Up in the stony
pasture-field behind the barn the boys had been
working all the long afternoon. Nearly all, that is, for, being
boys, they had managed to mix a good deal of fun with their
labor. But now they were tired of both work and play, and
wondered audibly, many times over, why they were not yet called
home to supper.
work really belonged to the Mackay boys, but, like Tom
Sawyer, they had made it so attractive that several volunteers
had come to their aid. Their father was putting up a new stone
house, near the old one down there behind the orchard, and the
two youngest of the family had been put at the task of breaking
the largest stones in the field.
It meant only to drag some underbrush and
wood from the forest
skirting the farm, pile them on the stones, set fire to them, and
let the heat do the rest. It had been grand sport at first, they
all voted, better than playing shinny, and almost as good as
going fishing. In fact it was a kind of free picnic, where one
could play at Indians all day long. But as the day wore on, the
picnic idea had languished, and the stone-breaking grew more and
more to resemble hard work.
The warm spring sunset had begun to color
the western sky; the
meadow-larks had gone to bed, and the stone-breakers were tired
and ravenously hungry--as hungry as only wolves or country boys
can be. The visitors suggested that they ought to be going home.
"Hold on, Danny, just till this one breaks," said the older
Mackay boy, as he set a burning stick to a new pile of brush.
"This'll be a dandy, and it's the last, too.
They're sure to call
us to supper before we've time to do another."
The new fire, roaring and snapping, sending
up showers of sparks
and filling the air with the sweet odor of burning cedar, proved
too alluring to be left. The company squatted on the ground
before it, hugging their knees and watching the blue column of
smoke go straight up into the colored sky. It suggested a
camp-fire in war times, and each boy began to tell what great and
daring deeds he intended to perform when he became a man.
Jimmy, one of the visitors, who had been
most enthusiastic over
the picnic side of the day's work, announced that he was going to
be a sailor. He would command a fleet on the high seas, so he
would, and capture pirates, and grow fabulously wealthy on
prize-money. Danny, who was also a guest, declared his purpose
one day to lead a band of rough riders to the Western plains,
where he would kill Indians, and escape fearful deaths by the
"Mebbe I'm going to be Premier of Canada,
some day," said one
youngster, poking his bare toes as near as he dared to the
hoots of derision. This was entirely too tame to be
even considered as a career.
"And what are you going to be, G. L.?"
inquired the biggest boy
of the smallest.
The others looked at the little fellow and laughed. George Mackay
was the youngest of the group, and was a small wiry youngster
with a pair of flashing eyes lighting up his thin little face. He
seemed far too small and insignificant to even think about a
career. But for all the difference in their size and age the
bigger boys treated little George with a good deal of respect.
For, somehow, he never failed to do what he set out to do. He
always won at races, he was never anywhere but at the head of his
class, he was never known to be afraid of anything in field or
forest or school ground, he was the hardest worker at home or at
school, and by sheer pluck he managed to do everything that boys
bigger and older and stronger could do.
So when Danny asked, "And what are you going
to be, G. L.?
"though the boys laughed at the small thin little body, they
respected the daring spirit it held, and listened for his answer.
"He's goin' to be a giant, and go off with a
show," cried one,
and they all laughed again.
Little G. L. laughed too, but he did not say
what he intended to
do when he grew big. Down in his heart he held a far greater
ambition than the others dreamed of. It was too great to be
told--so great he scarcely knew what it was himself. So he only
shook his small head and closed his lips tightly, and the rest
forgot him and chattered on.
Away beyond the dark woods, the sunset shone
red and gold between
the black tree trunks. The little boy gazed at it wonderingly.
The sight of those morning and evening glories always stirred his
child's soul, and made him long to go away--away, he knew not
where--to do great and glorious deeds. The Mackay boys'
grandfather had fought at Waterloo, and little George Leslie, the
youngest of six, had heard many, many tales of that gallant
struggle, and every time they had been told him he had silently
resolved that, some day, he too would do just such brave deeds as
his grandfather had done.
As the boys talked on, and the little fellow
gazed at the sunset
and dreamed, the big stone cracked in two, the fire died down,
and still there came no welcome call to supper from any of the
farmhouses in sight. The Mackay boys had been trained in a fine
old fashioned Canadian home, and did not dream of quitting work
until they were summoned. But the visitors were merely visitors,
and could go home when they liked. The future admiral of the
pirate-killing fleet declared he must go and get supper, or he'd
eat the grass, he was so hungry. The coming Premier of Canada and
the Indian slayer agreed with him, and they all jumped the fence,
and went whooping away over the soft brown fields toward home.
There was just one big stone left. It was a
huge boulder, four
never get enough wood to crack that, G. L.," declared his
brother. "It just can't be done."
But little George answered just as any one
who knew his
determination would have expected. In school he astonished his
teacher by learning everything at a tremendous rate, but there
was one small word he refused to learn--the little word "can't."
His bright eyes flashed, now, at the sound of it. He jumped upon
the big stone, and clenched his fist.
"It's GOT to be broken!" he cried. "I WON'T
let it beat me." He
leaped down, and away he ran toward the woods. His brother caught
his spirit, and ran too. They forgot they were both tired and
hungry. They seized a big limb of a fallen tree and dragged it
across the field. They chopped it into pieces, and piled it high
with plenty of brush, upon the big stone. In a few minutes it was
all in a splendid blaze, leaping and crackling, and sending the
boys' long shadows far across the field.
The fire grew fiercer and hotter, and
suddenly the big boulder
cracked in four pieces, as neatly as though it had been slashed
by a giant's sword. Little G. L. danced around it, and laughed
triumphantly. The next moment there came the welcome "hoo-hoo"
from the house behind the orchard, and away the two scampered
down the hill toward home and supper.
When the day's work of the farmhouse had
been finished, the
Mackay family gathered about the fire, for the spring evening was
chilly. George Leslie sat near his mother, his face full of deep
thought. It was the hour for family worship, and always at this
time he felt most keenly that longing to do something great and
glorious. Tonight his father read of a Man who was sending out
his army to conquer the world. It was only a little army, just
twelve men, but they knew their Leader had more power than all
the soldiers of the world. And they were not afraid, though he
said, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves."
For he added, "Fear ye not," for he would march before them, and
they would be sure of victory.
The little boy listened with all his might.
He did everything
that way. Surely this was a story of great and glorious deeds,
even better than Waterloo, he felt. And there came to his heart a
great longing to go out and fight wrong and put down evil as
these men had done. He did not know that the longing was the
voice of the great King calling his young knight to go out and
"Live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King."
But there came a day when he did understand,
and on that day he
was ready to obey.
When bedtime came the boys were asked if they had finished their
work, and the story of the last big stone was told. "G. L. would
not leave it, "the brother explained. The father looked smilingly
at little G. L. who still sat, dangling his short legs from his
chair, and studying the fire.
He spoke to his wife in Gaelic. "Perhaps the
lad will be called
to break a great rock some day. The Lord grant he may do it."
The boy looked up wonderingly. He understood
Gaelic as well as
English, but he did not comprehend his father's words. He had no
idea they were prophetic, and that away on the other side of the
world, in a land his geography lessons had not yet touched, there
stood a great rock, ugly and hard and grim, which he was one day
to be called upon to break.