The Man From Glengarry by Ralph Connor
Chapter XIII. The Logging Bee
Macdonald Bhain's visit to his brother was fruitful in another way. After taking counsel with Yankee and Kirsty, he resolved that he would speak to his neighbors and make a "bee," to attack the brule. He knew better than to consult either his brother or his nephew, feeling sure that their Highland pride would forbid accepting any such favor, and all the more because it seemed to be needed. But without their leave the bee was arranged, and in the beginning of the following week the house of Macdonald Dubh was thrown into a state of unparalleled confusion, and Kirsty went about in a state of dishevelment that gave token that the daily struggle with dirt had reached the acute stage. From top to bottom, inside and outside, everything that could be scrubbed was scrubbed, and then she settled about her baking, but with all caution, lest she should excite her brother's or her nephew's suspicion. It was a good thing that little baking was required, for the teams that brought the men with their axes and logging-chains for the day's work at the brule brought also their sisters and mothers with baskets of provisions. A logging bee without the sisters and mothers with their baskets would hardly be an unmixed blessing.
The first man to arrive with his team was Peter McGregor's Angus, and with him came his sister Bella. He was shortly afterward followed by other teams in rapid succession--the Rosses, the McKerachers, the Camerons, both Don and Murdie, the Rory McCuaigs, the McRaes, two or three families of them, the Frasers, and others-- till some fifteen teams and forty men, and boys, who thought themselves quite men, lined up in front of the brule.
The bee was a great affair, for Macdonald Bhain was held in high regard by the people; and besides this, the misfortune that had befallen his brother, and the circumstances under which it had overtaken him, had aroused in the community a very deep sympathy for him, and people were glad of the opportunity to manifest this sympathy. And more than all, a logging bee was an event that always promised more or less excitement and social festivity.
Yankee was "boss" for the day. This position would naturally have fallen to Macdonald Bhain, but at his brother's bee, Macdonald Bhain shrank from taking the leading place.
The men with the axes went first, chopping up the half-burned logs into lengths suitable for the burning-piles, clearing away the brushwood, and cutting through the big roots of the fire-eaten stumps so that they might more easily be pulled. Then followed the teams with their logging-chains, hauling the logs to the piles, jerking out and drawing off the stumps whose huge roots stuck up high into the air, and drawing great heaps of brush-wood to aid in reducing the heavy logs to ashes. At each log-pile stood a man with a hand-spike to help the driver to get the log into position, a work requiring strength and skill, and above all, a knowledge of the ways of logs which comes only by experience. It was at this work that Macdonald Bhain shone. With his mighty strength he could hold steady one end of a log until the team could haul the other into its place.
The stump-pulling was always attended with more or less interest and excitement. Stumps, as well as logs, have their ways, and it takes a long experience to understand the ways of stumps.
In stump-hauling, young Aleck McGregor was an expert. He rarely failed to detect the weak side of a stump. He knew his team, and what was of far greater importance, his team knew him. They were partly of French-Canadian stock, not as large as Farquhar McNaughton's big, fat blacks, but "as full of spirit as a bottle of whisky," as Aleck himself would say. Their first tentative pulls at the stump were taken with caution, until their driver and themselves had taken the full measure of the strength of the enemy. But when once Aleck had made up his mind that victory was possible, and had given them the call for the final effort, then his team put their bodies and souls into the pull, and never drew back till something came. Their driver was accustomed to boast that never yet had they failed to honor his call.
Farquhar's handsome blacks, on the other hand, were never handled after this fashion. They were slow and sure and steady, like their driver. Their great weight gave them a mighty advantage in a pull, but never, in all the solemn course of their existence, had they thrown themselves into any doubtful trial of strength. In a slow, steady haul they were to be relied upon; but they never could be got to jerk, and a jerk is an important feature in stump-hauling tactics. To-day, however, a new experience was awaiting them. Farquhar was an old man and slow, and Yankee, while he was unwilling to hurry him, was equally unwilling that his team should not do a full day's work. He persuaded Farquhar that his presence was necessary at one of the piles, not with the hand-spike, but simply to superintend the arranging of the mass for burning. "For it ain't every man, Yankee declared, "could build a pile to burn." As for his team, Yankee persuaded the old man that Ranald was unequaled in handling horses; that last winter no driver in the camp was up to him. Reluctantly Farquhar handed his team over to Ranald, and stood for some time watching the result of the new combination.
Ranald was a born horseman. He loved horses and understood them. Slowly he moved the blacks at their work, knowing that horses are sensitive to a new hand and voice, and that he must adapt himself to their ways, if he would bring them at last to his. Before long Farquhar was contented to go off to his pile, satisfied that his team was in good hands, and not sorry to be relieved of the necessity of hurrying his pace through the long, hot day, as would have been necessary in order to keep up with the other drivers.
For each team a strip of the brule was marked out to clear after the axes. The logs, brush, and stumps had to be removed and dragged to the burning-piles. Aleck, with his active, invincible French-Canadians, Ranald with Farquhar's big, sleek blacks, and Don with his father's team, worked side by side. A contest was inevitable, and before an hour had passed Don and Aleck, while making a great show of deliberation, were striving for the first place, with Aleck easily leading. Like a piece of machinery, Aleck and his team worked together. Quickly and neatly both driver and horses moved about their work with perfect understanding of each other. With hardly a touch of the lines, but almost entirely by word of command, Aleck guided his team. And when he took up the whiffletrees to swing them around to a log or stump, his horses wheeled at once into place. It was beautiful to see them, wheeling, backing, hauling, pulling, without loss of time or temper.
With Don and his team it was all hard work. His horses were willing and quick enough, but they were ill-trained and needed constant tugging at the lines. In vain Don shouted and cracked his whip, hurrying his team to his pile and back again; the horses only grew more and more awkward, while they foamed and fretted and tired themselves out.
Behind came Ranald, still humoring his slow-going team with easy hand and quiet voice. But while he refrained from hurrying his horses, he himself worked hard, and by his good judgment and skill with the chain, and in skidding the logs into his pile, in which his training in the shanty had made him more than a match for any one in the field, many minutes were saved.
When the cowbell sounded for dinner, Aleck's team stepped off for the barn, wet, but fresh and frisky as ever, and in perfect heart. Don's horses appeared fretted and jaded, while Ranald brought in his blacks with their glossy skins white with foam where the harness had chafed, but unfretted, and apparently as ready for work as when they began.
"You have spoiled the shine of your team," said Aleck, looking over Ranald's horses as he brought them up to the trough. "Better turn them out for the afternoon. They can't stand much more of that pace."
Aleck was evidently trying to be good-natured, but he could not hide the sneer in his tone. They had neither of them forgotten the incident at the church door, and both felt that it would not be closed until more had been said about it. But to-day, Ranald was in the place of host, and it behooved him to be courteous, and Aleck was in good humor with himself, for his team had easily led the field; and besides, he was engaged in a kind and neighborly undertaking, and he was too much of a man to spoil it by any private grudge. He would have to wait for his settlement with Ranald.
During the hour and a half allowed for dinner, Ranald took his horses to the well, washed off their legs, removed their harness, and led them to a cool spot behind the barn, and there, while they munched their oats, he gave them a good hard rub-down, so that when he brought them into the field again, his team looked as glossy and felt as fresh as before they began the day's work.
As Ranald appeared on the field with his glossy blacks, Aleck glanced at the horses, and began to feel that, in the contest for first place, it was Ranald he had to fear, with his cool, steady team, rather than Don. Not that any suspicion crossed his mind that Farquhar McNaughton's sleek, slow-going horses could ever hold their own with his, but he made up his mind that Ranald, at least, was worth watching.
"Bring up your gentry," he called to Ranald, "if you are not too fine for common folks. Man, that team of yours," he continued, "should never be put to work like this. Their feet should never be off pavement."
"Never you mind," said Ranald, quietly. "I am coming after you, and perhaps before night the blacks may show you their heels yet."
"There's lots of room," said Aleck, scornfully, and they both set to work with all the skill and strength that lay in themselves and in their teams.
For the first hour or two Ranald was contented to follow, letting his team take their way, but saving every moment he could by his own efforts. So that, without fretting his horses in the least, or without moving them perceptibly out of their ordinary gait, he found himself a little nearer to Aleck than he had been at noon; but the heavy lifting and quick work began to tell upon him. His horses, he knew, would not stand very much hurrying. They were too fat for any extra exertion in such heat, and so Ranald was about to resign himself to defeat, when he observed that in the western sky clouds were coming up. At the same time a cool breeze began to blow, and he took fresh heart. If he could hurry his team a little more, he might catch Aleck yet; so he held his own a little longer, preserving the same steady pace, until the clouds from the west had covered all the sky. Then gradually he began to quicken his horses' movements and to put them on heavier loads. Wherever opportunity offered, instead of a single log, or at most two, he would take three or four for his load; and in ways known only to horsemen, he began to stir up the spirit of his team, and to make them feel something of his own excitement.
To such good purpose did he plan, and so nobly did his team respond to his quiet but persistent pressure, that, ere Aleck was aware, Ranald was up on his flank; and then they each knew that until the supper-bell rang he would have to use to the best advantage every moment of time and every ounce of strength in himself and his team if he was to win first place.
Somehow the report of the contest went over the field, till at length it reached the ears of Farquhar. At once the old man, seized with anxiety for his team, and moved by the fear of what Kirsty might say if the news ever reached her ears, set off across the brule to remonstrate with Ranald, and if necessary, rescue his team from peril.
But Don saw him coming, and knowing that every moment was precious, and dreading lest the old man would snatch from Ranald the victory which seemed to be at least possible for him, he arrested Farquhar with a call for assistance with a big log, and then engaged him in conversation upon the merits of his splendid team.
"And look," cried he, admiringly, "how Ranald is handling them! Did you ever see the likes of that?"
The old man stood watching for a few moments, doubtfully enough, while Don continued pouring forth the praises of his horses, and the latter, as he noticed Farquhar's eyes glisten with pride, ventured to hint that before the day was done "he would make Aleck McRae and his team look sick. And without a hurt to the blacks, too," he put in, diplomatically, "for Ranald is not the man to hurt a team." And as Farquhar stood and watched Ranald at his work, and noted with surprise how briskly and cleverly the blacks swung into their places, and detected also with his experienced eye that Aleck was beginning to show signs of hurry, he entered into the spirit of the contest, and determined to allow his team to win victory for themselves and their driver if they could.
The ax men had finished their "stent." It wanted still an hour of supper-time, and surely if slowly, Ranald was making toward first place. The other teams were left far behind with their work, and the whole field began to center attention upon the two that were now confessedly engaged in desperate conflict at the front. One by one the ax men drew toward the end of the field, where Ranald and Aleck were fighting out their fight, all pretense of deliberation on the part of the drivers having by this time been dropped. They no longer walked as they hitched their chains about the logs or stumps, but sprang with eager haste to their work. One by one the other teamsters abandoned their teams and moved across the field to join the crowd already gathered about the contestants. Among them came Macdonald Bhain, who had been working at the farthest corner of the brule. As soon as he arrived upon the scene, and understood what was going on, he cried to Ranald: "That will do now, Ranald; it will be time to quit."
Ranald was about to stop, and indeed had checked his horses, when Aleck, whose blood was up, called out tauntingly, "Aye, it would be better for him and his horses to stop. They need it bad enough."
This was too much for even Farquhar's sluggish blood. "Let them go, Ranald!" he cried. "Let them go, man! Never you fear for the horses, if you take down the spunk o' yon crowing cock."
It was just what Ranald needed to spur him on--a taunt from his foe and leave from Farquhar to push his team.
Before each lay a fallen tree cut into lengths and two or three half-burned stumps. Ranald's tree was much the bigger. A single length would have been an ordinary load for the blacks, but their driver felt that their strength and spirit were both equal to much more than this. He determined to clear away the whole tree at a single load. As soon as he heard Farquhar's voice, he seized hold of the whiffletrees, struck his team a sharp blow with the lines-- their first blow that day--swung them round to the top of the tree, ran the chain through its swivel, hooked an end round each of the top lengths, swung them in toward the butt, unhooked his chain, gathered all three lengths into a single load, faced his horses toward the pile, and shouted at them. The blacks, unused to this sort of treatment, were prancing with excitement, and when the word came they threw themselves into their collars with a fierceness that nothing could check, and amid the admiring shouts of the crowd, tore the logs through the black soil and landed them safely at the pile. It was the work of only a few minutes to unhitch the chain, haul the logs, one by one, into place, and dash back with his team at the gallop for the stumps, while Aleck had still another load of logs to draw.
Ranald's first stump came out with little trouble, and was borne at full speed to the pile. The second stump gave him more difficulty, and before it would yield he had to sever two or three of its thickest roots.
Together the teams swung round to their last stump. The excitement in the crowd was intense. Aleck's team was moving swiftly and with the steadiness of clockwork. The blacks were frantic with excitement and hard to control. Ranald's last stump was a pine of medium size, whose roots were partly burned away. It looked like an easy victim. Aleck's was an ugly-looking little elm.
Ranald thought he would try his first pull without the use of the ax. Quickly he backed up his team to the stump, passed the chain round a root on the far side, drew the big hook far up the chain, hitched it so as to give the shortest possible draught, threw the chain over the top of the stump to give it purchase, picked up his lines, and called to his team. With a rush the blacks went at it. The chain slipped up on the root, tightened, bit into the wood, and then the blacks flung back. Ranald swung them round the point and tried them again, but still the stump refused to budge.
All this time he could hear Aleck chopping furiously at his elm- roots, and he knew that unless he had his stump out before his rival had his chain hitched for the pull the victory was lost.
For a moment or two he hesitated, looking round for the ax.
"Try them again, Ranald," cried Farquhar. "Haw them a bit."
Once more Ranald picked up the lines, swung his horses round to the left, held them steady a moment or two, and then with a yell sent them at their pull. Magnificently the blacks responded, furiously tearing up the ground with their feet. A moment or two they hung straining on their chain, refusing to come back, when slowly the stump began to move.
"You have got it," cried Farquhar. "Gee them a point or two."
But already Ranald had seen that this was necessary, and once more backed his team to readjust the chain which had slipped off the top. As he fastened the hook he heard a sharp "Back!" behind him, and he knew that the next moment Aleck's team would be away with their load. With a yell he sprang at his lines, lashed the blacks over the back, and called to them once more. Again his team responded, and with a mighty heave, the stump came slowly out, carrying with it what looked like half a ton of earth. But even as it heaved, he heard Aleck's call and the answering crash, and before he could get his team a-going, the French-Canadians were off for their pile at a gallop, with the lines flying in the air behind them. A moment later he followed, the blacks hauling their stump at a run.
Together he and Aleck reached the pile. It only remained now to unhook the chain. In vain he tugged and hauled. The chain was buried deep beneath the stump and refused to move, and before he could swing his team about and turn the stump over, he heard Aleck's shout of victory.
But as he dropped his chain and was leisurely backing his horses, he heard old Farquhar cry, "Hurry, man! Hurry, for the life of you!"
Without waiting to inquire the reason, Ranald wheeled his team, gave the stump a half turn, released his chain, and drove off from the pile, to find Aleck still busy hooking his chain to his whiffletree.
Aleck had had the same difficulty in freeing his chain as Ranald, but instead of trying to detach it from the stump, he had unhooked the other end, and then, with a mighty backward jerk, had snatched it from the stump. But before he could attach it to his place on the whiffletree again, Ranald stood ready for work.
"A win, lad! A win!" cried old Farquhar, more excited than he had been for years.
"It is no win," said Aleck, hotly.
"No, no, lads," said Macdonald Bhain, before Farquhar could reply. "It is as even a match as could well be. It is fine teams you both have got, and you have handled them well."
But all the same, Ranald's friends were wildly enthusiastic over what they called his victory, and Don could hardly keep his hands off him, for very joy.
Aleck, on the other hand, while claiming the victory because his team was at the pile first, was not so sure of it but that he was ready to fight with any one venturing to dispute his claim. But the men all laughed at him and his rage, until he found it wiser to be good-humored about it.
"Yon lad will be making as good a man as yourself," said Farquhar, enthusiastically, to Macdonald Bhain, as Ranald drove his team to the stable.
"Aye, and a better, pray God," said Macdonald Bhain, fervently, looking after Ranald with loving eyes. There was no child in his home, and his brother's son was as his own.
Meanwhile Don had hurried on, leaving his team with Murdie that he might sing Ranald's praises to "the girls," with whom Ranald was highly popular, although he avoided them, or perhaps because he did so, the ways of women being past understanding.
To Mrs. Murray and Maimie, who with the minister and Hughie, had come over to the supper, he went first with his tale. Graphically he depicted the struggle from its beginning to the last dramatic rush to the pile, dilating upon Ranald's skill and pluck, and upon the wonderful and hitherto unknown virtues of Farquhar's shiny blacks.
"You ought to see them!" cried Don. "You bet they never moved in their lives the way they did today. Tied him!" he continued. "Tied him! Beat him, I say, but Macdonald Bhain says 'Tied him'-- Aleck McRae, who thinks himself so mighty smart with his team."
Don forgot in his excitement that the McRaes and their friends were there in numbers.
"So he is," cried Annie Ross, one of Aleck's admirers. "There is not a man in the Indian Lands that can beat Aleck and his team."
"Well," exulted Don, "a boy came pretty near it to-day."
But Annie only stuck out her lip at him in the inimitable female manner, and ran off to add to the mischief that Don had already made between Ranald and his rival.
But now the day's work was over, and the hour for the day's event had come, for supper was the great event to which all things moved at bees. The long tables stood under the maple trees, spread with the richest, rarest, deadliest dainties known to the housewives and maidens of the countryside. About the tables stood in groups the white-aproned girls, tucked and frilled, curled and ribboned into all degrees of bewitching loveliness. The men hurried away with their teams, and then gave themselves to the serious duty of getting ready for supper, using many pails of water in their efforts to remove the black from the burnt wood of the brule.
At length the women lost all patience with them, and sent Annie Ross, with two or three companions, to call them to supper. With arms intertwined, and with much chattering and giggling, the girls made their way to the group of men, some of whom were engaged in putting the finishing touches to their toilet.
"Supper is ready," cried Annie, "and long past ready. You need not be trying to fix yourselves up so fine. You are just as bad as any girls. Oh!" Her speech ended in a shriek, which was echoed by the others, for Aleck McRae rushed at them, stretching out his black hands toward them. But they were too quick for him, and fled for protection to the safe precincts of the tables.
At length, when the last of the men had made themselves, as they thought, presentable, they began to make their approach to the tables, slowly and shyly for the most part, each waiting for the other. Aleck McRae, however, knew little of shyness, but walked past the different groups of girls, throwing on either hand a smile, a wink, or a word, as he might find suitable.
Suddenly he came upon the group where the minister's wife and her niece were standing. Here, for the moment, his ease forsook him, but Mrs. Murray came to meet him with outstretched hand.
"So you still retain your laurels?" she said, with a frank smile. "I hear it was a great battle."
Aleck shook hands with her rather awkwardly. He was not on the easiest terms with the minister and his wife. He belonged distinctly to the careless set, and rather enjoyed the distinction.
"Oh, it was not much," he said; "the teams were well matched."
"Oh, I should like to have been there. You should have told us beforehand."
"Oh, it was more than I expected myself," he said. "I didn't think it was in Farquhar's team."
He could not bring himself to give any credit to Ranald, and though Mrs. Murray saw this, she refused to notice it. She was none the less anxious to win Aleck's confidence, because she was Ranald's friend.
"Do you know my niece?" she said, turning to Maimie.
Aleck looked into Maimie's face with such open admiration that she felt the blush come up in her cheeks.
"Indeed, she is worth knowing, but I don't think she will care to take such a hand as that," he said, stretching out a hand still grimy in spite of much washing. But Maimie had learned something since coming to her aunt, and she no longer judged men by the fit of their clothes, or the color of their skin, or the length of their hair; and indeed, as she looked at Aleck, with his close- buttoned smock, and overalls with the legs tucked neatly into the tops of his boots, she thought he was the trimmest figure she had seen since coming to the country. She took Aleck's hand and shook it warmly, the full admiration in his handsome black eyes setting her blood tingling with that love of conquest that lies in every woman's heart. So she flung out her flag of war, and smiled back at him her sweetest.
"You have a fine team, I hear," she said, as her aunt moved away to greet some of the other men, who were evidently waiting to get a word with her.
"That I have, you better believe," replied Aleck, proudly.
"It was very clever of Ranald to come so near beating you, wasn't it?" she said, innocently. "He must be a splendid driver."
"He drives pretty well," admitted Aleck. "He did nothing else all last winter in the shanties."
"He is so young, too," went on Maimie. "Just a boy, isn't he?"
Aleck was not sure how to take this. "He does not think so," he answered, shortly. "He thinks he is no end of a man, but he will have to learn something before he is much older."
"But he can drive, you say," continued Maimie, wickedly keeping her finger on the sore spot.
"Oh, pshaw!" replied Aleck, boldly. "You think a lot of him, don't you? And I guess you are a pair."
Maimie tossed her head at this. "We are very good friends, of course," she said, lightly. "He is a very nice boy, and we are all fond of him; but he is just a boy; he is Hughie's great friend."
"A boy, is he?" laughed Aleck. "That may be, but he is very fond of you, whatever, and indeed, I don't wonder at that. Anybody would be," he added, boldly.
"You don't know a bit about it," said Maimie, with cheeks glowing.
"About Ranald and--and--what you said."
"What I said? About being fond of you? Indeed, I know all about that. The boys are all broke up, not to speak of myself."
This was going a little too fast for Maimie. She knew nothing, as yet, of the freedom of country banter. She was new to the warfare, but she was not going to lower her flag or retreat. She changed the subject. "Your team must have been very tired."
"Tired!" exclaimed Aleck, "not a bit. They will go home like birds. Come along with me, and you will see."
Maimie gasped. "I--" she hesitated, glanced past Aleck, blushed, and stammered.
Aleck turned about quickly and saw Ranald staring at Maimie. "Oh," he said, banteringly, "I see. You would not be allowed."
"Allowed!" echoed Maimie. "And why not, pray? Who will hinder me?"
But Aleck only shrugged his shoulders and looked at Ranald, who passed on to his place at the table, black as a thunder-cloud. Maimie was indignant at him. What right had he to stare and look so savage? She would just show him. So she turned once more to Aleck, and with a gay laugh, cried, "Some day I will accept your invitation, so just make ready."
"Any day, or every day, and the more days the better," cried Aleck, as he sat down at the table, where all had now taken their places.
The supper was a great success. With much laughter and chaffing, the girls flitted from place to place, pouring cups of tea and passing the various dishes, urging the men to eat, till, as Don said, they were "full to the neck."
When all had finished, Mr. Murray, who sat at the head of the table, rose in his place and said: "Gentlemen, before we rise from this table, which has been spread so bountifully for us, I wish to return thanks on behalf of Mr. Macdonald to the neighbors and friends who have gathered to-day to assist in this work. Mr. Macdonald asked me to say that he is all the more surprised at this kindness, in that he feels himself to be so unworthy of it. I promised to speak this word for him, but I do not agree with the sentiment. Mr. Macdonald is a man whom we all love, and in whose misfortune we deeply sympathize, and I only hope that this Providence may be greatly blessed to him, and that we will all come to know him better, and to see God's hand in his misfortune."
The minister then, after some further remarks expressive of the good will of the neighbors for Mr. Macdonald, and in appreciation of the kind spirit that prompted the bee, returned thanks, and the supper was over.
As the men were leaving the table, Aleck watched his opportunity and called to Maimie, when he was sure Ranald could hear, "Well, when will you be ready for that drive?"
And Maimie, who was more indignant at Ranald than ever because he had ignored all her advances at supper, and had received her congratulations upon his victory with nothing more than a grunt, answered Aleck brightly. "Oh, any day that you happen to remember."
"Remember!" cried Aleck; "then that will be every day until our ride comes off."
A few minutes later, as Ranald was hitching up Farquhar's team, Aleck passed by, and in great good humor with himself, chaffingly called out to Ranald in the presence of a number of the men, "That's a fine girl you've got, Ranald. But you better keep your eye on her."
Ranald made no reply. He was fast losing command of himself.
"Pretty skittish to handle, isn't she?" continued Aleck.
"What y're talkin' 'bout? That Lisette mare?" said Yankee, walking round to Ranald's side. "Purty slick beast, that. Guess there ain't anythin' in this country will make her take dust."
Then in a low voice he said to Ranald, hurriedly, "Don't you mind him; don't you mind him. You can't touch him to-day, on your own place. Let me handle him."
"No," said Aleck. "We were talking about another colt of Ranald's."
"What's that?" said Yankee, pretending not to hear. "Yes, you bet," he continued. "Ranald can handle her all right. He knows something about horses, as I guess you have found out, perhaps, by this time. Never saw anything so purty. Didn't know your team had got that move in them, Mr. McNaughton," Yankee went on to Farquhar, who had just come up.
"Indeed, they are none the worse of it," said Farquhar, rubbing his hands over the sleek sides of his horses.
"Worse!" cried Yankee. "They're worth a hundred dollars more from this day on."
"I don't know that. The hundred dollars ought to go upon the driver," said Farquhar, putting his hand kindly upon Ranald's shoulder.
But this Ranald warmly repudiated. "They are a great team," he said to Farquhar. "And they could do better than they did to-day if they were better handled.'
"Indeed, it would be difficult to get that," said Farquhar, "for, in my opinion, there is not a man in the country that could handle them as well."
This was too much for Aleck, who, having by this time got his horses hitched, mounted his wagon seat and came round to the door at a gallop.
"Saved you that time, my boy," said Yankee to Ranald. "You would have made a fool of yourself in about two minutes more, I guess."
But Ranald was still too wrathful to be grateful for Yankee's help. "I will be even with him someday," he said, between his teeth.
"I guess you will have to learn two or three things first," said Yankee, slowly.
"Well, how to use your head, first place, and then how to use your hands. He is too heavy for you. He would crumple you up in a couple of minutes."
"Let him, then," said Ranald, recklessly.
"Rather onpleasant. Better wait awhile till you learn what I told you."
"Yankee," said Ranald, after a pause, "will you show me?"
"Why, sartin sure," said Yankee, cheerfully. "You have got to lick him some day, or he won't be happy; and by jings! it will be worth seein', too."
By this time Farquhar had come back from saying good by to Macdonald Dubh and Mr. and Mrs. Murray, who were remaining till the last.
"You will be a man yet," said Farquhar, shaking Ranald's hand. "You have got the patience and the endurance." These were great virtues in Farquhar's opinion.
"Not much patience, I am afraid," said Ranald. "But I am glad you trusted me with your team."
"And any day you want them you can have them," said Farquhar, his reckless mood leading him to forget Kirsty for the moment.
"Thank you, sir," said Ranald, wondering what Kirsty would look like should he ever venture to claim Farquhar's offer.
One by one the teams drove away with their loads, till only the minister and his party were left. Away under the trees Mr. Murray was standing, earnestly talking to Macdonald Dubh. He had found the opportunity he had long waited for and was making the most of it. Mrs. Murray was busy with Kirsty, and Maimie and Hughie came toward the stable where Yankee and Ranald were still standing. As soon as Ranald saw them approaching he said to Yankee, abruptly, "I am going to get the minister's horse," and disappeared into the stable. Nor did he come forth again till he heard his father calling to him: "What is keeping you, Ranald? The minister is waiting for his horse."
"So you won a great victory, Ranald, I hear," said the minister, as Ranald brought Black to the door.
"It was a tie," said Ranald.
"Oh, Ranald!" cried Hughie, "you beat him. Everybody says so. You had your chain hitched up and everything before Aleck."
"I hear it was a great exhibition, not only of skill, but of endurance and patience, Ranald," said the minister. "And these are noble virtues. It is a great thing to be able to endure."
But Ranald made no reply, busying himself with Black's bridle. Mrs. Murray noticed his gloom and guessed its cause.
"We will see you at the Bible class, Ranald," she said, kindly, but still Ranald remained silent.
"Can you not speak, man?" said his father. "Do you not hear the minister's wife talking to you?"
"Yes," said Ranald, "I will be there."
"We will be glad to see you," said Mrs. Murray, offering him her hand. "And you might come in with Hughie for a few minutes afterward," she continued, kindly, for she noted the misery in his face.
"And we will be glad to see you, too, Mr. Macdonald, if it would not be too much for you, and if you do not scorn a woman's teaching."
"Indeed, I would be proud," said Macdonald Dubh, courteously, "as far as that is concerned, for I hear there are better men than me attending."
"I am sure Mrs. Murray will be glad to see you, Mr. Macdonald," said the minister.
"I will be thinking of it," said Macdonald Dubh, cautiously. "And you are both very kind, whatever," he said, losing for a time his habitual gloom.
"Well, then, I will look for you both," said Mrs. Murray, as they were about to drive off, "so do not disappoint me."
"Good by, Ranald," said Maimie, offering Ranald her hand.
"Good by," said Ranald, holding her hand for a moment and looking hard into her eyes, "and I hope you will enjoy your ride, whatever."
Then Maimie understood Ranald's savage manner, and as she thought it over she smiled to herself. She was taking her first sips of that cup, to woman's lips the sweetest, and she found it not unpleasant. She had succeeded in making one man happy and another miserable. But it was when she said to herself, "Poor Ranald!" that she smiled most sweetly.