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Corporal Cameron

There was still light enough to see.  The last hymn was announced. Cameron was conscious of a deep, poignant emotion.  He glanced swiftly about him.  The eyes of all were upon the preacher's face while he read in slow sonorous tones the words of the old Methodist hymn:

     "Come, Thou Fount of every blessing!
        Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;"

all except the group of young men of whom Perkins was the centre,  who, by means of the saccharine medium known as conversation lozenges, were seeking to divert the attention of the band of young girls sitting before them.  Among these sat Mandy.  As his eye rested upon the billowy outlines of her figure, struggling with the limitations of her white blouse, tricked out with pink ribbons, he was conscious of a wave of mingled pity and disgust.  Dull, stupid, and vulgar she looked.  It was at her that Perkins was flipping his conversation lozenges.  One fell upon her hymn book.  With a start she glanced about.  Not an eye except Cameron's was turned her way. With a smile and a blush that burned deep under the dull tan of her neck and cheek she took the lozenge, read its inscription, burning a deeper red.  The words which she had read she took as Cameron's. She turned her eyes full upon his face.  The light of tremulous joy in their lovely depths startled and thrilled him.  A snicker from the group of young men behind roused in him a deep indignation. They were taking their coarse fun out of this simple-minded girl. Cameron's furious glance at them appeared only to increase their amusement.  It did not lessen Cameron's embarrassment and rage that now and then during the reading of the hymn Mandy's eyes were turned upon him as if with new understanding.  Enraged with himself, and more with the group of hoodlums behind him, Cameron stood for the closing hymn with his arms folded across his breast. At the second verse a hand touched his arm.  It was Mandy offering him her book.  Once more a snicker from the group of delighted observers behind him stirred his indignation on behalf of this awkward and untutored girl.  He forced himself to listen to the words of the third verse, which rose clear and sonorous in the preacher's voice:

     "Here I raise my Ebenezer,
        Hither by Thy help I'm come;
      And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
        Safely to arrive at home."

The serene assurance of the old Methodist hymn rose triumphant in the singing, an assurance born of an experience of past conflict ending in triumph.  That note of high and serene confidence conjured up with a flash of memory his mother's face.  That was her characteristic, a serene, undismayed courage.  In the darkest hours that steady flame of courage never died down.

But once more he was recalled to the service of the hour by a voice, rich, full, low, yet of wonderful power, singing the old words.  It took him a moment or two to discover that it was Mandy singing beside him.  Her face was turned from him and upwards towards the trees above her, through the network of whose leaves the stars were beginning to shine.  Amazed, enthralled, he listened to the flowing melody of her voice.  It was like the song of a brook running deep in the forest shade, full-toned yet soft, quiet yet thrilling.  She seemed to have forgotten her surroundings.  Her soul was holding converse with the Eternal.  He lost sight of the coarse and fleshly habiliments in the glimpse he caught of the soul that lived within, pure, it seemed to him, tender, and good.  His heart went out to the girl in a new pity.  Before the hymn was done she turned her face towards him, and, whether it was the magic of her voice, or the glorious splendour of her eyes, or the mystic touch of the fast darkening night, her face seemed to have lost much of its coarseness and all of its stupidity.

As the congregation dispersed, Cameron, in silence, and with the spell of her voice still upon him, walked quietly beside Mandy towards the gap in the fence leading to the high road.  Behind him came Perkins with his group of friends, chaffing with each other and with the girls walking in front of them.  As Cameron was stepping over the rails where the fence had been let down, one of the young men following stumbled heavily against him, nearly throwing him down, and before he could recover himself Perkins had taken his place by Mandy's side and seized her arm.  There was a general laugh at what was considered a perfectly fair and not unusual piece of jockeying in the squiring of young damsels.  The proper procedure in such a case was that the discomfited cavalier should bide his time and serve a like turn upon his rival, the young lady meanwhile maintaining an attitude purely passive.  But Mandy was not so minded.  Releasing herself from Perkins' grasp, she turned upon the group of young men following, exclaiming angrily, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Sam Sailor!"  Then, moving to Cameron's side, she said in a clear, distinct voice:

"Mr. Cameron, would you please take my book for me?"

"Come on, boys!" said Perkins, with his never failing laugh.  "I guess we're not in this."

"Take your medicine, Perkins," laughed one of his friends.

"Yes, I'll take it all right," replied Perkins.  But the laugh could not conceal the shake of passion in his voice.  "It will work, too, you bet!"

So saying, he strode off into the gathering gloom followed by his friends.

"Come along, Mr. Cameron," said Mandy with a silly giggle.  "I guess we don't need them fellows.  They can't fool us, can they?"

Her manner, her speech, her laugh rudely dissipated all Cameron's new feeling towards her.  The whole episode filled him only with disgust and annoyance.

"Come, then," he said, almost roughly.  "We shall need to hurry, for there is a storm coming up."

Mandy glanced at the gathering clouds.

"My goodness!" she cried; "it's comin' up fast.  My!  I hate to git my clothes wet."  And off she set at a rapid pace, keeping abreast of her companion and making gay but elephantine attempts at sprightly conversation.  Before Cameron's unsympathetic silence, however, all her sprightly attempts came to abject failure.

"What's the matter with you?" at length she asked.  "Don't you want to see me home?"

"What?" said Cameron, abruptly, for his thoughts were far away. "Oh, nonsense!  Of course!  Why not?  But we shall certainly be caught in the storm.  Let us hurry.  Here, let me take your arm."

His manner was brusque, almost rude.

"Oh, I guess I can get along," replied Mandy, catching off her hat and gathering up her skirt over her shoulders, "but we'll have to hustle, for I'd hate to have you get, wet."  Her imperturbable good humour and her solicitude for him rebuked Cameron for his abruptness.

"I hope you will not get wet," he said.

"Oh, don't you worry about me.  I ain't salt nor sugar, but I forgot all about your bein' sick."  And with laboured breath poor Mandy hurried through the growing darkness with Cameron keeping close by her side.  "We won't be long now," she panted, as they turned from the side line towards their own gate.

As if in reply to her words there sounded from behind the fence and close to their side a long loud howl.  Cameron gave a start.

"Great Caesar!  What dog is that?" he exclaimed.

"Oh," said Mandy coolly, "guess it's MacKenzie's Carlo."

Immediately there rose from the fence on the other side an answering howl, followed by a full chorus of howls and yelps mingled with a bawling of calves and the ringing of cow bells, as if a dozen curs or more were in full cry after a herd of cattle. Cameron stood still in bewildered amazement.

"What the deuce are they at?" he cried, peering through the darkness.

"Huh!" grunted Mandy.  "Them's curs all right, but they ain't much dog.  You wait till I see them fellows.  They'll pay for this, you bet!"

"Do you mean to say these are not dogs?" cried Cameron, speaking in her ear, so great was the din.

"Dogs?" answered Mandy with indignant scorn.  "Naw!  Just or'nary curs!  Come along," she cried, catching his arm, "let's hurry."

"Here!" he cried, suddenly wrenching himself free, "I am going to see into this."

"No, no!" cried Mandy, gripping his arm once more with her strong hands.  "They will hurt you.  Come on!  We're just home.  You can see them again.  No, I won't let you go."

In vain he struggled.  Her strong hands held him fast.  Suddenly there was a succession of short, sharp barks.  Immediately dead silence fell.  Not a sound could be heard, not a shape seen.

"Come out into the open, you cowardly curs!" shouted Cameron. "Come on!  One, two, three at a time, if you dare!"

But silence answered him.

"Come," said Mandy in a low voice, "let's hurry.  It's goin' to rain.  Come on!  Come along!"

Cameron stood irresolute.  Then arose out of the black darkness a long quavering cat call.  With a sudden dash Cameron sprang towards the fence.  Instantly there was a sound of running feet through the plowed field on the other side, then silence.

"Come back, you cowards!" raged Cameron.  "Isn't there a man among you?"

For answer a clod came hurtling through the dark and struck with a thud upon the fence.  Immediately, as if at a signal, there fell about Cameron a perfect hail of clods and even stones.

"Oh!  Oh!" shrieked Mandy, rushing towards him and throwing herself between him and the falling missiles.  "Come away!  Come away! They'll just kill you."

For answer Cameron put his arms about her and drew her behind him, shielding her as best he could with his body.

"Do you want to kill a woman?" he called aloud.

At once the hail of clods ceased and, raging as he was, Mandy dragged him homeward.  At the door of the house he made to turn back.

"Not much, you don't," said Mandy, stoutly, "or I go with you."

"Oh, all right," said Cameron, "let them go.  They are only a lot of curs, anyway."

For a few minutes they stood and talked in the kitchen, Cameron making light of the incident and making strenuous efforts to dissemble the rage that filled his soul.  After a few minutes conversation Cameron announced his intention of going to bed, while Mandy passed upstairs.  He left the house and stole down the lane toward the road.  The throbbing pain in his head was forgotten in the blind rage that possessed him.  He had only one longing, to stand within striking distance of the cowardly curs, only one fear, that they should escape him.  Swiftly, silently, he stole down the lane, every nerve, every muscle tense as a steel spring.  His throat was hot, his eyes so dazzled that he could scarcely see; his breath came in quick gasps; his hands were trembling as with a nervous chill.  The storm had partially blown away.  It had become so light that he could dimly discern a number of figures at the entrance to the lane.  Having his quarry in sight, Cameron crouched in the fence corner, holding hard by the rail till he should become master of himself.  He could hear their explosions of suppressed laughter.  It was some minutes before he had himself in hand, then with a swift silent run he stood among them.  So busy were they in recounting the various incidents in the recent "chivaree," that before they were aware Cameron was upon them.  At his approach the circle broke and scattered, some flying to the fence.  But Perkins with some others stood their ground.

"Hello, Cameron!" drawled Perkins.  "Did you see our cows?  I thought I heard some of them down the line."

For answer Cameron launched himself at him like a bolt from a bow. There was a single sharp crack and Perkins was literally lifted clear off his feet and hurled back upon the road, where he lay still.  Fiercely Cameron faced round to the next man, but he gave back quickly.  A third sprang to throw himself upon Cameron, but once more Cameron's hand shot forward and his assailant was hurled back heavily into the arms of his friends.  Before Cameron could strike again a young giant, known as Sam Sailor, flung his arms about him, crying--

"Tut-tut, young fellow, this won't do, you know.  Can't you take a bit of fun?"

For answer Cameron clinched him savagely, gripping him by the throat and planting two heavy blows upon his ribs.

"Here--boys," gasped the young fellow, "he's--chokin'--the--life--out--of me."

From all sides they threw themselves upon him and, striking, kicking, fighting furiously, Cameron went down under the struggling mass, his hand still gripping the throat it had seized.

"Say!  He's a regular bull-dog," cried one.  "Git hold of his legs and yank him off," which, with shouts and laughter, they proceeded to do and piled themselves upon him, chanting the refrain--"More beef!  More beef!"

A few minutes more of frantic struggling and a wild agonised scream rose from beneath the mass of men.

"Git off, boys!  Git off!" roared the young giant.  "I'm afraid he's hurt."

Flinging them off on either side, he stood up and waited for their victim to rise.  But Cameron lay on his face, moaning and writhing, on the ground.

"Say, boys," said Sam, kneeling down beside him, "I'm afraid he's hurted bad."

In his writhing Cameron lifted one leg.  It toppled over to one side.

"Jumpin' Jeremiah!" said Sam in an awed voice.  "His leg's broke! What in Sam Hill can we do?"

As he spoke there was a sound of running feet, coming down the lane.  The moon, shining through the breaking clouds, revealed a figure with floating garments rapidly approaching.

"My cats!" cried Sam in a terrified voice.  "It's Mandy."

Like leaves before a sudden gust of wind the group scattered and only Sam was left.

"What--what are you doin'?" panted Mandy.  "Where is he?  Oh, is that him?"  She flung herself down in the dust beside Cameron and turned him over.  His face was white, his eyes glazed.  He looked like death.  "Oh!  Oh!" she moaned.  "Have they killed you?  Have they killed you?"  She gathered his head upon her knees, moaning like a wounded animal.

"Good Lord, Mandy, don't go on like that!" cried Sam in a horrified voice.  "It's only his leg broke."

Mandy laid his head gently down, then sprang to her feet.

"Only his leg broke?  Who done it?  Who done it, tell me?  Who done it?" she panted, her voice rising with her gasping breath.  "What coward done it?  Was it you, Sam Sailor?"

"Guess we're all in it," said Sam stupidly.  "It was jist a bit of fun, Mandy."

For answer she swung her heavy hand hard upon Sam's face.

"Say, Mandy!  Hold hard!" cried Sam, surprise and the weight of the blow almost knocking him off his feet.

"You cowardly brute!" she gasped.  "Get out of my sight.  Oh, what shall we do?"  She dropped on her knees and took Cameron's head once more in her arms.  "What shall we do?"

"Guess we'll have to git him in somewheres," said Sam.  "How can we carry him though?  If we had some kind of a stretcher?"

"Wait!  I know," cried Mandy, flying off up the lane.

Before many minutes had passed she had returned, breathing hard.

"It's--the---milkhouse--door," she said.  "I--guess that'll--do."

"That'll do all right, Mandy.  Now I wish some of them fellers would come."

Sam pulled off his coat and made of it a pillow, then stood up looking for help.  His eye fell upon the prostrate and senseless form of Perkins.

"Say, what'll we do with him?" he said, pointing to the silent figure.

"Who is it?" enquired Mandy.  "What's the matter?"

"It's Perkins," replied Sam.  "He hit him a terrible crack."

"Perkins!" said Mandy with scorn.  "Let him lie, the dog.  Come on, take his head."

"You can't do it, Mandy, no use trying.  You can't do it."

"Come on, I tell you," she said fiercely.  "Quit your jawin'.  He may be dyin' for all I know.  I'd carry him alone if it wasn't for his broken leg."  Slowly, painfully they carried him to the house and to the front door.

"Wait a minute!" said Mandy.  "I'll have to git things fixed a bit. We mustn't wake mother.  It would scare her to death."

She passed quickly into the house and soon Sam saw a light pass from room to room.  In a few moments Mandy reappeared at the front door.

"Quick!" whispered Sam.  "He's comin' to."

"Oh, thank goodness!" cried Mandy.  "Let's git him in before he wakes."

Once more they lifted their burden and with infinite difficulty and much painful manoeuvering they got the injured man through the doors and upon the spare room bed.

"And now, Sam Sailor," cried Mandy, coming close to him, "you jist hitch up Deck and hustle for the doctor if ever you did in your life.  Don't wait for nothin', but go!  Go!"  She fairly pushed him out of the door, running with him towards the stable.  "Oh, Sam, hurry!" she pleaded, "for if this man should die I will never be the like again."  Her face was white, her eyes glowing like great stars; her voice was soft and tremulous with tears.

Sam stood for a moment gazing as if upon a vision.

"What are you lookin' at?" she cried, stamping her foot and pushing him away.

"Jumpin' Jeremiah!" muttered Sam, as he ran towards the stable. "Is that Mandy Haley?  Guess we don't know much about her."

His nimble fingers soon had Dexter hitched to the buggy and speeding down the lane at a pace sufficiently rapid to suit the high spirit of even that fiery young colt.

At the high road he came upon his friends, some of whom were working with Perkins, others conversing in awed and hurried undertones.

"Hello, Sam!" they called.  "Hold up!"

"I'm in a hurry, boys, don't stop me.  I'm scared to death.  And you better git home.  She'll be down on you again."

"How is he?" cried a voice.

"Don't know.  I'm goin' for the doctor, and the sooner we git that doctor the better for everybody around."  And Sam disappeared in a whirl of dust.

"Say!  Who would a thought it?" he mused.  "That Mandy Haley? She's a terror.  And them eyes!  Oh, git on, Deck, what you monkeyin' about?  Wonder if she's gone on that young feller?  I guess she is all right!  Say, wasn't that a clout he handed Perkins.  And didn't she give me one.  But them eyes!  Mandy Haley! By the jumpin' Jeremiah!  And the way she looks at a feller!  Here, Deck, what you foolin' about?  Gwan now, or you'll git into trouble."

Deck, who had been indulging himself in a series of leaps and plunges, shying at even the most familiar objects by the road side, settled down at length to a businesslike trot which brought him to the doctor's door in about fifteen minutes from the Haleys' gate. But to Sam's dismay the doctor had gone to Cramm's Mill, six or seven miles away, and would not be back till the morning.  Sam was in a quandary.  There was another doctor at Brookfield, five miles further on, but there was a possibility that he also might be out.

"Say, there ain't no use goin' back without a doctor.  She'd-- she'd--Jumpin' Jeremiah!  What would she do?  Say, Deck, you've got to git down to business.  We're goin' to the city.  There are doctors there thick as hair on a dog.  We'll try Dr. Turnbull. Say, it'll be great if we could git him!  Deck, we'll do it!  But
you got to git up and dust."

And this Deck proceeded to do to such good purpose that in about an hour's time he stood before Dr. Turnbull's door in the city, somewhat wet, it is true, but with his fiery spirit still untamed.

Here again adverse fate met the unfortunate Sam.

"Doctor Turnbull's no at home," said the maid, smart with cap and apron, who opened the door.

"How long will he be gone?" enquired Sam, wondering what she had on her head, and why.

"There's no tellin'.  An hour, or two hours, or three."

"Three hours?" echoed Sam.  "Say, a feller might kick the bucket in that time."

The maid smiled an undisturbed smile.

"Bucket?  What bucket, eh?  What bucket are ye talkin' aboot?" she enquired.

"Say, you're smart, ain't yeh!  But I got a young feller that's broke his leg and--"

"His leg?" said the maid indifferently.  "Well, he's got another?"

"Yes, you bet he has, but one leg ain't much good without the other.  How would you like to hop around on one leg?  And he's hurt inside, too, his lights, I guess, and other things."  Sam's anatomical knowledge was somewhat vague.  "And besides, his girl's takin' on awful."

"Oh, is she indeed?" replied the maid, this item apparently being to her of the very slightest importance.

"Say, if you only saw her," said Sam.

"Pretty, I suppose," said the maid with a touch of scorn.

"Pretty?  No, ugly as a hedge fence.  But say, I wish she was here right now.  She'd bring you to your--to time, you bet."

"Would she, now?  I'd sort her."  And the little maid's black eyes snapped.

"Say, what'll I do?  Jist got to have a doctor."

"Ye'll no git him till to-morrow."


"How far oot are ye?"

"Twelve miles."

"Twelve miles?  Ye'll no get him a minute afore to-morrow noon."

"Say, that young feller'll croak, sure.  Away from home too.  No friends.  All his folks in Scotland."

"Scotland, did ye say?"  Something appeared to wake up in the little maid.  "Look here, why don't ye get a doctor instead o' daunderin' your time here?"

"Git a doctor?" echoed Sam in vast surprise.  "And ain't I tryin' to git a doctor?  Where'll I git a doctor?"

"Go to the hospital, ye gawk, and ask for Dr. Turnbull, and tell him the young lad is a stranger and that his folk are in Scotland. Hoots, ye gomeril, be off noo, an' the puir lad wantin' ye.  Come, I'll pit ye on yer way."  The maid by her speech was obviously excited.

Sam glanced at the clock as he passed out.  He had been away an hour and a half.

"Jumpin' Jeremiah!  I've got to hurry.  She'll take my head off."

"Of course ye have," said the maid sharply.  "Go down two streets there, then take the first turn to your left and go straight on for half a dozen blocks or so.  Mind ye tell the doctor the lad's frae Scotland!" she cried to Sam as he drove off.

At the hospital Sam was fortunate enough to catch Dr. Turnbull in the hall with one or two others, just as they were about to pass into the consulting room.  Such was Sam's desperate state of mind that he went straight up to the group.

"I want Dr. Turnbull," he said.

"There he is before you," replied a sharp-faced young doctor, pointing to a benevolent looking old gentleman.

"Dr. Turnbull, there's a young feller hurt dreadful out our way. His leg's broke.  Guess he's hurt inside too.  And he's a stranger. His folks are all in Scotland.  Guess he's dyin', and I've got-- I've got a horse and buggy at the door.  I can git you out and back in a jiffy.  Say, doctor, I'm all ready to start."

A smile passed over the faces of the group.  But Dr. Turnbull had too long experience with desperate cases and with desperate men.

"My dear Sir," he replied, "I cannot go for some hours."

"Doctor, I want you now.  I got to have somebody right now."

"A broken leg?" mused the doctor.

"Yes, and hurt inside."

"How did it happen?" said the doctor.

"Eh?  I don't know exactly," replied Sam, taken somewhat aback. "Somethin' fell on him.  But he needs you bad."

"I can't go, my man, but we'll find some one.  What's his name did you say?"

"His name is Cameron, and he's from Scotland."

"Cameron?" said the sharp-faced young doctor.  "What does he look like?"

"Look like?" said Sam in a perplexed voice.  "Well, the girls all think he looks pretty good.  He's dark complected and he's a mighty smart young feller.  Great on jumpin' and runnin'.  Say, he's a crackajack.  Why, at the Dominion Day picnic!  But you must a' heard about him.  He's the chap, you know, that won the hundred yards.  Plays the pipes and--"

"Plays the pipes?" cried Dr. Turnbull and the young doctor together.

"And his name's Cameron?" continued the young doctor.  "I wonder now if--"

"I say, Martin," said Dr. Turnbull, "I think you had better go. The case may be urgent."

"Cameron!" cried Martin again.  "I bet my bat it's--  Here, wait till I get my coat.  I'll be with you in a jerk.  Have you got a good horse?"

"He's all right," said Sam.  "He'll git you there in an hour."

"An hour?  How far is it?"

"Twelve miles."

"Great heavens!  Come, then, get a move on!"  And so it came that within an hour Cameron, opening his eyes, looked up into the face of his friend.

"Martin!  By Jove!" he said, and closed his eyes again.  "Martin!" he said again, looking upon the familiar face.  "Say, old boy, is this a dream?  I seem to be having lots of them."

"It's no dream, old chap, but what in the mischief is the matter? What does all this fever mean?  Let's look at you."

A brief examination was enough to show the doctor that a broken leg was the least of Cameron's trouble.  A hasty investigation of the resources of the farm house determined the doctor's course.

"This man has typhoid fever, a bad case too," he said to Mandy. "We will take him in to the hospital."

"The hospital?" cried Mandy fiercely.  "Will you, then?"

"He will be a lot of trouble to you," said the doctor.

"Trouble?  Trouble?  What are you talkin' about?"

"We're awful busy, Mandy," interposed the mother, who had been roused from her bed.

"Oh, shucks, mother!  Oh, don't send him away," she pleaded.  "I can nurse him, just as easy."  She paused, with quivering lips.

"It will be much better for the patient to be in the hospital.  He will get constant and systematic care.  He will be under my own observation every hour.  I assure you it will be better for him," said the doctor.

"Better for him?" echoed Mandy in a faint voice.  "Well, let him go."

In less than an hour's time, such was Dr. Martin's energetic promptness, he had his patient comfortably placed in the democrat on an improvised stretcher and on his way to the city hospital.

And thus it came about that the problem of his leave-taking, which had vexed Cameron for so many days, was solved.

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