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Corporal Cameron
A MAN'S JOB


Cameron slept heavily and long into the day, but as he awoke he was conscious of a delightful exhilaration possessing him.  For the first time in his life he was a free man, ungoverned and unguided. For four dreary weeks he had waited in Montreal for answers to his enquiries concerning positions with farmers, but apparently the Canadian farmers were not attracted by the qualifications and experience Cameron had to offer.  At length he had accepted the advice of Martin's uncle in Montreal, who assured him with local pride that, if he desired a position on a farm, the district of which the little city of London was the centre was the very garden of Canada.  He was glad now to remember that he had declined a letter of introduction.  He was now entirely on his own.  Neither in this city nor in the country round about was there a soul with whom he had the remotest acquaintance.  The ways of life led out from his feet, all untried, all unknown.  Which he should choose he knew not, but with a thrill of exultation he thanked his stars the choosing was his own concern.  A feeling of adventure was upon him, a new courage was rising in his heart.  The failure that had hitherto dogged his past essays in life did not dampen his confidence, for they had been made under other auspices than his own.  He had not fitted into his former positions, but they had not been of his own choosing.  He would now find a place for himself and if he failed again he was prepared to accept the responsibility. One bit of philosophy he carried with him from Mr. Denman's farewell interview--"Now, young man, rememer," that gentleman had said after he had bidden him farewell, "this world is pretty much made already; success consists in adjustment.  Don't try to make your world, adjust yourself to it.  Don't fight the world, serve it till you master it."  Cameron determined he would  study adjustments; his fighting tendency, which had brought him little success in the past, he would control.

At this point the throb of a band broke in upon his meditations and summoned him from his bed.  He sprang to the window.  It was circus day and the morning parade, in all its mingled and cosmopolitan glory, was slowly evolving its animated length to the strains of bands of music.  There were bands on horses and bands on chariots, and at the tail of the procession a fearful and wonderful instrument bearing the euphonious and classic name of the "calliope," whose chief function seemed to be that of terrifying the farmers' horses into frantic and determined attempts to escape from these horrid alarms of the city to the peaceful haunts of their rural solitudes.

Cameron was still boy enough to hurry through his morning duties in order that he might mix with the crowd and share the perennial delights which a circus affords.  The stable yard attached to his hotel was lined three deep with buggies, carriages, and lumber waggons, which had borne in the crowds of farmers from the country. The hotel was thronged with sturdy red-faced farm lads, looking hot and uncomfortable in their unaccustomed Sunday suits, gorgeous in their rainbow ties, and rakish with their hats set at all angles upon their elaborately brushed heads.  Older men, too, bearded and staid, moved with silent and self-respecting dignity through the crowds, gazing with quiet and observant eyes upon the shifting phantasmagoria that filled the circus grounds and the streets nearby.  With these, too, there mingled a few of both old and young who, with bacchanalian enthusiasm, were swaggering their way through the crowds, each followed by a company of friends good-naturedly tolerant or solicitously careful.

Cameron's eyes, roving over the multitude, fell upon a little group that held his attention, the principal figure of which was a tall middle aged man with a good-natured face, adorned with a rugged grey chin whisker, who was loudly declaiming to a younger companion with a hard face and very wide awake, "My name's Tom Haley; ye can't come over me."

"Ye bet yer life they can't.  Ye ain't no chicken!" exclaimed his hard-faced friend.  "Say, let's liquor up once more before we go to see the elephant."

With these two followed a boy of some thirteen years, freckled faced and solemn, slim and wiry of body, who was anxiously striving to drag his father away from one of the drinking booths that dotted the circus grounds, and towards the big tent; but the father had been already a too frequent visitor at the booth to be quite amenable to his son's pleading.  He, in a glorious mood of self-appreciation, kept announcing to the public generally and to his hard-faced friend in particular-- "My name's Tom Haley; ye can't come over me!"

"Come on, father," pleaded Tim.

"No hurry, Timmy, me boy," said his father.  "The elephants won't run away with the monkeys and the clowns can't git out of the ring."

"Oh, come on, dad, I'm sure the show's begun."

"Cheese it, young feller," said the young man, "yer dad's able to take care of himself."

"Aw, you shut yer mouth!" replied Tim fiercely.  "I know what you're suckin' round for."

"Good boy, Tim," laughed his father; "ye giv' 'im one that time. Guess we'll go.  So long, Sam, if that's yer name.  Ye see I've jist got ter take in this 'ere show this morning with Tim 'ere, and then we have got some groceries to git for the old woman.  See there," he drew a paper from his pocket, "wouldn't dare show up without 'em, ye bet, eh, Tim!  Why, it's her egg and butter money and she wants value fer it, she does.  Well, so long, Sam, see ye later," and with the triumphant Tim he made for the big tent, leaving a wrathful and disappointed man behind him.

Cameron spent the rest of the day partly in "taking in" the circus and partly in conversing with the farmers who seemed to have taken possession of the town; but in answer to his most diligent and careful enquiries he could hear of no position on a farm for which he could honestly offer himself.  The farmers wanted mowers, or cradlers, or good smart turnip hands, and Cameron sorrowfully had to confess he was none of these.  There apparently was no single bit of work in the farmer's life that Cameron felt himself qualified to perform.

It was wearing towards evening when Cameron once more came across Tim.  He was standing outside the bar room door, big tears silently coursing down his pale and freckled cheeks.

"Hello!" cried Cameron, "what's up old chap?  Where's your dad, and has he got his groceries yet?"

"No," said Tim, hastily wiping away his tears and looking up somewhat shyly and sullenly into Cameron's face.  What he saw there apparently won his confidence.

"He's in yonder," he continued, "and I can't git him out.  They won't let him come.  They're jist making 'im full so he can't do anything, and we ought to be startin' fer home right away, too!"

"Well, let's go in anyway and see what they are doing," said Cameron cheerfully, to whom the pale tear-stained face made strong appeal.

"They won't let us," said Tim.  "There's a feller there that chucks me out."

"Won't, eh?  We'll see about that!  Come along!"

Cameron entered the bar room, with Tim following, and looked about him.  The room was crowded to the door with noisy excited men, many of whom were partially intoxicated.  At the bar, two deep, stood a line of men with glasses in their hands, or waiting to be served. In the farthest corner of the room stood Tim's father, considerably the worse of his day's experiences, and lovingly embracing the hard-faced young man, to whom he was at intervals announcing, "My name's Tom Haley!  Ye can't git over me!"

As Cameron began to push through the crowd, a man with a very red face, obviously on the watch for Tim, cried out--

"Say, sonny, git out of here!  This is no place fer you!"  Tim drew back, but Cameron, turning to him, said, "Come along, Tim.  He's with me," he added, addressing the man. "He wants his father."

"His father's not here.  He left half an hour ago.  I told him so."

"You were evidently mistaken, for I see him just across the room there," said Cameron quietly.

"Oh! is he a friend of yours?" enquired the red-faced man.

"No, I don't know him at all, but Tim does, and Tim wants him," said Cameron, beginning to push his way through the crowd towards the vociferating Haley, who appeared to be on the point of backing up some of his statements with money, for he was flourishing a handful of bills in the face of the young man Sam, who apparently was quite willing to accommodate him with the wager.

Before Cameron could make his way through the swaying, roaring crowd, the red-faced man slipped from his side, and in a very few moments appeared at a side door near Tom Haley's corner.  Almost immediately there was a shuffle and Haley and his friends disappeared through the side door.

"Hello!" cried Cameron, "there's something doing!  We'll just slip around there, my boy."  So saying, he drew Tim back from the crowd and out of the front door, and, hurrying around the house, came upon Sam, the red-faced man, and Haley in a lane leading past the stable yard.  The red-faced man was affectionately urging a bottle upon Haley.

"There they are!" said Tim in an undertone, clutching Cameron's arm.  "You get him away and I'll hitch up."

"All right, Tim," said Cameron, "I'll get him.  They are evidently up to no good."

"What's yer name?" said Tim hurriedly.

"Cameron!"

"Come on, then!" he cried, dragging Cameron at a run towards his father.  "Here, Dad!" he cried, "this is my friend, Mr. Cameron! Come on home.  I'm going to hitch up.  We'll be awful late for the chores and we got them groceries to git.  Come on, Dad!"

"Aw, gwan! yer a cheeky kid anyway," said Sam, giving Tim a shove that nearly sent him on his head.

"Hold on there, my man, you leave the boy alone," said Cameron.

"What's your business in this, young feller?"

"Never mind!" said Cameron.  "Tim is a friend of mine and no one is going to hurt him.  Run along, Tim, and get your horses."

"Friend o' Tim's, eh!" said Haley, in half drunken good nature. "Friend o' Tim's, friend o' mine," he added, gravely shaking Cameron by the hand.  "Have a drink, young man.  You look a' right!"

Cameron took the bottle, put it to his lips.  The liquor burned like fire.

"Great Caesar!" he gasped, contriving to let the bottle drop upon a stone.  "What do you call that?"

"Pretty hot stuff!" cried Haley, with a shout of laughter.

But Sam, unable to see the humour of the situation, exclaimed in a rage, "Here, you cursed fool!  That is my bottle!"

"Sorry to be so clumsy," said Cameron apologetically, "but it surely wasn't anything to drink, was it?"

"Yes, it jest was something to drink, was it?" mocked Sam, approaching Cameron with menace in his eye and attitude.  "I have a blanked good notion to punch your head, too!"

"Oh!  I wouldn't do that if I were you," said Cameron, smiling pleasantly.

"Say, Sam, don't get mad, Sam," interposed Haley.  "This young feller's a friend o' Tim's.  I'll git another bottle a' right. I've got the stuff right here."  He pulled out his roll of bills. "And lots more where this comes from."

"Let me have that, Mr. Haley, I'll get the bottle for you," said Cameron, reaching out for the bills.

"A' right," said Haley.  "Friend o' Tim's, friend o' mine."

"Here, young feller, you're too fresh!" cried the red-faced man, "buttin' in here!  You make tracks, git out!  Come, git out, I tell yeh!"

"Give it to him quick," said Sam in a low voice.

The red-faced man, without the slightest warning, swiftly stepped towards Cameron and, before the latter could defend himself, struck him a heavy blow.  Cameron staggered, fell, and struggled again to his knees.  The red-faced man sprang forward to kick him in the face, when Haley interposed--

"Hold up there, now!  Friend o' Tim's, friend o' mine, ye know!"

"Hurry up," said Sam, closing in on Haley.  "Quit fooling.  Give 'im the billy and let's get away!"

But Haley, though unskilled with his hands, was a man of more than ordinary strength, and he swung his long arms about with such vigour that neither Sam, who was savagely striking at his head, nor the red-faced man, who was dancing about waiting for a chance to get in with the "billy," which he held in his hand, was able to bring the affair to a finish.  It could be a matter of only a few moments, however, for both Sam and his friend were evidently skilled in the arts of the thug, while Haley, though powerful enough, was chiefly occupying himself in beating the air.  A blow from the billy dropped one of Haley's arms helpless.  The red-faced man, following up his advantage, ran in to finish, but Haley gripped him by the wrist and, exerting all his strength, gave a mighty heave and threw him heavily against Sam, who was running in upon the other side.  At the same time Cameron, who was rapidly recovering, clutched Sam by a leg and brought him heavily to earth. Reaching down, Haley gripped Cameron by the collar and hauled him to his feet just as Sam, who had sprung up, ran to the attack. Steadied by Haley, Cameron braced himself, and, at exactly the right moment, stiffened his left arm with the whole weight of his body behind it.  The result was a most unhappy one for Sam, who, expecting no such reception, was lifted clear off his feet and hurled to the ground some distance away.  The exhilaration of his achievement brought Cameron's blood back again to his brain. Swiftly he turned upon the red-faced man just as that worthy had brought Haley to his knees with a cruel blow and was preparing to finish off his victim.  With a shout Cameron sprang at him, the man turned quickly, warded off Cameron's blow, and then, seeing Sam lying helpless upon the ground, turned and fled down the lane.

"Say, young feller!" panted Haley, staggering to his feet, "yeh came in mighty slick that time.  Yeh ain't got a bottle on ye, hev yeh?"

"No!" said Cameron, "but there's a pump near by."

"Jest as good and a little better," said Haley, staggering towards the pump.  "Say," he continued, with a humourous twinkle in his eye, and glancing at the man lying on the ground, "Sam's kinder quiet, ain't he?  Run agin something hard like, I guess."

Cameron filled a bucket with water and into its icy depths Haley plunged his head.

"Ow! that's good," he sputtered, plunging his head in again and again.  "Fill 'er up once more!" he said, wiping off his face with a big red handkerchief.  "Now, I shouldn't wonder if it would help Sam a bit."

He picked up the bucket of water and approached Sam, who meantime had got to a sitting position and was blinking stupidly around.

"Here, ye blamed hog, hev a wash, ye need it bad!"  So saying, Haley flung the whole bucket of water over Sam's head and shoulders.  "Fill 'er up again," he said, but Sam had had enough, and, swearing wildly, gasping and sputtering, he made off down the lane.

"I've heard o' them circus toughs," said Haley in a meditative tone, "but never jest seen 'em before.  Say, young feller, yeh came in mighty handy fer me a' right, and seeing as yer Tim's friend put it there."  He gripped Cameron's hand and shook it heartily. "Here's Tim with the team, and, say, there's no need to mention anything about them fellers.  Tim's real tender hearted.  Well, I'm glad to hev met yeh.  Good-bye!  Living here?"

"No!"

"Travellin', eh?"

"Not exactly," replied Cameron.  "The truth is I'm looking for a position."

"A position?  School teachin', mebbe?"

"No, a position on a farm."

"On a farm?  Ha! ha! good!  Position on a farm," repeated Haley.

"Yes," replied Cameron.  "Do you know of any?"

"Position on a farm!" said Haley again, as if trying to grasp the meaning of this extraordinary quest. "There ain't any."

"No positions?" enquired Cameron.

"Nary one!  Say, young man, where do you come from?"

"Scotland," replied Cameron.

"Scotland! yeh don't say, now.  Jest out, eh?"

"Yes, about a month or so."

"Well, well!  Yeh don't say so!"

"Yes," replied Cameron, "and I am surprised to hear that there is no work."

"Oh! hold on there now!" interposed Haley gravely.  "If it's work you want there are stacks of it lying round, but there ain't no positions.  Positions!" ejaculated Haley, who seemed to be fascinated by the word, "there ain't none on my farm except one and I hold that myself; but there's lots o' work, and--why! I want a man right now.  What say?  Come along, stay's long's yeh like.  I like yeh fine."

"All right," said Cameron.  "Wait till I get my bag, but I ought to tell you I have had no experience."

"No experience, eh!"  Haley pondered.  "Well, we'll give it to you, and anyway you saved me some experience to-day and you come home with me."

When he returned he found Haley sitting on the bottom of the wagon rapidly sinking into slumber.  The effects of the bucket were passing off.

"What about the groceries, Tim?" enquired Cameron.

"We've got to git 'em," said Tim, "or we'll catch it sure."

Leaving Cameron to wonder what it might be that they were sure to catch, Tim extracted from his father's pocket the paper on which were listed the groceries to be purchased, and the roll of bills, and handed both to Cameron.

"You best git 'em," he said, and, mounting to the high spring seat, turned the team out of the yard.  The groceries secured with Cameron's help, they set off for home as the long June evening was darkening into night.

"My! it's awful late," said Tim in a voice full of foreboding. "And Perkins ain't no good at chores."

"How far is it to your home?" enquired Cameron.

"Nine miles out this road and three off to the east."

"And who's Perkins?"

"Perkins!  Joe Perkins!  He's our hired man.  He's a terror to work at plowin', cradlin', and bindin', but he ain't no good at chores. I bet yeh he'll leave Mandy to do the milkin', ten cows, and some's awful bad."

"And who's Mandy?" enquired Cameron.

"Mandy!  She's my sister.  She's an awful quick milker.  She can beat Dad, or Perkins, or any of 'em, but ten cows is a lot, and then there's the pigs and the calves to feed, and the wood, too. I bet Perkins won't cut a stick.  He's good enough in the field," continued Tim, with an obvious desire to do Perkins full justice, "but he ain't no good around the house.  He says he ain't hired to do women's chores, and Ma she won't ask 'im.  She says if he don't do what he sees to be done she'd see 'im far enough before she'd ask 'im."  And so Timothy went on with a monologue replete with information, his high thin voice rising clear above the roar and rattle of the lumber wagon as it rumbled and jolted over the rutty gravel road.  Those who knew the boy would have been amazed at his loquacity, but something in Cameron had won his confidence and opened his heart.  Hence his monologue, in which the qualities, good and bad, of the members of the family, of their own hired man and of other hired men were fully discussed. The standard of excellence for work in the neighbourhood, however, appeared to be Perkins, whose abilities Tim appeared greatly to admire, but for whose person he appeared to have little regard.

"He's mighty good at turnip hoeing, too," he said.  "I could pretty near keep up to him last year and I believe I could do it this year.  Some day soon I'm going to git after 'im.  My!  I'd like to trim 'im to a fine point."

The live stock on the farm in general, and the young colts in particular, among which a certain two-year-old was showing signs of marvellous speed, these and cognate subjects relating to the farm, its dwellers and its activities, Tim passed in review, with his own shrewd comments thereon.

"And what do you play, Tim?" asked Cameron, seeking a point of contact with the boy.

"Nothin'," said Tim shortly.  "No time."

"Don't you go to school?"

"Yes, in fall and winter.  Then we play ball and shinny some, but there ain't much time."

"But you can't work all the time, Tim?  What work can you do?"

"Oh!" replied Tim carelessly, "I run a team."

"Run a team?  What do you mean?"

Tim glanced up at him and, perceiving that he was quite serious, proceeded to explain that during the spring's work he had taken his place in the plowing and harrowing with the "other" men, that he expected to drive the mower and reaper in haying and harvest, that, in short, in almost all kinds of farm work he was ready to take the place of a grown man; and all this without any sign of boasting.

Cameron thought over his own life, in which sport had filled up so large a place and work so little, and in which he had developed so little power of initiative and such meagre self-dependence, and he envied the solemn-faced boy at his side, handling his team and wagon with the skill of a grown man.

"I say, Tim!" he exclaimed in admiration, "you're great.  I wish I could do half as much."

"Oh, pshaw!" exclaimed Tim in modest self-disdain, "that ain't nothin', but I wish I could git off a bit."

"Get off?  What do you mean?"

The boy was silent for some moments, then asked shyly:

"Say!  Is there big cities in Scotland, an' crowds of people, an' trains, an' engines, an' factories, an' things?  My!  I wish I could git away!"

Then Cameron understood dimly something of the wander-lust in the boy's soul, of the hunger for adventure, for the colour and movement of life in the great world "away" from the farm, that thrilled in the boy's voice.  So for the next half hour he told Tim tales of his own life, the chief glory of which had been his achievements in the realm of sport, and, before he was aware, he was describing to the boy the great International with Wales, till, remembering the disastrous finish, he brought his narrative to an abrupt close.

"And did yeh lick 'em?" demanded Tim in a voice of intense excitement.

"No," said Cameron shortly.

"Oh, hedges!  I wisht ye had!" exclaimed Tim in deep disappointment.

"It was my fault," replied Cameron bitterly, for the eager wish in the boy's heart had stirred a similar yearning in his own and had opened an old sore.

"I was a fool," he said, more to himself than to Tim.  "I let myself get out of condition and so I lost them the match."

"Aw, git out!" said Tim, with unbelieving scorn.  "I bet yeh didn't!  My!  I wisht I could see them games"

"Oh, pshaw!  Tim, they are not half so worth while as plowing, harrowing, and running your team.  Why, here you are, a boy of-- how old?"

"Thirteen," said Tim.

"A boy of thirteen able to do a man's work, and here am I, a man of twenty-one, only able to do a boy's work, and not even that.  But I'm going to learn, Tim," added Cameron.  "You hear me, I am going to learn to do a man's work.  If I can," he added doubtfully.

"Oh, shucks!" replied Tim, "you bet yeh can, and I'll show yeh," with which mutual determination they turned in at the gate of the Haley farm, which was to be the scene of Cameron's first attempt to do a man's work and to fill a man's place in the world.


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