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Ye'll take care of it all your life? - promise." And Katie, terrified by
her earnestness, promised everything she asked, all the while striving
to reassure her that her fears were needless.

No medicines did Elspie good; mind and body alike reacted on each other;
she failed hour by hour till the last; and when her time of trial came,
the sad presentiment fulfilled itself, and she died in giving birth to
her babe.

When Katie brought the child to the stunned and stricken Donald,
saying, "Will ye not look at him, Donald? it is as fine a man-child's
was ever seen," he pushed her away, saying in a hoarse whisper, -

"Never let me see its face. She said it was to be your bairn and not
hers. Take it and go. I'll never look on it."

Donald was out of his reason when he spoke these words, and for long
after. They bore with him tenderly and patiently, and did as they could
for the best; Katie, the wan and grief-stricken Katie, being the chief
adviser and planner of all.

Elspie's body was carried home and buried near the spruce grove, in a
little copse of young spruces which Donald pointed out. This was the
only wish he expressed about anything. Katie took the baby with her to
the old homestead. She dared not try to rear it without her mothers
help.

It was many months before Donald came to the farm. This seemed strange
to all except Katie. To her it seemed the most natural thing, and she
grew impatient with all who thought otherwise.

"I'd feel that way mysel'," she repeated again and again. "He'll come
when he can, but it'll be long first. Ye none of ye know what a love it
was he'd in his heart for Elspie."

When at last Donald came, the child, the little Donald, was just able to
creep, - a chubby, blue-eyed, golden-haired little creature, already
bearing the stamp and likeness of his mother's beauty.

At the first sight of his face Donald staggered, buried his head in his
hands, and turned away. Then, looking again, he stretched out his arms,
took the baby in them, and kissed him convulsively over and over. Katie
stood by, looking on, silently weeping. "He's like her," she said.

"Ay," said Donald.

The healing had begun. "A little child shall lead them," is of all the
Bible prophecies the one oftenest fulfilled. It soon grew to be Donald's
chiefest pleasure to be with his boy, and he found more and more irksome
the bonds of business which permitted him so few intervals of leisure to
visit the farm. At last one day he said to Katie, -

"Katie, couldn't ye make your mind up to come up to Charlottetown? I'd
get ye a good house, an' ye could have who ye'd like to live wi' ye. I'm
like one hungry all the time I'm out o' reach o' the little lad."

Katie's eyes fell. She did not know what to reply.

"I do not know, Donald," she faltered. "It's hard for you having him
away, but this is my home now, Donald. I've a dread o' leavin' it. And
there is nobody I know who could come to live with me."

A strange thought shot through Donald's brain. "Katie," he said, then
paused. Something in the tone startled Katie. She lifted her eyes; read
in his the thought which had made the tone so significant to her ear.

Unconsciously she cried out at the sight, "Oh, Donald!"

"Ay, Katie," he said slowly, with a grave tenderness, "why might not I
come and live wi' ye? Are ye not the mother o' my child? Did she not
give him to ye with her own lips? An' how could ye have him without me?
I think she must ha' meant it so. Let me come, Katie."

It was an unimpassioned wooing; but any other would have repelled
Katie's sense of loyalty and truth.

"Have ye love for me, Donald?" she said searchingly.

"All the love left in me is for the little lad and for you, Katie,"
answered Donald. "I'll not deceive you, Katie. It's but a broken man I
am; but I've always loved ye, Katie. I'll be a good man t' ye, lass.
Come and be the little lad's mother, and let me live wi' my own once
more. Will ye come?" As he said these words, he stretched out his arms
toward Katie; and she, trembling, afraid to be glad, shadowed by the sad
past, yet trusting in the future, crept into them, and was folded close
to the heart she had so faithfully loved all her life.

"I promised Elspie," she whispered, "that I'd never, never give him to
another."

"Ay," said Donald, as he kissed her. "He's your bairn, my Katie. Ye'll
be content wi' me, Katie?"

"Yes, Donald, if I make you content," she replied; and a look of
heavenly peace spread over her face.

The next morning Katie went alone to Elspie's grave. It seemed to her
that only there could she venture to look her new future in the face. As
she knelt by the low mound, her tears falling fast, she murmured, -

"Eh, my bonny Elspie, ye'd the best o' his love. But it's me that'll be
doin' for him till I die, an' that's better than a' the love."




Dandy Steve.



Everything in this world is relative, and nothing more so than the
significance of the same word in different localities. If Dandy Steve
had walked Broadway in the same clothes which he habitually wore in the
Adirondack wilderness, not only would nobody have called him a dandy,
but every one would have smiled sarcastically at the suggestion of that
epithet's being applied to him. Nevertheless, "Dandy Steve" was the name
by which he was familiarly known all through the Saranac region; and
judging by the wilderness standard, the adjective was not undeserved. No
such flannel shirts, no such jaunty felt hats, no such neckties, had
ever been worn by Adirondack guides as Dandy Steve habitually wore. And
as for his buck-skin trousers, they would not have disgraced a Sioux
chief, - always of the softest and yellowest skins, always daintily made,
the seams set full of leather fringes, and sometimes marked by lines of
delicate embroidery in white quills. There were those who said that
Dandy Steve had an Indian wife somewhere on the Upper Saranac, but
nobody knew; and it would have been a bold man who asked an intrusive
question of Dandy Steve, or ventured on any impertinent jesting about
his private affairs. Certain it was that none but Indian hands
embroidered the fine buckskins he wore; but, then, there were such
buckskins for sale, - perhaps he bought them. A man who would spend the
money he did for neckties and fine flannel shirts would not stop at any
extravagance in the price of trousers. The buckskins, however, were not
the only evidence in this case. There was a well-authenticated tale of a
brilliant red shawl - a woman's shawl - and a pair of silver bangles once
seen in Dandy Steve's cabin. A man had gone in upon him suddenly one
evening without the formality of knocking. Such foolish
conventionalities were not in vogue on the Saranac; this was before
Steve took to guiding. It was in the first year after he appeared in
that region, while he was living like a hermit alone, or supposed to be
alone, in a tiny log cabin on an island not much bigger than his cabin.

This man - old Ben, the oldest guide there - having been hindered at some
of the portages, and finding himself too late to reach his destination
that night, seeing the glimmer of light from Steve's cabin, had rowed to
the island, landed, and, with the thoughtless freedom of the country,
walked in at the half-open door.

He was fond of telling the story of his reception; and as he told it, it
had a suspicious sound, and no mistake. Steve was sitting in a big
arm-chair before his table; over the arm of the chair was flung the red
shawl. On the table lay an open book and the silver bangles in it, as if
some one had just thrown them off. At sound of entering footsteps Steve
sprang up, with an angry oath, and hastily closing the book threw it and
the bangles into the chair from which he had risen, then crowded the
shawl down upon them into as small a compass as possible.

"His eyes blazed like lightnin', or sharper," said old Ben, "an' I
declare t' ye I was skeered. Fur a minut I thought he was a loonatic,
sure's death. But in a minut more he was all right, an' there couldn't
nobody treat a feller handsomer than he did me that night an' the next
mornin'; but I took notice that the fust thing he done was to heave a
big blanket kind o' careless like into the chair, an' cover the things
clean up; an' then in a little while he says, a-sweepin' the whole
bundle up in his arms, 'I'll just clear up this little mess, an' give ye
a comfortable chair to sit in;' an' he carried it all - blanket, book,
bracelets, shawl, an' all - into the next room, an' throwed 'em on the
floor in a pile in one corner. There wa'n't but them two rooms to the
cabin, so that wa'n't any place for her to be hid, if so be 's there was
any woman 'round; an' he said he was livin' alone, an' had been ever
since he come. An' it was nigh a year then since he come, so I never
know'd what to make on 't, an' I don't suppose there's anybody doos know
any more 'n I do; but if them wa'n't women's gear he had out there that
night I hain't never seen any women's gear, that's all! Whose'omeever
they was, I hain't no idea, nor how they got there; but they was women's
gear. Dandy's Steve is he couldn't ha' had any use for sech a shawl's
that, let alone sayin' what he'd wanted o' bracelets on his arms!"

"That's so," was the universal ejaculation of Ben's audience when he
reached this point in his narrative, and there seemed to be little more
to be said on either side. This was all there was of the story. It must
stand in each man's mind for what it was worth, according to his
individual bias of interpretation. But it had become an old story long
before the time at which our later narrative of Dandy Steve's history
began; so old, in fact, that it had not been mentioned for years, until
the events now about to be chronicled revived it in the minds of Steve's
associates and fellow-guides.

Before the end of Steve's first year in his wilderness retreat he had
become as conversant with every nook and corner of its labyrinthian
recesses as the oldest guides in the region. Not a portage, not a short
cut unfamiliar to him; not a narrow winding brook wide enough for a
canoe to float in that he did not know. He had spent all his days and
many of his nights in these solitary wanderings. Visitors to the region
grew wonted to the sight of the comely figure in the slight birch canoe,
shooting suddenly athwart their track, or found lying idly in some dark
and shaded stream-bed. On the approach of strangers he would instantly
away, lifting his hat courteously if there were ladies in the boats he
passed, otherwise taking no more note of the presence of human beings
than of that of the deer, or the wild fowl on the water. He was not a
handsome man, but there was a something in his face at which all looked
twice, - men as well as women. It was an unfathomable look, - partly of
pain, partly of antagonism. His eyes habitually sought the sky, yet they
did not seem to perceive what they gazed upon; it was as if they would
pierce beyond it.

"What a strange face!" was a common ejaculation on the part of those
thus catching glimpses of his upturned countenance. More than once
efforts were made by hunters who encountered him to form his
acquaintance; but they were always courteously repelled. Finally he
came to be spoken of as the "hermit;" and it was with astonishment,
almost incredulity, that, in the spring of his third year in the
Adirondacks, he was found at "Paul Smith's" offering his services as
guide to a party of gentlemen who, their guide having fallen suddenly
ill, were in sore straits for some one to take them down again through
the lakes.

Whether it was that he had grown suddenly weary of his isolation and
solitude, or whether need had driven him to this means of earning money,
no one knew, and he did not say. But once having entered on the life of
a guide, he threw himself into it as heartily as if it had been his
life-long avocation, and speedily became one of the best guides in the
region. It was observed, however, that whenever he could do so he
avoided taking parties in which there were ladies. Sometimes for a whole
season it would happen that he had not once been seen in charge of such
a party. Sometimes, when it was difficult, in fact impossible, for him
to assign any reason for refusing to go with parties containing members
of the obnoxious sex, he would at the last moment privately entreat some
other guide to take his place, and, voluntarily relinquishing all the
profits of the engagement, disappear and be lost for several days.
During these absences it was often said, "Steve's gone to see his wife,"
or, "Off with that Indian wife o' his up North;" and these vague, idle,
gossiping conjectures slowly crystallized into a positive rumor which no
one could either trace or gainsay.

And so the years went on, - one, two, three, four, - and Dandy Steve had
become one of the most popular and best-known guides in the Adirondack
country. His seeming effeminacy of attire had been long proved to mark
no effeminacy of nature, no lack of strength. There was not a better
shot, a stronger rower, on the list of summer guides; nor a better cook
and provider. Every party which went out under his care returned with
warm praise for Steve, with a friendly feeling also, which would in many
instances have warmed into familiar acquaintance if Steve would have
permitted it. But with all his cheerfulness and obliging good-will he
never lost a certain quantity of reserve. Even the men whose servant he
was for the time being were insensibly constrained to respect this, and
to keep the distance he, not they, determined. There remained always
something they could not, as the phrase was, "make out" about him. His
aversion to women was well known; so much so that it had come to be a
tacitly understood thing that parties of which women were members need
not waste their time trying to induce Dandy Steve to take them in
charge.

But fate had not lost sight of Steve yet. He had had his period of
solitary independence, of apparent absolute control of his own
destinies. His seven years were up. If he had supposed that he was
serving them, like Jacob of old, for that best-beloved mistress,
Freedom, he was mistaken. The seven years were up. How little he dreamed
what the eighth would bring him!

It was midsummer, and one of Steve's best patrons, Richard Cravath, of
Philadelphia, had not yet appeared. For three summers Mr. Cravath and
two or three of his friends had spent a month in the Adirondacks
hunting, fishing, camping under Steve's guidance. They were all rich
men, and generous, and, what was to Steve of far more worth than the
liberal pay, considerate of his feelings, tolerant of his reticence; not
a man of them but respected their queer, silent guide's individuality as
much as if he had been a man of their own sphere of life. Steve had
learned, by some unpleasant experience, that this delicate consideration
did not always obtain between employers and employed. It takes an
organization finer than the ordinary to perceive, and live up to the
perception, that the fact that you have hired a man for a certain sum of
money per month to cook your food or drive your horses gives you no
right to ask him in regard to his private, personal affairs prying
questions which you would not dare to put to common acquaintances in
society.

As week after week went by and no news came from Mr. Cravath, Steve
found himself really saddened at the thought of not seeing him. He had
not realized how large a part of his summer's pleasure, as well as
profit, came from the month's sport with this Philadelphia party.
Wistfully he scrutinized the lists of arrivals at the different houses
day after day, for the familiar names; but they were not to be found. At
last, after he had given over looking for them, he was electrified, one
evening in September, by having his name called from the piazza of one
of the hotels, - "Steve, is that you? You're just the man I want; I was
afraid we were too late to get you!"

It was Mr. Cravath, and with him the two friends whom Steve had liked
best of all who had been in Mr. Cravath's parties. It was the joy of the
sudden surprise which prevented Steve's giving his customary close
attention to Mr. Cravath's somewhat vague description of the party he
had brought this time.

"You must arrange for eight, Steve," he said. "There may not be quite so
many. One or two of the fellows I hoped for have not arrived, and it is
too late to wait long for any one. If they are not here by day after
to-morrow we will start. - And oh, Steve," he continued, with an affected
careless ease, but all the while eying Steve's face anxiously, "I
forgot to mention that I have brought my wife along this time. She
positively refused to let me off. She said she was tired of hearing so
much about the Adirondacks! She was coming this time to see for herself.
You needn't have the least fear about having her along! She's as good a
traveller as I am, every bit; I've had her in training at it for thirty
years, and I tell her, old as we are, we are better campers than most of
the young people."

"That's so, Mr. Cravath," replied Steve, his countenance clouded and his
voice less joyous, "I'll answer for it with you; but do you think, sir,
any lady could go where we went last year?"

In his heart Steve was saying to himself: "The idea of bringing an old
woman out here! I wouldn't do it for anybody in the world but Mr.
Cravath."

"My wife can go anywhere and do anything that I can, Steve," said Mr.
Cravath. "You need not begin to look blue, Steve; and if you back out,
or serve us any of your woman-hating tricks, such as I've heard of, I'll
never speak to you again, - never."

"I wouldn't serve you any trick, Mr. Cravath, you know that," replied
Steve, proudly; "and I haven't the least idea of backing out. But I am
afraid Mrs. Cravath will be disappointed," he added, as he went down the
steps, and luckily did not turn his head to see Mr. Cravath's face
covered with the laughter he had been restraining during the last few
moments.

"Caught him, by Jove!" he said, turning to his companion, a tall
dark-faced man, - "caught him, by Jove, Randall! He never once thought to
ask of what sex the other members of the party might be. He took it for
granted my wife was to be the only woman."

"Do you think that was quite fair, Cravath?" replied Mr. Randall. "He
would never have taken us in the world if he had known there were three
women in the party."

"Pshaw!" laughed Mr. Cravath. "Good enough for him for having such a
crotchet in his head. We'll take it out of him this trip."

"Or set it stronger than ever," said Mr. Randall. "My mind misgives me.
We shall wish we had not done it. He may turn sulky and unmanageable on
our hands when he finds himself trapped."

"I'll risk it," said Mr. Cravath, confidently. "If I can't bring him
around, Helen Wingate will. I never saw the man, woman, child, or dumb
beast yet that could resist her."

Mr. Randall sighed. "Poor child!" he said. "Isn't her gayety something
wonderful? One would not think to look at her that she had ever had an
hour's sorrow; but my wife tells me that she cannot speak of that
husband of hers yet without the most passionate weeping!"

"I know it! It's a shame," replied Mr. Cravath, "to see a glorious woman
like that throwing her life away on a memory. I did have a hope at one
time that she would marry again; but I've given it up. If she would have
married any one, it would have been George Walton last winter. No one
has ever come so near her as he did; but she sent him off at last, like
all the rest."

The "two fellows" on whom Mr. Cravath was counting to make up his party
of eight did not appear; and on the second morning after the above
conversations Steve received orders to have his boats in readiness at
ten o'clock to start with the Cravath party, only six in number.

Old Ben was on the wharf as Steve was making his final arrangements.

"Wall, Steve," he said, shifting his quid of tobacco in a leisurely
manner from one side of his mouth to the other, "you've got a soft thing
again. You're a damned lucky fellow, Steve; dunno whether you know it or
not."

"No, I don't know it," replied Steve, curtly; "and what's more, I don't
believe in luck."

"Don't yer?" said Ben, reflectively. "Wall, I do; an' Lord knows 't
ain't because I've seen so much of it. Say, Steve," he added, "how'd ye
come to take on such a lot o' women folks, this trip?"

"Lot o' women folks! what d' ye mean?" shouted Steve. "There's no
womenkind going except one, - Mr. Cravath's wife; and I wish to thunder
he'd left her behind."

"Oh, is that all?" said Ben, half innocently, half mischievously, - he
was not quite sure of his ground; "be the rest on 'em goin' to stay
here? There's three women in the party. Mr. Randall he's got his wife,
and there's a widder along, too; mighty fine-lookin' she is; aren't
nothin' old about her, I can tell yer!"

A flash shot from Steve's eyes. A half-smothered ejaculation came from
his lips as he turned fiercely towards Ben.

"There they be, now, all a-comin' down the steps," continued Ben,
chuckling. "I reckon ye got took in for onst; but it's too late now."

"Yes," thought Steve, angrily, as he looked at the smiling party coming
towards the landing, - three men and three women.

"It's too late now. If it had been a half-hour sooner 'twould have been
early enough. But it's the last time I'm caught in any such way. What a
blamed fool I was not to ask who they were! Never thought of the Cravath
set lumbering themselves up with women!" And a very unpromising
sternness settled down on Steve's expressive features as he stooped down
to readjust some of the smaller packages in the boat.

Meantime the members of the approaching party were not wholly at ease
in their minds. Mr. Cravath had confessed his suppression of the truth,
and Mr. Randall's evident misgiving as to the success of the experiment
had proved contagious. "If he's as queer as you say," murmured Mrs.
Cravath, "he can make it awfully disagreeable for us. I am almost afraid
to go."

"Nonsense!" cried Helen Wingate, merrily. "I'll take that out of him
before night. Who ever heard of a man's really disliking women! It is
only some particular woman he's disliked. He won't dislike us! He
sha'n't dislike me! I'm going to take him by storm! Let me run ahead and
jump in first." And she danced on in advance of the rest.

"Wait, Mrs. Wingate!" cried Mr. Cravath, hurrying after her. "Let me
come with you."

But he was too late; she ran on, and as she reached the shore, sprang
lightly on the plank, calling out: "Oh, there are all our things in
already! Guide, guide, please give me your hand, quick! I want to be the
first one in the boat."

Steve rose slowly, - turned. At the first glimpse of his face Helen
Wingate uttered a shriek which rang in the air, and fell backwards on
the sand insensible.

"Good God! she lost her footing!" exclaimed Mr. Cravath.

"She is killed!" cried the others, as they hurried breathlessly to the
spot. But when they reached it, there knelt Dandy Steve on the ground by
her side, his face whiter than hers, his eyes streaming with tears, his
arms around her, calling, "Helen! Helen!"

At the sound of footsteps and voices he looked up, and, instantly
seeking Mr. Cravath's face, gasped: "She is my wife, Mr. Cravath!"

The dumbness of unutterable astonishment fell on the whole party at
these words; but in another second, rallying from the shock; they knelt
around the seemingly lifeless woman, trying to arouse her. Presently she
opened her eyes, and, seeing Mrs. Randall's face bending above her, said
faintly: "It's Stephen! I always knew I should find him somewhere." Then
she sank away again into unconsciousness.

The party for the lakes must be postponed; that was evident. Neither
would it go out under the guidance of Dandy Steve, nor would Mrs.
Wingate go with it; those two things were equally evident.

Which facts, revolving slowly in Old Ben's brain, led him to seat
himself on the shore and abide the course of events. When, about noon,
Mr. Cravath appeared, coming to look after their hastily abandoned
effects, Old Ben touched his hat civilly, and said: "Good-day, sir; I
thought maybe I'd get this job o' guidin' now. Leastways, I'd stay by
yer truck here till somebody come to look it up."

Old Ben was the guide of all others Mr. Cravath would have chosen, next
to Dandy Steve.

"By Jove, Ben," he said, "this is luck! Can you go off with us at once?
Steve has got other business on hand. That lady is his wife, from whom


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