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equal of mine. You know that," he said, appealing almost anxiously to his brother. "You know that well. You know that I am brought to this "—he held up his gaunt, bony hands—"by a man that is no equal of mine, and I will never be able to look him in the face and say as much to him. But if the Almighty would send him to hell, I would be following him there."
"Whisht, Hugh," said Macdonald Bhain, in a voice of awe. "It is a terrible word you have said, and may the Lord forgive you."
"Forgive mel" echoed his brother in a kind of frenzy. "Indeed, He will not be doing that. Did not the minister's wife tell me as much?"
"No, no," said his brother. "She would not be saying that.'"
"Indeed, that is her very word," said Black Hugh.
"She could not say that," said his brother, "for it is not the Word of God."
"Indeed," replied Black Hugh, like a man who had thought it all out, "she would be reading it out of the Book to me that unless I would be forgiving, that— that—" he paused, not being able to find a word, but went on—" then I need not hope to be forgiven my own self."
"Yes, yes. That is true," assented Macdonald Bhain. "But, by the grace of God, you will forgive, and you will be forgiven."
"Forgive 1" cried Black Hugh, his face convulsed with passion. "Hear me." He raised his hand to heaven. "If I ever forgive—"
But his brother caught his arm and drew it down swiftly, saying: "Whisht, man I Don't tempt the Almighty." Then he added, "You would not be shutting yourself out from the presence of the Lord and from the presence of those he has taken to himself?"
His brother stood silent a few moments, his hard, dark face swept with a storm of emotions. Then he said, brokenly: "It is not for me, I doubt."
But his brother caught him by the arm and said to him, "Hear me, Hugh. It is for you."
They walked on in silence till they were near the house. Ranald and Yankee were driving their teams into the yard.
'• That is a fine lad," said Macdonald Bhain, pointing to Ranald.
"Aye," said his brother; "it is a pity he has not a better chance. He is great for his books, but he has no chance, whatever, and he will be a bowed man before he has cleared this farm and paid the debt on it."
"Never you fear," said his brother. "Ranald will do well. But, man, what a size he is 1"
"He is that," said his father, proudly. "He is as big as his father, and I doubt some day he may be as good a man as his uncle."
"God grant he may be a better I" said Macdonald Bhain, reverently.
"If he be as good," said his brother, kindly, "I will be content; but I will not be here to see it."
"Whisht, man," said his brother, hastily. "You are not to speak such things, nor have them in your mind."
"Ah," said Macdonald Dhu, sadly, " my day is not far off, and that I know right well."
Macdonald Bhain flung his arm hastily round his brother's shoulder. "Do not speak like that, Hugh," he said, his voice breaking suddenly. And then he drew away his arm as if ashamed of his emotion, and said, with kindly dignity, "Please God, you will see many days yet, and see your boy come to honor among men."
But Black Hugh only shook his head in silence.
Before they came to the door.MacdonaJd Bhain said, with seeming indifference, "You have not been to church since you got up, Hugh. You will be going to-morrow if it is a fine day."
"It is too long a walk, I doubt," answered his brother.
"That it is, but Yankee will drive you in his buckboard," said Macdonald Bhain.
"In the buckboard?" said Macdonald Dhu. "And, indeed, I was never in a buckboard in my life."
"It is not too late to begin to morrow," said his brother. And it will do you good."
"I doubt that," said Black Hugh, gloomily. "The church will not be doing me much good any more."
"Do not say such a thing; and Yankee will drive you in his buckboard to-morrow."
His brother did not promise, but next day the congregation received a shock of surprise to see Macdonald Dhu walk down the aisle to his place in the church. And through all the days of the spring and summer his place was never empty; and though the shadow never lifted from his face, the minister's wife felt comforted about him and waited for the day of his deliverance.
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 Dhu was thrown in to 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 afterwards followed by other teams in rapid succession—the Rosses, the McKerachers, the Canierons, both Don and Murdie, the Rory McCusigs, 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-burnt 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 brushwood 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 McRae 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 were 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 whippletrees to swing them around to a log or stump, his horses wheeled at once into p'ace. 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 was 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 cow-bell 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 goodnatured, 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 each 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 should snatch from Ranald the victory which seemed to be at least possible for him, 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 1 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 axmen 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 axmen 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 bruit?. 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 I" 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-burnt 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 whippletrees, 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 towards 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 were 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.