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Corporal Cameron
HOW THEY SAVED THE DAY


There never was such a Dominion Day for weather since the first Dominion Day was born.  Of this "Fatty" Freeman was fully assured. Fatty Freeman was a young man for whose opinion older men were accustomed to wait.  His person more than justified his praenomen, for Mr. Harper Freeman, Jr., was undeniably fat.  "Fat, but fine and frisky," was ever his own comment upon the descriptive adjective by which his friends distinguished him.  And fine and frisky he was; fine in his appreciation of good eating, fine in his judgment of good cattle and fine in his estimate of men; frisky, too, and utterly irrepressible.  "Harp's just like a young pup," his own father, the Reverend Harper Freeman, the old Methodist minister of the Maplehill circuit, used to say.  "If Harp had a tail he would never do anything but play with it."  On this, however, it is difficult to hold any well based opinion.  Ebullient in his spirits, he radiated cheeriness wherever he went and was at the bottom of most of the practical jokes that kept the village of Maplehill in a state of ferment; yet if any man thought to turn a sharp corner in business with Mr. Harper Freeman, Jr., he invariably found that frisky individual waiting for him round the corner with a cheery smile of welcome, shrewd and disconcerting.  It was this cheery shrewdness of his that made him the most successful cattle buyer in the county and at the same time secretary of the Middlesex Caledonian Society.  As secretary of this society he was made chiefly responsible for the success of the Dominion Day picnic and, as with everything that he took hold of, Fatty toiled at the business of preparation for this picnic with conscientious zeal, giving to it all his spare hours and many of his working hours for the three months preceding.

It was due solely to his efforts that so many distinguished county magnates appeared eager to lend their patronage.  It needed but a little persuasion to secure the enthusiastic support of the Honourable J. J. Patterson, M.P.P., and, incidentally, the handsome challenge cup for hammer-throwing, for the honourable member of Parliament was a full-blooded Highlander himself and an ardent supporter of "the games."  But only Fatty Freeman's finesse could have extracted from Dr. Kane, the Opposition candidate for Provincial Parliamentary honours, the cup for the hundred yards race, and other cups from other individuals more or less deeply interested in Dominion, Provincial, and Municipal politics.  The prize list secured, it needed only a skillful manipulation of the local press and a judicious but persistent personal correspondence to swell the ranks of the competitors in the various events, and thus ensure a monster attendance of the people from the neighbouring townships and from the city near by.

The weather being assured, Fatty's anxieties were mostly allayed, for he had on the file in his office acceptance letters from the distinguished men who were to cast the spell of their oratory over the assembled multitude, as also from the big men in the athletic world who had entered for the various events in the programme of sports.  It was a master stroke of diplomacy that resulted in the securing for the hammer-throwing contest the redoubtable and famous Duncan Ross of Zorra, who had at first disdained the bait of the Maplehill Dominion Day picnic, but in some mysterious way had at length been hooked and landed.  For Duncan was a notable man and held the championship of the Zorras; and indeed in all Ontario he was second only to the world-famous Rory Maclennan of Glengarry, who had been to Braemar itself and was beaten there only by a fluke.  How he came to agree to be present at the Maplehill picnic "Black Duncan" could not quite understand, but had he compared notes with McGee, the champion of the London police force and of various towns and cities of the western peninsula, he would doubtless have received some enlightenment.  To the skill of the same master hand was due the appearance upon the racing list of the Dominion Day picnic of such distinguished names as Cahill of London, Fullerton of Woodstock, and especially of Eugene La Belle of nowhere in particular, who held the provincial championship for skating and was a runner of provincial fame.

In the racing Fatty was particularly interested because his young brother Wilbur, of whom he was uncommonly proud, a handsome lad, swift and graceful as a deer, was to make his first essay for more than local honours.

The lists for the other events were equally well filled and every detail of the arrangements for the day had passed under the secretary's personal review.  The feeding of the multitude was in charge of the Methodist Ladies' Aid, an energetic and exceptionally businesslike organization, which fully expected to make sufficient profit from the enterprise to clear off the debt from their church at Maplehill, an achievement greatly desired not only by the ladies themselves but by their minister, the Reverend Harper Freeman, now in the third year of his incumbency.  The music was to be furnished by the Band of the Seventh from London and by no less a distinguished personage than Piper Sutherland himself from Zorra, former Pipe Major of "The old Forty-twa."  The discovery of another piper in Cameron brought joy to the secretary's heart, who only regretted that an earlier discovery had not rendered possible a pipe competition.

Early in the afternoon the crowds began to gather to MacBurney's woods, a beautiful maple grove lying midway between the Haleys' farm and Maplehill village, about two miles distant from each.  The grove of noble maple trees overlooking a grassy meadow provided an ideal spot for picnicking, furnishing as it did both shade from the sun and a fine open space with firm footing for the contestants in the games.  High over a noble maple in the centre of the grassy meadow floated the Red Ensign of the Empire, which, with the Canadian coat of arms on the fly, by common usage had become the national flag of Canada.  From the great trees the swings were hung, and under their noble spreading boughs were placed the tables, and the platform for the speech making and the dancing, while at the base of the encircling hills surrounding the grassy meadow, hard by the grove another platform was placed, from which distinguished visitors might view with ease and comfort the contests upon the campus immediately adjacent.

Through the fence, let down for the purpose, the people drove in from the high road.  They came in top buggies and in lumber wagons, in democrats and in "three seated rigs," while from the city came a "four-in-hand" with McGee, Cahill, and their backers, as well as other carriages filled with good citizens of London drawn thither by the promise of a day's sport of more than usual excellence or by the lure of a day in the woods and fields of God's open country.  A specially fine carriage and pair, owned and driven by the honourable member of Parliament himself, conveyed Piper Sutherland, with colours streaming and pipes playing, to the picnic grounds. Warmly was the old piper welcomed, not only by the frisky cheery secretary, but by many old friends, and by none more warmly than by the Reverend Alexander Munro, the douce old bachelor Presbyterian minister of Maplehill, a great lover of the pipes and a special friend of Piper Sutherland.  But the welcome was hardly over when once more the sound of the pipes was heard far up the side line.

"Surely that will be Gunn," said Mr. Munro.

Sutherland listened for a minute or two.

"No, it iss not Gunn.  Iss Ross coming?  No, yon iss not Ross. That will be a stranger," he continued, turning to the secretary, but the secretary remained silent, enjoying the old man's surprise and perplexity.

"Man, that iss not so bad piping!  Not so bad at all!  Who is it?" he added with some impatience, turning upon the secretary again.

"Oh, that's Haley's team and I guess that's his hired man, a young fellow just out from Scotland," replied the secretary indifferently. "I am no great judge of the pipes myself, but he strikes me as a crackajack and I shouldn't be surprised if he would make you all sit up."

But the old piper's ear was closed to his words and open only to the strains of music ever drawing nearer.

"Aye, yon's a piper!" he said at length with emphasis.  "Yon's a piper!"

"I only wish I had discovered him in time for a competition," said Fatty regretfully.

"Aye," said Sutherland.  "Yon's a piper worth playing against."

And very brave and gallant young Cameron looked as Tim swung his team through the fence and up to the platform under the trees where the great ones of the people were standing in groups.  They were all there, Patterson the M.P.P., and Dr. Kane the Opposition candidate, Reeve Robertson, for ten years the Municipal head of his county, Inspector Grant, a little man with a massive head and a luminous eye, Patterson's understudy and generally regarded as his successor in Provincial politics, the Reverend Harper Freeman, Methodist minister, tall and lank, with shrewd kindly face and a twinkling eye, the Reverend Alexander Munro, the Presbyterian minister, solid and sedate, slow to take fire but when kindled a very furnace for heat.  These, with their various wives and daughters, such as had them, and many others less notable but no less important, constituted a sort of informal reception committee under Fatty Freeman's general direction and management.  And here and there and everywhere crowds of young men and maidens, conspicuous among the latter Isa MacKenzie and her special friends, made merry with each other, as brave and gallant a company of sturdy sun-browned youths and bonnie wholesome lassies as any land or age could ever show.

"Look at them!" cried the Reverend Harper Freeman, waving his hand toward the kaleidoscopic gathering.  "There's your Dominion Day oration for you, Mr, Patterson."

"Most of it done in brown, too," chuckled his son, Harper Freeman, Jr.

"Yes, and set in jewels and gold," replied his father.

"You hold over me, Dad!" cried his son.  "Here!" he called to Cameron, who was standing aloof from the others.  "Come and meet a brother Scot and a brother piper, Mr. Sutherland from Zorra, though to your ignorant Scottish ear that means nothing, but to every intelligent Canadian, Zorra stands for all that's finest in brain and brawn in Canada."

"And it takes both to play the pipes, eh, Sutherland?" said the M.P.P.

"Oh aye, but mostly wind," said the piper.

"Just like politics, eh, Mr. Patterson?" said the Reverend Harper Freeman.

"Yes, or like preaching," replied the M.P.P.

"One on you, Dad!" said the irrepressible Fatty.

Meantime Sutherland was warmly complimenting Cameron on his playing.

"You haf been well taught," he said.

"No one taught me," said Cameron.  "But we had a famous old piper at home in our Glen, Macpherson was his name."

"Macpherson!  Did he effer play at the Braemar gathering?"

"Yes, but Maclennan beat him."

"Maclennan!  I haf heard him."  The tone was quite sufficient to classify the unhappy Maclennan.  "And I haf heard Macpherson too. You iss a player.  None of the fal-de-rals of your modern players, but grand and mighty."

"I agree with you entirely," replied Cameron, his heart warming at the praise of his old friend of the Glen Cuagh Oir.  "But," he added, "Maclennan is a great player too."

"A great player?  Yes and no.  He has the fingers and the notes, but he iss not the beeg man.  It iss the soul that breathes through the chanter.  The soul!"  Here he gripped Cameron by the arm. "Man! it iss like praying.  A beeg man will neffer show himself in small things, but when he will be in communion with his Maker or when he will be pouring out his soul in a pibroch then the beegness of the man will be manifest.  Aye," continued the piper, warming to his theme and encouraged by the eager sympathy of his listener, "and not only the beegness but the quality of the soul.  A mean man can play the pipes, but he can neffer be a piper.  It iss only a beeg man and a fine man and, I will venture to say, a good man, and there are not many men can be pipers."

"Aye, Mr. Sutherland," broke in the Reverend Alexander Munro, "what you say is true, but it is true not only of piping.  It is true surely of anything great enough to express the deepest emotions of the soul.  A man is never at his best in anything till he is expressing his noblest self."

"For instance in preaching, eh!" said Dr. Kane.

"Aye, in preaching or in political oratory," replied the minister.

At this, however, the old piper shook his head doubtfully.

"You do not agree with Mr. Munro in that?" said the M.P.P.

"No," replied Sutherland, "speaking iss one thing, piping iss another."

"And that is no lie, and a mighty good thing too it is," said Dr. Kane flippantly.

"It iss no lie," replied the old piper with dignity.  "And if you knew much about either of them you would say it deeferently."

"Why, what is the difference, Mr. Sutherland?" said Dr. Kane, anxious to appease the old man.  "They both are means of expressing the emotions of the soul, you say."

"The deeference!  The deeferenee iss it?  The deeference iss here, that the pipes will neffer lie."

There was a shout of laughter.

"One for you, Kane!" cried the Reverend Harper Freeman.  "And," he continued when the laughing had ceased, "we will have to take our share too, Mr. Munro."

But the hour for beginning the programme had arrived and the secretary climbed to the platform to announce the events for the day.

"Ladies and gentlemen!" he cried, in a high, clear, penetrating voice, "the speech of welcome will be delivered toward the close of the day by the president of the Middlesex Caledonian Society, the Honourable J. J. Patterson, M.P.P.  My duty is the very simple one of announcing the order of events on the programme and of expressing on behalf of the Middlesex Caledonian Society the earnest hope that you all may enjoy the day, and that each event on the programme will prove more interesting than the last.  The programme is long and varied and I must ask your assistance to put it through on schedule time.  First there are the athletic competitions.  I shall endeavour to assist Dr. Kane and the judges in running these through without unnecessary and annoying delays. Then will follow piping, dancing, and feasting in their proper order, after which will come the presentation of prizes and speeches from our distinguished visitors. On the platform over yonder there are places for the speakers, the officials, and the guests of the society, but such is the very excellent character of the ground that all can be accommodated with grand stand seats. One disappointment, and one only, I must announce, the Band of the Seventh, London, cannot be with us to-day."

"But we will never miss them," interpolated the Reverend Alexander Munro with solemn emphasis.

"Exactly so!" continued Fatty when the laugh had subsided.  "And now let's all go in for a good old time picnic, 'where even the farmers cease from grumbling and the preachers take a rest.'  Now take your places, ladies and gentlemen, for the grand parade is about to begin."

The programme opened with the one hundred yard flat race.  For this race there were four entries, Cahill from London, Fullerton from Woodstock, La Belle from nowhere in particular, and Wilbur Freeman from Maplehill.  But Wilbur was nowhere to be seen.  The secretary came breathless to the platform.

"Where's Wilbur?" he asked his father.

"Wilbur?  Surely he is in the crowd, or in the tent perhaps."

At the tent the secretary found his brother nursing a twisted ankle, heart-sick with disappointment.  Early in the day he had injured his foot in an attempt to fasten a swing upon a tree.  Every minute since that time he had spent in rubbing and manipulating the injured member, but all to no purpose.  While the pain was not great, a race was out of the question.  The secretary was greatly disturbed and as nearly wrathful as ever he allowed himself to become.  He was set on his brother making a good showing in this race; moreover, without Wilbur there would be no competitor to uphold the honour of Maplehill in this contest and this would deprive it of much of its interest.

"What the dickens were you climbing trees for?" he began impatiently, but a glance at his young brother's pale and woe-stricken face changed his wrath to pity.  "Never mind, old chap," he said, "better luck next time, and you will be fitter too."

Back he ran to the platform, for he must report the dismal news to his mother, whose chief interest in the programme for the day lay in this race in which her latest born was to win his spurs.  The cheery secretary was nearly desperate.  It was an ominous beginning for the day's sports.  What should he do?  He confided his woe to Mack and Cameron, who were standing close by the platform.

"It will play the very mischief with the programme.  It will spoil the whole day, for Wilbur was the sole Maplehill representative in the three races; besides, I believe the youngster would have shown up well."

"He would that!" cried Mack heartily.  "He was a bird.  But is there no one else from the Hill that could enter?"

"No, no one with a chance of winning, and no fellow likes to go in simply to be beaten."

"What difference?" said Cameron.  "It's all in a day's sport."

"That's so," said Mack.  "If I could run myself I would enter.  I wonder if Danny would--"

"Danny!" said the secretary shortly.  "You know better than that. Danny's too shy to appear before this crowd even if he were dead sure of winning."

"Say, it is too bad!" continued Mack, as the magnitude of the calamity grew upon him.  "Surely we can find some one to make an appearance.  What about yourself, Cameron?  Did you ever race?"

"Some," said Cameron.  "I raced last year at the Athole Games."

Fatty threw himself upon him.

"Cameron, you are my man!  Do you want to save your country, and perhaps my life, certainly my reputation?  Get out of those frills," touching his kilt, "and I'll get a suit from one of the jumpers for you.  Go!  Bless your soul, anything you want that's mine you can have!  Only hustle for dear life's sake!  Go! Go! Go! Take him away, Mack.  We'll get something else on!"

Fatty actually pushed Cameron clear away from the platform and after him big Mack.

"There seems to be no help for it," said Cameron, as they went to the tent together.

"It's awful good of you," replied Mack, "but you can see how hard Fatty takes it, though it is not a bit fair to you."

"Oh, nobody knows me here," said Cameron, "and I don't mind being a victim."

But as Mack saw him get into his jersey and shorts he began to wonder a bit.

"Man, it would be great if you should beat yon Frenchman!" he exclaimed.

"Frenchman?"

"Yes!  La Belle.  He is that stuck on himself; he thinks he is a winner before he starts."

"It's a good way to think, Mack.  Now let us get down into the woods and have a bit of a practise in the 'get away.'  How do they start here?  With a pistol?"

"No," replied Mack.  "We are not so swell.  The starter gives the word this way, 'All set?  Go!'"

"All right, Mack, you give me the word sharp.  I am out of practise and I must get the idea into my head."

"You are great on the idea, I see," replied Mack.

"Right you are, and it is just the same with the hammer, Mack."

"Aye, I have found that out."

For twenty minutes or so Cameron practised his start and at every attempt Mack's confidence grew, so that when he brought his man back to the platform he announced to a group of the girls standing near, "Don't say anything, but I have the winner right here for you."

"Why, Mr. Cameron," cried Isa, "what a wonder you are!  What else can you do?  You are a piper, a dancer, a hammer-thrower, and now a runner."

"Jack-of-all-trades," laughed Perkins, who, with Mandy, was standing near.

"Yes, but you can't say 'Master of none,'" replied Isa sharply.

"Better wait," said Cameron.  "I have entered this race only to save Mr. Freeman from collapse."

"Collapse?  Fatty?  He couldn't," said Isa with emphasis.

"Lass, I do not know," said Mack gravely.  "He looked more hollow than ever I have seen him before."

"Well, we'll all cheer for you, Mr. Cameron, anyway," cried Isa. "Won't we, girls?  Oh, if wishes were wings!"

"Wings?" said Mandy, with a puzzled air.  "What for?  This is a RACE."

"Didn't you never see a hen run, Mandy?" laughed Perkins.

"Yes, I have, but I tell you Mr. Cameron ain't no hen," replied Mandy angrily.  "And more!  He's going to win."

"Say, Mandy, that is the talk," said Mack, when the laugh had passed.  "Did you hear yon?" he added to Cameron.

Cameron nodded.

"It is a good omen," he said.  "I am going to do my best."

"And, by Jingo! if you only had a chance," said Mack, "I believe you would lick them all."

At this Fatty bustled up.

"All ready, eh?  Cameron, I shall owe you something for this.  La Belle kicked like a steer against your entering at the last minute. It is against the rules, you know.  But he's given in."

Fatty did not explain that he had intimated to La Belle that there was no need for anxiety as far as the "chap from the old country" was concerned; he was there merely to fill up.

But if La Belle's fears were allayed by the secretary's disparaging description of the latest competitor, they sprang full grown into life again when he saw Cameron "all set" for the start, and more especially so when he heard his protest against the Frenchman's method in the "get away."

"I want you to notice," he said firmly to Dr. Kane, who was acting as starter, "that this man gets away WITH the word 'Go' and not AFTER it.  It is an old trick, but long ago played out."

Then the Frenchman fell into a rage.

"Eet ees no treeck!" sputtered La Belle.  "Eet ees too queeck for him."

"All right!" said Dr. Kane.  "You are to start after the word 'Go.' Remember!  Sorry we have no pistol."

Once more the competitors crouched over the scratch.

"All set?  Go!"

Like the releasing of a whirlwind the four runners spring from the scratch, La Belle, whose specialty is his "get away," in front, Fullerton and Cameron in second place, Cahill a close third.  A blanket would cover them all.  A tumult of cheers from the friends of the various runners follows them along their brief course.

"Who is it?  Who is it?" cries Mandy breathlessly, clutching Mack by the arm.

"Cameron, I swear!" roars Mack, pushing his way through the crowd to the judges.

"No!  No!  La Belle!  La Belle!" cried the Frenchman's backers from the city.  The judges are apparently in dispute.

"I swear it is Cameron!" roars Mack again in their ears, his eyes aflame and his face alight with a fierce and triumphant joy.  "It is Cameron I am telling you!"

"Oh, get out, you big bluffer!" cries a thin-faced man, pressing close upon the judges.  "It is La Belle by a mile!"

"By a mile, is it?" shouts Mack.  "Then go and hunt your man!" and with a swift motion his big hand falls upon the thin face and sweeps it clear out of view, the man bearing it coming to his feet in a white fury some paces away.  A second look at Mack, however, calms his rage, and from a distance he continues leaping and yelling "La Belle!  La Belle!"

After a few moments' consultation the result is announced.

"A tie for the first place between La Belle and Cameron!  Time eleven seconds!  The tie will be run off in a few minutes."

In a tumult of triumph big Mack shoulders Cameron through the crowd and carries him off to the dressing tent, where he spends the next ten minutes rubbing his man's legs and chanting his glory.

"Who is this Cameron?" enquired the M.P.P., leaning over the platform railing.

Quick came the answer from the bevy of girls thronging past the platform.

"Cameron?  He's our man!"  It was Mandy's voice, bold and strong.

"Your man?" said the M.P.P., laughing down into the coarse flushed face.

"Yes, OUR man!" cried Isa MacKenzie back at him.  "And a winner, you may be sure."

"Ah, happy man!" exclaimed the M.P.P.  "Who would not win with such backers?  Why, I would win myself, Miss Isa, were you to back me so.  But who is Cameron?" he continued to the Methodist minister at his side.

"He is Haley's hired man, I believe, and that first girl is Haley's daughter."

"Poor thing!" echoed Mrs. Freeman, a kindly smile on her motherly face.  "But she has a good heart has poor Mandy."

"But why 'poor'?" enquired the M.P.P.

"Oh, well," answered Mrs. Freeman with hesitation, "you see she is so very plain--and--well, not like other girls.  But she is a good worker and has a kind heart."

Once more the runners face the starter, La Belle gay, alert, confident; Cameron silent, pale, and grim.

"All set?  Go!"  La Belle is away ere the word is spoken.  The bell, however, brings him back, wrathful and less confident.

Once more they stand crouching over the scratch.  Once more the word releases them like shafts from the bow.  A beautiful start, La Belle again in the lead, but Cameron hard at his heels and evidently with something to spare.  Thus for fifty yards, sixty, yes, sixty-five.

"La Belle!  La Belle!  He wins!  He wins!" yell his backers frantically, the thin-faced man dancing madly near the finishing tape.  Twenty yards to go and still La Belle is in the lead.  High above the shouting rises Mack's roar.

"Now, Cameron!  For the life of you!"

It was as if his voice had touched a spring somewhere in Cameron's anatomy.  A great leap brings him even with La Belle.  Another, another, and still another, and he breasts the tape a winner by a yard, time ten and three fifths seconds.  The Maplehill folk go mad, and madder than all Isa and her company of girl friends.

"I got--one--bad--start--me!  He--pull--me back!" panted La Belle to his backers who were holding him up.

"Who pulled you back?" indignantly cried the thin-faced man, looking for blood.

"That sacre startair!"

"You ran a fine race, La Belle!" said Cameron, coming up.

"Non!  Peste!  I mak heem in ten and one feeft," replied the disgusted La Belle.

"I have made it in ten," said Cameron quietly.

"Aha!" exclaimed La Belle.  "You are one black horse, eh?  So!  I race no more to-day!"

"Then no more do I!" said Cameron firmly.  "Why, La Belle, you will beat me in the next race sure.  I have no wind."

Under pressure La Belle changed his mind, and well for him he did; for in the two hundred and twenty yards and in the quarter mile Cameron's lack of condition told against him, so that in the one he ran second to La Belle and in the other third to La Belle and Fullerton.

The Maplehill folk were gloriously satisfied, and Fatty in an ecstasy of delight radiated good cheer everywhere.  Throughout the various contests the interest continued to deepen, the secretary, with able generalship, reserving the hammer-throwing as the most thrilling event to the last place.  For, more than anything in the world, men, and especially women, love strong men and love to see them in conflict.  For that fatal love cruel wars have been waged, lands have been desolated, kingdoms have fallen.  There was the promise of a very pretty fight indeed between the three entered for the hammer-throwing contest, two of them experienced in this warfare and bearing high honours, the third new to the game and unskilled, but loved for his modest courage and for the simple, gentle heart he carried in his great body.  He could not win, of course, for McGee, the champion of the city police force, had many scalps at his girdle, and Duncan Ross, "Black Duncan," the pride of the Zorras, the unconquered hero of something less than a hundred fights--who could hope to win from him?  But all the more for this the people loved big Mack and wished him well.  So down the sloping sides of the encircling hills the crowds pressed thick, and on the platform the great men leaned over the rail, while they lifted their ladies to places of vantage upon the chairs beside them.

"Oh, I cannot see a bit!" cried Isa MacKenzie, vainly pressing upon the crowding men who, stolidly unaware of all but what was doing in front of them, effectually shut off her view.

"And you want to see?" said the M.P.P., looking down at her.

"Oh, so much!" she cried.

"Come up here, then!" and, giving her a hand, he lifted her, smiling and blushing, to a place on the platform whence she with absorbing interest followed the movements of big Mack, and incidentally of the others in as far as they might bear any relation to those of her hero.

And now they were drawing for place.

"Aha!  Mack is going to throw first!" said the Reverend Alexander Munro.  "That is a pity."

"It's a shame!" cried Isa, with flashing eyes.  "Why don't they put one of those older--ah--?"

"Stagers?" suggested the M.P.P.

"Duffers," concluded Isa.

"The lot determines the place, Miss Isa," said Mr. Freeman, with a smile at her.  "But the best man will win."

"Oh, I am not so sure of that!" cried the girl in a distressed voice.  "Mack might get nervous."

"Nervous?" laughed the M.P.P.  "That giant?"

"Yes, indeed, I have seen him that nervous--" said Isa, and stopped abruptly.

"Ah!  That is quite possible," replied the M.P.P. with a quizzical smile.

"And there is young Cameron yonder.  He is not going to throw, is he?" enquired Mr. Munro.

"He is coaching Mack," explained Isa, "and fine he is at it.  Oh, there!  He is going to throw!  Oh, if he only gets the swing!  Oh! Oh! Oh!  He has got it fine!"

A storm of cheers followed Mack's throw, then a deep silence while the judges took the measurement.

"One hundred and twenty-one feet!"

"One hundred and twenty-one!" echoed a hundred voices in amazement.

"One hundred and twenty-one!  It is a lie!" cried McGee with an oath, striding out to personally supervise the measuring.

"One hundred and twenty-one!" said Duncan Ross, shaking his head doubtfully, but he was too much of a gentleman to do other than wait for the judges' decision.

"One hundred and twenty-one feet and two inches," was the final verdict, and from the crowd there rose a roar that rolled like thunder around the hills.

"It's a fluke, and so it is!" said McGee with another oath.

"Give me your hand, lad," said Duncan Ross, evidently much roused. "It iss a noble throw whateffer, and worthy of beeg Rory himself. I haf done better, howeffer, but indeed I may not to-day."

It was indeed a great throw, and one immediate result was that there was no holding back in the contest, no playing 'possum. Mack's throw was there to be beaten, and neither McGee nor even Black Duncan could afford to throw away a single chance.  For hammer-throwing is an art requiring not only strength but skill as well, and not only strength and skill but something else most difficult to secure.  With the strength and the skill there must go a rhythmic and perfect coordination of all the muscles in the body, with exactly the proper contracting and relaxing of each at exactly the proper moment of time, and this perfect coordination is a result rarely achieved even by the greatest throwers, but when achieved, and with the man's full strength behind it, his record throw is the result.

Meantime Cameron was hovering about his man in an ecstasy of delight.

"Oh, Mack, old man!" he said.  "You got the swing perfectly.  It was a dream.  And if you had put your full strength into it you would have made a world record.  Why, man, you could add ten feet to it!"

"It is a fluke!" said McGee again, as he took his place.

"Make one like it, then, my lad," said Black Duncan with a grim smile.

But this McGee failed to do, for his throw measured ninety-seven feet.

"A very fair throw, McGee," said Black Duncan.  "But not your best, and nothing but the best will do the day appearingly."

With that Black Duncan took place for his throw.  One--twice--thrice he swung the great hammer about his head, then sent it whirling into the air.  Again a mighty shout announced a great throw and again a dead silence waited for the measurement.

"One hundred and fourteen feet!"

"Aha!" said Black Duncan, and stepped back apparently well satisfied.

It was again Mack's turn.

"You have the privilege of allowing your first throw to stand," said Dr. Kane.

"Best let it stand, lad, till it iss beat," advised Black Duncan kindly.  "It iss a noble throw."

"He can do better, though," said Cameron.

"Very well, very well!" said Duncan.  "Let him try."

But Mack's success had keyed him up to the highest pitch.  Every nerve was tingling, every muscle taut.  His first throw he had taken without strain, being mainly anxious, under Cameron's coaching, to get the swing, but under the excitement incident to the contest he had put more strength into the throw than appeared either to himself or to his coach.  Now, however, with nerves and muscles taut, he was eager to increase his distance, too eager it seemed, for his second throw measured only eighty-nine feet.

A silence fell upon his friends and Cameron began to chide him.

"You went right back to your old style, Mack.  There wasn't the sign of a swing."

"I will get it yet, or bust!" said big Mack between his teeth.

McGee's second throw went one hundred and seventeen feet.  A cheer arose from his backers, for it was a great throw and within five feet of his record.  Undoubtedly McGee was in great form and he might well be expected to measure up to his best to-day.

Black Duncan's second throw measured one hundred and nineteen feet seven, which was fifteen feet short of his record and showed him to be climbing steadily upward.

Once more the turn came to Mack, and once more, with almost savage eagerness, he seized the hammer preparatory to his throw.

"Now, Mack, for heaven's sake go easy!" said Cameron.  "Take your swing easy and slow."

But Mack heeded him not.  "I can beat it!" he muttered between his shut teeth, "and I will."  So, with every nerve taut and every muscle strained to its limit, he made his third attempt.  It was in vain.  The measure showed ninety-seven feet six.  A suppressed groan rose from the Maplehill folk.

"A grand throw, lad, for a beginner," said Black Duncan.

The excitement now became intense.  By his first throw of one hundred and twenty-one feet two, Mack remained still the winner. But McGee had only four feet to gain and Black Duncan less than two to equal him.  The little secretary went skipping about aglow with satisfaction and delight.  The day was already famous in the history of Canadian athletics.

Again McGee took place for his throw, his third and last.  The crowd gathered in as near as they dared. But McGee had done his best for that day, and his final throw measured only one hundred and five feet.

There remained yet but a single chance to wrest from Mack Murray the prize for that day, but that chance lay in the hands of Duncan Ross, the cool and experienced champion of many a hard-fought fight.  Again Black Duncan took the hammer.  It was his last throw. He had still fifteen feet to go to reach his own record, and he had often beaten the throw that challenged him to-day, but, on the other hand, he had passed through many a contest where his throw had fallen short of the one he must now beat to win.  A hush fell upon the people as Black Duncan took his place.  Once--twice--and, with ever increasing speed, thrice he swung the great hammer, then high and far it hurtled through the air.

"Jerusalem!" cried Mack.  "What a fling!"

"Too high," muttered Black Duncan.  "You have got it, lad, you have got it, and you well deserve it."

"Tut-tut, nonsense!" said Mack impatiently.  "Wait you a minute."

Silent and expectant the crowd awaited the result.  Twice over the judges measured the throw, then announced "One hundred and twenty-one feet."  Mack had won by two inches.

A great roar rose from the crowd, round Mack they surged like a flood, eager to grip his hands and eager to carry him off shoulder high.  But he threw them off as a rock throws back the incoming tide and made for Duncan Ross, who stood, calm and pale, and with hand outstretched, waiting him.  It was a new experience for Black Duncan, and a bitter, to be second in a contest.  Only once in many years had he been forced to lower his colours, and to be beaten by a raw and unknown youth added to the humiliation of his defeat. But Duncan Ross had in his veins the blood of a long line of Highland gentlemen who knew how to take defeat with a smile.

"I congratulate you, Mack Murray," he said in a firm, clear voice. "Your fame will be through Canada tomorrow, and well you deserve it."

But Mack caught the outstretched hand in both of his and, leaning toward Black Duncan, he roared at him above the din.

"Mr. Ross, Mr. Ross, it is no win!  Listen to me!" he panted. "What are two inches in a hundred and twenty feet?  A stretching of the tape will do it.  No, no!  Listen to me!  You must listen to me as you are a man!  I will not have it!  You can beat me easily in the throw!  At best it is a tie and nothing else will I have to-day.  At least let us throw again!" he pleaded.  But to this Ross would not listen for a moment.

"The lad has made his win," he said to the judges, "and his win he must have."

But Mack declared that nothing under heaven would make him change his mind.  Finally the judges, too, agreed that in view of the possibility of a mistake in measuring with the tape, it would be only right and fair to count the result a tie.  Black Duncan listened respectfully to the judges' decision.

"You are asking me a good deal, Mack," he said at length, "but you are a gallant lad and I am an older man and--"

"Aye!  And a better!" shouted Mack.

"And so I will agree."

Once more the field was cleared.  And now there fell upon the crowding people a hush as if they stood in the presence of death itself.

"Ladies and gentlemen!" said the M.P.P.  "Do you realise that you are looking upon a truly great contest, a contest great enough to be of national, yes, of international, importance?"

"You bet your sweet life!" cried the irrepressible Fatty.  "We're going some.  'What's the matter with our Mack?'" he shouted.

"'HE'S--ALL--RIGHT!'" came back the chant from the surrounding hills in hundreds of voices.

"And what's the matter with Duncan Ross?" cried Mack, waving a hand above his head.

Again the assurance of perfect rightness came back in a mighty roar from the hills.  But it was hushed into immediate silence, a silence breathless and overwhelming, for Black Duncan had taken once more his place with the hammer in his hand.

"Oh, I do wish they would hurry!" gasped Isa, her hands pressed hard upon her heart.

"My heart is rather weak, too," said the M.P.P.  "I fear I cannot last much longer.  Ah!  There he goes, thank God!"

"Amen!" fervently responds little Mrs. Freeman, who, in the intensity of her excitement, is standing on a chair holding tight by her husband's coat collar.

Not a sound breaks the silence as Black Duncan takes his swing. It is a crucial moment in his career.  Only by one man in Canada has he ever been beaten, and with the powers of his antagonist all untried and unknown, for anyone could see that Mack has not yet thrown his best, he may be called upon to surrender within the next few minutes the proud position he has held so long in the athletic world.  But there is not a sign of excitement in his face.  With great care, and with almost painful deliberation, he balances the hammer for a moment or two, then once--twice--and, with a tremendous quickening of speed,--thrice--he swings, and his throw is made.  A great throw it is, anyone can see, and one that beats the winner. In hushed and strained silence the people await the result.

"One hundred and twenty-one feet nine."

Then rises the roar that has been held pent up during the last few nerve-racking minutes.

"It iss a good enough throw," said Black Duncan with a quiet smile, "but there iss more in me yet.  Now, lad, do your best and there will be no hard feeling with thiss man whateffer happens."

Black Duncan's accent and idioms reveal the intense excitement that lies behind his quiet face.

Mack takes the hammer.

"I will not beat it, you may be sure," he says.  "But I will just take a fling at it anyway."

"Now, Mack," says Cameron, "for the sake of all you love forget the distance and show them the Braemar swing.  Easy and slow."

But Mack waves him aside and stands pondering.  He is "getting the idea."

"Man, do you see him?" whispers his brother Danny, who stands near to Cameron.  "I believe he has got it."

Cameron nods his head.  Mack wears an impressive air of confidence and strength.

"It will be a great throw," says Cameron to Danny.

"Easy and slow" Mack poises the great hammer in his hand, swinging it gently backward and forward as if it had been a boy's toy, the great muscles in arms and back rippling up and down in firm full waves under his white skin, for he is now stripped to the waist for this throw.

Suddenly, as if at command, the muscles seem to spring to their places, tense, alert.  "Easy."  Yes, truly, but by no means "slow." "Easy," the great hammer swings about his head in whirling circles, swift and ever swifter.  Once--and twice--the great muscles in back and arms and back and legs knotted in bunches--thrice!

"Ah-h-h!"  A long, wailing, horrible sound, half moan, half cry, breaks from the people.  Mack has missed his direction, and the great hammer, weighted with the potentialities of death, is describing a parabola high over the heads of the crowding, shrieking, scattering people.

"Oh, my God!  My God!  Oh, my God!  My God!"  With his hands covering his eyes the big man is swaying from side to side like a mighty tree before a tempest.  Cameron and Ross both spring to him. On the hillsides men stand rigid, pale, shaking; women shriek and faint.  One ghastly moment of suspense, and then a horrid sickening thud; one more agonising second of silence, and then from a score of throats rises a cry:

"It's all right!  All right!  No one hurt!"

From five hundred throats breaks a weird unearthly mingling of strange sounds; cheers and cries, shouts and sobs, prayers and oaths.  In the midst of it all Mack sinks to his knees, with hands outstretched to heaven.

"Great God, I thank Thee!  I thank Thee!" he cries brokenly, the tears streaming down his ghastly face.  Then, falling forward upon his hands, he steadies himself while great sobs come heaving from his mighty chest.  Cameron and Ross, still upholding him, through the crowd a man comes pushing his way, hurling men and women right and left.

"Back, people!  And be still."  It is the minister, Alexander Munro.  "Be still!  It is a great deliverance that God has wrought! Peace, woman!  God is near!  Let us pray."

Instantly all noises are hushed, hats come off, and all up the sloping hills men and women fall to their knees, or remain standing with heads bowed, while the minister, upright beside the kneeling man, spreads his hands towards heaven and prays in a voice steady, strong, thrilling:

"Almighty God, great and wonderful in Thy ways, merciful and gracious in Thy providence, Thou hast wrought a great deliverance before our eyes this day.  All power is in Thy hands.  All forces move at Thy command.  Thine hand it is that guided this dread hammer harmless to its own place, saving the people from death. It is ever thus, Father, for Thou art Love.  We lift to Thee our hearts' praise.  May we walk softly before Thee this day and alway. Amen!"

"Amen!  Amen!"  On every hand and up the hillsides rises the fervent solemn attestation.

"Rise, Mr. Murray!" says the minister in a loud and solemn voice, giving Mack his hand.  "God has been gracious to you this day.  See that you do not forget."

"He has that!  He has that!" sobs Mack.  "And God forgive me if I ever forget."  And, suddenly pushing from him the many hands stretched out towards him, he stumbles his way through the crowd, led off by his two friends towards the tent.

"Hold on there a minute!  Let us get this measurement first."  It was the matter-of-fact, cheery voice of Fatty Freeman.  "If I am not mistaken we have a great throw to measure."

"Quite right, Mr. Freeman," said the minister.  "Let us get the measurement and let not the day be spoiled."

"Here, you people, don't stand there gawking like a lot of dotty chumps!" cried the secretary, striving to whip them out of the mood of horror into which they had fallen.  "Get a move on!  Give the judges a chance!  What is it, doctor?"

The judges were consulting.  At length the decision was announced.

"One hundred and twenty-nine seven."

"Hooray!" yelled Fatty, flinging his straw hat high.  "One hundred and twenty-nine seven!  It is a world throw!  Why don't you yell, you people?  Don't you know that you have a world-beater among you? Yell!  Yell!"

"Three cheers for Mack Murray!" called out the Reverend Harper Freeman from the platform, swinging his great black beaver hat over his head.

It was what the people wanted.  Again, and again, and yet again the crowd exhausted its pent-up emotions in frantic cheers.  The clouds of gloom were rolled back, the sun was shining bright again, and
with fresh zest the people turned to the enjoyment of the rest of the programme.

"Thank you, Sir!" said Fatty amid the uproar, gripping the hand of Mr. Munro.  "You have saved the day for us.  We were all going to smash, but you pulled us out."

Meantime in the tent Duncan Ross was discoursing to his friends.

"Man, Mack!  Yon's a mighty throw!  Do you know it iss within five feet of my own record and within ten of Big Rory's?  Then," he said solemnly, "you are in the world's first class to-day, my boy, and you are just beginning."

"I have just quit!" said Mack.

"Whist, lad!  Thiss iss not the day for saying anything about it. We will wait a wee and to-day we will just be thankful."  And with that they turned to other things.

They were still in the dressing tent when the secretary thrust his cheery face under the flap.

"I say, boys!  Are you ready?  Cameron, we want you on the pipes."

"Harp!" said Mack.  "I am going home.  I am quite useless."

"And me, too," said Cameron.  "I shall go with you, Mack."

"What?" cried Fatty in consternation.  "Look here, boys!  Is this a square deal?  God knows I am nearly all in myself.  I've had enough to keep this thing from going to pieces.  Don't you go back on me now!"

"That is so!" said Mack slowly.  "Cameron, you must stay.  You are needed.  I will spoil things more by staying than by going.  I would be forever seeing that hammer crushing down--"  He covered his face with his hands and shuddered.

"All right, Mack!  I will stay," said Cameron.  "But what about you?"

"Oh," said Black Duncan, "Mack and I will walk about and have a smoke for a little."

"Thanks, boys, you are the stuff!" said Fatty fervently.  "Once more you have saved the day.  Come then, Cameron!  Get your pipes. Old Sutherland is waiting for you."

But before he set off Mack called Cameron to him.

"You will see Isa," he said, "and tell her why I could not stay. And you will take her home."  His face was still pallid, his voice unsteady.

"I will take care of her, Mack, never fear.  But could you not remain?  It might help you."

But Mack only shook his head.  His fervent Highland soul had too recently passed through the valley of death and its shadows were still upon him.

Four hours later Fatty looked in upon Mack at his own home.  He found him sitting in the moonlight in the open door of the big new barn, with his new-made friend, Duncan Ross, at one door post and old Piper Sutherland at the other, while up and down the floor in the shadow within Cameron marched, droning the wild melody of the "Maccrimmon Lament."  Mournful and weird it sounded through the gloom, but upon the hearts of these Highlanders it fell like a soothing balm.  With a wave of his hand Mack indicated a seat, which Fatty took without a word.  Irrepressible though he was, he had all the instincts of a true gentleman.  He knew it was the time for silence, and silent he stood till the Lament had run through its "doubling" and its "trebling," ending with the simple stately movement of its original theme.  To Fatty it was a mere mad and unmelodious noise, but, reading the faces of the three men before him in the moonlight, he had sense enough to recognise his own limitations.

At length the Lament was finished and Cameron came forward into the light.

"Ah!  That iss good for the soul," said old piper Sutherland.  "Do you know what your pipes have been saying to me in yon Lament?

     'Yea, though I walk through Death's dark vale,
          Yet will I fear none ill;
      For Thou art with me, and Thy rod
          And staff me comfort still.'

And we have been in the valley thiss day."

Mack rose to his feet.

"I could not have said it myself, but, as true as death, that is the word for me."

"Well," said Fatty, rising briskly, "I guess you are all right, Mack.  I confess I was a bit anxious about you, but--"

"There is no need," said Mack gravely.  "I can sleep now."

"Good-night, then," replied Fatty, turning to go.  "Cameron, I owe you a whole lot.  I won't forget it."  He set his hat upon the back of his head, sticking his hands into his pockets and surveying the group before him.  "Say!  You Highlanders are a great bunch.  I do not pretend to understand you, but I want to say that between you you have saved the day."  And with that the cheery, frisky, irrepressible, but kindly little man faded into the moonlight and was gone.

For the fourth time the day had been saved.


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