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"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 1" 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 FrenchCanadians 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 1 Hurry, for the life of you I"
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 whippletree.
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 whippletree again, Ranald stood ready for work.
"A win, lad I A win 1" 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 victor}', 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 1" cried Don.. "You bet they never moved in their lives-, the way they did to-day. Tied him 1" h& continued. "Tied him 1 Beat him, I say,, but Macdonald Bhain says 'Tied him'— Aleck McRae, who thinks himself somighty 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, lor 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 I" 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 1 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.
"Jndeed, 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 ringer on the sore spot
"Oh, pshaw I" replied Aleck, boldly. "You think a lot of him, don't you? And I guess you are a pair."
Mamie 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 1" 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 thundercloud. 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 sper.k this word for him, but 1 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 I" 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 today, 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 1" 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 today, 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 some day," 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 I it will be worth seein', too."
By this time Farquhar had come back from saving good-by to Macdonald Dhu 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 Dhu. 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 he 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 afterwards," 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 l)hu, 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 Dhu, 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 1" that she smiled most sweetly. [to Be Continued]
By Fullerton L. Waldo
CARRUTHERS sat in his study with his chin on his fists gazing into the grate, and shaping images to suit his fancy in the glowing coals. Somebody rapped on the door and entered before he had fairly risen and unlimbered.
"Please, sir," said a small boy, impudently, "the Head wants to see you in his study, sir, and sent me to fetch you, sir."
'• You may have four marks for your impertinent manner," said Carruthers. shortly, feeling his face grow warm as he spoke.
"What for, sir ?" asked the boy.
"For your impertinent manner," repeated Carruthers.
"Thank you, sir."
"Your marks are doubled," said the master.
The door slammed to—a manifestation of ill temper which it was Carruthers's obvious duty as a master to follow up and punish, but which on this occasion he thought it wiser to ignore. Not too far from the other side of the door to be heard, an indignation meeting sprang into being. This usually happened when the master marked a boy. The more Carruthers pretended to himself that he did not care, the more clearly he heard the conversation.
"Let's go down to Daddy Long-legs with it." came in a vibrant stage-whisper. The nickname was the head master's.