"Another basket of eggs, Mr. Cameron, and
such delicious cream! I am deeply grieved to see you so nearly well."
"For you will be leaving us of course."
"Thanks, that is kind of you."
"And there will be an end to eggs and
cream. Ah! You are a lucky man." And the trim, neat, bright-faced nurse
shook her finger at him.
"So I have often remarked to myself these
"A friend is a great discovery and by
these same tokens you have found one."
"Truly, they have been more than kind."
"This makes the twelfth visit in six
weeks," said the nurse. "In busy harvest and threshing time, too. Do you
know what that means?"
"To a certain extent. It is awfully good
"But she is shy, shy—and I think she is
afraid of YOU. Her chief interest appears to be in the kitchen, which
she has never failed to visit."
The blood slowly rose in Cameron's face,
from which the summer tan had all been bleached by his six weeks' fight
with fever, but he made no reply to the brisk, sharp-eyed, sharp-minded
"And I know she is dying to see you, and,
indeed," she chuckled, "it might do you good. She is truly wonderful."
And again the nurse laughed. "Don't you think you could bear a visit?"
The smile broadened upon her face.
But unaware she had touched a sensitive
spot in her patient, his Highland pride.
"I shall be more than pleased to have an
opportunity to thank Miss Haley for her great kindness," he replied with
"All right," replied the nurse. "I shall
bring her in. Now don't excite yourself. That fever is not so far away.
And only a few minutes. When we farmers go calling—I am a farmer,
remember, and know them well—when we go calling we take our knitting and
spend the afternoon."
In a few moments she returned with Mandy.
The difference between the stout, red-faced, coarse-featured,
obtrusively healthy country girl, heavy of foot and hand, slow of speech
and awkward of manner, and the neat, quick, deft-fingered, bright-faced
nurse was so marked that Cameron could hardly control the wave of pity
that swept through his heart, for he could see that even Mandy herself
was vividly aware of the contrast. In vain Cameron tried to put her at
her ease. She simply sat and stared, now at the walls, now at the floor,
refusing for a time to utter more than monosyllables, punctuated with
"I want to thank you for the eggs and
cream. They are fine," said Cameron heartily.
"Oh, pshaw, that's nothin'! Lots more
where they come from," replied Mandy with a giggle.
"But it's a long way for you to drive; and
in the busy time too."
"Oh, we had to come in anyway for things,"
replied Mandy, making light of her service.
"You are all well?"
"Oh, pretty middlin'. Ma ain't right
smart. She's too much to do, and that's the truth."
"And the boys?" Cameron hesitated to be
"Oh, there's nothin' eatin' them. I don't
bother with them much." Mandy was desperately twisting her white cotton
At this point the nurse, with a final
warning to the patient not to talk too much and not to excite himself,
left the room. In a moment Mandy's whole manner changed.
"Say!" she cried in a hurried voice;
"Perkins is left."
"I couldn't jist stand him
after—after—that night. Dad wanted him to stay, but I couldn't jist
stand him, and so he quit."
"I jist hate him since—since—that night.
When I think of what he done I could kill him. My, I was glad to see him
lyin' there in the dust!" Mandy's words came hot and fast. "They might
'a killed you." For the first time in the interview she looked fairly
into Cameron's eyes. "My, you do look awful!" she said, with difficulty
commanding her voice.
"Nonsense, Mandy! You see, it wasn't my
leg that hurt me. It was the fever that pulled me down."
"Oh, I'll never forget that night!" cried
Mandy, struggling to keep her lips from quivering.
"Nor will I ever forget what you did for
me that night, Mandy. Sam told me all about it. I shall always be your
For a moment longer she held him with her
eyes. Then her face grew suddenly pale and, with voice and hands
trembling, she said:
"I must go. Good-by."
He took her great red hand in his long
"Good-by, Mandy, and thank you."
"My!" she said, looking down at the
fingers she held in her hand. "Your hands is awful thin. Are you sure
goin' to git better?"
"Of course I am, and I am coming out to
see you before I go."
She sat down quickly, still holding his
hand, as if he had struck her a heavy blow.
"Before you go? Where?" Her voice was
hardly above a whisper; her face was white, her lips beyond her control.
"Out West to seek my fortune." His voice
was jaunty and he feigned not to see her distress. "I shall be walking
in a couple of weeks or so, eh, nurse?"
"A couple of weeks?" replied the nurse,
who had just entered. "Yes, if you are good."
Mandy hastily rose.
"But if you are not," continued the nurse
severely, "it may be months. Stay, Miss Haley, I am going to bring Mr.
Cameron his afternoon tea and you can have some with him. Indeed, you
look quite done up. I am sure all that work you have been telling me
about is too much for you."
Her kindly tones broke the last shred of
Mandy's self-control. She sank into her chair, covered her face with her
great red hands and burst into tempestuous weeping. Cameron sat up
"What in the name of goodness is wrong,
"Lie down at once, Mr. Cameron!" said the
nurse sternly. "Hush, hush, Miss Haley! You ought to be ashamed of
yourself! Don't you know that you are hurting him?"
She could have chosen no better word. In
an instant Mandy was on her feet, mopping off her face and choking down
"Ain't I a fool?" she cried angrily. "A
blamed fool. Well, I won't bother you any longer. Guess I'll go now.
Good-by all." Without another look at Cameron she was gone.
Cameron lay back upon his pillows, white
"Now can you tell me," he panted, "what's
"Search me!" said the nurse gaily, "but I
forbid you to speak a single word for half an hour. Here, drink this
right off! Now, not a word! What will Dr. Martin say? Not a word! Yes, I
shall see her safely off the place. Quiet now!" She kept up a continuous
stream of sprightly chatter to cover her own anxiety and to turn the
current of her patient's thoughts. By the time she had reached the
entrance hall, however, Mandy had vanished.
"Great silly goose!" said the indignant
nurse. "I'd see myself far enough before I'd give myself away like that.
Little fool! He'll have a temperature sure and I will catch it. Bah!
These girls! Next time she sees him it will not be here. I hope the
doctor will just give me an hour to get him quiet again."
But in this hope she was disappointed, for
upon her return to her patient she found Dr. Martin in the room. His
face was grave.
"What's up, nurse? What is the meaning of
this rotten pulse? What has he been having to eat?"
"Well, Dr. Martin, I may as well confess
my sins," replied the nurse, "for there is no use trying to deceive you
anyway. Mr. Cameron has had a visitor and she has excited him."
"Ah!" said the doctor in a relieved tone.
"A visitor! A lady visitor! A charming, sympathetic, interested, and
"Exactly!" said the nurse with a giggle.
"It was Miss Haley, Martin," said Cameron
The doctor looked puzzled.
"The daughter of the farmer with whom I
was working," explained Cameron.
"Ah, I remember her," said the doctor.
"And a deuce of a time I had with her, too, getting you away from her,
if I remember aright. I trust there is nothing seriously wrong in that
quarter?" said Martin with unusual gravity.
"Oh, quit it, Martin!" said Cameron
impatiently. "Don't rag. She's an awful decent sort. Her looks are not
the best of her."
"Ah! I am relieved to hear that," said the
"She is very kind, indeed," said the
nurse. "For these six weeks she has fed us up with eggs and cream so
that both my patient and myself have fared sumptuously every day.
Indeed, if it should continue much longer I shall have to ask an
additional allowance for a new uniform. I have promised that Mr. Cameron
shall visit the farm within two weeks if he behaves well."
"Exactly!" replied the doctor. "In two
weeks if he is good. The only question that troubles me is—is it quite
safe? You see in his present weak condition his susceptibility is
decidedly emphasised, his resisting power is low, and who knows what
might happen, especially if she should insist? I shall not soon forget
the look in her eye when she dared me to lay a finger upon his person."
"Oh, cut it out, Martin!" said Cameron.
"You make me weary." He lay back on his pillow and closed his eyes.
The nurse threw a signal to the doctor.
"All right, old man, we must stop this
chaff. Buck up and in two weeks we will let you go where you like. I
have something in mind for you, but we won't speak of it to-day."
The harvest was safely stored. The yellow
stubble showed the fields at rest, but the vivid green of the new fall
wheat proclaimed the astounding and familiar fact that once more Nature
had begun her ancient perennial miracle. For in those fields of vivid
green the harvest of the coming year was already on the way. On these
green fields the snowy mantle would lie soft and protecting all the long
winter through and when the spring suns would shine again the fall wheat
would be a month or more on the way towards maturity.
Somehow the country looked more rested,
fresher, cleaner to Cameron than when he had last looked upon it in late
August. The rain had washed the dust from the earth's face and from the
green sward that bordered the grey ribbon of the high road that led out
from the city. The pastures and the hay meadows and the turnip fields
were all in their freshest green, and beyond the fields the forest stood
glorious in all its autumn splendour, the ash trees bright yellow, the
oaks rich brown, and the maples all the colours of the rainbow. In the
orchard—ah, the wonder and the joy of it! even the bare and bony limbs
of the apple trees only helped to reveal the sumptuous wealth of their
luscious fruit. For it was apple time in the land! The evanescent
harvest apples were long since gone, the snows were past their best, the
pippins were mellowing under the sharp persuasion of the nippy, frosty
nights and the brave gallantry of the sunny days. In this ancient
warfare between the frosty nights and the gallant sunny days the apples
ripened rapidly; and well that they should, for the warfare could not be
for long. Already in the early morning hours the vanguard of winter's
fierce hosts was to be seen flaunting its hoary banners even in the very
face of the gallant sun so bravely making stand against it. But it was
the time of the year in which men felt it good to be alive, for there
was in the air that tang that gives speed to the blood, spring to the
muscle, edge to the appetite, courage to the soul, and zest to life—the
apple time of the year.
It was in apple time that Cameron came
back to the farm. Under compulsion of Mandy, Haley had found it
necessary to drive into the city for some things for the "women folk"
and, being in the city, he had called for Cameron and had brought him
out. Under compulsion, not at all because Haley was indifferent to the
prospect of a visit from his former hired man, not alone because the
fall plowing was pressing and the threshing gang was in the
neighbourhood, but chiefly because, through the channel of Dr. Martin,
the little nurse, and Mandy, it had come to be known in the Haley
household and in the country side that the hired man was a "great swell
in the old country," and Haley's sturdy independence shrank from
anything that savoured of "suckin' round a swell," as he graphically put
it. But Mandy scouted this idea and waited for the coming of the
expected guest with no embarrassment from the knowledge that he had been
in the old country "a great swell."
Hence when, through a crack beside the
window blind, she saw him, a poor, pale shadow, descending wearily and
painfully from the buggy, the great mother heart in the girl welled with
pity. She could hardly forbear rushing out to carry him bodily in her
strong arms to the spare room and lay him where she had once helped to
lay him the night of the tragedy some eight weeks before. But in this
matter she had learned her lesson. She remembered the little nurse and
her indignant scorn of the lack of self-control she had shown on the
occasion of her last visit to the hospital. So, instead of rushing
forth, she clutched the curtains and forced herself to stand still,
whispering to herself the while, "Oh, he will die sure! He will die
sure!" But when she looked upon him seated comfortably in the kitchen
with a steaming glass of ginger and whiskey, her mother's unfailing
remedy for "anything wrong with the insides," she knew he would not die
and her joy overflowed in boisterous welcome.
For five days they all, from Haley to Tim,
gave him of their very best, seeking to hold him among them for the
winter, for they had learned that his mind was set upon the West, till
Cameron was ashamed, knowing that he must go.
The last afternoon they all spent in the
orchard. The Gravensteins, in which species of apple Haley was a
specialist, were being picked, and picked with the greatest care,
Cameron plucking them from the limbs and dropping them into a basket
held by Mandy below. It was one of those sunny days when, after weeks of
chilly absence, summer comes again and makes the world glow with warmth
and kindly life and quickens in the heart the blood's flow. Cameron was
full of talk and fuller of laughter than his wont; indeed he was vexed
to find himself struggling to maintain unbroken the flow of laughter and
of talk. But in Mandy there was neither speech nor laughter, only a
quiet dignity that disturbed and rebuked him.
The last tree of Gravensteins was picked
and then there came the time of parting. Cameron, with a man's selfish
desire for some token of a woman's adoration, even although he well knew
that he could make no return, lingered in the farewell, hoping for some
sign in the plain quiet face and the wonderful eyes with their new
mystery that when he had gone he would not be forgotten; but though the
lips quivered pitifully and the heavy face grew drawn and old and the
eyes glowed with a deeper fire, the words, when they came, came quietly
and the eyes looked steadily upon him, except that for one brief moment
a fire leaped in them and quickly died down. But when the buggy, with
Tim driving, had passed down the lane, behind the curtain of the spare
room the girl stood looking through the crack beside the blind, with
both hands pressed upon her bosom, her breath coming in sobs, her blue
lips murmuring brokenly, "Good-by, good-by! Oh, why did you come at all?
But, oh, I'm glad you came! God help me, I'm glad you came!" Then, when
the buggy had turned down the side lane and out of sight, she knelt
beside the bed and kissed, again and again, with tender, reverent
kisses, the pillow where his head had lain.