Monday, 19 April 2021

Progress on Phase 2 of Stillwoods Lane


Frizzle road
Progress on Phase 2 of

Stillwoods Lane.

19 April 2021.

Stonesage, and Reg MacKinnon have been working on the extension of Stillwoods Lane.

At this time there are two limitations.

Frizzle road (left) and Stillwoods Lane (Southwards)

There is an intermittent stream that crosses lot 5 (phase1). The culvert for this crossing cannot be installed in the Springtime.

The other limitation is the Spring Axle Restrictions which limits loads that can be transported. I believe it is in effect still.

These photos are from today! Just after a big rainstorm, Saturday and Sunday.

Stillwoods Lane (Northwards)

They show Stillwoods Lane, work in progress, and Frizzle road---a temporary access so that the stream is not being crossed. ‘Frizzle road’ will become a pathway on the completion of Stillwoods Lane extension.

An update on the surveyors---they have been in and out. The work is still very incomplete.

Because the survey is incomplete, there can be no submission to HRM for Final Approval of phase 2.

Hopefully things take shape this week.

Frizzle road at 24 Grant Line (our Home)

Doug and Gail

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

An Epic of Marble Mountain

 An Epic of Marble Mountain


Harper’s Magazine, September 1923, Vol. CXLVII—No. 880.

Frank Parker Day

AGES ago a glacier slid over Marble Mountain and dropped granite boulders everywhere. These boulders generations of red MacDonalds had torn from the hillside with crowbar, chain and oxen, and builded them by the strength of their hands into fences that circumscribed their farm. The first red MacDonald from the Western Isles had been a man of strength and violence, and the conflict with nature, the struggle with the rocks, had made the thews and sinews of each generation mightier.

Sandy MacDonald, the fifth lineal descendant of the original red MacDonald, acknowledged leader of the clan against all comers, was a giant—a renowned bully and fighter, the champion of Cape Breton Island sixty years ago in tossing the caber and putting the stone. He could throw a steer with ease, and had once on a wager lifted an anchor weighing seven hundred pounds. He was thick and broad through shoulders and chest, straight in the back, narrow in the hips, and like all his predecessors who had owned Stone Farm, his ruddy, bearded face was crowned with a shaggy mop of copper-red hair. He lived in the open, drank much whisky—for in the manner of our time he operated a private still—and had a tendency toward religion, which was not Christianity but a kind of savage Hebraism. When very drunk he used to read to his cowed and silent family fierce denunciatory chapters, stormy Jeremiads from the Old Testament, and they must perforce listen to his thunder as long as the whim was on him.

Stone Farm when Sandy won the inheritance consisted of two hundred acres of cleared land with no tree left standing.

It lay in a dip of the hills halfway up the mountain side and, except a few acres ploughed up for root and garden crops, was all in hay and pasture land. Sheep, cattle, and horses, had always been the wealth of the MacDonalds. Each generation had cleared a few acres to the northward and marked its progress with a new stone fence. The house, barn, and outhouses gray with age and moss, and open to every wind that blew, stood on a slight rise near the southern limit. High up above the farm, was the steep mountain side peppered with boulders and mangy with clumps of dwarfed firs and spruces, that turned tail to the northwest like herds of horses in a driving rain. Below the farm a wide bog stretched to the foot of the next range. This bog, a place of quaking mud, was evil and sinister in appearance and in summer exhaled a sickening smell. Drunken Jock Sutherland cursing, swearing, and vowing vengeance against all who bore the name MacDonald, had last been seen on the road to Stone Farm. Sandy had been tried for his murder and acquitted. Jock’s body was never found and local gossip whispered that Sandy had killed him and thrown his body into the black, hungry mud of the bog.

Such was Stone Farm, the somber home of the red MacDonalds over which Sandy ruled with a tyrant’s hand. He would brook no opposition; his slightest suggestion must be obeyed to the letter. His wife he had beaten and broken to his will in the first year of their marriage. He begot two sons, Alex and Murdock, who lived in daily dread of his fist or stick. Even when they were little boys he had, on his departure for the village, set them tasks beyond their strength and beaten them cruelly with his ox-whip if the tasks were not completed on his return. Through their period of serfdom they were sustained by the knowledge that it could not be otherwise, for they dared not run away, and by the thought that some day they might be big and strong enough to strike their father to the ground. As they grew to manhood they were giants in stature. Alex with his big hairy hands and shock of red hair, was as like his father as are two peas in a pod; Murdock was dark—black Murdock the people called him—favoring his mother, a Macintosh. Both were mighty men, but Murdock lacked the tapering grace of Alex, for he was round in chest and shoulder, heavy in lower leg and ankle and had the fatal weakness of a hollowed back. Like their father, they were terrible to behold in anger, and when they fought none could withstand them. Fights and quarrels were meat and drink to them and they managed to provoke plenty of these through imagined family insults, or by stealing girls from rival giants at dances.

One night when Alex was in his twenty-first year, he was milking the red heifer that he had found unbranded in the forest. He was in a bad temper, for his father had that day forbidden him the use of the driving mare and cursed him roundly. While he was wondering how long he could endure the old man’s treatment, the heifer switched her tail across his eyes. He struck her savagely in the ribs, and she in turn kicked over the pail of milk. Sandy passed by at that moment.

“You great lout,” he cried, slapping Alex on the cheek. “Can you no milk a cow?”

Up sprang Alex flushed with rage to meet his father. For a little they glared at each other, both knowing that the great moment had come. It was a tradition with the red MacDonalds that the farm passed on by conquest. Thirty years before, Sandy had fought his father for the acquisition, and now Alex had thrown down the gauntlet. There among the cows, milk pails, stools, and piles of manure, by the light of a swinging lantern they fought a savage battle for the mastery. Though they wasted no breath in words, the barn rang with their groans, with the thud of their blows, and their sounds of wild-beast anger. Black Murdock came and looked on in silence; with him it was merely the alternative of an old or new master. Once Sandy grasped Alex suddenly around the knees and threw him with all his strength against the studding of the barn. He sprang forward to complete his conquest, but in his eagerness slipped and fell sprawling upon the floor. Before he could recover himself the dazed and half-stunned Alex was on his feet again. The fall and the great effort in throwing Alex had shaken Sandy, and from that point the fight went against him. Five minutes later Alex had his father’s head wedged between two stanchions, while his hairy paw clutched his throat. Sandy held up his right hand limply as a signal of defeat. Alex let him up and silently they helped each other clean the straw and manure from their clothing. The three knew who was master now. Henceforth Alex might harness the mare when he pleased and drive where he listed.

After that night Alex directed the work of the farm and Sandy humbly took his orders. Murdock, too, was submissive, but Alex was not yet satisfied. Murdock, though weaker, must also be beaten and made to feel his mastery. He cast about in his mind for some ground for a quarrel and at last hit upon a plan. For some time prior to the fight between Alex and Sandy Murdock had been paying court to Mary MacIvor, daughter of the innkeeper of Scottdale. Mary, a strapping, rosy-cheeked lass with masses of black curly hair, the prettiest girl in the parish, was very fond of Murdock and meant to marry him. This situation made a vulnerable point in Murdock’s armor which Alex decided to attack. He, too, began to court Mary with the sole purpose of inciting a quarrel. Mary stood in deadly terror of the red-haired ruffian but, fearing for Murdock, she tried to assume an attitude of sisterly friendliness. At parties Alex often claimed Mary as a partner when she was dancing with Murdock, and though Murdock’s pride was stung to the quick, he laughed and made no protest. Mary and he had agreed on a policy of non-resistance in the hope that Alex would soon turn his attentions elsewhere. In this they were disappointed, for as time went on Alex forgot his original intent as a kind of rough passion possessed him.

One spring night when Murdock was taking Mary home from church Alex waylaid them on the wooded road half a mile above the village. The lovers, walking arm in arm, were talking of their difficulties through Alex’s interference and of how they might escape him, run away to the States, and marry. Suddenly Alex sprang from the shadow of the trees, snatched Mary away from Murdock, and threw his arm about her.

“Get home, you loon, she’s my girl from now on,” he shouted.

Murdock saw that the time for passive resistance was gone. He had in his hand a heavy thorn stick and as Alex turned, he struck him with full force across the back of the head. The blow might have killed an ordinary man, and though Alex went down like a poled ox, he was on his feet in a second and dashed at Murdock, red anger blazing in his eyes. They struck, grappled and wrestled in the half light of the roadway: they fell to the ground, now one on top, now the other; they tore the clothing from each other’s backs. In the black shadow of the trees the fight was like a primitive struggle between bear and giant leopard. Mary, trembling with terror, had not even power to scream. At last the fighters rolled from the roadway to the ditch and with the last roll Alex was on top. In the muddy ditch Alex battered Murdock’s face and head with his great fists, until he felt the body beneath him relax and go limp. When he knew that Murdock had lost consciousness he sprang up to seize Mary.

“I’ve beaten Murdock for you, you’re my girl now.”

“I hate you,” cried Mary, struggling to free herself. “You have killed your brother who loved me.”

“I love you, too, Mary,” sneered Alex.

Mary pulled back and struck him in the face with all her strength. Alex laughed. Women’s blows meant love to him, and this blow only increased his desire already blazing high.

“I’ve won you by fight; I’ll do with you what I will,” he cried.

Mary struggled in vain. Throwing one arm beneath her hips, he gathered her loosely in his arms, and leaping over Murdock’s body, he parted the dark spruces and ran far into the heart of the wood, with wild, lustful laughter.

An hour later Alex took Mary to her father’s home in the village, saying as he left her, “Don’t worry, lass, I’ll marry you in a fortnight’s time.” Then he returned swiftly to grope along the dark and muddy ditch for his brother. If Murdock were dead he must break quickly for cover. He found in roadway and ditch the marks of the fight, but no sign of Murdock who, bruised and battered as he was, had recovered sufficiently to stagger homeward.

For two days Murdock moped about the house, a sick and broken man. When he learned that Alex intended to marry Mary and what had happened after the fight he determined to go away. His only fear was that Alex might forbid him that privilege and compel him to stay at home with Mary in the house. On the third day, when Sandy and Alex were employed in some work on the mountainside, he lifted his stiff, bruised body from the kitchen sofa and silently left the house. His mother watched him as he passed down the road, and when he topped the hill without once looking back she put her apron to her eyes and shed bitter tears. Poor woman, she had no joy in her men folk! She loved her two giant boys because she had borne them, she even loved the brutal Sandy in a dumb, faithful way.

Alex had his way and married Mary, though she was unwilling and though the innkeeper swore at first that he would shoot him like a dog. No one in the parish dared resist Alex, and in a fortnight’s time he brought Mary home as his wife to Stone Farm. Sandy accepted the sorrowful bride as an inmate of the house, for Alex was master. At the wedding feast all of the neighboring MacDonalds were present and very drunk; they hailed themselves as members of the greatest family in the world, and red Alex as the king of all the MacDonalds. Murdock, tramping the roads to the northward, was forgotten.

During the following summer and autumn Alex and Sandy were very busy with the hay, the roots, and the stock. Each could do a prodigious amount of labor and each was proud of his achievement. Two men did the work of three. In the winter they lumbered and got the year’s supply of firewood. They missed Murdock, but they never spoke of his absence. Alex, with a burning jealousy of Murdock in his heart, was enraged because he could find no ground of complaint against Mary. She obeyed him meekly and followed to the letter his slightest suggestion. Once he beat her for what he called sullen silence. Mary made no resistance; she felt herself in the grip of fate and lived in mortal terror of her husband.

Nothing was heard of Murdock until the following spring, when a lumberjack, returning to Marble Mountain from the north, brought word that Murdock had spent the winter working in the woods on Baie Chaleur, and that there he had fought and been cruelly beaten by Hercule Le Blanc, the bully of Quebec.

This piece of news spread quickly about the parish and was gladly heard by the many enemies of the red MacDonalds. Alex imagined a malicious gleam of triumph in every eye and whisperings behind his back. For a week he brooded on this terrible insult to his name. Once in the midst of their labors he turned fiercely on Sandy with, “How could you breed a loon like that?” How dare a Frenchman lay hands upon his brother! To be beaten by anyone seemed to him impossible; to be beaten by a frog-eating Frenchman the depth of infamy.

After breakfast one morning Alex took from the wall his gun, ax, and hunting bag. He put in the bag his black teapot, a loaf of rye bread, and a piece of bacon.

“The ducks will be far out in midbog to-day,” said Sandy.

“I’m not going duck shooting.”

“Where then?”

“To Baie Chaleur.”

“Ay, I thought you wouldn’t stand that insult forever. You should have moved sooner.”

“I move when I’m ready,” said Alex. “Don’t work the black mare over hard, her off fore leg’s strained.” This he said merely to show his authority.


“I’ll be back for the hay.”


Alex said no word of good-by to Mary or his mother, for it was not the way of the red MacDonalds to say good-by to women or to inform them of their destination, their coming or going.

He set off down the road with his bag and blanket on his back, his light ax in his belt, his gun over his shoulder. He meant to tramp four hundred miles and crush and trample into the dust Hercule Le Blanc, who had dared to beat a MacDonald. Though the weather was cold and rainy, he avoided the villages and always camped at night in the woods, for he was penurious, resentful of strangers, and proud of his hardihood. No knight in search of the Grail moved more eagerly, nor kept more steadily to his single purpose. Day in and day out, he averaged thirty miles, and on the late afternoon of the sixteenth day he reached the Jacquet River Camp on Baie Chaleur, where Murdock had worked and been beaten.

He entered the dining shanty just as the men were sitting down to tea, and as strangers were not uncommon at the time of the spring drive, his advent created no comment. He was invited to sit down and eat with the others. Alex accepted the invitation and took a place at the lumberjacks’ table which was loaded with plates of bread, pitchers of tea, and great steaming dishes of pork and beans. He helped himself lightly— for he knew that one fought better after a scanty meal—and looked about to select his antagonist from the crowd. The men were nearly all French Canadians and he understood their patois but slightly.

“Which is Hercule Le Blanc?” he asked of an English speaker who sat next him.

“That’s him with the black beard— him that’s wavin’ his knife in his hand.”

“Is he the man that licked black Murdock MacDonald?”

“He’s the boy.”

“Was it a good fight?”

“A dandy! MacDonald did well till Hercule lashed him in the face with his foot. Nobody can beat Hercule.”

Alex then sat in silence, nibbling at his bread. When he thought of how he should begin the struggle, his heart beat fast and he felt a curious emptiness in his stomach. Heretofore he had fought men whose strength, tricks, and methods had long been talked of and considered; now for the first time he would face some one from outside his familiar world.

Tea was soon over and the men drew back from the tables and lighted their pipes while the cooks cleared up. Laughing and talking noisily, they separated into parties, the largest group surrounding Hercule their hero, who tossed back the black curls from his forehead, waved his arms, snapped his fingers, and boasted louder than any. Alex could not understand wholly, but he gathered that Hercule was reciting some epic of his conquests, perhaps his victory over Murdock. He rose from his seat, crossed the room, parted the group about Le Blanc, and struck him with his open hand upon the cheek. Silence fell upon the room; everyone stood still until Hercule, mad with rage and astonishment, sprang forward with a roar, and the two giants clinched. They strained, tugged, and swayed to and fro. A table was overset and the broken dishes crashed to the ground. The boss rushed in and with the help of several men tore the wrestlers apart.

“Let me at him,” yelled Hercule as he struggled for freedom.

Alex released, stood quiet, reserving his strength for the fight he had provoked.

“Who are you? ” said the boss to Alex.

“I’m Alex MacDonald from Cape Breton, Murdock’s brother, and I’ve strolled north to lick him,” said Alex, pointing to the furious Frenchman.

“I’ll kill him, he struck me,” screamed Hercule.

“Any fightin’ around here has got to be done in an orderly fashion. I won’t have the tables and dishes broke up,” said the boss.

“I’m ready to fight,” growled Alex.

“Only let me get at him,” screamed Le Blanc as he struggled for freedom.

“Keep quiet, Hercule, wait until we get the room cleared; then you can have all the fight you want.”

The tables were pushed back against the walls, the dishes packed away in cupboards, and the forms piled high about the stove, so that the fighters might not be burned. The lumberjacks in expectant mood ranged themselves around the room and improvised a ring by half sitting, half leaning, against the tables. Lanterns hung from the rafters made dull blurs of yellow light in the air heavy with the fumes of Quebec-grown tobacco. In diagonally opposite corners were placed buckets of water, boxes of sawdust, and chairs for the fighters.

Hercule, stripped to the waist, took his seat in the east corner. His body was gleaming white and the great muscles of his arms, back, and shoulders rippled beneath the skin on his slightest movement. On his chest was a mass of shaggy black hair. He was hard and fit after his winter spent swinging the ax in the open. He wore the short knee trousers adopted by river men on the drive and about his waist some admirer had tied a red scarf. On his feet he retained his driving shoes, which bristled with dangerous spikes.

Stripped to the waist, Alex revealed himself as a red MacDonald. He retained the heavy corduroy trousers and worn boots in which he had made the long journey, because he had nothing else to wear. When he stood up for a moment to scuff his feet in the sawdust the strength and beauty of his build was apparent. Though perhaps twenty pounds lighter than Le Blanc, he carried his weight high, for he tapered from feet to shoulders, the great breadth and power of which made his waist look slim and shapely. A thick lock of red hair dangled over his forehead and half hid his sullen yet alert eyes that watched Le Blanc carefully. He noted the swelling biceps of the Frenchman and hoped that he might be muscle bound like Jock Campbell of the Dale. He saw, too, in a flash, that Hercule’s reach was not as long as his arm. He must depend on his quickness of foot and watch those powerful arms in the clinches.

A Scotchman and Welshman—the only two of British descent in the camp —moved by a sporting spirit, stood behind Alex, and the Welshman offered to swing a towel in his corner.

“I want no second,” growled the ungracious Alex. “I’m a MacDonald from Cape Breton against the world.”

His heart at once misgave him for the refusal of friendship, but it was too late to retract his words. He was glad that, in spite of his rudeness, the two Britishers continued to stand behind his chair.

The boss, who appointed himself referee and timekeeper, named the rules, which were simple in the extreme. The rounds were to be three minutes long, with one minute for rest between them. A fighter knocked down was to have ten seconds to get on his feet. Beyond these restrictions the fighters were free to punish each other to the limit of their capacities.

At the sound of the bell Alex and Hercule sprang from their corners, struck fierce blows, then clinched to wrestle about the room. Neither could throw the other, but as they broke, Hercule hooked his right to Alex’s cheek and crashed him to the floor. For a moment it looked as if the fight were over before getting fairly under way. In a flat monotonous voice the boss began to count. One, two, three, four . . . No other sound was heard in that tense moment. Alex lay quiet till he heard seven and then sprang up quickly to face his opponent. Le Blanc with a grin of triumph dashed in to finish his work and was met full in the teeth by a straight left, that shot out with the strength and precision of an engine’s piston. His smile of victory faded, rage spread over his face, and with a savage growl, he rushed in again to meet Alex’s machine-like left. They clinched and wrestled until the bell rang.

That minute of rest was a blessed time for Alex, whose head buzzed and rang from the terrific blow he had received. When he stood up for the second round his brain was clear and he had resolved to carry on the fight at long range and depend on his quickness of foot. Le Blanc, on the other hand, sought to bring the battle to close quarters, so that he might employ his mighty swings and hooks. Alex danced about and darted in with straight rights or lefts. The first round had taught him caution, and in the breaks he kept his hands on the outside of Hercule’s arms until he was ready to step back out of range. Blood flowed freely from both and streaked Hercule’s white body, already marked with purple blotches where Alex had landed heavy blows. When the bell closed the round, the fighters were even in honors, but Le Blanc was sullen while Alex was growing in confidence.

In the third round Hercule tried holding, wrestling, rubbing with his chin, and butting with his head, but Alex was his equal at any of those tricks. Once the Frenchman tried to get his hand into Alex’s mouth in order to rip his cheek open, but all he achieved was a badly bitten thumb. In wrestling neither secured a true fall, though several times they were upon the floor. They rolled over and over against the watchers’ legs; once they disappeared from sight beneath a table, to be dragged out and stood upon their feet. Thus the fight swayed on, waged with intense bitterness and hatred.

As they stepped from their corners for the sixth round, Alex caught a curious glint in the Frenchman’s eye and sensed a new plan on his antagonist’s part. Earlier in the fight he had heard Hercule’s backers cry, “Tirez la savate, Hercule.” He had heard that phrase in Arichat and knew its meaning well. Probably this was the round for Le Blanc’s master stroke. Sure enough, as Alex darted in with left and right, Hercule threw himself upon his hands and lashed out with his feet. Alex forewarned, dropped upon his knees and the spiked boots whirled over his head. A second later he was upon Le Blanc, gripping hard and punching before the Frenchman could recover his balance. Again in this round Hercule attempted the savate, and though Alex stepped back quickly, the spikes caught his chest muscles and tore the flesh cruelly. The dexterity of the Frenchman, who had the marvelous co-ordination of a cat, was bewildering.

When the bell rang Alex had one minute to rest and think. Unless he could meet this new attack he would lose the fight. In that event he could never return to Cape Breton. His chest pained and was bleeding freely. Le Blanc’s backers looked at him and grinned as they rubbed the legs and shoulders of their champion. Rage and pride welled up within him; he would at any rate fight until he died. When he stood up for the seventh round he had decided on a desperate line of action. As they met in the center of the ring Alex feinted an attack with his left. In a fraction of a second Hercule was upon his hands and had lashed out with his feet. But Alex had not darted in, he had stepped back, with his feet well apart in a firm balance. At the moment of Le Blanc’s greatest extension, Alex caught the Frenchman’s ankles in his great hands and with a giant effort whirled him waist high until he crashed his head and shoulders against the stove and piled-up forms. Over went the stove in a shower of red coals; down rattled the stovepipe. Alex dropped the Frenchman’s ankles and Hercule lay still. Some one threw a bucket of water upon the hot coals that seared the floor. A cloud of smoke and vapor arose, filling the room. When the smoke cleared Hercule still lay motionless. The fight was over!

As Hercule’s friends gathered him up and placed him in his bunk, Alex returned to his corner, dipped some water from his bucket, and washed the blood from his face and breast. He then pulled on his shirt and coat, gathered up his equipment, and turned to the door. The lumberjacks were so dazed by the colossal proportions of the fight and by its unexpected outcome that they stood gaping in silence. The Scotchman, however, held out a friendly hand, which Alex disregarded, and the boss said, “You’re welcome to sleep with us tonight.”

“When I’m away from home I always sleep under a tree,” said Alex, and he stepped out and vanished in the darkness of the wood. He looked up at the stars a moment to get his bearings and struck off on a southern trail. He staggered as he walked, for he was sore and faint. He said over and over to himself, “I have beaten him, I have beaten him, now I must get home to help the old man with the hay.” After a little he crept into a thicket like a wounded bear and nursed his bruises till weariness conquered pain and sleep stole over him.

When Alex awoke in the morning the ground mists lay so heavy around him that he could scarcely see anything ten yards distant. The spruce under which he had slept was dripping and festooned with spiders’ webs beaded with moisture. His clothing was soaked with the night’s heavy dew. He rolled over and startled himself with his deep groan. The muscles of his arms and shoulders were bruised and cramped: the clotted wound on his breast burned and smarted. By slow degrees he got upon his feet; his legs were all right at any rate. Luckily, he found a red spruce nearby, and with a great effort he got a fire going and boiled his kettle. He crouched close over the blaze, drank some tea, and ate a hunk of bread. Fire and hot tea warmed him, and before he had finished his meager breakfast the May sun broke through the low-hanging fog. If only his chest would stop aching. He opened his shirt to look at his wound. It was angry and beginning to fester. Bah! What were a few scratches across the chest; he had borne more when a child! He would reach Cape Breton unaided: a red MacDonald must never fail! Again he got upon his feet, strapped on bag, gun and ax, and took the southerly woodroad. For an hour he traveled down a long slope to the bottom where a brook rippled across the trail. From the brook he drank thirstily before he began the ascent of the ridge in front of him.

When he had gone part way up the slope the strap of his hunting bag began to gall his chest. He shifted the bag to the other shoulder, but the gnawing ache never ceased. After a hundred yards he sat down upon a fallen tree; when he tried again it was only to go fifty yards without a rest. The stages became shorter and shorter; a mist swam before his eyes, and in a half-delirium he saw Hercule dance triumphantly before him. He groped dimly up the ridge, swaying and staggering from side to side, striking wildly at spruce branches that brushed against his face. He cast away his gun, his bag, and last of all his ax, the woodman’s treasure. If only a man from home were there to help him he might still make Cape Breton! His knees sagged, he staggered wildly, and fell prone by the roadside.

It was noon when Alex fell and before twilight some sentinel crows perched upon a near-by fir, to stake their claim to the treasure. From time to time one fluttered down, to hop near the fallen man and then to wing back with the intelligence, “He is not yet dead.” Night fell and with it came furtive brown and gray things that sniffed the scent of man and slipped silently away.

Nanette, with a black kerchief over her head, walked joyfully along the wooded path. The spring was really come at last and, except for gray patches under the spruces, the wood was almost free of snow. Though the hardwood trees were bare and gaunt, their limbs made wonderful patterns against the heaven’s blue. The maple buds showed a touch of magenta and the unfolded birch leaves a tender yellow. The air was clear and strong, stirring the blood like wine.

When she came to a sharp turn in the wood-road, she sensed something strange in the forest. She stopped, stood erect, and wrinkled her little nostrils. What were those crows so solemn and so silent doing in that fir tree? Perhaps a deer was down with a broken leg, or a sheep had wandered from the farm and been torn by bears. Quietly, cautiously, she tiptoed round the bend and to her great astonishment, saw a giant with a mass of tousled red hair lying by the roadside. Her heart gave a great throb: she stood trembling like a young poplar at noontide. A dead man in the forest was a terrifying spectacle; it was out of tune with everything springing into life!

Slowly she approached Alex and laid her hand upon his neck. It was warm.

Thanks to the Good God, the giant had life in him! She thrust her hand toward his heart and the hurt body twitched visibly. Whence had he come? Had he dropped from the sky? He was unlike any Quebec man she had ever seen! It was indeed a wonder that he had not smothered with his face buried in that soaking moss. With a great effort she turned his shoulder and face, and the sun touched his brown cheek. She ran to the brook, fetched water in a twisted piece of birch bark, and dashed it in his face, pried open his teeth, and poured some in his mouth, but beyond a deep groan there was no response.

She must get help to save him! She tore two strips from her white petticoat, drove a stake in the ground, and tied the strips so that they would flutter in the breeze. That would keep off all the forest folk until her return. She cast one loving glance upon the man she had found and then, holding her skirt high, she began to run.

She burst from the wood crying, “Father, father, a man is dying in the forest.”

Father Amirault dropped his tools and waited.

“A giant, a giant with wonderful red hair,” she panted.

The whole household was soon in commotion. An ox was brought from the barn and harnessed to a drag, on which were lashed four stout boards, a pillow and wool comforter from mother Amirault’s bed. Father Amirault and Pierre, the oldest boy, took their axes, for Nanette had reminded them that the big pine was down across the trail. Nanette fluttered about in a frantic effort to hurry the preparations. At last they were off, the drag grinding over stones, the ox lumbering along, unutterably slow.

Nanette, equipped with a flask of whiskey, finding their progress too slow, ran ahead, reached Alex, and knelt by his side. As she chafed his wrists and temples and dropped the liquor in his mouth, she heard the ring of axes attacking the big pine. She worked incessantly to warm him back to life and prayed with her whole heart to the Good God to save him. She wondered how he had become so battered about the face and neck. When she opened his shirt the angry wound, that looked like the stroke of a bear’s paw, told the secret of his collapse.

At last father Amirault and Pierre arrived with the dagan. They rolled the giant upon the boards, wrapped him in the comforter, placed the pillow under his head, and lashed everything securely to the drag. Then they set out for the farm with father Amirault in front, twirling his whip and uttering great shouts to encourage the ox, Pierre walking near Alex’s head and secretly goading the ox with a short pointed stick when father Amirault was not looking, and Nanette behind, her eyes fixed upon the strange man she had found in the wood.

When this procession arrived in the clearing they unlashed the tackle from the drag, and mother Amirault and Nanette helped the men carry Alex into the house, where they laid him on the bed behind the stove. That meant that the two little boys must find quarters in the loft. The bed was too short, but father Amirault soon lengthened it with two soap boxes, while mother Amirault sewed a yard-wide hem on one of father Amirault’s nightgowns to make a garment for the sick man. They undressed and washed the giant, marveling at his thews and muscles, and mother Amirault placed a fat warm poultice of bread upon his wounded breast. They poured warm bean soup into his mouth together with some spoonfuls of whisky blanc, the universal remedy for all ills. Then they dispatched Pierre to the village at Jacquet River for the doctor and the priest.

All day long as Alex lay on the bed behind the stove, father Amirault and the boys were out of doors while mother Amirault and Nanette washed, scrubbed, and baked within the house. Now and then Nanette stopped to gaze at the massive head crowned with a shock of red till her mother said,

“How slow you are to-day, Nanette.”

“I cannot put the strange man out of my mind. What was he doing in the wood, and where did he come from?”

“Think of nothing until Father Saulnier arrives. He will know everything.”

Toward evening they heard the tinkle of bells, and Pierre, the priest, and the doctor arrived. The priest was a slender dark man with a humorous eye. As he entered with, “God be within this house and His grace upon you all,” his glance caught the huge figure on the bed behind the stove. His eyes twinkled as he said jovially, “Ah, ah, mother Amirault, what kind of a babe is this you have brought our good Jean in the springtime? ’Twill take a big spruce to make a cradle for that boy.”

“He is near death, Father.”

“Not with that color in his cheek.”

The doctor had lingered in the yard to pass the day with father Amirault. He was something of a fop and proud of his knowledge of sport. He lorded it over the country people and when he scolded them for not following his instructions he twirled and chewed the black cigar between his lips. At length he entered the house and stood by the bed. He bared Alex’s arm and felt its shaggy strength, then opened his shirt, removed the poultice, and looked fixedly at the wound.

“This is the man who beat Hercule Le Blanc.”

“He has the scratch of a bear’s paw over his heart,” said mother Amirault.

“Those are the marks of Hercules spikes.”

After having made his examination he said, “He may live if blood poisoning does not set in. He is suffering from shock, exposure, and fatigue. Keep him warm, give him a little whiskey and warm soup, and put poultices on as you have done.”

Then the doctor told them how this giant, Alex MacDonald by name, had walked four hundred miles from Cape Breton to Jacquet River, to fight Hercule Le Blanc because Hercule had beaten Murdock his brother.

“Four hundred miles through the woods to fight the bully of Quebec!” thought little Nanette. “He is my man since but for me he would have died.”

The doctor recited the epic of the contest. When he told at last how Alex had swung Hercule by the ankles about the room and dashed him against the stove, his little audience was breathless.

“He is a violent man,” said mother Amirault, “and not one of ours, father.”

“No,” said the priest, “but the Good God has sent him to you and you must nurse him back to life. He is what the Acadiennes call a protestant. Perhaps he may see the light. It is not unlawful for you to pray for his spirit.”

For two days Alex lay still upon his bed. The stove gave out a constant glow, for in the chill hours before dawn Nanette crept from her bed to throw gnarled hardwood knots upon the dull embers. Rest and warmth of bed and stove set the blood restirring within the body of the giant. Alex began to move and turn, to lapse again into unconsciousness. Nature was awakening in him as in the wood. Once he looked into a pair of brown eyes watching by his bedside. He thought of the beseeching look of a fawn whose throat he had once cut, and fell asleep again.

When he awoke and looked about him he saw first upon the wall some colored prints of saints and martyrs. A big cooking stove occupied the center of the room. In a neat row near the door were sabots of varying sizes. A rifle, shotgun, and two double-bitted axes hung on birch hooks over the dark recess that had once been a fireplace.

The bewildered Alex turned his head cautiously to get a further view. Near the table, set for supper with a white cloth and shining dishes, sat two women sewing. One was perhaps thirty-five, the other a girl of eighteen. Both had dark eyes and placid oval faces. They were obviously French, mother and daughter. They spoke in low tones to each other, unaware that the sick man’s eyes were upon them.

Where was he? Had he lost the fight to Le Blanc? No, he remembered the winning coup! He remembered leaving the camp, sleeping in the wood, getting his breakfast and setting off homeward. He remembered crossing the brook, the great pain in his breast and the difficulty of the climb up the ridge. He had sat down upon a tree to rest and staggered when he began to walk—then he remembered nothing more. What was he, Alex MacDonald, doing in bed in the middle of the day? He stirred and tried to raise himself on his elbows.

“Stay still,” called mother Amirault sharply. A woman giving him orders, that was too much! He heaved himself up a little, but fell back trembling as a great pain shot through him. He suddenly realized that he was weak as a child.

“You must not move, but lie flat upon your back. Death has peered into your face. Nanette, bring the barley broth.”

Alex missed many words of the patois as he meekly sipped spoonfuls of the rich soup. “Water,” he murmured. It was the first word he had spoken. Nanette ran to the spring and fetched a dipperful. He drank greedily.

“Where am I?”

“In Jean Amirault’s house at Petite Riviere. I am his wife and this is my daughter Nanette, who found you in the wood. Now lie quiet and speak no more.”

The women went back to their sewing and Alex to reflection. Why had these people rescued an enemy and what would they do with him? What was the motive for their kindness? Probably robbery! They must have found the money sewn in the lining of his coat! Strange, there were his boots and clothes piled neatly on the box beside his bed! Against the wall were his gun, ax, and bag which he had thrown away near the brook. Well, he was in their power as long as he was sick. Had they intended murdering him they would have done it before he woke. He must use cunning and lie there until he was strong, then spring up suddenly, seize his equipment and money, and set out for home.

About supper time father Amirault and Pierre came in from their work. When father Amirault learned that the giant was awake and had spoken he approached the bed grinning.

“Well, giant, how are you? You were a big load on the drag. You are a great fighter, heh, and beat our good Hercule. Well, many will be glad that that bully’s mouth is stopped. I wish I had seen the fight. You are welcome here, but you must soon get well and return to your folks.”

Alex gave him a surly look and tried in vain to turn his face to the wall.

Father Amirault, nothing daunted, grinned more widely. “To-morrow,” he said, “the doctor will be here again to cure you.”

They sat down to supper, and Alex watched them curiously as they drank mugs of tea with their simple meal of homemade bread and bacon. They were strange folk! They laughed and talked at table and beamed at one another. Even the little boys joined in the conversation and were listened to. Sometimes they all talked at once with great enthusiasm.

After supper father Amirault and Pierre sat by the stove and smoked their pipes while the women washed the dishes and the boys played at still-hunting moose in the dark corners behind the table and Alex’s bed. At eight o’clock mother Amirault gave the sick man some broth, placed a glass of water on the box near him, and laid a fresh poultice upon his breast. Then the family knelt down and prayed with simple devotion. Father Amirault filled the stove with hardwood sticks, closed the draughts, and sprinkled ashes upon the glowing coals. After that the family retired, father and mother Amirault in the front room, Nanette to a tiny room adjoining, not much larger than a closet, while Pierre and the little boys climbed the ladder to the loft.

Alex lay still with wide-open eyes listening to the creaking of beds and the patter of feet above him. “They must have reckoned,” he thought, “that I am too weak to escape, for they have not even locked the door. They are deep and cunning, but some morning they will wake and find the bird flown. Till then I am in their power.” He lapsed gradually into sleep.

Next day the doctor arrived and examined Alex’s wound. He shook his head and looked very serious.

“You are in for a long siege, my bold giant. Keep quiet if you want to live. When you are stronger, I will cut away the proud poisoned flesh so that the edges may heal.”

June came warm and bright, July nights were warm and mellow, and the August sunshine gilded the heads of the wheat in the patch in the clearing, and still Alex lay upon his back, slowly gathering strength as the ugly wound healed. The doctor had been with him weekly, and the Amiraults had tended him as if he had been their son. At first he understood little of their talk and spoke hardly at all, except to ask for food or water. Day after day he listened and finally understood all. He heard their prayers with which they began and concluded each day. In them there was always a petition for the sick stranger whom God had sent them. No blows were struck in that household nor were any cross words spoken. He saw only happiness, mutual helpfulness, kindness, and laughter. Gradually it was borne in upon him that these people were not playing a part for his benefit, but that this was their natural mode of life. This idea broke upon him as a great revelation. He had never realized that some people are habitually kind and gentle to one another. Perhaps their religion had a softening influence upon them. He compared it with the drunken Jeremiads of his father, and remembered how he had cowered as a boy, when Sandy, in the role of the Almighty, had denounced the degeneracy of Jerusalem.

Mother Amirault and Nanette were so untiring in their attentions to him, that, in spite of himself as he got better, he began to talk with them a little and sometimes to smile. Something softened within him and he told the women of his home in Cape Breton, praising it as does every man among strangers far from the land of his nativity. He told them of the rich acres that his ancestors from the Western Isles had won on the rocky hills. He spoke of his father and mother and of Murdock but, though he tried to tell of Mary, his tongue faltered and he could not.

Nanette often sat by his bed and related her simple adventures. As she had been seven times to Jacquet River for mass, she counted herself a great traveler. She had kept her eyes open and observed the Sunday dress of every woman in the parish. Moreover, she had always picked up some news at the church door while waiting for father Amirault to come with the horse. Once while so waiting she had seen Hercule Le Blanc, whom everyone knew. She had interpreted sweetly every thing she had met in her little world; she had seen life at its best and dreamed a little of romance. Better than anything else, she understood the spirit of the forest and the ways of wild animals. She could not think how Alex dared sleep alone in the woods, for she said archly,

“A man of your experience must know that the loup-garou stalks at night.”

Alex never tired of her artless tales— sometimes like a child he asked her to repeat a special story—or of looking at the simple innocence of her face.

It was the middle of August before Alex tottered out of doors to sit on a bench in the sunshine. His wound was healed, but his strength came slowly. He had hoped to be able to make the journey homeward in September, but in that he was disappointed. The slightest exertion threw him into a fever and perspiration. Snow fell in the last of September, there was no Indian summer, and with the snow vanished the hope of a homeward journey until spring. He wrote a letter to Sandy, telling of his illness and whereabouts, and dispatched it by the doctor to be posted in the village.

Since he must perforce spend the winter with the Amiraults, he resolved to show that he was no sluggard but worth his bed and board. As soon as he was fully strong he began to work with the men. What a day’s work the giant could do! He tore out boulders that had defied father and grandfather Amirault. He built a stone wall under the barn and laid new sills under the sagging floor. Alex could do anything with a broadax. In a week he and Pierre hewed out the timber for a shed planned for many years. They cut a pile of wood whose top towered above the ridge pole of the house. In the tiny forge he welded broken tools, resharpened the picks, and relinked worn chains. They cut in that winter eight hundred spruce logs, hauled them, and rolled them down the brow. Alex was never idle for a moment of daylight, and they all wondered at his vigor, strength, and activity.

He gloried in the work that he could do because he had learned to love those simple people in the forest clearing. Constant association with them changed him. The lowering, quarrelsome ruffian became gradually a man. Sometimes in the evenings he joined their songs in a low voice and laughed and played with the children. He began to dread a relapse into his former life that belonged to another world. For his right hand he would have not brought fear to Nanette and mother Amirault, who had nursed him back to life.

At the time of the Christmas celebration, however, he came dangerously near to his old self. The Amiraults had invited their cousins, the Boudreaus, to visit them on Christmas day. One of the Boudreaus, Jacques by name, was a big handsome fellow whom Alex instinctively hated. Perhaps he was jealous of a rival in physique or thought that the habitant’s glances at Nanette were too friendly. At any rate, after dinner when the whisky blanc went round, he drank deeply but remained sullenly silent and refused to join in the singing. When Jacques Boudreau began a solo part of his special song, Alex sprang up and roared that the man sang like a frog and that the red MacDonalds could beat all the Frenchmen in the world. With that he struck the table with his fist and split the middle board of good spruce— the Amiraults can show you the crack to this day. The habitant who knew him as the renowned conqueror of Hercule Le Blanc, stopped short in the midst of his song. Father Amirault’s eyes gleamed ominously and his fingers drummed a swift tattoo upon the table. The tinder was ready for a spark when the gentle Nanette laid her hand upon Alex’s arm and said, “Alex, you must be polite to our guests.” Then he was ashamed and took his cap and rushed out of doors, and walked in the snowy forest, returning only after they were all in bed. Next morning it seemed that all was forgotten, for there was never a mention made of the incident in the household.

At last April came, the ice in the river began to crack, the run above the salmon pool roared like thunder, and snow melted in the wood-roads and cleared places. Alex knew that it was time for him to go, but he lingered on with the pretext that he must help father Amirault with his sugar. They had tapped many maple trees and the sap ran richly that spring. Alex carried the brimming sap buckets from the trees to the great sugar pot. He sought excuses to stay, for with the thought of the dour land of his birth and the savagery of his youth came a curious sinking of heart. However, he was well and strong and he could not live with the Amiraults forever and, though he had earned his keep, they had many mouths to fill and they had no room for him in their tiny house.

When May came and the warm south wind melted all the snow among the hardwoods and the arbutus blossomed again in the moss, Alex said one day to father Amirault, “I must walk homeward now. You will not lose by having harbored me, for though I have little money with me, my people are well-to-do and will repay you for my bed, board and nursing.”

Father Amirault laughed merrily. “You have already repaid me, giant. Look at our wood-pile and the stone foundation, and the new sills under the barn and the logs on the brow. You have paid many times. Mother Amirault will have more pork in the barrel next winter than ever before, and besides you are good company. At first you were cross, giant, but now you are bon camarade. No, no, the Good God sent you to us for reasons of His own and we want no pay from you. In fact, we shall miss you, giant, and you are welcome to stay always, but, of course, your mother and father are yearning to see you. So take our blessing and go. When you come north again to fight another Hercule—poor fellow, I hear he never boasts now—our poor house is always yours.” Father Amirault completed this long speech with a circular swing of his arms that signified the end of a discussion.

“You are a kind man,” said Alex. “Did you do all this for me expecting nothing in return?”

“Return, heh! Did we not find you in the wood? ‘It is lucky to find a man in the spring,’ the women say. The Good God who sent you will repay. Perhaps sometime a stranger will be good to one of my boys.”

“I have been very lucky, but I am a poor hand at thanking,” said Alex. “These have been the happiest months of all my life, but I must return to my people. I shall leave to-morrow morning.”

The last night, as they sat together about the kitchen stove, was like many others they had passed, but it had an added touch of solemnity because it was their last together. Nanette sat close to Alex, in whom she assumed in her simple way that she had some proprietary right, and linked her arm through his. Father Amirault played on his accordion: “Malbrouck s’en va-t-en guerre,” “En roulant ma boule,” and “Isabeau s’y promène,” melodies their forefathers had brought from old France.

When they knelt down for prayer that night Alex knelt with them. They besought the Blessed Virgin and Saint Raphael, friend of travelers, to take especial care of Alex on his long journey to the land of the Acadians.

For a long time that night Alex tossed sleeplessly. He watched the firelight make strange patterns on the wall and heard the great beech trees rustle and brush their branches against the roof. Starting with a false ideal, he had missed the whole point of life. He almost hated great strength and physical prowess; bears and lions had more than he and lived in a world of hunted insecurity. Why had he never learned of gentleness and love? How could he leave Nanette? How would he greet Mary whom he had beaten and never loved? What good had come from destroying Hercule? He thought of one of mother Amirault’s sayings, “Everyone has a cross to bear, my son; some are heavy and some light, but no one goes through the world without a cross.” Surely his was a heavy cross! An ember snapped sharply in the stove and a floor board creaked. He turned and his heart leaped with a throb of passion as he saw a white figure standing in the middle of the kitchen floor. It was Nanette, her black hair falling about her shoulders. The stove threw a patch of red light upon her nightgown; her feet were bare.

“Alex,” she whispered.

“Yes, Nanette.”

“I may not have a chance to speak to you to-morrow, so I have come now.”

“Yes, Nanette.”

“You will not forget that I found you in the wood?”

“No, Nanette.”

“You will never forget me?”


“I love you, Alex.”

“I love you, too, Nanette.”


“Good-night,” and she was gone as noiselessly as she had come.

Alex turned his face to the wall, a miserable man. If he had been unhappy before, he was thrice unhappy now. Here was his great chance in life and he must throw it away, to return to a woman who hated him and whom he did not love. He sprang from his bed, pulled on coat and boots, and wandered out into the night. The wind was cool against his hot brow. Far off he heard the rapid roar. He took the road to the river and on its bank sat down to watch the violence of the waters.

Like the river was the tumult in Alex’s soul. It gave him a strange comfort to watch this violence of nature. “Perhaps,” he thought, “a man could fight a thing like this.” There was nothing at home so frankly violent, nothing but the great bog equally dangerous but silent and sullen. He so convinced himself of his uselessness in life that he was about to leap into the river, when the moon broke from a ragged cloud and flooded the valley with cold moonlight. Far off at the foot of the run a light flickered—some Indian spearing salmon. Something within him said, “These angry waters will some day find peace and quiet in the sea and be dissolved in mists and seek again the great lakes in the forest. Life is like that.” He turned on his heel, walked back, reached father Amirault’s house and slept restlessly till dawn.

They talked little at breakfast. When the meal was over Alex hung on his shoulder the bag well stuffed by mother Amirault with bread and cakes, took his gun and ax, and was ready to depart. He stood awkwardly, not knowing how to say adieu. Mother Amirault suddenly threw her arms about him, pulled down his head, and kissed him on both cheeks. He bent down and touched Nanette’s forehead with his lips.

“Remember us to your good mother.”

“You will sleep in villages when you can,” pleaded Nanette. “A lonely wood is no place for a man when the loup-garou walks.”

“She is afraid some other girl will find you, giant,” laughed father Amirault.

Alex reddened and promised to do as Nanette wished. He turned and held out his hand to father Amirault.

“No, no, giant, the boys and I have planned to walk with you as far as Red Brook.”

So he set out with the boys and father Amirault, who waved his hands and chattered volubly. Mother Amirault stood in the doorway and Nanette upon the slate flagstone to watch his departure. The morning sun had just cleared the tree tops. Alex was sick at heart, but he gave no sign of his sorrow. As he entered the wood he turned to wave his hand. In one quick glance he saw what remained forever in his mind, the little gray house and barn, the giant wood-pile that the sun colored a gleaming yellow, and on the doorstep the slender figure of Nanette clad in black, a black kerchief upon her head, watching until the forest should swallow him again. She loved him—what a wonder, what a pity! He plodded doggedly on, his heart filled with a kind of sweet sorrow. He looked up at the May sun and the swelling buds of the maples and a vague hope kindled in his heart. Could he begin now? Could he be gentle with Mary? His was a heavy cross to bear.

At Red Brook the party halted and the friends shook hands in good-by. Father Amirault fumbled shamefacedly in his pocket and produced a knife with a carved handle.

“Here is this knife, a present; it will bring you luck. My father and grandfather had it before me, and it has been used to bleed many a buck and steer. Granddad said that it came from old France, and certainly there is no such steel nowadays. Take it; we have all agreed that you must have it for it was a lucky day when the Good God sent you to us. See how the potatoes grew in the burnt land last summer, clean and white, and how in September the bog was red with cranberries. Take the knife, Alex, it is lucky, and it will be a souvenir of your time with us.”

Alex was so touched that he took the gift and said never a word.

“Come back some day,” shouted father Amirault as they parted.

“Be sure to come back, giant,” echoed the boys.

He was alone, plodding southeastward as the wood-road wound and doubled. The parting gift which all the family had agreed upon had moved him to the bottom of his nature. It was an heirloom, perhaps their most treasured possession, and should have gone to Pierre.

“I will repay them, I will repay them,” said Alex to himself, “but how? Money and lands are of no avail.” Then he spoke in a voice that was not his own, “I have been a man of violence and hell. I must become like a little child again.”

When he sat down upon a log by the roadside to eat the lunch mother Amirault had prepared, a terrible temptation came to him. Why might he not return to the clearing, marry Nanette, build a house and live with them forever in the forest? They knew nothing of Mary. Once he sprang to his feet with the resolution to return. Then something smote him on the forehead and a vague consciousness of a general rightness in human affairs, that could not be ignored without disaster, grew in his mind. He sat down again and thought of all the loving kindness they had lavished upon him. He had done enough evil; he must bring no blight upon that one bright spot in his world. He shouldered his bag and tramped homeward sturdily.

At night he entered the village of Petit Rocher, sought out the inn, spoke gently to the woman who kept the house, and was amazed at her kindness and attention. There was gentleness in the wide world as well as in the forest clearing! Once when he passed through a straggling village at noonday he saw some little boys making whistles. He cut a branch from a willow with his lucky knife and taught them how to beat the bark until the bruised skin, lubricated by the sap, turned easily upon the stick. He made a capital whistle for each child. Heretofore children had fled screaming from the red giant; these boys piped him through their village and waved their caps until he disappeared down the road. One day he overtook an Indian woman carrying a load of baskets and a sack of meal. He took the burden from the weary woman and when they reached the encampment received her simple blessing.

Day after day as he plodded homeward he found a strange pleasure in the budding trees, the wild flowers, the song of birds, and the play of light and shadow on the hills. The world seemed new and reborn to him: he did not realize that his new world lay within himself. At last he reached the Straits of Canso, where a fisherman set him across in his dory, refusing payment. He was only one day from Marble Mountain. He rested for the night at an inn, but slept little, tossing restlessly at the thought of his strange homecoming.

Next morning he took the road bright and early, but it was nine in the evening before he topped the mountain and his eyes caught the gray buildings of Stone Farm. He halted on the great hill for a moment to look down over the homestead that his forefathers had made. The rising full moon glinted on the ponds of the bog, silvered the granite walls and stunted spruces of the hillside and clad the old buildings in a monotone of gray. A faint light glimmered from the kitchen window. “It’s bare but none so bad,” thought Alex. All seemed friendly save the evil bog that grinned at him and flung out a challenge. Alex knew its secret. He remembered as a little boy being awakened by the scuffle and uproar of a fight, of springing out of bed and peeping through the window to see his father going in the direction of the bog with a limp body across his shoulders. It seemed to him that that sinister place had cast a blight upon all who had dwelt in Stone Farm. He accepted the challenge as an inspiration of something he could do flashed through his brain.

He strode forward till he reached the house and peeped in at the window. The old man was busy whittling out an ax handle. The mother sat with downcast eyes. Mary was not in the room. His mother looked old and broken.

He opened the door and stepped into the kitchen. The two candles upon the long table flickered as the draft of night air struck them. His mother looked around quickly to see who was entering. Terror spread over her face, and she gave a strange cry half joy and half despair as she clasped her hands upon her breast. Sandy sprang to his feet, the ax handle rattled upon the floor.

“Alex boy, we thought you dead.”

His expression changed rapidly from surprise to sullen hatred, to a grin of feigned welcome.

“Did you get no letter; the doctor promised to post it?” asked Alex.

“No,” said Sandy, showing his yellow teeth. “Letters seldom come here. Sometimes they are destroyed by the postmaster,” he added lamely.

“Aren’t you glad to see me, mother?”

“Yes, lad,” she answered timidly, staring at the floor and without moving from her seat.

“Did you lick the Frenchman?” asked Sandy.

“Ay,” said Alex with his heart nearly bursting, “but where’s Mary?”

Father and mother stood silent. Finally Sandy spoke,

“Murdock’s been home. We all thought you dead, so he married your wife and took her away to the States.”

The parents were both in terror. Sandy, with his guilty conscience because of the letter he had destroyed, expected Alex to fall upon him and throttle him with his great hands. The mother awaited an outburst of fierce passion such as she had often witnessed in her household. Alex stood still as if frozen. His heart gave a great bound, for he knew that the law would set him free.

“Married and gone with Murdock! Well, it’s right, they loved each other, she never cared for me and I was cruel to her.”

“What’s the matter, man? Will you stand that insult to your name? Won’t you go after them?”

“No,” said Alex. “I’ve learned something in the Northland that you could never understand. I’ve done her a great wrong. Now I’ll gladly give Mary her freedom and let her go with the man she loves.”

Sandy’s jaw dropped in surprise. What had transformed the fierce Alex? He had planned at least another year as master with Alex absent.

“Mother,” said Alex, “make me some hot tea and put bread and meat on the table, for I am hungry after my long tramp. While the kettle boils I want you and father to come out into the yard and I will tell you what I have been planning as I came over the hills.”

His mother drew the kettle to the front of the stove, and the three stepped out into the moonlit yard.

“This summer,” said Alex, “we will paint the house, barn and sheds, plant flowers and shrubs around the buildings and some willows and lombardy poplars near the barn. They are quick growers. The man and I will build a stone-work beside the brook and around the spring house. It is high time that we make this old place look better.”

Sandy stood still in open-mouthed surprise. For a moment Alex turned his face to the north and though his lips were silent his heart sang;

Lui ya longtemps que je t’aime,

Jamais je ne t’bublierai.

His mother caught the smile about his lips and understood.

“The red MacDonalds, father, have always striven to win land on the hillside. To-morrow we will begin to drain the bog. It will make famous timothy land. The deepest part we cannot reclaim, but our side is good. We will turn those stagnant ponds into shining lakes.”

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