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The Doctor By Ralph Connor Characters: 7863

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

There were two ways by which one could get to the Old Stone Mill. One, from the sideroad by a lane which, edged with grassy, flower-decked banks, wound between snake fences, along which straggled irregular clumps of hazel and blue beech, dogwood and thorn bushes, and beyond which stretched on one side fields of grain just heading out this bright June morning, and on the other side a long strip of hay fields of mixed timothy and red clover, generous of colour and perfume, which ran along the snake fence till it came to a potato patch which, in turn, led to an orchard where the lane began to drop down to the Mill valley.

At the crest of the hill travellers with even the merest embryonic aesthetic taste were forced to pause. For there the valley with its sweet loveliness lay in full view before them. Far away to the right, out of an angle in the woods, ran the Mill Creek to fill the pond which brimmed gleaming to the green bank of the dam. Beyond the pond a sloping grassy sward showed green under an open beech and maple woods. On the hither side of the pond an orchard ran down hill to the water's edge, and at the nearer corner of the dam, among a clump of ancient willows, stood the Old Stone Mill, with house attached, and across the mill yard the shed and barn, all neat as a tidy housewife's kitchen. To the left of the mill, with its green turf-clad dam and placid gleaming pond, wandered off green fields of many shading colours, through which ran the Mill Creek, foaming as if enraged that it should have been even for a brief space paused in its flow to serve another's will. Then, beyond the many-shaded fields, woods again, spruce and tamarack, where the stream entered, and maple and beech on the higher levels. That was one way to the mill, the way the farmers took with their grist or their oats for old Charley Boyle to grind.

The other way came in by the McKenzies' lane from the Concession Line, which ran at right angles to the sideroad. This was a mere foot path, sometimes used by riders who came for a bag of flour or meal when the barrel or bin had unawares run low. This path led through the beech and maple woods to the farther end of the dam, where it divided, to the right if one wished to go to the mill yard, and across the dam if one wished to reach the house. From any point of view the Old Stone Mill, with its dam and pond, its surrounding woods and fields and orchard, made a picture of rare loveliness, and suggestive of deep fulness of peace. At least, the woman standing at the dam, where the shade of the willows fell, found it so. The beauty, the quiet of the scene, rested her; the full sweet harmony of those many voices in which Nature pours forth herself on a summer day, stole in upon her heart and comforted her. She was a woman of striking appearance. Tall and straight she stood, a figure full of strength; her dark face stamped with features that bespoke her Highland ancestry, her black hair shot with silver threads, parting in waves over her forehead; her eyes deep set, black and sombre, glowing with that mystic light that shines only in eyes that have for generations peered into the gloom of Highland glens.

"Ay, it's a bonny spot," she sighed, her rugged face softening as she gazed. "It's a bonny spot, and it would be a sore thing to part it."

As she stood looking and listening her face changed. Through the hum of the mill there pierced now and then the notes of a violin.

"Oh, that weary fiddle!" she said with an impatient shake of her head. But in a few moments the impatience in her face passed into tender pity. "Ah, well, well," she sighed, "poor man, it is the kind heart he has, whateffer."

She passed down the bank into the house, then through the large living-room, speckless in its thrifty order, into a longer room that joined house to mill. She glanced at the tall clock that stood beside the door. "Mercy me!" she cried, "it's t

ime my own work was done. But I'll just step in and see-" She opened the door leading to the mill and stood silent. A neat little man with cheery, rosy face, clean-shaven, and with a mass of curly hair tinged with grey hanging about his forehead, was seated upon a chair tipped back against the wall, playing a violin with great vigour and unmistakable delight.

"The mill's a-workin', mother," he cried without stopping his flying fingers, "and I'm keepin' my eye upon her."

She shook her head reproachfully at her husband. "Ay, the mill is workin' indeed, but it's not of the mill you're thinking."

"Of what then?" he cried cheerily, still playing.

"It is of that raising and of the dancing, I'll be bound you."

"Wrong, mother," replied the little man exultant. "Sure you're wrong. Listen to this. What is it now?"

"Nonsense," cried the woman, "how do I know?"

"But listen, Elsie, darlin'," he cried, dropping into his Irish brogue. "Don't you mind-" and on he played for a few minutes. "Now you mind, don't you?"

"Of course, I mind, 'The Lass o' Gowrie.' But what of it?" she cried, heroically struggling to maintain her stern appearance.

But even as she spoke her face, so amazing in its power of swiftly changing expression, took on a softer look.

"Ah, there you are," cried the little man in triumph, "now I know you remember. And it's twenty-four years to-morrow, Elsie, darlin', since-" He suddenly dropped his violin on some meal bags at his side and sprang toward her.

"Go away with you." She closed the door quickly behind her. "Whisht now! Be quate now, I'm sayin'. You're just as foolish as ever you were."

"Foolish? No mother, not foolish, but wise yon time, although it's foolish enough I've been often since. And," he added with a sigh, "it's not much luck I've brought you, except for the boys. They'll do, perhaps, what I've not done."

"Whisht now, lad," said his wife, patting his shoulder gently, for a great tenderness flowed over her eloquent face. "What has come to you to-day? Go away now to your work," she added in her former tone, "there's the hay waiting, you know well. Go now and I'll watch the grist."

"And why would you watch the grist, mother?" said a voice from the mill door, as a young man of eighteen years stepped inside. He was his mother's son. The same swarthy, rugged face, the same deep-set, sombre eyes, the same suggestion of strength in every line of his body, of power in every move he made and of passion in every glance. "Indeed, you will do no such thing. Dad'll watch the grist and I'll slash down the hay in no time. And do you know, mother," he continued in a tone of suppressed excitement, "have you heard the big news?" His mother waited. "He's coming home to-day. He's coming with the Murrays, and Alec will bring him to the raising."

A throb of light swept across the mother's face, but she only said in a voice calm and steady, "Well, you'd better get that hay down. It'll be late enough before it is in."

"Listen to her, Barney," cried her husband scornfully. "And she'll not be going to the raising today, either. The boy'll be home by one in the morning, and sure that's time enough."

Barney stood looking at his mother with a quiet smile on his face. "We will have dinner early," he said, "and I'll just take a turn at the hay."

She turned and entered the house without a word, while he took down the scythe from its peg, removed the blade from the snath and handed it to his father.

"Give it a turn or two," he said; "you're better than me at this."

"Here then," replied his father, handing him the violin, "and you're better at this."

"They would not say so to-night, Dad," replied the lad as he took the violin from his father's hands, looking it over reverently. In a very few minutes his father came back with the scythe ready for work; and Barney, fastening it to the snath, again set off up the lane.

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