first published
"The Privilege of the Limits" and "John Bedell".
OLD MAN SAVARIN.
Old Ma'ame Paradis had caught seventeen
small doré, four suckers, and eleven
channel-catfish before she used up all the
worms in her tomato-can. Therefore she was
in a cheerful and loquacious humor when I
came along and offered her some of my bait.
"Merci; non, M'sieu. Dat's 'nuff fishin'
for me. I got too old now for fish too much.
You like me make you present of six or seven
doré? Yes? All right. Then you make me
present of one quarter dollar."
When this transaction was completed, the
old lady got out her short black clay pipe,
and filled it with tabac blanc.
"Ver' good smell for scare mosquitoes," said
she. "Sit down, M'sieu. For sure I like to
be here, me, for see the river when she's like
Indeed the scene was more than picturesque.
Her fishing-platform extended twenty feet from
the rocky shore of the great Rataplan Rapid
of the Ottawa, which, beginning to tumble a
mile to the westward, poured a roaring torrent
half a mile wide into the broader, calm brown
reach below. Noble elms towered on the
shores. Between their trunks we could see
many whitewashed cabins, whose doors of blue
or green or red scarcely disclosed their colors
in that light.
The sinking sun, which already touched the
river, seemed somehow the source of the vast
stream that flowed radiantly from its blaze.
Through the glamour of the evening mist and
the maze of June flies we could see a dozen
men scooping for fish from platforms like that
of Ma'ame Paradis.
Each scooper lifted a great hoop-net set on
a handle some fifteen feet long, threw it easily
up stream, and swept it on edge with the current
to the full length of his reach. Then it
was drawn out and at once thrown upward
again, if no capture had been made. In case
he had taken fish, he came to the inshore edge
of his platform, and upset the net's contents into
a pool separated from the main rapid by an
improvised wall of stones.
"I'm too old for scoop some now," said
Ma'ame Paradis, with a sigh.
"You were never strong enough to scoop,
surely," said I.
"No, eh? All right, M'sieu. Then you
hain't nev' hear 'bout the time Old Man Savarin
was catched up with. No, eh? Well, I'll
tol' you 'bout that." And this was her story
as she told it to me.
"Der was fun dose time. Nobody ain't nev'
catch up with dat old rascal ony other time
since I'll know him first. Me, I'll be only fifteen
den. Dat's long time 'go, eh? Well,
for sure, I ain't so old like what I'll look.
But Old Man Savarin was old already. He's
old, old, old, when he's only thirty; an' mean—baptême!
If de old Nick ain' got de hottest
place for dat old stingy—yes, for sure!
"You'll see up dere where Frawce Seguin
is scoop? Dat's the Laroque platform by
right. Me, I was a Laroque. My fader was
use for scoop dere, an' my gran'fader—the
Laroques scoop dere all de time since ever
dere was some Rapid Rataplan. Den Old Man
Savarin he's buyed the land up dere from Felix
Ladoucier, an' he's told my fader, 'You can't
scoop no more wisout you pay me rent.'
"'Rent!' my fader say. 'Saprie! Dat's
my fader's platform for scoop fish! You ask
"'Oh, I'll know all 'bout dat,' Old Man
Savarin is say. 'Ladoucier let you scoop front
of his land, for Ladoucier one big fool. De
lan's mine now, an' de fishin' right is mine.
You can't scoop dere wisout you pay me rent.'
"'Baptême! I'll show you 'bout dat,' my
"Next mawny he is go for scoop same like
always. Den Old Man Savarin is fetch my
fader up before de magistrate. De magistrate
make my fader pay nine shillin'!
"'Mebbe dat's learn you one lesson,' Old
Man Savarin is say.
"My fader swear pretty good, but my moder
say: 'Well, Narcisse, dere hain' no use for take
it out in malediction. De nine shillin' is paid.
You scoop more fish—dat's the way.'
"So my fader he is go out early, early nex'
mawny. He's scoop, he's scoop. He's catch
plenty fish before Old Man Savarin come.
"'You ain't got 'nuff yet for fishin' on my
land, eh? Come out of dat,' Old Man Savarin
"'Saprie! Ain' I pay nine shillin' for fish
here?' my fader say.
"'Oui—you pay nine shillin' for fish here
wisout my leave. But you ain't pay nothin' for
fish here wis my leave. You is goin' up before
de magistrate some more.'
"So he is fetch my fader up anoder time.
An' de magistrate make my fader pay twelve
"'Well, I s'pose I can go fish on my fader's
platform now,' my fader is say.
"Old Man Savarin was laugh. 'Your honor,
dis man tink he don't have for pay me no rent,
because you'll make him pay two fines for trespass
on my land.'
"So de magistrate told my fader he hain't
got no more right for go on his own platform
than he was at the start. My fader is ver'
angry. He's cry, he's tear his shirt; but
Old Man Savarin only say, 'I guess I learn
you one good lesson, Narcisse.'
"De whole village ain't told de old rascal
how much dey was angry 'bout dat, for Old Man
Savarin is got dem all in debt at his big store.
He is grin, grin, and told everybody how he
learn my fader two good lesson. An' he is told
my fader: 'You see what I'll be goin' for do
wis you if ever you go on my land again wisout
you pay me rent.'
"'How much you want?' my fader say.
"'Half de fish you catch.'
"'Five dollar a year, den.'
"'Saprie, no. Dat's too much.'
"'All right. Keep off my lan', if you hain't
want anoder lesson.'
"'You's a tief,' my fader say.
"'Hermidas, make up Narcisse Laroque bill,'
de old rascal say to his clerk. 'If he hain't
pay dat bill to-morrow, I sue him.'
"So my fader is scare mos' to death. Only
my moder she's say, 'I'll pay dat bill, me.'
"So she's take the money she's saved up long
time for make my weddin' when it come. An'
she's paid de bill. So den my fader hain't
scare no more, an' he is shake his fist good
under Old Man Savarin's ugly nose. But dat
old rascal only laugh an' say, 'Narcisse, you
like to be fined some more, eh?'
"'Tort Dieu. You rob me of my place for
fish, but I'll take my platform anyhow,' my
fader is say.
"'Yes, eh? All right—if you can get him
wisout go on my land. But you go on my
land, and see if I don't learn you anoder
lesson,' Old Savarin is say.
"So my fader is rob of his platform, too.
Nex' ting we hear, Frawce Seguin has rent dat
platform for five dollar a year.
"Den de big fun begin. My fader an Frawce
is cousin. All de time before den dey was good
friend. But my fader he is go to Frawce
Seguin's place an' he is told him, 'Frawce,
I'll goin' lick you so hard you can't nev' scoop
on my platform.'
"Frawce only laugh. Den Old Man Savarin
come up de hill.
"'Fetch him up to de magistrate an' learn
him anoder lesson,' he is say to Frawce.
"'What for?' Frawce say.
"'For try to scare you.'
"'He hain't hurt me none.'
"'But he's say he will lick you.'
"'Dat's only because he's vex,' Frawce
"'Baptême! Non!' my fader say. 'I'll
be goin' for lick you good, Frawce.'
"'For sure?' Frawce say.
"'Saprie! Yes; for sure.'
"'Well, dat's all right den, Narcisse. When
you goin' for lick me?'
"'First time I'll get drunk. I'll be goin'
for get drunk dis same day.'
"'All right, Narcisse. If you goin' get drunk
for lick me, I'll be goin' get drunk for lick
you'—Canadien hain't nev' fool 'nuff for fight,
M'sieu, only if dey is got drunk.
"Well, my fader he's go on old Marceau's
hotel, an' he's drink all day. Frawce Seguin
he's go cross de road on Joe Maufraud's hotel,
an' he's drink all day. When de night come,
dey's bose stand out in front of de two hotel for
"Dey's bose yell an' yell for make de oder
feller scare bad before dey begin. Hermidas
Laronde an' Jawnny Leroi dey's hold my fader
for fear he's go 'cross de road for keel Frawce
Seguin dead. Pierre Seguin an' Magloire Sauve
is hold Frawce for fear he's come 'cross de
road for keel my fader dead. And dose men
fight dat way 'cross de road, till dey hain't
hardly able for stand up no more.
"My fader he's tear his shirt and he's yell,
'Let me at him!' Frawce he's tear his shirt
and he's yell, 'Let me at him!' But de men
hain't goin' for let dem loose, for fear one is strike
de oder ver' hard. De whole village is shiver
'bout dat offle fight—yes, seh, shiver bad!
"Well, dey's fight like dat for more as four
hours, till dey hain't able for yell no more, an'
dey hain't got no money left for buy wheeskey
for de crowd. Den Marceau and Joe Maufraud
tol' dem bose it was a shame for two cousins to
fight so bad. An' my fader he's say he's ver'
sorry dat he lick Frawce so hard, and dey's
bose sorry. So dey's kiss one anoder good—only
all their close is tore to pieces.
"An' what you tink 'bout Old Man Savarin?
Old Man Savarin is just stand in front of his
store all de time, an' he's say: 'I'll tink I'll
fetch him bose hup to de magistrate, an' I'll
learn him bose a lesson.'
"Me, I'll be only fifteen, but I hain't scare
'bout dat fight same like my moder is scare.
No more is Alphonsine Seguin scare. She's
seventeen, an' she wait for de fight to be all
over. Den she take her fader home, same like
I'll take my fader home for bed. Dat's after
twelve o'clock of night.
"Nex' mawny early my fader he's groaned
and he's groaned: 'Ah—ugh—I'm sick, sick,
me. I'll be goin' for die dis time, for sure.'
"'You get up an' scoop some fish,' my
moder she's say, angry. 'Den you hain't be
sick no more.'
"'Ach—ugh—I'll hain't be able. Oh, I'll
be so sick. An' I hain' got no place for scoop
fish now no more. Frawce Seguin has rob my
"'Take de nex' one lower down,' my moder
"'Dat's Jawnny Leroi's.'
"'All right for dat. Jawnny he's hire for
run timber to-day.'
"'Ugh—I'll not be able for get up. Send for
M'sieu le Curé—I'll be goin' for die for sure.'
"'Mis re, but dat's no man! Dat's a drunk
pig,' my moder she's say, angry. 'Sick,
eh? Lazy, lazy—dat's so. An' dere hain't
no fish for de little chilluns, an' it's Friday
mawny.' So my moder she's begin for cry.
"Well, M'sieu, I'll make de rest short; for
de sun is all gone now. What you tink I do
dat mawny? I take de big scoop-net an' I'll
come up here for see if I'll be able for scoop
some fish on Jawnny Leroi's platform. Only
dere hain't nev' much fish dere.
"Pretty quick I'll look up and I'll see
Alphonsine Seguin scoop, scoop on my fader's
old platform. Alphonsine's fader is sick, sick,
same like my fader, an' all de Seguin boys is
too little for scoop, same like my brudders is
too little. So dere Alphonsine she's scoop,
scoop for breakfas'.
"What you tink I'll see some more? I'll
see Old Man Savarin. He's watchin' from de
corner of de cedar bush, an' I'll know ver'
good what he's watch for. He's watch for
catch my fader go on his own platform. He's
want for learn my fader anoder lesson. Saprie!
dat's make me ver' angry, M'sieu!
"Alphonsine she's scoop, scoop plenty fish.
I'll not be scoop none. Dat's make me more
angry. I'll look up where Alphonsine is, an'
I'll talk to myself:—
"'Dat's my fader's platform,' I'll be say.
'Dat's my fader's fish what you catch, Alphonsine.
You hain't nev' be my cousin no more.
It is mean, mean for Frawce Seguin to rent
my fader's platform for please dat old rascal
Savarin.' Mebby I'll not be so angry at
Alphonsine, M'sieu, if I was able for catch some
fish; but I hain't able—I don't catch none.
"Well, M'sieu, dat's de way for long time—half-hour
mebby. Den I'll hear Alphonsine
yell good. I'll look up de river some more.
She's try for lift her net. She's try hard, hard,
but she hain't able. De net is down in de
rapid, an' she's only able for hang on to de
hannle. Den I'll know she's got one big
sturgeon, an' he's so big she can't pull him up.
"Monjee! what I care 'bout dat! I'll laugh
me. Den I'll laugh good some more, for I'll
want Alphonsine for see how I'll laugh big.
And I'll talk to myself:—
"'Dat's good for dose Seguins,' I'll say.
'De big sturgeon will pull away de net. Den
Alphonsine she will lose her fader's scoop wis
de sturgeon. Dat's good 'nuff for dose Seguins!
Take my fader platform, eh?'
"For sure, I'll want for go an' help Alphonsine
all de same—she's my cousin, an' I'll
want for see de sturgeon, me. But I'll only
just laugh, laugh. Non, M'sieu; dere was not
one man out on any of de oder platform dat
mawny for to help Alphonsine. Dey was all
sleep ver' late, for dey was all out ver' late for
see de offle fight I told you 'bout.
"Well, pretty quick, what you tink? I'll see
Old Man Savarin goin' to my fader's platform.
He's take hold for help Alphonsine an' dey's
bose pull, and pretty quick de big sturgeon is
up on de platform. I'll be more angry as
"Oh, tort Dieu! What you tink come den?
Why, dat Old Man Savarin is want for take de
"First dey hain't speak so I can hear, for
de Rapid is too loud. But pretty quick dey's
bose angry, and I hear dem talk.
"'Dat's my fish,' Old Man Savarin is say.
'Didn't I save him? Wasn't you goin' for
lose him, for sure?'
"Me—I'll laugh good. Dass such an old
"'You get off dis platform, quick!' Alphonsine
"'Give me my sturgeon,' he's say.
"'Dat's a lie—it hain't your sturgeon.
It's my sturgeon,' she's yell.
"'I'll learn you one lesson 'bout dat,' he's
"Well, M'sieu, Alphonsine she's pull back de
fish just when Old Man Savarin is make one
grab. An' when she's pull back, she's step to
one side, an' de old rascal he is, grab at de fish,
an' de heft of de sturgeon is make him fall on
his face, so he's tumble in de Rapid when
Alphonsine let go de sturgeon. So dere's Old
Man Savarin floating in de river—and me!
I'll don' care eef he's drown one bit!
"One time he is on his back, one time he is
on his face, one time he is all under de water.
For sure he's goin' for be draw into de culbute
an' get drown' dead, if I'll not be able for
scoop him when he's go by my platform.
I'll want for laugh, but I'll be too much
"Well, M'sieu, I'll pick up my fader's scoop
and I'll stand out on de edge of de platform.
De water is run so fast, I'm mos' 'fraid de old
man is boun' for pull me in when I'll scoop
him. But I'll not mind for dat, I'll throw de
scoop an' catch him; an' for sure, he's hold
"So dere's de old rascal in de scoop, but
when I'll get him safe, I hain't able for pull
him in one bit. I'll only be able for hold
on an' laugh, laugh—he's look ver' queer!
All I can do is to hold him dere so he can't
go down de culbute. I'll can't pull him up if
I'll want to.
"De old man is scare ver' bad. But pretty
quick he's got hold of de cross-bar of de hoop,
an' he's got his ugly old head up good.
"'Pull me in,' he say, ver' angry.
"'I'll hain't be able,' I'll say.
"Jus' den Alphonsine she come 'long, an'
she's laugh so she can't hardly hold on wis me
to de hannle. I was laugh good some more.
When de old villain see us have fun, he's yell:
'I'll learn you bose one lesson for this. Pull
"'Oh! you's learn, us bose one lesson,
M'sieu Savarin, eh?' Alphonsine she's say.
'Well, den, us bose will learn M'sieu Savarin
one lesson first. Pull him up a little,' she's
say to me.
"So we pull him up, an' den Alphonsine she's
say to me: 'Let out de hannle, quick'—and
he's under de water some more. When we
stop de net, he's got hees head up pretty quick.
"'Monjee! I'll be drown' if you don't pull
me out,' he's mos' cry.
"'Ver' well—if you's drown, your family
be ver' glad,' Alphonsine she's say. 'Den
they's got all your money for spend quick,
"M'sieu, dat scare him offle. He's begin
for cry like one baby.
"'Save me out,' he's say. 'I'll give you
anything I've got.'
"'How much?' Alphonsine she's say.
"He's tink, and he's say, 'Quarter dollar.'
"Alphonsine an' me is laugh, laugh.
"'Save me,' he's cry some more. 'I hain't
fit for die dis mawny.'
"'You hain' fit for live no mawny,' Alphonsine
she's say. 'One quarter dollar, eh? Where's
"'He's got away when, I fall in,' he's say.
"'How much you goin' give me for lose my
big sturgeon?' she's ask.
"'How much you'll want, Alphonsine?'
"'Dat's too much for one sturgeon,' he's
say. For all he was not feel fit for die, he
was more 'fraid for pay out his money.
"'Let him down some more,' Alphonsine
"'Oh. misère, misère! I'll pay de two
dollare,' he's say when his head come up some
"'Ver' well, den,' Alphonsine she's say; 'I'll
be willin' for save you, me. But you hain't
scooped by me. You's in Marie's net. I'll
only come for help Marie. You's her sturgeon;'
an' Alphonsine she's laugh an' laugh.
"'I didn't lose no sturgeon for Marie,' he's
"'No, eh?" I'll say mysef. 'But you's
steal my fader's platform. You's take his
fishin' place. You's got him fined two times.
You's make my moder pay his bill wis my
weddin' money. What you goin' pay for all
dat? You tink I'll be goin' for mos' kill mysef
pullin' you out for noting? When you ever
do someting for anybody for noting, eh, M'sieu
"'How much you want?' he's say.
"'Ten dollare for de platform, dat's all.'
"'Never—dat's robbery,' he's say, an' he's
begin to cry like ver' li'll baby.
"'Pull him hup, Marie, an' give him some
more,' Alphonsine she's say.
"But de old rascal is so scare 'bout dat, dat
he's say he's pay right off. So we's pull him
up near to de platform, only we hain't big
'nuff fool for let him out of de net till he's take
out his purse an' pay de twelve dollare.
"Monjee, M'sieu! If ever you see one angry
old rascal! He not even stop for say: 'T'ank
you for save me from be drown' dead in the
culbute!' He's run for his house an' he's put
on dry clo'es, an' he's go up to de magistrate
first ting for learn me an' Alphonsine one big
"But de magistrate hain' ver' bad magistrate.
He's only laugh an' he's say:—
"'M'sieu Savarin, de whole river will be laugh
at you for let two young girl take eet out of
smart man like you like dat. Hain't you tink
your life worth twelve dollare? Didn't dey
save you from de culbute? Monjee! I'll tink
de whole river not laugh so ver' bad if you pay
dose young girl one hunder dollare for save
you so kind.'
"'One hunder dollare!' he's mos' cry.
'Hain't you goin' to learn dose girl one lesson
for take advantage of me dat way?'
"'Didn't you pay dose girl yoursef? Didn't
you took out your purse yoursef? Yes, eh?
Well, den, I'll goin' for learn you one lesson
yoursef, M'sieu Savarin.' de magistrate is say.
'Dose two young girl is ver' wicked, eh? Yes,
dat's so. But for why? Hain't dey just do to
you what you been doin' ever since you was in
beesness? Don' I know? You hain' never
yet got advantage of nobody wisout you rob
him all you can, an' dose wicked young girl
only act just like you give dem a lesson all your
"An' de best fun was de whole river did
laugh at M'sieu Savarin. An' my fader and
Frawce Seguin is laugh most of all, till he's
catch hup wis bose of dem anoder time. You
come for see me some more, an' I'll tol' you
THE PRIVILEGE OF THE LIMITS.
"Yes, indeed, my grandfather wass once in
jail," said old Mrs. McTavish, of the
county of Glengarry, in Ontario, Canada; "but
that wass for debt, and he wass a ferry honest
man whateffer, and he would not broke his
promise—no, not for all the money in Canada.
If you will listen to me, I will tell chust exactly
the true story about that debt, to show you what
an honest man my grandfather wass.
"One time Tougal Stewart, him that wass the
poy's grandfather that keeps the same store in
Cornwall to this day, sold a plough to my grandfather,
and my grandfather said he would pay
half the plough in October, and the other half
whateffer time he felt able to pay the money.
Yes, indeed, that was the very promise my
"So he was at Tougal Stewart's store on the
first of October early in the morning pefore the
shutters wass taken off, and he paid half chust
exactly to keep his word. Then the crop wass
ferry pad next year, and the year after that one
of his horses wass killed py lightning, and the
next year his brother, that wass not rich and
had a big family, died, and do you think wass
my grandfather to let the family be disgraced
without a good funeral? No, indeed. So my
grandfather paid for the funeral, and there was
at it plenty of meat and drink for eferypody,
as wass the right Hielan' custom those days;
and after the funeral my grandfather did not
feel chust exactly able to pay the other half for
the plough that year either.
"So, then, Tougal Stewart met my grandfather
in Cornwall next day after the funeral,
and asked him if he had some money to
"'Wass you in need of help, Mr. Stewart?'
says my grandfather, kindly. 'For if it's in any
want you are, Tougal,' says my grandfather, 'I
will sell the coat off my back, if there is no
other way to lend you a loan;' for that was
always the way of my grandfather with all his
friends, and a bigger-hearted man there never
wass in all Glengarry, or in Stormont, or in
"'In want!' says Tougal—'in want, Mr.
McTavish!' says he, very high. 'Would you
wish to insult a gentleman, and him of the name
of Stewart, that's the name of princes of the
world?' he said, so he did.
"Seeing Tougal had his temper up, my
grandfather spoke softly, being a quiet, peaceable
man, and in wonder what he had said to
"'Mr. Stewart,' says my grandfather, 'it wass
not in my mind to anger you whatefer. Only
I thought, from your asking me if I had some
money, that you might be looking for a wee bit
of a loan, as many a gentleman has to do at
times, and no shame to him at all,' said my
"'A loan?' says Tougal, sneering. 'A loan,
is it? Where's your memory, Mr. McTavish?
Are you not owing me half the price of the
plough you've had these three years?'
"'And wass you asking me for money for
the other half of the plough?' says my grandfather,
"'Just that,' says Tougal.
"'Have you no shame or honor in you?'
says my grandfather, firing up. 'How could I
feel able to pay that now, and me chust yesterday
been giving my poor brother a funeral fit
for the McTavishes' own grand-nephew, that
wass as good chentleman's plood as any Stewart
in Glengarry. You saw the expense I wass at,
for there you wass, and I thank you for the
politeness of coming, Mr. Stewart,' says my
grandfather, ending mild, for the anger would
never stay in him more than a minute, so kind
was the nature he had.
"'If you can spend money on a funeral like
that, you can pay me for my plough,' says
Stewart; for with buying and selling he wass
become a poor creature, and the heart of a
Hielan'man wass half gone out of him, for all
he wass so proud of his name of monarchs and
"My grandfather had a mind to strike him
down on the spot, so he often said; but he
thought of the time when he hit Hamish Cochrane
in anger, and he minded the penances the
priest put on him for breaking the silly man's
jaw with that blow, so he smothered the heat
that wass in him, and turned away in scorn.
With that Tougal Stewart went to court, and
sued my grandfather, puir mean creature.
"You might think that Judge Jones—him
that wass judge in Cornwall before Judge Jarvis
that's dead—would do justice. But no, he
made it the law that my grandfather must pay
at once, though Tougal Stewart could not deny
what the bargain wass.
"'Your Honor,' says my grandfather, 'I
said I'd pay when I felt able. And do I feel
able now? No, I do not,' says he. 'It's a
disgrace to Tougal Stewart to ask me, and himself
telling you what the bargain was,' said my
grandfather. But Judge Jones said that he
must pay, for all that he did not feel able.
"'I will nefer pay one copper till I feel
able,' says my grandfather; 'but I'll keep my
Hielan' promise to my dying day, as I always
done,' says he.
"And with that the old judge laughed, and
said he would have to give judgment. And so
he did; and after that Tougal Stewart got out
an execution. But not the worth of a handful
of oatmeal could the bailiff lay hands on, because
my grandfather had chust exactly taken
the precaution to give a bill of sale on his gear
to his neighbor, Alexander Frazer, that could
be trusted to do what was right after the law
play was over.
"The whole settlement had great contempt
for Tougal Stewart's conduct; but he was a
headstrong body, and once he begun to do
wrong against my grandfather, he held on, for
all that his trade fell away; and finally he had
my grandfather arrested for debt, though you'll
understand, sir, that he was owing Stewart
nothing that he ought to pay when he didn't
"In those times prisoners for debt was taken
to jail in Cornwall, and if they had friends to
give bail that they would not go beyond the
posts that was around the sixteen acres nearest
the jail walls, the prisoners could go where they
liked on that ground. This was called 'the
privilege of the limits.' The limits, you'll
understand, wass marked by cedar posts painted
white about the size of hitching-posts.
"The whole settlement was ready to go bail
for my grandfather if he wanted it, and for the
health of him he needed to be in the open air,
and so he gave Tuncan-Macdonnell of the
Greenfields, and Æneas Macdonald of the
Sandfields, for his bail, and he promised, on his
Hielan' word of honor, not to go beyond the
posts. With that he went where he pleased,
only taking care that he never put even the toe
of his foot beyond a post, for all that some
prisoners of the limits would chump ofer them
and back again, or maybe swing round them,
holding by their hands.
"Efery day the neighbors would go into
Cornwall to give my grandfather the good word,
and they would offer to pay Tougal Stewart for
the other half of the plough, only that vexed my
grandfather, for he was too proud to borrow,
and, of course, every day he felt less and less
able to pay on account of him having to hire
a man to be doing the spring ploughing and
seeding and making the kale-yard.
"All this time, you'll mind, Tougal Stewart
had to pay five shillings a week for my grandfather's
keep, the law being so that if the debtor
swore he had not five pound's worth of property
to his name, then the creditor had to pay the
five shillings, and, of course, my grandfather had
nothing to his name after he gave the bill of sale
to Alexander Frazer. A great diversion it was
to my grandfather to be reckoning up that if he
lived as long as his father, that was hale and
strong at ninety-six, Tougal would need to pay
five or six hundred pounds for him, and there
was only two pound five shillings to be paid
on the plough.
"So it was like that all summer, my grandfather
keeping heartsome, with the neighbors
coming in so steady to bring him the news of
the settlement. There he would sit, just inside
one of the posts, for to pass his jokes, and tell
what he wished the family to be doing next.
This way it might have kept going on for forty
years, only it came about that my grandfather's
youngest child—him that was my father—fell
sick, and seemed like to die.
"Well, when my grandfather heard that bad
news, he wass in a terrible way, to be sure, for
he would be longing to hold the child in his
arms, so that his heart was sore and like to
break. Eat he could not, sleep he could not:
all night he would be groaning, and all day he
would be walking around by the posts, wishing
that he had not passed his Hielan' word of
honor not to go beyond a post; for he thought
how he could have broken out like a chentleman,
and gone to see his sick child, if he had
stayed inside the jail wall. So it went on three
days and three nights pefore the wise thought
came into my grandfather's head to show him
how he need not go beyond the posts to see his
little sick poy. With that he went straight to
one of the white cedar posts, and pulled it up
out of the hole, and started for home, taking
great care to carry it in his hands pefore him,
so he would not be beyond it one bit.
"My grandfather wass not half a mile out of
Cornwall, which was only a little place in those
days, when two of the turnkeys came after him.
"'Stop, Mr. McTavish,' says the turnkeys.
"'What for would I stop?' says my grandfather.
"'You have broke your bail,' says they.
"'It's a lie for you,' says my grandfather, for
his temper flared up for anybody to say he
would broke his bail. 'Am I beyond the
post?' says my grandfather.
"With that they run in on him, only that he
knocked the two of them over with the post, and
went on rejoicing, like an honest man should,
at keeping his word and overcoming them that
would slander his good name. The only thing
pesides thoughts of the child that troubled him
was questioning whether he had been strictly
right in turning round for to use the post to
defend himself in such a way that it was nearer
the jail than what he wass. But when he
remembered how the jailer never complained of
prisoners of the limits chumping ofer the posts,
if so they chumped back again in a moment,
the trouble went out of his mind.
"Pretty soon after that he met Tuncan Macdonnell
of Greenfields, coming into Cornwall
with the wagon.
"'And how is this, Glengatchie?' says Tuncan.
'For you were never the man to broke
"Glengatchie, you'll understand, sir, is the
name of my grandfather's farm.
"'Never fear, Greenfields,' says my grandfather,
'for I'm not beyond the post.'
"So Greenfields looked at the post, and he
looked at my grandfather, and he scratched his
head a wee, and he seen it was so; and then
he fell into a great admiration entirely.
"'Get in with me, Glengatchie—it's proud
I'll be to carry you home;' and he turned his
team around. My grandfather did so, taking
great care to keep the post in front of him all
the time; and that way he reached home. Out
comes my grandmother running to embrace
him; but she had to throw her arms around
the post and my grandfather's neck at the same
time, he was that strict to be within his promise.
Pefore going ben the house, he went to the
back end of the kale-yard which was farthest
from the jail, and there he stuck the post; and
then he went back to see his sick child, while
all the neighbors that came round was glad to
see what a wise thought the saints had put into
his mind to save his bail and his promise.
"So there he stayed a week till my father got
well. Of course the constables came after my
grandfather, but the settlement would not let
the creatures come within a mile of Glengatchie.
You might think, sir, that my grandfather would
have stayed with his wife and weans, seeing the
post was all the time in the kale-yard, and him
careful not to go beyond it; but he was putting
the settlement to a great deal of trouble day
and night to keep the constables off, and he
was fearful that they might take the post away,
if ever they got to Glengatchie, and give him
the name of false, that no McTavish ever had.
So Tuncan Greenfields and Æneas Sandfield
drove my grandfather back to the jail, him with
the post behind him in the wagon, so as he
would be between it and the jail. Of course
Tougal Stewart tried his best to have the bail
declared forfeited; but old Judge Jones only
laughed, and said my grandfather was a Hielan'
gentleman, with a very nice sense of honor, and
that was chust exactly the truth.
"How did my grandfather get free in the
end? Oh, then, that was because of Tougal
Stewart being careless—him that thought he
knew so much of the law. The law was, you
will mind, that Tougal had to pay five shillings
a week for keeping my grandfather in the limits.
The money wass to be paid efery Monday, and
it was to be paid in lawful money of Canada,
too. Well, would you belief that Tougal paid
in four shillings in silver one Monday, and one
shilling in coppers, for he took up the collection
in church the day pefore, and it wass not till
Tougal had gone away that the jailer saw that
one of the coppers was a Brock copper,—a
medal, you will understand, made at General
Brock's death, and not lawful money of Canada
at all. With that the jailer came out to my
"'Mr. McTavish,' says he, taking off his hat,
'you are a free man, and I'm glad of it.' Then
he told him what Tougal had done.
"'I hope you will not have any hard feelings
toward me, Mr. McTavish,' said the jailer; and
a decent man he wass, for all that there wass not
a drop of Hielan' blood in him. 'I hope you
will not think hard of me for not being hospitable
to you, sir,' says he; 'but it's against the
rules and regulations for the jailer to be offering
the best he can command to the prisoners.
Now that you are free, Mr. McTavish,' says the
jailer, 'I would be a proud man if Mr. McTavish
of Glengatchie would do me the honor of taking
supper with me this night. I will be asking
your leave to invite some of the gentlemen of
the place, if you will say the word, Mr. McTavish,'
"Well, my grandfather could never bear
malice, the kind man he was, and he seen how
bad the jailer felt, so he consented, and a great
company came in, to be sure, to celebrate the
"Did my grandfather pay the balance on the
plough? What for should you suspicion, sir,
that my grandfather would refuse his honest
debt? Of course he paid for the plough, for
the crop was good that fall.
"'I would be paying you the other half of
the plough now, Mr. Stewart,' says my grandfather,
coming in when the store was full.
"'Hoich, but you are the honest McTavish!'
says Tougal, sneering.
"But my grandfather made no answer to the
creature, for he thought it would be unkind to
mention how Tougal had paid out six pounds
four shillings and eleven pence to keep him in
on account of a debt of two pound five that
never was due till it was paid."
McGRATH'S BAD NIGHT.
"Come then, childer," said Mrs. McGrath,
and took the big iron pot off. They
crowded around her, nine of them, the eldest
not more than thirteen, the youngest just big
enough to hold out his yellow crockery bowl.
"The youngest first," remarked Mrs. McGrath,
and ladled out a portion of the boiled corn-meal
to each of the deplorable boys and girls.
Before they reached the stools from which they
had sprung up, or squatted again on the rough
floor, they all burned their mouths in tasting
the mush too eagerly. Then there they sat,
blowing into their bowls, glaring into them, lifting
their loaded iron spoons occasionally to
taste cautiously, till the mush had somewhat
Then, gobble-de-gobble-de-gobble, it was all
gone! Though they had neither sugar, nor
milk, nor butter to it, they found it a remarkably
excellent sample of mush, and wished only
that, in quantity, it had been something more.
Peter McGrath sat close beside the cooking-stove,
holding Number Ten, a girl-baby, who
was asleep, and rocking Number Eleven, who
was trying to wake up, in the low, unpainted
cradle. He never took his eyes off Number
Eleven; he could not bear to look around and
see the nine devouring the corn-meal so hungrily.
Perhaps McGrath could not, and certainly
he would not,—he was so obstinate,—have
told why he felt so reproached by the
scene. He had felt very guilty for many weeks.
Twenty, yes, a hundred times a day he
looked in a dazed way at his big hands, and
they reproached him, too, that they had no
"Where is our smooth, broad-axe handle?"
asked the fingers, "and why do not the wide
He was ashamed, too, every time he rose up,
so tall and strong, with nothing to do, and
eleven children and his wife next door to starvation;
but if he had been asked to describe
his feelings, he would merely have growled out
angrily something against old John Pontiac.
"You'll take your sup now, Peter?" asked
Mrs. McGrath, offering him the biggest of the
yellow bowls. He looked up then, first at her
forlorn face, then at the pot. Number Nine
was diligently scraping off some streaks of
mush that had run down the outside; Numbers
Eight, Seven, Six, and Five were looking respectfully
into the pot; Numbers Four, Three,
Two, and One were watching the pot, the steaming
bowl, and their father at the same time.
Peter McGrath was very hungry.
"Yourself had better eat, Mary Ann," he
said. "I'll be having mine after it's cooler."
Mrs. McGrath dipped more than a third of
the bowlful back into the pot, and ate the rest
with much satisfaction. The numerals watched
her anxiously but resignedly.
"Sure it'll be cold entirely, Peter dear," she
said, "and the warmth is so comforting. Give
me little Norah now, the darlint! and be after
eating your supper."
She had ladled out the last spoonful of mush,
and the pot was being scraped inside earnestly
by Nine, Eight, Seven, and Six. Peter took the
bowl, and looked at his children.
The earlier numbers were observing him with
peculiar sympathy, putting themselves in his
place, as it were, possessing the bowl in imagination;
the others now moved their spoons
absent-mindedly around in the pot, brought
them empty to their mouths, mechanically, now
and again, sucked them more or less, and still
stared steadily at their father.
His inner walls felt glued together, yet indescribably
hollow; the smell of the mush went
up into his nostrils, and pungently provoked his
palate and throat. He was famishing.
"Troth, then, Mary Ann," he said, "there's
no hunger in me to-night. Sure, I wish the
childer wouldn't leave me the trouble of eating
it. Come, then, all of ye!"
The nine came promptly to his call. There
were just twenty-two large spoonfuls in the
bowl; each child received two; the remaining
four went to the four youngest. Then the bowl
was skilfully scraped by Number Nine, after
which Number Seven took it, whirled a cup of
water artfully round its interior, and with this
put a fine finish on his meal.
Peter McGrath then searched thoughtfully in
his trousers pockets, turning their corners up,
getting pinches of tobacco dust out of their
remotest recesses; he put his blouse pocket
through a similar process. He found no pockets
in his well-patched overcoat when he took it
down, but he pursued the dust into its lining,
and separated it carefully from little dabs of
wool. Then he put the collection into an
extremely old black clay pipe, lifted a coal in
with his fingers, and took his supper.
It would be absurd to assert that, on this
continent, a strong man could be so poor as
Peter, unless he had done something very wrong
or very foolish. Peter McGrath was, in truth,
out of work because he had committed an outrage
on economics. He had been guilty of
the enormous error of misunderstanding, and
trying to set at naught in his own person, the
immutable law of supply and demand.
Fancying that a first-class hewer in a timber
shanty had an inalienable right to receive at
least thirty dollars a month, when the demand
was only strong enough to yield him twenty-two
dollars a month, Peter had refused to engage at
the beginning of the winter.
"Now, Mr. McGrath, you're making a mistake,"
said his usual employer, old John Pontiac.
"I'm offering you the best wages going,
mind that. There's mighty little squared timber
coming out this winter."
"I'm ready and willing to work, boss, but
I'm fit to arn thirty dollars, surely."
"So you are, so you are, in good times,
neighbor, and I'd be glad if men's wages were
forty. That could only be with trade active,
and a fine season for all of us; but I couldn't
take out a raft this winter, and pay what you
"I'd work extra hard. I'm not afeard of
"Not you, Peter. There never was a lazy
bone in your body. Don't I know that well?
But look, now: if I was to pay you thirty, I
should have to pay all the other hewers thirty;
and that's not all. Scorers and teamsters and
road-cutters are used to getting wages in proportion
to hewers. Why, it would cost me a
thousand dollars a month to give you thirty!
Go along, now, that's a good fellow, and tell
your wife that you've hired with me."
But Peter did not go back. "I'm bound to
have my rights, so I am," he said sulkily to
Mary Ann when he reached the cabin. "The
old boss is getting too hard like, and set on
money. Twenty-two dollars! No! I'll go in
to Stambrook and hire."
Mary Ann knew that she might as well try to
convince a saw-log that its proper course was
up-stream, as to protest against Peter's obstinacy.
Moreover, she did think the offered
wages very low, and had some hope he might
better himself; but when he came back from
Stambrook, she saw trouble ahead. He did not
tell her that there, where his merit's were not
known, he had been offered only twenty dollars,
but she surmised his disappointment.
"You'd better be after seeing the boss again,
maybe, Peter dear," she said timidly.
"Not a step," he answered. "The boss'll
be after me in a few days, you'll see." But
there he was mistaken, for all the gangs were
After that Peter McGrath tramped far and
wide, to many a backwoods hamlet, looking
vainly for a job at any wages. The season was
the worst ever known on the river, and before
January the shanties were discharging men, so
threatening was the outlook for lumbermen,
and so glutted with timber the markets of the
Peter's conscience accused him every hour,
but he was too stubborn to go back to John
Pontiac. Indeed, he soon got it into his stupid
head that the old boss was responsible for his
misfortunes, and he consequently came to hate
Mr. Pontiac very bitterly.
After supping on his pipeful of tobacco-dust,
Peter sat, straight-backed, leaning elbows on
knees and chin on hands, wondering what on
earth was to become of them all next day. For
a man out of work there was not a dollar of
credit at the little village store; and work!
why, there was only one kind of work at which
money could be earned in that district in the
When his wife took Number Eleven's cradle
into the other room, she heard him, through
the thin partition of upright boards, pasted
over with newspapers, moving round in the
dim red flickering fire-light from the stove-grating.
The children were all asleep, or pretending
it; Number Ten in the big straw bed, where she
lay always between her parents; Number Eleven
in her cradle beside; Nine crosswise at the
foot; Eight, Seven, Six, Five, and Four in the
other bed; One, Two, and Three curled up,
without taking off their miserable garments, on
the "locks" of straw beside the kitchen stove.
Mary Ann knew very well what Peter was
moving round for. She heard him groan, so
low that he did not know he groaned, when he
lifted off the cover of the meal barrel, and could
feel nothing whatever therein. She had actually
beaten the meal out of the cracks to make that
last pot of mush. He knew that all the fish he
had salted down in the summer were gone, that
the flour was all out, that the last morsel of the
pig had been eaten up long ago; but he went to
each of the barrels as though he could not
realize that there was really nothing left. There
were four of those low groans.
"O God, help him! do help him! please
do!" she kept saying to herself. Somehow,
all her sufferings and the children's were light
to her, in comparison, as she listened to that
big, taciturn man groan, and him sore with the
When at last she came out, Peter was not
there. He had gone out silently, so silently
that she wondered, and was scared. She opened
the door very softly, and there he was, leaning
on the rail fence between their little rocky plot
and the great river. She closed the door
softly, and sat down.
There was a wide steaming space in the
river, where the current ran too swiftly for any
ice to form. Peter gazed on it for a long while.
The mist had a friendly look; he was soon
reminded of the steam from an immense bowl
of mush! It vexed him. He looked up at the
moon. The moon was certainly mocking him;
dashing through light clouds, then jumping into
a wide, clear space, where it soon became
motionless, and mocked him steadily.
He had never known old John Pontiac to
jeer any one, but there was his face in that
moon,—Peter made it out quite clearly. He
looked up the road to where he could see, on
the hill half a mile distant, the shimmer of
John Pontiac's big tin-roofed house. He
thought he could make out the outlines of all
the buildings,—he knew them so well,—the
big barn, the stable, the smoke-house, the
store-house for shanty supplies.
Pork barrels, flour barrels, herring kegs,
syrup kegs, sides of frozen beef, hams and
flitches of bacon in the smoke-house, bags of
beans, chests of tea,—he had a vision of them
all! Teamsters going off to the woods daily
with provisions, the supply apparently inexhaustible.
And John Pontiac had refused to pay him
Peter in exasperation shook his big fist at
the moon; it mocked him worse than ever.
Then out went his gaze to the space of mist;
it was still more painfully like mush steam.
His pigsty was empty, except of snow; it
made him think again of the empty barrels in
The children empty too, or would be to-morrow,—as
empty as he felt that minute.
How dumbly the elder ones would reproach
him! and what would comfort the younger
ones crying with hunger?
Peter looked again up the hill, through the
walls of the store-house. He was dreadfully
"John! John!" Mrs. Pontiac jogged her
husband. "John, wake up! there's somebody
trying to get into the smoke-house."
"Eh—ugh—ah! I'm 'sleep—ugh." He
"John! John! wake up! There is somebody!"
"What—ugh—eh—what you say?"
"There's somebody getting into the smoke-house."
"Well, there's not much there."
"There's ever so much bacon and ham.
Then there's the store-house open."
"Oh, I guess there's nobody."
"But there is, I'm sure. You must get
They both got up and looked out of the
window. The snow-drifts, the paths through
them, the store-house, the smoke-house, and
the other white-washed out-buildings could be
seen as clearly as in broad day. The smoke-house
door was open!
Old John Pontiac was one of the kindest
souls that ever inhabited a body, but this was a
little too much. Still he was sorry for the man,
no matter who, in that smoke-house,—some
Indian probably. He must be caught and
dealt with firmly; but he did not want the man
to be too much hurt.
He put on his clothes and sallied forth. He
reached the smoke-house; there was no one in
it; there was a gap, though, where two long
flitches of bacon had been!
John Pontiac's wife saw him go over to the
store-house, the door of which was open too.
He looked in, then stopped, and started back
as if in horror. Two flitches tied together with
a rope were on the floor, and inside was a man
filling a bag with flour from a barrel.
"Well, well! this is a terrible thing," said old
John Pontiac to himself, shrinking around a
corner. "Peter McGrath! Oh, my! oh, my!"
He became hot all over, as if he had done
something disgraceful himself. There was
nobody that he respected more than that pigheaded
Peter. What to do? He must punish
him of course; but how? Jail—for him with
eleven children! "Oh, my! oh, my!" Old
John wished he had not been awakened to see
this terrible downfall.
"It will never do to let him go off with it,"
he said to himself after a little reflection. "I'll
put him so that he'll know better another
Peter McGrath, as he entered the store-house
had felt that bacon heavier than the
heaviest end of the biggest stick of timber he had
ever helped to cant. He felt guilty, sneaking,
disgraced; he felt that the literal Devil had first
tempted him near the house, then all suddenly—with
his own hunger pangs and thoughts of
his starving family—swept him into the smoke-house
to steal. But he had consented to do it;
he had said he would take flour too,—and he
would, he was so obstinate! And withal, he
hated old John Pontiac worse than ever; for
now he accused him of being the cause of his
coming to this.
Then all of a sudden he met the face of
Pontiac looking in at the door.
Peter sprang back; he saw Stambrook jail—he
saw his eleven children and his wife—he
felt himself a detected felon, and that was
worst of all.
"Well, Peter, you'd ought to have come
right in," were the words that came to his ears,
in John Pontiac's heartiest voice. "The missis
would have been glad to see you. We did go
to bed a bit early, but there wouldn't have
been any harm in an old neighbor like you
waking us up. Not a word of that—hold on!
listen to me. It would be a pity if old friends
like you and me, Peter, couldn't help one
another to a trifling loan of provisions without
making a fuss over it." And old John, taking
up the scoop, went on filling the bag as if that
were a matter of course.
Peter did not speak; he could not.
"I was going round to your place to-morrow,"
resumed John, cheerfully, "to see if
I couldn't hire you again. There's a job of
hewing for you in the Conlonge shanty,—a
man gone off sick. But I can't give more 'n
twenty-two, or say twenty-three, seeing you're
an old neighbor. What do you say?"
Peter still said nothing; he was choking.
"You had better have a bit of something
more than bacon and flour, Peter," he went on,
"and I'll give you a hand to carry the truck
home. I guess your wife won't mind seeing
me with you; then she'll know that you've
taken a job with me again, you see. Come
along and give me a hand to hitch the mare
up. I'll drive you down."
"Ah—ah—Boss—Boss!" spoke Peter
then, with terrible gasps between. "Boss—O
my God, Mr. Pontiac—I can't never look you
in the face again!"
"Peter McGrath—old neighbor,"—and
John Pontiac laid his hand on the shaking
shoulder,—"I guess I know all about it; I
guess I do. Sometimes a man is driven he don't
know how. Now we will say no more about it.
I'll load up, and you come right along with me.
And mind, I'll do the talking to your wife."
Mary Ann McGrath was in a terrible frame
of mind. What had become of Peter?
She had gone out to look down the road, and
had been recalled by Number Eleven's crying.
Number Ten then chimed in; Nine, too, awoke,
and determined to resume his privileges as an
infant. One after another they got up and
huddled around her—craving, craving—all
but the three eldest, who had been well
practised in the stoical philosophy by the
gradual decrease of their rations. But these
bounced up suddenly at the sound of a grand
jangle of bells.
Could it be? Mr. Pontiac they had no doubt
about; but was that real bacon that he laid on
the kitchen table? Then a side of beef, a can
of tea; next a bag of flour, and again an actual
keg of sirup. Why, this was almost incredible!
And, last, he came in with an immense round
loaf of bread! The children gathered about
it; old John almost sickened with sorrow for
them, and hurrying out his jacknife, passed big
"Well, now, Mrs. McGrath," he said during
these operations, "I don't hardly take it kindly
of you and Peter not to have come up to an old
neighbor's house before this for a bit of a
loan. It's well I met Peter to-night. Maybe
he'd never have told me your troubles—not
but what I blame myself for not suspecting how
it was a bit sooner. I just made him take a
little loan for the present. No, no; don't be talking
like that! Charity! tut! tut! it's just an
advance of wages. I've got a job for Peter;
he'll be on pay to-morrow again."
At that Mary Ann burst out crying again.
"Oh, God bless you, Mr. Pontiac! it's a kind
man you are! May the saints be about your
With that she ran out to Peter, who still
stood by the sleigh; she put the baby in his
arms, and clinging to her husband's shoulder,
cried more and more.
And what did obstinate Peter McGrath do?
Why, he cried, too, with gasps and groans that
seemed almost to kill him.
"Go in," he said; "go in, Mary Ann—go
in—and kiss—the feet of him. Yes—and
the boards—he stands on. You don't know
what he's done—for me. It's broke I am—the
bad heart of me—broke entirely—with
the goodness of him. May the heavens be his
"Now, Mrs. McGrath," cried old John,
"never you mind Peter; he's a bit light-headed
to-night. Come away in and get a bite
for him. I'd like a dish of tea myself before I
go home." Didn't that touch on her Irish
hospitality bring her in quickly!
"Mind you this, Peter," said the old man,
going out then, "don't you be troubling your
wife with any little secrets about to-night;
that's between you and me. That's all I ask
Thus it comes about that to this day, when
Peter McGrath's fifteen children have helped
him to become a very prosperous farmer, his
wife does not quite understand the depth of
worship with which he speaks of old John
Mrs. Pontiac never knew the story of the
"Never mind who it was, Jane," John said,
turning out the light, on returning to bed, "except
this,—it was a neighbor in sore trouble."
"Stealing—and you helped him! Well,
John, such a man as you are!"
"Jane, I don't ever rightly know what kind
of a man I might be, suppose hunger was cruel
on me, and on you, and all of us! Let us bless
God that he's saved us from the terriblest
temptations, and thank him most especially
when he inclines our hearts—inclines our
GREAT GODFREY'S LAMENT.
"Hark to Angus! Man, his heart will be
sore the night! In five years I have
not heard him playing 'Great Godfrey's Lament,'"
said old Alexander McTavish, as with
him I was sitting of a June evening, at sundown,
under a wide apple-tree of his orchard-lawn.
When the sweet song-sparrows of the Ottawa
valley had ceased their plaintive strains, Angus
McNeil began on his violin. This night, instead
of "Tullochgorum" or "Roy's Wife" or
"The March of the McNeils," or any merry
strathspey, he crept into an unusual movement,
and from a distance came the notes of an exceeding
strange strain blent with the meditative
murmur of the Rataplan Rapids.
I am not well enough acquainted with musical
terms to tell the method of that composition
in which the wail of a Highland coronach
seemed mingled with such mournful crooning as
I had heard often from Indian voyageurs north
of Lake Superior. Perhaps that fancy sprang
from my knowledge that Angus McNeil's father
had been a younger son of the chief of the
McNeil clan, and his mother a daughter of the
greatest man of the Cree nation.
"Ay, but Angus is wae," sighed old McTavish.
"What will he be seeing the now? It
was the night before his wife died that he played
yon last. Come, we will go up the road. He
does be liking to see the people gather to
We walked, maybe three hundred yards, and
stood leaning against the ruined picket-fence
that surrounds the great stone house built by
Hector McNeil, the father of Angus, when he
retired from his position as one of the "Big
Bourgeois" of the famous Northwest Fur Trading
The huge square structure of four stories and
a basement is divided, above the ground floor,
into eight suites, some of four, and some of five
rooms. In these suites the fur-trader, whose
ideas were all patriarchal, had designed that he
and his Indian wife, with his seven sons and
their future families, should live to the end of
his days and theirs. That was a dream at the
time when his boys were all under nine years
old, and Godfrey little more than a baby in
The ground-floor is divided by a hall twenty-five
feet wide into two long chambers, one
intended to serve as a dining-hall for the multitude
of descendants that Hector expected to
see round his old age, the other as a withdrawing-room
for himself and his wife, or for festive
occasions. In this mansion Angus McNeil now
He sat out that evening on a balcony at the
rear of the hall, whence he could overlook the
McTavish place and the hamlet that extends a
quarter of a mile further down the Ottawa's
north shore. His right side was toward the
large group of French-Canadian people who
had gathered to hear him play. Though he
was sitting, I could make out that his was a
"Ay—it will be just exactly 'Great Godfrey's
Lament,'" McTavish whispered. "Weel
do I mind him playing yon many's the night
after Godfrey was laid in the mools. Then he
played it no more till before his ain wife died.
What is he seeing now? Man, it's weel kenned
he has the second sight at times. Maybe he
sees the pit digging for himself. He's the last
"Who was Great Godfrey?" I asked, rather
Angus McNeil instantly cut short the "Lament,"
rose from his chair, and faced us.
"Aleck McTavish, who have you with you?"
he called imperiously.
"My young cousin from the city, Mr. McNeil,"
said McTavish, with deference.
"Bring him in. I wish to spoke with you,
Aleck McTavish. The young man that is not
acquaint with the name of Great Godfrey McNeil
can come with you. I will be at the great
"It's strange-like," said McTavish, as we
went to the upper gate. "He has not asked
me inside for near five years. I'm feared his
wits is disordered, by his way of speaking.
Mind what you say. Great Godfrey was most
like a god to Angus."
When Angus McNeil met us at the front
door I saw he was verily a giant. Indeed, he
was a wee bit more than six and a half feet tall
when he stood up straight. Now he was
stooped a little, not with age, but with consumption,—the
disease most fatal to men of
mixed white and Indian blood. His face was
dark brown, his features of the Indian cast, but
his black hair had not the Indian lankness. It
curled tightly round his grand head.
Without a word he beckoned us on into the
vast withdrawing room. Without a word he
seated himself beside a large oaken centre-table,
and motioned us to sit opposite.
Before he broke silence, I saw that the windows
of that great chamber were hung with
faded red damask; that the heads of many a
bull moose, buck, bear, and wolf grinned among
guns and swords and claymores from its walls;
that charred logs, fully fifteen feet long, remained
in the fireplace from the last winter's
burning; that there were three dim portraits
in oil over the mantel; that the room contained
much frayed furniture, once sumptuous of red
velvet; and that many skins of wild beasts lay
strewn over a hard-wood floor whose edges still
retained their polish and faintly gleamed in
rays from the red west.
That light was enough to show that two of
the oil paintings must be those of Hector McNeil
and his Indian wife. Between these hung
one of a singularly handsome youth with yellow
"Here my father lay dead," cried Angus
McNeil, suddenly striking the table. He stared
at us silently for many seconds, then again
struck the table with the side of his clenched
fist. "He lay here dead on this table—yes!
It was Godfrey that straked him out all alone
on this table. You mind Great Godfrey, Aleck
"Well I do, Mr. McNeil; and your mother
yonder,—a grand lady she was." McTavish
spoke with curious humility, seeming wishful, I
thought, to comfort McNeil's sorrow by exciting
"Ay—they'll tell hereafter that she was
just exactly a squaw," cried the big man,
angrily. "But grand she was, and a great lady,
and a proud. Oh, man, man! but they were
proud, my father and my Indian mother. And
Godfrey was the pride of the hearts of them
both. No wonder; but it was sore on the
rest of us after they took him apart from our
Aleck McTavish spoke not a word, and big
Angus, after a long pause, went on as if almost
unconscious of our presence:—
"White was Godfrey, and rosy of the cheek
like my father; and the blue eyes of him would
match the sky when you'll be seeing it up
through a blazing maple on a clear day of
October. Tall, and straight and grand was
Godfrey, my brother. What was the thing Godfrey
could not do? The songs of him hushed
the singing-birds on the tree, and the fiddle he
would play to take the soul out of your body.
There was no white one among us till he was
"The rest of us all were just Indians—ay,
Indians, Aleck McTavish. Brown we were,
and the desire of us was all for the woods and
the river. Godfrey had white sense like my
father, and often we saw the same look in his
eyes. My God, but we feared our father!"
Angus paused to cough. After the fit he sat
silent for some minutes. The voice of the
great rapid seemed to fill the room. When he
spoke again, he stared past our seat with fixed,
dilated eyes, as if tranced by a vision.
"Godfrey, Godfrey—you hear! Godfrey,
the six of us would go over the falls and not
think twice of it, if it would please you, when
you were little. Oich, the joy we had in the
white skin of you, and the fine ways, till my
father and mother saw we were just making an
Indian of you, like ourselves! So they took you
away; ay, and many's the day the six of us went
to the woods and the river, missing you sore.
It's then you began to look on us with that
look that we could not see was different from
the look we feared in the blue eyes of our
father. Oh, but we feared him, Godfrey! And
the time went by, and we feared and we hated
you that seemed lifted up above your Indian
"Oich, the masters they got to teach him!"
said Angus, addressing himself again to my
cousin. "In the Latin and the Greek they
trained him. History books he read, and
stories in song. Ay, and the manners of
Godfrey! Well might the whole pride of my
father and mother be on their one white son.
A grand young gentleman was Godfrey,—Great
Godfrey we called him, when he was eighteen.
"The fine, rich people that would come up
in bateaux from Montreal to visit my father
had the smile and the kind word for Godfrey;
but they looked upon us with the eyes of the
white man for the Indian. And that look
we were more and more sure was growing
harder in Godfrey's eyes. So we looked back
at him with the eyes of the wolf that stares at
the bull moose, and is fierce to pull him down,
but dares not try, for the moose is too great
"Mind you, Aleck McTavish, for all we
hated Godfrey when we thought he would be
looking at us like strange Indians—for all that,
yet we were proud of him that he was our own
brother. Well, we minded how he was all like
one with us when he was little; and in the
calm looks of him, and the white skin, and the
yellow hair, and the grandeur of him, we had
pride, do you understand? Ay, and in the
strength of him we were glad. Would we not
sit still and pleased when it was the talk how
he could run quicker than the best, and jump
higher than his head—ay, would we! Man,
there was none could compare in strength with
Great Godfrey, the youngest of us all!
"He and my father and mother more and
more lived by themselves in this room. Yonder
room across the hall was left to us six Indians.
No manners, no learning had we; we were no
fit company for Godfrey. My mother was like
she was wilder with love of Godfrey the more
he grew and the grander, and never a word for
days and weeks together did she give to us. It
was Godfrey this, and Godfrey that, and all her
thought was Godfrey!
"Most of all we hated him when she was
lying dead here on this table. We six in the
other room could hear Godfrey and my father
groan and sigh. We would step softly to the
door and listen to them kissing her that was
dead,—them white, and she Indian like ourselves,—and
us not daring to go in for the fear
of the eyes of our father. So the soreness was
in our hearts so cruel hard that we would not
go in till the last, for all their asking. My God,
my God, Aleck McTavish, if you saw her!
she seemed smiling like at Godfrey, and she
looked like him then, for all she was brown
as November oak-leaves, and he white that day
as the froth on the rapid.
"That put us farther from Godfrey than
before. And farther yet we were from him
after, when he and my father would be walking
up and down, up and down, arm in arm, up
and down the lawn in the evenings. They
would be talking about books, and the great
McNeils in Scotland. The six of us knew we
were McNeils, for all we were Indians, and we
would listen to the talk of the great pride and
the great deeds of the McNeils that was our
own kin. We would be drinking the whiskey
if we had it, and saying: 'Godfrey to be the
only McNeil! Godfrey to take all the pride of
the name of us!' Oh, man, man! but we
hated Godfrey sore."
Big Angus paused long, and I seemed to see
clearly the two fair-haired, tall men walking arm
in arm on the lawn in the twilight, as if unconscious
or careless of being watched and overheard
by six sore-hearted kinsmen.
"You'll mind when my father was thrown
from his horse and carried into this room,
Aleck McTavish? Ay, well you do. But you
nor no other living man but me knows what
came about the night that he died.
"Godfrey was alone with him. The six of
us were in yon room. Drink we had, but
cautious we were with it, for there was a deed
to be done that would need all our senses.
We sat in a row on the floor—we were
Indians—it was our wigwam—we sat on the
floor to be against the ways of them two.
Godfrey was in here across the hall from us;
alone he was with our white father. He would
be chief over us by the will, no doubt,—and if
Godfrey lived through that night it would be
"We were cautious with the whiskey, I told
you before. Not a sound could we hear of
Godfrey or of my father. Only the rapid,
calling and calling,—I mind it well that night.
Ay, and well I mind the striking of the great
clock,—tick, tick, tick, tick, tick,—I listened
and I dreamed on it till I doubted but it was
the beating of my father's heart.
"Ten o'clock was gone by, and eleven was
near. How many of us sat sleeping I know
not; but I woke up with a start, and there was
Great Godfrey, with a candle in his hand, looking
down strange at us, and us looking up
strange at him.
"'He is dead,' Godfrey said.
"We said nothing.
"'Father died two hours ago,' Godfrey said.
"We said nothing.
"'Our father is white,—he is very white,'
Godfrey said, and he trembled. 'Our mother
was brown when she was dead.'
"Godfrey's voice was wild.
"'Come, brothers, and see how white is our
father,' Godfrey said.
"No one of us moved.
"'Won't you come? In God's name, come,'
said Godfrey. 'Oich—but it is very strange!
I have looked in his face so long that now I do
not know him for my father. He is like no
kin to me, lying there. I am alone, alone.'
"Godfrey wailed in a manner. It made me
ashamed to hear his voice like that—him that
looked like my father that was always silent as
a sword—him that was the true McNeil.
"'You look at me, and your eyes are the
eyes of my mother,' says Godfrey, staring
wilder. 'What are you doing here, all so
still? Drinking the whiskey? I am the same
as you. I am your brother. I will sit with you,
and if you drink the whiskey, I will drink the
"Aleck McTavish! with that he sat down on
the floor in the dirt and litter beside Donald,
that was oldest of us all.
"'Give me the bottle,' he said. 'I am as
much Indian as you, brothers. What you do I
will do, as I did when I was little, long ago.'
"To see him sit down in his best,—all his
learning and his grand manners as if forgotten,—man,
it was like as if our father himself was
turned Indian, and was low in the dirt!
"What was in the heart of Donald I don't
know, but he lifted the bottle and smashed it
down on the floor.
"'God in heaven! what's to become of
the McNeils! You that was the credit of the
family, Godfrey!' says Donald with a groan.
"At that Great Godfrey jumped to his feet
like he was come awake.
"'You're fitter to be the head of the
McNeils than I am, Donald,' says he; and with
that the tears broke out of his eyes, and he cast
himself into Donald's arms. Well, with that
we all began to cry as if our hearts would break.
I threw myself down on the floor at Godfrey's
feet, and put my arms round his knees the same
as I'd lift him up when he was little. There I
cried, and we all cried around him, and after a
bit I said:—
"'Brothers, this was what was in the mind
of Godfrey. He was all alone in yonder. We
are his brothers, and his heart warmed to us,
and he said to himself, it was better to be like
us than to be alone, and he thought if he came
and sat down and drank the whiskey with us,
he would be our brother again, and not be any
"'Ay, Angus, Angus, but how did you
know that?' says Godfrey, crying; and he put
his arms round my neck, and lifted me up till
we were breast to breast. With that we all put
our arms some way round one another and
Godfrey, and there we stood sighing and swaying
and sobbing a long time, and no man saying
"'Oh, man, Godfrey dear, but our father is
gone, and who can talk with you now about the
Latin, and the history books, and the great
McNeils—and our mother that's gone?' says
Donald; and the thought of it was such pity
that our hearts seemed like to break.
"But Godfrey said: 'We will talk together
like brothers. If it shames you for me to be
like you, then I will teach you all they taught
me, and we will all be like our white father.'
"So we all agreed to have it so, if he would
tell us what to do. After that we came in here
with Godfrey, and we stood looking at my
father's white face. Godfrey all alone had
straked him out on this table, with the silver-pieces
on the eyes that we had feared. But
the silver we did not fear. Maybe you will not
understand it, Aleck McTavish, but our father
never seemed such close kin to us as when we
would look at him dead, and at Godfrey, that
was the picture of him, living and kind.
"After that you know what happened yourself."
"Well I do, Mr. McNeil. It was Great
Godfrey that was the father to you all," said
"Just that, Aleck McTavish. All that he
had was ours to use as we would,—his land,
money, horses, this room, his learning. Some
of us could learn one thing and some of us
could learn another, and some could learn
nothing, not even how to behave. What I
could learn was the playing of the fiddle.
Many's the hour Godfrey would play with me
while the rest were all happy around.
"In great content we lived like brothers,
and proud to see Godfrey as white and fine, and
grand as the best gentleman that ever came up
to visit him out of Montreal. Ay, in great
content we lived all together till the consumption
came on Donald, and he was gone. Then
it came and came back, and came back again,
till Hector was gone, and Ranald was gone,
and in ten years' time only Godfrey and I were
left. Then both of us married, as you know.
But our children died as fast as they were born,
almost,—for the curse seemed on us. Then
his wife died, and Godfrey sighed and sighed
ever after that.
"One night I was sleeping with the door of
my room open, so I could hear if Godfrey
needed my help. The cough was on him
then. Out of a dream of him looking at my
father's white face I woke and went to his bed.
He was not there at all.
"My heart went cold with fear, for I heard
the rapid very clear, like the nights they all
died. Then I heard the music begin down
stairs, here in this chamber where they were
all laid out dead,—right here on this table
where I will soon lie like the rest. I leave it
to you to see it done, Aleck McTavish, for you
are a Highlandman by blood. It was that I
wanted to say to you when I called you in. I
have seen myself in my coffin three nights.
Nay, say nothing; you will see.
"Hearing the music that night, down I came
softly. Here sat Godfrey, and the kindest
look was on his face that ever I saw. He had
his fiddle in his hand, and he played about all
"He played about how we all came down
from the North in the big canoe with my father
and mother, when we were little children and
him a baby. He played of the rapids we
passed over, and of the rustling of the poplar-trees
and the purr of the pines. He played till
the river you hear now was in the fiddle, with
the sound of our paddles, and the fish jumping
for flies. He played about the long winters
when we were young, so that the snow of those
winters seemed falling again. The ringing of
our skates on the ice I could hear in the fiddle.
He played through all our lives when we were
young and going in the woods yonder together—and
then it was the sore lament began!
"It was like as if he played how they kept
him away from his brothers, and him at his
books thinking of them in the woods, and him
hearing the partridges' drumming, and the
squirrels' chatter, and all the little birds singing
and singing. Oich, man, but there's no words
for the sadness of it!"
Old Angus ceased to speak as he took his
violin from the table and struck into the middle
of "Great Godfrey's Lament." As he played,
his wide eyes looked past us, and the tears
streamed down his brown cheeks. When the
woful strain ended, he said, staring past us:
"Ay, Godfrey, you were always our brother."
Then he put his face down in his big brown
hands, and we left him without another word.
THE RED-HEADED WINDEGO.
Big Baptiste Seguin, on snow-shoes nearly six
feet long, strode mightily out of the forest,
and gazed across the treeless valley ahead.
"Hooraw! No choppin' for two mile!" he
"Hooraw! Bully! Hi-yi!" yelled the axemen,
Pierre, "Jawnny," and "Frawce," two
hundred yards behind. Their cries were taken
up by the two chain-bearers still farther back.
"Is it a lake, Baptiste?" cried Tom Dunscombe,
the young surveyor, as he hurried forward
through balsams that edged the woods
and concealed the open space from those among
"No, seh; only a beaver meddy."
"Clean! Yesseh! Clean 's your face. Hain't
no tree for two mile if de line is go right."
"Good! We shall make seven miles to-day,"
said Tom, as he came forward with
immense strides, carrying a compass and
Jacob's-staff. Behind him the axemen slashed
along, striking white slivers from the pink and
scaly columns of red pines that shot up a hundred
and twenty feet without a branch. If any
underbrush grew there, it was beneath the
eight-feet-deep February snow, so that one
could see far away down a multitude of vaulted,
Our young surveyor took no thought of the
beauty and majesty of the forest he was leaving.
His thoughts and those of his men were set
solely on getting ahead; for all hands had been
promised double pay for their whole winter, in
case they should succeed in running a line
round the disputed Moose Lake timber berth
before the tenth of April.
Their success would secure the claim of their
employer, Old Dan McEachran, whereas their
failure would submit him perhaps to the loss of
the limit, and certainly to a costly lawsuit with
"Old Rory" Carmichael, another potentate of
the Upper Ottawa.
At least six weeks more of fair snow-shoeing
would be needed to "blaze" out the limit,
even if the unknown country before them
should turn out to be less broken by cedar
swamps and high precipices than they feared.
A few days' thaw with rain would make slush of
the eight feet of snow, and compel the party
either to keep in camp, or risk mal de raquette,—strain
of legs by heavy snow-shoeing. So
they were in great haste to make the best of
Tom thrust his Jacob's-staff into the snow,
set the compass sights to the right bearing,
looked through them, and stood by to let Big
Baptiste get a course along the line ahead.
Baptiste's duty was to walk straight for some
selected object far away on the line. In woodland
the axemen "blazed" trees on both sides
of his snow-shoe track.
Baptiste was as expert at his job as any
Indian, and indeed he looked as if he had a
streak of Iroquois in his veins. So did "Frawce,"
"Jawnny," and all their comrades of the party.
"The three pines will do," said Tom, as
"Good luck to-day for sure!" cried Baptiste,
rising with his eyes fixed on three pines in the
foreground of the distant timbered ridge. He
saw that the line did indeed run clear of trees
for two miles along one side of the long,
narrow beaver meadow or swale.
Baptiste drew a deep breath, and grinned
agreeably at Tom Dunscombe.
"De boys will look like dey's all got de
double pay in dey's pocket when dey's see dis
open," said Baptiste, and started for the three
pines as straight as a bee.
Tom waited to get from the chainmen the
distance to the edge of the wood. They came
on the heels of the axemen, and all capered on
their snow-shoes to see so long a space free
It was now two o'clock; they had marched
with forty pound or "light" packs since daylight,
lunching on cold pork and hard-tack as
they worked; they had slept cold for weeks on
brush under an open tent pitched over a hole
in the snow; they must live this life of hardship
and huge work for six weeks longer, but
they hoped to get twice their usual eighty-cents-a-day
pay, and so their hearts were light
But Big Baptiste, now two hundred yards in
advance, swinging along in full view of the
party, stopped with a scared cry. They saw
him look to the left and to the right, and over
his shoulder behind, like a man who expects
mortal attack from a near but unknown quarter.
"What's the matter?" shouted Tom.
Baptiste went forward a few steps, hesitated,
stopped, turned, and fairly ran back toward
the party. As he came he continually turned
his head from side to side as if expecting to
see some dreadful thing following.
The men behind Tom stopped. Their faces
were blanched. They looked, too, from side
"Halt, Mr. Tom, halt! Oh, monjee, M'sieu,
stop!" said Jawnny.
Tom looked round at his men, amazed at
their faces of mysterious terror.
"What on earth has happened?" cried he.
Instead of answering, the men simply pointed
to Big Baptiste, who was soon within twenty
"What is the trouble, Baptiste?" asked Tom.
Baptiste's face was the hue of death. As he
spoke he shuddered:—
"Monjee, Mr. Tom, we'll got for stop de
"Stop the job! Are you crazy?"
"If you'll not b'lieve what I told, den you
go'n' see for you'se'f."
"What is it?"
"De track, seh."
"What track? Wolves?"
"If it was only wolfs!"
"Confound you! can't you say what it is?"
"Eet's de—It ain't safe for told its name
out loud, for dass de way it come—if it's call
by its name!"
"Windego, eh?" said Tom, laughing.
"I'll know its track jus' as quick 's I see it."
"Do you mean you have seen a Windego
"Monjee, seh, don't say its name! Let us go
back," said Jawnny. "Baptiste was at Madores'
shanty with us when it took Hermidas Dubois."
"Yesseh. That's de way I'll come for
know de track soon 's I see it," said Baptiste.
"Before den I mos' don' b'lieve dere was any
of it. But ain't it take Hermidas Dubois only
last New Year's?"
"That was all nonsense about Dubois. I'll
bet it was a joke to scare you all."
"Who 's kill a man for a joke?" said Baptiste.
"Did you see Hermidas Dubois killed? Did
you see him dead? No! I heard all about it.
All you know is that he went away on New
Year's morning, when the rest of the men were
too scared to leave the shanty, because some
one said there was a Windego track outside."
"Hermidas never come back!"
"I'll bet he went away home. You'll find
him at Saint Agathe in the spring. You can't
be such fools as to believe in Windegos."
"Don't you say dat name some more!"
yelled Big Baptiste, now fierce with fright.
"Hain't I just seen de track? I'm go'n' back,
me, if I don't get a copper of pay for de whole
"Wait a little now, Baptiste," said Tom,
alarmed lest his party should desert him and
the job. "I'll soon find out what's at the
bottom of the track."
"Dere's blood at de bottom—I seen it!"
"Well, you wait till I go and see it."
"No! I go back, me," said Baptiste, and
started up the slope with the others at his heels.
"Halt! Stop there! Halt, you fools! Don't
you understand that if there was any such
monster it would as easily catch you in one
place as another?"
The men went on. Tom took another tone.
"Boys, look here! I say, are you going to
desert me like cowards?"
"Hain't goin' for desert you, Mr. Tom, no
seh!" said Baptiste, halting. "Honly I'll
hain' go for cross de track." They all faced
Tom was acquainted with a considerable
number of Windego superstitions.
"There's no danger unless it's a fresh
track," he said. "Perhaps it's an old one."
"Fresh made dis mornin'," said Baptiste.
"Well, wait till I go and see it. You're all
right, you know, if you don't cross it. Isn't
that the idea?"
"No, seh. Mr. Humphreys told Madore
'bout dat. Eef somebody cross de track and
don't never come back, den de magic ain't in
de track no more. But it's watchin', watchin'
all round to catch somebody what cross its
track; and if nobody don't cross its track and
get catched, den de—de Ting mebby get
crazy mad, and nobody don' know what it's
goin' for do. Kill every person, mebby."
Tom mused over this information. These
men had all been in Madore's shanty; Madore
was under Red Dick Humphreys; Red Dick
was Rory Carmichael's head foreman; he had
sworn to stop the survey by hook or by crook,
and this vow had been made after Tom had
hired his gang from among those scared away
from Madore's shanty. Tom thought he began
to understand the situation.
"Just wait a bit, boys," he said, and started.
"You ain't surely go'n' to cross de track?"
"Not now, anyway," said Tom. "But wait
till I see it."
When he reached the mysterious track it
surprised him so greatly that he easily forgave
If a giant having ill-shaped feet as long as
Tom's snow-shoes had passed by in moccasins,
the main features of the indentations might
have been produced. But the marks were no
deeper in the snow than if the huge moccasins
had been worn by an ordinary man. They
were about five and a half feet apart from
centres, a stride that no human legs could take
at a walking pace.
Moreover, there were on the snow none of
the dragging marks of striding; the gigantic
feet had apparently been lifted straight up clear
of the snow, and put straight down.
Strangest of all, at the front of each print
were five narrow holes which suggested that the
mysterious creature had travelled with bare,
claw-like toes. An irregular drip or squirt of
blood went along the middle of the indentations!
Nevertheless, the whole thing seemed of
This track, Tom reflected, was consistent
with the Indian superstition that Windegos are
monsters who take on or relinquish the human
form, and vary their size at pleasure. He perceived
that he must bring the maker of those
tracks promptly to book, or suffer his men to
desert the survey, and cost him his whole
winter's work, besides making him a laughingstock
in the settlements.
The young fellow made his decision instantly.
After feeling for his match-box and sheath-knife,
he took his hatchet from his sash, and
called to the men.
"Go into camp and wait for me!"
Then he set off alongside of the mysterious
track at his best pace. It came out of a tangle
of alders to the west, and went into such
another tangle about a quarter of a mile to the
east. Tom went east. The men watched him
"He's got crazy, looking at de track," said
Big Baptiste, "for that's the way,—one is
enchanted,—he must follow."
"He was a good boss," said Jawnny, sadly.
As the young fellow disappeared in the
alders the men looked at one another with a
certain shame. Not a sound except the sough
of pines from the neighboring forest was heard.
Though the sun was sinking in clear blue, the
aspect of the wilderness, gray and white and
severe, touched the impressionable men with
deeper melancholy. They felt lonely, masterless,
"He was a good boss," said Jawnny again.
"Tort Dieu!" cried Baptiste, leaping to his
feet. "It's a shame to desert the young boss.
I don't care; the Windego can only kill me.
I'm going to help Mr. Tom."
"Me also," said Jawnny.
Then all wished to go. But after some
parley it was agreed that the others should wait
for the portageurs, who were likely to be two
miles behind, and make camp for the night.
Soon Baptiste and Jawnny, each with his axe,
started diagonally across the swale, and entered
the alders on Tom's track.
It took them twenty yards through the alders,
to the edge of a warm spring or marsh about
fifty yards wide. This open, shallow water was
completely encircled by alders that came down
to its very edge. Tom's snow-shoe track joined
the track of the mysterious monster for the first
time on the edge—and there both vanished!
Baptiste and Jawnny looked at the place with
the wildest terror, and without even thinking to
search the deeply indented opposite edges of
the little pool for a reappearance of the tracks,
fled back to the party. It was just as Red
Dick Humphreys had said; just as they had
always heard. Tom, like Hermidas Dubois,
appeared to have vanished from existence the
moment he stepped on the Windego track!
The dimness of early evening was in the red-pine
forest through which Tom's party had
passed early in the afternoon, and the belated
portageurs were tramping along the line. A
man with a red head had been long crouching in
some cedar bushes to the east of the "blazed"
cutting. When he had watched the portageurs
pass out of sight, he stepped over upon their
track, and followed it a short distance.
A few minutes later a young fellow, over six
feet high, who strongly resembled Tom Dunscombe,
followed the red-headed man.
The stranger, suddenly catching sight of a
flame far away ahead on the edge of the beaver
meadow, stopped and fairly hugged himself.
"Camped, by jiminy! I knowed I'd fetch
'em," was the only remark he made.
"I wish Big Baptiste could see that Windego
laugh," thought Tom Dunscombe, concealed
behind a tree.
After reflecting a few moments, the red-headed
man, a wiry little fellow, went forward
till he came to where an old pine had recently
fallen across the track. There he kicked off
his snow-shoes, picked them up, ran along the
trunk, jumped into the snow from among the
branches, put on his snow-shoes, and started
northwestward. His new track could not be
seen from the survey line.
But Tom had beheld and understood the purpose
of the manœuvre. He made straight for
the head of the fallen tree, got on the stranger's
tracks and cautiously followed them, keeping
far enough behind to be out of hearing or
The red-headed stranger went toward the
wood out of which the mysterious track of the
morning had come. When he had reached
the little brush-camp in which he had slept
the previous night, he made a small fire, put a
small tin pot on it, boiled some tea, broiled a
venison steak, ate his supper, had several good
laughs, took a long smoke, rolled himself round
and round in his blanket, and went to sleep.
Hours passed before Tom ventured to crawl
forward and peer into the brush camp. The
red-headed man was lying on his face, as is the
custom of many woodsmen. His capuchin cap
covered his red head.
Tom Dunscombe took off his own long sash.
When the red-headed man woke up he found
that some one was on his back, holding his
head firmly down.
Unable to extricate his arms or legs from his
blankets, the red-headed man began to utter
fearful threats. Tom said not one word, but
diligently wound his sash round his prisoner's
head, shoulders, and arms.
He then rose, took the red-headed man's
own "tump-line," a leather strap about twelve
feet long, which tapered from the middle to
both ends, tied this firmly round the angry live
mummy, and left him lying on his face.
Then, collecting his prisoner's axe, snow-shoes,
provisions, and tin pail, Tom started with
them back along the Windego track for camp.
Big Baptiste and his comrades had supped
too full of fears to go to sleep. They had
built an enormous fire, because Windegos are
reported, in Indian circles, to share with wild
beasts the dread of flames and brands. Tom
stole quietly to within fifty yards of the camp,
and suddenly shouted in unearthly fashion.
The men sprang up, quaking.
"It's the Windego!" screamed Jawnny.
"You silly fools!" said Tom, coming forward.
"Don't you know my voice? Am I a Windego?"
"It's the Windego, for sure; it's took the
shape of Mr. Tom, after eatin' him," cried Big
Tom laughed so uproariously at this, that the
other men scouted the idea, though it was quite
in keeping with their information concerning
Then Tom came in and gave a full and
particular account of the Windego's pursuit,
capture, and present predicament.
"But how'd he make de track?" they asked.
"He had two big old snow-shoes, stuffed
with spruce tips underneath, and covered with
dressed deerskin. He had cut off the back
ends of them. You shall see them to-morrow.
I found them down yonder where he had left
them after crossing the warm spring. He had
five bits of sharp round wood going down in
front of them. He must have stood on them one
after the other, and lifted the back one every
time with the pole he carried. I've got that,
too. The blood was from a deer he had run down
and killed in the snow. He carried the blood
in his tin pail, and sprinkled it behind him.
He must have run out our line long ago with a
compass, so he knew where it would go. But
come, let us go and see if it's Red Dick
Red Dick proved to be the prisoner. He
had become quite philosophic while waiting for
his captor to come back. When unbound he
grinned pleasantly, and remarked:—
"You're Mr. Dunscombe, eh? Well, you're
a smart young feller, Mr. Dunscombe. There
ain't another man on the Ottaway that could 'a'
done that trick on me. Old Dan McEachran
will make your fortun' for this, and I don't
begrudge it. You're a man—that's so. If
ever I hear any feller saying to the contrayry
he's got to lick Red Dick Humphreys."
And he told them the particulars of his
practical joke in making a Windego track round
"Hermidas Dubois?—oh, he's all right,"
said Red Dick. "He's at home at St. Agathe.
Man, he helped me to fix up that Windego
track at Madore's; but, by criminy! the look
of it scared him so he wouldn't cross it himself.
It was a holy terror!"
THE SHINING CROSS OF RIGAUD.
When Mini was a fortnight old his
mother wrapped her head and shoulders
in her ragged shawl, snatched him from
the family litter of straw, and, with a volley of
cautionary objurgations to his ten brothers and
sisters, strode angrily forth into the raw
November weather. She went down the hill
to the edge of the broad, dark Ottawa, where
thin slices of ice were swashing together. There
sat a hopeless-looking little man at the clumsy
oars of a flat-bottomed boat.
"The little one's feet are out," said the man.
"So much the better! For what was
another sent us?" cried Mini's mother.
"But the little one must be baptized," said
the father, with mild expostulation.
"Give him to me, then," and the man took
off his own ragged coat. Beneath it he had
nothing except an equally ragged guernsey,
and the wind was keen. The woman surrendered
the child carelessly, and drawing her
shawl closer, sat frowning moodily in the stern.
Mini's father wrapped him in the wretched
garment, carefully laid the infant on the pea-straw
at his feet, and rowed wearily away.
They took him to the gray church on the
farther shore, whose tall cross glittered coldly
in the wintry sun. There Madame Lajeunesse,
the skilful washerwoman, angry to be taken so
long from her tubs, and Bonhomme Hamel,
who never did anything but fish for barbotes,
met them. These highly respectable connections
of Mini's mother had a disdain for her
inferior social status, and easily made it understood
that nothing but a Christian duty would
have brought them out. Where else, indeed,
could the friendless infant have found sponsors?
It was disgraceful, they remarked, that the
custom of baptism at three days old should
have been violated. While they answered for
Mini's spiritual development he was quiet,
neither crying nor smiling till the old priest
crossed his brow. Then he smiled, and that,
Bonhomme Hamel remarked, was a blessed
"Now he's sure of heaven when he does
die!" cried Mini's mother, getting home
again, and tossed him down on the straw, for
a conclusion to her sentence.
But the child lived, as if by miracle. Hunger,
cold, dirt, abuse, still left him a feeble vitality.
At six years old his big dark eyes wore so sad
a look that mothers of merry children often
stopped to sigh over him, frightening the child,
for he did not understand sympathy. So unresponsive
and dumb was he that they called
him half-witted. Three babies younger than
he had died by then, and the fourth was little
Angélique. They said she would be very like
Mini, and there was reason why in her wretched
infancy. Mini's was the only love she ever
knew. When she saw the sunny sky his weak
arms carried her, and many a night he drew
over her the largest part of his deplorable
coverings. She, too, was strangely silent. For
days long they lay together on the straw, quietly
suffering what they had known from the beginning.
It was something near starvation.
When Mini was eight years old his mother
sent him one day to beg food from Madame
Leclaire, whose servant she had been long ago.
"It's Lucile's Mini," said Madame, taking
him to the door of the cosey sitting-room, where
Monsieur sat at solitaire.
"Mon Dieu, did one ever see such a child!"
cried the retired notary. "For the love of
Heaven, feed him well, Marie, before you let
But Mini could scarcely eat. He trembled
at the sight of so much food, and chose a crust
as the only thing familiar.
"Eat, my poor child. Have no fear," said
"But Angélique," said he.
"Angélique? Is it the baby?"
"Yes, Madame, if I might have something
"Poor little loving boy," said Madame,
tears in her kind eyes. But Mini did not cry;
he had known so many things so much sadder.
When Mini reached home his mother seized
the basket. Her wretched children crowded
around. There were broken bread and meat
in plenty. "Here—here—and here!" She
distributed crusts, and chose a well-fleshed
bone for her own teeth. Angélique could not
walk, and did not cry, so got nothing. Mini,
however, went to her with the tin pail before
his mother noticed it.
"Bring that back!" she shouted.
"Quick, baby!" cried Mini, holding it that
Angélique might drink. But the baby was not
quick enough. Her mother seized the pail
and tasted; the milk was still almost warm.
"Good," said she, reaching for her shawl.
"For the love of God, mother!" cried Mini,
"Madame said it was for Angélique." He
knew too well what new milk would trade for.
The woman laughed and flung on her shawl.
"Only a little, then; only a cupful," cried
Mini, clutching her, struggling weakly to restrain
her. "Only a little cupful for Angélique."
"Give her bread!" She struck him so that
he reeled, and left the cabin. Then Mini
cried, but not for the blow.
He placed a soft piece of bread and a thin
shred of meat in Angélique's thin little hand,
but she could not eat, she was so weak. The
elder children sat quietly devouring their food,
each ravenously eying that of the others. But
there was so much that when the father came
he also could eat. He, too, offered Angélique
bread. Then Mini lifted his hand which held
hers and showed beneath the food she had
"If she had milk!" said the boy.
"My God, if I could get some," groaned the
man, and stopped as a shuffling and tumbling
was heard at the door.
"She is very drunk," said the man, without
amazement. He helped her in, and, too far
gone to abuse them, she soon lay heavily
breathing near the child she had murdered.
Mini woke in the pale morning thinking
Angélique very cold in his arms, and, behold,
she was free from all the suffering forever. So
he could not cry, though the mother wept when
she awoke, and shrieked at his tearlessness as
Little Angélique had been rowed across the
great river for the last time; night was come
again, and Mini thought he must die; it could
not be that he should be made to live without
Angélique! Then a wondrous thing seemed to
happen. Little Angélique had come back.
He could not doubt it next morning, for, with
the slowly lessening glow from the last brands
of fire had not her face appeared?—then her
form?—and lo! she was closely held in the
arms of the mild Mother whom Mini knew
from her image in the church, only she smiled
more sweetly now in the hut. Little Angélique
had learned to smile, too, which was most
wonderful of all to Mini. In their heavenly
looks was a meaning of which he felt almost
aware; a mysterious happiness was coming
close and closer; with the sense of ineffable
touches near his brow, the boy dreamed.
Nothing more did Mini know till his mother's
voice woke him in the morning. He sprang
up with a cry of "Angélique," and gazed round
upon the familiar squalor.
From the summit of Rigaud Mountain a
mighty cross flashes sunlight all over the great
plain of Vaudreuil. The devout habitant,
ascending from vale to hill-top in the county
of Deux Montagnes, bends to the sign he sees
across the forest leagues away. Far off on the
brown Ottawa, beyond the Cascades of Carillon
and the Chute à Blondeau, the keen-eyed
voyageur catches its gleam, and, for gladness
to be nearing the familiar mountain, more
cheerily raises the chanson he loves. Near
St. Placide the early ploughman—while yet
mist wreathes the fields and before the native
Rossignol has fairly begun his plaintive flourishes—watches
the high cross of Rigaud for the
first glint that shall tell him of the yet unrisen
sun. The wayfarer marks his progress by the
bearing of that great cross, the hunter looks to
it for an unfailing landmark, the weatherwise
farmer prognosticates from its appearances.
The old watch it dwindle from sight at evening
with long thoughts of the well-beloved vanished,
who sighed to its vanishing through vanished
years; the dying turn to its beckoning radiance;
happy is the maiden for whose bridal it
wears brightness; blessed is the child thought
to be that holds out tiny hands for the glittering
cross as for a star. Even to the most
worldly it often seems flinging beams of heaven,
and to all who love its shining that is a dark
day when it yields no reflection of immortal
To Mini the Cross of Rigaud had as yet
been no more than an indistinct glimmering,
so far from it did he live and so dulled was he
by his sufferings. It promised him no immortal
joys, for how was he to conceive of heaven
except as a cessation of weariness, starvation,
and pain? Not till Angélique had come, in the
vision did he gain certainty that in heaven she
would smile on him always from the mild
Mother's arms. As days and weeks passed
without that dream's return, his imagination was
ever the more possessed by it. Though the
boy looked frailer than ever, people often
remarked with amazement how his eyes wore
some unspeakable happiness.
Now it happened that one sunny day after
rain Mini became aware that his eyes were
fixed on the Cross of Rigaud. He could not
make out its form distinctly, but it appeared to
thrill toward him. Under his intent watching
the misty cross seemed gradually to become the
centre of such a light as had enwrapped the
figures of his dream. While he gazed, expecting
his vision of the night to appear in broad
day on the far summit, the light extended,
changed, rose aloft, assumed clear tints, and
shifted quickly to a great rainbow encircling
Mini believed it a token to him. That
Angélique had been there by the cross the
little dreamer doubted not, and the transfiguration
to that arch of glory had some meaning
that his soul yearned to apprehend. The cross
drew his thoughts miraculously; for days thereafter
he dwelt with its shining; more and more
it was borne in on him that he could always
see dimly the outline of little Angélique's face
there; sometimes, staring very steadily for
minutes together, he could even believe that
she beckoned and smiled.
"Is Angélique really there, father?" he
asked one day, looking toward the hill-top.
"Yes, there," answered his father, thinking
the boy meant heaven.
"I will go to her, then," said Mini to his
Birds were not stirring when Mini stepped
from the dark cabin into gray dawn, with firm
resolve to join Angélique on the summit. The
Ottawa, with whose flow he went toward Rigaud,
was solemnly shrouded in motionless mist, which
began to roll slowly during the first hour of his
journey. Lifting, drifting, clinging, ever thinner
and more pervaded by sunlight, it was drawn
away so that the unruffled flood reflected a
sky all blue when he had been two hours on
the road. But Mini took no note of the river's
beauty. His eyes were fixed on the cloudy hill-top,
beyond which the sun was climbing. As
yet he could see nothing of the cross, nor of
his vision; yet the world had never seemed so
glad, nor his heart so light with joy. Habitants,
in their rattling calèches, were amazed by the
glow in the face of a boy so ragged and forlorn.
Some told afterward how they had half
doubted the reality of his rags; for might not
one, if very pure at heart, have been privileged
to see such garments of apparent meanness
change to raiment of angelic texture? Such
things had been, it was said, and certainly the
boy's face was a marvel.
His look was ever upward to where fibrous
clouds shifted slowly, or packed to level bands
of mist half concealing Rigaud Hill, as the sun
wheeled higher, till at last, in mid-sky, it flung
rays that trembled on the cross, and gradually
revealed the holy sign outlined in upright and
arms. Mini shivered with an awe of expectation;
but no nimbus was disclosed which his
imagination could shape to glorious significance.
Yet he went rapturously onward, firm in the
belief that up there he must see Angélique face
As he journeyed the cross gradually lessened
in height by disappearance behind the nearer
trees, till only a spot of light was left, which
suddenly was blotted out too. Mini drew a
deep breath, and became conscious of the greatness
of the hill,—a towering mass of brown
rock, half hidden by sombre pines and the
delicate greenery of birch and poplar. But
soon, because the cross was hidden, he could
figure it all the more gloriously, and entertain
all the more luminously the belief that there were
heavenly presences awaiting him. He pressed
on with all his speed, and began to ascend the
mountain early in the afternoon.
"Higher," said the women gathering pearly-bloomed
blueberries on the steep hillside.
"Higher," said the path, ever leading the tired
boy upward from plateau to plateau,—"higher,
to the vision and the radiant space about the
Faint with hunger, worn with fatigue, in the
half-trance of physical exhaustion, Mini still
dragged himself upward through the afternoon.
At last he knew he stood on the summit level
very near the cross. There the child, awed by
the imminence of what he had sought, halted
to control the rapturous, fearful trembling of his
heart. Would not the heavens surely open?
What words would Angélique first say? Then
again he went swiftly forward through the trees
to the edge of the little cleared space. There
he stood dazed.
The cross was revealed to him at a few
yards' distance. With woful disillusionment
Mini threw himself face downward on the rock,
and wept hopelessly, sorely; wept and wept,
till his sobs became fainter than the up-borne
long notes of a hermit-thrush far below on the
edge of the plain.
A tall mast, with a shorter at right angles,
both covered by tin roofing-plates, held on by
nails whence rust had run in streaks,—that was
the shining Cross of Rigaud! Fragments of
newspaper, crusts of bread, empty tin cans,
broken bottles, the relics of many picnics scattered
widely about the foot of the cross; rude
initial letters cut deeply into its butt where the
tin had been torn away;—these had Mini seen.
The boy ceased to move. Shadows stole
slowly lengthening over the Vaudreuil champaign;
the sun swooned down in a glamour of
painted clouds; dusk covered from sight the
yellows and browns and greens of the August
fields; birds stilled with the deepening night;
Rigaud Mountain loomed from the plain, a
dark long mass under a flying and waning
moon; stars came out from the deep spaces
overhead, and still Mini lay where he had
A STORY OF THE OTTAWA RIVER.
Ma'ame Baptiste Larocque peered
again into her cupboard and her flour
barrel, as though she might have been mistaken
in her inspection twenty minutes earlier.
"No, there is nothing, nothing at all!" said
she to her old mother-in-law. "And no more
trust at the store. Monsieur Conolly was too
cross when I went for corn-meal yesterday. For
sure, Baptiste stays very long at the shanty
"Fear nothing, Delima," answered the bright-eyed
old woman. "The good God will send a
breakfast for the little ones, and for us. In
seventy years I do not know Him to fail once,
my daughter. Baptiste may be back to-morrow,
and with more money for staying so long. No,
no; fear not, Delima! Le bon Dieu manages
all for the best."
"That is true; for so I have heard always,"
answered Delima, with conviction; "but sometimes
le bon Dieu requires one's inside to pray
very loud. Certainly I trust, like you, Memere;
but it would be pleasant if He would send the
food the day before."
"Ah, you are too anxious, like little Baptiste
here," and the old woman glanced at the boy
sitting by the cradle. "Young folks did not
talk so when I was little. Then we did not
think there was danger in trusting Monsieur le
Curé when he told us to take no heed of the
morrow. But now! to hear them talk, one
might think they had never heard of le bon
Dieu. The young people think too much, for
sure. Trust in the good God, I say. Breakfast
and dinner and supper too we shall all have
"Yes, Memere," replied the boy, who was
called little Baptiste to distinguish him from his
father. "Le bon Dieu will send an excellent
breakfast, sure enough, if I get up very early,
and find some good doré (pickerel) and catfish
on the night-line. But if I did not bait the
hooks, what then? Well, I hope there will be
more to-morrow than this morning, anyway."
"There were enough," said the old woman,
severely. "Have we not had plenty all day,
Delima made no answer. She was in doubt
about the plenty which her mother-in-law spoke
of. She wondered whether small André and
Odillon and 'Toinette, whose heavy breathing
she could hear through the thin partition, would
have been sleeping so peacefully had little
Baptiste not divided his share among them at
supper-time, with the excuse that he did not
feel very well?
Delima was young yet,—though little Baptiste
was such a big boy,—and would have rested
fully on the positively expressed trust of her
mother-in-law, in spite of the empty flour barrel,
if she had not suspected little Baptiste of sitting
However, he was such a strange boy, she
soon reflected, that perhaps going empty did
not make him feel bad! Little Baptiste was so
decided in his ways, made what in others would
have been sacrifices so much as a matter of
course, and was so much disgusted on being
offered credit or sympathy in consequence, that
his mother, not being able to understand him,
was not a little afraid of him.
He was not very formidable in appearance,
however, that clumsy boy of fourteen or so,
whose big freckled, good face was now bent
over the cradle where la petite Seraphine lay
smiling in her sleep, with soft little fingers
clutched round his rough one.
"For sure," said Delima, observing the baby's
smile, "the good angels are very near. I wonder
what they are telling her?"
"Something about her father, of course; for
so I have always heard it is when the infants
smile in sleep," answered the old woman.
Little Baptiste rose impatiently and went into
the sleeping-room. Often the simplicity and
sentimentality of his mother and grandmother
gave him strange pangs at heart; they seemed
to be the children, while he felt very old. They
were always looking for wonderful things to
happen, and expecting the saints and le bon
Dieu to help the family out of difficulties that
little Baptiste saw no way of overcoming without
the work which was then so hard to get.
His mother's remark about the angels talking to
little Seraphine pained him so much that he
would have cried had he not felt compelled to
be very much of a man during his father's
If he had been asked to name the spirit
hovering about, he would have mentioned a
very wicked one as personified in John Conolly,
the village storekeeper, the vampire of the little
hamlet a quarter of a mile distant. Conolly
owned the tavern too, and a sawmill up river,
and altogether was a very rich, powerful, and
dreadful person in little Baptiste's view. Worst
of all, he practically owned the cabin and lot of
the Larocques, for he had made big Baptiste
give him a bill of sale of the place as security
for groceries to be advanced to the family while
its head was away in the shanty; and that
afternoon Conolly had said to little Baptiste
that the credit had been exhausted, and more.
"No; you can't get any pork," said the storekeeper.
"Don't your mother know that, after
me sending her away when she wanted corn-meal
yesterday? Tell her she don't get another
cent's worth here."
"For why not? My fader always he pay,"
said the indignant boy, trying to talk English.
"Yes, indeed! Well, he ain't paid this time.
How do I know what's happened to him, as he
ain't back from the shanty? Tell you what:
I'm going to turn you all out if your mother
don't pay rent in advance for the shanty
to-morrow,—four dollars a month."
"What you talkin' so for? We doan' goin
pay no rent for our own house!"
"You doan' goin' to own no house," answered
Conolly, mimicking the boy. "The house is
mine any time I like to say so. If the store
bill ain't paid to-night, out you go to-morrow, or
else pay rent. Tell your mother that for me.
Mosey off now. 'Marche, donc!' There's
no other way."
Little Baptiste had not told his mother of
this terrible threat, for what was the use? She
had no money. He knew that she would begin
weeping and wailing, with small André and
Odillon as a puzzled, excited chorus, with
'Toinette and Seraphine adding those baby
cries that made little Baptiste want to cry himself;
with his grandmother steadily advising, in
the din, that patient trust in le bon Dieu which
he could not always entertain, though he felt
very wretched that he could not.
Moreover, he desired to spare his mother
and grandmother as long as possible. "Let
them have their good night's sleep," said he
to himself, with such thoughtfulness and pity
as a merchant might feel in concealing imminent
bankruptcy from his family. He knew
there was but one chance remaining,—that
his father might come home during the night
or next morning, with his winter's wages.
Big Baptiste had "gone up" for Rewbell the
jobber; had gone in November, to make logs
in the distant Petawawa woods, and now the
month was May. The "very magnificent"
pig he had salted down before going away had
been eaten long ago. My! what a time it
seemed now to little Baptiste since that pig-killing!
How good the boudin (the blood-puddings)
had been, and the liver and tender
bits, and what a joyful time they had had!
The barrelful of salted pike and catfish was all
gone too,—which made the fact that fish were
not biting well this year very sad indeed.
Now on top of all these troubles this new
danger of being turned out on the roadside!
For where are they to get four dollars, or two,
or one even, to stave Conolly off? Certainly
his father was away too long; but surely, surely,
thought the boy, he would get back in time to
save his home! Then he remembered with
horror, and a feeling of being disloyal to his
father for remembering, that terrible day, three
years before, when big Baptiste had come back
from his winter's work drunk, and without a
dollar, having been robbed while on a spree in
Ottawa. If that were the reason of his father's
delay now, ah, then there would be no hope,
unless le bon Dieu should indeed work a miracle
While the boy thought over the situation with
fear, his grandmother went to her bed, and soon
afterward Delima took the little Seraphine's
cradle into the sleeping-room. That left little
Baptiste so lonely that he could not sit still; nor
did he see any use of going to lie awake in bed
by André and Odillon.
So he left the cabin softly, and reaching the
river with a few steps, pushed off his flat-bottomed
boat, and was carried smartly up
stream by the shore eddy. It soon gave him
to the current, and then he drifted idly down
under the bright moon, listening to the roar of
the long rapid, near the foot of which their
cabin stood. Then he took to his oars, and
rowed to the end of his night-line, tied to the
wharf. He had an unusual fear that it might be
gone, but found it all right, stretched taut; a
slender rope, four hundred feet long, floated
here and there far away in the darkness by flat
cedar sticks,—a rope carrying short bits of line,
and forty hooks, all loaded with excellent fat,
That day little Baptiste had taken much
trouble with his night-line; he was proud of the
plentiful bait, and now, as he felt the tightened
rope with his fingers, he told himself that his
well-filled hooks must attract plenty of fish,—perhaps
a sturgeon! Wouldn't that be grand?
A big sturgeon of seventy-five pounds!
He pondered the Ottawa statement that
"there are seven kinds of meat on the head
of a sturgeon," and, enumerating the kinds, fell
into a conviction that one sturgeon at least
would surely come to his line. Had not three
been caught in one night by Pierre Mallette,
who had no sort of claim, who was too lazy to
bait more than half his hooks, altogether too
wicked to receive any special favors from le
Little Baptiste rowed home, entered the cabin
softly, and stripped for bed, almost happy in
guessing what the big fish would probably weigh.
Putting his arms around little André, he tried
to go to sleep; but the threats of Conolly came
to him with new force, and he lay awake, with
a heavy dread in his heart.
How long he had been lying thus he did not
know, when a heavy step came upon the plank
outside the door.
"Father's home!" cried little Baptiste,
springing to the floor as the door opened.
"Baptiste! my own Baptiste!" cried Delima,
putting her arms around her husband as he
stood over her.
"Did I not say," said the old woman, seizing
her son's hand, "that the good God would
send help in time?"
Little Baptiste lit the lamp. Then they saw
something in the father's face that startled them
all. He had not spoken, and now they perceived
that he was haggard, pale, wild-eyed.
"The good God!" cried big Baptiste, and
knelt by the bed, and bowed his head on his
arms, and wept so loudly that little André and
Odillon, wakening, joined his cry. "Le bon
Dieu has forgotten us! For all my winter's
work I have not one dollar! The concern is
failed. Rewbell paid not one cent of wages,
but ran away, and the timber has been seized."
Oh, the heartbreak! Oh, poor Delima!
poor children! and poor little Baptiste, with
the threats of Conolly rending his heart!
"I have walked all day," said the father,
"and eaten not a thing. Give me something,
"O holy angels!" cried the poor woman,
breaking into a wild weeping. "O Baptiste,
Baptiste, my poor man! There is nothing;
not a scrap; not any flour, not meal, not grease
even; not a pinch of tea!" but still she
searched frantically about the rooms.
"Never mind," said big Baptiste then, holding
her in his strong arms. "I am not so
hungry as tired, Delima, and I can sleep."
The old woman, who had been swaying to
and fro in her chair of rushes, rose now, and
laid her aged hands on the broad shoulders of
"My son Baptiste," she said, "you must not
say that God has forgotten us, for He has not
forgotten us. The hunger is hard to bear, I
know,—hard, hard to bear; but great plenty will
be sent in answer to our prayers. And it is
hard, hard to lose thy long winter's work; but
be patient, my son, and thankful, yes, thankful
for all thou hast."
"Behold, Delima is well and strong. See
the little Baptiste, how much a man! Yes,
that is right; kiss the little André and Odillon;
and see! how sweetly 'Toinette sleeps! All
strong and well, son Baptiste! Were one gone,
think what thou wouldst have lost! But instead,
be thankful, for behold, another has
been given,—the little Seraphine here, that
thou hast not before seen!"
Big, rough, soft-hearted Baptiste knelt by the
cradle, and kissed the babe gently.
"It is true, Memere," he answered, "and I
thank le bon Dieu for his goodness to me."
But little Baptiste, lying wide awake for
hours afterwards, was not thankful. He could
not see that matters could be much worse. A
big hard lump was in his throat as he thought
of his father's hunger, and the home-coming so
different from what they had fondly counted on.
Great slow tears came into the boy's eyes, and
he wiped them away, ashamed even in the dark
to have been guilty of such weakness.
In the gray dawn little Baptiste suddenly
awoke, with the sensation of having slept on
his post. How heavy his heart was! Why?
He sat dazed with indefinite sorrow. Ah, now
he remembered! Conolly threatening to turn
them out! and his father back penniless! No
breakfast! Well, we must see about that.
Very quietly he rose, put on his patched
clothes, and went out. Heavy mist covered the
face of the river, and somehow the rapid
seemed stilled to a deep, pervasive murmur.
As he pushed his boat off, the morning fog was
chillier than frost about him; but his heart got
lighter as he rowed toward his night-line, and
he became even eager for the pleasure of handling
his fish. He made up his mind not to be
much disappointed if there were no sturgeon,
but could not quite believe there would be
none; surely it was reasonable to expect one,
perhaps two—why not three?—among the
catfish and doré.
How very taut and heavy the rope felt as he
raised it over his gunwales, and letting the bow
swing up stream, began pulling in the line hand
over hand! He had heard of cases where
every hook had its fish; such a thing might
happen again surely! Yard after yard of rope
he passed slowly over the boat, and down into
the water it sank on his track.
Now a knot on the line told him he was nearing
the first hook; he watched for the quiver
and struggle of the fish,—probably a big one,
for there he had put a tremendous bait on and
spat on it for luck, moreover. What? the
short line hung down from the rope, and the
baited hook rose clear of the water!
Baptiste instantly made up his mind that that
hook had been placed a little too far in-shore;
he remembered thinking so before; the next
hook was in about the right place!
Hand over hand, ah! the second hook, too!
Still baited, the big worm very livid! It must
be thus because that worm was pushed up the
shank of the hook in such a queer way: he had
been rather pleased when he gave the bait that
particular twist, and now was surprised at himself;
why, any one could see it was a thing to
Hand over hand to the third,—the hook was
naked of bait! Well, that was more satisfactory;
it showed they had been biting, and, after all,
this was just about the beginning of the right
Hand over hand; now the splashing will
begin, thought little Baptiste, and out came
the fourth hook with its livid worm! He held
the rope in his hand without drawing it in for a
few moments, but could see no reasonable
objection to that last worm. His heart sank a
little, but pshaw! only four hooks out of forty
were up yet! wait till the eddy behind the shoal
was reached, then great things would be seen.
Maybe the fish had not been lying in that first
bit of current.
Hand over hand again, now! yes, certainly,
there is the right swirl! What? a losch, that
unclean semi-lizard! The boy tore it off and
flung it indignantly into the river. However,
there was good luck in a losch; that was
But the next hook, and the next, and next,
and next came up baited and fishless. He
pulled hand over hand quickly—not a fish!
and he must have gone over half the line!
Little Baptiste stopped, with his heart like lead
and his arms trembling. It was terrible! Not
a fish, and his father had no supper, and there
was no credit at the store. Poor little Baptiste!
Again he hauled hand over hand—one hook,
two, three—oh! ho! Glorious! What a delightful
sheer downward the rope took! Surely
the big sturgeon at last, trying to stay down
on the bottom with the hook! But Baptiste
would show that fish his mistake. He pulled,
pulled, stood up to pull; there was a sort of
shake, a sudden give of the rope, and little
Baptiste tumbled over backward as he jerked
his line up from under the big stone!
Then he heard the shutters clattering as
Conolly's clerk took them off the store window;
at half-past five to the minute that was always
done. Soon big Baptiste would be up, that
was certain. Again the boy began hauling in
line: baited hook! baited hook! naked hook!
baited hook!—such was still the tale.
"Surely, surely," implored little Baptiste,
silently, "I shall find some fish!" Up! up!
only four remained! The boy broke down.
Could it be? Had he not somehow skipped
many hooks? Could it be that there was to be
no breakfast for the children? Naked hook
again! Oh, for some fish! anything! three,
"Oh, send just one for my father!—my
poor, hungry father!" cried little Baptiste, and
drew up his last hook. It came full baited, and
the line was out of the water clear away to his
He let go the rope and drifted down the
river, crying as though his heart would break.
All the good hooks useless! all the labor thrown
away! all his self-confidence come to naught!
Up rose the great sun; from around the
kneeling boy drifted the last of the morning
mists; bright beams touched his bowed head
tenderly. He lifted his face and looked
up the rapid. Then he jumped to his feet
with sudden wonder; a great joy lit up his
Far up the river a low, broad, white patch appeared
on the sharp sky-line made by the level
dark summit of the long slope of tumbling
water. On this white patch stood many figures
of swaying men black against the clear morning
sky, and little Baptiste saw instantly that an
attempt was being made to "run" a "band"
of deals, or many cribs lashed together, instead
of single cribs as had been done the day
The broad strip of white changed its form
slowly, dipped over the slope, drew out like a
wide ribbon, and soon showed a distinct slant
across the mighty volume of the deep raft-channel.
When little Baptiste, acquainted as
he was with every current, eddy, and shoal in
the rapid, saw that slant, he knew that his first
impression of what was about to happen had
been correct. The pilot of the band had
allowed it to drift too far north before reaching
the rapid's head.
Now the front cribs, instead of following the
curve of the channel, had taken slower water,
while the rear cribs, impelled by the rush under
them, swung the band slowly across the current.
All along the front the standing men swayed
back and forth, plying sweeps full forty feet
long, attempting to swing into channel again,
with their strokes dashing the dark rollers
before the band into wide splashes of white.
On the rear cribs another crew pulled in the
contrary direction; about the middle of the
band stood the pilot, urging his gangs with
gestures to greater efforts.
Suddenly he made a new motion; the gang
behind drew in their oars and ran hastily
forward to double the force in front. But
they came too late! Hardly had the doubled
bow crew taken a stroke when all drew in
their oars and ran back to be out of danger.
Next moment the front cribs struck the
Then the long broad band curved downward
in the centre, the rear cribs swung into the
shallows on the opposite side of the raft-channel,
there was a great straining and
crashing, the men in front huddled together,
watching the wreck anxiously, and the band
went speedily to pieces. Soon a fringe of
single planks came down stream, then cribs and
pieces of cribs; half the band was drifting
with the currents, and half was "hung up" on
the rocks among the breakers.
Launching the big red flat-bottomed bow
boat, twenty of the raftsmen came with wild
speed down the river, and as there had been no
rush to get aboard, little Baptiste knew that the
cribs on which the men stood were so hard
aground that no lives were in danger. It
meant much to him; it meant that he was
instantly at liberty to gather in money! money,
in sums that loomed to gigantic figures before
He knew that there was an important reason
for hurrying the deals to Quebec, else the great
risk of running a band at that season would not
have been undertaken; and he knew that hard
cash would be paid down as salvage for all
planks brought ashore, and thus secured from
drifting far and wide over the lake-like expanse
below the rapid's foot. Little Baptiste plunged
his oars in and made for a clump of deals floating
in the eddy near his own shore. As he
rushed along, the raftsmen's boat crossed his
bows, going to the main raft below for ropes
and material to secure the cribs coming down
"Good boy!" shouted the foreman to
Baptiste. "Ten cents for every deal you fetch
ashore above the raft!" Ten cents! he had
expected but five! What a harvest!
Striking his pike-pole into the clump of deals,—"fifty
at least," said joyful Baptiste,—he
soon secured them to his boat, and then pulled,
pulled, pulled, till the blood rushed to his head,
and his arms ached, before he landed his
"Father!" cried he, bursting breathlessly
into the sleeping household. "Come quick! I
can't get it up without you."
"Big sturgeon?" cried the shantyman, jumping
into his trousers.
"Oh, but we shall have a good fish breakfast!"
"Did I not say the blessed le bon Dieu would
send plenty fish?" observed Memere.
"Not a fish!" cried little Baptiste, with
recovered breath. "But look! look!" and he
flung open the door. The eddy was now white
"Ten cents for each!" cried the boy. "The
foreman told me."
"Ten cents!" shouted his father. "Baptême!
it's my winter's wages!"
And the old grandmother! And Delima?
Why, they just put their arms round each other
and cried for joy.
"And yet there's no breakfast," said Delima,
starting up. "And they will work hard, hard."
At that instant who should reach the door
but Monsieur Conolly! He was a man who
respected cash wherever he found it, and
already the two Baptistes had a fine show
"Ma'ame Larocque," said Conolly, politely,
putting in his head, "of course you know I was
only joking yesterday. You can get anything
you want at the store."
What a breakfast they did have, to be sure!
the Baptistes eating while they worked. Back
and forward they dashed till late afternoon, driving
ringed spikes into the deals, running light
ropes through the rings, and, when a good
string had thus been made, going ashore to
haul in. At that hauling Delima and Memere,
even little André and Odillon gave a hand.
Everybody in the little hamlet made money
that day, but the Larocques twice as much as
any other family, because they had an eddy and
a low shore. With the help of the people
"the big Bourgeois" who owned the broken
raft got it away that evening, and saved his
fat contract after all.
"Did I not say so?" said "Memere," at
night, for the hundredth time. "Did I not
say so? Yes, indeed, le bon Dieu watches
over us all."
"Yes, indeed, grandmother," echoed little
Baptiste, thinking of his failure on the night-line.
"We may take as much trouble as we
like, but it's no use unless le bon Dieu helps
us. Only—I don' know what de big Bourgeois
say about that—his raft was all broke up so
"Ah, oui," said Memere, looking puzzled for
but a moment. "But he didn't put his trust
in le bon Dieu; that's it, for sure. Besides,
maybe le bon Dieu want to teach him a lesson;
he'll not try for run a whole band of deals
next time. You see that was a tempting of
Providence; and then—the big Bourgeois is
THE RIDE BY NIGHT.
Mr. Adam Baines is a little Gray about
the temples, but still looks so young
that few could suppose him to have served in
the Civil War. Indeed, he was in the army
less than a year. How he went out of it he
told me in some such words as these:—
An orderly from the direction of Meade's
headquarters galloped into our parade ground,
and straight for the man on guard before the
colonel's tent. That was pretty late in the
afternoon of a bright March day in 1865, but
the parade ground was all red mud with shallow
pools. I remember well how the hind hoofs of
the orderly's galloper threw away great chunks
of earth as he splashed diagonally across the
His rider never slowed till he brought his
horse to its haunches before the sentry. There
he flung himself off instantly, caught up his
sabre, and ran through the middle opening
of the high screen of sapling pines stuck on
end, side by side, all around the acre or so
occupied by the officers' quarters.
The day, though sunny, was not warm, and
nearly all the men of my regiment were in
their huts when that galloping was heard.
Then they hurried out like bees from rows
of hives, ran up the lanes between the lines
of huts, and collected, each company separately,
on the edge of the parade ground opposite the
You see we had a notion that the orderly
had brought the word to break camp. For five
months the Army of the Potomac had been in
winter quarters, and for weeks nothing more
exciting than vidette duty had broken the
monotony of our brigade. We understood that
Sheridan had received command of all Grant's
cavalry, but did not know but the orderly had
rushed from Sheridan himself. Yet we awaited
the man's re-appearance with intense curiosity.
Soon, instead of the orderly, out ran our
first lieutenant, a small, wiry, long-haired man
named Miller. He was in undress uniform,—just
a blouse and trousers,—and bare-headed.
Though he wore low shoes, he dashed through
mud and water toward us, plainly in a great
"Sergeant Kennedy, I want ten men at once—mounted,"
Miller said. "Choose the ten
best able for a long ride, and give them the
best horses in the company. You understand,—no
matter whose the ten best horses are, give
'em to the ten best riders."
"I understand, sir," said Kennedy.
By this time half the company had started
for the stables, for fully half considered themselves
among the best riders. The lieutenant
laughed at their eagerness.
"Halt, boys!" he cried. "Sergeant, I'll
pick out four myself. Come yourself, and bring
Corporal Crowfoot, Private Bader, and Private
Crowfoot, Bader, and Gray had been running
for the stables with the rest. Now these three
old soldiers grinned and walked, as much as to
say, "We needn't hurry; we're picked anyhow;"
while the others hurried on. I remained
near Kennedy, for I was so young and green a
soldier that I supposed I had no chance to go.
"Hurry up! parade as soon as possible.
One day's rations; light marching order—no
blankets—fetch over-coats and ponchos," said
Miller, turning; "and in choosing your men,
favor light weights."
That was, no doubt, the remark which
brought me in. I was lanky, light, bred among
horses, and one of the best in the regiment
had fallen to my lot. Kennedy wheeled, and
his eye fell on me.
"Saddle up, Adam, boy," said he; "I guess
Lieutenant Miller ran back to his quarters,
his long hair flying wide. When he reappeared
fifteen minutes later, we were trotting across
the parade ground to meet him. He was
mounted, not on his own charger, but on the
colonel's famous thorough-bred bay. Then we
knew a hard ride must be in prospect.
"What! one of the boys?" cried Miller,
as he saw me. "He's too young."
"He's very light, sir; tough as hickory. I
guess he'll do," said Kennedy.
"Well, no time to change now. Follow me!
But, hang it, you've got your carbines! Oh, I
forgot! Keep pistols only! throw down your
sabres and carbines—anywhere—never mind
As we still hesitated to throw down our
clean guns, he shouted: "Down with them—anywhere!
Now, boys, after me, by twos! Trot—gallop!"
Away we went, not a man jack of us knew
for where or what. The colonel and officers,
standing grouped before regimental headquarters,
volleyed a cheer at us. It was taken
up by the whole regiment; it was taken up by
the brigade; it was repeated by regiment after
regiment of infantry as we galloped through the
great camp toward the left front of the army.
The speed at which Miller led over a rough
corduroy road was extraordinary, and all the
men suspected some desperate enterprise afoot.
Red and brazen was the set of the sun. I
remember it well, after we got clear of the
forts, clear of the breastworks, clear of the
reserves, down the long slope and across the wide
ford of Grimthorpe's Creek, never drawing
The lieutenant led by ten yards or so. He
had ordered each two to take as much distance
from the other two in advance; but we rode
so fast that the water from the heels of his
horse and from the heels of each two splashed
into the faces of the following men.
From the ford we loped up a hill, and passed
the most advanced infantry pickets, who laughed
and chaffed us, asking us for locks of our hair,
and if our mothers knew we were out, and
promising to report our last words faithfully to
the folks at home.
Soon we turned to the left again, swept close
by several cavalry videttes, and knew then that
we were bound for a ride through a country
that might or might not be within Lee's outer
lines, at that time extended so thinly in many
places that his pickets were far out of touch with
one another. To this day I do not know precisely
where we went, nor precisely what for. Soldiers
are seldom informed of the meaning of their
What I do know is what we did while I was
in the ride. As we were approaching dense
pine woods the lieutenant turned in his saddle,
slacked pace a little, and shouted, "Boys,
bunch up near me!"
He screwed round in his saddle so far that
we could all see and hear, and said:—
"Boys, the order is to follow this road as
fast as we can till our horses drop, or else the
Johnnies drop us, or else we drop upon three
brigades of our own infantry. I guess they've got
astray somehow; but I don't know myself what
the trouble is. Our orders are plain. The
brigades are supposed to be somewhere on this
road. I guess we shall do a big thing if we
reach those men to-night. All we've got to do
is to ride and deliver this despatch to the
general in command. You all understand?"
"Yes, sir! Yes, sir! Yes, sir!"
"It's necessary you all should. Hark, now!
We are not likely to strike the enemy in force,
but we are likely to run up against small
parties. Now, Kennedy, if they down me, you
are to stop just long enough to grab the
despatch from my breast; then away you go,—always
on the main road. If they down you
after you've got the paper, the man who can
grab it first is to take it and hurry forward. So
on right to the last man. If they down him,
and he's got his senses when he falls, he's to
tear the paper up, and scatter it as widely as he
can. You all understand?"
"Yes, sir! Yes, sir!"
"All right, then. String out again!"
He touched the big bay with the spur, and
shot quickly ahead.
With the long rest of the winter our horses
were in prime spirits, though mostly a little too
fleshy for perfect condition. I had cared well
for my horse; he was fast and sound in wind
and limb. I was certainly the lightest rider of
I was still thinking of the probability that I
should get further on the way than any comrade
except the lieutenant, or perhaps Crowfoot and
Bader, whose horses were in great shape; I
was thinking myself likely to win promotion
before morning, when a cry came out of the
darkness ahead. The words of the challenge I
was not able to catch, but I heard Miller shout,
We shook out more speed just as a rifle spat
its long flash at us from about a hundred yards
ahead. For one moment I plainly saw the
Southerner's figure. Kennedy reeled beside
me, flung up his hands with a scream, and fell.
His horse stopped at once. In a moment the
lieutenant had ridden the sentry down.
Then from the right side of the road a party,
who must have been lying round the camp-fire
that we faintly saw in among the pines, let fly
at us. They had surely been surprised in their
sleep. I clearly saw them as their guns flashed.
"Forward! Don't shoot! Ride on," shouted
Miller. "Bushwhackers! Thank God, not
mounted! Any of you make out horses with
"No, sir! No, sir!"
"Who yelled? who went down?"
"Kennedy, sir," I cried.
"Too bad! Any one else?"
"I'm touched in my right arm; but it's
nothing," I said. The twinge was slight, and
in the fleshy place in front of my shoulder. I
could not make out that I was losing blood,
and the pain from the hurt was scarcely
"Good boy! Keep up, Adam!" called the
lieutenant with a kind tone. I remember my
delight that he spoke my front name. On we
Possibly the shots had been heard by the
party half a mile further on, for they greeted us
with a volley. A horse coughed hard and
pitched down behind me. His rider yelled as
he fell. Then two more shots came: Crowfoot
reeled in front of me, and somehow checked
his horse. I saw him no more. Next moment
we were upon the group with our pistols.
"Forward, men! Don't stop to fight!"
roared Miller, as he got clear. A rifle was
fired so close to my head that the flame burned
my back hair, and my ears rang for half an
hour or more. My bay leaped high and dashed
down a man. In a few seconds I was fairly
out of the scrimmage.
How many of my comrades had gone down
I knew not, nor beside whom I was riding.
Suddenly our horses plunged into a hole; his
stumbled, the man pitched forward, and was
left behind. Then I heard a shot, the clatter
of another falling horse, the angry yell of
another thrown rider.
On we went,—the relics of us. Now we
rushed out of the pine forest into broad moonlight,
and I saw two riders between me and the
lieutenant,—one man almost at my shoulder
and another galloping ten yards behind. Very
gradually this man dropped to the rear. We
had lost five men already, and still the night
Bader and Absalom Gray were nearest me.
Neither spoke a word till we struck upon a
space of sandy road. Then I could hear, far
behind the rear man, a sound of galloping on
the hard highway.
"They're after us, lieutenant!" shouted
"Many?" He slacked speed, and we listened
"Only one," cried Miller. "He's coming
The pursuer gained so rapidly that we looked
to our pistols again. Then Absalom Gray cried:
"It's only a horse!"
In a few moments the great gray of fallen
Corporal Crowfoot overtook us, went ahead,
and slacked speed by the lieutenant.
"Good! He'll be fresh when the rest go
down!" shouted Miller. "Let the last man
mount the gray!"
By this time we had begun to think ourselves
clear of the enemy, and doomed to race on till
the horses should fall.
Suddenly the hoofs of Crowfoot's gray and
the lieutenant's bay thundered upon a plank
road whose hollow noise, when we all reached
it, should have been heard far. It took us
through wide orchard lands into a low-lying
mist by the banks of a great marsh, till we
passed through that fog, strode heavily up a
slope, and saw the shimmer of roofs under the
moon. Straight, through the main street we
Whether it was wholly deserted I know not,
but not a human being was in the streets, nor
any face visible at the black windows. Not
even a dog barked. I noticed no living thing
except some turkeys roosting on a fence, and
a white cat that sprang upon the pillar of a
gateway and thence to a tree.
Some of the houses seemed to have been
ruined by a cannonade. I suppose it was one
of the places almost destroyed in Willoughby's
recent raid. Here we thundered, expecting
ambush and conflict every moment, while the
loneliness of the street imposed on me such
a sense as might come of galloping through a
long cemetery of the dead.
Out of the village we went off the planks
again upon sand. I began to suspect that I
was losing a good deal of blood. My brain
was on fire with whirling thoughts and wonder
where all was to end. Out of this daze I came,
in amazement to find that we were quickly
overtaking our lieutenant's thoroughbred.
Had he been hit in the fray, and bled to
weakness? I only know that, still galloping
while we gained, the famous horse lurched forward,
almost turned a somersault, and fell on
"Stop—the paper!" shouted Bader.
We drew rein, turned, dismounted, and found
Miller's left leg under the big bay's shoulder.
The horse was quite dead, the rider's long hair
lay on the sand, his face was white under the
We stopped long enough to extricate him,
and he came to his senses just as we made out
that his left leg was broken.
"Forward!" he groaned. "What in thunder
are you stopped for? Oh, the despatch! Here!
away you go! Good-bye."
In attending to Miller we had forgotten the
rider who had been long gradually dropping
behind. Now as we galloped away,—Bader,
Absalom Gray, myself, and Crowfoot's riderless
horse,—I looked behind for that comrade;
but he was not to be seen or heard. We three
were left of the eleven.
From the loss of so many comrades the
importance of our mission seemed huge. With
the speed, the noise, the deaths, the strangeness
of the gallop through that forsaken village, the
wonder how all would end, the increasing belief
that thousands of lives depended on our success,
and the longing to win, my brain was
wild. A raging desire to be first held me, and
I galloped as if in a dream.
Bader led; the riderless gray thundered
beside him; Absalom rode stirrup to stirrup
with me. He was a veteran of the whole war.
Where it was that his sorrel rolled over I do
not remember at all, though I perfectly remember
how Absalom sprang up, staggered, shouted,
"My foot is sprained!" and fell as I turned to
look at him and went racing on.
Then I heard above the sound of our hoofs
the voice of the veteran of the war. Down as
he was, his spirit was unbroken. In the favorite
song of the army his voice rose clear and gay
"Hurrah for the Union!
Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Shouting the battle-cry of freedom!"
We turned our heads and cheered him as
we flew, for there was something indescribably
inspiriting in the gallant and cheerful lilt of the
fallen man. It was as if he flung us, from the
grief of utter defeat, a soul unconquerable; and
I felt the life in me strengthened by the tone.
Old Bader and I for it! He led by a
hundred yards, and Crowfoot's gray kept his
stride. Was I gaining on them? How was it
that I could see his figure outlined more clearly
against the horizon? Surely dawn was not
No; I looked round on a world of naked
peach-orchards, and corn-fields ragged with last
year's stalks, all dimly lit by a moon that
showed far from midnight; and that faint light
on the horizon was not in the east, but in the
west. The truth flashed on me,—I was looking
at such an illumination of the sky as would
be caused by the camp-fires of an army.
"The missing brigade!" I shouted.
"Or a Southern division!" Bader cried.
"Come on!" I was certainly gaining on him,
but very slowly. Before the nose of my bay
was beyond the tail of his roan, the wide illuminations
had become more distinct; and still
not a vidette, not a picket, not a sound of the
proximity of an army.
Bader and I now rode side by side, and
Crowfoot's gray easily kept the pace. My
horse was in plain distress, but Bader's was
"Take the paper, Adam," he said; "my roan
won't go much further. Good-bye, youngster.
Away you go!" and I drew now quickly ahead.
Still Bader rode on behind me. In a few
minutes he was considerably behind. Perhaps
the sense of being alone increased my feeling
of weakness. Was I going to reel out of the
saddle? Had I lost so much blood as that?
Still I could hear Bader riding on. I turned to
look at him. Already he was scarcely visible.
Soon he dropped out of sight; but still I heard
the laborious pounding of his desperate horse.
My bay was gasping horribly. How far was
that faintly yellow sky ahead? It might be
two, it might be five miles. Were Union or
Southern soldiers beneath it? Could it be
conceived that no troops of the enemy were
between me and it?
Never mind; my orders were clear. I rode
straight on, and I was still riding straight on,
marking no increase in the distress of my bay,
when he stopped as if shot, staggered, fell on
his knees, tried to rise, rolled to his side,
groaned and lay.
I was so weak I could not clear myself. I
remember my right spur catching in my saddle-cloth
as I tried to free my foot; then I pitched
forward and fell. Not yet senseless, I clutched
at my breast for the despatch, meaning to tear
it to pieces; but there my brain failed, and in
full view of the goal of the night I lay
When I came to, I rose on my left elbow,
and looked around. Near my feet my poor
bay lay, stone dead. Crowfoot's gray!—where
was Crowfoot's gray? It flashed on me that I
might mount the fresh horse and ride on. But
where was the gray? As I peered round I
heard faintly the sound of a galloper. Was he
coming my way? No; faintly and more faintly
I heard the hoofs.
Had the gray gone on then, without the
despatch? I clutched at my breast. My coat
was unbuttoned—the paper was gone!
Well, sir, I cheered. My God! but it was
comforting to hear those far-away hoofs, and
know that Bader must have come up, taken the
papers, and mounted Crowfoot's gray, still good
for a ten-mile ride! The despatch was gone
forward; we had not all fallen in vain; maybe
the brigades would be saved!
How purely the stars shone! When I stifled
my groaning they seemed to tell me of a great
peace to come. How still was the night! and
I thought of the silence of the multitudes who
had died for the Union.
Now the galloping had quite died away.
There was not a sound,—a slight breeze blew,
but there were no leaves to rustle. I put my
head down on the neck of my dead horse.
Extreme fatigue was benumbing the pain of my
now swelling arm; perhaps sleep was near,
perhaps I was swooning.
But a sound came that somewhat revived me.
Far, low, joyful, it crept on the air. I sat up,
wide awake. The sound, at first faint, died as
the little breeze fell, then grew in the lull, and
came ever more clearly as the wind arose. It
was a sound never to be forgotten,—the sound
of the distant cheering of thousands of men.
Then I knew that Bader had galloped into
the Union lines, delivered the despatch, and
told a story which had quickly passed through
Bader I never saw again, nor Lieutenant
Miller, nor any man with whom I rode that
night. When I came to my senses I was in
hospital at City Point. Thence I went home
invalided. No surgeon, no nurse, no soldier
at the hospital could tell me of my regiment,
or how or why I was where I was. All they
could tell me was that Richmond was taken,
the army far away in pursuit of Lee, and a
rumor flying that the great commander of the
South had surrendered near Appomattox Court
Harry Wallbridge, awaking with a
sense of some alarming sound, listened
intently in the darkness, seeing overhead the
canvas roof faintly outlined, the darker stretch
of its ridge-pole, its two thin slanting rafters,
and the gable ends of the winter hut. He could
not hear the small, fine drizzle from an atmosphere
surcharged with water, nor anything but
the drip from canvas to trench, the rustling of
hay bunched beneath his head, the regular
breathing of his "buddy," Corporal Bader, and
the stamping of horses in stables. But when a
soldier in a neighboring tent called indistinguishably
in the accents of nightmare, Bader's
breathing quieted, and in the lull Harry fancied
the soaked air weighted faintly with steady
picket-firing. A month with the 53d Pennsylvania
Veteran Volunteer Cavalry had not quite disabused
the young recruit of his schoolboy belief
that the men of the Army of the Potomac must
live constantly within sound of the out-posts.
Harry sat up to hearken better, and then concluded
that he had mistaken for musketry the
crackle of haystalks under his poncho sheet.
Beneath him the round poles of his bed
sagged as he drew up his knees and gathered
about his shoulders the gray blanket damp from
the spray of heavy rain against the canvas earlier
in the night. Soon, with slow dawn's
approach, he could make out the dull white of
his carbine and sabre against the mud-plastered
chimney. In that drear dimness the boy shivered,
with a sense of misery rather than from
cold, and yearned as only sleepy youth can for
the ease of a true bed and dry warm swooning
to slumber. He was sustained by no mature
sense that this too would pass; it was with a
certain bodily despair that he felt chafed and
compressed by his rough garments, and pitied
himself, thinking how his mother would cry if
she could see him crouched so wretchedly
that wet March morning, pressed all the more
into loneliness by the regular breathing of veteran
Bader in the indifference of deep sleep.
Harry's vision of his mother coming into his
room, shading her candle with her hand to see
if he were asleep, passed away as a small gust
came, shaking the canvas, for he was instantly
alert with a certainty that the breeze had borne
a strong rolling of musketry.
"Bader, Bader!" he said. "Bader!"
"Can't you shut up, you Wallbridge?" came
Orderly Sergeant Gravely's sharp tones from the
"What's wrong with you, Harry, boy?"
asked Bader, turning.
"I thought I heard heavy firing closer than
the picket lines; twice now I've thought I
"Oh, I guess not, Harry. The Johnnies
won't come out no such night as this. Keep
quiet, or you'll have the sergeant on top of you.
Better lie down and try to sleep, buddy; the
bugles will call morning soon now."
Again Harry fell to his revery of home, and
his vision became that of the special evening on
which his boyish wish to go to the war had, for
the family's sake, become resolve. He saw his
mother's spectacled and lamp-lit face as she,
leaning to the table, read in the familiar Bible;
little Fred and Mary, also facing the table's
central lamp, bent sleepy heads over their
school-books; the father sat in the rocking-chair,
with his right hand on the paper he had
laid down, and gazed gloomily at the coals fallen
below the front doors of the wood-burning
stove. Harry dreamed himself back in his own
chair, looking askance, and feeling sure his
father was inwardly groaning over the absence
of Jack, the eldest son. Then nine o'clock
struck, and Fred and Mary began to put their
books away in preparation for bed.
"Wait a little, children," Mrs. Wallbridge
said, serene in tone from her devotional reading.
"Father wants that I should tell you something.
You mustn't feel bad about it. It's
that we may soon go out West. Your Uncle
Ezra is doing well in Minnesota. Aunt Elvira
says so in her letter that came to-day."
"It's this way, children," said Mr. Wallbridge,
ready to explain, now that the subject
was opened. "Since ever your brother Jack
went away South, the store expenses have been
too heavy. It's near five years now he's been
gone. There's a sheaf of notes coming due
the third of next month; twice they've been
renewed, and the Philadelphia men say they'll
close me up this time sure. If I had eight
hundred dollars—but it's no use talking;
we'll just have to let them take what we've got.
Times have been bad right along around here,
anyhow, with new competition, and so many
farmers gone to the war, and more gone West. If
Jack had stopped to home—but I've had to pay
two clerks to do his work, and then they don't
take any interest in the business. Mind, I'm
not blaming Jack, poor fellow,—he'd a right to
go where he'd get more'n his keep, and be
able to lay up something for himself,—but
what's become of him, God knows; and such
a smart, good boy as he was! He'd got fond
of New Orleans,—I guess some nice girl there,
maybe, was the reason; and there he'd stay
after the war began, and now it's two years and
more since we've heard from him. Dead,
maybe, or maybe they'd put him in jail, for he
said he'd never join the Confederates, nor fight
against them either—he felt that way—North
and South was all the same to him. And so
he's gone; and I don't see my way now at all.
Ma, if it wasn't for my lame leg, I'd take the
bounty. It'd be something for you and the
children after the store's gone."
"Sho, pa! don't talk that way! You're too
down-hearted. It'll all come right, with the
Lord's help," said Harry's mother. How
clearly he, in the damp cold tent, could see her
kind looks as she pushed up her spectacles and
beamed on her husband; how distinctly, in the
still dim dawn, he heard her soothing tones!
It was that evening's talk which had sent
Harry, so young, to the front. Three village
boys, little older than he, had already contrived
to enlist. Every time he saw the Flag drooping,
he thought shame of himself to be absent
from the ranks of its upholders; and now, just
as he was believing himself big and old enough
to serve, he conceived that duty to his parents
distinctly enjoined him to go. So in the night,
without leave-taking or consent of his parents,
he departed. The combined Federal, State,
and city bounties offered at Philadelphia
amounted to nine hundred dollars cash that
dreadful winter before Richmond fell, and
Harry sent the money home triumphantly in
time to pay his father's notes and save the store.
While the young soldier thought it all over,
carbine and sabre came out more and more
distinctly outlined above the mud-plastered
fireplace. The drizzle had ceased, the drip into
the trench was almost finished, intense stillness
ruled; Harry half expected to hear cocks crow
from out such silence.
Listening for them, his dreamy mind brooded
over both hosts, in a vision even as wide as the
vast spread of the Republic in which they lay as
two huddles of miserable men. For what were
they all about him this woful, wet night? they all
fain, as he, for home and industry and comfort.
What delusion held them? How could it be
that they could not all march away and separate,
and the cruel war be over? Harry caught his
breath at the idea,—it seemed so natural, simple,
easy, and good a solution. Becoming absorbed
in the fancy, tired of listening, and soothed by
the silence, he was falling asleep as he sat,
when a heavy weight seemed to fall, far away.
Another—another—the fourth had the rumble
of distant thunder, and seemed followed by
a concussion of the air.
"Hey—Big Guns! What's up toward City
Point?" cried Bader, sitting up. "I tell you
they're at it. It can't be so far away as Butler.
What? On the left too! That was toward
Hatcher's Run! Harry, the rebs are out in earnest!
I guess you did hear the pickets trying
to stop 'em. What a morning! Ha—Fort
Hell! see that!"
The outside world was dimly lighted up for a
moment. In the intensified darkness that
followed Bader's voice was drowned by the
crash of a great gun from the neighboring fort.
Flash, crash—flash, crash—flash, crash succeeded
rapidly. Then the intervals of Fort
Hell's fire lengthened to the regular periods for
loading, and between her roars were heard the
sullen boom of more distant guns, while through
all the tumult ran a fierce undertone,—the
infernal hurrying of musketry along the immediate
"The Johnnies must have got in close somehow,"
cried Bader. "Hey, Sergeant?"
"Yes," shouted Gravely. "Scooped up the
pickets and supports too in the rain, I guess.
Turn out, boys, turn out! there'll be a wild day.
Kid! Where's the Kid? Kid Sylvester!"
"Here! All right, Barney; I'll be out in
two shakes," shouted the bugler.
"Hurry, then! I can hear the Colonel shouting
already. Man, listen to that!"—as four of
Fort Hell's guns crashed almost simultaneously.
"Brownie! Greasy Cook! O Brownie!"
"Here!" shouted the cook.
"Get your fire started right away, and see
what salt horse and biscuit you can scare up.
Maybe we'll have time for a snack."
"Turn out, Company K!" shouted Lieutenant
Bradley, running down from the officers'
quarters. "Where's the commissary sergeant?
There?—all right—give out feed right away!
Get your oats, men, and feed instantly! We
may have time. Hullo! here's the General's
As the trooper galloped, in a mud-storm,
across the parade ground, a group of officers ran
out behind the Colonel from the screen of pine
saplings about Regimental Headquarters. The
orderly gave the Colonel but a word, and,
wheeling, was off again as "Boot and saddle"
blared from the buglers, who had now assembled
"But leave the bits out—let your horses
feed!" cried the Lieutenant, running down again.
"We're not to march till further orders."
Beyond the screen of pines Harry could see
the tall canvas ridges of the officers' cabins
lighted up. Now all the tents of the regiment,
row behind row, were faintly luminous, and the
renewed drizzle of the dawn was a little lightened
in every direction by the canvas-hidden
candles of infantry regiments, the glare of
numerous fires already started, and sparks
showering up from the cook-houses of company
Soon in the cloudy sky the cannonade rolled
about in broad day, which was still so gray that
long wide flashes of flame could be seen to
spring far out before every report from the guns
of Fort Hell, and in the haze but few of the
rebel shells shrieking along their high curve
could be clearly seen bursting over Hancock's
cheering men. Indistinguishably blent were
the sounds of hosts on the move, field-guns
pounding to the front, troops shouting, the
clink and rattle of metal, officers calling, bugles
blaring, drums rolling, mules screaming,—all
heard as a running accompaniment to the
cannon heavily punctuating the multitudinous
"Fwat sinse in the ould man bodderin' us?"
grumbled Corporal Kennedy, a tall Fenian dragoon
from the British army. "Sure, ain't it as
plain as the sun—and faith the same's not
plain this dirthy mornin'—that there's no work
for cavalry the day, barrin' it's escortin' the
doughboys' prisoners, if they take any?—bad
'cess to the job. Sure it's an infantry fight, and
must be, wid the field-guns helpin', and the
siege pieces boomin' away over the throops in
the mud betwigst our own breastworks and the
inner line of our forts.
"Oh, by this and by that," the corporal
grumbled on, "ould Lee's not the gintleman I
tuk him for at all, at all,—discomfortin' us in the
rain,—and yesterday an illigant day for fightin'.
Couldn't he wait, like the dacint ould boy he's
reported, for a dhry mornin', instead av turnin'
his byes out in the shlush and destroyin' me
chanst av breakfast? It's spring chickens I'd
"You may get up to spring-chicken country
soon, now," said Bader. "I'm thinking this is
near the end; it's the last assault that Lee
will ever deliver."
"Faith, I dunno," said the corporal; "that's
what we've been saying sinst last fall, but the
shtay of them Johnnies bates Banagher and the
prophets. Hoo—ow! by the powers! did you
hear them yell? Fwat? The saints be wid us!
who'd 'a' thought it possible? Byes! Bader!
Harry! luk at the Johnnies swarmin' up the face
Off there Harry could dimly see, rising over
the near horizon made by tents, a straggling
rush of men up the steep slope, while the rebel
yell came shrill from a multitude behind on the
level ground that was hidden from the place
occupied by the cavalry regiment. In the next
moment the force mounting Fort Hell's slope
fell away, some lying where shot down, some
rolling, some running and stumbling in heaps;
then a tremendous musketry and field-gun fire
growled to and fro under the heavy smoke round
and about and out in front of the embrasures,
which had never ceased their regular discharge
over the heads of the fort's defenders and immediate
Suddenly Harry noted a slackening of the
battle; it gradually but soon dropped away to
nothing, and now no sound of small-arms in any
direction was heard in the lengthening intervals
of reports from the siege pieces far and near.
"And so that's the end of it," said Kennedy.
"Sure it was hot work for a while! Faix, I
thought onct the doughboys was nappin' too
long, and ould Hell would be bullyin' away at
ourselves. Now, thin, can we have a bite in
paice? I'll shtart wid a few sausages, Brownie,
and you may send in the shpring chickens wid
some oyshters the second coorse. No! Oh,
by the powers, 'tis too mane to lose a breakfast
like that!" and Corporal Kennedy shook his
fist at the group of buglers calling the regiment
In ten minutes the Fifty-third had formed in
column of companies. "Old Jimmy," their
Colonel, had galloped down at them and once
along their front; then the command, forming
fours from the right front, moved off at a trot
through the mud in long procession.
"Didn't I know it?" said Kennedy; "it's
escortin' the doughboys' prisoners, that's all
we're good for this outrageous day. Oh, wirra,
wirrasthru! Police duty! and this calls itself
a cavalry rigiment. Mounted Police duty,—escortin'
doughboys' prisoners! Faix, I might
as well be wid Her Majesty's dhragoons,
thramplin' down the flesh and blood of me
in poor ould Oireland. Begor, Harry, me
bhy, it's a mane job to be setting you at,
and this the first day ye're mounted to save
"Stop coddin' the boy, Corporal," said Bader,
angrily. "You can't think how an American
boy feels about this war."
"An Amerikin!—an Amerikin, is it? Let
me insthruct ye thin, Misther Bader, that I'm
as good an Amerikin as the next man. Och, be
jabers, me that's been in the color you see ever
since the Prisident first called for men! It
was for a three months' dance he axed us first.
Me, that's re-enlishted twice, don't know the
feelin's of an Amerikin! What am I here for?
Not poverty! sure I'd enough of that before
ever I seen Ameriky! What am I wallopin'
through the mud for this mornin'?"
"It's your trade, Kennedy," said Bader, with
"Be damned to you, man!" said the corporal,
sternly. "When I touched fut in New
York, didn't I swear that I'd never dhraw
swoord more, barrin' it was agin the ould red
tyrant and oprissor of me counthry? Wasn't I
glad to be dhrivin' me own hack next year in
Philamedink like a gintleman? Oh, the paice
and the indipindence of it! But what cud I do
when the counthry that tuk me and was good to
me wanted an ould dhragoon? An Amerikin,
ye say! Faith, the heart of me is Amerikin, if
I'm a bog throtter by the tongue. Mind that
now, me bould man!"
Harry heard without heeding as the horses
spattered on. Still wavered in his ears the
sounds of the dawn; still he saw the ghostlike
forms of Americans in gray tumbling back from
their rush against the sacred flag that had
drooped so sadly over the smoke; and still, far
away beyond all this puddled and cumbered
ground the dreamy boy saw millions of white
American faces, all haggard for news of the
armies—some looking South, some North, yearning
for the Peace that had so long ago been
the boon of the Nation.
Now the regiment was upon the red clay of
the dead fight, and brought to halt in open
columns. After a little they moved off again in
fours, and, dropping into single file, surrounded
some thousands of disarmed men, the remnant
of the desperate brigades that Lee had flung
through the night across three lines of breastworks
at the great fort they had so nearly
stormed. Poor drenched, shivering Johnnies!
there they stood, not a few of them in blue
overcoats, but mostly in butternut, generally
tattered; some barefoot, some with feet bound
in ragged sections of blanket, many with toes
and skin showing through crazy boots lashed
on with strips of cotton or with cord; many
stoutly on foot, streaming blood from head
Some lay groaning in the mud, while their
comrades helped Union surgeons to bind or
amputate. Here and there groups huddled
together in earnest talk, or listened to comrades
gesticulating and storming as they recounted
incidents of the long charge. But far the
greater number faced outward, at gaze upon the
cavalry guard, and, silently munching thick flat
cakes of corn-bread, stared into the faces of the
horsemen. Harry Wallbridge, brought to the
halt, faced half-round in the saddle, and looked
with quick beatings of pity far and wide over
the disorderly crowd of weather-worn men.
"It's a Louisiana brigade," said Bader.
"Fifty-three, P. V. V. C.," spoke a prisoner,
as if in reply, reading the letters about the little
crossed brass sabres on the Union hats. "Say,
you men from Pennsylvany?"
"Yes, Johnny; we come down to wake up
"I reckon we got the start at wakin' you this
mornin'," drawled the Southerner. "But say,—there's
one of our boys lyin' dyin' over yonder;
his folks lives in Pennsylvany. Mebbe some of
you 'ud know 'em."
"What's his name?" asked Bader.
"Why, Harry—hold on!—you ain't the
only Wallbridges there is. What's up?" cried
Bader, as the boy half reeled, half clambered
from his saddle.
"Hold on, Harry!" cried Corporal Kennedy.
"Halt there, Wallbridge!" shouted Sergeant
"Stop that man!" roared Lieutenant Bradley.
But, calling, "He's my brother!" Harry,
catching up his sabre as he ran, followed the
Southerner, who had instantly divined the situation.
The forlorn prisoners made ready way
for them, and closing in behind, stretched in
solid array about the scene.
"It's not Jack," said the boy; but something
in the look of the dying man drew him on to
kneel in the mud. "Is it you, Jack? Oh, now
I know you! Jack, I'm Harry! don't you
know me? I'm Harry—your brother Harry."
The Southern soldier stared rigidly at the boy,
seeming to grow paler with the recollections that
he struggled for.
"What's your name?" he asked very faintly.
"Harry Wallbridge—I'm your brother."
"Harry Wallbridge! Why, I'm John Wallbridge.
Did you say Harry? Not Harry!"
he shrieked hoarsely. "No; Harry's only a
little fellow!" He paused, and looked meditatively
into the boy's eyes. "It's nearly five
years I've been gone,—he was near twelve
then. Boys," lifting his head painfully and casting
his look slowly round upon his comrades, "I
know him by the eyes; yes, he's my brother!
Let me speak to him alone—stand back a
bit," and at once the men pushed backward
into the form of a wide circle.
"Put down your head, Harry. Kiss me!
Kiss me again!—how's mother? Ah, I was
afraid she might be dead—don't tell her I'm
dead, Harry." He groaned with the pain of
the groin wound. "Closer, Harry; I've got to
tell you this first—maybe it's all I've time to
tell. Say, Harry,"—he began to gasp,—"they
didn't ought to have killed me, the Union
soldiers didn't. I never fired—high enough—all
these years. They drafted me, Harry—tell
mother that—down in New Orleans—and
I—couldn't get away. Ai—ai! how it
hurts! I must die soon 's I can tell you. I
wanted to come home—and help father—how's
poor father, Harry? Doing well now?
Oh. I'm glad of that—and the baby? there's
a new baby! Ah, yes, I'll never see it, Harry."
His eyes closed, the pain seemed to leave
him, and he lay almost smiling happily as his
brother's tears fell on his muddy and blood-clotted
face. As if from a trance his eyes
opened, and he spoke anxiously but calmly.
"You'll be sure to tell them I was drafted—conscripted,
you understand. And I never
fired at any of us—of you—tell all the boys
that." Again the flame of life went down, and
again flickered up in pain.
"Harry—you'll stay by father—and help
him, won't you? This cruel war—is almost
over. Don't cry. Kiss me. Say—do you
remember—the old times we had—fishing?
Kiss me again, Harry—brother in blue—you're
on—my side. Oh I wish—I had
time—to tell you. Come close—put your
arms around—my neck—it's old times—again."
And now the wound tortured him for
a while beyond speech. "You're with me,
aren't you, Harry?
"Well, there's this," he gasped on, "about
my chums—they've been as good and kind—marching,
us, all wet and cold together—and it
wasn't their fault. If they had known—how I
wanted—to be shot—for the Union! It was so
hard—to be—on the wrong side! But—"
He lifted his head and stared wildly at his
brother, screamed rapidly, as if summoning all
his life for the effort to explain, "Drafted,
drafted, drafted—Harry, tell mother and
father that. I was drafted. O God, O God,
what suffering! Both sides—I was on both
sides all the time. I loved them all, North
and South, all,—but the Union most. O God,
it was so hard!"
His head fell back, his eyes closed, and
Harry thought it was the end. But once more
Jack opened his blue eyes, and slowly said in a
steady, clear, anxious voice, "Mind you tell
them I never fired high enough!" Then he lay
still in Harry's arms, breathing fainter and
fainter till no motion was on his lips, nor in his
heart, nor any tremor in the hands that lay in
the hand of his brother in blue.
"Come, Harry," said Bader, stooping tenderly
to the boy, "the order is to march. He's
past helping now. It's no use; you must leave
him here to God. Come, boy, the head of
the column is moving already."
Mounting his horse, Harry looked across to
Jack's form. For the first time in two years
the famous Louisiana brigade trudged on without
their unwilling comrade. There he lay,
alone, in the Union lines, under the rain, his
marching done, a figure of eternal peace; while
Harry, looking backward till he could no longer
distinguish his brother from the clay of the
field, rode dumbly on and on beside the downcast
procession of men in gray.
A TURKEY APIECE.
Not long ago I was searching files of New
York papers for 1864, when my eye
caught the headline, "Thanksgiving Dinner
for the Army." I had shared that feast. The
words brought me a vision of a cavalry brigade
in winter quarters before Petersburg; of
the three-miles-distant and dim steeples of the
besieged city; of rows and rows of canvas-covered
huts sheltering the infantry corps that
stretched interminably away toward the Army
of the James. I fancied I could hear again the
great guns of "Fort Hell" infrequently punctuating
the far-away picket-firing.
Rain, rain, and rain! How it fell on red
Virginia that November of '64! How it wore
away alertness! The infantry-men—whom
we used to call "doughboys," for there was
always a pretended feud between the riders and
the trudgers—often seemed going to sleep
in the night in their rain-filled holes far beyond
the breastworks, each with its little mound of
earth thrown up toward the beleaguered town.
Their night-firing would slacken almost to
cessation for many minutes together. But
after the b-o-o-oom of a great gun it became
brisker usually; often so much so as to suggest
that some of Lee's ragged brigades, their march
silenced by the rain, had pierced our fore-front
again, and were "gobbling up" our boys on
picket, and flinging up new rifle-pits on the
acres reclaimed for a night and a day for the
Sometimes the crack-a-rac-a-rack would die
down to a slow fire of dropping shots, and the
forts seemed sleeping; and patter, patter, patter
on the veteran canvas we heard the rain, rain,
rain, not unlike the roll of steady musketry very
I think I sit again beside Charley Wilson, my
sick "buddy," and hear his uneven breathing
through all the stamping of the rows of wet
horses on their corduroy floor roofed with leaky
That squ-ush, squ-ush is the sound of the
stable-guard's boots as he paces slowly through
the mud, to and fro, with the rain rattling on
his glazed poncho and streaming corded hat.
Sometimes he stops to listen to a frantic
brawling of the wagon-train mules, sometimes
to the reviving picket-firing. It crackles up to
animation for causes that we can but guess;
then dies down, never to silence, but warns,
warns, as the distant glow of the sky above a
volcano warns of the huge waiting forces that
give it forth.
I think I hear Barney Donahoe pulling our
latch-string that November night when we first
heard of the great Thanksgiving dinner that
was being collected in New York for the
"Byes, did yez hear phwat Sergeant Cunningham
was tellin' av the Thanksgivin' turkeys
"Come in out of the rain, Barney," says
"Faith, I wish I dar', but it's meself is on
shtable-guard. Bedad, it's a rale fire ye've
got. Divil a better has ould Jimmy himself
(our colonel). Ye've heard tell of the turkeys,
then, and the pois?"
"Yes. Bully for the folks at home!" says
Charley. "The notion of turkey next Thursday
has done me good already. I was thinking I'd
go to hospital to-morrow, but now I guess I
"Hoshpital! Kape clear av the hoshpital,
Char-les, dear. Sure, they'd cut a man's leg
off behind the ears av him for to cure him av
"Is it going to rain all night, Barney?"
"It is, bad 'cess to it; and to-morrow and
the day afther, I'm thinkin'. The blackness
av night is outside; be jabers! you could cut it
like turf with a shpade! If it wasn't for the
ould fort flamin' out wanst in a whoile, I'd be
thinkin' I'd never an oi in my head, barrin' the
fires in the tints far an' near gives a bit of
dimness to the dark. Phwat time is it?"
"Quarter to twelve, Barney."
"Troth, then, the relief will be soon coming.
I must be thramping the mud av Virginia to
save the Union. Good-night, byes. I come to
give yez the good word. Kape your heart light
an' aisy, Char-les, dear. D'ye moind the
turkeys and the pois? Faith, it's meself that
has the taste for thim dainties!"
"I don't believe I'll be able to eat a mite of
the Thanksgiving," says Charley, as we hear
Barney squ-ush away; "but just to see the
brown on a real old brown home turkey will
do me a heap of good."
"You'll be all right by Thursday, Charley, I
guess; won't you? It's only Sunday night
Of course I cannot remember the very words
of that talk in the night, so many years ago.
But the coming of Barney I recollect well, and
the general drift of what was said.
Charley turned on his bed of hay-covered
poles, and I put my hand under his gray blanket
to feel if his legs were well covered by the long
overcoat he lay in. Then I tucked the blanket
well in about his feet and shoulders, pulled his
poncho again to its full length over him, and
sat on a cracker-box looking at our fire for a
long time, while the rain spattered through the
canvas in spray.
My "buddy" Charley, the most popular boy
of Company I, was of my own age,—seventeen,—though
the rolls gave us a year more each, by
way of compliance with the law of enlistment.
From a Pennsylvania farm in the hills he came
forth to the field early in that black fall of '64,
strong, tall, and merry, fit to ride for the nation's
life,—a mighty wielder of an axe, "bold, cautious,
true, and my loving comrade."
We were "the kids" to Company I. To
"buddy" with Charley I gave up my share of
the hut I had helped to build as old Bader's
"pard." Then the "kids" set about the construction
of a new residence, which stood
farther from the parade ground than any hut
in the row except the big cabin of "old
Brownie," the "greasy cook," who called us
to "bean—oh!" with so resonant a shout,
and majestically served out our rations of pork,
"salt horse," coffee long-boiled and sickeningly
sweet, hardtack, and the daily loaf of a singularly
My "buddy" and I slept on opposite sides
of our winter residence. The bedsteads were
made of poles laid lengthwise and lifted about
two feet from the ground. These were covered
thinly with hay from the bales that were regularly
delivered for horse-fodder. There was a
space of about two feet between bedsteads,
and under them we kept our saddles and saddlecloths.
Our floor was of earth, with a few flour-barrel
staves and cracker-box sides laid down
for rugs. We had each an easy-chair in the
form of a cracker-box, besides a stout soap-box
for guests. Our carbines and sabres hung
crossed on pegs over the mantel-piece, above
our Bibles and the precious daguerreotypes of
the dear folks at home. When we happened to
have enough wood for a bright fire, we felt
much snugger than you might suppose.
Before ever that dark November began,
Charley had been suffering from one of those
wasting diseases that so often clung to and
carried off the strongest men of both armies.
Sharing the soldiers' inveterate prejudice against
hospitals attended by young doctors, who, the
men believed, were addicted to much surgery for
the sake of practice, my poor "buddy" strove
to do his regular duties. He paraded with the
sick before the regimental doctor as seldom as
possible. He was favored by the sergeants and
helped in every way by the men, and so
continued to stay with the company at that
wet season when drill and parades were
The idea of a Thanksgiving dinner for half a
million men by sea and land fascinated Charley's
imagination, and cheered him mightily. But
I could not see that his strength increased, as
he often alleged.
"Ned, you bet I'll be on hand when them
turkeys are served out," he would say. "You
won't need to carry my Thanksgiving dinner up
from Brownie's. Say, ain't it bully for the folks
at home to be giving us a Thanksgiving like
this? Turkeys, sausages, mince-pies! They
say there's going to be apples and celery for
"S'pose you'll be able to eat, Charley?"
"Able! Of course I'll be able! I'll be just
as spry as you be on Thanksgiving. See if I
don't carry my own turkey all right. Yes, by
gum, if it weighs twenty pounds!"
"There won't be a turkey apiece."
"No, eh? Well, that's what I figure on.
Half a turkey, anyhow. Got to be; besides
chickens, hams, sausages, and all that kind of
fixin's. You heard what Bill Sylvester's girl
wrote from Philamadink-a-daisy-oh? No, eh?
Well, he come in a-purpose to read me the
letter. Says there's going to be three or four
hundred thousand turkeys, besides them fixin's!
Sherman's boys can't get any; they're marched
too far away, out of reach. The Shenandoah boys'll
get some, and Butler's crowd, and us chaps,
and the blockading squadrons. Bill's girl says
so. We'll get the whole lot between us. Four
hundred thousand turkeys! Of course there'll
be a turkey apiece; there's got to be, if there's
any sense in arithmetic. Oh, I'll be choosin'
between breast-meat and hind-legs on Thanksgiving,—you
bet your sweet life on that!"
This expectation that there would be a turkey
a-piece was not shared by Company I; but no
one denied it in Charley's hearing. The boy
held it as sick people often do fantastic notions,
and all fell into the humor of strengthening the
reasoning on which he went.
It was clear that no appetite for turkey
moved my poor "buddy," but that his brain
was busy with the "whole-turkey-a-piece" idea
as one significant of the immense liberality of
the folks at home, and their absorbing interest
in the army.
"Where's there any nation that ever was
that would get to work and fix up four hundred
thousand turkeys for the boys?" he often
remarked, with ecstatic patriotism.
I have often wondered why "Bill Sylvester's
girl" gave that flourishing account of the preparations
for our Thanksgiving dinner. It was
only on searching the newspaper files recently
that I surmised her sources of information.
Newspapers seldom reached our regiment until
they were several weeks old, and then they were
not much read, at least by me. Now I know
how enthusiastic the papers of November, '64,
were on the great feast for the army.
For instance, on the morning of that Thanksgiving
day, the 24th of November, the New
York Tribune said editorially:—
"Forty thousand turkeys, eighty thousand
turkeys, one hundred and sixty thousand turkeys,
nobody knows how many turkeys have been sent
to our soldiers. Such masses of breast-meat and
such mountains of stuffing; drumsticks enough to
fit out three or four Grand Armies, a perfect promontory
of pope's noses, a mighty aggregate of
wings. The gifts of their lordships to the supper
which Grangousier spread to welcome Gargantua
were nothing to those which our good people at
home send to their friends in the field; and no
doubt every soldier, if his dinner does not set him
thinking too intently of that home, will prove himself
a valiant trencherman."
Across the vast encampment before Petersburg
a biting wind blew that Thanksgiving day.
It came through every cranny of our hut; it
bellied the canvas on one side and tightened it
on the other; it pressed flat down the smoke
from a hundred thousand mud chimneys, and
swept away so quickly the little coals which fell
on the canvas that they had not time to burn
When I went out towards noon, for perhaps
the twentieth time that day, to learn whether
our commissary wagons had returned from
City Point with the turkeys, the muddy parade
ground was dotted with groups of shivering
men, all looking anxiously for the feast's arrival.
Officers frequently came out, to exchange a
few cheery words with their men, from the tall,
close hedge of withering pines stuck on end
that enclosed the officers' quarters on the
opposite side of the parade ground.
No turkeys at twelve o'clock! None at one!
Two, three, four, five o'clock passed by, and
still nothing had been heard of our absent
wagons. Charley was too weak to get out
that day, but he cheerfully scouted the idea
that a turkey for each man would not arrive
sooner or later.
The rest of us dined and supped on "commissary."
It was not good commissary either,
for Brownie, the "greasy cook," had gone on
leave to visit a "doughboy" cousin of the Sixth
"You'll have turkey for dinner, boys," he
had said, on serving out breakfast. "If you're
wanting coffee, Tom can make it." Thus we
had to dine and sup on the amateur productions
of the cook's mate.
A multitude of woful rumors concerning
the absent turkeys flew round that evening. The
"Johnnies," we heard, had raided round the
army, and captured the fowls! Butler's colored
troops had got all the turkeys, and had
been feeding on fowl for two days! The
officers had "gobbled" the whole consignment
for their own use! The whole story of the
Thanksgiving dinner was a newspaper hoax!
Nothing was too incredible for men so bitterly
Brownie returned before "lights out" sounded,
and reported facetiously that the "doughboys"
he had visited were feeding full of turkey and
all manner of fixings. There were so many
wagons waiting at City Point that the roads
round there were blocked for miles. We could
not fail to get our turkeys to-morrow. With
this expectation we went, pretty happy, to
"There'll be a turkey apiece, you'll see,
Ned," said Charley, in a confident, weak voice, as
I turned in. "We'll all have a bully Thanksgiving
The morrow broke as bleak as the preceding
day, and without a sign of turkey for our
brigade. But about twelve o'clock a great
shouting came from the parade ground.
"The turkeys have come!" cried Charley,
trying to rise. "Never mind picking out a
big one for me; any one will do. I don't
believe I can eat a bite, but I want to see it.
My! ain't it kind of the folks at home!"
I ran out and found his surmise as to the
return of the wagons correct. They were
filing into the enclosure around the quartermaster's
tent. Nothing but an order that the
men should keep to company quarters prevented
the whole regiment helping to unload the
delicacies of the season.
Soon foraging parties went from each company
to the quartermaster's enclosure. Company
I sent six men. They returned, grinning, in
about half an hour, with one box on one man's
It was carried to Sergeant Cunningham's
cabin, the nearest to the parade ground, the
most distant from that of "the kids," in which
Charley lay waiting. We crowded round the
hut with some sinking of enthusiasm. There
was no cover on the box except a bit of cotton
in which some of the consignment had probably
been wrapped. Brownie whisked this
off, and those nearest Cunningham's door saw
disclosed—two small turkeys, a chicken, four
rather disorganized pies, two handsome bologna
sausages, and six very red apples.
We were nearly seventy men. The comical
side of the case struck the boys instantly.
Their disappointment was so extreme as to be
absurd. There might be two ounces of feast
to each, if the whole were equally shared.
All hands laughed; not a man swore. The
idea of an equal distribution seemed to have no
place in that company. One proposed that all
should toss up for the lot. Another suggested
drawing lots; a third that we should set the
Thanksgiving dinner at one end of the parade
ground and run a race for it, "grab who can."
At this Barney Donahoe spoke up.
"Begorra, yez can race for wan turkey av
yez loike. But the other wan is goin' to
There was not a dissenting voice. Charley
was altogether the most popular member of
Company I, and every man knew how he had
clung to the turkey apiece idea.
"Never let on a word," said Sergeant Cunningham.
"He'll think there's a turkey for
The biggest bird, the least demoralized pie, a
bologna sausage, and the whole six apples were
placed in the cloth that had covered the box.
I was told to carry the display to my poor
As I marched down the row of tents a
tremendous yelling arose from the crowd round
Cunningham's tent. I turned to look behind.
Some man with a riotous impulse had seized
the box and flung its contents in the air over
the thickest of the crowd. Next moment the
turkey was seized by half a dozen hands. As
many more helped to tear it to pieces. Barney
Donahoe ran past me with a leg, and two
laughing men after him. Those who secured
larger portions took a bite as quickly as
possible, and yielded the rest to clutching
hands. The bologna sausage was shared in
like fashion, but I never heard of any one who
got a taste of the pies.
"Here's your turkey, Charley," said I,
entering with my burden.
"Where's yours, Ned?"
"I've got my turkey all right enough at
"Didn't I tell you there'd be a turkey apiece?"
he cried gleefully, as I unrolled the
lot. "And sausages, apples, a whole pie—oh,
say, ain't they bully folks up home!"
"They are," said I. "I believe we'd have
had a bigger Thanksgiving yet if it wasn't such
a trouble getting it distributed."
"You'd better believe it! They'd do anything
in the world for the army," he said, lying
"Can't you eat a bite, buddy?"
"No; I'm not a mite hungry. But I'll look
at it. It won't spoil before to-morrow. Then
you can share it all out among the boys."
Looking at the turkey, the sick lad fell
asleep. Barney Donahoe softly opened our
door, stooped his head under the lintel, and
gazed a few moments at the quiet face turned
to the Thanksgiving turkey. Man after man
followed to gaze on the company's favorite, and
on the fowl which, they knew, tangibly symbolized
to him the immense love of the nation for
the flower of its manhood in the field. Indeed,
the people had forwarded an enormous Thanksgiving
feast; but it was impossible to distribute
it evenly, and we were one of the regiments
that came short.
Grotesque, that scene was? Group after
group of hungry, dirty soldiers, gazing solemnly,
lovingly, at a lone brown turkey and a pallid
sleeping boy! Yes, very grotesque. But
Charley had his Thanksgiving dinner, and the
men of Company I, perhaps, enjoyed a profounder
satisfaction than if they had feasted
I never saw Charley after that Thanksgiving
day. Before the afternoon was half gone the
doctor sent an ambulance for him, and insisted
that he should go to City Point. By Christmas
his wasted body had lain for three weeks in the
red Virginia soil.
GRANDPAPA'S WOLF STORY.
"Tell us a story, grandpapa."
"One that will last all the evening,
"Yes, grandpapa, darling," said Jenny, while
Jimmy clapped hands.
"What about?" said the old lumber king.
"About when you were a boy."
"When I was a boy," said the old gentleman,
taking Jenny on his knee and putting his arm
round Jimmy, "the boys and girls were as fond
of stories as they are now. Once when I was a
boy I said to my grandfather, 'Tell me a story,
grandpa,' and he replied, 'When I was a boy the
boys were as fond of stories as they are now; for
once when I was a boy I said to my grandfather,
"Tell me a story, grandpa,—"'".
"Why, it seems to go on just the same story,
grandpapa," said Jenny.
"That's not the end of it, Jenny, dear," said
"No-o?" said Jenny, dubiously.
Jimmy said nothing. He lived with his grandfather,
and knew his ways. Jenny came on visits
only, and was not well enough acquainted with
the old gentleman to know that he would soon
tire of the old joke, and reward patient children
by a good story.
"Shall I go on with the story, Jenny?" said
"Oh, yes, grandpapa!"
"Well, then, when that grandpa was a boy, he
said to his grandfather, 'Tell me a story, grandpapa,'
and his grandfather replied—"
Jenny soon listened with a demure smile of
"Do you like this story, dear?" said grandpapa,
after pursuing the repetition for some
"I shall, grandpapa, darling. It must be very
good when you come to the grandfather that told
it. I like to think of all my grandfathers, and
great, great, great, greater, greatest, great, great-grandpapas
all telling the same story."
"Yes, it's a genuine family story, Jenny, and
you're a little witch." The old gentleman kissed
her. "Well, where was I? Oh, now I remember!
And that grandpapa said to his grandfather,
'Tell me a story, grandpapa,' and his
grandpapa replied, 'When I was a young fellow—'"
"Now it's beginning!" cried Jimmy, clapping
his hands, and shifting to an easier attitude
by the old man's easy-chair.
Grandpapa looked comically at Jimmy, and
said, "His grandfather replied, 'When I was a
The faces of the children became woful
"'One rainy day I took my revolver—'"
"Revolver! Grandpapa!" cried Jenny.
"An American revolver, grandpapa?"
"And did he tell the story in English?"
"But, grandpapa, darling, that grandpapa
was seventy-three grandpapas back!"
"About that, my dear."
"I kept count, grandpapa."
"And don't you like good old-fashioned
"Oh, yes, grandpapa, but revolvers—and
Americans—and the English language! Why,
it was more than twenty-two hundred years ago,
"Ha! ha! You never thought of that,
Jimmy! Oh, you've been at school, Miss
Bright-eyes! Kiss me, you little rogue. Now
"When I was a young fellow—"
"You yourself, grandpapa?"
"I'm so glad it was you yourself! I like my
own grandpapa's stories best of all."
"Thank you, my dear. After that I must be
very entertaining. Yes, I'll tell my best story
of all—and Jimmy has never heard it. Well,
when I was a young fellow of seventeen I was
clerk in a lumber shanty on the Sheboiobonzhe-gunpashageshickawigamog
"How did you ever learn that name, grandpapa,
darling?" cried Jenny.
"Oh, I could learn things in those days.
Remembering it is the difficulty, dear—see if
it isn't. I'll give you a nice new ten-dollar bill
if you tell me that name to-morrow."
Jenny bent her brows and tried so hard to
recall the syllables that she almost lost part of
the story. Grandpapa went steadily on:—
"One day in February, when it was too rainy
for the men to work, and just rainy enough to
go deer-shooting if you hadn't had fresh meat
for five months, I took to the woods with my
gun, revolver, hatchet, and dinner. All the fore
part of the day I failed to get a shot, though I
saw many deer on the hemlock ridges of Sheboi—that's
the way it begins, Jenny, and Sheboi
we called it.
"But late in the afternoon I killed a buck.
I cut off a haunch, lifted the carcass into the
low boughs of a spruce, and started for camp,
six miles away, across snowy hills and frozen
lakes. The snow-shoeing was heavy, and I
feared I should not get in before dark. The
Sheboi country was infested with wolves—"
"Bully! It's a wolf story!" said Jimmy.
Jenny shuddered with delight.
"As I went along you may be sure I never
thought my grandchildren would be pleased to
have me in danger of being eaten up by wolves."
Jenny looked shocked at the imputation.
Grandpapa watched her with twinkling eyes.
When she saw he was joking, she cried: "But
you weren't eaten, grandpapa. You were too
"Ah, I hadn't thought of that. Perhaps I'd
better not tell the story. You'll have a worse
opinion of my courage, my dear."
"Of course you had to run from wolves,
grandpapa!" said the little girl.
"I'll bet grandpapa didn't run then, miss,"
said Jimmy. "I'll bet he shot them with his
"He couldn't—could you, grandpapa?
There were too many. Of course grandpapa
had to run. That wasn't being cowardly. It
"No, Jenny, I didn't run a yard."
"Didn't I tell you?" cried Jimmy. "Grandpapa
shot them with his gun."
"You're mistaken, Jimmy."
"Then you must—No, for you're here—you
weren't eaten up?" said wondering Jenny.
"No, dear, I wasn't eaten up."
"Oh, I know! The wolves didn't come!"
cried Jimmy, who remembered one of his grandpapa's
stories as having ended in that unhappy
"Oh, but they did, Jimmy!"
"Why, grandpapa, what did you do?"
"I climbed into a hollow tree."
"Of course!" said both children.
"Now I'm going to tell you a true wolf story,
and that's what few grandpapas can do out of
their own experience.
"I was resting on the shore of a lake, with
my snow-shoes off to ease my sore toes, when I
saw a pack of wolves trotting lazily toward me
on the snow that covered the ice. I was sure
they had not seen me. Right at my elbow was
a big hollow pine. It had an opening down to
the ground, a good deal like the door of a
"There was a smaller opening about thirty
feet higher up. I had looked up and seen this
before I saw the wolves. Then I rose, stood for
a moment in the hollow, and climbed up by my
feet, knees, hands, and elbows till I thought my
feet were well above the top of the opening.
Dead wood and dust fell as I ascended, but I
hoped the wolves had not heard me."
"Did they, grandpapa?"
"Perhaps not at first, Jenny. But maybe
they got a scent of the deer-meat I was carrying.
At any rate, they were soon snapping and
snarling over it and my snow-shoes. Gobble-de-gobble,
yip, yap, snap, growl, snarl, gobble—the
meat was all gone in a moment, like little
Red Riding Hood."
"Why, grandpapa! The wolf didn't eat
little Red Riding Hood. The boy came in
time—don't you remember?"
"Perhaps you never read my Red Riding
Hood, Jenny," said the old gentleman, laughing.
"At any rate, the wolves lunched at my
expense; yet I hoped they wouldn't be polite
enough to look round for their host. But they
did inquire for me—not very politely, I
must say. They seemed in bad humor—perhaps
there hadn't been enough lunch to go
"The greedy things! A whole haunch of
venison!" cried Jenny.
"Ah, but I had provided no currant jelly with
it, and of course they were vexed. If you ever
give a dinner-party to wolves, don't forget the
currant jelly, Jenny. How they yelled for it—Cur-r-r-rant-jell-yell-yell-elly-yell!
way they went.
"And they also said, Yow—yow—there's—yow—no—desser-r-rt—either—yow—yow!
Perhaps they wanted me to explain.
At any rate, they put their heads into the opening—how
many at once I don't know, for I
could not see down; and then they screamed
for me. It was an uncomfortably close scream,
chickens. My feet must have been nearer
them than I thought, for one fellow's nose
touched my moccasin as he jumped."
"O grandpapa! If he had caught your
"But he didn't, Jenny, dear. He caught
something worse. When he tumbled back he
must have fallen on the other fellows, for there
was a great snapping and snarling and yelping
all at once.
"Meantime I tried to go up out of reach.
It was easy enough; but with every fresh hold
I took with shoulders, elbows, hands, and feet,
the dead old wood crumbled and broke away,
so that thick dust filled the hollow tree.
"I was afraid I should be suffocated. But
up I worked till at last I got to the upper hole
and stuck out my head for fresh air. There I
was, pretty comfortable for a little while, and
I easily supported my weight by bending my
back, thrusting with my feet, and holding on
the edge of the hole by my hands.
"After getting breath I gave my attention to
the wolves. They did not catch sight of me for
a few moments. Some stood looking much
interested at the lower opening, as terriers do
at the hole where a rat has disappeared.
"Dust still came from the hole to the open
air. Some wolves sneezed; others sat and
squealed with annoyance, as Bruno does when
you close the door on him at dinner-time.
They were disgusted at my concealment. Of
course you have a pretty good idea of what
they said, Jenny."
"No, grandpapa. The horrid, cruel things!
What did they say?"
"Well, of course wolf talk is rude, even savage,
and dreadfully profane. As near as I could
make out, one fellow screamed, 'Shame, boy,
taking an unfair advantage of poor starving
wolves!' It seemed as if another fellow yelled,
'You young coward!' A third cried, 'Oh, yes,
you think you're safe, do you?' A fourth,
'Yow—yow—but we can wait till you come
Grandpapa mimicked the wolfish voices and
looks so effectively that Jenny was rather
"One old fellow seemed to suggest that they
should go away and look for more venison for
supper, while he kept watch on me. At that
there was a general howl of derision. They
seemed to me to be telling the old fellow that
they were just as fond of boy as he, and that
they understood his little game.
"The old chap evidently tried to explain,
but they grinned with all their teeth as he
turned from one to another. You must not
suppose, chickens, that wolves have no sense of
humor. Yet, poor things—"
"Poor things! Why, grandpapa!"
"Yes, Jenny; so lean and hungry, you know.
Then one of them suddenly caught sight of my
head, and didn't he yell! 'There he is—look
up the tree!' cried Mr. Wolf.
"For a few moments they were silent. Then
they sprang all at once, absurdly anxious to get
nearer to me, twenty-five feet or so above their
reach. On falling, they tumbled into several
heaps of mouths and legs and tails. After
scuffling and separating, they gazed up at me
with silent longing. I should have been very
popular for a few minutes had I gone down."
Jenny shuddered, and then nestled closer to
"Don't be afraid, Jenny. They didn't eat
me—not that time. After a few moments'
staring I became very impolite. 'Boo-ooh!'
said I. 'Yah-ha-ha!' said I. 'You be shot!'
I cried. They resented it. Even wolves love
to be gently addressed.
"They began yelling, snarling, and howling at
me worse than politicians at a sarcastic member
of the opposite party. I imitated them. Nevertheless,
I was beginning to be frightened. The
weather was turning cold, night was coming on,
and I didn't like the prospect of staying till
"All of a sudden I began laughing. I had
till then forgotten my pistol and pocketful of cartridges.
There were seventeen nice wolves—"
"Nice! Why, grandpa!"
"They seemed very nice wolves when I recollected
the county bounty of six dollars for a
wolf's head. Also, their skins would fetch two
dollars apiece. 'Why,' said I, 'my dear wolves,
you're worth one hundred and thirty-six dollars.'
"'Don't you wish you may get it!' said they,
"'You're worth one hundred and thirty-six
dollars,' I repeated, 'and yet you want to
sponge on a poor boy for a free supper!
"Did you say it out loud, grandpapa?"
"Well—no, Jenny. It's a thing I might
have said, you know; but I didn't exactly think
of it at the time. I was feeling for my pistol.
Just as I tugged it out of its case at my waist,
my knees, arms, and all lost their hold, and
down I fell."
"Grandpapa, dear!" Jenny nervously
"I didn't fall far, pet. But the dust! Talk
of sweeping floors! The whole inside of the
tree below me, borne down by my weight, had
fallen in chunks and dust. There I was, gasping
for breath, and the hole eight feet above my
head. The lower entrance was of course blocked
up by the rotten wood."
"And they couldn't get at you?"
"No, Jimmy; but I was in a dreadful situation.
At first I did not fully realize it. Choking
for air, my throat filled with particles of dry
rot, I tried to climb up again. But the hollow
had become too large. Nothing but a round
shell of sound wood, a few inches thick, was
left around me. With feet, hands, elbows, and
back, I strove to ascend as before. But I could
not. I was stuck fast!
"When I pushed with my feet I could only
press my back against the other side of the
enlarged hole. I was horrified. Indeed, I
thought the tree would be my coffin. There
I stood, breathing with difficulty even when I
breathed through my capuchin, which I took
off of my blanket overcoat. And there, I said
to myself, I was doomed to stand till my knees
should give way and my head fall forward, and
some day, after many years, the old tree would
blow down, and out would fall my white and
"Don't—please, grandpapa!" Jenny was
trying to keep from crying.
"In spite of my vision of my own skull and
cross-bones," went on grandpapa, solemnly, "I
was too young to despair wholly. I was at first
more annoyed than desperate. To be trapped
so, to die in a hole when I might have shot a
couple of wolves and split the heads of one or
two more with my hatchet before they could
have had boy for supper—this thought made
me very angry. And that brought me to thinking
of my hatchet.
"It was, I remembered, beneath my feet at
the bottom of the lower opening. If I could
get hold of it, I might use it to chop a hole
through my prison wall.
"But to burrow down was clearly impossible.
Nevertheless, I knelt to feel the punky stuff
under my feet. The absurdity of trying to work
down a hole without having, like a squirrel, any
place to throw out the material, was plain.
"But something more cheerful occurred to
me. As I knelt, an object at my back touched
my heels. It was the brass point of my hunting-knife
sheath. Instantly I sprang to my
feet, thrust my revolver back into its case, drew
the stout knife, and drove the blade into the
shell of pine.
"In two minutes I had scooped the blade
through. In five minutes I had my face at a
small hole that gave me fresh air. In half an
hour I had hacked out a space big enough to
put my shoulders through.
"The wolves, when they saw me again, were
delighted. As for me, I was much pleased to
see them, and said so. At the compliment they
licked their jaws. They thought I was coming
down, but I had something important to do
"I drew my pistol. It was a big old-fashioned
Colt's revolver. With the first round
of seven shots I killed three, and wounded
"Then the rest jumped on them and ate them
all up, didn't they, grandpapa?"
"No, Jimmy, I'm glad to say they didn't.
Wolves in Russian stories do, but American
wolves are not cannibalistic; for this is a civilized
country, you know.
"These wolves didn't even notice their fallen
friends. They devoted their attention wholly to
me, and I assure you, chickens, that I was much
gratified at that.
"I loaded again. It was a good deal of
trouble in those days, when revolvers wore caps.
I aimed very carefully, and killed four more.
The other ten then ran away—at least some
did; three could drag themselves but slowly.
"After loading again I dropped down, and
started for camp. Next morning we came back
and got ten skins, after looking up the three
"And you got only eighty dollars, instead of
one hundred and thirty-six, grandpapa," said
"Well, Jimmy, that was better than furnishing
the pack with raw boy for supper."
"Is that all, grandpapa?"
"Yes, Jenny, dear."
"Do tell us another story."
"Not to-night, chickens. Not to-night.
Grandpapa is old and sleepy. Good night,
dears; and if you begin to dream of wolves, be
sure you change the subject."
Grandpapa walked slowly up stairs.
"Can you make different dreams come,
Jimmy?" said Jenny.
"You goose! Grandpapa was pretending."
THE WATERLOO VETERAN.
Is Waterloo a dead word to you? the name
of a plain of battle, no more? Or do you
see, on a space of rising ground, the little long-coated
man with marble features, and unquenchable
eyes that pierce through rolling
smoke to where the relics of the old Guard
of France stagger and rally and reach fiercely
again up the hill of St. Jean toward the squares,
set, torn, red, re-formed, stubborn, mangled,
victorious beneath the unflinching will of him
behind there,—the Iron Duke of England?
Or is your interest in the fight literary? and
do you see in a pause of the conflict Major
O'Dowd sitting on the carcass of Pyramus
refreshing himself from that case-bottle of
sound brandy? George Osborne lying yonder,
all his fopperies ended, with a bullet through his
heart? Rawdon Crawley riding stolidly behind
General Tufto along the front of the shattered
regiment where Captain Dobbin stands heartsick
for poor Emily?
Or maybe the struggle arranges itself in your
vision around one figure not named in history
or fiction,—that of your grandfather, or his
father, or some old dead soldier of the great
wars whose blood you exult to inherit, or some
grim veteran whom you saw tottering to the roll-call
beyond when the Queen was young and you
were a little boy.
For me the shadows of the battle are so
grouped round old John Locke that the historians,
story-tellers, and painters may never quite
persuade me that he was not the centre and
real hero of the action. The French cuirassiers
in my thought-pictures charge again and again
vainly against old John; he it is who breaks the
New Guard; upon the ground that he defends
the Emperor's eyes are fixed all day long. It
is John who occasionally glances at the sky with
wonder if Blucher has failed them. Upon
Shaw the Lifeguardsman, and John, the Duke
plainly most relies, and the words that Wellington
actually speaks when the time comes for
advance are, "Up, John, and at them!"
How fate drifted the old veteran of Waterloo
into our little Canadian Lake Erie village I
never knew. Drifted him? No; he ever
marched as if under the orders of his commander.
Tall, thin, white-haired, close-shaven,
and always in knee-breeches and long stockings,
his was an antique and martial figure. "Fresh
white-fish" was his cry, which he delivered as
if calling all the village to fall in for drill.
So impressive was his demeanor that he dignified
his occupation. For years after he disappeared,
the peddling of white-fish by horse
and cart was regarded in that district as peculiarly
respectacle. It was a glorious trade when
old John Locke held the steelyards and served
out the glittering fish with an air of distributing
ammunition for a long day's combat.
I believe I noticed, on the first day I saw
him, how he tapped his left breast with a proud
gesture when he had done with a lot of customers
and was about to march again at the head
of his horse. That restored him from trade to
his soldiership—he had saluted his Waterloo
medal! There beneath his threadbare old blue
coat it lay, always felt by the heart of the hero.
"Why doesn't he wear it outside?" I once
"He used to," said my father, "till Hiram
Beaman, the druggist, asked him what he'd
'take for the bit of pewter.'"
"What did old John say, sir?"
"'Take for the bit of pewter!' said he, looking
hard at Beaman with scorn. 'I've took
better men's lives nor ever yours was for to get
it, and I'd sell my own for it as quick as ever
I offered it before.'
"'More fool you,' said Beaman.
"'You're nowt,' said old John, very calm
and cold, 'you're nowt but walking dirt.'
From that day forth he would never sell Beaman
a fish; he wouldn't touch his money."
It must have been late in 1854 or early in
1855 that I first saw the famous medal. Going
home from school on a bright winter afternoon,
I met old John walking very erect, without his
usual fish-supply. A dull round white spot was
clasped on the left breast of his coat.
"Mr. Locke," said the small boy, staring
with admiration, "is that your glorious Waterloo
"You're a good little lad!" He stooped to
let me see the noble pewter. "War's declared
against Rooshia, and now it's right to show it.
The old regiment's sailed, and my only son is
with the colors."
Then he took me by the hand and led me
into the village store, where the lawyer read
aloud the news from the paper that the veteran
gave him. In those days there was no railway
within fifty miles of us. It had chanced that
some fisherman brought old John a later paper
than any previously received in the village.
"Ay, but the Duke is gone," said he, shaking
his white head, "and it's curious to be fighting
on the same side with another Boney."
All that winter and the next, all the long
summer between, old John displayed his medal.
When the report of Alma came, his remarks on
the French failure to get into the fight were
severe. "What was they ever, at best, without
Boney?" he would inquire. But a letter from
his son after Inkermann changed all that.
"Half of us was killed, and the rest of us
clean tired with fighting," wrote Corporal
Locke. "What with a bullet through the flesh
of my right leg, and the fatigue of using the
bayonet so long, I was like to drop. The Russians
was coming on again as if there was no
end to them, when strange drums came sounding
in the mist behind us. With that we
closed up and faced half-round, thinking they
had outflanked us and the day was gone, so
there was nothing more to do but make out to
die hard, like the sons of Waterloo men. You
would have been pleased to see the looks of
what was left of the old regiment, father. Then
all of a sudden a French column came up the
rise out of the mist, screaming, 'Vive l'Empereur!'
their drums beating the charge. We
gave them room, for we were too dead tired to
go first. On they went like mad at the Russians,
so that was the end of a hard morning's
work. I was down,—fainted with loss of blood,—but
I will soon be fit for duty again. When
I came to myself there was a Frenchman pouring
brandy down my throat, and talking in his
gibberish as kind as any Christian. Never a
word will I say agin them red-legged French
"Show me the man that would!" growled old
John. "It was never in them French to act
cowardly. Didn't they beat all the world, and
even stand up many's the day agen ourselves
and the Duke? They didn't beat,—it wouldn't
be in reason,—but they tried brave enough, and
what more'd you ask of mortal men?"
With the ending of the Crimean War our
village was illuminated. Rows of tallow candles
in every window, fireworks in a vacant field, and
a torchlight procession! Old John marched
at its head in full regimentals, straight as a
ramrod, the hero of the night. His son had
been promoted for bravery on the field. After
John came a dozen gray militiamen of Queenston
Heights, Lundy's Lane, and Chippewa;
next some forty volunteers of '37. And we
boys of the U. E. Loyalist settlement cheered
and cheered, thrilled with an intense vague
knowledge that the old army of Wellington kept
ghostly step with John, while aerial trumpets
and drums pealed and beat with rejoicing at
the fresh glory of the race and the union of
English-speaking men unconsciously celebrated
and symbolized by the little rustic parade.
After that the old man again wore his medal
concealed. The Chinese War of 1857 was too
contemptible to celebrate by displaying his
badge of Waterloo.
Then came the dreadful tale of the Sepoy
mutiny—Meerut, Delhi, Cawnpore! After the
tale of Nana Sahib's massacre of women and
children was read to old John he never smiled,
I think. Week after week, month after month,
as hideous tidings poured steadily in, his face
became more haggard, gray, and dreadful. The
feeling that he was too old for use seemed to
shame him. He no longer carried his head
high, as of yore. That his son was not marching
behind Havelock with the avenging army
seemed to cut our veteran sorely. Sergeant
Locke had sailed with the old regiment to join
Outram in Persia before the Sepoys broke
loose. It was at this time that old John was
first heard to say, "I'm 'feared something's
gone wrong with my heart."
Months went by before we learned that the
troops for Persia had been stopped on their
way and thrown into India against the mutineers.
At that news old John marched into the village
with a prouder air than he had worn for many
a day. His medal was again on his breast.
It was but the next month, I think, that the
village lawyer stood reading aloud the account
of the capture of a great Sepoy fort. The veteran
entered the post-office, and all made way
for him. The reading went on:—
"The blowing open of the Northern Gate
was the grandest personal exploit of the attack.
It was performed by native sappers, covered
by the fire of two regiments, and headed by
Lieutenants Holder and Dacre, Sergeants Green,
Carmody, Macpherson, and Locke."
The lawyer paused. Every eye turned to
the face of the old Waterloo soldier. He
straightened up to keener attention, threw out
his chest, and tapped the glorious medal in
salute of the names of the brave.
"God be praised, my son was there!" he
said. "Read on."
"Sergeant Carmody, while laying the powder,
was killed, and the native havildar wounded.
The powder having been laid, the advance
party slipped down into the ditch to allow the
firing party, under Lieutenant Dacre, to do its
duty. While trying to fire the charge he was
shot through one arm and leg. He sank, but
handed the match to Sergeant Macpherson,
who was at once shot dead. Sergeant Locke,
already wounded severely in the shoulder, then
seized the match, and succeeded in firing the
train. He fell at that moment, literally riddled
"Read on," said old John, in a deeper voice.
All forbore to look twice upon his face.
"Others of the party were falling, when the
mighty gate was blown to fragments, and the
waiting regiments of infantry, under Colonel
Campbell, rushed into the breach."
There was a long silence in the post-office,
till old John spoke once more.
"The Lord God be thanked for all his dealings
with us! My son, Sergeant Locke, died
well for England, Queen, and Duty."
Nervously fingering the treasure on his breast,
the old soldier wheeled about, and marched
proudly straight down the middle of the village
street to his lonely cabin.
The villagers never saw him in life again.
Next day he did not appear. All refrained
from intruding on his mourning. But in the
evening, when the Episcopalian minister heard
of his parishioner's loss, he walked to old John's
There, stretched upon his straw bed, he lay
in his antique regimentals, stiffer than At Attention,
all his medals fastened below that of
Waterloo above his quiet heart. His right
hand lay on an open Bible, and his face wore an
expression as of looking for ever and ever upon
Sergeant Locke and the Great Commander
who takes back unto Him the heroes He
fashions to sweeten the world.
BEDELL, U. E. LOYALIST.[A]
"A renegade! A rebel against his king! A black-hearted traitor! You dare to
tell me that you love George Winthrop! Son of canting, lying Ezra Winthrop! By
the Eternal, I'll shoot him on sight if he comes this side!"
While old John Bedell was speaking, he tore and flung away a letter, reached
for his long rifle on its pins above the chimney-place, dashed its butt angrily
to the floor, and poured powder into his palm.
"For Heaven's sake, father! You would not! You could not! The war is over. It
would be murder!" cried Ruth Bedell, sobbing.
"Wouldn't I?" He poured the powder in. "Yes, by gracious, quicker'n I'd kill
a rattlesnake!" He placed the round bullet on the little square of greased rag
at the muzzle of his rifle. "A rank traitor—bone and blood of those who drove
out loyal men!"—he crowded the tight lead home, dashed the ramrod into place,
looked to the flint. "Rest there,—wake up for George Winthrop!" and the fierce
old man replaced rifle and powder-horn on their pegs.
Bedell's hatred for the foes who had beaten down King George's cause, and
imposed the alternative of confiscation or the oath of allegiance on the
vanquished, was considered intense, even by his brother Loyalists of the Niagara
"The Squire kind o' sees his boys' blood when the sky's red," said they in
explanation. But Bedell was so much an enthusiast that he could almost rejoice
because his three stark sons had gained the prize of death in battle. He was too
brave to hate the fighting-men he had so often confronted; but he abhorred the
politicians, especially the intimate civic enemies on whom he had poured scorn
before the armed struggle began. More than any he hated Ezra Winthrop, the
lawyer, arch-revolutionist of their native town, who had never used a weapon but
his tongue. And now his Ruth, the beloved and only child left to his exiled age,
had confessed her love for Ezra Winthrop's son! They had been boy and girl,
pretty maiden and bright stripling together, without the Squire suspecting—he
could not, even now, conceive clearly so wild a thing as their affection! The
confession burned in his heart like veritable fire,—a raging anguish of mingled
loathing and love. He stood now gazing at Ruth dumbly, his hands clenched, head
sometimes mechanically quivering, anger, hate, love, grief, tumultuous in his
Ruth glanced up—her father seemed about to speak—she bowed again, shuddering
as though the coming words might kill. Still there was silence,—a long silence.
Bedell stood motionless, poised, breathing hard—the silence oppressed the
girl—each moment her terror increased—expectant attention became suffering that
demanded his voice—and still was silence—save for the dull roar of Niagara that
more and more pervaded the air. The torture of waiting for the words—a curse
against her, she feared—overwore Ruth's endurance. She looked up suddenly, and
John Bedell saw in hers the beloved eyes of his dead wife, shrinking with
intolerable fear. He groaned heavily, flung up his hands despairingly, and
strode out toward the river.
How crafty smooth the green Niagara sweeps toward the plunge beneath that
perpetual white cloud above the Falls! From Bedell's clearing below Navy Island,
two miles above the Falls, he could see the swaying and rolling of the mist,
ever rushing up to expand and overhang. The terrible stream had a profound
fascination for him, with its racing eddies eating at the shore; its long weeds,
visible through the clear water, trailing close down to the bottom; its
inexorable, eternal, onward pouring. Because it was so mighty and so
threatening, he rejoiced grimly in the awful river. To float, watching cracks
and ledges of its flat bottom-rock drift quickly upward; to bend to his oars
only when white crests of the rapids yelled for his life; to win escape by sheer
strength from points so low down that he sometimes doubted but the greedy forces
had been tempted too long; to stake his life, watching tree-tops for a sign that
he could yet save it, was the dreadful pastime by which Bedell often quelled
passionate promptings to revenge his exile. "The Falls is bound to get the
Squire, some day," said the banished settlers. But the Squire's skiff was clean
built as a pickerel, and his old arms iron-strong. Now when he had gone forth
from the beloved child, who seemed to him so traitorous to his love and all
loyalty, he went instinctively to spend his rage upon the river.
Ruth Bedell, gazing at the loaded rifle, shuddered, not with dread only, but
a sense of having been treacherous to her father. She had not told him all the
truth. George Winthrop himself, having made his way secretly through the forest
from Lake Ontario, had given her his own letter asking leave from the Squire to
visit his newly made cabin. From the moment of arrival her lover had implored
her to fly with him. But filial love was strong in Ruth to give hope that her
father would yield to the yet stronger affection freshened in her heart.
Believing their union might be permitted, she had pledged herself to escape with
her lover if it were forbidden. Now he waited by the hickory wood for a signal
to conceal himself or come forward.
When Ruth saw her father far down the river, she stepped to the flagstaff he
had raised before building the cabin—his first duty being to hoist the Union
Jack! It was the largest flag he could procure; he could see it flying defiantly
all day long; at night he could hear its glorious folds whipping in the wind;
the hot old Loyalist loved to fancy his foeman cursing at it from the other
side, nearly three miles away. Ruth hauled the flag down a little, then ran it
up to the mast-head again.
At that, a tall young fellow came springing into the clearing, jumping
exultantly over brush-heaps and tree-trunks, his queue waggling, his eyes
bright, glad, under his three-cornered hat. Joying that her father had yielded,
he ran forward till he saw Ruth's tears.
"What, sweetheart!—crying? It was the signal to come on," cried he.
"Yes; to see you sooner, George. Father is out yonder. But no, he will never,
"Then you will come with me, love," he said, taking her hands.
"No, no; I dare not," sobbed Ruth. "Father would overtake us. He swears to
shoot you on sight! Go, George! Escape while you can! Oh, if he should find you
"But, darling love, we need not fear. We can escape easily. I know the forest
path. But—" Then he thought how weak her pace.
"We might cross here before he could come up!" cried Winthrop, looking toward
where the Squire's boat was now a distant blotch.
"No, no," wailed Ruth, yet yielding to his embrace. "This is the last time I
shall see you forever and forever. Go, dear,—good-bye, my love, my love."
But he clasped her in his strong arms, kissing, imploring, cheering her,—and
how should true love choose hopeless renunciation?
Tempting, defying, regaining his lost ground, drifting down again, trying
hard to tire out and subdue his heart-pangs, Bedell dallied with death more
closely than ever. He had let his skiff drift far down toward the Falls. Often
he could see the wide smooth curve where the green volume first lapses vastly on
a lazy slope, to shoulder up below as a huge calm billow, before pitching into
the madness of waves whose confusion of tossing and tortured crests hurries to
the abyss. The afternoon grew toward evening before he pulled steadily home,
crawling away from the roarers against the cruel green, watching the ominous
cloud with some such grim humor as if under observation by an overpowering but
Approaching his landing, a shout drew Bedell's glance ashore to a group of
men excitedly gesticulating. They seemed motioning him to watch the American
shore. Turning, he saw a boat in midstream, where no craft then on the river,
except his own skiff, could be safe, unless manned by several good men. Only two
oars were flashing. Bedell could make out two figures indistinctly. It was clear
they were doomed,—though still a full mile above the point whence he had come,
they were much farther out than he when near the rapids. Yet one life might be
saved! Instantly Bedell's bow turned outward, and cheers flung to him from
At that moment he looked to his own landing-place, and saw that his larger
boat was gone. Turning again, he angrily recognized it, but kept right on—he
must try to rescue even a thief. He wondered Ruth had not prevented the theft,
but had no suspicion of the truth. Always he had refused to let her go out upon
the river—mortally fearing it for her.
Thrusting his skiff mightily forward,—often it glanced, half-whirled by
up-whelming and spreading spaces of water,—the old Loyalist's heart was quit of
his pangs, and sore only with certainty that he must abandon one human soul to
death. By the time that he could reach the larger boat his would be too near the
rapids for escape with three!
When George Winthrop saw Bedell in pursuit, he bent to his ash-blades more
strongly, and Ruth, trembling to remember her father's threats, urged her lover
to speed. They feared the pursuer only, quite unconscious that they were in the
remorseless grasp of the river. Ruth had so often seen her father far lower down
than they had yet drifted that she did not realize the truth, and George, a
stranger in the Niagara district, was unaware of the length of the cataracts
above the Falls. He was also deceived by the stream's treacherous smoothness,
and instead of half-upward, pulled straight across, as if certainly able to land
anywhere he might touch the American shore.
Bedell looked over his shoulder often. When he distinguished a woman, he put
on more force, but slackened soon—the pull home would tax his endurance, he
reflected. In some sort it was a relief to know that one was
a woman; he had been anticipating trouble with two men equally bent on being
saved. That the man would abandon himself bravely, the Squire took as a matter
of course. For a while he thought of pulling with the woman to the American
shore, more easily to be gained from the point where the rescue must occur. But
he rejected the plan, confident he could win back, for he had sworn never to set
foot on that soil unless in war. Had it been possible to save both, he would
have been forced to disregard that vow; but the Squire knew that it was
impossible for him to reach the New York Shore with two passengers—two would
overload his boat beyond escape. Man or woman—one must go over the Falls.
Having carefully studied landmarks for his position, Bedell turned to look
again at the doomed boat, and a well-known ribbon caught his attention! The old
man dropped his oars, confused with horror. "My God, my God! it's Ruth!" he
cried, and the whole truth came with another look, for he had not forgotten
"Your father stops, Ruth. Perhaps he is in pain," said George to the quaking
She looked back. "What can it be?" she cried, filial love returning
"Perhaps he is only tired." George affected carelessness,—his first wish was
to secure his bride,—and pulled hard away to get all advantage from Bedell's
"Tired! He is in danger of the Falls, then!" screamed Ruth. "Stop! Turn! Back
Winthrop instantly prepared to obey. "Yes, darling," he said, "we must not
think of ourselves. We must go back to save him!" Yet his was a sore groan at
turning; what Duty ordered was so hard,—he must give up his love for the sake of
But while Winthrop was still pulling round, the old Loyalist resumed rowing,
with a more rapid stroke that soon brought him alongside.
In those moments of waiting, all Bedell's life, his personal hatreds, his
loves, his sorrows, had been reviewed before his soul. He had seen again his
sons, the slain in battle, in the pride of their young might; and the gentle
eyes of Ruth had pleaded with him beneath his dead wife's brow. Into those
beloved, unforgotten, visionary eyes he looked with an encouraging,
strengthening gaze,—now that the deed to be done was as clear before him as the
face of Almighty God. In accepting it the darker passions that had swayed his
stormy life fell suddenly away from their hold on his soul. How trivial had been
old disputes! how good at heart old well-known civic enemies! how poor seemed
hate! how mean and poor seemed all but Love and Loyalty!
Resolution and deep peace had come upon the man.
The lovers wondered at his look. No wrath was there. The old eyes were calm
and cheerful, a gentle smile flickered about his lips. Only that he was very
pale, Ruth would have been wholly glad for the happy change.
"Forgive me, father," she cried, as he laid hand on their boat.
"I do, my child," he answered. "Come now without an instant's delay to me."
"Oh, father, if you would let us be happy!" cried Ruth, heart-torn by two
"Dear, you shall be happy. I was wrong, child; I did not understand how you
loved him. But come! You hesitate! Winthrop, my son, you are in some danger.
Into this boat instantly! both of you! Take the oars, George. Kiss me, dear, my
Ruth, once more. Good-bye, my little girl. Winthrop, be good to her. And may God
bless you both forever!"
As the old Squire spoke, he stepped into the larger boat, instantly releasing
the skiff. His imperative gentleness had secured his object without loss of
time, and the boats were apart with Winthrop's readiness to pull.
"Now row! Row for her life to yonder shore! Bow well up! Away, or the Falls
will have her!" shouted Bedell.
"But you!" cried Winthrop, bending for his stroke. Yet he did not comprehend
Bedell's meaning. Till the last the old man had spoken without strong
excitement. Dread of the river was not on George; his bliss was supreme in his
thought, and he took the Squire's order for one of exaggerated alarm.
"Row, I say, with all your strength!" cried Bedell, with a flash of anger
that sent the young fellow away instantly. "Row! Concern yourself not for me. I
am going home. Row! for her life, Winthrop! God will deliver you yet. Good-bye,
children. Remember always my blessing is freely given you."
"God bless and keep you forever, father!" cried Ruth, from the distance, as
her lover pulled away.
They landed, conscious of having passed a swift current, indeed, but quite
unthinking of the price paid for their safety. Looking back on the darkling
river, they saw nothing of the old man.
"Poor father!" sighed Ruth, "how kind he was! I'm sore-hearted for thinking
of him at home, so lonely."
Left alone in the clumsy boat, Bedell stretched with the long, heavy oars for
his own shore, making appearance of strong exertion. But when he no longer
feared that his children might turn back with sudden understanding, and vainly,
to his aid, he dragged the boat slowly, watching her swift drift down—down
toward the towering mist. Then as he gazed at the cloud, rising in two distinct
volumes, came a thought spurring the Loyalist spirit in an instant. He was not
yet out of American water! Thereafter he pulled steadily, powerfully, noting
landmarks anxiously, studying currents, considering always their trend to or
from his own shore. Half an hour had gone when he again dropped into slower
motion. Then he could see Goat Island's upper end between him and the mist of
the American Fall.
Now the old man gave himself up to intense curiosity, looking over into the
water with fascinated inquiry. He had never been so far down the river. Darting
beside their shadows, deep in the clear flood, were now larger fishes than he
had ever taken, and all moved up as if hurrying to escape. How fast the long
trailing, swaying, single weeds, and the crevices in flat rock whence they so
strangely grew, went up stream and away as if drawn backward. The sameness of
the bottom to that higher up interested him—where then did the current
begin to sweep clean? He should certainly know that soon, he thought, without a
touch of fear, having utterly accepted death when he determined it were base to
carry his weary old life a little longer, and let Ruth's young love die. Now the
Falls' heavy monotone was overborne by terrible sounds—a mingled clashing,
shrieking, groaning, and rumbling, as of great bowlders churned in their beds.
Bedell was nearing the first long swoop downward at the rapids' head when
those watching him from the high bank below the Chippewa River's mouth saw him
put his boat stern with the current and cease rowing entirely, facing fairly the
up-rushing mist to which he was being hurried. Then they observed him stooping,
as if writing, for a time. Something flashed in his hands, and then he knelt
with head bowed down. Kneeling, they prayed, too.
Now he was almost on the brink of the cascades. Then he arose, and, glancing
backward to his home, caught sight of his friends on the high shore. Calmly he
waved a farewell. What then? Thrice round he flung his hat, with a gesture they
knew full well. Some had seen that exultant waving in front of ranks of battle.
As clearly as though the roar of waters had not drowned his ringing voice, they
knew that old John Bedell, at the poise of death, cheered thrice, "Hurrah!
Hurrah! Hurrah for the King!"
They found his body a week afterward, floating with the heaving water in the
gorge below the Falls. Though beaten almost out of recognition, portions of
clothing still adhered to it, and in a waistcoat pocket they found the old
Loyalist's metal snuff-box, with this inscription scratched by knife-point on
the cover: "God be praised, I die in British waters! John
What had Alexander Verbitzsky and I done that the secret service of our
father, the Czar, should dog us for five months, and in the end drive us to
Siberia, whence we have, by the goodness of God, escaped from Holy Russia, our
mother? They called us Nihilists—as if all Nihilists were of one way of
We did not belong to the Terrorists,—the section that believes in killing the
tyrant or his agents in hope that the hearts of the mighty may be shaken as
Pharaoh's was in Egypt long ago. No; we were two students of nineteen years old,
belonging to the section of "peasantists," or of Peaceful Education. Its members
solemnly devote all their lives to teaching the poor people to read, think,
save, avoid vodka, and seek quietly for such liberty with order as here
in America all enjoy. Was that work a crime in Verbitzsky and me?
Was it a crime for us to steal to the freight-shed of the Moscow and St.
Petersburg Railway that night in December two years ago? We sat in the
superintendent's dark office, and talked to the eight trainmen that were brought
in by the guard of the eastern gate, who had belonged to all the sections, but
was no longer "active."
We were there to prevent a crime. At the risk of our lives, we two went to
save the Czar of all the Russias, though well we knew that Dmitry Nolenki, chief
of the secret police, had offered a reward on our capture.
Boris Kojukhov and the other seven trainmen who came with him had been
chosen, with ten others who were not Nihilists, to operate the train that was to
bear His Imperial Majesty next day to St. Petersburg. Now Boris was one of the
Section of Terror, and most terrible was his scheme. Kojukhov was not really his
name I may tell you. Little did the Czar's railway agents suspect that Boris was
a noble, and brother to the gentle girl that had been sent to Siberia. No wonder
the heart of Boris was hot and his brain partly crazed when he learned of Zina's
death in the starvation strike at the Olek Mines.
Verbitzsky was cousin to Zina and Boris, and as his young head was a wise
one, Boris wished to consult him. We both went, hoping to persuade him out of
the crime he meditated.
"No," said Boris, "my mind is made up. I may never have such another chance.
I will fling these two bombs under the foremost car at the middle of the Volga
Bridge. The tyrant and his staff shall all plunge with us down to death in the
"The bombs—have you them here?" asked Verbitzsky in the dark.
"I have them in my hands," said Boris, tapping them lightly together. "I have
carried them in my inner clothing for a week. They give me warmth at my heart as
I think how they shall free Holy Russia."
There was a stir of dismay in the dark office. The comrades, though willing
to risk death at the Volga Bridge, were horrified by Kojukhov's tapping of the
iron bombs together, and all rose in fear of their explosion, all except
Verbitzsky and me.
"For God's sake, be more careful, Boris!" said my friend.
"Oh, you're afraid, too?" said Kojukhov. "Pah! you cowards of the Peace
Section!" He tapped the bombs together again.
"I am afraid," said Verbitzsky. "Why should I die for your reckless
folly? Will any good happen if you explode the bombs here? You will but destroy
all of us, and our friends the watchmen, and the freight-sheds containing the
property of many worthy people."
"You are a fool, Verbitzsky!" said his cousin. "Come here. Whisper."
Something Boris then whispered in my comrade's ear. When Verbitzsky spoke
again his voice seemed calmer.
"Let me feel the shape," he said.
"Here," said Boris, as if handing something to Verbitzsky.
At that moment the outer door of the freight-shed resounded with a heavy
blow. The next blow, as from a heavy maul, pounded the door open.
"The police!" shouted Boris. "They must have dogged you, Alexander, for they
don't suspect me." He dashed out of the dark office into the great dark shed.
As we all ran forth, glancing at the main door about seventy feet distant, we
saw a squad of police outlined against the moonlit sky beyond the great open
space of railway yard. My eyes were dazzled by a headlight that one of them
carried. By that lamp they must have seen us clearly; for as we started to run
away down the long shed they opened fire, and I stumbled over Boris Kojukhov, as
he fell with a shriek.
Rising, I dodged aside, thinking to avoid bullets, and then dashed against a
bale of wool, one of a long row. Clambering over it, I dropped beside a man
crouching on the other side.
"Michael, is it you?" whispered Verbitzsky.
"Yes. We're lost, of course?"
"No. Keep still. Let them pass."
The police ran past us down the middle aisle left between high walls of wool
bales. They did not notice the narrow side lane in which we were crouching.
"Come. I know a way out," said Verbitzsky. "I was all over here this morning,
looking round, in case we should be surprised to-night."
"What's this?" I whispered, groping, and touching something in his hand.
"Kojukhov's bombs. I have them both. Come. Ah, poor Boris, he's with Zina
The bomb was a section of iron pipe about two inches in diameter and eighteen
inches long. Its ends were closed with iron caps. Filled with nitroglycerine,
such pipes are terrible shells, which explode by concussion. I was amazed to
think of the recklessness of Boris in tapping them together.
"Put them down, Verbitzsky!" I whispered, as we groped our way between high
walls of bales.
"No, no, they're weapons!" he whispered. "We may need them."
"Then for the love of the saints, be careful!"
"Don't be afraid," he said, as we neared a small side door.
Meantime, we heard the police run after the Terrorists, who brought up
against the great door at the south end. As they tore away the bar and opened
the door they shouted with dismay. They had been confronted by another squad of
police! For a few moments a confusion of sounds came to us, all somewhat muffled
by passing up and over the high walls of baled wool.
"Boris! Where are you?" cried one.
"He's killed!" cried another.
"Oh, if we had the bombs!"
"He gave them to Verbitzsky."
"Verbitzsky, where are you? Throw them! Let us all die together!"
"Yes, it's death to be taken!"
Then we heard shots, blows, and shrieks, all in confusion. After a little
there was clatter of grounded arms, and then no sound but the heavy breathing of
men who had been struggling hard. That silence was a bad thing for Verbitzsky
and me, because the police heard the opening of the small side door through
which Alexander next moment led. In a moment we dashed out into the clear night,
over the tracks, toward the Petrovsky Gardens.
As we reached the railway yard the police ran round their end of the
wool-shed in pursuit—ten of them. The others stayed with the prisoners.
"Don't fire! Don't shoot!" cried a voice we knew well,—the voice of Dmitry
Nolenki, chief of the secret police.
"One of them is Verbitzsky!" he cried to his men. "The conspirator I've been
after for four months. A hundred roubles for him who first seizes him! He must
be taken alive!"
That offer, I suppose, was what pushed them to such eagerness that they all
soon felt themselves at our mercy. And that offer was what caused them to follow
so silently, lest other police should overhear a tumult and run to head us off.
Verbitzsky, though encumbered by the bombs, kept the lead, for he was a very
swift runner. I followed close at his heels. We could hear nothing in the great
walled-in railway yard except the clack of feet on gravel, and sometimes on the
network of steel tracks that shone silvery as the hard snow under the round
My comrade ran like a man who knows exactly where he means to go. Indeed, he
had already determined to follow a plan that had long before occurred to him. It
was a vision of what one or two desperate men with bombs might do at close
quarters against a number with pistols.
As Verbitzsky approached the south end of the yard, which is excavated deeply
and walled in from the surrounding streets, he turned, to my amazement, away
from the line that led into the suburbs, and ran along four tracks that led
under a street bridge.
This bridge was fully thirty feet overhead, and flanked by wings of masonry.
The four tracks led into a small yard, almost surrounded by high stone
warehouses; a yard devoted solely to turn-tables for locomotives. There was no
exit from it except under the bridge that we passed beneath.
"Good!" we heard Nolenki cry, fifty yards behind. "We have them now in a
At that, Verbitzsky, still in the moonlight, slackened speed, half-turned as
if in hesitation, then ran on more slowly, with zigzag steps, as if desperately
looking for a way out. But he said to me in a low, panting voice:—
"We shall escape. Do exactly as I do."
When the police were not fifty feet behind us, Verbitzsky jumped down about
seven feet into a wide pit. I jumped to his side. We were now standing in the
walled-in excavation for a new locomotive turn-table. This pit was still free
from its machinery and platform.
"We are done now!" I said, staring around as Verbitzsky stopped in the middle
of the circular pit, which was some forty feet wide.
Just as the police came crowding to the edge, Verbitzsky fell on his knees as
if in surrender. In their eagerness to lay first hands, on him, all the police
jumped down except the chief, Dmitry Nolenki. Some fell. As those who kept their
feet rushed toward us, Verbitzsky sprang up and ran to the opposite wall, with
me at his heels.
Three seconds later the foremost police were within fifteen feet of us. Then
Verbitzsky raised his terrible bombs.
From high above the roofs of the warehouses the full moon so clearly
illuminated the yard that we could see every button on our assailants' coats,
and even the puffs of fat Nolenki's breath. He stood panting on the opposite
wall of the excavation.
"Halt, or die!" cried Verbitzsky, in a terrible voice.
The bombs were clearly to be seen in his hands. Every policeman in Moscow
knew of the destruction done, only six days before, by just such weapons. The
foremost men halted instantly. The impetus of those behind brought all together
in a bunch—nine expectants of instant death. Verbitzsky spoke again:—
"If any man moves hand or foot, I'll throw these," he cried. "Listen!"
"Why, you fool," said Nolenki, a rather slow-witted man, "you can't escape.
He drew his revolver and pointed it at us.
"Michael," said Verbitzsky to me, in that steely voice which I had never
before heard from my gentle comrade; "Michael, Nolenki can shoot but one of us
before he dies. Take this bomb. Now if he hits me you throw your bomb at him. If
he hits you I will throw mine."
"Infernal villains!" gasped the chief; but we could see his pistol wavering.
"Michael," resumed Verbitzsky, "we will give Nolenki a chance for his life.
Obey me exactly! Listen! If Dmitry Nolenki does not jump down into this pit
before I say five, throw your bomb straight at him! I will, at the moment I say
five, throw mine at these rascals."
"Madman!" cried Nolenki. "Do you think to—"
He stopped as if paralyzed. I suppose he had suddenly understood that the
explosion of a bomb in that small, high-walled yard would kill every man in it.
"One!" cried Verbitzsky.
"But I may not hit him!" said I.
"No matter. If it explodes within thirty feet of him he will move no more."
I took one step forward and raised the bomb. Did I mean to throw it? I do not
know. I think not. But I knew we must make the threat or be captured and hung.
And I felt certain that the bomb would be exploded anyway when Verbitzsky should
say "Five." He would then throw his, and mine would explode by the concussion.
"Two!" said Verbitzsky.
Dmitry Nolenki had lowered his pistol. He glanced behind him uneasily.
"If he runs, throw it!" said Verbitzsky, loudly. "THREE!"
The chief of the Moscow secret police was reputed a brave man, but he was
only a cruel one. Now his knees trembled so that we could see them shake, and
his teeth chattered in the still cold night. Verbitzsky told me afterward that
he feared the man's slow brain had become so paralyzed by fright that he might
not be able to think and obey and jump down. That would have placed my comrade
and me in a dreadful dilemma, but quite a different one from what you may
As if to make Nolenki reflect, Verbitzsky spoke more slowly:—
"If Dmitry Nolenki jumps down into this pit
before I say five, do not throw the bomb at him. You understand,
Michael, do not throw if he jumps down instantly. Four!"
Nolenki's legs were so weak that he could not walk to the edge. In trying to
do so he stumbled, fell, crawled, and came in head first, a mere heap.
"Wise Nolenki!" said my comrade, with a laugh. Then in his tone of desperate
resolution, "Nolenki, get down on your hands and knees, and put your head
against that wall. Don't move now—if you wish to live."
"Now, men," he cried to the others in military fashion, "right about, face!"
They hesitated, perhaps fearful that he would throw at them when they turned.
"About! instantly!" he cried. They all turned.
"Now, men, you see your chief. At the word 'March,' go and kneel in a row
beside him, your heads against that wall. Hump your backs as high as you can. If
any man moves to get out, all will suffer together. You understand?"
"Yes! yes! yes!" came in an agony of abasement from their lips.
When they were all kneeling in a row, Verbitzsky said to me clearly:—
"Michael, you can easily get to the top of that wall from any one of their
backs. No man will dare to move. Go! Wait on the edge! Take your bomb with you!"
I obeyed. I stood on a man's back. I laid my bomb with utmost care on the
wall, over which I could then see. Then I easily lifted myself out by my hands
"Good!" said Verbitzsky. "Now, Michael, stand there till I come. If they try
to seize me, throw your bomb. We can all die together."
In half a minute he had stepped on Nolenki's back. Nolenki groaned with
abasement. Next moment Verbitzsky was beside me.
"Give me your bomb. Now, Michael," he said loudly, "I will stand guard over
these wretches till I see you beyond the freight-sheds. Walk at an ordinary
pace, lest you be seen and suspected."
"But you? They'll rise and fire at you as you run," I said.
"Of course they will. But you will escape. Here! Good-bye!"
He embraced me, and whispered in my ear:
"Go the opposite way from the freight-sheds. Go out toward the Petrovsky
Gardens. There are few police there. Run hard after you've walked out under the
bridge and around the abutments. You will then be out of hearing."
"Go, dear friend," he said aloud, in a mournful voice. "I may never see you
again. Possibly I may have to destroy myself and all here. Go!"
I obeyed precisely, and had not fairly reached the yard's end when Verbitzsky,
running very silently, came up beside me.
"I think they must be still fancying that I'm standing over them," he
chuckled. "No, they are shooting! Now, out they come!"
From where we now stood in shadow we could see Nolenki and his men rush
furiously out from under the bridge. They ran away from us toward the
freight-sheds, shouting the alarm, while we calmly walked home to our
Not till then did I think of the bombs.
"Where are they?" I asked in alarm.
"I left them for the police. They will ruin Nolenki—it was he who sent poor
Zina to Siberia and her death."
"Ruin him?" I said, wondering.
"They were not loaded."
"That's what Boris whispered to me in the wool-shed office. He meant to load
them to-morrow before going to His Imperial Majesty's train. Nolenki will be
laughed to death in Moscow, if not sent to Siberia."
Verbitzsky was right. Nolenki, after being laughed nearly to death, was sent
to Siberia in disgrace, and we both worked in the same gang with him for eight
months before we escaped from the Ural Mines. No doubt he is working there yet.