« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
THE SAVING OF WYLLARD'S WHEAT.
One day in early spring, when the "I'm sorry. It's perfectly impossible, rolling levels of frost-bleached grass even absurd," he said then. “Constance stretched back as yet untouched with was carefully trained in England, and green towards the horizon, two men when she marries it must be in accordwho risked much upon the weather that ance with her station. She shall not, year talked together beside the long, in any case, come down to the rough black furrows of Imrie's ploughing, life you could offer her, all of which I which alone broke the gray-white waste tried to make plain before. This time of Manitoban plain. One was rich in you must plainly understand I forbid stock and lands, though the free prairie all correspondence, decline to reopen settlers, did not like him, for Evanson the subject, and request you to cease Wyllard of Carrington still retained your visits at my house." the less pleasant characteristics of an Shaking the reins he drove away, and insular Briton, and ruled over his fif- Imrie's hands clenched tighter on the teen hundred acres in feudal fashion, stilts of the breaker plough, as with a neither granting nor accepting favors sense of cold dismay he stared across from any man. Nevertheless, as a mat- the waste of rolling prairie. Away on ter of business, they broke the virgin the crest of a rise two figures were prairie soil for him at so much an silhouetted against crystalline blue, one acre,
slender and girlish, a graceful picture The other was poor, though of good with the broncho beneath her, though up-bringing, and, as sometimes hap- he frowned as he recognized a distant pens, loved the rich man's daughter, and favorite kinsman of Wyllard's in which was presumptuous of him, for the other. They turned and dipped beWyllard was sowing twelve hundred hind the rise as the buggy approached, acres of wheat that spring, while Imrie and that was the last of Constance had sunk his last dollar and pledged Wyllard Imrie saw for many a day. his credit to sow three hundred. Still, Afterwards he stood still, seeing noththe prairie folk greatly preferred Imrie, ing, while his thoughts went back to for he gave of his little with open the weary years of struggle since he hands, and borrowed seed-wheat and had taken his younger son's portion, implements as freely as he lent them. and, turning his back on the overNeither did he abuse the country which crowded mother country, set out to provided him with a living, as was
seek his fortune in the wider spaces of sometimes Wyllard's custom. He stood the
West. Fortune proved herself with his feet in the black loam of the strangely hard to win. Two crops had spring ploughing beside his big ox- the gophers eaten, and one was blightteam, a bronzed, athletic figure in blue ed by frost, but, too proud to own him. canvas overalls, refined rather than self beaten or ask for aid from home, roughened by sturdy labor, speaking Imrie held on, living very hardly and fast and eagerly. Wyllard sat in his working harder, until at last the luck Ontario buggy silent and grim, a hard began to turn. Also the prairie setman, so the settlers said, with iron-gray tlers, ready as usual to help the man hair and piercing eyes, listening with with courage to help himself, gave him ironical patience until the other had much more than sage advice, while, done.
so their wives said, the winsome Con.
stance Wyllard looked on him kindly, him so much nearer to Constance Wylfor Imrie was a handsome man.
lard. She also believed in his event. "You won't raise twenty bushels the ual success, so a last hurried letter acre that way. No, nor yet fifteen,” written before her departure to Engsaid the burly Ontario Jasper, who land said, which bade him wait and be went by ripping up the stiff, black clods of a good courage. Then mellow auwith the disc-harrows. “Saw you talk- tumn came, while for once the early ing to old Cast-iron-10 business of frost did not, and under the blaze of mine, but I guess it was about the girl. noonday sun, and by the light of the Greatly stuck on himself, and going moon in the clear, cool nights, when nap on a big crop again this year he is. the air was filled with the smell of Well, you just lie by. Harvest frost burning grass, the tall wheat went will fetch him sure some day, and then down before the clinking knives and you'll get her easy."
tossing arms of the Ontario .binders. Imrie was not a new-comer, and Swath by swath the yellow sea, which therefore did not resent the speech. He swayed in long ripples four feet above knew it was made with frank goodwill, the prairie, was piled up in sheaves, and he shook of the dull, cold feeling and the smoke of the big thrasher driftas he settled the bright share in the ed night and day across the dusty plain furrow anew. Perhaps in due time, he which was now gray-white again. Wyl. thought, this obstacle might be over- lard thrashed and stored his wheat in come as others had been, and mean- strawpile granaries, waiting for a rise. while there was much to do if he would Imrie thrashed and sold, and when the keep faith with the Brandon implement accounts arrived, gazed at them with dealers who had shown faith in him. misty eyes, remembering how for three He, too, was staking his all, for the hopeless years he held on, denying himsake of Constance Wyllard, on a record self everything for the sake of his land, crop. So while the autocrat of Car- and now the land was faithfully pay. rington drove home, spoke sharp words ing it back to him. to his daughter, and spent an unpleas- Thus it happened that when the last ant hour over accounts which proved to bushel had been accounted for, Imrie him that hail or frost in harvest might gave his neighbors a supper, and the spell ruin, Imrie's heart grew lighter scattered settlers drove their wives and as he went on with his ploughing. He sweethearts in from thirty miles around had learned on the lone, hard prairie to rejoice with him over a record crop. that there is little a man cannot win Under radiant moonlight, they danced by singleness of purpose and the power quaint country dances of Caledonia, of tireless labor.
and measures of ancient France, on the Thus, as the tardy northern spring crackling prairie-sod which rolled back melted into burning summer, and an from the inky shadows of the home emerald flush that presently vanished stead mile after mile to the edge of the again, crept over the whitened sod, the great circle where it cut the skyline. blue-green wheat grew tall and strong The music was in keeping with the upon the holdings of rich man and poor sense of vastness and distance, for a alike. Imrie's heart grew soft at times minor note wailed through its merrias he watched it. He had toiled twelve ment, and the Quebec habitant, whose hours a day, sometimes fifteen, and battered violin evolved it, had been now the kindly earth promised to re- handed down part by forebears, who turn what he had entrusted it to him a came over with Jacques Cartier and hundredfold, while every bushel brought had learned the rest among the whis.
pering pines of the Laurentian wilder- lard's holding a fortune in his straw. ness. Imrie danced and jested with pile granary, with his guards half all alike, from the fourteen-stone ma- grown up." tron, who had once been a Cheshire Then one or two of Imrie's guests dairy-drudge, and now managed a stal- said many things, for they remembered wart husband and many head of stock, the ironical rejection of friendly advice, to the yellow-haired ex-attendant of a as others did the manner in which the London bar, who worshipped him se- autocrat of Carrington in time
of cretly. He found this damsel's lan. drought bargained for their stock. He guishing looks strangely irritating, but had the means to sink artesian wells, he danced twice with her because her which they had not, and must therebrother was a good friend of his, while fore sell or lose their stock, and all this her next partner was a university grad- rose up clearly now. For a few mouate, who drove about the prairie vend. ments an ugly thought entered Imrie's ing patent medicines,
mind. If that wheat were destroyed Still, all the time he longed for the one barrier between him and Constance graceful presence of Constance Wyl. Wyllard, in the shape of a heavy bank lard, and wondered when he would see balance, would vanish with it, but he her again. No news had reached him also felt he could not meet the girl's now for many weeks; there was only clear eyes if he held his hand. So he the one hurried letter whose message flung it from him, and in a sudden hush was hope and work. Meanwhile, away sent his voice ringing across the assemback towards its dim edge where the bly. stars shone brighter above the horizon, “There's neighbor's homestead glimmering streaks of radiance moved threatened," he said. “Stop, you need across the prairie, while here and there not tell me 80 man knows better that wreaths of vapor obscured the sweep he hasn't always a pleasant tongue, of indigo. The grass was tinder dry, but it's a common danger, and I'm goand the fires, lighted how no man ing to help him. Who is coming with knows, rioted among it.
me?" steadily brighter, and when a pale crim- Then through the murmurs a womson reflection topped the crest of a rise an's voice rose up, “We can understand several of those present remembered Mr. Imrie wanting to go. Who is going with misgivings that they had not to help him to please Constance Wylploughed the full count of furrows lard?" It was the barmaid who spoke, round their possessions, as by law re- and when a growl of disapproval anquired, which will often, but not al- swered her, Imrie commenced again: ways, check a prairie fire. Others also "I thought it was an open secret that regretted the fact that the matted grass Miss Wyllard was in England, and her was creeping across their guards again, father had closed the doors of Carringand so little by little the merriment ton to me,” he said, "Some day, who slackened, until a clamor broke out, knows how soon it may be, our turn when with a rapid beat of hoofs ring- will come. He staked heavily on it ing through the deepening silence a and won that crop, and if you can man on a lathered horse rode up out of stand by and see him ruined I can't." the night.
This time there was approbation, and "Biggest fire I've seen for five years the messenger said, "Good man! I'm coming down from the east," he said. going. Jasper here's coming along, too. "Heading straight for Carrington; even Miss Wyllard is back any way, with the green sloo couldn't stop it, and Wyl- that gilt-edged Britisher fooling round
her, for I saw them helping the old man to turn out the stock. Carrington took it as usual, cool as a blizzardhard clean grit he is all through-with his paid hands away hauling wheat into the elevators.”
That settled the matter. In frantic hurry they saddled or yoked the horses, and ten minutes later with a cry of “Good luck" from the women ringing behind them, a very mixed cavalcade swept out into the silence of the moonlit prairie, leaving a yellow-baired girl staring with fierce eyes after them. There was a thunder of hoofs on the matted sod, a great bouncing of wheels, the clods whirled up in the faces of those who rode behind, and Imrie, leading the van, swaying easily to the gray horse's strides, spoke to the double team that hauled a gang-plough in his box-wagon. The beasts knew his voice and responded gallantly, the slender wagon body creaked under its heavy load, and even Jasper, who lurched on the driving seat, was startled when, breast-high in crackling grass that went down before them, Imrie rushed the wagon jolting through a dried-up sloo, like a field-gun badly needed going to the front.
Then as they pounded up the slope of a rise a wavy line of crimson appeared not very far away on the other side, the smoke that rose above it blotting out the stars, and reaching the incline the pace grew furious, for all realized there was no time to lose. Reckless of murderous badger-hole or rolling nigger-head stone, neck and neck, or wheel to wheel, with the weaker streaming away behind, pounding, clattering, jolting, the stronger held on, the cool wind screaming past them, and spume flakes whirling up, until at last a loom of buildings rose out of the prairie, and they drew rein before the homestead of Carrington. Swinging himself to earth Imrie raised his broad felt hat as he stood before its owner and his
daughter, but Evanson Wyllard was as the messenger had said, a hard man all through, and there was neither panic nor dismay in face or bearing as he waited them.
“We heard a fire was coming this way in a hurry. These were my guests to-night, and I brought them along to help,” said Imrie; and the grim autocrat answered quietly, “I am much indebted to all of you. As it happens, also, my men are away."
“No time to fool in talking," shouted the breathless Jasper. “Where's your ploughs, Carrington ? Some one turn out and hitch on his fresh horses," and inside five minutes Imrie found himself gripping the lines of the big gang. plough. Nevertheless, the hands that clenched them had, for a moment, held the slender fingers of Constance Wyllard, and her low voice even then vibrated in his ears, “He will never forget it; I know his ways. It was like you, Harry."
"I'm used to horses if I'm not much of a farmer," said a voice close by. “You seem to be managing things. Can you tell me what to do?" and Imrie glancing round, saw his rival, Wyllard's distant kinsman.
“Yes; you can find grain-bags and soak them at the well. When the smoke rolls down thick come back to me," he answered, hurriedly, and there was a crackle of matted fibres as the triple shares of the gang-plough ripped through the sod, while Imrie looked over his shoulder a moment. Behind him rose the splendid wooden buildings. of Carrington with thousands of dollars. worth of wheat lying in several huge strawpile granaries. These are mere mounds of straw heaped many feet thick about a willow framing which when packed by wind and snow, form an efficient store. In front stretched the flickering wall of fire, and their task was simply to plough a broad belt of furrows between it and its prey.
Then he shouted to the horses, the burden, Imrie ceased his protests as whip cracked like a rifle, and the black with the glare of the flame upon her loam curled in waves away from the face she said, “When the rest are do mould-board's slide, while, with a great ing so much, I must take my part, trampling, single ploughs and teams too." came surging along behind.
The fire rolled up to the first of the Before they reached the turning a furrows, and halted a moment there, sea of fire came roaring slowly and ir- stretching out tongues of flame towards resistibly towards them across the tin- the withered grass tufts that showed dery grass, while wisps of pungent between, ready to seize upon them as a smoke blew down into Imrie's eyes. bridge to help it across to the wealth The beasts plunged viciously, and he of fuel waiting behind. Sometimes it had to hurry to the leaders' heads, for also passed that bridge, but scorched that was a double team, while he was and panting men stretched out along several times lifted from his feet when the line flung themselves upon it and they strove to rear upright. But he thrashed it down with the soaked bags. restrained them, and was iung down Here and there wind-blown sparks took and trodden on when they reached the hold, and amid hoarse shouting a dozen turning, only to rise again hatless, fresh fires started at once, while in gasping, with blood upon his face, to answer blackened men, whose clothing lead the gang-plough back first along the smouldered in places, poured in and return line. With a cloud of sparks strove to smother the incipient blaze. hurled aloft by the draught it made, They fought the flame with the same the great crimson crescent, roaring bor- dogged endurance that sustained them ribly, was close upon them now, and in their struggle against frost and he could scarcely see the teams behind drought, and for a mad space the battle through the wreaths of smoke. The went on in heat like that of a furnace, horses were nearly frantic, and would and a smother of suffocating vapor. have mastered him, but an English Then a further shout was raised that voice came out of the vapor, “Rather one granary blazed, and Imrie, with his wild, are they not? Let me help you," rival, was first to rush towards the and Imrie was glad to frankly accept sheet of flame. “Not very nice to look his rival's assistance. It needed the at," gasped the latter, who, by this utmost strength of both to hold the time, had been turned into a sorry specbeasts to their work, but they cheered tacle. "Still, if you know how to start on one another, and the treble furrow I'll help you. Best fun, if there wasn't was finished somehow, while, when so much at stake, I've had for many a Imrie slipped the clevis at the end of day.” it, the team bolted incontinently.
The fire was licking the lower side of Then through the thud of hoofs and the huge strawpile and the two stood crackling of the fire, whose fierce heat breathless a moment while Imrie conalready scorched them, Jasper's voice sidered a plan of attack. Then as they rang out, “Let the beasts all go. Guess moved towards it Jasper grasped his they'll find their own way clear of it. shoulder. “Come back, you idiots,” he Handy with the grain bags; there's an. said. “All the men on this prairie other circus just beginning now." couldn't save it now. i'll fell you with
The wet sacks were soaked ready. the shovel before you try it. No use Wyllard and his daughter had seen to burning yourself to death for nothing." that, while, when Constance staggered Recognizing the attempt was hopeless towards him, dripping, under a heavy rather than that it was dangerous,