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   Chapter 5 A CABIN FOR TWO

If Any Man Sin By H. A. Cody Characters: 11713

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


In a few days Martin's strength was much renewed. The Indians treated him with great kindness, and the women were never weary of caring for the little white child. With hooks supplied him by the natives, Martin succeeded in catching a number of fine salmon in the lake, and these formed excellent food. He looked forward also to the hunting of moose and mountain-sheep, for he had brought with him a good rifle and a number of cartridges. His spirits naturally rose as the days passed. To him the life was ideal. There was a freedom from care, and with Nance by his side he often wandered for hours along the shore of the lake. The child thoroughly enjoyed these rambles, and many were the questions she asked as well as making quaint remarks about the numerous things she saw.

Martin soon realised that it would not do to remain idle for any length of time. The cool nights warned him that summer was passing, and unless he had a shelter for the winter their position would be a sorry one. Such lodges as the Indians used would be unbearable to them when frost sealed the streams and storms swept howling over the land. He accordingly searched around for a suitable place to build a cabin, and at length settled upon a beautiful spot near the mouth of the Quaska River, where trees stood in abundance suitable for his purpose.

With an axe, borrowed from an Indian, he one day set earnestly to work. Martin had been brought up on a farm, and was well accustomed to the use of the axe. During the years of his wandering life he had been forced at times to toil as a labourer to earn his daily bread. He now put his heart into his task and worked with a will such as he had not known for years. He had to ask no one for the use of the land, and the trees were standing ready for him to cut. As he cleared the ground upon a gentle elevation several rods back from the river, he would stand at times and look out over the lake. The thrill of ownership possessed his soul, and he felt that he would not exchange his lot for the most favoured being on earth. Every day Nance accompanied him and played among the trees and branches. He built her a little playhouse, and sometimes he would sit by her side to rest, play with her, or tell some story to delight the child's heart.

The cabin Martin planned to build was not a large one. It was only for two, he told himself, but it must be as cosy as his hands could make it. There were to be two rooms; one where they would live and the other where provisions would be stored.

After the foundation had been laid Martin began to carry stones from the river and the shore of the lake. With these he constructed a fire-place at one end of the building. This was a work of considerable importance, and occupied him for several weeks. The stones had to be broken, shaped, and then laid carefully together with clay, which he found by digging along the shore of the lake. This, when hardened, was almost like cement, and served his purpose better than the ordinary mortar.

When the fire-place was completed, and tapered off into a capacious chimney, he set to work upon the walls of the cabin. Logs, hewn on three sides, were laid one upon another, and fitted closely together. Then came the roof, composed of long poles, covered with mud and turf. Moss was used for the chinking of the walls, and to obtain this Martin and Nance went every day to a swamp a short distance back from the river, until a sufficient supply was gathered.

By the time this work was completed the days were much shorter. Martin was anxious to occupy his cabin as soon as possible, for he was afraid that the cold nights in the Indian lodge might not be good for Nance. With much difficulty he fashioned a door. It was a marvellous contrivance when finished, and Martin was quite proud of his handiwork. He had no glass for windows, and so was forced to use the skins of mountain-sheep, with the hair removed and scraped very thin. These, stretched across the openings, let in considerable light during the day, and kept out the wind and cold as well. The floor was made of logs, hewn as smooth as the axe could make them. The living room was only eighteen feet long by twelve wide, which could easily be heated, and quite large enough for two.

For the first time in his life Martin possessed a house entirely his own, and which he had built with his own hands. In days long past he had pictured to himself a little home which he and Beryl would occupy. He often thought of those day-dreams as he toiled at his cabin. In fact she had been much in his mind since the night he had seen her in the church and listened to her singing. Try as he might, he could not forget her, although the remembrance always brought a bitter pang to his heart of what he had forever lost. Often he would lie awake at night thinking of the days when they were so much together. At times he had an almost irresistible longing to see her again. This, however, he was forced to banish, as he well knew that such a thing was impossible. While busy at work upon the cabin he had no time to brood over his past life. He was always so tired at night that he slept soundly until the break of day. He dreaded the thought of having nothing to do. Action was his one salvation, and he knew that he must be busy at something. He would find occupation, so he told himself, which would keep his mind from dwelling upon the things he wished to forget.

It was a cold night when Martin lighted the fire and brought Nance to the cabin. A fierce wind was howling over the land, swaying the trees and ruffling the surface of the lake. Nance stood watching the flames as they licked up the chimney.

"Pretty, pretty!" she cried, clapping her hands with glee and then stretching them out toward the fire.

"Is Nance happy now?" Martin questioned, watching with

interest the bright sparkle of her eyes, and the fire-light playing upon her face and hair.

"Yes, happy," the child replied. Then she climbed upon his knee, and laid her head against his shoulder. "When will we go to my papa and mamma?" she at length asked.

"Not yet, Nance," and Martin's voice was low. "You must stay with me for a while. But tell me about them, little one, for I never knew them."

"You didn't know my daddy and mamma!" and Nance lifted her head and looked straight into her guardian's eyes. "Isn't that funny," and she gave a queer little chuckle. "My daddy was big and so strong that he could carry me everywhere. He played with me, too, and we had such fun. Mamma used to tell me stories, such nice ones, and she always kissed me when I went to bed. I wonder where she can be."

"Do you like stories, Nance?" Martin asked.

"Oh, yes. I like nice ones about fairies. Mamma often told me about Alice in Wonderland. Do you know that? It is so pretty. I'll get mamma to tell it to you some day."

A lump came into Martin's throat as he listened to the prattle of this child. How could he ever tell her that she would never see her dear parents on earth again? Would it not be as well for her to know the whole truth now? But no, it would be better to wait for some time until she was older. A sudden idea came into his mind.

"Look, Nance, suppose we play that I am your daddy, and that your mamma is sitting right here by our side."

"Oh, yes," Nance was ready for the game, "and I'll call you 'daddy,' and we'll talk to mamma, and make believe that she's right here."

How often in the past in his old parish had Martin pictured to himself a scene similar to this. It had all been so real: an open fire, a child on his knee, and Beryl by his side. He closed his eyes, while a sigh escaped his lips.

"Daddy." He started at the name. "Are you sleepy? Why do you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Oh, this," and she drew in her breath, and let it out again.

Martin laughed. "I was just thinking, Nance, that was all."

"Well, don't shut your eyes, and don't think, or mamma will be cross, won't you, mamma?" and she turned to an imaginary person nearby.

"What do you want me to do?"

"Tell a story, and mamma and I will listen."

"Tell a story, Nance! What kind of a one do you want?"

"Oh, a fairy story, about flowers, and birds, and people-a story like mamma used to tell."

Martin sat for a while without replying, watching the fire dancing merrily before him. It was a fairy-story the child wanted, and he could not remember any.

"Go on, daddy," Nance demanded.

"Yes, little one, I will. I'm only thinking."

"Well, don't think," was the imperious command. "Talk."

"Once upon a time," Martin began, "there was a little boy who had a beautiful home."

"That's nice." Nance sighed, as she nestled her head back comfortably against the strong arm which was supporting her.

"And the boy," Martin continued, "had a father and a mother who loved him very much. All day long he played in the sunshine, amongst the flowers, birds, and butterflies. He had a big dog, too, and they were always so happy together. Then the boy grew to be a man, and he had a garden all his own. He had many trees and beautiful flowers to look after, and he loved them very much, especially the little baby flowers. These came to him, and he would talk to them, and tell them what to do to make them grow strong and beautiful."

"What! could the flowers talk?" Nance asked in amazement. "Wasn't it funny?"

"Yes, those flowers could talk, and understood everything the gardener told them."

"What is a gardener?"

"Oh, the man who was once a little boy."

"I see." Sleepily.

"Well, after a while the gardener hurt one of his flowers."

"He did!" Nance was wide awake now. "Wasn't he bad! How did he hurt it?"

"He just broke it down, so it could never stand up again."

"Oh!"

"Yes, Nance, that's what he did, and he had to leave his garden and go away."

"Go on," Nance demanded as Martin paused.

"Yes, he went away, for such a long time, and tried to forget all about his garden. Then in a strange place he saw one of his most beautiful flowers and heard her sing."

"What! can flowers sing?"

"This one could, so beautifully. But the gardener did not dare to speak to her. She knew what he had done, and he was afraid. So he ran away again, far off into a land of wilderness. His heart was very sad and lonely. No one loved him, and everybody thought that he was so bad."

"And wasn't he, daddy? He must have been bad or he wouldn't have hurt the beautiful flower."

"He was very, very sorry, Nance, and his heart was heavy all the time, but no one knew that. Then one day he found another little flower. She had fallen into the water, but some kind people saw her and saved her. The gardener took this lovely flower with him wherever he went. He built a little house among the trees, where they lived all by themselves, and were so happy."

"What was her name, daddy?"

"The gardener called her 'Heart's Ease.'"

"Funny-funny-name," came low and sleepily from the child.

Martin paused, while his thoughts roamed back over the past. He sat thus for some time holding Nance, who had fallen asleep in his arms. At length he arose, laid the child gently in the little rough cot he had prepared for her with such care, and wrapped her well up in the blanket he had obtained from an Indian. He stood for a while watching her by the flickering light of the fire. He then picked up his violin and, seating himself, began to play soft and low. The wind roared and howled outside, but Martin heeded it not. A mystic door had noiselessly opened, and he had passed through into an enchanted world, where the sorrows, regrets, and cares of earth were for a time forgotten.

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