Chapter II. Vengeance is Mine
 

The Glengarry men had fought their fight, and it only remained for their foes to wreak their vengeance upon them and wipe out old scores. One minute more would have done for them, but in that minute the door came crashing in. There was a mighty roar, "Glengarry! Glengarry!" and the great Macdonald himself, with the boy Ranald and some half-dozen of his men behind him, stood among them. On all hands the fight stopped. A moment he stood, his great head and shoulders towering above the crowd, his tawny hair and beard falling around his face like a great mane, his blue eyes gleaming from under his shaggy eyebrows like livid lightning. A single glance around the room, and again raising his battle-cry, "Glengarry!" he seized the nearest shrinking Frenchman, lifted him high, and hurled him smashing into the bottles behind the counter. His men, following him, bounded like tigers on their prey. A few minutes of fierce, eager fighting, and the Glengarry men were all freed and on their feet, all except Black Hugh, who lay groaning in his corner. "Hold, lads!" Macdonald Bhain cried, in his mighty voice. "Stop, I'm telling you." The fighting ceased.

"Dan Murphy!" he cried, casting his eye round the room, "where are you, ye son of Belial?"

Murphy, crouching at the back of the crowd near the door, sought to escape.

"Ah! there you are!" cried Macdonald, and reaching through the crowd with his great, long arm, he caught Murphy by the hair of the head and dragged him forward.

"R-r-r-a-a-t! R-r-r-a-a-t! R-r-r-a-a-t!" he snarled, shaking him till his teeth rattled. "It is yourself that is the cause of this wickedness. Now, may the Lord have mercy on your soul." With one hand he gripped Murphy by the throat, holding him at arm's length, and raised his huge fist to strike. But before the blow fell he paused.

"No!" he muttered, in a disappointed tone, "it is not good enough. I will not be demeaning myself. Hence, you r-r-a-a-t!" As he spoke he lifted the shaking wretch as if he had been a bundle of clothes, swung him half round and hurled him crashing through the window.

"Is there no goot man here at all who will stand before me?" he raged in a wild, joyous fury. "Will not two of you come forth, then?" No one moved. "Come to me!" he suddenly cried, and snatching two of the enemy, he dashed their heads together, and threw them insensible on the floor.

Then he caught sight of his brother for the first time lying in the corner with Big Mack supporting his head, and LeNoir standing near.

"What is this? What is this?" he cried, striding toward LeNoir. "And is it you that has done this work?" he asked, in a voice of subdued rage.

"Oui!" cried LeNoir, stepping back and putting up his hands, "das me; Louis LeNoir! by Gar!" He struck himself on the breast as he spoke.

"Out of my way!" cried Macdonald, swinging his open hand on the Frenchman's ear. With a swift sweep he brushed LeNoir aside from his place, and ignoring him stooped over his brother. But LeNoir was no coward, and besides his boasted reputation was at stake. He thought he saw his chance, and rushing at Macdonald as he was bending over his brother, delivered his terrible 'lash'. But Macdonald had not lived with and fought with Frenchmen all these years without knowing their tricks and ways. He saw LeNoir's 'lash' coming, and quickly turning his head, avoided the blow.

"Ah! would ye? Take that, then, and be quate!" and so saying, he caught LeNoir on the side of the head and sent him to the floor.

"Keep him off a while, Yankee!" said Macdonald, for LeNoir was up again, and coming at him.

Then kneeling beside his brother he wiped the bloody froth that was oozing from his lips, and said in a low, anxious tone:

"Hugh, bhodaich (old man), are ye hurted? Can ye not speak to me, Hugh?"

"Oich-oh," Black Hugh groaned. "It was a necessity--Donald man-- and--he took me--unawares--with his--keeck."

"Indeed, and I'll warrant you!" agreed his brother, "but I will be attending to him, never you fear."

Macdonald was about to rise, when his brother caught his arm.

"You will--not be--killing him," he urged, between his painful gasps, "because I will be doing that myself some day, by God's help."

His words and the eager hate in his face seemed to quiet Macdonald.

"Alas! alas!" he said, sadly, "it is not allowed me to smite him as he deserves--'Vengeance is mine saith the Lord,' and I have solemnly promised the minister not to smite for glory or for revenge! Alas! alas!"

Then turning to LeNoir, he said, gravely: "It is not given me to punish you for your coward's blow. Go from me!" But LeNoir misjudged him.

"Bah!" he cried, contemptuously, "you tink me one baby, you strike me on de head side like one little boy. Bon! Louis LeNware, de bes bully on de Hottawa, he's not 'fraid for hany man, by Gar!" He pranced up and down before Macdonald, working himself into a great rage, as Macdonald grew more and more controlled.

Macdonald turned to his men with a kind of appeal--"I hev given my promise, and Macdonald will not break his word."

"Bah!" cried LeNoir, spitting at him.

"Now may the Lord give me grace to withstand the enemy," said Macdonald, gravely, "for I am greatly moved to take vengeance upon you."

"Bah!" cried LeNoir again, mistaking Macdonald's quietness and self-control for fear. "You no good! Your brother is no good! Beeg sheep! Beeg sheep! Bah!"

"God help me," said Macdonald as if to himself. "I am a man of grace! But must this dog go unpunished?"

LeNoir continued striding up and down, now and then springing high in the air and knocking his heels together with blood-curdling yells. He seemed to feel that Macdonald would not fight, and his courage and desire for blood grew accordingly.

"Will you not be quate?" said Macdonald, rising after a few moments from his brother's side, where he had been wiping his lips and giving him water to drink. "You will be better outside."

"Oui! you strike me on the head side. Bon! I strike you de same way! By Gar!" so saying he approached Macdonald lightly, and struck him a slight blow on the cheek.

"Ay," said Macdonald, growing white and rigid. "I struck you twice, LeNoir. Here!" he offered the other side of his face. LeNoir danced up carefully, made a slight pass, and struck the offered cheek.

"Now, that is done, will it please you to do it again?" said Macdonald, with earnest entreaty in his voice. LeNoir must have been mad with his rage and vanity, else he had caught the glitter in the blue eyes looking through the shaggy hair. Again LeNoir approached, this time with greater confidence, and dealt Macdonald a stinging blow on the side of the head.

"Now the Lord be praised," he cried, joy breaking out in his face. "He has delivered my enemy into my hand. For it is the third time he has smitten me, and that is beyond the limit appointed by Himself." With this he advanced upon LeNoir with a glad heart. His conscience was clear at last.

LeNoir stood up against his antagonist. He well knew he was about to make the fight of his life. He had beaten men as big as Macdonald, but he knew that his hope lay in keeping out of the enemy's reach. So he danced around warily. Macdonald followed him slowly. LeNoir opened with a swift and savage reach for Macdonald's neck, but failed to break the guard and danced out again, Macdonald still pressing on him. Again and again LeNoir rushed, but the guard was impregnable, and steadily Macdonald advanced. That steady, relentless advance began to tell on the Frenchman's nerves. The sweat gathered in big drops on his forehead and ran down his face. He prepared for a supreme effort. Swiftly retreating, he lured Macdonald to a more rapid advance, then with a yell he doubled himself into a ball and delivered himself head, hands, and feet into Macdonald's stomach. It is a trick that sometimes avails to break an unsteady guard and to secure a clinch with an unwary opponent. But Macdonald had been waiting for that trick. Stopping short, he leaned over to one side, and stooping slightly, caught LeNoir low and tossed him clear over his head. LeNoir fell with a terrible thud on his back, but was on his feet again like a cat and ready for the ever-advancing Macdonald. But though he had not been struck a single blow he knew that he had met his master. That unbreakable guard, the smiling face with the gleaming, unsmiling eyes, that awful unwavering advance, were too much for him. He was pale, his breath came in quick gasps, and his eyes showed the fear of a hunted beast. He prepared for a final effort. Feigning a greater distress than he felt, he yielded weakly to Macdonald's advance, then suddenly gathering his full strength he sprang into the air and lashed out backward at that hated, smiling face. His boot found its mark, not on Macdonald's face, but fair on his neck. The effect was terrific. Macdonald staggered back two or three paces, but before LeNoir could be at him, he had recovered sufficiently to maintain his guard, and shake off his foe. At the yell that went up from Murphy's men, the big Highlander's face lost its smile and became keen and cruel, his eyes glittered with the flash of steel and he came forward once more with a quick, light tread. His great body seemed to lose both size and weight, so lightly did he step on tiptoe. There was no more pause, but lightly, swiftly, and eagerly he glided upon LeNoir. There was something terrifying in that swift, cat-like movement. In vain the Frenchman backed and dodged and tried to guard. Once, twice, Macdonald's fists fell. LeNoir's right arm hung limp by his side and he staggered back to the wall helpless. Without an instant's delay, Macdonald had him by the throat, and gripping him fiercely, began to slowly bend him backward over his knee. Then for the first time Macdonald spoke:

"LeNoir," he said, solemnly, "the days of your boasting are over. You will no longer glory in your strength, for now I will break your back to you."

LeNoir tried to speak, but his voice came in horrible gurgles. His face was a ghastly greenish hue, lined with purple and swollen veins, his eyes were standing out of his head, and his breath sobbing in raucous gasps. Slowly the head went back. The crowd stood in horror-stricken silence waiting for the sickening snap. Yankee, unable to stand it any longer, stepped up to his chief, and in a most matter of fact voice drawled out, "About an inch more that way I guess 'll do the trick, if he ain't double-jointed."

"Aye," said Macdonald, holding grimly on.

"Tonald,"--Black Hugh's voice sounded faint but clear in the awful silence--"Tonald--you will not--be killing--him. Remember that now. I will--never--forgive you--if you will--take that--from my hands."

The cry for vengeance smote Macdonald to the heart, and recalled him to himself. He paused, threw back his locks from his eyes, then relaxing his grip, stood up.

"God preserve me!" he groaned, "what am I about?"

For some time he remained standing silent, with head down as if not quite sure of himself. He was recalled by a grip of his arm. He turned and saw his nephew, Ranald, at his side. The boy's dark face was pale with passion.

"And is that all you are going to do to him?" he demanded. Macdonald gazed at him.

"Do you not see what he has done?" he continued, pointing to his father, who was still lying propped up on some coats. "Why did you not break his back? You said you would! The brute, beast!"

He hurled out the words in hot hate. His voice pierced the noise of the room. Macdonald stood still, gazing at the fierce, dark face in solemn silence. Then he sadly shook his head.

"My lad, 'Vengeance is mine saith the Lord.' It would have pleased me well, but the hand of the Lord was laid upon me and I could not kill him."

"Then it is myself will kill him," he shrieked, springing like a wildcat at LeNoir. But his uncle wound his arms around him and held him fast. For a minute and more he struggled fiercely, crying to be set free, till recognizing the uselessness of his efforts he grew calm, and said quietly, "Let me loose, uncle; I will be quiet." And his uncle set him free. The boy shook himself, and then standing up before LeNoir said, in a high, clear voice:

"Will you hear me, LeNoir? The day will come when I will do to you what you have done to my father, and if my father will die, then by the life of God [a common oath among the shanty-men] I will have your life for it." His voice had an unearthly shrillness in it, and LeNoir shrank back.

"Whist, whist, lad! be quate!" said his uncle; "these are not goot words." The lad heeded him not, but sank down beside his father on the floor. Black Hugh raised himself on his elbow with a grim smile on his face.

"It is a goot lad whatever, but please God he will not need to keep his word." He laid his hand in a momentary caress upon his boy's shoulder, and sank back again, saying, "Take me out of this."

Then Macdonald Bhain turned to Dan Murphy and gravely addressed him:

"Dan Murphy, it is an ungodly and cowardly work you have done this day, and the curse of God will be on you if you will not repent." Then he turned away, and with Big Mack's help bore his brother to the pointer, followed by his men, bloody, bruised, but unconquered. But before he left the room LeNoir stepped forward, and offering his hand, said, "You mak friends wit' me. You de boss bully on de reever Hottawa."

Macdonald neither answered nor looked his way, but passed out in grave silence.

Then Yankee Jim remarked to Dan Murphy, "I guess you'd better git them logs out purty mighty quick. We'll want the river in about two days." Dan Murphy said not a word, but when the Glengarry men wanted the river they found it open.

But for Macdonald the fight was not yet over, for as he sat beside his brother, listening to his groans, his men could see him wreathing his hands and chanting in an undertone the words, "Vengeance is mine saith the Lord." And as he sat by the camp-fire that night listening to Yankee's account of the beginning of the trouble, and heard how his brother had kept himself in hand, and how at last he had been foully smitten, Macdonald's conflict deepened, and he rose up and cried aloud:

"God help me! Is this to go unpunished? I will seek him to-morrow." And he passed out into the dark woods.

After a few moments the boy Ranald slipped away after him to beg that he might be allowed to go with him to-morrow. Stealing silently through the bushes he came to where he could see the kneeling figure of his uncle swaying up and down, and caught the sounds of words broken with groans:

"Let me go, O Lord! Let me go!" He pled now in Gaelic and again in English. "Let not the man be escaping his just punishment. Grant me this, O, Lord! Let me smite but once!" Then after a pause came the words, "'Vengeance is mine saith the Lord!' Vengeance is mine! Ay, it is the true word! But, Lord, let not this man of Belial, this Papish, escape!" Then again, like a refrain would come the words, "Vengeance is mine. Vengeance is mine," in ever-deeper agony, till throwing himself on his face, he lay silent a long time.

Suddenly he rose to his knees and so remained, looking steadfastly before him into the woods. The wind came sighing through the pines with a wail and a sob. Macdonald shuddered and then fell on his face again. The Vision was upon him. "Ah, Lord, it is the bloody hands and feet I see. It is enough." At this Ranald slipped back awe-stricken to the camp. When, after an hour, Macdonald came back into the firelight, his face was pale and wet, but calm, and there was an exalted look in his eyes. His men gazed at him with wonder and awe in their faces.

"Mercy on us! He will be seeing something," said Big Mack to Yankee Jim.

"Seein' somethin'? What? A bar?" inquired Yankee.

"Whist now!" said Big Mack, in a low voice. "He has the sight. Be quate now, will you? He will be speaking."

For a short time Macdonald sat gazing into the fire in silence, then turning his face toward the men who were waiting, he said: "There will be no more of this. 'Vengeance is mine saith the Lord!' It is not for me. The Lord will do His own work. It is the will of the Lord." And the men knew that the last word had been said on that subject, and that LeNoir was safe.