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   Chapter 31 CHAPTER XXIX

Lorimer of the Northwest By Harold Bindloss Characters: 42112

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


It was a perfect day when we commenced the ploughing, and we hailed it as a favorable augury that cloudless sunshine flooded the steaming prairie. Glittering snow still filled the hollows here and there, but already the flowers lifted their buds above the whitened sod, and the air vibrated to the beat of tired wings as the wild fowl returned like heralds of summer on their northward journey. We had three hired men to help us, in addition to the teams driven by myself and Harry; but, and this was his own fancy, it was Aline who commenced the work.

"You will remember our hopes and fears the day we first put in the share. Many things have happened since," he said, "but once more the harvest means a great deal to both of us. Miss Lorimer-and we are now more fortunate, Ralph, than we were then-you will imagine yourself an ancient priestess, and bless the soil for us. That always struck me as an appropriate custom."

The wind had freshened the roses in Aline's cheeks, and her eyes sparkled as she patted the brawny oxen. Then she grasped the plough-stilts, and, calling to the beasts, Harry strode beside her, with his brown hand laid close beside her white one. Theirs was the better furrow, for, tramping behind my own team not far away, I could hardly keep my eyes off the pair. Both had grown very dear to me, and they were worth the watching-the handsome strong man, and the eager bright-faced girl, whose merry 327 laugh mingled with the soft sound of clods parting beneath the share. They stopped at the end of the furrow, and I wondered when Aline said with strange gentleness: "God bless the good soil, and give the seed increase, that we may use the same for Thy glory, the relief of those that are needy, and our own comfort."

"Amen!" said Harry, bending his uncovered head, as, a sinewy, graceful figure in dusty canvas, with the white sod behind him, he helped her across a raw strip of steaming clod, while neither of us spoke again until we had completed another furrow. It was a glorious spring, and not for long years had there been such a seed time, the men who helped us said, while my hopes rose with every fresh acre we drilled with the good grain. I was sowing the best that was within me as well as the best hard wheat, and it seemed that the rest of my life depended on the result of it. There is no need to tell how we labored among the black clods of the breaking, or the dust that followed the harrows, under the cool of morning or the mid-day sun, for we were young and strong, fighting for our own hand, with a great reward before at least one of us. Still, at times I remembered Lee, who was in his own way fighting a harder battle against drunkenness and misery, the reward of which was only hardship and poverty. Once I said so to Aline, and she answered me: "It was his vocation; he could not help it. Yours, and I do not think you could help it either-you would have made a remarkably poor preacher, Ralph-is to break new wheat-lands out of the wilderness; for, you will remember-well, I'm not a preacher either, but not wholly for Grace or yourself."

Women, I have since learned, not infrequently see, perhaps by instinct, deeper into primal causes than men, and there was more in her words than perhaps she realized, for 328 though the immediate impulse may be trifling or unworthy, it is destiny that has set the task before us, and in spite of the doer's shortcomings it is for the good of many that all thorough work stands. Many a reckless English scrapegrace has driven the big breaker through new Canadian land because he dare not await the result of his folly at home, but nevertheless, if he ploughed well, has helped to fill the hungry in the land he left behind.

It was during the sowing that Aline showed me a paragraph in a Victoria paper which said, among its mining news: "We hear that the Day Spring will probably close down pending negotiations for sale. For some time there has been friction with the owner of the neighboring property, who has also located a mineral claim, and, it is said, has exacted large sums for compensation. We understand there are indications of fair payable ore, but further capital is needed to get at it. We do not desire to emulate some newspapers in sensational stories, but there is a tale of a hard fight for this mine between two Englishmen, one of whom championed the cause of an oppressed colonist."

"It seems cruel," said Aline. "I am afraid Uncle Martin is very revengeful, and I wish he had not done so much. However, from what I hear, Colonel Carrington almost deserves it, and he has evidently treated Uncle Martin badly. I suppose you have not heard what caused the quarrel?"

"No," I answered, "and in all probability no one ever will. It is, however, an old one, and they only renewed it in Canada. Uncle Martin says little about his injuries, but he doesn't forget them."

This was but the beginning, for we had news of further developments shortly, when Calvert paid us a second visit.

"I'm going home to England for a holiday," he said. 329 "Secured a very indifferent post in Winnipeg, and was delighted to hear of another mining opening in British Columbia. Now, you'll be surprised, too. It was to enter your uncle's service. I met him about the Day Spring sometimes, and he apparently took rather a fancy to me, while on my part I didn't dislike him."

"Martin Lorimer turned mine-owner! This is news," I said, and Calvert laughed.

"Yes, and of the Day Spring, too; I'm to manage it in his interest. Now you see the method in his madness. It appears that the Colonel had pretty well come to the end of his tether-he is by no means as well off as he used to be-and in his customary lordly way he told a financial agent to get from any one whatever he could over a fixed limit. It was, as a matter of necessity, a low limit. I warned Mr. Lorimer that though there was a prospect of fair milling ore we had found very little so far, but he's a remarkably keen old fellow, and had been talking to the miners, especially the unfortunate one who had been holding out against the Colonel's attempts to squeeze him off his claim. Mr. Lorimer agreed with him to let it lapse and re-record it. So I went with him and his agent to sign the agreement, and felt half-ashamed when Colonel Carrington came in. Of course, I had no need to. He always treated me with a contemptuous indifference that was galling, and a man must earn his bread. Still, I had taken his pay, and it hurt me to see him beaten down upon his knees.

"He came near starting when he saw your uncle, but made no sign of recognition, as, turning to his broker, he asked in his usual haughty way, 'Will you tell me what this man's business is?'

"'Mr. Lorimer takes over the Day Spring,' said the agent, and I fancy the ruler of Carrington swore softly between his teeth, after which he said: 'You told me it was 330 Smithson you were negotiating with. Is there any means whatever by which I can annul the bargain?'

"'Smithson bid beneath your limit, and then bought it acting as broker for Mr. Lorimer,' was the answer. 'I have applied for a record of conveyance, and the sale was made by your orders. It cannot be canceled now without the consent of the purchaser, and a new record.'

"The two men looked at each other, your uncle drawing down his thick eyebrows, which is a trick he has, and the Colonel gnawed his lip. If it had happened in the early gold days there would have been pistol shots. Then my new employer said, 'I will not sell,' and Colonel Carrington flecked off a speck of dust with his gloves.

"'You have bought it for less than a fourth of what I spent on the property,' he said very coolly, 'but if the mine yields as it has done hitherto I cannot congratulate you,' and he stalked out of the room. He was hard hit, but he went down the stairway as unconcernedly as if he had not come to the end of a fortune, while the new owner said nothing as he looked after him. That's about all, except that the Colonel goes back to Carrington, and my worthy employer to Mexico. He told me he had word your cousin was not well there. I wonder, Ralph, how this matter will affect you. Your relations with Miss Carrington are of course not altogether a secret."

I did not enlighten him. In fact, I hardly cared to ask myself the question, for I could not see how the fact that he had lost a considerable portion of his property could increase the Colonel's good-will toward me. Nevertheless, if the difference in worldly possessions constituted one of the main obstacles, as he had said it did, there had been a partial leveling, and if we were favored with a bounteous harvest there might be a further adjustment. I should not have chosen the former method; indeed, I regretted it, but 331 it was not my fault that he had quarreled with Martin Lorimer, who had beaten him in a mining deal. The latter could be hard and vindictive, but there was after all a depth of headstrong good-nature in him which was signally wanting in the cold-blooded Colonel. I disliked him bitterly, but now I almost pitied him.

"Do you think there is any ore worth milling in the Day Spring, Calvert?" I asked presently.

"Frankly, I do. It will cost further money to bring it up, but now that I have a free hand and unstinted material I am even sanguine. We start in earnest in two months or so, and then we will see-what we shall see."

Calvert left us the next day, and it was a long time before I saw any more of him. The next news that I had was that Grace and Miss Carrington had returned to Carrington. I rode over to see them, and found a smaller number of teams plowing than there should have been, while even Miss Carrington, who received me without any token of displeasure, seemed unusually grave, and several things confirmed the impression that there was a shadow upon the Manor. I could ask no questions, and it was Grace who explained matters as I stood under the veranda holding the bridle of Ormond's hunter.

"It's a strange world, Ralph," she said in a tone of sadness. "Rupert, as you will notice, knows me well, and I never thought that one time you would ride him. Poor Geoffrey! I cannot forget him. And now your uncle owns the mine my father hoped so much from. The star of Fairmead is in the ascendent and that of Carrington grows dim."

"All that belongs to Fairmead lies at your feet," I said, "I value its prosperity only for your sake," and she sighed as she answered:

"I know, but it is hard to see troubles gathering round 332 one's own people, though I am glad the mine has gone. It was that and other such ventures that have clouded the brightness there used to be in Carrington. Still, Ralph," and here she looked at me fixedly, "I am a daughter of the house, and if I knew that you had played any part in the events which have brought disaster upon it I should never again speak to you."

I could well believe her, for she had inherited a portion of her father's spirit, and I knew the ring in her voice, but I placed one arm round her shoulder as I answered: "You could hardly expect me to like him, but I have never done him or any man a wilful injury, and until the sale was completed I knew nothing about it. But now, sweetheart, how much longer must we wait and wait? Before the wheat is yellow Fairmead will be ready for its mistress, and with a good harvest we need not fear the future."

"You must trust me still Ralph," she said wearily. "I am troubled, and often long for the wisdom to decide rightly what I ought to do, but when I feel I can do so I will come. Twice my father and I had words at Vancouver, and sometimes I blame myself bitterly for what I said. Wait still until the harvest; perhaps the difficulties may vanish then. Meanwhile, because I am Grace Carrington, and he would not receive you if he were here, you must come no more to the Manor while my father is away. Besides, each hour is precious in spring, and now you must spend it well for me."

I had perforce to agree. Grace was always far above the petty duplicity which even some excellent women delight in, and she added gently: "Some day you will be glad, Ralph, that we acted in all things openly; but a fortnight to-morrow I intend riding to Lone Hollow, from which I return at noon. Then, as a reward of virtue, you may meet me." 333

It was with buoyant spirits that I rode homeward under the starlight across the wide, dim plain, for the cool air stirred my blood, and the great stillness seemed filled with possibilities. The uncertainty had vanished, the time was drawing in, and something whispered that before another winter draped white the prairie Grace would redeem her promise. Counted days as a rule pass slowly, but that fortnight fled, for there was little opportunity to think of anything but the work in hand in the hurry of the spring campaign, and one night Raymond Lyle, of Lone Hollow, and another of the Carrington colonists spent an hour with us. Since Aline honored Fairmead with her presence we had frequent visits from the younger among them. Aline was generally piquant, and these visitors, who, even if a few were rather feather-brained, were for the most part honest young Englishmen, seemed to find much pleasure in her company. Lyle, however, was a somewhat silent and thoughtful man, for whom I had a great liking, and he had come to discuss business.

"Listen to me, Lorimer, while I talk at length for once," he said. "A few of the older among us have been considering things lately, and it doesn't please us to recognize that while nearly every outsider can make money, or at least earn a living on the prairie, farming costs most of us an uncertain sum yearly. We are by no means all millionaires, and our idea is not to make this colony a pleasure ground for the remittance-man. We have the brains, the muscle, and some command of money; we were born of landowning stock; and we don't like to be beaten easily by the raw mechanic, the laborer, or even the dismissed clerk. Still, while these farm at a profit we farm at a loss."

"I belong to the latter class," I said; "and here are a few reasons. We are plowing and grain-hauling while you shoot prairie-chicken or follow the coyote hounds. We work 334 late and early, eat supper in dusty garments, and then go on again; while you take your hand at nap after a formal dinner, and-excuse me-you look on farming as an amusement, while the land demands the best that any man can give it-brain and body. Besides, you are lacking in what one might call commercial enterprise."

"I agree with you," said Lyle, "especially the latter. Anyway, we have had almost sufficient of farming as a luxury, and mean to make it pay. Colonel Carrington's ideal of an exclusive semi-feudal Utopia is very pretty, but I fear it will have to go. Now I'm coming to the point. You and Jasper have shown us the way to make something out of buying young Western stock; but we're going one better. Breeding beef is only one item. What about the dairy? We couldn't well drink up all the milk, even if we liked it; and we have definitely decided on a Carrington creamery, with a Winnipeg agency for our cheese and butter."

"Bravo!" said Harry. "Ralph, that should pay handsomely. Only one rival in all this district! I see big chances in it."

Then Raymond chuckled as he continued: "Specifications have been got out for a wooden building, a location chosen, and, in short, we want you two to cut the timber and undertake the erection. We want a man we know, Lorimer, whom we can discuss things with in a friendly way. It can't be ready this summer, and you can take your own time doing it. The rest say they should prefer you to an outsider; and your railroad building is a sufficient guarantee."

I lighted my pipe very deliberately, to gain time to think. Neither Harry nor I was a mechanic; but in the Western Dominion the man without money must turn his hand to many trades, and we had learned a good deal, 335 railroad building. Neither need it interfere too much with the farming, for we could hire assistants, even if we brought them from Ontario; and here was another opening to increase our revenue.

"Subject to approved terms, we'll take it-eh, Harry?-on the one condition that Colonel Carrington does not specifically object to me," I said. "Where is the site?"

"Green Mountain," answered Raymond Lyle. "As to terms, look over the papers and send in an estimate. Payments, two-thirds cash, interim and on completion, and the balance in shares at your option. Several leading business men in Brandon and Winnipeg have applied for stock."

"Green Mountain!" broke in Harry. "That's the Colonel's private property and pet preserve. Coyote, even timber wolves, antelope and other deer haunt it, don't they? He will never give you permission to plant a creamery there. Besides, I hardly fancy that any part of the scheme will commend itself to him."

Lyle looked thoughtful. "I anticipate trouble with him," he said. "Indeed, the trouble has commenced already. But, with all due respect to Colonel Carrington, we intend to have the creamery. He came home yesterday, and rides over to see Willmot about it to-morrow."

When he had gone Harry laughed with evident enjoyment of something.

"The fat will be in the fire with a vengeance now," he said, "I didn't give them credit for having so much sense. It's one thing to speculate and run gold mines that don't pay in British Columbia, but quite another to turn one's pet and most exclusive territory into 'a condemned, dividend-earning, low-caste, industrial settlement, by Gad, sir!' Cut down the Green Mountain bluff, smoke out beast and bird, plant a workman's colony down in Carrington! Turn the ideal Utopia into a common, ordinary creamery!-and 336 you will notice they mean to make it pay. The sun would stand still sooner than the Colonel consent."

I was inclined to agree with Harry, but I also felt that if it were impossible to lessen Colonel Carrington's opposition to myself there was no use making further sacrifices hopelessly. Even his own people had shown signs of revolt, and Grace's long patience appeared exhausted. There are limits beyond which respectful obedience degenerates into weakness, and the ruler of Carrington had reached them.

I met Grace at the time appointed, and her look of concern increased when I mentioned the creamery.

"I am afraid it will lead to strife, and I am sorry that you are connected with it," she said. "My father, though I do not altogether agree with him, has a very strong objection to the project, while even his best friends appear determined upon it. It may even mean the breaking up of the Carrington colony. Since the last check at Vancouver he has been subject to fits of suppressed excitement, and my aunt dare scarcely approach him. Ralph, from every side disaster seems closing in upon us, and I almost fear to think what the end will be. It is my one comfort to know that you are near me and faithful."

Her eyes were hazy as she looked past me across the prairie. Starry flowers spangled the sod, the grass was flushed with emerald, while the tender green of a willow copse formed a background for her lissom figure as she leaned forward to stroke the neck of the big gray horse, which pawed at the elastic turf. There was bright sunshine above us, dimming even the sweep of azure, and a glorious rush of breeze. All spoke of life and courage, and I strove to cheer her, until a horseman swept into sight across a rise, and my teeth closed together when I recognized the ruler of Carrington. He rode at a gallop, and his course would lead him well clear of where we stood, while 337 by drawing back a few yards the willows would have hidden us. But I was in no mood to avoid him, even had Grace been so inclined, which was not the case; and so we waited until, turning, he came on at a breakneck pace. The black horse was gray with dust and lather when he reined him in, spattering the spume flakes upon me. After a stiff salutation, I looked at the Colonel steadily.

"You are an obstinate and very ill-advised young man, Lorimer of Fairmead," he said, making an evident effort to restrain his fury-at which I took courage, for it was his cold malevolence that I disliked most. "Grace, you shall hear now once and for all what I tell him. Lorimer, you shall never marry Miss Carrington with my consent."

It may not have been judicious, but I was seldom successful in choosing words, and expected nothing but his strongest opposition, so I answered stoutly, "I trust that you will even yet grant it, sir. If not-and Miss Carrington is of age-we must endeavor to do without it."

He turned from me, striking the impatient horse, and when the beast stood fast, he fixed his eyes on his daughter.

"Have you lost your reason as well as all sense of duty, Grace?" he stormed. "What is this beggarly farmer, the nephew of my bitterest enemy, that you sh

ould give up so much for him? Have you counted the cost-hardship, degrading drudgery, and your father's displeasure? And would you choose these instead of your natural position as mistress of Carrington?"

"While I have strength to work for her she shall suffer none of them," I said. But neither, apparently, heeded me, and, rapidly growing fiercer, the old man added:

"There will be no half-measures-you must make the choice. As that man's wife you will never enter the doors of the Manor. Remember who you are, girl, and shake off this foolishness." 338

His mood changed in an instant. Colonel Carrington was clearly not himself that day, for there was an almost pleading tone in the concluding words, and he awaited her answer in a state of tense anxiety, while I could see that Grace was trembling.

"It is too late, father. The choice is already made," she said. "There are worse things than poverty, and if it comes we can bear it together. We hope you will still yield your consent, even though we wait long for it, and had you asked anything but this I should have done it. Now I have given my promise-and I do not wish to break it."

Her voice was strained and uneven, and with a thrill of pride, leaning sideways from the saddle, I caught her horse's bridle as by right of ownership. However, in spite of his enmity, I was sorry for Colonel Carrington. It must have been a trying moment, for he loved his daughter, but wounded pride gained the mastery, and his face grew livid. I made some protestation that we both regretted his displeasure, and that Grace should want nothing which I could give her, but again he utterly ignored me, and, wrenching on the curb, backed the horse a few paces. Then, and I shall never forget the bitterness of his tone, he said:

"First those fools in British Columbia, then the men I settled in Carrington, and now my child to turn against me in my adversity. You have made your choice, girl, and you will rue it. I will humble you all before I die."

He caught at his breath, his face twitched, and his left hand sank to his side, but he wheeled the black horse with his right and left us without another word, while Grace sat looking after him with a white face and tears in her eyes.

"I cannot tell you what this has cost me, Ralph," she said. "No, you must not say anything just now. Give me time to think; I can hardly bear it." 339

We did not resume our journey immediately, and when we passed the next rise Colonel Carrington was far off on the prairie.

"We will wait until harvest," Grace said, in reply to my questions. "There will, I fear, be changes by then."

Half an hour later we rode into sight of Carrington, and both instinctively drew rein; then Grace signified approval as without speaking we rode on again. Still her faint smile showed that she recognized my own feeling that we were riding boldly into the camp of the enemy. Miss Carrington met us at the entrance, and when I dismounted said to me aside:

"My brother came in a little while since in an angry mood. I fancy he must have met you, and will not ask injudicious questions; but, to please me, you will go. He has been broken in health lately, and any further excitement is to be avoided just now."

I took my leave accordingly, for as far as she could do so without offending her brother Miss Carrington sympathized with us, and as I rode back to Fairmead I could not forget the Colonel's curious manner when he concluded the interview. I also recollected how Calvert had said: "That man will end with a stroke, or in a fit, when he lets his passion master him some day." 340



A week or two passed, and then when riding to Lone Hollow on business connected with the creamery scheme I chanced upon Jasper. I had seen very little of him since Harry returned, and taxed him with it, saying: "Have we frightened you away from Fairmead lately?"

"No," he answered, with some confusion. "I guess there's no place in the Dominion where I should sooner go."

"Well, then, why don't you come?" I asked; and the big man hesitated still, inspecting his boots, until, facing round toward me, he said: "I've been figuring it mightn't be good for me. I'm a plain man with a liking for straight talk, Ralph-so are you-and it might make things easier if I were to tell you. It's Miss Aline that scared me."

I burst out laughing, but Jasper did not join; then I waited somewhat astonished until he continued: "She's the flower of this prairie, and she's got a mighty cute head of her own. I never could stand them foolish women. So I came, and I would have come every day, until Harry chipped in, and that set me thinking. I said, 'You stop there and consider, Jasper, before it's too late, and you're done for.'"

I frowned at this, but Jasper added: "You don't get hold exactly-what I meant was this: I'm a big rough farmer, knowing the ways of wheat and the prairie, and knowing nothing else. She's wise, and good, and pretty, way up as high as the blue heaven above me. Even if she'd 341 take me-which, being wise, she wouldn't-the deal wouldn't be fair to her. No; it couldn't anyway be fair to her. Then I saw Harry with his clever talk and pretty ways, and I said, 'That's the kind of man that must mate with her. Go home to your plowing, Jasper, before it becomes harder, and you make a most interesting fool of yourself.' So I went home, and I'm going to stop there, Ralph Lorimer, until the right man comes along. Then-well, I'll wish Miss Aline the happiness I could never have given her."

"You are a very good fellow, Jasper," I said, and pitied my old friend as he departed ruefully. He had acted generously, and though I hardly fancy Aline would have accepted him, in any case, I knew that she might have chosen worse. There are qualities which count for more than the graces of polish and education, especially in new lands, but Harry possessed these equally, and, as Jasper had said, Aline and he had much more in common. Then it also occurred to me that there was some excuse for Colonel Carrington. The cases were almost parallel, and to use my friend's simile Grace Carrington was also as high as the blue heavens above her accepted lover. Still, if I had not the Ontario man's power of self-abnegation, and had forgotten what was due to her, she had said with her own lips that she could be happy with me, and I blessed her for it.

What transpired at Lone Hollow also provided food for thought. Lyle and several of the supporters of the creamery scheme awaited me there.

"We have practically decided to accept your estimates," Lyle said, "but it seems advisable to make one or two alterations, and we want you to ride over with us to Green Mountain to-morrow and make a survey of a fresh site that one of the others seems to think favorable. After we decide on a place for the buildings, and a few other details, we'll 342 ask you to attend a meeting which we expect to hold at the Manor. The matter will have to be discussed with Colonel Carrington."

"Then I should sooner you excuse me. I'm afraid that my presence might prejudice the Colonel," I replied, and several of the others laughed.

"He's prejudiced already," said one. "Still, we are growing rather tired of the Colonel's opposition to whatever he does not suggest himself, and we mean to build the creamery. You will have to face your share of the unpleasantness with the rest of us."

I almost regretted that I had furnished the estimates, but it was too late and I could not very well draw back now; so, promising to attend, I returned to Fairmead in a thoughtful mood. Aline bantered me about my absent-mindedness, and desired to learn the cause of it, but as Harry was there and it partly concerned Jasper's explanation I did not enlighten her. Strange to say, I had never pictured Harry as a suitor for my sister, but now I could see only advantages in the union for both of them, and, what was perhaps as much to the purpose, advantages for me. I expected to bring Grace to Fairmead sooner or later, and she and Aline were, I felt, too much alike in one or two respects to agree.

On the following day I rode over to Green Mountain with Lyle and three or four of his friends. We had a measuring chain with us as well as one or two instruments that I had learned how to use when railroad building, and it was afternoon when we got to work plotting out the alternative site for the creamery that one of the others had considered more favorable on account of its convenience to running water. The term Mountain is used somewhat vaguely on the prairie, and Green Mountain could scarcely be called a hill. It was a plateau of no great height dotted with 343 a dense growth of birches and seamed by ravines out of one of which a creek that would supply the creamery with power came swirling.

We alighted on the birch bluff that stretched out some distance into the prairie from the foot of the plateau, and spent an hour or so before we decided that the new site was more favorable than the other. Then Lyle turned to me.

"Hadn't we better run our line through and mark it off now that we're here?" he suggested.

I agreed, and as one of the men had brought two or three saws and axes in a wagon we set about it. The men from Carrington, however, were not very proficient at the work and a good deal of the chopping fell to me. The bush was rather thick, and I spent an hour in tolerably arduous labor before our base line was clear. Then I sat down on a slender fallen birch while Lyle and the rest went back to the wagon for some provisions they had brought. It was evident that we could not get home for supper.

It was a still afternoon, and the sound of the creek rang across the shadowy birches with an almost startling distinctness. That end of the line had, however, nearly reached the verge of the prairie. Presently another sound that rapidly grew louder reached my ears. It was the rhythmic beat of approaching hoofs, and for no very definite reason it brought me a trace of uneasiness. However, I sat still with my pipe in my hand until the drumming of hoofs that grew very close stopped suddenly, and then turning sharply I saw Colonel Carrington striding through the bush. He stopped near my side, and nobody would have supposed from his appearance that the sight of me or the fallen trees afforded him any pleasure.

Three or four slender birches lay close at my feet, and here and there another was stretched across the line I had driven. Carrington's face grew hard, and a little portentous 344 sparkle crept into his eyes as he looked at them. Then he turned to me.

"Mr. Lorimer," he said, "will you be kind enough to explain why you are cutting my timber without permission?"

"I have done it at Mr. Lyle's request, sir," I said.

Now I do not know how Carrington had heard of what was going on, but his answer made it evident that he had.

"Ah, I had partly expected this. Will you tell Lyle that I want him at once!"

It was not a request but a command flung at me with a curt incisiveness that brought the blood to my face, and I was never quite sure afterward why I went. Still, it was usually difficult for even those who disliked him most to disobey Colonel Carrington. In any case, I found Lyle and the others, and came back with them outside the bluff which was the easier way. Carrington, however, had evidently grown impatient, and I saw Lyle's lips set tight when he and three or four of the younger men who I heard afterward were rather indebted to the Colonel rode out from the shadow of the bluff. One of my companions smiled expressively, but nothing was said until Carrington drew bridle a few yards away. He sat impassively still with one hand on his hip and a handful of young lads behind him, and there was silence for a few moments while the two parties looked at each other. It was not exactly my quarrel, but I could feel the tension.

Lyle stood close beside me quietly resolute, but one or two of his comrades looked half-ashamed and as though they wished themselves anywhere else, while the lads who rode with Carrington were manifestly uneasy. Still, the grim, erect figure sitting almost statuesque on the splendid horse dominated the picture. At length Carrington indicated me with a glance which, though I was ashamed of the fact afterward, made me wince. 345

"This man tells me that it is by your authority he is cutting down my timber," he said.

"He is quite correct in that, sir," answered Lyle.

"Ah," said Carrington, and his voice was very sharp, "you did not consider it necessary to ask my sanction?"

Lyle looked at his companions, and it was evident that they realized that the time for decisive action had come. The Colonel clearly meant to assert his authority, and I fancied that he would not hesitate to overstep it if this appeared advisable. He had, however, ridden them on the curb too long, and his followers' patience was almost at an end. Still, it requires a good deal of courage suddenly to fling off a yoke to which one has grown accustomed, and I sometimes think that if Carrington had been a trifle less imperious and Lyle had not stood fast then his companions once more would have deferred to their ruler and the revolt would never have been made. Perhaps Lyle recognized this for his answer seemed intended to force the matter to an issue.

"We were afraid it would be withheld, sir," he said.

Carrington understood him, for I saw the blood creep into his face. "So you decided to dispense with it?"

"I should have preferred to put it another way, but it amounts to that," said Lyle, and there was a murmur of concurrence from the rest which showed that their blood was up.

"Then you may understand that it is refused once for all," said Carrington. "I will not have another birch felled on Green Mountain. Now that you know my views there is an end of it."

He was wrong in this. The end which I think must have proved very different from what he could have expected had not yet come. He had taken the wrong way, for those whom he addressed were like himself mettlesome Englishmen of the ruling caste, and while they had long paid him 346 due respect they were not to be trampled on. They stood fast, and losing his temper he turned to them in a sudden outbreak of fury.

"Why don't you go?" he thundered, and pointed to the saws and axes. "Take those-things along with you."

None of them moved except Lyle who stepped forward a pace or two.

"There is a little more to be said, sir. You have refused your sanction, but bearing in mind a clause or two in the charter of the settlement I'm not quite sure it's necessary. In one sense Green Mountain is not exactly yours."

"Not mine!" and Carrington stared at him in incredulous astonishment. Then he seemed to recover himself and smiled in an unpleasant fashion. "Ah," he said, "you have been reading the charter, but there are several points that evidently you have missed. For one thing, it vests practically complete authority in me, and my decision as to any changes or the disposal of any of the Carrington land can only be questioned by a three-fourths majority of a general assembly. I have not heard that you have submitted the matter to such a meeting."

"I have not done so, sir," answered Lyle.

There was, I thought, still a faint chance of a compromise, but Carrington flung it away.

"Then," he said, "I choose to exert my authority, and I think that I have already told you to leave Green Mountain."

Lyle apparently recognized that the Colonel had the best of it on what one might call a point of law, but the way the latter used the word "told" would, I think, have stirred most men to resistance. It was far more expressive than if he had said commanded. Lyle stood quite still a moment or two looking at the Colonel with wrinkled brows. 347

"If you will listen to me for a few minutes, sir," he said at length.

"No!" interrupted Carrington. "It would be a waste of time. You know my views. There is nothing more to be said."

Then he committed the crowning act of folly as tightening his grasp on his bridle he turned to the lads behind him.

"Drive them off!" he said.

The half-contemptuous command was almost insufferably galling. Carrington might have been dealing with mutinous dusky troopers instead of free Englishmen who farmed their own land, and the lads who had at first appeared disposed to side with him hesitated. He swung around in the saddle and looked at them.

"Must I speak twice?" he asked.

He turned again raising the heavy riding crop he carried, and I expected to see the big horse driven straight at Lyle, but one of the lads seized his leader's bridle just in time.

"Hold on, sir," he cried, and then while the big horse plunged he flung a few words at my companion.

"Don't be a fool, Raymond. Get out of this-now!" he cried.

Lyle's face was darkly flushed, and it appeared to cost him an effort to hold himself in hand.

"We're going, sir," he said. "Loose his bridle, Charley."

The lad did as he was bidden, and Lyle motioned us to withdraw, after which he once more addressed Carrington.

"You have refused us permission to touch this timber, and I suppose we must yield to your wishes in this respect," he said. "I'm afraid it's more than likely, too, that you will object to our putting up the buildings we have in mind anywhere about Carrington?" 348

"Your surmises are perfectly correct," replied the Colonel.

"Well," said Lyle, "according to the charter we can overrule your objections by a three-fourths majority, and I have to give you notice that I'm going to call a meeting on Thursday next to consider the matter. We have generally met at the Manor to discuss anything of interest."

Carrington who appeared to have recovered his composure raised his hand in sign of dismissal.

"Any time you wish in the evening-say six o'clock," he said.

We turned away and left him, but it seemed to me from his manner that he would not have agreed to the meeting so readily had he not been certain that it would cost him very little trouble to humiliate the men who called it. Lyle appeared very thoughtful as we rode away.

"I'm sorry all this has happened, but it was bound to come," he said to one of his companions. "I may not have been particularly tactful, but, after all, unless I'd given way altogether I don't see that I could have handled the matter in any very different way."

The man who rode beside him laughed somewhat ruefully. "No," he admitted, "you simply can't discuss a point with the Colonel. I'm rather afraid the thing's going to hurt a good many of us, and it may result in breaking up the settlement, but the fat's in the fire now, and we must stand fast." He broke off for a moment with a sigh. "If he only weren't so sickeningly obstinate! It's an abominably unpleasant situation."

I could understand how the speaker shrank from the task in front of him. For years he and the others had rendered their leader unquestioning obedience, and the Colonel hitherto had ruled the settlement more or less in accordance with their wishes, though I fancy that this was due to the 349 fact that their views had generally coincided and not to any willingness to defer to them. It was, perhaps, not unnatural that most of them should look coldly on innovations and hold by traditions, for Englishmen are proverbially averse to change. Still, they could recognize when a change was absolutely necessary, and setting aside their predilections and prejudices insist on it. I, however, had less of the latter, since my status was not theirs, and it seemed to me that the man who would be most hurt was Colonel Carrington.

There was no doubt that he had the gift of command. Some men are unmistakably endued with it, and as a rule everybody defers to them even when they do not use it wisely. They come to regard it as their right, and by presuming on the good-nature or supineness of those with whom they come into contact, until at length the exception to the rule appears. Then being boldly faced they prove to be very much like other men. The air of authority disappears, and everybody wonders why he allowed himself to be overawed so long.

Still, I sympathized with Lyle who rode slackly, as it were, gazing straight in front of him with thoughtful eyes. There was no doubt that what he meant to do was repugnant to him, especially as the Colonel was a distant kinsman of his. He was a quiet, honest, good-humored Englishman, but men of that kind now and then prove very grim adversaries when they are pushed too hard, and they stand for what they consider the interest of their fellows. Nothing further was said until we reached the spot where the trail to Fairmead branched off, and then Lyle turned to me.

"I'll expect you at the Manor on Thursday," he said.

Then they rode on to Carrington, and I turned off toward Fairmead.

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