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   Chapter 3 THE RAISING

The Doctor By Ralph Connor Characters: 18374

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The building of a bank-barn was a watershed in farm chronology. Toward that event or from it the years took their flight. For many summers the big boulders were gathered from the fields and piled in a long heap at the bottom of the lane on their way to their ultimate destination, the foundation of the bank-barn. During the winter, previous the "timber was got out." From the forest trees, maple, beech or elm-for the pine was long since gone-the main sills, the plates, the posts and cross-beams were squared and hauled to the site of the new barn. Hither also the sand from the pit at the big hill, and the stone from the heap at the bottom of the lane, were drawn. And before the snow had quite gone the lighter lumber-flooring, scantling, sheeting and shingles-were marshalled to the scene of action. Then with the spring the masons and framers appeared and began their work of organising from this mass of material the structure that was to be at once the pride of the farm and the symbol of its prosperity.

From the very first the enterprise was carried on under the acknowledged, but none the less critical, observation of the immediate neighbourhood. For instance, it had been a matter of free discussion whether "them timbers of McLeod's new barn wasn't too blamed heavy," and it was Jack McKenzie's openly expressed opinion that "one of them 'purline plates' was so all-fired crooked that it would do for both sides at onct." But the confidence of the community in Jack Murray, framer, was sufficiently strong to allay serious forebodings. And by the time the masons had set firm and solid the many-coloured boulders in the foundation, the community at large had begun to take interest in the undertaking.

The McLeod raising was to be an event of no ordinary importance. It had the distinction of being, in the words of Jack Murray, framer, "the biggest thing in buildin's ever seen in them parts." Indeed, so magnificent were its dimensions that Ben Fallows, who stood just five feet in his stocking soles, and was, therefore, a man of considerable importance in his estimation, was overheard to exclaim with an air of finality, "What! two twenty-foot floors and two thirty-foot mows! It cawn't be did." Such was, therefore, the magnitude of the undertaking, and such the far-famed hospitality of the McLeods, that no man within the range of the family acquaintance who was not sick, or away from home, or prevented by some special act of Providence, failed to appear at the raising that day.

It was still the early afternoon, but most of the men invited were already there when the mill people drove up in the family democrat. The varied shouts of welcome that greeted them proclaimed their popularity.

"Hello, Barney! Good-day, Mrs. Boyle," said Mr. McLeod, who stood at the gate receiving his guests.

"Ye've brought the baby, I see, Charley, me boy," shouted Tom Magee, a big, good-natured son of Erin, the richness of whose brogue twenty years of life in Canada had failed to impoverish.

"We could hardly leave the baby at home to-day," replied the miller, as with tender care he handed the green bag containing his precious violin to his wife.

"No, indeed, Mr. Boyle," replied Mr. McLeod. "The girls yonder would hardly forgive us if Charley Boyle's fiddle were not to the fore. You'll find some oats in the granary, Barney. Come along, Mrs. Boyle. The wife will be glad of your help to keep those wild colts in order yonder, eh, Margaret, lassie?"

"Indeed, it is not Margaret Robertson that will be needing to be kept in order," replied Mrs. Boyle.

"Don't you be too sure of that, Mrs. Boyle," replied Mr. McLeod. "A girl with an eye and a chin like that may break through any time, and then woe betide you."

"Then I warn you, don't try the curb on me," said Margaret, springing lightly over the wheel and turning away with Mrs. Boyle toward the house, which was humming with that indescribable but altogether bewitching medley of sounds that only a score or two of girls overflowing with life can produce.

"Come along, Charley," roared Magee. "We're waitin' to make ye the boss."

"All right, Tom," replied the little man, with a quiet chuckle. "If you make me the boss, here's my orders, Up you get yourself and take hold of the gang. What do you say, men?"

"Ay, that's it." "Tom it is." "Jump in, Tom," were the answering shouts.

"Aw now," said Tom, "there's better than me here. Take Big Angus there. He's the man fer ye! Or what's the matter wid me frind, Rory Ross? It's the foine boss he'd make fer yez! Sure, he'll put the fire intil ye!"

There was a general laugh at this reference to the brilliant colour of Rory's hair and face.

"Never you mind Rory Ross, Tom Magee," said the fiery-headed, fiery-hearted little Highlander. "When he's wanted, ye'll not find him far away, I'se warrant ye."

There was no love lost between the two men. Both were framers, both famous captains, and more than once had they led the opposing forces at raisings. The awkward silence following Rory's hot speech was relieved by Charley Boyle's ready wit.

"We'll divide the work, boys," he said. "Some men do the liftin' and others the yellin'. Tom and me'll do the yellin'."

A roar of laughter rose at Tom's expense, whose reputation as a worker was none too brilliant.

"All right then, boys," roared Tom. "Ye'll have to take it. Git togither an' quit yer blowin'." He cast an experienced eye over the ground where the huge timbers were strewn about in what to the uninitiated would seem wild confusion.

"Them's the sills," he cried. "Where's the skids?"

"Right under yer nose, Tom," said the framer quietly.

"Here they are, lads. Git up thim skids! Now thin, fer the sills. Grab aholt, min, they're not hot! All togither-r-r-heave! Togither-r-r-heave! Once more, heave! Walk her up, boys! Walk her up! Come on, Angus! Where's yer porridge gone to? Move over, two av ye! Don't take advantage av a little man loike that!" Angus was just six feet four. "Now thin, yer pikes! Shove her along! Up she is! Steady! Cant her over! How's that, framer? More to the east, is it? Climb up on her, ye cats, an' dig in yer claws! Now thin, east wid her! Togither-r-r-heave! Aw now, where are ye goin'? Don't be too rambunctious! Ye'll be afther knockin' a hole in to-morrow mornin'. Back a little now! Whoa! How's that, framer? Will that suit yer riverence? All right. Now thin, the nixt! Look lively there! The gurls are comin' down to pick the winners, an a small chance there'll be fer some of yez."

And so with this running fire of exhortation, more or less pungent, the sills were got in place upon the walls, pinned and spliced.

"Now thin, min fer the bints!"

The "bents" were the cross sections of heavy square timbers which, fastened together with cross ties, formed the framework of the barn. Dividing his men into groups, the bents were put together on the barn floor, and, one by one, raised into their places, each one being firmly joined to the one previously erected.

"Mind yer braces, now, an' yer pins!" admonished Tom. "We don't want no slitherin' timbers round here when we get into the ruction a little later on!"

In spite of all Tom's tumultuous vocal energy, it was nearly five before the last bent was reached. One by one they had fitted into their places, but not without some few hitches, each of which was the occasion for an outburst of exhortations on the part of the boss, more or less sulphurous, although the presence of the ladies interfered very considerably with Tom's fluency in this regard. He worked his men like galley slaves, and rowed them unmercifully. But for the most part they took it all with good humour, though some few who had the misfortune to fall specially under his tongue began to show signs that the lash had bitten into the raw. The timbers of the last bent were specially heavy, and the men, more or less fagged with their hard driving, didn't spring to their work with the alacrity that Tom deemed suitable.

"At it, min!" he roared. "Snatch it alive! Begob, ye'd think it was plate glass ye're liftin', ye're so tinder about it! Now thin! Togither-r-r-heave! Once again, heave! Ye didn't git it an inch that time! Stidy there a minute! Here you min on that pike, what in the blank, blank are ye bunchin' in one ind loike a swarm av bees on a cowld day! Shift over there, will ye!"

In obedience to the word two pike-poles were withdrawn at the same moment, leaving only a single pike with Big Angus and two others to sustain the full weight of the heavy timbers. Immediately the bent swayed backward as if to fall upon the throng below. Some of the men sprang back from under the huge bent. It was a moment of supreme peril.

"Howld there, fer yer lives, ye divils!" howled Tom, "or the hull of ye'll be in hell in two howly minutes."

At the cry Barney and Rory sprang to Angus's side and threw themselves upon the pike. Immediately they were followed by others, and the calamity was averted.

"Up wid her now thin, me lads, God bliss ye!" cried Tom. But there was a new note in Tom's voice, the note that is heard when men stand in the presenc

e of serious danger. There was no more pause. The bent was walked up to its place, pinned and made secure. Tom sprang down from the building, his face white, his voice shaking. "Give me yer hand, Barney Boyle, an' yours, Rory Ross, for be all the saints an' the Blessid Virgin, ye saved min's lives this day!"

Around the two crowded the men, shaking their hands and clapping them on the back with varied exclamations. "You're the lads!" "Good boys!" "You're the stuff!" "Put it there!"

"What are ye doin' to us?" cried Rory at last; "I didn't see anything happen. Did you, Barney?"

"We did, though," answered the crowd.

For once Tom Magee was silent. He walked about among the crowd chewing hard upon his quid of tobacco, fighting to recover his nerve. He had seen as no other of the men the terrible catastrophe from which the men had been saved. It was Charley Boyle that again relieved the strain.

"Did any of you hear the cowbell?" he said. "It strikes me it's not quitting time yet. Better get your captains, hadn't you?"

"Rory and Tom for captains!" cried a voice.

"Not me, by the powers!" said Tom.

"Oh, come on, Tom. You'll be all right. Get your men."

"All right, am I? Be jabbers, I couldn't hit a pin onct in the same place, let alone twice. By me sowl, min, it's a splash of blood an' brains I've jist been lookin' at, an' that's true fer ye. Take Barney there. He's the man, I kin tell ye."

This suggestion caught the crowd's fancy.

"Barney it is!" "Rory and Barney!" they yelled.

"Me!" cried Barney, seeking to escape through the crowd. "I have never done anything but carry pins and braces at a raising all my life."

There was a loud laugh of scorn, for no man in all the crowd had Barney's reputation for agility, nerve and quickness.

"Carry pins, is it?" said Tom. "Ye can carry yer head level, me boy. So at it ye go, an' ye'll bate Rory fer me, so ye will."

"Well then," cried Barney, "I will, if you give me first choice, and I'll take Tom here."

"Hooray!" yelled Tom, "I'm wid ye." So it was agreed, and in a few minutes the sides were chosen, little Ben Fallows falling to Rory as last choice.

"We'll give ye Ben," said Tom, whose nerve was coming back to him. "We don't want to hog on ye too much."

"Never you mind, Ben," said Rory, as the little Englishman strutted to his place among Rory's men. "You'll earn your supper to-day with the best of them."

"If I cawn't hearn it I can heat it, by Jove!" cried Ben, to the huge delight of the crowd.

And now the thrilling moment had arrived, for from this point out there was to be a life-and-death contest as to which side should complete each its part of the structure first. The main plates, the "purline" plates, posts and braces, the rafters and collar beams, must all be set securely in position. The side whose last man was first down from the building after its work was done claimed the victory. In two opposing lines a hundred men stood, hats, coats, vests and, in case of those told off to "ride" the plates, boots discarded. A brawny, sinewy lot they were, quick of eye and steady of nerve, strong of hand and sure of foot, men to be depended upon whether to raise a barn or to build an empire. The choice of sides fell to Rory, who took the north, or bank, side.

"Niver fret, Barney," cried Tom Magee, who in the near approach of battle was his own man again. "Niver ye fret. It's birrds we are, an' the more air for us the better."

Between the sides stood the framer ready to give the word.

"Aren't they splendid!" said Margaret in a low tone to Mrs. Boyle, her cheek pale and her blue eyes blazing with excitement. "Oh, if I were only a boy!"

"Ay," said Mrs. Boyle, "ye'd be riding the plate, I doubt."

"Wouldn't I, though! My! they're fine!" answered the girl, with her eyes upon Barney. And more eyes than hers were upon the young captain, whose rugged face showed pale even at that distance.

"Now then, men," cried the framer. "Mind your pins. Are you ready?" holding his hat high in the air.

"Ready," answered Rory.

Barney nodded.

"Git then!" he cried, flinging his hat hard on the ground. Like hounds after a hare in full sight, like racers springing from the tape, they leaped at the timbers, every man to his place, yelling like men possessed. At once the admiring female friends broke into rival camps, wildly enthusiastic, fiercely partisan.

"Well done, Rory! He's up first!" cried a girl whose brilliant complexion and still more brilliant locks proclaimed her relationship to the captain of the north side.

"Huh! Barney'll soon catch him, you'll see," cried Margaret. "Oh, Barney, hurry! hurry!"

"Indeed, he will need to hurry," cried Rory's sister, mercilessly exultant. "He's up! He's up!"

Sure enough, Rory, riding the first half of his plate over the bent, had just "broken it down," and in half a minute, seized by the men detailed for this duty, it was in its place upon the posts. Like cats, three men with mauls were upon it driving the pins home just as the second half was making its appearance over the bent, to be seized and placed and pinned as its mate had been.

"He's won! He's won!" shrieked Rory's admiring faction.

"Barney! Barney!" screamed his contingent reproachfully.

"Well done, Rory! Keep at it! You've got them beaten!"

"Beaten, indeed!" was the scornful reply. "Just wait a minute."

"They're at the 'purlines'!" shrieked Rory's sister, and her friends, proceeding to scream wildly after the female method of expressing emotion under such circumstances.

"My!" sniffed a contemptuous member of Barney's faction, suffering unutterable pangs of humiliation. "Some people don't mind making a show of themselves."

"Oh, Barney! why don't you hurry?" cried Margaret, to whose eager spirit Barney's movements seemed painfully and almost wilfully slow.

But Barney had laid his plans. Dividing his men into squads, he had been carrying out the policy of simultaneous preparation, and while part of his men had been getting the plates to their places, others had been making ready the "purlines" and laying the rafters in order so that, although beaten by Rory in the initial stages of the struggle, when once his plates were in position, while Rory's men were rushing about in more or less confusion after their rafters, Barney's purlins and rafters moved to their positions as if by magic. Consequently, though when they arrived at the rafters Barney was half a dozen behind, the rest of his rafters were lifted almost as one into their places.

At once the ranks of Barney's faction, which up to this point had been enduring the poignant pangs of what looked like humiliating defeat, rose in a tumult of triumph to heights of bliss inexpressible, save by a series of ear-piercing but altogether rapturous shrieks.

"They're down! They're down!" screamed Margaret, dancing in an ecstasy of joy, while hand over hand down posts, catching at braces, slipping, sliding, springing, the men of both sides kept dropping from incredible distances to the ground. Suddenly through all the tumultuous shouts of victory a heart-rending scream rang out, followed by a shuddering groan and dead silence. One-half of Rory's purlin plate slipped from its splicing, the pin having been neglected in the furious haste, and swinging free, fell crashing through the timbers upon the scurrying, scrambling men below. On its way it swept off the middle bent Rory, who was madly entreating a laggard to drop to the earth, but who, flung by good fortune against a brace, clung there. On the plate went in its path of destruction, missing several men by hairs' breadths, but striking at last with smashing cruel force across the ankle of poor little Ben Fallows, in the act of sliding down a post to the ground. In a moment two or three men were beside him. He was lifted up groaning and screaming and carried to an open grassy spot. After some moments of confusion Barney was seen to emerge from the crowd and hurry after his horse. A stretcher was hastily knocked together, a mattress and pillow placed thereon, to which Ben, still groaning piteously, was tenderly lifted.

"I'll go wid ye," said Tom Magee, throwing on his coat and hat.

Before they drove out of the yard the little Englishman pulled himself together. "Stop a bit, Barney," he said. He beckoned Rory to his side. "Tell them," he said between his gasps, "not to spoil their supper for me. I cawn't heat my share, but I guess perhaps I hearned it."

"And that you did, lad," cried Rory. "No man better, and I'll tell them."

The men who were standing near and who had heard Ben's words broke out into admiring expletives, "Good boy, Benny!" "Benny's the stuff!" till finally someone swinging his hat in the air cried, "Three cheers for Benny!" and the feelings of the crowd, held in check for so many minutes, at length found expression in three times three, and with the cheers ringing in his ears and with a smile upon his drawn face, poor Ben, forgetting his agony for the time, was borne away on his three-mile drive to the doctor.

The raising was over, but no man asked which side had won.

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