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Copyright by Silver, Burdbtt & Company 
IN THE United States of America 

All rig^hts reserved 


L. W. V. U. 





The Watchers of the Trail 



The Cabin in the Clearing 



The Exiles from the Settlement 

• 30 


Miranda and the Furtive Folk . 

. 46 


Kroof, the She-bear 

. 64 


The Initiation of Miranda 

. 76 


The Intimates 

. 88 


Axe and Antler . 

. 107 


The Pax Mirandae 



The Routing of the Philistines . 

• 133 


Miranda and Young Dave 

> 145 


Yoimg Dave at the Clearing . 



Mil king- time . . . . 



Moonlight and Moose-call 



A Venison Steak . . . . 



Death for a Little Life . 



In the Roar of the Rapids 



The Forfeit of the Alien 



•* ' Get off ! ' she ordered sharply " . Frontispiece 


** She . . . stood motionless, erect and formi- 
dable " 50 

** She sprang up, ... her whole weight strain- 
ing on the tether " .... 102 

*' He ran wildly over the snow patches " . 140 

** The moose recognized her " . . . 196 

** * Stroke on the right ! ' came Dave's sharp 

order" ..,.•• 250 


Chapter I 

The Watchers of the Trail 

NOT indolently soft, like that which 
sifts in green shadow through the 
leafage of a summer garden, but tense, 
alertly and mysteriously expectant, was the 
silence of the forest. It was somehow 
like a vast bubble of glass, blown to a 
fineness so tenuous that a small sound, 
were it but to strike the one preordained 
and mystic note, might shatter it down in 
loud ruin. Yet it had existed there flaw- 
less for generations, transmuting into its 
own quality all such infrequent and incon- 
sequent disturbance as might arise from 
the far-oflF cry of the panther, or the thin 
chirp of the clambering nuthatch, the 
long, solemn calling of the taciturn moose, 

B I 

2 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

twice or thrice repeated under the round 
October moon, or the noise of some great 
wind roaring heavily in the remote tops 
of pine and birch and hemlock. Few and 
slender were the rays of sun that pierced 
down through those high tops. The air 
that washed the endless vistas of brown- 
green shadow was of a marvellous clarity, 
not blurred by any stain of dust or vapour. 
Its magical transparency was confusing to 
an eye not born and bred to it, making 
the far branches seem near, and the near 
twigs unreal, disturbing the accustomed 
perspective, and hinting of some elvish 
deception in familiar and apparent things. 
The trail through the forest was rough 
and long unused. In spots the mosses 
and ground vines had so overgrown it 
that only the broad scars on the tree 
trunks, where the lumberman's axe had 
blazed them for a sign, served to distin- 
guish it from a score of radiating vistas. 
But just here, where it climbed a long, 
gradual slope, the run of water down its 
slight hollow had sufficed to keep its worn 
stones partly bare. Moreover, though 

The Watchers of the Trail 3 

the furrowing steps of man had left it 
these many seasons untrodden, it was 
never wholly neglected. A path once 
fairly differentiated by the successive pass- 
ings of feet will keep, almost forever, a 
spell for the persuasion of all that go 
afoot. The old trail served the flat, 
shuffling tread of Kroof, the great she- 
bear, as she led her half-grown cub to 
feast on the blueberry patches far up the 
mountain. It caught the whim of Ten- 
Tine, the caribou, as he convoyed his slim 
cows down to occasional pasturage in the 
alder swamps of the slow Quah-Davic. 

On this September afternoon, when the 
stillness seemed to wait wide-eyed, sud- 
denly a cock-partridge came whirring up 
the trail, alighted on a gnarled limb, 
turned his outstretched head twice from 
side to side as he peered with his round 
beads of eyes, and then stiffened into the 
moveless semblance of one of the fungoid 
excrescences with which the tree was 
studded. A moment more and the sound 
of footsteps, of the nails of heavy boots 
striking on the stones, grew conspicuous 

4 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

against the silence. Up the trail came 
slouching, with a strong but laborious 
stride, a large, grizzled man in grey home- 
spuns. His trousers were stufFed un- 
evenly into the tops of his rusty boots ; 
on his head was a drooping, much-bat- 
tered hat of a felt that had been brown ; 
from his belt hung a large knife in a fur- 
fringed leather sheath ; and over his 
shoulder he carried an axe, from the 
head of which swung a large bundle. 
The bundle was tied up in a soiled patch- 
work quilt of gaudy colours, and from 
time to time there came from it a flat 
clatter suggestive of tins. At one side 
protruded the black handle of a frying- 
pan, half wrapped up in newspaper. 

Had he been hunter or trapper, Dave 
Titus would have carried a gun. Or 
had he been a townsman, a villager, or 
even an ordinary small country farmer, 
he would have taken care to be well 
armed before penetrating a day's journey 
into the heart of the ancient wood. But 
being a lumberman, he was neither quite 
of the forest nor quite of the open. His 

The Watchers of the Trail 5 

winters he spent in the very deep of the 
wilderness, in a log camp crowded with 
his mates, eating salt pork, beans, hot 
bread ; and too busy all day long with his 
unwearying axe to wage any war upon the 
furred and feathered people. His sum- 
mers were passed with plough and hoe on 
a little half-tilled farm in the Settlements. 
He had, therefore, neither the desire to 
kill nor the impulse to fear, as he traversed, 
neutral and indifferent, these silent but 
not desolated territories. Not desolated ; 
for the ancient wood was populous in 
its reserve. Observant, keen of vision, 
skilled in woodcraft though he was, the 
grave-faced old lumberman saw nothing 
in the tranquillity about him save tree 
trunks, and fallen, rotting remnants, and 
mossed hillocks, and thickets of tangled 
shrub. He noted the difference, not 
known to the general eye, between white 
spruce, black spruce, and fir, between grey 
birch and yellow birch, between withe- 
wood and viburnum ; and he read in- 
stinctively, by the lichen growth about 
their edges, how many seasons had laid 

6 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

their disfeaturing touch upon those old 
scars of the axe which marked the trail. 
But for all his craft he thought himself 
alone. He guessed not of the many eyes 
that watched him. 

In truth, his progress was the focus of 
an innumerable attention. The furtive 
eyes that followed his movements were 
some of them timorously hostile, some 
impotently vindictive, some indifferent; 
but all alien. All were at one in the will 
to remain unseen ; so all kept an unwink- 
ing immobility, and were swallowed up, as 
it were, in the universal stillness. 

The cock-partridge, a well-travelled 
bird who knew the Settlements and their 
violent perils, watched with indignant 
apprehension. Not without purpose had 
he come whirring so tumultuously up the 
trail, a warning to the ears of all the wood- 
folk. His fear was lest the coming of 
this grey man-figure should mean an in- 
vasion of those long, black sticks which 
went off with smoky bang when they 
were pointed. He effaced himself till his 
brown mottled feathers were fairiy one 

The Watchers of the Trail 7 

with the mottled brown bark of his perch ; 
but his liquid eyes lost not a least move- 
ment of the stranger. 

The nuthatch, who had been walking 
straight up the perpendicular trunk of a 
pine when the sound of the alien footsteps 
froze him, peered fixedly around the tree. 
His eye, a black point of inquiry, had 
never before seen anything like this 
clumsy and slow-moving shape, but knew 
it for something dangerous. His little 
slaty head, jutting at an acute angle from 
the bark, looked like a mere caprice of 
knot or wood fungus; but it had the 
singular quality of moving smoothly 
around the trunk, as the lumberman 
advanced, so as to keep him always in 

Equally curious, but quivering with 
fear, two wood-mice watched him intently, 
sitting under the broad leaf of a skunk- 
cabbage not three feet from the trail. 
Their whiskers touched each other's 
noses, conveying thrills and palpitations 
of terror as he drew near, drew nearer, 
came — and passed. But not unless that 

8 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

blind, unheeding heel had been on the 
very point of crushing them would they 
have disobeyed the prime law of their 
tribe, which taught them that to sit still 
was to sit unseen. 

A little farther back from the trail, 
under a spreading tangle of ironwood, 
on a bed of tawny moss crouched a 
hare. His ears lay quite flat along his 
back. His eyes watched with aversion, 
not unmixed with scorn, the heavy, tall 
creature that moved with such effbrt and 
such noise. " Never," thought the hare, 
disdainfully, " would he be able to escape 
from his enemies ! " As the delicate 
current of air which pulses imperceptibly 
through the forest bore the scent of the 
man to the hare's hiding-place, the fine 
nostrils of the latter worked rapidly with 
dislike. On a sudden, however, came a 
waft of other scent ; and the hare's form 
seemed to shrink to half its size, the 
nostrils rigidly dilating. 

It was the scent of the weasel — to the 
hare it was the very essence of death. 
But it passed in an instant, and then the 

The Watchers of the Trail 9 

hare's exact vision saw whence it came. 
For the weasel, unlike all the other folk 
of the wood, was moving. He was keep- 
ing pace with the man, at a distance of 
some ten feet from the trail. So fitted, 
however, was his colouring to his sur- 
rounding, so shadow-like in its soundless 
grace was his motion, that the man never 
discerned him. The weasel's eyes were 
fixed upon the intruder with a malignancy 
of hate that might well have seared through 
his unconsciousness. Fortunately for the 
big lumberman, the weasel's strength, stu- 
pendous for its size, was in no way com- 
mensurate with its malice ; or the journey 
would have come to an end just there, and 
the gaudy bundle would have rested on 
the trail to be a long wonder to the mice. 
The weasel presently crossed the yet 
warm scent of a mink, whereupon he threw 
up his vain tracking of the woodman and 
turned off in disgust. He did not like 
the mink, and wondered what that fish- 
eater could be wanting so far back from 
the water. He was not afraid exactly, — 
few animals know fear so little as the 

lo The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

weasel, — but he kept a small shred of 
prudence in his savage little heart, and he 
knew that the mink was scarcely less 
ferocious than himself, while nearly thrice 
his size. 

From the mossy crotch of an old ash 
tree, slanting over the trail, a pair of pale, 
yellow-green eyes, with fine black slits 
for pupils, watched the traveller's march. 
They were set in a round, fiirry head, 
which was pressed flat to the branch and 
partly overhung it. The pointed, tufted 
ears lay flat back upon the round brown 
head. Into the bark of the branch four 
sets of razor-edged claws dug themselves 
venomously; for the wild-cat knew, per- 
haps through some occult communication 
from its far-off^ domesticated kin of hearth 
and door-sill, that in man he saw the one 
unvanquishable enemy to all the folk of 
the wood. He itched fiercely to drop 
upon the man's bowed neck, just where it 
showed, red and defenceless, between the 
gaudy bundle and the rim of the brown 
hat. But the wild-cat, the lesser lynx, was 
heir to a ferocity well tempered with dis- 

The Watchers of the Trail 1 1 

cretion, and the old lumberman slouched 
onward unharmed, all ignorant of that 
green gleam of hate playing upon his 

It was a very different gaze which fol- 
lowed him from the heart of a little colony 
of rotting stumps, in a dark hollow near 
the trail. Here, in the cool gloom, sat 
Kroof, the bear, rocking her huge body 
contemplatively from side to side on her 
haunches, and occasionally slapping off a 
mosquito from the sensitive tip of her 
nose. She had no cub running with her 
that season, to keep her busy and anxious. 
For an hour she had been comfortably 
rocking, untroubled by fear or desire or 
indignation ; but when the whirring of the 
cock-partridge gave her warning, and the 
grating of the nailed boots caught her ear, 
she had stiffened instantly into one of the 
big brown stumps. Her little red eyes 
followed the stranger with something like 
a twinkle in them. She had seen men 
before, and she neither actively feared 
them nor actively disliked them. Only, 
averse to needless trouble, she cared not 

12 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

to intrude herself on their notice; and 
therefore she obeyed the custom of the 
wood, and kept still. But the bear is far 
the most human of all the furry wood- 
folk, the most versatile and largely toler- 
ant, the least enslaved by its surroundings. 
It has an ample sense of humour, also, 
that most humane of gifts ; and it was with 
a certain relish that Kroof recognized in 
the grey-clad stranger one of those loud 
axemen from whose camp, far down by 
the Quah-Davic, she had only last winter 
stolen certain comforting rations of pork. 
Her impulse was to rock again with satis- 
faction at the thought, but that would 
have been out of keeping with her present 
character as a decaying stump, and she 
restrained herself. She also restrained a 
whimsical impulse to knock the gaudy 
bundle from the stranger's back with one 
sweep of her great paw, and see if it might 
not contain many curious and edifying 
things, if not even pork. It was not till 
she had watched him well up the trail and 
fairly over the crest of the slope that, with 
a deep, non-committal grunt, she again 

The Watchers of the Trail 13 

turned her attention to the mosquitoes, 
which had been learning all the tenderness 
of a bear's nose. 

These were but a few of the watchers 
of the trail, whose eyes, themselves unseen, 
scrutinized the invader of the ancient wood. 
Each step of all his journey was well noted. 
Not so securely and unconsideringly would 
he have gone, however, had he known 
that only the year before there had come 
a pair of panthers to occupy a vacant lair 
on the neighbouring mountain side. No, 
his axe would have swung free, and his 
eyes would have scanned searchingly every 
overhanging branch ; for none knew better 
than old Dave Titus how dangerous a foe 
was the tawny northern panther. But 
just now, as it chanced, the panther pair 
were hunting ^way over in the other valley, 
the low, dense-wooded valley of the Quah- 

As matters stood, for all the watchers 
that marked him, the old lumberman 
walked amid no more imminent menace 
than that which glittered down upon him 
from four pairs of small bright eyes, high 

14 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

up among the forking limbs of an old 
pine. In a well-hidden hole, as in a nur- 
sery window, were bunched the smooth 
heads of four young squirrels, interested 
beyond measure in the strange animal 
plodding so heavily below them. Had 
they been Settlement squirrels they would, 
without doubt, have passed shrill com- 
ments, more or less uncomplimentary; 
for the squirrel loves free speech. But 
when he dwells among the folk of the 
ancient wood he, even he, learns reticence ; 
and, in that neighbourhood, if a young 
squirrel talks out loud in the nest, the 
consequences which follow have a ten- 
dency to be final. When the old lumber- 
man had passed out of their range of view, 
the four little heads disappeared into the 
musky brown depths of the nest, and talked 
the event over in the smallest of whispers. 
As the lumberman journeyed, cover- 
ing good ground with his long, slouch- 
ing stride, the trail gradually descended 
through a tract where moss-grown boul- 
ders were strown thick among the trees. 
Presently the clear green brown of the 

The Watchers of the Trail 15 

mid-forest twilight took a pallor ahead of 
him, and the air began to lose its pun- 
gency of bark and mould. Then came 
the flat, soft smell of sedge ; and the trees 
fell away; and the traveller came out 
upon the shores of a lake. Its waters 
were outspread pearly-white from a fringe 
of pale green rushes, and the opposite 
shore looked black against the pale, hazy 
sky. A stone's throw beyond the sedge 
rose a little naked island of black rock, and 
in the sheen of water off its extremity there 
floated the black, solitary figure of a loon. 
As the lumberman came out clear of the 
trees, and the gaudy colours of his bundle 
caught its eye, the bird sank itself lower 
in the water till only its erect neck and 
wedge-shaped head were in view. Then, 
opening wide its beak, it sent forth 
its wild peal of inexplicable and discon- 
certing laughter — an aflrront to the silence, 
but a note of monition to all the creatures 
of the lake. The loon had seen men 
before, and despised them, and found 
pleasure in proclaiming the scorn. It 
despised even the long, black sticks that 

1 6 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

went oiFwith smoky bang when pointed; 
for had it not learned, in another lake 
near the Settlement, to dive at the flash 
and so elude the futile, spattering pellets 
that flew from the stick. 

The lumberman gave neither a first 
nor a second thought to the loon at all, 
but quickened his pace in the cheerful 
open. The trail now led some way along 
the lake-side, till the shore became higher 
and rougher, and behind a cape of rock 
a bustling river emptied itself, carrying 
lines of foam and long ripples far out 
across the lake's placidity. From the 
cape of rock towered a bleak, storm- 
whitened rampike, which had been a pine 
tree before the lightning smote it. Its 
broken top was just now serving as the 
perch of a white-headed eagle. The 
great bird bent fierce yellow eyes upon 
the stranger, — eyes with a cruel-looking, 
straight overhang of brow, — and stretched 
its flat-crowned, snake-like head far out to 
regard him. It opened the rending sickle 
of its beak and yelped at him — three times 
at deliberated interval. Then the traveller 

The Watchers of the Trail 17 

vanished again into the gloom of the 
wood, and the arrogant bird plumed 
himself upon a triumph. 

The trail now touched the river, only 
to forsake it and plunge into the heart 
of a growth of young Canada balsam. 
This sweet-smelling region traversed, the 
soft roar of the stream was left behind, 
and the forest resumed its former monu- 
mental features. For another hour the 
man tramped steadily, growing more con- 
scious of his load, more and more unin- 
terested in his surroundings; and for 
another hour his every step was noted by 
intent, unwinking eyes from branch and 
thicket. Then again the woods fell apart 
with a spreading of daylight. He came 
out upon the spacious solitude of a clear- 
ing; pushed through the harsh belt of 
blackberry and raspberry canes, which 
grew as a neutral zone between forest and 
open ; picked his way between the burned 
stumps and crimson fireweeds of a long 
desolate pasture; and threw down his 
bundle at the door of the loneliest cabin 
he had ever chanced to see. 

Chapter II 
The Cabin in the Clearing 

THOUGH a spur of black, uncom- 
promising spruce woods gave it near 
shelter on the north, the harshly naked 
clearing fell away from it on the other 
three sides, and left the cabin bleak. Not 
a shrub nor a sapling broke the bareness 
of the massive log walls, whence the peel- 
ing bark hung in strips that fluttered 
desolately to every wind. Only a few 
tall and ragged weeds, pale green, and 
with sparse, whitish grey seed-heads, 
straggled against the foundation logs. 
The rough deal door sagged on its hinges, 
half open. The door-sill gaped with a 
wide crack, rotted along the edges; and 
along the crack grew a little fringe of 
grass, ruthlessly crushed down by old 
Dave's gaudy bundle. The two small win- 
dows still held fragments of glass in their 


The Cabin in the Clearing 19 

sashes, — glass thick with spiders' webs, 
and captive dust, and the dibris of withered 
insects. The wide-eaved roof, well built 
of split cedar-slabs, with a double overlay 
of bark, seemed to have turned a brave 
front to the assault of the seasons, and 
showed few casualties. Some thirty paces 
to one side stood another cabin, lower and 
more roughly built, whose roof had partly 
fallen in. This had been the barn, — 
this, with a battered lean-to of poles and 
interwoven spruce boughs against its 
southerly wall. The barn was set down 
at haphazard, in no calculated or content- 
ing relation to the main building, but 
just as the lay of the hillocks had made 
it simplest to find a level for the founda- 
tions. All about it grew a tall, coarse 
grass, now grey and drily rustling, the 
brood of seeds which in past years had 
sifted through the chinks from the hay 
stored in the loft. The space between 
the two buildings, and for many square 
yards about the cabin door, was strewn 
thick with decaying chips, through which 
the dock and plantain leaves, hardy 

0,0 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

strangers from the Settlement, pushed 
up their broad, obtuse intrusion. Over 
toward the barn lay the bleached skeleton 
of a bob-sled, the rusted iron shoe partly 
twisted from one runner; and in the 
centre of the space, where the chips 
gathered thickest and the plantains had 
gained least ground, lay a split chopping- 
log, whose scars bore witness to the 
vigour of a vanished axe. 

The old lumberman fetched a deep 
breath, depressed by the immeasurable 
desolation. His eye wandered over the 
weedy fields, long fallow, and the rugged 
stump lots aflame here and there with 
patches of golden-rod and crimson fire- 
weed. To him these misplaced flares of 
colour seemed only to make the loneli- 
ness more forlorn, perhaps by their asso- 
ciation with homelier and kindlier scenes. 
He leaned on his axe, and pointed indefi- 
nitely with his thumb. 

" Squat here ! an' farm yon ! " said 
he, with contemplative disapproval. " I'd 
see myself furder first! But Kirstie 
Craig's got grit for ten men ! " 

The Cabin in the Clearing 21 

Then he pushed the door open, lifting 
it to ease the hinge, and stepped peer- 
ingly inside. As he did so, a barn-swal- 
low flickered out through a broken pane. 

The cabin contained two rooms, one 
much smaller than the other. The ceil- 
ing of the smaller room was formed by a 
loft at the level of the eaves, open, toward 
the main room, which had no ceiling but 
the roof of slabs and bark. Here, run- 
ning up through the east gable, was a 
chimney of rough stone, arched at the 
base to contain a roomy hearth, with 
swinging crane and rusted andirons. A 
settle of plank was fixed along the wall 
under the window. Down the middle of 
the room, its flank toward the hearth, ran 
a narrow table of two planks, supported 
by unsmoothed stakes driven into the 
floor. In the corner farthest from the 
chimney, over against the partition, was 
a shallow sleeping bunk, a mere oblong 
box partly filled with dry red pickings 
of spruce and hemlock. The floor was 
littered with dead leaves and with ashes 
wind-drifted from the hearth. 

22 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

Old Dave went over and glanced into 
the bunk. He found the spruce pick- 
ings scratched up toward one end^ and 
arranged as they would be for no human 

" Critters been sleepin' here ! " he mut- 
tered. Then laying down his bundle, he 
turned his attention to the hearth, and 
soon the old chimney tasted once more, 
after its long solitude, the cheer of the 
familiar heat. 

It was now close upon sundown, and 
the lumberman was hungry. He untied 
the grimy, many-coloured quilt. Kroof, the 
she-bear, had been right in her surmise as 
to that bundle. It did contain pork, — a 
small, well-salted chunk of it ; and pres- 
ently the red-and-white-streaked slices 
were sputtering crisply in the pan, while 
the walls and roof saturated themselves 
once more in old-remembered savours. 

By the time the woodman had made 
his meal of fried pork and bread, and 
had smoked out his little pipe of black- 
ened clay, a lonely twilight had settled 
about the cabin in the clearing. He went 

The Cabin in the Clearing 23 

to the door and looked out. A white 
mist, rising along the forest edges, seemed 
to cut him off from all the world of 
men ; and a few large stars, at vast inter- 
vals, came out solemnly upon the round 
of sky. He shut the door, dropped the 
wooden latch into its slot, and threw a 
dry sliver upon the hearth to give him 
light for turning in. He was sparing of 
the firewood, remembering that Kirstie, 
when she came, would need it all. Then 
he took his pipe from his mouth, knocked 
out the ashes, wiped the stump on his 
sleeve, and put it in his pocket ; took off 
his heavy boots, rolled himself in the 
coloured quilt, and tumbled comfortably 
into the bunk, untroubled by any thought 
of its previous tenants. No sooner was 
he still than the mice came out and began 
scampering across the loft. He felt the 
sound homely and companionable, and 
so fell asleep. As he slept the deep 
undreaming sleep of the wholesomely 
tired, the meagre fire burned low, sank 
into pulsating coals, and faded into black- 

24 The Heart of the Andent Wood 

It was, perhaps, an hour later that Old 
Dave sat up, suddenly wide awake. He 
had no idea why he did it. He had 
heard no noise. He was certainly not 
afraid. There was no tremor in his sea- 
soned nerves. Nevertheless, he was all 
at once absolutely awake, every sense 
alert. He felt almost as if there were 
some unkindred presence in the cabin. 
His first impulse was to spring from 
the bunk, and investigate. But, doubt- 
less because he had spent so great a 
portion of his life in the forest, and 
because he had all that day been subtly 
played upon by its influences, another 
instinct triumphed. He followed the 
immemorial fashion of the folk of the 
wood, and just kept still, waiting to learn 
by watching. 

He saw the two dim squares of the 
windows, and once imagined that one of 
them was for an instant shadowed. At 
this he smiled grimly there in the dark, 
well knowing that among all the forest- 
folk there was not one, not even the 
panther himself, so imprudent as to climb 

The Cabin in the Clearing 25 

through a small window into a shut-up 
place, all reeking with the fresh and omi- 
nous scent of man. 

Still he listened, in that movelessness 
which the haunted neighbourhood had 
taught him. The scurrying of the mice 
had ceased. There was no wind, and the 
darkness seemed all ears. The door, 
presently, gave a slow, gentle creaking, 
as if some heavy body pushed softly 
against it, trying the latch. The woods- 
man noiselessly reached out, and felt the 
handle of his axe, leaning by the head 
of the bunk. But the latch held, and 
the menacing furtive pressure was not 
repeated. Then, upon the very middle 
of the roof, began a scratching, a light 
rattling of claws, and footfalls went pad- 
ding delicately over the bark. This puz- 
zled the woodsman, wh6 wondered how 
the owner of those clawed and velveted 
feet could have reached the roof without 
some noise of climbing. The soft tread, 
with an occasional scratch and snap, 
moved up and down the roof several 
times ; and once, during a pause, a deep 

l6 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

breath, ending with a sharp sniffing sound, 
was heard through the thin roof. Then 
came a muffled thud upon the chips, as 
of the drop of a heavy animal. 

The spell was broken, and Old Dave 
rose from the bunk. 

^It^s jumped down off the roof! wild- 
cat, mebbe, or lynx. No painters 'round, 
'tain't likely; though't did sound heavy 
fur a cat!'' said he to himself, as he 
strode to the door, axe in hand. 

Fearlessly he threw the door open, and 
looked out upon the glimmering night. 
The forest chill was in the air, the very 
breath and spirit of solitude. The mists 
gathered thickly a stone's throw from the 
cabin. He saw nothing that moved. 
He heard no stir. With a shrug of the 
shoulders he turned, latched the door 
again with just a trifle more exactness of 
precaution than before, lounged back to 
his bunk, and slept heedlessly till high 
dawn. A long finger of light, coldly 
rosy, came in through a broken pane to 
rouse him up. 

When he went outside, the mists yet 

The Cabin in the Clearing 27 

clung white and chill about the clearing, 
and all the weed tops were beaded with 
thick dew. He noted that the chips were 
disturbed somewhat, but could find no 
definite track. Then, following a grassy 
path that led, through a young growth 
of alder, to the spring, he found signs. 
Down to the spring, and beyond, into 
the woods, a trail was drawn that spoke 
plain language to his wood-wise scrutiny. 
The grass was bent, the dew brushed off, 
by a body of some bulk and going close 
to the ground. 

" Painter ! " he muttered, knitting his 
brows, and casting a wary glance about 
him. " Reckon Kirstie'd better bring a 
gun along!" 

All that day Dave Titus worked about 
the cabin and the barn. He mended the 
roof, patched the windows, rehung the 
door, filled the bunk — and the two simi- 
lar ones in the smaller room — with aro- 
matic fresh green spruce tips, and worked 
a miracle of rejuvenation upon the barn. 
He also cleaned out the spring, and 
chopped a handy pile of firewood. An 

28 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

old sheep-pen behind the barn he left in 
its ruins, saying to himself: — 

" What with the b'ars, an' the painters, 
Kirstie ain't goin' to want to mess with 
sheep, I reckon. She'll have lots to do 
to look after her critters ! " 

By "critters'* he meant the cow and 
the yoke of steers which were Kirstie 
Craig's property in the Settlement, and 
which, as he knew, she was to bring with 
her to her exile in the ancient wood. 

That night, being now quite at home in 
the lonely cabin, and assured as to the 
stability of the door, Dave Titus slept 
dreamlessly from dark to dawn in the 
pleasant fragrance of his bunk. From 
dark to dawn the mice scurried in the loft, 
the bats flickered about the eaves, the un- 
known furry bulks leaned on the door or 
padded softly up and down the roof, but 
troubled not his rest. Then the wild folk 
began to take account of the fact that the 
sovereignty of the clearing had been re- 
sumed by man, and word of the new 
order went secretly about the forest. 
When, next morning, Dave Titus made 

The Cabin in the Clearing 29 

careful survey of the clearing's skirts, cal- 
culating what brush and poles would be 
needed for Kirstie's fencing, making rough 
guesses at the acreage, and noting with 
approval the richness of the good brown 
soil, he thought himself alone. But he 
was not alone. Speculative eyes, large 
and small, fierce and timorous, from all 
the edges of the ancient wood kept watch 
on him. 

Chapter III 

The Exiles from the Settlement 

LATE that afternoon Kirstie Craig 
arrived. Her coming was a mi- 

The first announcement of her approach 
was the dull tank^ tank^ a-tonkj tank of cow- 
bells down the trail, at sound of which Old 
Dave threw aside his axe and slouched 
away to meet her. There was heard a 
boy's voice shouting with young author- 
ity, "Gee! Gee, Bright! Gee, Star!" 
and the head of the procession came into 
view in the solemn green archway of the 

The head of the procession was Kirstie 
Craig herself, a tall, erect, strong-stepping, 
long-limbed woman in blue-grey home- 
spuns, with a vivid scarlet kerchief tied 
over her head. She was leading, by a rope 
about its horns, a meekly tolerant black- 
and-white cow. To her left hand clung a 


The Exiles from the Settlement 31 

skipping little figure in a pink calico frock, 
a broad-brimmed hat of coarse straw flung 
back from her hair and hanging by ribbons 
from her neck. This was the five-year- 
old Miranda, Kirstie Craig's daughter. 
She had ridden most of the journey, and 
now was full of excited interest over the 
approach to her new home. Following 
close behind came the yoke of long- 
horned, mild-eyed steers, — Bright, a light 
sorrel, and Star, a curious red-and-black 
brindle with a radiating splash of white in 
the middle of his forehead. These, lurch- 
ing heavily on the yoke, were hauling a 
rude "drag," on which was lashed the 
meagre pile of Kirstie's belongings and 
supplies. Close at Star's heaving flank 
walked a lank and tow-haired boy from 
the Settlement, his long ox-goad in hand, 
and an expression of resigned dissatisfac- 
tion on his grey-eyed, ruddy young face. 
Liking, and thoroughly believing in, 
Kirstie Craig, he had impulsively yielded 
to her request, and let himself be hired to 
assist her flight into exile. But in so do- 
ing he had gone roughly counter to pub- 

32 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

lie opinion ; for the Settlement, though 
stupidly inhospitable to Kirstie Craig, 
none the less resented her decision to 
leave it. Her scheme of occupying the 
deserted cabin, farming the deserted clear- 
ing, and living altogether aloof from her 
unloved and unloving fellows, was scouted 
on every hand as the freak of a mad- 
woman ; and Young Dave, just coming 
to the age when public opinion begins to 
seem important, felt uneasy at being iden- 
tified with a matter of public ridicule. He 
saw himself already, in imagination, a theme 
for the fine wit of the Settlement. Never- 
theless, he was glad to be helping Kirstie, 
for he was sound and fearless at heart, 
and he counted her a true friend if she 
did seem to him a bit queer. He was 
faithful, but disapproving. It was Old 
Dave alone, his father, who backed the 
woman's venture without criticism or de- 
mur. He had known Kirstie from small 
girlhood, and known her for a brave, loyal, 
silent, strongly-enduring soul ; and in his 
eyes she did well to leave the Settlement, 
where a shallow spite, sharpened by her 

The Exiles from the Settlement 33 

proud reticence and supplied with arrows 
of injury by her misfortunes, made life an 
undesisting and immitigable hurt to her. 

As she emerged from the twilight and 
came out upon the sunny bleakness of 
the clearing, the unspeakable loneliness of 
it struck a sudden pallor into her grave 
dark face. For a moment, even the 
humanity that was hostile to her seemed 
less cruel than this voiceless solitude. 
Then her resolution came back. The 
noble but somewhat immobile lines of 
her large features relaxed into a half smile 
at her own weakness. She took posses- 
sion, as it were, by a sweeping gesture of 
her head ; then silently gave her hand in 
greeting to Old Dave, who had ranged up 
beside her and swung the dancing Mi- 
randa to his shoulder. Nothing was said 
for several moments, as the party moved 
slowly up the slope ; for they were folk of 
few words, these people, not praters like 
so many of their fellows in the Settlement. 

At last the pink frock began to wriggle 
on the lumberman's shoulder, and Mi« 
randa cried out : — 

34 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

" Let me down. Uncle Dave, I want to 
pick those pretty flowers for my mother." 

The crimson glories of the fireweed 
had filled her eyes with delight; and in 
a few minutes she was struggling after 
the procession with her small arms full 
of the long-stalked blooms. 

In front of the cabin door the proces- 
sion stopped. Dave turned, and said 
seriously : — 

"I've done the best I could by ye, 
Kirstie; an' I reckon it ain't so bad a 
site for ye, after all. But ye'U be power- 
ful lonesome." 

"Thank you kindly, Dave. But we 
ain't going to be lonesome, Miranda and 

"But there's painters 'round. You'd 
ought to hev a gun, Kirstie. I'll be 
sackin' out some stuflF fur ye nex' week, 
Davey an' me, an' I reckon as how I'd 
better fetch ye a gun." 

" We'll be right hungry for a sight of 
your faces by that time, Dave," said 
Kirstie, sweeping a look of tenderness 
over the boy's face, where he stood lean- 


The Exiles from the Settlement 35 

ing on Starts brindled shoulder. "But 
I ain't scared of panthers. Don't you 
mind about the gun, now, for I don't 
want it, and I won't use it!" 

"She ain't skeered o* nothin' that 
walks," muttered Young Dave, with ad- 

The strong face darkened. 

"Yes, I am, Davey," she answered; 

I'm afeard of evil tongues." 

Well, my girl, here ye're well quit 
of *em," said the old lumberman, a slow 
anger burning on his rough-hewn face as 
he thought of certain busy backbiters in 
the Settlement. 

Just then Miranda's small voice chimed 

" Oh, Davey," she cried, catching glee- 
fully at the boy's leg, " look at the nice, 
great big dog ! " And her little brown 
finger pointed to a cluster of stumps, of 
all shapes and sizes, far over on the limits 
of the clearing. Her wide, brown eyes 
danced elvishly. The others followed her 
gaze, all staring intently; but they saw 
no excuse for her excitement. 

36 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

"It might be a b'ar she sees," said 
Old Dave ; " but I can't spot it." 

"They're plenty hereabouts, I sup- 
pose," said Kirstie, rather indifferently, 
letting her eyes wander to other portions 
of her domain. 

" Ain't no bear there," asserted Young 
Dave, with all the confidence of his years. 
" It's a stump ! " 

" Nice big dog ! I want it, mother," 
piped Miranda, suddenly darting away. 
But her mother's firm hand fell upon her 

" There's no big dog out here, child," 
she said quietly. And Old Dave, after 
puckering his keen eyes and knitting his 
shaggy brows in vain, exclaimed : — 

"Oh, quit yer foolin', Mirandy, ye 
little witch. 'Tain't nothin' but stumps, I 
tell ye." 

It was the child's eyes, however, that 
had the keener vision, the subtler know- 
ledge; and, though now she let herself 
seem to be persuaded, and obediently 
carried her armful of fireweed into the 
cabin, she knew it was no stump she had 

The Exiles from the Settlement 37 

been looking at. And as for Kroof; 
the she-bear, though she had indeed sat 
moveless as a stump among the stumps, 
she knew that the child had detected her. 
She saw that Miranda had the eyes that 
see everything and cannot be deceived. 

For two days the man and the boy 
stayed at the clearing to help Kirstie get 
settled. The fields rang pleasantly with 
the tanky tanky a-tonky tank of the cow-bells, 
as the cattle fed over the new pasturage. 
The edges of the clearing resounded with 
axe strokes, and busy voices echoed on 
the autumn air. There was much rough 
fencing to be built, — zig-zag arrange- 
ments of brush and saplings, — in order 
that Kirstie's "critters" might be shut 
in till the sense of home should so grow 
upon them as to keep them from straying. 

The two days done, Old Dave and Young 
Dave shouldered their axes and went away. 
Kirstie forthwith straightened her fine 
shoulders to the Atlas load of solitude 
which had threatened at first to overwhelm 
her; and she and Miranda settled down 
to a strangely silent routine. This was 

38 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

broken, however, at first, by weekly visits 
from Old Dave, who came to bring hay, 
and roots, and other provisions against 
the winter, together with large " hanks *' 
of coarse homespun yarn, to occupy 
Kirstie's fingers during the long winter 

Kirstie was well fitted to the task she 
had so bravely set herself. She could 
swing an axe ; and the fencing grew 
steadily through the fall. She could guide 
the plough; and before the snow came 
some ten acres of the long fallow sod had 
been turned up in brown furrows, to be 
ripened and mellowed by the frosts for next 
spring's planting. The black-and-white 
cow was still in good milk, and could be 
depended on not to go dry a day more 
than two months before calving. The 
steers were thrifty and sleek, and showed 
no signs of fretting for old pastures. The 
hoarse but homely music of the cow-bells, 
sounding all day over the fields, and giv- 
ing out an occasional soft tonk-a-tonk from 
the darkness of the stalls at night, came 
to content her greatly. The lines which 

The Exiles from the Settlement 39 

she had brought from the Settlement 
smoothed themselves from about her 
mouth and eyes^ and the large^ sufficing 
beauty of her face was revealed in the 
peace of her new life. 

About seven years before this move to 
the cabin in the clearing, Kirstie Craig — 
then Kirstie MacAlister — had gone one 
evening to the cross-roads grocery which 
served the Settlement as General Intel- 
ligence Office. Here was the post-office 
as well, in a corner of the store, fitted up 
with some dozen of lettered and dusty 
pigeon-holes. Nodding soberly to the 
loafers who lounged about on the soap 
boxes and nail kegs, Kirstie stepped up 
to the counter to buy a quart of molasses. 
She was just passing over her gaudy blue- 
and-yellow pitcher to be filled, when a 
stranger came in who caught her attention. 
He did far more than catch her attention; 
for the stately and sombre girl, who had 
never before taken pains to look twice on 
any man's face, now felt herself grow hot 
and cold as this stranger's eyes glanced 
carelessly over her splendid form. She 

40 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

heard him ask the postmaster for lodg^ 
ings. He spoke in a tired voice, and 
accents that set him apart from the men 
of the Settlement. She looked at him 
twice and yet again, noted with a pang 
that he seemed ill, and met his eye fairly 
for just one heart-beat. At once she 
flushed scarlet under it, snatched up her 
pitcher, and almost rushed from the store. 
The loafers were too much occupied with 
the new arrival to notice her perturbation ; 
but he noticed it, and was pleased. Never 
before had he seen so splendid a girl as 
this black-haired, sphinx-faced creature, 
with the scarlet kerchief about her head. 
She was a picture that awoke the artist in 
him, and put him in haste to resume his 
palette and brushes. 

For Frank Craig, dilettante and man 
of the world, was a good deal of an artist 
when the mood seized him strongly 
enough. When another mood seized 
him, with sufficient vigour to overcome 
his native indolence, he was something of 
a musician ; and again, more rarely, some- 
thing of a poet. The temperament was 

The Exiles from the Settlement 41 

his; but the steadiness of purpose, the 
decision of will, the long-enduring patience, 
these were not. He had just enough 
money to let him float through his world 
without work. Health he had not, and 
the poor semblance of it which mere youth 
supplied he had squandered childishly. 
Hearing of new health in the gift of the 
northern spruce woods, with their high, 
balsam-sweet airs, he had drifted away 
from his temptations, and at last sought 
out this remote backwoods settlement as 
a place where he might expect to get 
much for little. He was very good to look 
upon, — about as tall as Kirstie herself, — 
slender, active, alert in movement when 
not wearied, thoroughbred in every line 
of face and figure. His eyes, of a very 
deep greyish green under long black 
lashes, were penetrating in their clearness, 
but curiously unstable. In their beauti- 
ful depths there was waged forever a 
strange conflict between honesty and in- 
constancy. His face, pale and sallow, was 
clothed with a trimly pointed, close, dark 
beard ; and his hair, just a trifle more 

42 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

abundant than the fashion of his wqrld 
approved, was of a peculiar, tawny dark 

The air of the Settlement was healing 
and tonic to the lungs, and before he had 
breathed it a month he felt himself aglow 
with joyous life. Before he had breathed 
it a month he had won Kirstie MacAlister, 
to whom he seemed little less than a god. 
To him, on her part, she was a splendid 
mystery. Even her peculiarities of gram- 
mar and accent did no more than lend 
a piquancy to her strangeness. They ap- 
pealed as a rough, fresh flavour to his 
wearied senses. Here, safe from the wast- 
ing world, he would really paint, would 
really write, and life would come to mean 
something. One day he and Kirstie went 
away on the rattling old mail-waggon, which 
visited the Settlement twice a week. Ten 
days later they came back as man and 
wife, whereat the Settlement showed no 
surprise whatever. 

For a whole year after the birth of his 
child, the great-eyed and fairy-like Mi- 
randa, Frank Craig stayed at the Settle- 

The Exiles from the Settlement 43 

ment, seemingly content. He was loving, 
admiring, tactful, proud of his dark im- 
pressive wife, and the quickness with which 
she caught his purity of speech. Then 
one day he seemed restless. He talked 
of business in the city — of a month's 
absence that could not be avoided. With 
a kind of terror at her heart Kirstie heard 
him, but offered no hint of opposition to 
so reasonable a purpose. And by the next 
trip of the rattling mail-waggon he went, 
leaving the Settlement dark to Kirstie's 

But — he never came back. The months 
rolled by, and no word came of him ; and 
Kirstie gnawed her heart out in proud 
anguish. Inquiry throughout the cities of 
the coast brought no hint of him. Then, 
as the months climbed into years, that ten- 
der humanity which resents misfortune as 
a crime started a rumour that Kirstie had 
been fooled. Perhaps there had been 
no marriage, went the whisper at first. 
" Served her right, with her airs, thinkin* 
she could ketch a gentleman ! " — was the 
next development of it. Kirstie, with her 

44 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

superior air, had never been popular at 
best ; and after her marriage the sufficiency 
and cxclusiveness of her joy, coupled with 
the comparative fineness of speech which 
she adopted, made her the object of jeal- 
ous criticism through all the country-side. 
When the temple of her soaring happiness 
came down about her ears, then was the 
time for her chastening, and the gossips 
of the Settlement took a hand in it with 
right good-will. Nothing else worth talk- 
ing about happened in that neighbourhood 
during the next few years, so the little 
rumour was cherished and nourished. 
Presently it grew to a great scandal, and 
the gossips came to persuade themselves 
that things had not been as they should 
be. Kirstie, they said, was being very 
properly punished by Providence, and it 
was well to show that they, chaste souls, 
stood on the side of Providence. If Provi- 
dence threw a stone, it was surely their 
place to throw three. 

At last some one of imagination vivid 
beyond that of the common run added a 
new feature. Some one else had heard 

The Exiles from the Settlement 45 

from some one else of some one having 
seen Frank Craig in the city. There was 
at first a difference of opinion as to what 
city ; but that little discrepancy was soon 
smoothed out. Then a woman was sug- 
gested, and forthwith it appeared that he 
had been seen driving with a handsome 
woman, behind a spanking pair, with liv- 
eried coachman and footman on the box. 
Thus gradually the myth acquired a colour 
to endear it to the unoccupied rural imagi- 
nation. Kirstie's inquiries soon proved to 
her the utter baselessness of the scandal ; 
but she was too proud to refute what she 
knew to be a cherished lie. She endured, 
for Miranda's sake, till the dark face grew 
lined, and the black eyes smouldered 
dangerously, and she began to fear lest 
she should do some one a hurt. At last, 
having heard by chance of that deserted 
clearing in the forest, she sold out her 
cottage at a sacrifice and fled from the 
bitter tongues. 

Chapter IV 
Miranda and the Furtive Folk 

FROM the very first day of her new 
life at the clearing, Miranda had 
found it to her taste. Her mother loved 
it for its peace, for its healing ; but to the 
elvish child it had an incomparably deeper 
and more positive appeal. For her the 
place was not solitary. Her wide eyes 
saw what Kirstie could not see; and to 
her the forest edges — which she was not 
allowed to pass — were full of most satis- 
fying playmates just waiting for her to 
invite their confidence. Meanwhile, she 
had the two steers and the black-and- 
white cow to talk to. Her mother noticed 
that when she sat down in the grass by the 
head of one of the animals, and began her 
low mysterious communication, it would 
stop its feeding and hearken motionless. 
The black-and-red brindle. Star, would 


Miranda and the Furtive Folk 47 

sometimes follow her about like a dog, 
as if spelled by the child's solemn eyes. 
Then the solemn eyes on a sudden would 
dance with light; her lips would break 
into a peal of whimsical mirth^ shrill but 
not loud; and the steer, with a flick of 
his tail and an offended snort, would turn 
again to his pasturing. 

In a hole in one of the logs, just under 
the eaves of the cabin, there was a family 
of red squirrels, the four youngsters about 
three-fourths grown and almost ready to 
shift for themselves. No sooner had the 
old lumberman and his son gone away 
than the squirrels began to make them- 
selves much at home. They saw in 
Kirstie a huge and harmless creature, 
whose presence in the cabin was useful 
to scare away their enemies. But in 
Miranda they found a sort of puzzling 
kinship. The two old squirrels would 
twitch up and down on the edge of the 
roof, chattering shrilly to her, flirting their 
airy tails, and stretching down their heads 
to scan her searchingly with their keen 
protruding eyes; while Miranda, just be- 

48 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

low, would dance excitedly up and down 
in response, nodding her head, jerking her 
elbows, and chattering back at them in a 
quick, shrill voice. It was a very differ- 
ent voice to the soft murmurs in which 
she talked to the cattle; but to the 
squirrels it appeared satisfactory. Before 
she had been a week at the clearing the 
whole squirrel family seemed to regard 
her as one of themselves, snatching bread 
from her tiny brown fingers, and running 
up her skirt to her shoulder whensoever 
the freak possessed them. Kirs tie, they 
ignored — the harmless, necessary Kirstie, 
mother to Miranda. 

No sooner were they fairly settled than 
the child discovered an incongruity in her 
gay pink calico frocks, and got her mother 
to bury them out of sight in the deal 
chest behind the door. She was at ease 
now only in the dull, blue-grey home- 
spun, which made her feel at one with 
her quiet surroundings. Nevertheless the 
vein of contradiction which streaked her 
baby heart with bright inconsistencies bade 
her demand always a bit of scarlet ribbon 

Miranda and the Furtive Folk 49 

about her neck. This whim Kirstie hu- 
moured with a smile, recognizing in it a 
perpetuation of the scarlet kerchief about 
her own black hair. As for Miranda's 
hair, it was black like her mother's when 
seen in shadow; but in the sunshine it 
showed certain tawny lights, a pledge of 
her fetherhood to all who had known 
Frank Craig. 

So the autumn slipped by; and the 
silent folk of the wood, watching her 
curiously and unwinkingly as she played 
while her mother built fences, came to 
know Miranda as a creature in some way 
not quite alien to themselves. They 
knew that she often saw them when her 
mother's eyes could not. Perceiving that 
her mother did not quite understand her, 
at times, when she tried to point out 
pretty animals among the trees, the child 
grew a little sensitive and reticent on the 
subject ; and the furtive folk, who had at 
first inclined to resent her inescapable 
vision, presently realized her reserves and 
were appeased. Her grey little sprite of 
a figure might have darted in among the 

50 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

trees, turned to a statue, and become sud- 
denly as invisible as any lynx, or cat, or 
hare, or pine-marten amongst them, ex- 
cept, indeed, for that disquieting flame 
of scarlet at her neck. This was a puzzle 
to all the folk of the wood, continually 
reminding them that this quiet-flitting 
creature did not really bfelong to the 
wood at all, but to the great woman with 
the red about her head, whose axe made 
so vexing a clamour amid the trees. 
As for Kroof, the bear, that bit of scarlet 
so interested her that one day, being 
curious, she came much nearer than she 
intended. Miranda saw her, of course, 
and gazed with wide-eyed longing for the 
"great big dog" as a playmate. Just 
then Kirstie saw her, too — very close 
at hand, and very huge. 

For the first time, Kirstie Craig felt 
something like fear, not for herself, but 
for the child. Thrusting Miranda roughly 
behind her, she clutched her axe, and 
stood motionless, erect and formidable, 
awaiting attack. Her great black eyes 
blazed ominously upon the intruder. But 


Minuida and the FurtiTe FoQc 51 

E^ioo^ wdl filled vidi hte bcnies, and 
sweet wild iools» and hiMicjcoinb, was in 
most amiaMc hninoiir, and jost shambled 
off laz3 J wiien she saw herself detected ; 
whcie up o n Kirsde, widi a diort Ln^h of 
relief threw down her axe and snatched 
Ac child to her breast. Nliranda, how^ 
crer, was weqiing salt tears of disappoint- 

^ I want i^ mother," she sobbed ; ^die 
nke Ing dog, Toa scared it awar." 

Kimie had heard more than' enoogh 
about the dc^. 

^Hark now, NCianda," she said se- 
verdT, giving her shoahfcr a sHght shake 
to enforce attentuxL, ^ Yoa just lemem- 
ber wbat I say. That ain't a dog; tiax^s 
a bear: s teoTy I sar! And don't Toa 
crer go near i^ or itll eat joa up. Mind 
yoo now, Miranda, or 111 just whip joa 

Kirsde was a little fluttered and thrown 
off her poise at the idea of Mlrzndz en- 
coontering the great animal alone, and 
perhaps attempti ng to bring it home to 
play with; so she forgot for a moment 

g2 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

the wonted stringency of her logic. As 
for Miranda, she consented to obey, and 
held her tongue; but she clung secretly 
to her own opinion on the subject of the 
big dog. She knew very well that the 
fascinating animal did not want to eat 
her; and her mother's order seemed to 
her just one of those bits of maternal per- 
versity which nobody can ever hope to 

The incident, however, overshadowed 
the child's buoyant spirits for the best 
part of two whole days. It thrust so very 
far off the time she hoped for, when she 
might know and talk to the shy, furtive 
folk of the wood, with their strange, un- 
winking eyes. Her mother kept her now 
ever close to her skirts. She had no one 
to talk to about the things her mother 
did not understand, except the steers and 
the black-and-white cow, and the rather 
irrepressible squirrels. 

The winter, which presently fell white 
and soundless and sparkling about the 
lonely cabin, was to Miranda full of 
events. Before the snow Kirstie had re- 

Miranda and the Furtive Folk 53 

paired the old lean-to, turning it into a 
fowl-house; and now they had six prim 
hens to occupy it, and a splendid, flame- 
red cock who crowed most loftily. Mi- 
randa felt that this proud bird despised 
her, so she did not get on very well with 
him ; but the hens were amiable, if unin- 
teresting, and it was a perennial joy to 
search out their eggs in the loft or the 
corners of the stalls. Then there were 
the paths to be kept clear after every 
snow-fall, — the path to the spring, the 
path to the barn door and hen-house, the 
path to the woodpile. Uncle Dave had 
made her a hand-sled, and she had the 
exhilarating duty of hauling in the wood 
from the pile as fast as her mother could 
split it. It was a spirited race, this, in 
which her mother somehow always man- 
aged to keep just about one stick ahead. 
And the fishing — this was a great 
event, coming about once a week, if the 
weather suited. Both Kirstie and Mi- 
randa were semi-vegetarians. Frank Craig 
had been a decryer of flesh-meat, one who 
would have chosen to live on fruits and 

54 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

roots and grains and eggs, had not his 
body cried out against the theory of his 
brain. But he had so far infected his wife 
with his prejudice that neither she nor the 
child now touched meat in any form. The 
aversion, artificial on Kirstie's part, was 
instinctive on Miranda's. But as for fish 
— fish seemed to them both quite another 
matter. Even Miranda of the sympathies 
and the perceptions had no sense of fellow- 
ship for these cold-blooded, clammy, un- 
pleasant things. She had a fierce little 
delight in catching them ; she had a con- 
tented joy in eating them when fried to a 
savory brown in butter and yellow corn- 
meal. For Miranda was very close to 
Nature, and Nature laughs at consistency. 
The fishing in which Miranda so de- 
lighted took place in winter at the lake. 
When the weather seemed quite settled, 
Kirstie would set out on her strong snow- 
shoes, with Miranda, on her fairy fac- 
similes of them, striding bravely beside 
her, and fellow the long, white trail down 
to the lake. Even to Miranda's discern- 
ing eyes the trail was lonely now, for most 

Miranda and the Furtive Folk 55 

of the forest folk were either asleep, or 
abroad, or fearful lest their tinted coats 
should reveal them against the snowy sur- 
face. Once in a while she detected the 
hare squatting under a spruce bush, look- 
ing like a figure of snow in his winter 
coat ; and once or twice, too, she saw the 
weasel, white now, with but a black tip to 
his tail as a warning to all who had cause 
to dread his cruelty. Miranda knew noth- 
ing about him, but she did not quite like 
the weasel, which was just as well, seeing 
that the weasel hated Miranda and all the 
world besides. As for the lynx and the 
brown cat, they kept warily aloof in their 
winter shyness. The wood-mice were 
asleep, — warm, furry balls buried in their 
dry nests far from sight ; and Kroof, too, 
was dreaming away the frozen months in 
a hollow under a pine root, with five or 
six feet of snow drifted over her door to 
keep her sleep unjarred. 

Arrived at the lake, Kirstie would cut 
two holes through the ice with her nimble 
axe, bait two hooks with bits of fat pork, 
and put a line into Miranda's little mit* 

g6 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

tened hands. The trout in the lake were 
numerous and hungry; and somehow 
Miranda's hook had ever the more 
deadly fascination for them, and Mi- 
randa's catch would outnumber Kirstie's 
by often three to one. Though her 
whole small being seemed absorbed in 
the fierce game, Miranda was all the time 
vividly aware of the white immensity en- 
folding her. The lifeless white level of 
the lake ; the encircling shores all white ; 
the higher fringe of trees, black beneath, 
but deeply garmented with white; the 
steep mountain-side, at the foot of the 
lake, all white ; and over-brooding, glim- 
mering, opalescent, fathomless, the flat 
white arch of sky. Across the whiteness 
of the mountain-side, one day, Miranda 
saw a dark beast moving, a beast that 
looked to her like a great cat. She saw 
it halt, gazing down at them ; and even at 
that distance she could see it stretch wide 
its formidable jaws. A second more and 
she heard the cry which came from those 
formidable jaws, — a high, harsh, screech- 
ing wail, which amused her so that she 

Miranda and the Furtive Folk 57 

forgot to land a fish. But her mother 
seemed troubled at the sound. She 
gazed very steadily for some seconds at 
the far-off shape, and then said : " Pan- 
thers, Miranda ! I don't mind bears ; but 
with panthers we've got to keep our eyes 
open. I reckon we'll get home before 
sundown to-day ; and mind you keep 
right close by me every step." 

All this solicitude seemed to Miranda 
a lamentable mistake. She had no doubt 
in her own mind that the panther would 
be nice to play with. 

As I have said, the winter was for Mi- 
randa full of events. Twice, as she was 
carrying out the morning dish of hot 
potatoes and meal to the hens, she saw 
Ten-Tine, the bull caribou, cross the clear- 
ing with measured stately tread, his curi- 
ous, patchy antlers held high, his muzzle 
stretched straight ahead of him, his de- 
mure cows at his heels. This was before 
the snow lay deep in the forest. Later 
on in the winter she would look out with 
eager interest every morning to see what 
visitors had been about the cabin during 

58 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

the night. Sometimes there was a fox 
track, very dainty, cleanly indented, and 
regular, showing that the animal who made 
it knew where he was going and had some- 
thing definite in view. Hare tracks there 
were sure to be — she soon came to rec- 
ognize those three-toed, triplicate clusters 
of impressions, stamped deeply upon the 
snow by the long, elastic jump. When- 
ever there was a weasel track, — narrow, 
finely pointed, treacherously innocent, — 
it was sure to be closely parallel to that 
of a leaping hare ; and Miranda soon ap- 
prehended, by that instinct of hers, that 
the companionship was not like to be well 
for the hare. Once, to her horror, she 
found that a hare track ended suddenly, 
right under the cabin window, in a blood- 
stained patch, bestrewn with fur and 
bones. All about it the snow was swept 
as if by wings, and two strange foot- 
prints told the story. They were long, 
these two footprints — forked, with deep 
hooks for toes, and an obscure sort of 
brush mark behind them. This was 
where the owl had sat up on the snow 

Miranda and the Furtive Folk 59 

for a few minutes after dining, to ponder 
on the merits of the general order of 
things, and of a good meal in particular. 
Miranda's imagination painted a picture 
of the big bird sitting there in the moon- 
light beside the bloody bones, his round, 
horned head turning slowly from one side 
to the other, his hooked beak snapping 
now and again in reminiscence, his sharp 
eyes wide open and flaming. There was 
also the track of a fox, which had come 
up from the direction of the barn, investi- 
gated the scene of action, and gone off at 
a sharp, decisive angle toward the woods. 
Miranda had no clew to tell her how 
stealthily that fox had come, or how nearly 
he had succeeded in catching an owl for 
his breakfast ; but from that morning she 
bore a grudge against owls, and never could 
hear without a flash of wrath their hollow 
two-hoo-hoO'Whoo-00 echoing solemnly from 
the heart of the pinewood. 

But the owl was not the only bird that 
Miranda knew that winter. Well along 
In January, when the haws were all gone, 
and most of the withered rowan-berries 

6o The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

had been eaten, and famine threatened 
such of the bird-folk as had not jour- 
neyed south, there came to the cabin brisk 
foraging flocks of the ivory-billed snow- 
bird. For these Miranda had crumbs 
ready always, and as word of her bounty 
went abroad in the forest, her feathered 
pensioners increased. Even a hungry crow 
would come now and then, glossy and side- 
ling, watchful and audacious, to share the 
hospitality of this kind Miranda of the 
crumbs. She liked the crows, and would 
hear no ill of them from her mother ; but 
most of all she liked those big, rosy- 
headed, trustful children, the pine-gros- 
beaks, who would almost let her take them 
in her hands. Whenever their wandering 
flocks came down to her, she held winter 
carnival for them. 

During those days when it was not fine 
enough to go out, — when the snow drove 
in great swirls and phantom armies across 
the open, and a dull roar came from the 
straining forest, and the fowls went to 
roost at midday, and the cattle munched 
contentedly in their stanchions, glad to be 

Minuida and the Furtive FcSk 6i 

shut In, — then the cabin sfmifH very 
pleasant to Miruida. On such days the 
drifts were sometimes piled haUway up 
the windows. On such days the dry logs 
on the hearth blazed more brightly than 
their wont,and die flames sang more mer- 
rily up the chimney. On such days die 
piles of hot buckwheat cakes, drenched in 
butter and brown molasses, tasted more 
richly toothsome than at any time else, 
and on such davs she learned to knit. 
This was very interesting. At first she 
knit gay black-and-red garters for her 
mother; and then, speedily mastering 
diis nufimentary process, she was fairly 
launched on a stocking, with four needles. 
The stocking, of course, was for her 
mother, who would not find fault if it 
were knitted too tighdy here and too 
loosely there. As for Kirstie herself, her 
nimble needles would click all day, turn- 
ing out socks and mittens of wonderful 
thickness to supply the steady market of 
the lumber camps. 

One night, after just such a cosey, shut- 
in day, Miranda was awakened by a 

6i The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

scratching sound on the roof. Through- 
out the cold weather Miranda slept with 
her mother in the main room, in a broad 
new bunk which had been substituted for 
the narrow one wherein Old Dave had 
slept on his first visit to the clearing. 
Miranda caught her mother's arm, and 
shook it gently. But Kirstie was already 
awake, lying with wide eyes, listening. 

"What's that, mother, trying to get 
in ? " asked the child in a whisper. 

" Hush-sh-sh," replied Kirstie, laying 
her fingers on the child's mouth. 

The scratching came louder now, as 
the light snow was swept clear and the 
inquisitive claws reached the bark. Then 
it stopped. After a second or two of 
silence there was a loud, blowing sound, 
as if the visitor were clearing his nostrils 
from the snow and cold. This was fol- 
lowed by two or three long, penetrating 
sniffs, so curiously hungry in their sug- 
gestion that even Miranda's dauntless lit- 
tle heart beat very fast. As for Kirstie, 
she was decidedly nervous. Springing 
out of bed she ran to the hearth, raked 

Miranda and the Furtive Folk 63 

the coals from the ashes, fanned them, 
heaped on birch bark and dry wood, and 
in a moment had a great blaze roaring up 
the chimney-throat. The glow from the 
windows streamed far out across the snow. 
To the visitor it proved disconcerting. 
There was one more sharp rattle of claws 
upon the roof, then a fluffy thump below 
the eaves. The snow had stopped falling 
hours before; and when, at daylight, Kirstie 
opened the door, there was the deep hollow 
where the panther had jumped down, and 
there was the floundering trail where he 
had fled. 

This incident made Miranda amend, 
in some degree, her first opinion of pan- 

Chapter V 

Kroof, the She-bear 

SPRING came early to the clearing 
that year. Kirsde's autumn fur- 
rows^ dark and steaming, began to show 
in patches through the diminished snow. 
The chips before the house and the litter 
about the bam, drawing the sun strongly, 
were first of all uncovered; and over 
them, as to the conquest of new worlds, 
the haughty cock led forth his dames to 
scratch. ^^ Saunders," Miranda had called 
him, in remembrance of a strutting beau 
at the Settlement; and with the advent 
of April cheer, and an increasing abun- 
dance of eggs, and an ever resounding 
cackle from his complacent partlets, his 
conceit became insufferable. One morn- 
ing, when something she did offended his 
dignity, he had the presumption to face 

her with beak advanced and wide-ruffled 


Kroof, the She-bear 65 

neck feathers. But Saunders did not 
know Miranda. Quick as a flash of 
light she seized him by the legs, whirled 
him around her head, and flung him head- 
long, squawking with fear and shame, upon 
his own dunghill. It took him a good 
hour to recover his self-esteem, but after 
that Miranda stood out in his eyes as the 
one creature in the world to be respected. 

When the clearing was quite bare, ex- 
cept along the edges of the forest, and 
Kirstie was again at work on her fencing, 
the black-and-white cow gave birth to a 
black-and-white calf, which Miranda at 
once claimed as her own property. It 
was a very wobbly, knock-kneed little 
heifer; but Miranda admired it im- 
mensely, and with lofty disregard of its 
sex, christened it Michael. 

About this time the snow shrank away 
from her hollow under the pine root, and 
Kroof came forth to sun herself. She 
had lived all winter on nothing but the 
fat stored up on the spaces of her capa- 
cious frame. Nevertheless she was not 
famished — she had still a reserve to come 

66 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

and go on, till food should be abundant. 
A few days after waking up she bore a 
cub. It was the custom of her kind to 
bear two cubs at a birth ; but Kroof, 
besides being by long odds the biggest 
she-bear ever known in that region, had a 
pronounced individuality of her own, and 
was just as well satisfied with herself over 
one cub as over two. 

The hollow under the pine root was 
warm and softly lined — a condition quite 
indispensable to the newcomer, which 
was about as unlike a bear as any baby 
creature of its size could well manage to 
be. It was blind, helpless, whimpering, 
more shapeless and clumsy-looking than 
the clumsiest conceivable pup, and almost 
naked. Its tender, hairless hide looked a 
poor thing to confront the world with ; 
but its appetite was astounding, and 
KrooPs milk inexhaustible. In a few 
days a soft dark fur began to appear. As 
the mother sat, hour by hour, watching 
it and suckling it, half erect upon her 
haunches, her fore legs braced wide apart, 
her head stretched as far down as possible. 

Kroof, the She-bear 67 

her narrow red tongue hanging out to one 
side, her eyes half closed in rapture, it 
seemed to grow visibly beneath her ab- 
sorbing gaze. Before four weeks had 
passed, the cub was covered with a jet 
black coat, soft and glossy. This being 
the case, he thought it time to open his 
eyes and look about. 

He was now about the size of a small 
cat, but of a much heavier build. His 
head, at this age, was shorter for its 
breadth than his mother's ; the ears much 
larger, fan-like and conspicuous. His 
eyes, very softly vague at first, soon 
acquired a humorous, mischievous ex- 
pression, which went aptly with the erect, 
inquisitive ears. Altogether he was a 
fine baby — a fair justification of Kroof 's 

The spring being now fairly forward, 
and pale, whitish-green shoots upthrust- 
ing themselves numerously through the 
dead leaves, and the big crimson leaf-bud 
of the skunk-cabbage vividly punctuating 
the sombreness of the swamp, Kroof led 
her infant forth to view their world. He 

68 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

had no such severe and continued educa- 
tion to undergo as that which falls to the 
lot of other youngsters among the folk of 
the ancient wood. For those others the 
first lesson, the hardest and the most 
tremendous in its necessity, was how to 
avoid their enemies. With this lesson 
ill-learned, all others found brief term ; 
for the noiseless drama, in which all the 
folk of the forest had their parts, moved 
ever, through few scenes or through many, 
to a tragic close. But the bear, being for 
the most part dominant, had his immuni- 
ties. Even the panther, swift and fierce 
and masterful, never deliberately sought 
quarrel with the bear, being mindful of 
his disastrous clutch and the lightning 
sweep of his paw. The bear-cub, there- 
fore, going with its mother till almost full 
grown, gave no thought at all to enemies ; 
and the cub with such a giantess as Kroof 
for its mother might safely make a mock 
even at panthers. Kroof 's cub had thus 
but simple things to learn, following close 
at his mother's flank. During the first 
blind weeks of his cubhood he had, indeed. 

Kroof, the She-bear 69 

to acquire the prime virtue of silence, which 
was not easy, for he lovdd to whimper and 
grumble in a comfortable little fashion of 
his own. This was all right while Kroof 
was at home ; but when she was out forag- 
ing, then silence was the thing. This he 
learned, partly from Kroof *s admonitions, 
partly from a deep-seated instinct ; and 
whenever he was left alone, he held his 
tongue. There was always the possibility, 
slight but unpleasant, of a fox or a brown 
cat noting KrooPs absence, and seizing 
the chance to savour a delicate morsel of 
sucking bear. 

Wandering the silent woods with Kroof, 
the cub would sniff carefully at the moist 
earth and budding shoots wheresoever his 
mother stopped to dig. He thus learned 
where to find the starchy roots which 
form so large a part of the bear's food in 
spring. He fopnd out the important dif- 
ference between the sweet groundnuts 
and the fiery bitter bulb of the arum, or 
Indian turnip ; and he learned to go 
over the grassy meadows by the lake and 
dig unerringly for the wild bean's nour- 

70 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

ishing tubers. He discovered, also, what 
old stumps to tear apart when he wanted 
a pleasantly acid tonic dose of the larvae 
of the wood-ant. Among these serious 
occupations he would gambol between his 
mother's feet, or caper hilariously on his 
hind legs. Soon he would have been 
taught to detect a bee tree, and to rob it 
of its delectable stores without getting his 
eyes stung out; but just then the myste- 
rious forest fates dropped the curtain on 
his merry little play, as a reminder that 
not even for the great black bear could 
the rule of doom be relaxed. 

KrooPs first wanderings with the cub 
were in the neighbourhood of the clear- 
ing, where both were sometimes seen by 
Miranda. The sight of the cub so over- 
joyed her that she departed from her 
usual reticence as to the forest-folk, and 
told her mother about the lovely, glossy 
little dog that the nice, great big dog took 
about with her. The only result was that 
Kirstie gave her a sharp warning. 

" Dog !" she exclaimed severely ; "didn't 
I tell you, Miranda, it was a bear ? Bears 

u^^ Mm^ waasc J ibx -utm, ym. tss3L 

ish iknsig fitunu^ invux^ iasr wxn, ^ix- 

lead dke ndi vi^ so^iC* Tie Jtirt^sr 

and dred Hm; k^ ^sks: ifwasaaust ie ti^tnuc 
throw faiixttdtf' dgnrs ut va v^€j wr^ 
ymky-whaiJt »i« vf prsia« it tie ^jar, 
and tdbse to ^ a ftt^^ ^Earner, lii:r it 
spite of dbe appcs3 ^ 3q3^ oxczzacal Irrie 
black snout, b^ tar*, aad tBczjc^czq^ era, 
old Kroof would h/^xi losk itsrtjr rll ie 
was g^ enoo^ to jum^ tip zzd. t^zju^w 
the march. With the ezercbe he gc/t a 
little leaner, bat much harder, and soon 
came to delight in the widest wandering. 
Nothing could tire him, and at the end 
of the journey he would chase rabbits, or 
weasels, or other elusive creatures, till con- 

72 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

victed of futility by his mother's sarcastic 

These wide wanderings were, indeed, 
the making of him, so that he promised to 
rival Kroof herself in prowess and stature; 
but alas ! poor cub, they were also his un- 
doing. Had he stayed at home — but 
even that might have little availed, for 
among the folk of the wood it is right at 
home that fate most surely strikes. 

One day they two were exploring far 
over in the next valley — the valley of 
the Quah-Davic, a tract little familiar to 
Kroof herself. At the noon hour Kroof 
lay down in a little hollow of coolness 
beside a spring that drip-dropy drip-dropy 
drip-dropped from the face of a green rock. 
The cub, however, went untiringly explor- 
ing the thickets for fifty yards about, out 
of sight, indeed, but scrupulously never 
out of ear-shot. 

Near one of these thickets his nostrils 
caught a new and enthralling savour. He 
had never, in his brief life, smelled any- 
thing at all like it, but an unerring instinct 
told him it was the smell of something very 

Kroof, the She-bear 73 

good to eat. Pushing through the leafage 
he came upon the source of the fragrance. 
Under a slanting structure of logs he found 
a piece of flesh, yellowish-white, streaked 
thickly with dark reddish-brown, — and, 
oh, so sweet smelling ! It was stuck tempt- 
ingly on a forked point of wood. His ears 
stood up very wide and high in his eager- 
ness. His sensitive nostrils wrinkled as 
he snified at the tempting find. He de- 
cided that he would just taste it, and then 
go fetch his mother. But it was a little 
high up for him. He rose, set his small 
white teeth into it, clutched it with his soft 
forepaws, and flung his whole weight upon 
it to pull it down. 

Kroof, dozing in her hollow of coolness, 
heard a small agonized screech, cut short 
horribly. On the instant her great body 
went tearing in a panic through the under- 
brush. She found poor cub crushed flat 
under the huge timbers of "a dead-fall," 
his glossy head and one paw sticking out 
piteously, his little red tongue protruding 
from his distorted mouth. 

Kroof needed no second look to know 

74 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

in her heart he was dead, stone dead ; but 
in the rage of her grief she would not ac- 
knowledge it. She tore madly at the 
great timber, — so huge a thing to set to 
crush so small a life, — and so astonishing 
was the strength of her claws and her vast 
forearms that in the course of half an 
hour she had the trap fairly demolished. 
Softly she removed the crushed and shape- 
less body, licking the mouth, the nostrils, 
the pitifully staring eyes ; snuggling it 
lightly as a breath, and moaning over it. 
She would lift the head a little with her 
paw, and redouble her caresses as it fell 
limply aside. Then it grew cold. This 
was testimony she could not pretend to 
ignore. She ceased the caresses which 
proved so vain to keep warmth in the little 
body she loved. With her snout held 
high in air she turned around slowly twice, 
as if in an appeal to some power not clearly 
apprehended ; then, without another glance 
at her dead, she rushed off madly through 
the forest. 

All night she wandered aimlessly, hither 
and thither through the low Quah-Davic 

Kroof, the She-bear 75 

valley, over the lower slopes of the moun- 
tain, through tracts where she had never 
been, but of which she took no note ; and 
toward noon of the following day she found 
herself once more in the ancient wood, not 
far from the clearing. She avoided widely 
the old den under the pine root, and at 
last threw herself down, worn out and 
with unsuckled teats fiercely aching, behind 
the trunk of a fallen hemlock. 

She slept heavily for an hour or two. 
Then she was awakened by the crying of 
a child. She knew it at once for Mi- 
randa's voice ; and being in someway stirred 
by it, in spite of the preoccupation of her 
pain, she got up and moved noiselessly 
toward the sound. 

Chapter VI 

The Initiation of Miranda 

THAT same day, just after noon- 
meat, when Miranda had gone out 
with the scraps in a yellow bowl to feed 
the hens, Kirstie had been taken with 
what the people at the Settlement would 
have called "a turn." All the morning 
she had felt unusually oppressed by the 
heat, but had thought little of it. Now, 
as she was wiping the dishes, she quite 
unaccountably dropped one of them on 
the floor. The crash aroused her. She 
saw with a pang that it was Miranda's 
little plate of many colours. Then things 
turned black about her. She just managed 
to reel across to the bunk, and straight- 
way fell upon it in a kind of faint. From 
this state she passed into a heavy sleep, 
which lasted for several hours, and prob- 
ably saved her from some violent sickness. 


The Initiation of Miranda 77 

When Miranda had fed the hens she 
did not go straight back to her mother. 
Instead, she wandered off toward the 
edge of the dark firwood, where it came 
down close behind the cabin. The broad 
light of the open fields, now green with 
buckwheat, threw a living illumination 
far in among the cool arcades. 

Between the straight grey trunks Mi- 
randa's clear eyes saw something move. 

She liked it very much indeed. It 
looked to her extremely like a cat, only 
larger than any cat she had seen at the 
Settlement, taller on its legs, and with a 
queer, thick stump of a tail. In fact, it 
was a cat, the brown cat, or lesser lynx. 
Its coat was a red brown, finely mottled 
with a paler shade. It had straight brushes 
of bristles on the tips of its ears, like its 
big cousin, the Canada lynx, only much 
less conspicuous than his ; and the expres- 
sion on the moonlike round of its face 
was both fierce and shy. But it was a cat, 
plainly enough; and Miranda's heart went 
out to it, as it sat up there in the shadows, 
watching her steadily with wide pale eyes. 

78 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

" Oh, pretty pussy ! pretty pussy ! '* 
called Miranda, stretching out her hands 
to it coaxingly, and running into the 

The brown cat waited unwinking till 
she was about ten paces ofF, then turned 
and darted deeper into the shadows. 
When it was all but out of sight it 
stopped, turned again, and sat up to 
watch the eager child. It seemed curious 
as to the bit of scarlet at her neck. Mi- 
randa was now absorbed in the pursuit, 
and sanguine of catching the beautiful 
pussy. This time she was suffered to 
come almost within grasping distance, 
before the animal again wheeled with an 
angry pfuff and darted away. Disap- 
pointed, but not discouraged, Miranda 
followed again ; and the little play was 
repeated, with slight variation, till her 
great, eyes were full of blinding tears, and 
she was ready to drop with weariness. 
Then the malicious cat, tired of the game 
and no longer curious about the ribbon, 
vanished altogether; and Miranda sat 
down to cry. 

The Initiation of Miranda 79 

But she was not a child to make much 
fuss over a small disappointment. In a 
very few minutes she jumped up, dried 
her eyes with the backs of her tiny fists, 
and started, as she thought, straight for 
home. At first she ran, thinking her 
mother might be troubled at her absence. 
But not coming to the open as soon as 
she expected, she stopped, looked about 
her very carefully, and then walked for- 
ward with continual circumspection. She 
walked on, and on, till she knew she had 
gone far enough to reach home five times 
over. Her feet faltered, and then she 
stood quite still, helplessly. She knew 
that she was lost. All at once the ancient 
wood, the wood she had longed for, the 
wood whose darkness she had never 
feared, became lonely, menacing, terrible. 
She broke into loud wailing. 

This is what Kroof had heard and was 
coming to investigate. But other ears 
heard it, too. 

A tawny form, many times larger than 
the perfidious brown cat, but not alto- 
gether unlike it in shape, crept stealthily 

8o The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

toward the sound. Though his limbs 
looked heavy, his paws large in com- 
parison with his lank body and small, 
flat, cruel head, his movements neverthe- 
less were noiseless as light. At each low- 
stooping, sinuous step, his tail twitched 
nervously. When he caught sight of 
the crying child he stopped, and then 
crept up more stealthily than before, 
crouching so low that his belly almost 
touched the ground, his neck stretched 
out in line with his tail. 

He made absolutely no sound, yet some- 
thing within Miranda's sensitive brain 
heard him, before he was quite within 
springing distance. She stopped her cry- 
ing, glanced suddenly around, and fixed 
a darkly clear look upon his glaring green 
eyes. Poor little frightened and lonely 
child though she was, there was yet some- 
thing subtly disturbing to the beast in 
that steady gaze of hers. It was the 
empty gloom, the state of being lost^ 
which had made Miranda's fear. Of an 
animal, however fierce, she had no in- 
stinctive terror ; and now, though she 

The Initiation of Miranda 8i 

knew that the crael-eyed beast before her 
was the panther, it was a sort of indig- 
nant curiosity that was uppermost in her 

The beast shifted his eyes uneasily 
under her unwavering look. He experi- 
enced a moment's indecision as to whether 
or not it was well, after all, to meddle 
with this unterrified, clear-gazing creature. 
Then an anger grew within him. He fixed 
his hypnotizing stare more resolutely, and 
lashed his tail with angry jerks. He was 
working himself up to the final and fatal 
spring, while Miranda watched him. 

Just then a strange thing happened. 
Out from behind a boulder, whence she 
had been eying the situation, shambled 
the huge black form of Kroof. She was 
at Miranda's side in an instant ; and ris- 
ing upon her hind quarters, a towering, 
indomitable bulk, she squealed defiance to 
the panther. As soon as Miranda saw 
her "great big dog," — which she knew 
quite well, however, to be a bear, — she 
seemed to realize how frightened she had 
been of the panther ; and she recognized 

82 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

that strong defence had come. With a 
convulsive sob she sprang and hid her 
tear-stained little face in the bear's shaggy 
flank, clutching at the soft fur with both 
hands. To this impetuous embrace Kroof 
paid no attention, but continued to glower 
menacingly at the panther. 

As for the panther, he was unaflFectedly 
astonished. He lost his stealthy, crouch- 
ing, concentrated attitude, and rose to his 
full height; lifted his head, dropped his 
tail, and stared at the phenomenon. If 
this child was a protegee of Kroof *s, he 
wanted none of her ; for it would be a day 
of famine indeed when he would wish to 
force conclusions with the giant she-bear. 
Moreover, he recognized some sort of 
power and prerogative in Miranda her- 
self, some right of sovereignty, as it were, 
which had made it distinctly hard for him 
to attack her even while she had no other 
defence than her disconcerting gaze. 
Now, however, he saw clearly that there 
was something very mysterious indeed 
about her. He decided that it would be 
well to have an understanding with his 

The Iniriarion of Miranda 83 

mate — who was more savage though less 
powerful than himself — that the child 
should not be meddled with, no matter 
what chance should arise. With this con- 
clusion he wheeled about, and walked off 
indifferently, moving with head erect and 
a casual air. One would hardly have 
known him for the stealthy monster of 
five minutes before. 

When he was gone Kroof lay down on 
her side and gently coaxed Miranda against 
her body. Her bereaved heart went out 
to the child. Her swollen teats, too, were 
hotly aching, and she had a kind of hope 
that Miranda would ease that hurt. But 
this, of course, never came within scope 
of the child's remotest idea. In every 
other respect, however, she showed her- 
self most appreciative of Kroof 's atten- 
tions, stroking her with light little hands, 
and murmuring to her much musical 
endearment, to which Kroof lent earnest 
ear. Then, laying her head on the fine 
fiir of the bear's belly, she suddenly went 
fast asleep, being wearied by her wander- 
ings and her emotions. 

84 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

Late in the afternoon, toward milking- 
time, Kirsde aroused herself. She sat up 
with a startled air in her bunk in the 
corner of the cabin. Through the win- 
dow came the rays of the westering sun. 
She felt troubled at having been so long 
asleep. And where could Miranda be? 
She arose, tottering for a moment, but 
soon found herself steady ; and then she 
realized that she had slept off a sickness. 
She went to the door. The hens were 
diligently scratching in the dust, and 
Saunders eyed her with tolerance. At the 
fence beyond the barn the black-and-white 
cow lowed for the milking ; and from her 
tether at the other side of the buckwheat 
field, Michael, the calf, bleated for her 
supper of milk and hay tea. But Miranda 
was nowhere to be seen. 

"Miranda!" she called. And then 
louder, — and yet louder, — and at last 
with a piercing wail of anguish, as it burst 
upon her that Miranda was gone. The 
sunlit clearing, the grey cabin, the dark 
forest edges, all seemed to whirl and swim 
about her for an instant. It was only for 

The Initiation of Miranda 85 

an instant. Then she snatched up the 
axe from the chopping log, and with a 
sure instinct darted into that tongue of 
fir woods just behind the house. 

Straight ahead she plunged, as if fol- 
lowing a plain trwl ; though in truth she 
was little learned in woodcraft, and by her 
mere eyes could scarce have tracked an 
elephant. But her heart was clutched by 
a grip of ice, and she went as one tranced. 
All at once, however, over the mossy 
crest of a rock, she saw a sight which 
brought her to a standstill. Her eyes 
and her mouth opened wide in sheer 
amazement. Then the terrible tension 
relaxed. A strong shudder passed through 
her, and she was her steadfast self again. 
A smile broke up the sober lines of her 

" Sure enough," she muttered ; " the 
child was right. She knows a sight more 
about the beasts than I do." 

And this is what she saw. Through 
the hoary arcades of the firwood walked 
a huge black bear, with none other than 
Miranda trotting by its side, and playfully 

86 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

stroking its rich coat. The great animal 
would pause from time to time, merely to 
nuzzle at the child with its snout or lick 
her hand with its narrow red tongue ; but 
the course it was making was straight for 
the cabin. Kirstie stood motionless for 
some minutes, watching the strange scene ; 
then, stepping out from her shelter, she 
hastened after them. So engrossed were 
they with each other that she came up 
undiscovered to within some twenty paces 
of them. Then she called out : — 

" Miranda, where have you been ? '* 

The child stopped, looked around, but 
still clung to Kroof 's fur. 

"Oh, mother!" she cried, eager and 
breathless, and trying to tell everything 
at once, " I was all lost — and I was just 
going to be eaten up — and the dear, good, 
big bear came and frightened the panther 
away — and we were just going home — and 
do come and speak to the dear, lovely, big 
bear ! Oh, don't let it go away ! don't let 

But on this point Kroof had her own 
views. It was Miranda she had adopted. 

The Initiation of Miranda 87 

not Kirstie; and she felt a kind of jeal- 
ousy of Miranda's mother. Even while 
Miranda was speaking, the bear swung 
aside and briskly shambled off, leaving 
the child half in tears. 

It was a thrilling story which Miranda 
had to tell her mother that evening, while 
the black-and-white cow was getting milked, 
and while Michael, the calf, was having its 
supper of milk and hay tea. It made a 
profound impression on Kirstie's quick 
and tolerant mind. She at once realized 
the value to Miranda of such an affection 
as KrooPs. Most mothers would have 
been crazed with foolish fear at the situa- 
tion, but Kirstie Craig was of no such 
weak stuff. She saw in it only a strong 
shield for Miranda against the gravest 
perils of the wood. 

Chapter VII 
The Intimates 

AFTER this experience Miranda felt 
herself initiated, as she had so longed 
to be, into the full fellowship of the folk 
of the ancient wood. Almost every day 
Kroof came prowling about the edges of 
the clearing. Miranda was sure to catch 
sight of her before long and run to her 
with joyous caresses. Farther than a few 
steps into the open the big bear would not 
come, having no desire to cultivate Kirstie, 
or the cabin, or the cattle, or aught that 
appertained to civilization. But Kirstie, 
after watching from a courteous distance 
a few of these strange interviews, wisely 
gave the child a little more latitude. 
Miranda was permitted to go a certain 
fixed distance into the wood, but never so 
far as quite to lose sight of the cabin ; and 
this permission was only for such times as 


The Intimates 89 

she was with Kroof. Kirstie knew some- 
thing about wild animals; and she knew 
that the black bear, when it formed an 
attachment, was inalienably and uncalcu- 
latingly loyal to it. 

As sometimes happens in an affection 
which runs counter to the lines of kinship, 
Kroof seemed more passionately devoted 
to the child than she had been to her own 
cub. She would gaze with eyes of rap- 
ture, her mouth hanging half open in fool- 
ish fondness, while Miranda, playing about 
her, acquired innumerable secrets of forest- 
lore. Whatsoever Miranda wanted her to 
do, she would strive to do, as soon as she 
could make out what it was ; for, in truth, 
Miranda's speech, though very pleasant 
to her ear, was not very intelligible to her 
brain. On one point, however, she was 
inflexible. Perhaps for a distance of thrice 
her own length she would follow Miranda 
out into the clearing, but farther than that 
she would not go. Persuasions, petulance, 
argument, tears — Miranda tried them all, 
but in vain. When Miranda tried going 
behind and pushing, or going in front 

go The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

and pulling, the beast liked it, and her 
eyes would blink humorously. But her 
mind was made up. This obstinacy, so 
disappointing to Miranda, met with Kirs- 
tie's unqualified but unexpressed approval. 
She did not want Kroofs ponderous bulk 
hanging about the house or loafing around 
and getting in the way when she was at 
work in the fields. 

Though Kroof was averse to civiliza- 
tion, she was at the same time sagacious 
enough to see that she could not have 
Miranda always with her in the woods. 
She knew very well that the tall woman 
with red on her head was a very superior 
and mysterious kind of animal, — and 
that Miranda was her cub, — a most su- 
perior kind of cub, and always to be 
regarded with a secret awe, but still a 
cub, and belonging to the tall woman. 
Therefore she was not aggrieved when 
she found that she could not have Mi- 
randa with her in the woods for more 
than an hour or two at a time. In that 
hour or two, however, much could be 
done ; and Kroof tried to teach Miranda 

The Intimates 91 

many things which it is held good to 
know among the folk of the ancient 
wood. She would sniff at the mould 
and dig up sweet-smelling roots; and 
Miranda, observing the stems and leaves 
of them, soon came to know all the edi- 
ble roots of the neighbourhood. Kroof 
showed her, also, the delicate dewberry, 
the hauntingly delicious capillaire, hidden 
under its trailing vines, the insipidly 
sweet Indian pear, and the harmless but 
rather cotton-woolly partridge-berry ; and 
she taught her to shun the tempting pur- 
ple fruit of the trillium, as well as the 
deadly snake-berry. The blueberry, dear 
alike to bears and men, did not grow in 
the heavy-timbered forest, but Miranda 
had known that fruit well from those ear- 
liest days in the Settlement, when she had 
so often stained her mouth with blueberry 
pie. As for the scarlet clusters of the 
pigeon-berry, carpeting the hillocks of 
the pasture, Miranda needed no teach- 
ing from Kroof to know that these were 
good. Then, there were all sorts of for- 
est fungi, of many shapes and colours, — 

92 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

white, pink, delicate yellow, shining 
orange covered with warts, creamy drab, 
streaky green, and even strong crimson. 
Toadstools, Miranda called them at first, 
with indiscriminating dread and aversion. 
But Krpof taught her better. Some, in- 
deed, the red ones and the warty ones in 
particular, the wise animal would dash to 
pieces with her paw ; and these Miranda 
understood to be bad. In fact, their very 
appearance had something ominous in it, 
and to Miranda's eye they had poison 
written all over them in big letters. But 
there was one very white and dainty-look- 
ing, sweet-smelling fungus which she 
would have sworn to as virtuous. As 
soon as she saw it, she thought of a 
peculiarly shy mushroom (she loved 
mushrooms), and ran to pick it up in 
triumph. But Kroof thrust her aside 
with such rudeness that she fell over a 
stump, much offended. Her indignation 
died away, however, as she saw Kroof 
tearing and stamping the pale mushrooms 
to minutest fragments, with every mark 
of loathing. From this Miranda gath- 

The Intimates 93 

ered that the beautiful toadstool was a 
very monster of crime. It was, indeed; 
for it was none other than the deadly 
amanita, one small morsel of which 
would have hushed Miranda into the 
sleep which does not wake. 

Though Miranda was safe under 
KrooPs tutelage, it was perhaps just as 
well for her at that period of her youth 
that she was forbidden to stray from the 
clearing. For there was, indeed, one 
tribe among the folk of the wood against 
whose anger KrooPs protection would 
have very little availed. Had Miranda 
gone roaming, she and Kroof, they might 
have found a bee tree. It is doubtful if 
KrooPs sagacity would have told her that 
Miranda's skin was not adequate to an 
enterprise against bee trees. The zealous 
bear would have probably wanted honey 
for the child, and the result would have 
been such as to shake Kirstie's confidence 
in KrooPs judgment. 

There were, however, several well -in- 
habited ant-logs in that narrow circuit 
which Miranda was allowed to tread, and 

94 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

on a certain afternoon Kroof discovered 
one of these. She was much pleased. 
Here was a chance to show Miranda 
something very nice and very good for 
her health. Having attracted the child's 
attention, she ripped the rotten log to its 
heart, and began licking up the swarming 
insects and plump white larvae together. 
Here was a treat ; but the incomprehen- 
sible Miranda, with a shuddering scream, 
ran away. Kroof was bewildered. She 
finished the ants, however, while she was 
about it. Whereafter she was called upon 
to hear a long lecture from Miranda, to 
the effect that ants were not good to eat, 
and that it was very cruel to tear open 
their nests and steal their eggs. Of 
course, as Kroof did not at all understand 
what she was driving at, there was no 
room for an argument ; which, considering 
the points involved, is much to be re- 

Though Miranda had now, so to speak, 
the freedom of the wood, she was not 
really intimate with any of the furtive folk, 
saving only, of course, the irrepressible 

The Intimates 95 

squirrels who lived in the cabin roof. She 
saw the wild creatures now very close at 
hand, and they went about their business 
under her eye without concern. They 
realized that it was no use trying with 
her their game of invisibility. No mat- 
ter how perfect their stillness, no matter 
how absolutely they made themselves one 
with their surroundings, they felt her clear, 
unwavering, friendly eyes look them 
through and through. This was at first 
a troubling mystery to them. Who was 
this youngling, — for youth betrays itself 
even to the most primitive perceptions, — 
who, for all her youth, set their traditions 
and elaborate devices so easily at naught ? 
Their instincts told them, however, that 
she was no foe to the weakest of them ; 
and so they let her see them at their affairs 
unabashed, though avoiding her with a 
kind of careful awe. 

Kroof, too, they all avoided, but with 
a difference. They knew that she was 
not averse to an occasional meal of flesh 
meat, but that she would not greatly 
trouble herself in pursuit of it. All they 

96 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

had to do, these lesser folk of the wood, 
was to keep at a safe distance from the 
sweep of her mighty paw, and they felt 
at ease in her neighbourhood. All but 
the hare — he knew that Kroof considered 
him and his long-eared children a special 
delicacy, well worth the effort of a bear. 
Miranda wondered why she could never 
see anything of the hare when she was out 
with Kroof. She did see him sometimes, 
indeed ; but always at a distance, and for 
an instant only. On these occasions, 
Kroof did not see him at all ; and Mi- 
randa soon came to realize that she could 
see more clearly than even the furtive folk 
themselves. They could hide themselves 
from each other by stillness and by self- 
effacement; but Miranda's eyes always 
inexorably distinguished the ruddy fox 
from the yellow-brown, rotten log on 
which he flattened himself. She instantly 
differentiated the moveless nuthatch from 
the knot on the trunk, the squatting grouse 
from the lichened stone, the wood-mouse 
from the curled brown leaf, the crouching 
wild-cat from the mottled branch. Con- 

The Intimates 97 

sequently the furtive folk gradually began 
to pay her the tribute of ignoring her, 
which meant that they trusted her to let 
them alone. They kept their reserve; 
but under her interested scrutiny the nut- 
hatch would walk up the rough-barked 
pine trunk and pick insects out from under 
the grey scales ; the golden-winged wood- 
pecker would hunt down the fat, white 
grubs which he delighted in, and hammer 
sharply on the dead wood a few feet above 
her head ; the slim, brown stoat would 
chase beetles among the tree roots, un- 
troubled by her discreet proximity; the 
beruffed cock-grouse would drum from 
the top of his stump till the air was full 
of the soft thunder of his vauntings, and 
his half-grown brood would dust them- 
selves in the deserted ant-hill in the sun- 
niest corner of the clearing. Only the 
pair of crows which, seeing great oppor- 
tunities about the reoccupied clearing, had 
taken up their dwelling in the top of a 
tall spruce close behind the cabin, held 
suspiciously aloof from Miranda. They 
often talked her over, in harsh tones that 

98 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

jarred the ancient stillness ; and they con- 
sidered her intimacy with Kroof altogether 
contrary to the order of things. Being 
themselves exemplars of duplicity, they 
were quite convinced that Miranda had 
ulterior motives, too deep for them to 
fathom ; and they therefore respected her 
immensely. But they did not trust her, 
of course. The shy rain-birds, however, 
trusted her, and would whistle to each 
other their long, melancholy calls foretell- 
ing rain, even though she were standing 
within a few steps of them, and staring at 
them with all her might; and this was 
a most unheard-of favour on the part of 
the rain-birds, who are too reticent to let 
themselves be heard when any one is near 
enough to see them. There might be 
three or four uttering their slow, inex- 
pressibly pathetic cadences all around the 
clearing ; but Kirstie could never catch a 
glimpse of them, though many a time she 
listened with deep longing in her heart 
as their remote voices thrilled across the 
dewy oncoming of the dusk. 

Miranda saw the panther only once 

The Intimates 99 

again that year. It was about a month 
after her meeting with Kroof. She was 
alone, just upon the edge of the buck- 
wheat field, and peering into the shadowy, 
transparent stillness to see what she could 
see. What she saw sent her little heart 
straight up into her mouth. There, not 
a dozen paces from her, lying flat along 
a fallen tree, was the panther. He was 
staring at her, with his eyes half shut. 
Startled though she was, Miranda's expe- 
rience with Kroof had made her very self- 
confident. She stood moveless, staring 
back into those dangerous, half-shut eyes. 
After a moment or two the beautiful beast 
arose and stretched himself with great 
deliberation, reaching out and digging in 
his claws, as an ordinary cat does when it 
stretches. At the same time he yawned 
prodigiously, so that it seemed to Miranda 
he would surely split to his ears, and she 
looked right into his great pink throat. 
Then he stepped lightly down from the 
tree, — on the side farthest from Miranda, 
— and walked away with the air of not 
wishing to intrude. 


lOO The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

This same summer, too, so momentous 
in its events, Miranda first met Wapiti, 
the delicate-antlered buck, and Ganner, 
the big Canada lynx. Needless to say, 
they were not in company. One morn- 
ing, as she sat in a fence corner, absorbed 
in building a little house of twigs around 
a sick butterfly, she heard a loud snort 
just at her elbow. Much startled, she 
gave a little cry as she looked up, and 
something jumped back from the fence. 
She saw a bright brown head, crowned 
with splendid, many-pronged antlers, and 
a pair of large, liquid eyes looking at her 
with mild wonder. 

" Oh, you be-auttful deer, did I frighten 
you ? " she cried, knowing the visitor by 
pictures she had seen ; and she poked her 
little hand through the fence in greeting. 
The buck seemed very curious about the 
scarlet ribbon at her neck, and eyed it 
steadily for half a minute. Then he 
came close up to the fence again, and 
sniflfed her hand with his fine black nos- 
trils, opening and closing them sensitively. 
He let her stroke his smooth muzzle, and 

The Intimates loi 

held his head quite still under the caress- 
ing of her hand. Then some unusual 
sound caught his ear. It was Kirstie 
hoeing potatoes near by; and presently 
the furrow she was following brought her 
into view behind the corner of the barn. 
The scarlet kerchief on her hair flamed 
hotly in the sun. The buck raised his 
head high, and stared, and finally seemed 
to decide that the apparition was a hostile 
one. With a snort, and an impatient 
stamp of his polished hoof, he wheeled 
about and trotted off into the wood. 

Her introduction to Ganner, the lynx, 
was under less gracious auspices. 

Michael, the calf, who had been grow- 
ing excellently all summer, was kept teth- 
ered during the daytime to a stake in a 
corner of the wild-grass meadow, about 
fifty yards from the edge of the forest. 
A little nearer the cabin was a long 
thicket of blackberry brakes and elder 
bushes and wild clematis, forming a dense 
tangle, in which Miranda had, with great 
pains and at the cost of terrific scratches, 
formed herself a delectable hiding-place. 

I02 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

Here she would play house, and some- 
times take a nap, in the hot mornings, 
while her mother would be at work acres 
away, at the very opposite side of the 

One day, about eleven in the morning, 
Michael was lying at the limit of her 
tether nearest the cabin, when she saw a 
strange beast come out of the forest and 
halt to look at her. The animal was of a 
greyish rusty brown, very pale on the 
belly and neck, and nearly as tall as 
Michael herself; but its body was curi- 
ously short in proportion to the length 
of its powerful legs. It had a perfectly 
round face, with round glaring eyes, long 
stiff black tufts on the tips of its sharp- 
pointed ears, and a fierce-looking, whitish 
brown whisker brushed away, as it were, 
from under its chin. Its tail was a mere 
thick, brown stump of a tail, looking as if it 
had been chopped off short. The creature 
gazed all around, warily ; then crouched 
low, its hind quarters rather higher in the 
air than its fore shoulders, and stepping 
softly, came straight for Michael. 

The Intimates 103 

Inexperienced as Michael was, she 
knew that this was nothing less than 
death itself approaching her. She sprang 
up, her awkward legs spread wide apart, 
her whole weight straining on the tether, 
her eyes, rolling white, fixed in horror on 
the dreadful object. From her throat 
came a long, shrill bleat of appeal and 

There was no mistaking that cry. It 
brought Miranda from her playhouse in 
an instant. In the next instant she took 
in the situation. " Mother ! Mothe-e-er! " 
she screamed at the top of her voice, 
and flew to the defence of her beloved 

The lynx, at this unexpected interfer- 
ence, stopped short. Miranda did not 
look formidable, and he was not alarmed 
by any means. But she looked unusual, 
— and that bit of bright red at her throat 
might mean something which he did not 
understand, — and there was something 
not quite natural, something to give him 
pause, in a youngster displaying this reck- 
less courage. For a second or two, 

I04 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

therefore, he sat straight up like a cat, 
considering ; and his tufted ears the while, 
very erect, with the strange whiskers 
under his chin, gave him an air that was 
fiercely dignified. His hesitation, how- 
ever, was but for a moment. Satisfied 
that Miranda did not count, he came on 
again, more swiftly ; and Miranda, seeing 
that she had failed to frighten him away, 
just flung her arms around Michael's 
neck and screamed. 

The scream should have reached Kirs- 
tie's ear across the whole breadth of the 
clearing; but a flaw of wind carried it 
away, and the cabin intervened to dull its 
edge. Other ears than Kirstie's, however, 
heard it; heard, too, and understood 
Michael's bleating. The black-and-white 
cow was far away, in another pasture. 
(Kirstie saw her running frantically up 
and down along the fence, and thought 
the flies were tormenting her.) But just 
behind the thicket lay the two steers. 
Bright and Star, contemplatively chew- 
ing their midday cud. Both had risen 
heavily to their feet at Michael's first 

The Intimates 105 

appeal. As Miranda's scream rang out, 
Bright's sorrel head appeared around the 
corner of the thicket, anxious to investi- 
gate. He stopped at sight of Ganner, 
held his muzzle high in air, snorted 
loudly, and shook his head with a great 
show of valour. Immediately after him 
came Star, the black-and-white brindle. 
But of a different temper was he. The 
moment his eyes fell upon Michael's foe 
and Miranda's, down went his long, 
straight horns, up went his brindled tail, 
and with a bellow of rage he charged. 

The gaunt steer was an antagonist whom 
Ganner had no stomach to face. With an 
angry snarl, which showed Miranda a ter- 
rifying set of white teeth in a very red 
mouth, he turned his stump of a tail, laid 
flat his tufted ears, and made for the forest 
with long, splendid leaps, his exaggerated 
hind legs seeming to volley him forward 
like a ball. In about five seconds he was 
out of sight among the trees; and Star, 
snorting and switching his tail, stood paw- 
ing the turf haughtily in front of Miranda 
and Michael. 

io6 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

It was Miranda who named the big 
lynx " Ganner " that day ; because, as she 
told her mother afterward, that was what 
he said when Star came and drove him 

Chapter VIII 
Axe and Antler 

THE next winter went by in the main 
much like the former one. But 
more birds came to be fed as the season 
advanced, because Miranda's fame had 
gone abroad amongst them. The snow 
was not so deep, the cold not so severe. 
No panther caipe again to claw at their 
roof by night. But there were certain 
events which made the season stand out 
sharply from all others in the eyes of both 
Kirstie and Miranda. 

Throughout December and January Wa- 
piti, the buck, with two slim does accom- 
panying him, would come and hang about 
the barn for several days at a time, nibbling 
at the scattered straw. With the two 
steers. Star and Bright, Wapiti was not on 
very good terms. They would sometimes 
thrust at him resentfully, whereupon he 


io8 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

would jump aside, as if on springs, stamp 
twice sharply with his polished fore hoofs, 
and level at them the fourteen threatening 
spear points of his antlers. But the chal- 
lenge never came to anything. As for the 
black-and-white cow, she seemed to admire 
Wapiti greatly, though he met her admi- 
ration with the most lofty indifference. 
One day Miranda let him and the two 
does lick some coarse salt out of a dish, 
after which enchanting experience all three 
would follow her straight up to the cabin 
door. They even took to following Kirs- 
tie about, which pleased and flattered her 
more than she would acknowledge to 
Miranda, and earned them many a cold 
buckwheat pancake. To them the cold 
pancakes, though leathery and tough, were 
a tit-bit of delight ; but along in January 
they tore themselves away from such 
raptures and removed to other feeding 

Toward spring, to Miranda's great de- 
light, she made acquaintance with Ten- 
Tine, the splendid bull caribou whom she 
had just seen the winter before. He and 

Axe and Antler 109 

his antlered cows were migrating south- 
ward by slow stages. They were getting 
tired of the dry moss and lichen of the 
barrens which lay a week's journey north- 
ward from the clearing. They began to 
crave the young shoots of willow and pop- 
lar that would now be bursting with sap 
along the more southerly streams. Look- 
ing from the window one morning, before 
the cattle had been let out, Miranda saw 
Ten-Tine emerge from the woods and 
start with long, swinging strides across the 
open. His curiously flattened, leaf-like 
antlers lay back on a level with his shoul- 
ders, and his nose pointed straight before 
him. The position was just the one to 
enable him to go through the woods with- 
out getting his horns entangled. From 
the middle of his forehead projected, at 
right angles to the rest of the antlers, two 
broad, flat, palmated prongs, a curious en- 
largement of the central ones. His cows, 
whose antlers were little less splendid than 
his own, but lacking in the frontal pro- 
jection, followed at his heels. In colour 
he was of a very light, whitish -drab. 

no The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

quite unlike the warm brown of Wapiti's 

In passing the barn Ten-Tine caught 
sight of some tempting fodder, and stopped 
to try it. Kirstie's straw proved very much 
to the taste of the whole herd. While 
they were feeding delightedly, Miranda 
stole out to make friends with them. She 
took, as a tribute, a few handfuls of the 
hens' buckwheat, in a bright yellow bowl. 
As she approached, Ten-Tine lifted his 
fine head and eyed her curiously. Had 
it been the rutting season, he would no 
doubt have straightway challenged her 
to mortal combat. But now, unless he 
saw a wolf, a panther, or a lynx, he was 
good-tempered and inquisitive. This 
small creature looked harmless, and there 
was undoubtedly something quite remark- 
able about her. What was that shining 
thing which she held out in front of her ? 
And what was that other very bright thing 
around her neck? He stopped feeding, 
and watched her intently, his head held 
in an attitude of indecision, just a little 
lower than his shoulders. The cows took 

Axe and Antler iii 

a look also, and felt curious, but were 
concerned rather to satisfy their hunger 
than their curiosity. They left the matter 
easily to Ten-Tine. 

Miranda had learned many things al- 
ready from her year among the folk of 
the wood. One of these things was that 
all the furtive folk dreaded and resented 
rough movement. Their manners were 
always beyond reproach. The fiercest of 
them moved ever with an aristocratic grace 
and poise. They knew the difference be- 
tween swiftness and haste. All abrupt- 
ness they abhorred. In lines of beauty 
they eluded their enemies. They killed 
in curves. 

She did not, therefore, attempt to go 
straight up and take Ten-Tine's acquaint- 
ance by storm. She paused discreetly 
some dozen steps away, held out the dish 
to him, and murmured her inarticulate, 
soft persuasions. Not being versed in 
the caribou tongue, she trusted the tones 
of her voice to reveal her good intention. 

Seeing that she would come no nearer, 
Ten-Tine's curiosity refused to be balked. 

112 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

But he was dubious, very dubious. Like 
Wapiti, he stamped when he was in doubt ; 
but the hoofs he stamped with were much 
larger, broader, clumsier, less polished than 
Wapiti*s, being formed for running over 
such soft surfaces as bogland and snow 
insufficiently packed, where Wapiti's trim 
feet would cut through like knives. 

Step by step he drew nearer. There 
was something in Miranda's clear gaze 
that gave him confidence. At length he 
was near enough to touch the yellow bowl 
with his flexible upper lip. He saw that 
the bowl contained something. He ex- 
tended his muzzle over the rim, and, to 
Miranda's surprise, blew into it. The 
grain flew in every direction, some of it 
sticking to his own moist lips. He drew 
back, a little startled. Then he licked his 
lips ; and he liked the taste. Back went 
his muzzle into the interesting bowl ; and, 
after sniffing again very gently, he licked 
up the whole contents. 

" Oh, greedy ! " exclaimed Miranda, in 
tender rebuke, and started back to the 
cabin to get him some more. 

Axe and Antler 113 

"Wouldn't Saunders be cross," she 
thought to herself, "if he knew I was 
giving his buckwheat to the nice deer ? " 

Ten-Tine followed close behind her, 
sniffing inquisitively at the red ribbon on 
her neck. When Miranda went in for the 
buckwheat, he tried to enter with her, but 
his antlers had too much spread for the 
doorway. Kirstie, who was busy sweep- 
ing, looked up in amazement as the great 
head darkened her door. 

"Drat the child!" she exclaimed; 
" she'll be bringing all the beasts of the 
wood in to live with us before long." 

She did not grudge Ten-Tine the few 
handfuls of buckwheat, however, though 
he blew half of it over the floor so that she 
had to sweep it up. When he had fin- 
ished, and perceived that no more was 
forthcoming, he backed oflT reluctantly 
from the door and began smelling around 
the window-sill, pushing his curious nose 
tentatively against the glass. 

Now it chanced that all the way down 
from the barrens Ten-Tine and his little 
herd had been hungrily pursued, although 

1 14 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

they did not know it. Four of the great 
grey timber wolves were on their track. 
Savage but prudent, the wolves were un- 
willing to attack the herd, for they knew 
the caribou's fighting prowess. But they 
awaited a chance to cut off one of the 
cows and hunt her down alone. For days 
they had kept the trail, faring very scantly 
by the way ; and now they were both 
ravenous and enraged. Emerging from 
the woods, they saw the five cows at feed 
by the barn, with Ten-Tine nowhere in 
sight. The opportunity was too rare a 
one to miss. They seized it. All four 
gaunt forms abreast, they came gallop- 
ing across the snow in silence, their long, 
grey snouts wrinkled, their white fangs 
uncovered, their grey-and-white shoulders 
rising and falling in unison, their cloudy 
tails floating straight out behind them. 

Just in time the cows saw them coming. 
There was a half second of motionless con- 
sternation. Then nimbly they sprang into 
a circle, hind quarters bunched together, 
levelled antlers all pointing outward. It 
was the accurate inherited discipline of 

Axe and Antler 115 

Without a sound, save a deep, gasping 
breath, the wolves made their leap, striv- 
ing to clear that bayonet hedge of horns. 
Two were hurled back, yelping. One 
brought a cow to her knees, half clear of 
the circle, his fangs in her neck, and would 
have finished her but that her next neigh- 
bour prodded him so fiercely in the flank 
that he let go with a shrill snarl. But the 
fourth wolf found the weak point in the 
circle. The foolish young cow upon whom 
he sprang went wild at once with fright. 
She broke from the ring and fled. The 
next instant the wolf was at her throat. 

The moment he pulled her down the 
other wolves sprang upon her. The rest 
of the cows, maintaining their position of 
defence, viewed her plight with consider- 
able unconcern, doubtless holding that her 
folly was well served, and that she was 
worth no better end. But Ten-Tine, 
who had suddenly taken in the situation, 
had other views about it. To him the 
foolish young cow was most important. 
With a shrill note of rage, half bleat, half 
bellow, he charged down to the rescue. 

Ii6 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

The first wolf he struck was hurled against 
the comer of the bam, and came limping 
back to the fray with no great enthusiasm. 
Upon the next he came down with both 
front feet, &irly breaking the creature's back. 
Instantly the other two fastened upon his 
flanks, trying to pull him down ; while he, 
bounding and rearing, strove heroically to 
shake them off in order to reach them 
with horns and hoofs. The bleeding cow, 
meanwhile, straggled to her feet and took 
refuge within the dauntless circle, which 
rather grudgingly opened to admit her. 
For this they must not be judged too 
harshly ; for in caribou eyes she had com- 
mitted the crime of crimes in breaking 
ranks and exposing the whole herd to 

At this stage in the encounter the val- 
iant Ten-Tine found himself in desperate 
straits ; but help came from an unexpected 
quarter. The factor which the wolves had 
not allowed for was Kirstie Craig. At 
the first sight of them Kirstie had been 
filled with silent rage. She had believed 
that wolves were quite extinct throughout 

Axe and Antler 117 

all the neighbouring forests ; and now in 
their return she saw a perpetual menace. 
But at least they were scarce, she knew 
that ; and on the instant she resolved 
that this little pack should meet no milder 
fate than extermination. 

" It*s wolves ! Don't you stir outside 
this door ! " she commanded grimly, in 
that voice which Miranda never dreamed 
of disobeying. Miranda, trembling with 
excitement, her eyes wide and her cheeks 
white, climbed to the window, and flat- 
tened her face against it. Kirstie rushed 
out, slamming the door. 

As she passed the chopping-block, 
Kirstie snatched up her axe. Her fine 
face was set like iron. The black eyes 
blazed fury. It was a desperate venture, 
to attack three maddened wolves, with no 
ally to support her save a caribou bull ; 
but Kirstie, as we have seen, was not a 
woman for half measures. 

The first sweep of that poised and 
practised axe caught the nearest wolf just 
behind the fore quarters, and almost shore 
him in two. Thus suddenly freed on 

1 1 8 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

one side, Ten-Tine wheeled like lightning 
to catch his other assailant, but the animal 
sprang back. In evading Ten-Tine's 
horns, he almost fell over Kirstie, who, 
thus balked of her full deadly swing, just 
managed to fetch him a short stroke under 
the jaw with the flat of the blade. It 
was enough, however, to fell him for an 
instant, and that instant was enough for 
Ten-Tine. Bounding into the air, the 
big caribou came down with both sharp 
fore hoofs, like chisels, squarely on the 
middle of his adversary's ribs. The 
stroke was slaughterously decisive. Ribs 
of steel could not have endured it, and in 
a very few seconds the shape of bloody 
grey fur upon the snow bore scant re- 
semblance to a wolf. 

The last of the pack, who had been 
lamed by Ten-Tine's onslaught, had pru- 
dently drawn off when he saw Kirstie 
coming. Now he turned tail. Kirstie, 
determined that not one should escape, 
gave chase. She could run as can few 
women. She was bent on her grim pur- 
pose of extermination. At first the wolf's 

Axe and Antler 119 

lameness hindered him; but just as he 
was about to turn at bay and fight dumbly 
to the death, after the manner of his kind, 
the effort which he had been making 
loosened the strained muscles, and he 
found his pace. Stretching himself out 
on his long gallop, he shot away from 
his pursuer as if she had been standing 

Kirstie stopped, swung her axe, and 
hurled it after him with all her strength. 
It struck the mark. Had it struck true, 
edge on, it would have fulfilled her utmost 
intention ; but it struck, with the thick 
of the head, squarely upon the brute's 
rump. The blow sent him rolling end 
over end across the snow. He yelped 
with astonishment and terror ; but recover- 
ing himself again in a second, he went 
bounding like a grey ball of fur over a 
brush heap, and vanished down the forest 

When Kirstie turned round she saw 
Miranda, white, pitiful, and bewildered, 
in the doorway ; while Ten-Tine and his 
cows, without waiting to thank her, were 

tao The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

trotting away across the white fields, their 
muzzles thrust far forward, their antlers 
laid along their backs. From Ten-Tine 
himself, and from the wounded young 
cow, the blood dripped scarlet and steam- 
ing at every stride. 

Chapter IX 
The Pax Mirandae 

AFTER this experience, Kirstie would 
have been more anxious than be- 
fore about Miranda, had it not been for 
the child's remarkable friendship with the 
great she-bear. As soon as the snow was 
gone, and the ancient wood again began 
to lure Miranda with its mystic stillness 
and transparent twilight, K roof reappeared, 
as devoted as ever. When Kroof was 
absent, the woods were to the child a 
forbidden realm, into which she could 
only peer with longing and watch the 
furtive folk with those initiated eyes of 

A little later when the mosses were 
dry, and when the ground was well heart- 
ened with the fecundating heats of June, 
Miranda had further proof of her peculiar 
powers of vision. One day she and 


i!22 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

Kroof came upon a partridge hen with 
her new-hatched brood, at the edge of a 
thicket of young birches. The hen went 
flopping and fluttering off among the 
trees, as if sorely wounded; and Kroof, 
convinced of a speedy capture, followed 
eagerly. She gave a glance about her 
first, however, to see if there were any 
partridge chicks in the neighbourhood. 
To Miranda's astonishment, the wise 
animal saw none. But Miranda saw 
them distinctly. There they were all 
about her, moveless little brown balls, 
exactly like the leaves and the moss and 
the scattered things of the forest floor. 
Some were half hidden under a leaf or 
twig ; some squatted in the open, just in 
the positions in which the alarm had 
found them. They shut their eyes even, 
to make themselves more at one with 
their surroundings. They would have 
endured any fate, they would have died 
on the spot, rather than move, so per- 
fect was their baby obedience to the part- 
ridge law. This obedience had its reward. 
It gave them invisibility to all the folk cf 

The Pax Mirandae 123 

the wood, friends and foes alike. But there 
was no such thing as deceiving Miranda's 
eyes. She was not concerned about the 
mother partridge, because she saw through 
her pretty trick and knew that Kroof could 
never catch her. Indeed, in her inno- 
cence she did not think good Kroof would 
hurt her if she did catch her. But these 
moveless chicks, on the other hand, were 
interesting. One — two — three — Mi- 
randa counted ten of them, and there were 
more about somewhere, she imagined. 
Presently the mother bird came flopping 
around in a circle, to see how things were 
going. She saw Miranda stoop and pick 
up one of the precious brown balls, and 
then another, curiously but gently. In 
her astonishment the distracted bird for- 
got Kroof for a second, and was almost 
caught. Escaping this peril by a sudden 
wild dash, and realizing that from Mi- 
randa there was no concealment, she flew 
straight into the densest part of the 
thicket and gave a peremptory call. At 
the sound each little motionless ball came 
to life. The two that were lying as if 

124 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

dead on Miranda's outstretched palms 
hopped .to the ground ; and all darted 
into the thicket. A few low but sharply 
articulated clucks, and the mother bird 
led her brood off swiftly through the 
bush ; while Kroof, somewhat crestfallen, 
came shambling back to Miranda. 

All this time, in spite of the affair of 
the wolves, the attack of Ganner, the lynx, 
on Michael, and that tell-tale spot of 
blood and fur on the snow, where the 
owl had torn the hare for his midnight 
feast, Miranda had regarded the folk of 
the ancient wood as a gentle people, 
living for the most part in a voiceless 
amity. Her seeing eyes quite failed to 
see the unceasing tragedy of the stillness. 
She did not guess that the furtive folk, 
whom she watched about their business, 
went always with fear at their side and 
death lying in wait at every turn. She 
little dreamed that, for most of them, the 
very price of life itself was the ceaseless 
extinguishing of life. 

It was during the summer that Miranda 
found her first and only flaw in KrooPs 

The Pax Mirandse 125 

perfections ; for Kroof she regarded as 
second only to her mother among created 
beings. But on one memorable day, 
when she ran across the fields to meet 
Kroof at the edge of the wood, the great 
bear was too much occupied to come for- 
ward as usual. She was sniffing at some- 
thing on the ground which she held 
securely under one of her huge paws. 
Miranda ran forward to see what it was. 

To her horror it was the warm and 
bleeding body of a hare. 

She shrank back, sickened at the sight. 
Then, in flaming indignation she struck 
Kroof again and again in the face with the 
palms of her little hands. Kroof was 
astonished, — temperately astonished, — 
for she always knew Miranda was peculiar. 
She lifted her snout high in the air to 
escape the blows, shut her eyes, and 
meekly withdrew the oflFending paw. 

" Oh, Kroof, how could you ! I hate 
you, bad Kroof! You are just like the 
wolves ! " cried Miranda, her little bosom 
bursting with wrath and tears. Kroof 
understood that she was in grievous dis- 

i!26 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

grace. Carrying the dead hare with her, 
Miranda ran out into the potato patch, 
fetched the hoe, returned to the spot 
where the bear still sat in penitential con- 
templation, and proceeded in condemna- 
tory silence to dig a hole right under 
Kroof's nose. Here she buried the hare, 
tenderly smoothing the ground above it. 
Then throwing the hoe down violently, 
she flung her arms about Kroof's neck, 
and burst into a passion of tears. 

"How could you do it, Kroof?" she 
sobbed. " Oh, perhaps you'll be wanting 
to eat up Miranda some day ! " 

Kroof suffered herself to be led away 
from the unhappy spot. Soon Miranda 
grew calm, and the painfiil scene seemed 
forgotten. The rest of the afternoon was 
spent very pleasantly in eating wild rasp- 
berries along the farther side of the clear- 
ing. To Kroof's mind it gradually became 
clear that her offence lay in killing the 
hare ; and as it was obvious that Miranda 
liked hares, she resolved never to offend 
again in this respect, at least while Mi- 
randa was anywhere in the neighbourhood. 

The Pax Mirandae 127 

After Miranda had gone home, however, 
the philosophical Kroof strolled back dis- 
creetly to where the hare was buried. She 
dug it up, and ate it with great satisfac- 
tion, and afterward she smoothed down the 
earth again, that Miranda might not know. 
After this trying episode Miranda had 
every reason to believe that Kroof 's refor- 
mation was complete. Little by little, 
as month followed month, and season fol- 
lowed season, and year rolled into year 
at the quiet cabin in the clearing, Mi- 
randa forgot the few scenes of blood which 
had been thrust upon her. The years 
now little varied one from another; yet 
to Miranda the life was not monotonous. 
Each season was for her full of events, 
full of tranquil uneventflilness for Kirstie. 
The cabin became more homelike as cur- 
rant and lilac bushes grew up around it, 
a green, sweet covert for birds, and abun- 
dant scarlet-blossomed bean-vines mantled 
the barrenness of its weathered logs. The 
clearing prospered. The stock increased. 
Old Dave hardly ever visited at the clear- 
ing but he went back laden with stuff to 

128 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

sell for Kirstie at the Settlement. Among 
the folk of the forest Miranda's ascendency 
kept on growing, little by little, till, though 
none of the beasts came to know her as 
Kroof did, they all had a tendency to fol- 
low her at respectful distance, without 
seeming to do so. They never killed in 
her presence, so that a perpetual truce, as 
it were, came at last to rule within eyeshot 
of her inescapable gaze. Sometimes the 
advent of spring would bring Kroof to the 
clearing not alone, but with a furry and 
jolly black morsel of a cub at her side. 
The cub never detracted in the least from 
the devotion which she paid to Miranda. 
It always grew up to young bearhood in 
more or less amiable tolerance of its 
mother's incomprehensible friend, only 
to drift away at last to other feeding 
grounds ; for Kroof was absolute in her 
own domain, and suffered not even her 
own offspring to trespass thereon, when 
once they had reached maturity. Cubs 
might come, and cubs might go ; but the 
love of Kroof and Miranda was a thing 
that rested unchanging. 

The Pax Mirandae 1:29 

In the winters, Miranda now did most 
of the knitting, while Kirstie wove, on a 
great clacking loom, the flax which her 
little farm produced abundantly. They 
had decided not to keep sheep at the 
clearing, lest their presence should lure 
back the wolves. One warm day toward 
spring, when Old Dave, laden with an 
ample pack of mittens, stockings, and 
socks which Miranda's active fingers had 
fashioned, was slowly trudging along the 
trail on his way back to the Settlement, 
he became aware that a pair of foxes fol- 
lowed him. They came not very near, 
nor did they pay him any marked atten- 
tion. They merely seemed to "favour 
his company," as he himself put it. He 
was thus curiously escorted for perhaps a 
mile or two, to his great bewilderment; 
for he knew no reason why he should be 
so chosen out for honour in the wood. 
At another time, when similarly burdened. 
Wapiti, the buck, came up and sniffed at 
him, very amicably. During the next 
winter, when he was carrying the same 
magic merchandise, several hares went 

ijo The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

■i^^"^^^'^"^^^^— ^^^-^^■■— -^.^»^ ■— ^»^—— ^^ 

leaping beside him, not very near, but as 
if seeking the safety of his presence. The 
mystery of all this weighed upon him. 
He was at first half inclined to think that 
he was " ha'nted " ; but fortunately he took 
thought to examine the tracks, and so 
assured himself that his inexplicable com- 
panions were of real flesh and blood. 
Nevertheless, he found himself growing 
shy of his periodical journey ings through 
the wood, and at last he opened his mind 
to Kirstie on the subject. 

Kirstie was amused in her grave way. 

"Why, Dave," she explained, "didn't 
you know Miranda was that thick with 
the wild things she's half wild herself? 
Weren't you carrying a lot of Miranda's 
knit stuff when the creatures followed 

" That's so, Kirstie ! " was the old lum- 
berman's reply. " I recollec' as how the 
big buck kep' a-sniffin' at my pack of 
socks an' mits, too ! " 

"They were some of Miranda's friends; 
and when they smelled of those mits they 
thought she was somewhere around, or 

The Pax Mirandae 131 

else they knew you must be a friend of 

Thenceforward Old Dave always looked 
for something of a procession in his 
honour whenever he carried Miranda's 
knittings to the Settlement; and he was 
intensely proud of the distinction. He 
talked about it among his gossips, of 
course; and therefore a lot of strange 
stories began to circulate. It was said by 
some that Kirstie and Miranda held con- 
verse with the beasts in plain English such 
as common mortals use, and knew all the 
secrets of the woods, and much besides 
that "humans" have no call to know. 
By others, more superstitious and fanat- 
ical, it was whispered that no mere an- 
imals formed the circle of Kirstie's asso- 
ciates, but that spirits, in the guise of 
hares, foxes, cats, panthers, bears, were 
her familiars at the solitary cabin. Such 
malicious tales cost Old Dave many a bit- 
ter hour, as well as more than one sharp 
combat, till the gossips learned to keep a 
bridle on their tongues when he was by. 
As for Young Dave, he had let the clear- 

132 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

ing and all its affairs drop from his mind, 
and, betaking himself to a wild region to 
the north of the Quah-Davic, was fast 
making his name as a hunter and trapper. 
He came but seldom to the Settlement, 
and when he came he had small ear for 
the Settlement scandals. His mind was 
growing large, and quiet, and tolerant, 
among the great solitudes. 

Chapter X 
The Routing of the Philistines 

IN the seventh year of Kirstie's exile, 
something occurred which gave the 
Settlement gossip a fresh impulse, and 
added a colour of awe to the mystery 
which surrounded the clearing. 

The winter changed to a very open one, 
so that long before spring Kroof awoke 
in her lair under the pine root. There 
was not enough snow to keep her warm 
and asleep. But the ground was frozen, 
food was scarce, and she soon became 
hungry. Miranda observed her growing 
leanness, and tried the experiment of 
bringing her a mess of boiled beans from 
the cabin pot. To the hungry bear the 
beans were a revelation. She realized that 
Miranda's mother was in some way con- 
nected with the experience, and her long 
reserve melted away in the warmth of her 


134 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

responsive palate. The next day, about 
noon, as Kirstie and Miranda were sitting 
down to their meal, Kroof appeared at 
the cabin door and sniffed longingly at 
the threshold. 

"What's that sniffing at the door?" 
wondered Kirstie, with some uneasiness 
in her grave voice. But Miranda had 
flown at once to the window to look out. 

" Why, mother, it's Kroof! " she cried, 
clapping her hands with delight, and be- 
fore her mother could say a word, she had 
thrown the door wide open. In sham- 
bled the bear forthwith, blinking her 
shrewd little eyes. She seated herself on 
her haunches, near the table, and gazed 
with intent curiosity at the fire. At this 
moment a dry stick snapped and crackled 
sharply, whereupon she backed off to a 
safer distance, but still kept her eyes upon 
the strange phenomenon. 

Both Kirstie and Miranda had been 
watching her with breathless interest, to 
see how she would comport herself, but 
now Miranda broke silence. 

"Oh! you dear old Kroof, we're so 

The Routing of the Philistines 135 

glad you've come at last to see us ! " she 
cried, rushing over and flinging both 
arms around the animal's neck. Kirstie's 
face looked a doubtful indorsement of 
the welcome. Kroof paid no attention 
to Miranda's caresses beyond a hasty lick 
at her ear, and continued to study the 
fascinating flames. This quietness of 
demeanour reassured Kirstie, whose hos- 
pitality thereupon asserted itself. 

" Give the poor thing some buckwheat 
cakes, Miranda," she said. " I'm sure 
she's come because she's hungry." 

Miranda preferred to think the visit 
was due to no such interested motives; 
but she at once took up a plate of cakes 
which she had drenched in molasses for 
the requirements of her own taste. She 
set the plate on the edge of the table 
nearest to her visitor, and gently pulled 
the bear's snout down toward it. No 
second invitation was needed. The fire 
was forgotten. The enchanting smell of 
buckwheat cakes and molasses was a new 
one to Kroof 's nostrils, but the taste for 
it was there, full grown and waiting. Out 

136 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

went her narrow red tongue. The cakes 
disappeared rather more rapidly than was 
consistent with good manners : the mo- 
lasses was deftly licked up, and with a 
grin of rapture she looked about for 
more. Just in front of Kirstie stood a 
heaping dish of the dainties hot from the 
griddle. With an eager but tentative 
paw Kroof reached out for them. This 
was certainly not manners. Kirstie re- 
moved the dish beyond her reach, while 
Miranda firmly pushed the trespassing 
paw from the table. 

" No, Kroof, you shan't have any more 
at all, unless you are good ! " she admon- 
ished, with hortatory finger uplifted. 

There are few animals so quick to take 
a hint as the bear, and KrooPs wits had 
grown peculiarly alert during her long inti- 
macy with Miranda. She submitted with 
instant meekness, and waited, with tongue 
hanging out, while Miranda prepared her 
a huge bowl of bread and molasses. When 
she had eaten this, she investigated every- 
thing about the cabin, and finally went to 
sleep on a mat in the corner of the inner 

The Routing of the Philistines 137 

room. Before sundown she got up and 
wandered off to her lair, being still drowsy 
with winter sleep. 

After this the old bear came daily at 
noon to the cabin, dined with Kirstie and 
Miranda, and dozed away the afternoon 
on her mat in the chosen corner. Kirstie 
came to regard her as a member of the 
household. To the cattle and the poultry 
she paid no attention whatever. In a few 
days the oxen ceased to lower their horns 
as she passed; and the cock, Saunders's 
equally haughty successor, refrained from 
the shrill expletives of warning with which 
he had been wont to herald her approach. 

One afternoon, before spring had fairly 
set in, there came two unwelcome visitors 
to the cabin. In a lumber-camp some 
fifteen miles away, on a branch of the 
Quah-Davic, there had been trouble. Two 
of the "hands," surly and mutinous all 
winter, had at last, by some special bru- 
tality, enraged the "boss" and their mates 
beyond all pardon. Hooted and beaten 
from the camp, they had started through 
the woods by the shortest road to the 

13 8 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

Settlement. Their hearts were black with 
pent-up fury. About three o'clock in the 
afternoon, they happened upon the clearing, 
and demanded something to eat. 

Though sullen, and with a kind of men- 
ace in their air, their words were civil 
enough at first, and Kirstie busied herself 
to supply what seemed to her their just 
demands. The laws of hospitality are 
very binding in the backwoods. Miranda, 
meanwhile, not liking the looks of the 
strangers, kept silently aloof and scruti- 
nized them. 

When Kirstie had set before them a 
good meal, — hot tea, and hot boiled 
beans, and eggs, and white bread and 
butter, — they were disappointed because 
she gave them no pork^ and they were 
not slow to demand it. 

"I've got none," said Kirstie; "we 
don't eat pork here. You ought to get 
along well enough on what's good enough 
for Miranda and me." 

For a backwoods house to be without 
pork, the indispensable, the universal, the 
lumberman's staff of life, was something 

The Routing of the Philistines 139 

unheard of. They both thought she was 
keeping back the pork out of meanness, 

" You lie!" exclaimed one, a lean, short, 
swarthy ruffian. The other got up and 
took a step toward the woman, where she 
stood, dauntlessly eying them. His 
scrubby red beard bristled, his massive 
shoulders hunched themselves ominously 
toward his big ears. 

"You git that pork, and be quick 
about it ! " he commanded, with the addi- 
tion of such phrases of emphasis as the 
lumberman uses, but does not use in the 
presence of women. 

" Beast ! " exclaimed Kirstie, eyes and 
cheeks flaming. " Get out of this house.'* 
And she glanced about for a weapon. But 
in a second the ruffian had seized her. 
Though stronger than most men, she was 
no match for him — a noted bully and a 
cunning master of the tricks of the ring. 
She was thrown in a second. Miranda, 
with a scream of rage, snatched up a table 
knife and darted to her mother's aid ; but 
the shorter ruffian, now delighted with the 
game, shouted: "Settle the old woman. 


140 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

Bill. lil see to the gal ! " and made a 
grab for Miranda. 

It had all happened so suddenly that 
Kirstie was, for a moment, stunned. Then, 
realizing the full horror of the situation, a 
strength as of madness came upon her. 
She set her teeth into the wrist of her 
assailant with such fury that he yelled 
and for a second loosed his hold. In that 
second, tearing herself half free, she clutched 
his throat with her long and powerful fin- 
gers. It was only an instant's respite, but 
it was enough to divert the other scoun- 
drel's attention from Miranda. With a 
huge laugh he turned to free his mate 
from that throttling grip. 

His purpose was never fulfilled. Kroof, 
just at this instant, thrust her nose from 
the door of the inner room, half awake, 
and wondering at the disturbance. Her 
huge bulk was like a nightmare. The 
swarthy wretch stood for an instant spell- 
bound in amazement. With a savage 
growl, Kroof launched herself at him, and 
he, darting around the table, wrenched the 
door open and fled. 

The Routing of the Philistines 141 

The other miscreant, though well occu- 
pied with Kirstie's mad grip at his throat, 
had seen, from the corner of his eyes, that 
black monster emerge like fate and charge 
upon his comrade. To him, Kroof looked 
as big as an ox. With a gasping curse he 
tore himself free ; and, hurling Kirstie 
half across the table, he rushed from the 
cabin. His panic was lest the monster 
should return and catch him, like a rat in 
a pit, where there was no chance of escape. 

As a matter of fact, Kroof was just re- 
turning, with an angry realization that her 
foe could run faster than she could. And 
lo ! here was another of the same breed in 
the very doorway before her. As she con- 
fronted him, his eyes nearly started from 
his head. With a yell he dodged past, 
nimble as a loon's neck. Savagely she 
struck out at him with her punishing paw. 
Had she caught him, there would have 
been one rogue the fewer, and blood on 
the cabin threshold. But she missed, and 
he went free. He ran wildly over the 
snow patches in pursuit of his fleeing com- 
rade ; while Kroof, all a-bristle with indig- 

142 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

nation, hurried into the cabin, to be hugged 
and praised with grateful tears by Kirstie 
and Miranda. 

When the first of the fugitives, the lean 
and swarthy one, reached the edge of the 
woods, he paused to look back. There 
was no one following but his comrade, who 
came up a moment later and clutched at 
him, panting heavily. Neither, for a minute 
or two, had breath for any word but a 
broken curse. The big, bristly scoundrel 
called Bill was bleeding at the wrist from 
Kirstie's bite, and his throat, purple and 
puffed, bore witness to the strength of 
Kirstie's fingers. The other had got off 
scot free. The two stared at each other, 
cowed and discomfited. 

"Ever see the likes o' that?" queried 
Bill, earnestly. 

" Be damned ef 't wan't the devil him- 
self!" asseverated his companion. 

" Oh, hell ! 't were jest a b'ar ! " retorted 
Bill, in a tone of would-be derision. " But 
bigger'n a steer ! / don't want none of it! " 

" B'ar er devil, what's the odds ? Let's 
git, says I ! " was the response ; and simul- 

The Routing of the Philistines 143 

taneously the two lifted their eyes to ob- 
serve the sun and get their bearings. But 
it was not the sun they saw. Their jaws 
fell. Their hair rose. For a moment 
they stood rooted to the ground in abject 

Right above their heads, crouched close 
upon the vast up-sloping limb of a hoary 
pine, lay a panther, looking down upon 
them with fixed, dilating stare. They saw 
his claws, protruding, and set firmly into 
the bark. They saw the backward, snarl- 
ing curl of his lips as his head reached 
down toward them over the edge of his 
perch. For several choking heart-beats 
the picture bit itself into their coarse 
brains; then, with a gurgling cry that 
came as one voice from the two throats, 
both sprang aside like hares and ran wildly 
down the trail. 

Within a few hours of their arrival at 
the Settlement, this was the story on all 
lips, — that Kirstie's cabin was guarded 
by familiars, who could take upon them- 
selves at will the form of bear, panther, 
wolf, or mad bull moose, for the terroriz- 

144 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

ing of such travellers as might chance to 
trespass upon that unholy solitude. The 
Settlement held a few superstitious souls 
who believed this tale ; while the rest pre- 
tended to believe it because it gave them 
something to talk about. No one, in fact, 
was at all the worse for it, except the ruf- 
fian called Bill, who, on one of Young 
Dave's rare visits to the Settlement, got 
into an argument with him on the subject, 
and incidentally got a licking. 

Chapter XI 
Miranda and Young Dave 

AFTER this the cabin in the clearing 
ran small risk of marauders. To 
the most sceptical homespun philosopher 
in the Settlement it seemed obvious that 
Kirstie and Miranda had something mys- 
terious about them, and had forsaken 
their kind for the fellowship of the furtive 
kin. No one but Old Dave had any 
relish for a neighbourhood where bears 
kept guard, and lynxes slily frequented, 
and caribou bulls of a haughty temper 
made themselves free of the barnyard. 
As for Young Dave, unwilling to fall 
foul of the folk who were so friendly to 
Kirstie and Miranda, he carried his traps, 
his woodcraft, and his cunning rifle to a 
tract more remote from the clearing. 

Thus it came that Miranda grew to 
womanhood with no human companion 
L 145 

146 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

but her mother. To her mother she 
stood so close that the two assimilated 
each other, as it were. Such education as 
Kirstie possessed, and such culture, nar- 
row but significant, were Miranda's by 
absorption. For the rest, the quiet folk 
of the wood insensibly moulded her, and 
the great silences, and the wide wonder 
of the skies at night, and the solemnity 
of the wind. At seventeen she was a 
woman, mature beyond her years, but 
strange, with an elfish or a faun-like 
strangeness : as if a soul not all human 
dwelt in her human shape. Silent, wild, 
unsmiling, her sympathies were not with 
her own kind, but with the wild and 
silent folk who know not the sweetness of 
laughter. Yet she was given to moods 
of singing mirth, at long intervals ; and 
her tenderness toward all pain, her horror 
of blood, were things equally alien to the 
wilderness creatures, her associates. It 
was doubtless this unbridgable divergence, 
combining with her sympathy and subtle 
comprehension, which secured her mys- 
terious ascendency in the forest; for by 

Miranda and Young Dave 147 

this time it would never have occurred to 
her to step aside even for a panther or 
a bull moose in his fury. Something, 
somehow, in the air about her, told all the 
creatures that she was supreme. 

In appearance, Miranda was a contrast 
to her mother, though her colouring was 
almost the same. Miranda was a little 
less than middle height, slender, graceful, 
fine-boned, small of hand and foot, deli- 
cate-featured, her skin toned with the 
clear browns of health and the open air 
and the matchless cosmetic of the sun. 
Her abundance of bronze-black hair, shot 
with flame-glints wheresoever the sun- 
light struck it, came down low over a 
broad, low forehead. Her eyes, in which, 
as we have seen, lay very much of her 
power over the folk of the wood, were 
very large and dark. They possessed a 
singular transparency, akin to the magical 
charm of the forest shadows. There was 
something unreal and haunting in this 
inexplicable clarity of her gaze, something 
of that mystery which dwells in the reflec- 
tions of a perfect mirror of water. Her 

148 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

nose, straight and well modelled, was 
rather large than small, with nostrils 
alertly sensitive to discern all the wilding 
savours, the clean, personal scents of the 
clean-living creatures of the wood, and 
even those inexpressibly elusive perfume- 
heralds which, on certain days, come upon 
the air, forerunning the changes of the 
seasons. Her mouth was large, but not 
too large for beauty, neither thin nor full, 
of a vivid scarlet, mobile and mutable, 
yet firm, and with the edges of the lips 
exactly defined. Habitually reposeful 
and self-controlled in movement, like her 
mother, her repose suggested that of a 
bird poised upon the wing, liable at any 
instant to incalculable celerities; while 
that of Kirstie was like the calm of a hill 
with the eternal disrupting fire at its 
heart. The scarlet ribbon which Miranda 
the woman, like Miranda the child, wore 
always about her neck, seemed in her the 
symbol of an ineradicable strangeness of 
spirit, while Kirstie's scarlet kerchief ex- 
pressed but the passion which burned 
perennial beneath its wearer's quietude. 

Miranda and Young Dave 149 

Being in all respects natural and un- 
selfconscious, it is not to be wondered 
at that Miranda was inconsistent. The 
truce which she had created about her 

— the pax Miranda — had so long kept 
her eyes from the hated sight of blood 
that she had forgotten death, and did not 
more than half believe in pain. Never- 
theless she was still a shaft of doom to the 
trout in the lake and river. Fishing was 
a delight to her. It satisfied some fierce 
instinct inherited from her forefathers, 
which she never thought to analyze. 
The musical rushing of the stream ; the 
foam and clamour of the shallow falls ; 
the deep, black, gleaming pools with the 
roots of larch and hemlock overhanging ; 
the sullen purple and amber of the eddies 
with their slowly swirling patches of froth, 

— all these allured her, though with a 
threat. And then the stealthy casting of 

^the small, baited hook or glittering fly, 
the tense expectancy, the electrifying tug 
upon the line, the thrill, the exultation of 
the landing, and the beauty of the spotted 
prey, silver and vermilion, on the olive 

150 The Heart of the Andent Wood 

czrpet of the moss ! It hardly occurred 
to her that they were breadung, sentient 
creatures, these fish of the pools. She 
would doubtless have resented the idea 
of any kinship between herself and these 
cold inhabiters of a hostile element. In 
£ACt^ Miranda was very close to nature, 
and she could not escape her part in 
nature's never ceasing war of opposites. 

Late one afternoon in summer Miranda 
was loitering homeward from the stream 
with a goodly string of trout. It was a 
warm day and windless, and the time of 
year not that which favours the fisherman. 
But in those cold waters the fish will rise 
even in July and August, and Miranda's 
bait, or Miranda's home-tied fly, was al- 
ways a killing lure to them. She carried 
her catch — one gaping-jawed two-pounder, 
and a half dozen smaller victims — strung 
through the crimson gills on a forked 
branch of alder. Her dark face was 
flushed ; her hair (she never wore a hat) was 
dishevelled ; her eyes were very wide and 
abstracted, taking in the varied shadows, — 
the boulders, the markings on the bark 


of the tree -iiutli,^, zhi^ irrggmrrar rfrraar-- 
m^ nmtlis; sot :ixe: sftiriiin .rrrt*= iruwu 
owl cfasr 3St: in Tine: itetT' >r Ttue: xoc: Trr . 
yet Hfrnriffg ai see: nor tticse inr TBTnc- 
tbini^ witinix or besroitd rtTcrrr. 

Snifairtriv, iMweyer: -iu^ ^ctr arcKst 

pTWBnair aiu€gm:*tgd -xi x Ttnanesx 

sit7, then: ]j^jtB:iti. ox x 

aigEsr 2K she ochuc x rcsarr 'sz^ sirvarrt^ 

aod paoaed^ nacsrsan. 5xt x mnmeat: -vhac 


€}£»ia, accare and Ixvrr.rviz^ Ar its ia> 
tbcr cd^ X rnicir-^tgiTrTrifCy low b«c&: 
trc^ rrau^mtl one &;m tic cGnfas wo: <^" 
tninfa grd TJfflSBy eat x pieaaa^t £ifereo^ 
tettcd ^acr,. Hare En tfe shade a vouugj. 
maa lay ifccpcig^ sprxvlcd car«tessiy> hb 
head on ocdc arm. He was tall> gauat> 
cfad in atCT homespuns and a weU-wwa 
buckskin ^KJtet. Hb red-brown K^iut 
was cat somewhat short> his light yel- 
low moustache, long and $ilky> )ook^) thi^ 
lighter by contrast with the ruddy t*u s>i 

152 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

his face. His rifle leaned against the tree 
near by, while he slept the luxurious sleep 
of an idle summer afternoon. 

But not five paces away crouched an 
immense panther, flattened to the ground, 
watching him. 

The beast was ready, at the first move- 
ment or sign of life, to spring upon the 
sleeper's throat. Its tail rigidly out- 
stretched, twitched slightly at the tip. 
Its great, luminous eyes were so intently 
fixed upon the anticipated prey that it did 
not see Miranda's quiet approach. 

To the girl the sleeper seemed some- 
thing very beautiful, in the impersonal 
way that a splendid flower, or a tall young 
tree in the open, or the scarlet-and-pearl 
of sunrise is beautiful — not a thing as 
near to herself as the beasts of the wood, 
whom she knew. But she was filled with 
strange, protective fury at the thought 
of peril to this interesting creature. Her 
hesitation was but for a moment. She 
knew the ferocity of the panther very 
well, and trembled lest the sleeper should 
move, or twitch a muscle. She stepped 

Minndai and Tonu^ Dxve 153 

up dose to his sdc, and fixed die animal's 
eyes with her disconcerting gaze. 

"Get oflF!" she oidcred sharply, with 
a gesture of command. 

The beast had doabdess a very plenti- 
ful Ignorance of the Eng^h language, but 
gesture is a universal speech. He under- 
stood it quite clearly. He £iced her eye, 
and endured it for some seconds, bdng 
minded to dispute its authority. Then 
his glance shifted, his whole atdtude 
changed. He rose fix>m his crouching 
posture, his tail drooped, his tension 
relaxed, he looked back over his shoulder, 
then turned and padded furtively away. 
Just as he was leaving, the man awoke 
with a start, sat up, gave one wondering 
look at Miranda, caught sight of the 
panther's retreating form, and reached for 
his rifle. 

Quick as light, Miranda intervened. 
Stepping between his hand and its pur- 
pose, she flamed out against him with 
sudden anger. 

" How dare you — go to shoot him ! ** 
she cried, her voice trembling. 

154 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

He had sprang to his feet, and was 
staring at her flushed face with a mixture 
of admiration and bewilderment. 

" But he was goin' to jump onto me ! " 
he protested. 

" Well," rejoined Miranda, curtly, " he 
didn't ! And you've got no call to shoot 
him ! " 

" Why didn't he ? " asked the young man. 

" I drove him off. If I'd thought you'd 
shoot him, I'd have let him jump onto 
you," was the cool reply. 

"Why didn't he jump onto you?^^ 
asked the stranger, his keen grey eyes 
lighting up as if he began to understand 
the situation. 

" Because he durs'n't, — and he wouldn't 
want to, neither ! " 

" I calculate," said the stranger, hold- 
ing out his hand, while a smile softened 
the thoughtful severity of his face, " that 
you must be little Mirandy." 

" My name is Miranda," she answered, 
ignoring the outstretched hand; "but I'm 
sure I don't know who you are, coming 
here into my woods to kill my friends." 

Miranda and Toang Dave 155 

" I wouldn't hurt a hdr of *em ! ** he 
asserted^ with a mingling of fervour and 
amusement. "But ain't I one o' your 
friends, too, Mirandy? I used to be, 

He took a step nearer, still holding 
out a pleading hand. Miranda drew 
back, and put her hands behind her. 
"I don't know you," she persisted, 
but now with something of an air of 
wilfulness rather than of hostility. Old 
memories had begun to stir In forgotten 
chambers of her brain. 

"You used to be friends with Young 
Dave," he sdd. In an eager half whisper. 
Miranda's beauty and the strangeness of 
it were getting into his long-untroubled 

The girl at once put out her hand with 
a frank kindness. "Oh, I remember!" 
she said. " You've been a long time for- 
getting us, haven't you ? But never mind. 
Come along with me to the clearing, and 
see mother, and get some supper." 

Dave flushed with pleasure at the invi- 

156 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

" Thank ye kindly, Mirandy, I reckon 
I will," said he ; and stepping to one side 
he picked up his rifle. But at the sight 
of the weapon Miranda's new friendliness 
froze up, and a resentful gleam came into 
her great eyes. 

" Let me heft it," she demanded 
abruptly, holding out an imperative 

Dave gave it up at once, with a depre- 
cating air, though a ghost of a smile flick- 
ered under the long, yellow droop of his 

Miranda had no interest in the weight 
or balance of the execrated weapon : pos- 
session of it was all her purpose. 

rU carry it," she remarked abruptly. 

You take these," and handing over to 
him the string of trout, she turned to the 

Dave followed, now at her side, now 
dropping respectfully behind, as the exi- 
gencies of the way required. Nothing 
was said for some time. The girl's in- 
stinctive interest in the man whom she 
had so opportunely protected was now 

Miranda and Young Dave 157 

quenched in antagonism, as she thought 
upon his murderous calling. With sharp 
resentment she imagined him nursing an 
indulgent contempt for her friendship 
with the fiirry and furtive creatures. She 
burned with retrospective compassion for 
all the beasts which had fallen to his bul- 
lets, or his blind and brutal traps. A 
trap was, in her eyes, the unpardonable 
horror. Had she not once, when a small 
girl, seen a lynx — perhaps it was Ganner 
himself — caught by the hind quarters in 
a dead-fall ? The beast was not quite 
dead — it had been for days dying; its 
eyes were dulled, yet widely staring, and 
its tongue, black and swollen, stuck out 
between its grinning jaws. She had seen 
at once that the case was past relief; and 
she would have ended the torture had her 
little hands known how to kill. But help- 
less and anguished as she was, she had fled 
from the spot, and shudderingly cried her 
eyes out for an hour. Then it had come 
over her with a wrenching of remorse that 
the dreadful tongue craved water ; and she 
had flown back with a tin cup of the as- 

158 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

suaging fluid, only to find the animal just 
dead. The pain of thinking that she 
might have eased its last torments, and 
had not, bit the whole scene ineffaceably 
into her heart ; and now, with this splen- 
did trapper, the kind friend of her baby- 
hood, walking at her side, the picture and 
its pangs returned with a horrible incon- 
gruity. But what most of all hardened 
her heart against the man was a sense of 
threat which his atmosphere conveyed to 
her, — a menace, in some vague way, to 
her whole system of life, her sympathies, 
her contentments, her calm. 

Dave, on his part, felt himself deep 
in the cold flood of disfavour, and solici- 
tously pondered a way of return to the 
sunshine of his companion's smile. His 
half-wild intuition told him at once that 
Miranda's anger was connected with his 
rifle, and he in part understood her aver- 
sion to his craft. He hungered to con- 
ciliate her ; and as he trod noiselessly the 
scented gloom of the arches, the mottled 
greens and greys and browns of the trail, 
he laid his plans with far-considering pru- 

Miranda and Young Dave 159 

dence. It was characteristic of his quietly 
masterful nature that he not once thought 
of conciliating by giving up gun and trap 
and turning to a vocation more humane. 
No, the ways and means which occupied 
his thoughts were the ways and means 
of converting Miranda to his own point 
of view. He felt, though not philosophic 
enough to formulate it clearly, that he had 
all nature behind him to help mould the 
girl to his will, while she stood not only 
alone, but with a grave peril of treason in 
her own heart. 

His silence was good policy with 
Miranda, who was used to silence and 
loved it. But being a woman, she loved 
another's silence even better than her own. 
" You are a hunter, ain't you ? " she in- 
quired at last, without turning her head. 

" Yes, Mirandy." 

" And a trapper, too ? " 

"Yes, Mirandy; so they call me." 
And you like to kill the beasts ? " 
Well, yes, Mirandy, kind of, least- 
ways, I like them ; and, well, you've jest 
got to kill them, to live yourself. That's 

i6o The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

jest what they do, kill each other, so's 
they can live themselves. An' it*s the 
only kind of life / can live — 'way in the 
woods, with the shadows, an* the silence, 
an* the trees, an' the sky, an' the clean 
smells, an' the whispers you can't never 

Dave shut his mouth with a firm snap 
at the close of this unwonted outburst. 
Never to any one before had he so 
explained his passion for the hunter's 
life; and now Miranda, who had turned 
square about, was looking at him with a 
curious searching expression. It discon- 
certed him ; and he feared, under those 
unescapable eyes, that he had talked non- 
sense. Nevertheless when she spoke 
there was a less chilling note in her voice, 
though the words were not encouraging. 

"If you like killing the creatures," she 
said slowly, " it's no place for you here. 
So maybe you hadn't better come to the 

" I don't like killing your beasts, any- 
ways," he protested eagerly. "An' ever 
sence I heard how you an' the bears an' 

Miranda and Young Dave i6i 

the caribou was friends like, Fve kep* 
clear the other side of the divide, an' 
never set a trap this side the Quah-Davic 
valley. As for these critters you take 
such stock in, Mirandy, I wouldn't harm 
a hair of one of 'em, I swear ! " 

" You hadn't better ! I'd kill you my- 
self," she rejoined sharply, with a swift, 
dangerous flame in her strange gaze ; " or 
I'd set Kroof on you," she added, a gleam 
of mirth suddenly irradiating her face, and 
darkening her eyes richly, till Dave was 
confused by her loveliness. But he kept 
his wits sufficiently to perceive, as she set 
her face agdn up the trail, that he was 
permitted to go with her. 

"Who's Kroof?" he asked humbly, 
stepping close to her side and ignoring 
the fact that the pathway, just there, was 
but wide enough for one. 

My best friend," answered Miranda. 
You'll see at the clearing. You'd bet- 
ter look out for Kroof, let me tell you ! " 

Chapter XII 
Young Dave at the Clearing 

DURING the rest of the journey — 
a matter of an hour's walking — 
there was little talk between Miranda and 
Dave; for the ancient wood has the 
property that it makes talk seem trivial. 
With those who journey through the 
great vistas and clear twilight of the trees, 
thoughts are apt to interchange by the 
medium of silence and sympathy, or else 
to remain uncommunicated. Whatever 
her misgivings, her resentments and hos- 
tilities, Miranda was absorbed in her com- 
panion. So deeply was she absorbed that 
she failed to notice an unwonted empti- 
ness in the shadows about her. 

In very truth, the furtive folk had all 
fled away. The presence of the hunter 
filled them with instinctive fear; and in 
their chief defence, their moveless self- 


Young Dave at the Clearing 163 

efFacement, they had no more any confi- 
dence while within reach of Miranda's 
eyes. The stranger was like herself — 
and though they trusted her in all else, 
they knew the compulsion of nature, and 
feared lest she might betray them to her 
own kind. Therefore they held prudently 
aloof, — the hare and the porcupine, the 
fox and the red cat ; the raccoon slipped 
into his hole in the maple tree, and the 
wood-mice scurried under the hemlock 
root, and the woodpecker kept the thick- 
ness of a tree beween his foraging and 
Miranda's eye. Only the careless and 
inquisitive partridge, sitting on a birch 
limb just over the trail, curiously awaited 
their approach ; till suddenly an intuition 
of peril awoke him, and he fled on wild 
wings away through the diminishing 
arches. Even the little brown owl in the 
pine crotch snapped his bill and hissed 
uneasily as the two passed under his 
perch. Yet all these signs, that would 
have been to her in other moods a loud 
proclamation of change, now passed un- 
noted. Miranda was receiving a new 

164 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

impression, and the experience engrossed 

Arrived at the edge of the clearing, 
Dave was struck by the alteration that had 
come over it since that day, thirteen years 
back, when he had aided Kirstie's flight 
from the Settlement. It was still bleak, 
and overbrooded by a vast unroutable 
stillness, for the swelling of the land lifted 
it from the forest's shelter and made it 
neighbour to the solitary sky. But the 
open fields were prosperous with blue- 
flowered flax, pink-and-white buckwheat, 
the green sombreness of potatoes, and the 
gallant ranks of corn ; while half a dozen 
sleek cattle dotted the stumpy pasture. 
The fences were well kept. The cabin 
and the barn were hedged about with 
shining thickets of sunflower, florid holly- 
hocks, and scarlet-runner beans. It gave 
the young woodman a kind of pang, — 
this bit of homely sweetness projected, as 
it were, upon the infinite solitude of the 
universe. It made him think, somehow, 
of the smile of a lost child that does not 
know it is lost. 

Young Dave at the Clearing 165 

Presently, to his astonishment, there 
rose up from behind a blackberry coppice 
the very biggest bear he had ever seen. 
The huge animal paused at sight of a 
stranger, and sat up on her hind quarters 
to inspect him. Then she dropped again 
upon all fours, shuffled to Miranda's side, 
and affectionately smuggled her nose into 
the girl's palm. Dave looked on with 
smiling admiration. The picture appealed 
to him. And Miranda, scanning his face 
with jealous keenness, could detect therein 
nothing but approval. 

"This is Kroof," said she, graciously. 

" Never seen such a fine bear in all my 
life ! " exclaimed the young man, sincerely 
enough ; and with a rash unmindfulness 
of the reserve which governs the manners 
of all the furtive folk (except the squir- 
rels), he stretched out his hand to stroke 
KrooPs splendid coat. 

The presumption was instantly re- 
sented. With an indignant squeal Kroof 
swung aside and struck at the oflfending 
hand, missing it by a hair's breadth, as 
Dave snatched it back out of peril. A 

1 66 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

flush of anger darkened his face, but 
he said nothing. Miranda, however, 
was annoyed, feeling her hospitality dis- 
honoured. With a harsh rebuke she 
slapped the bear sharply over the snout, 
and drew a little away from her. 

Kroof was amazed. Not since the 
episode of the hare had Miranda struck 
her, and then the baby hand had con- 
veyed no offence. Now it was different : 
and she felt that the tall stranger was the 
cause of the difference. Her heart swelled 
fiercely within her furry sides. She gave 
Miranda one look of bitter reproach, and 
shambled off slowly down the green alleys 
of the potato field. 

During some moments of hesitation, 
Miranda looked from Kroof to Dave, and 
from Dave to Kroof. Then her heart 
smote her. With a little sob in her 
throat, she ran swiftly after the bear, and 
clung to her neck with murmured words 
of penitence. But Kroof, paying no 
attention whatever, kept her way steadily 
to the woods, dragging Miranda as if she 
had been a bramble caught on her fur. 

Young Dave at the Clearing 167 

Not till she had reached the very edge of 
the forest, at the sunny corner where she 
had been wont to play with Miranda dur- 
ing the far-off first years of their friend- 
ship, did the old bear stop. There she 
turned, sat up on her haunches, eyed the 
girl's face steadily for some seconds, and 
then licked her gently on the ear. It 
meant forgiveness, reconciliation; but 
Kroof was too deeply hurt to go back 
with Miranda to the cabin. In response 
to the girl's persuasions, she but licked 
her hands assiduously, as if pleading to 
be not misunderstood, then dropped upon 
all fours and moved off into the forest, 
leaving Miranda to gaze after her with 
tearful eyes. 

When she went back to where the 
young hunter awaited her, Miranda's 
friendly interest had vanished, and in a 
chilly silence — very unlike that which 
had been eloquent between them a short 
half hour before — the two walked on up 
to the cabin. In Kirstie's welcome Dave 
found all the warmth he could wish, with 
never a reproach for his long years 

1 68 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

of neglect, — for which, therefore, he the 
more bitterly reproached himself. The 
best of all protections against the stings 
of self-reproach is the reproach of others ; 
and of this protection Kirstie ruthlessly 
deprived him. She asked about all the 
details of his life as a solitary trapper, 
congratulated him on his success, ap- 
peared sympathetic toward his calling, 
and refrained from attempting his con- 
version to vegetarianism. Looking at 
her noble figure, her face still beautiful 
in its strength and calm, the young man 
harked back in his memory to the Settle- 
ment's scandals and decided that Frank 
Craig had never, of his own will, forsaken 
a woman so altogether gracious and de- 
sirable. He resolved that he would come 
often to the cabin in the clearing — even 
if Miranda was unpleasant to him. 

Unpleasant she certainly was, all the 
evening, coldly unconscious of his pres- 
ence, except, of course, at supper, where 
civility as well as hospitality obliged her 
to keep his plate supplied, and not to 
sour his meal with an obstinate silence. 

Young Dave at the Clearing 169 

He watched her stealthily while he talked 
to her mother ; and the fact that her wild 
and subtle beauty, thrilling his blood, 
made ridiculous the anger in his heart, 
did not prevent his accomplishing a 
brave meal of eggs, steaming buttered 
pancakes with molasses, and sweet cottage 
cheese with currant jelly. Kirstie would 
not hear of his going that night, so he 
stayed, and slept in the bunk which his 
father had occupied a dozen years before. 

In the morning he was diligent to help 
with the barnyard chores, and won golden 
comment from Kirstie; but he found 
Miranda still ice to his admiration. 
About breakfast time, however, Kroof 
reappeared, with an air of having quite 
forgotten the evening's little unpleasant- 
ness. Of Dave she took no notice at all, 
looking through, beyond, and around him ; 
but with her return Miranda's manner 
became a shade less austere. Her self- 
reproach was mitigated when she saw that 
her passing interest in the newcomer had 
not unpardonably wronged her old friend. 

Dave was bound for the Settlement, to 

170 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

arrange some business of bounties and 
pelt sales. In spite of Kirstie's hospita- 
ble arguments, he insisted on setting out 
as soon as breakfast was over. As he 
picked up his rifle from the corner be- 
side his bunk, Miranda, as a sign of 
peace between them, handed him his 
pouch of bullets. But not so his big 
powder-flask, on its gay green cord. This 
she took to the door, and coolly emptied 
its contents into a clump of burdocks. 
Then, with an enigmatic smile, she handed 
back the flask to its owner. 

The young hunter was annoyed. Pow- 
der was, in his eyes, a sacred thing, and 
such a wanton waste of it seemed to him 
little less than criminal. 

"That was all the powder I had 'twixt 
here an' the Settlement," he said, in a tone 
of rebuke. 

"So much the better," said Miranda. 

"But I don't see no sense in wastin' 
it that way," he persisted. 

" No knowing what may happen be- 
tween here and the Settlement," rejoined 
the girl, meaningly. 

Young Dave at the Clearing 171 

Dave flushed with anger. "Didn't I 
pass ye my word I'd not harm a hair of 
one of your beasts ? " he demanded. 

"Then what do you want with the 
powder this side of the Settlement ? " she 
inquired, with tantalizing pertinence. 

The young hunter, though steady and 
clear in his thought, was by no means apt 
in repartee, and Miranda had him at a 
cruel disadvantage. Confused by her last 
question, he blundered badly in his reply. 
"But — what if a painter should jump 
onto me, like he was goin' to yesterday ? " 
he protested. 

" I thought you promised you wouldn't 
harm a hair of one of them," suggested 
Miranda, thoughtful yet triumphant. 

"Would you have me let the critter 
kill me, jest to keep my promise ? " he 
asked, humour beginning to correct his 

"I don't see why not," murmured 
Miranda. "Anyhow, you've got to do 
without the powder. And you needn't 
be frightened, Dave," — this very patro- 
nizingly, — " for your father never carries 

172 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

a gun on our trail, and he's never needed 
one yet." 
« " Well, then," laughed Dave, " I'll try 
an* keep my hair on, an' not be clean 
skeered to death. Good-by, Kirstie ! 
Good-by, Mirandy ! I'll look 'round this 
way afore long, like as not." 

" Inside of twelve years ? " said Kirstie, 
with a rare smile, which robbed her words 
of all reproach. 

" Likely," responded Dave, and he 
swung off with long, active strides down 
the trail. 

Miranda's eyes followed him with re- 

Chapter XIII 


YOUNG Dave Titus was not without 
the rudiments of a knowledge of 
woman, few as had been his opportunities 
for acquiring that rarest and most difficult 
of sciences. He made no second visit to 
the cabin in the clearing till he had kept 
Miranda many weeks wondering at his 
absence. Then, when the stalks were 
whitey grey, and the pumpkins golden 
yellow in the corn-field, and the buck- 
wheat patch was crisply brown, and the 
scarlet of the maples was beginning to 
fade out along the forest edges, he came 
drifting back lazily one late afternoon, 
just as the slow tink-a-tonk of the cow-bells 
was beginning the mellow proclamation of 
milking-time and sundown. The tonic 
chill of autumn in the wilderness open 
caught his nostrils deliciously as he 


174 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

emerged from the warmer stillness of the 
woods. The smell, the sound of the cow- 
bells, — these were homely sweet after the 
day-long solitude of the trail. But the 
scene — the grey cabin lifted skyward on 
the gradual swell of the fields — was lone- 
liness itself. The clearing seemed to Dave 
a little beautiful lost world, and it gave 
him an ache at the heart to think of the 
years that Miranda and Kirstie had dwelt 
in it alone. 

Just beyond the edge of the forest he 
came upon Kroof, grubbing and munch- 
ing some wild roots. He spoke to her 
deferentially, but she swung her huge 
rump about and firmly ignored him. He 
was anxious to win the shrewd beast's 
favour, or at least her tolerance, both be- 
cause she had stirred his imagination and 
because he felt that her good-will would 
be, in Miranda's eyes, a most convincing 
testimonial to his worth. But he wisely 
refrained from forcing himself upon her 

"Go slow, my son, go slow. It's a 
she; an' more'n likely you don't know 

Milking-time 175 

jest how to take her," he muttered to him- 
self, after a fashion acquired in the intermi- 
nable solitude of his camp. Leaving Kroof 
to her moroseness, he hastened up to the 
cabin, in hopes that he would be in time 
to help Kirstie and Miranda with the 

Just before he got to the door he expe- 
rienced a surprise, so far as he was capable 
of being surprised at anything which might 
take place in these unreal surroundings. 
From behind the cabin came Wapiti the 
buck, or perhaps a younger Wapiti, on 
whom the spirit of his sire had descended 
in double portion. Close after him came 
two does, sniffing doubtfully at the smell 
of a stranger on the air. To Wapiti a 
stranger at the cabin, where such visitants 
were unheard of, must needs be an enemy, 
or at least a suspect. He stepped deli- 
cately out into the path, stamped his fine 
hoof in defiance, and lowered his armory 
of antlers. They were keen and hard, these 
October antlers, for this was the moon 
of battle, and he was ready. In rutting 
season Wapiti was every inch a hero. 

176 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

Now Dave Titus well knew that this 
was no bluff of Wapiti's. He was amused 
and embarrassed. He could not fight 
this unexpected foe, for victory or defeat 
would be equally fatal to his hope of pleas- 
ing Miranda. As a consequence, here he 
was, Dave Titus, the noted hunter, the 
Nimrod, held up by a rutting buck ! 
Well, the trouble was of Miranda's mak- 
ing. She'd have to get him out of it. 
Facing the defiant Wapiti at a distance 
of five or six paces, he rested the butt of 
his rifle on his toe and sent a mellow, 
resonant heigh-loy heigh-lo! echoing over 
the still air. The forest edges took it up, 
answering again and again. Kirstie and 
Miranda came to the door to see who 
gave the summons, and they understood 
the situation at a glance. 

"Call oflf yer dawg, Mirandy," cried 
Young Dave, " an' I'll come an' pay ye a 

" He thinks you're going to hurt us," 
explained Kirstie; and Miranda, with a 
gay laugh, ran to the rescue. 

"You mustn't frighten the good little 

Milking-time 177 

boy, Wapiti," she cried, pushing the big 
deer out of her path and running to Dave's 
side. As soon as Wapiti saw Miranda 
with Dave, he comprehended that the 
stranger was not a foe. With a flourish 
of his horns he stepped aside and led his 
herd off through the barnyard. 

Arriving at the door, where Kirstie, 
gracious, but impassive, awaited him, Dave 
exclaimed: "She's saved my life ag'in, 
Kirstie, that giri o' yourn. First it's a 
painter, an' now it's a rutting buck. 
Wonder what it'll be next time ! " 

"A rabbit, like as not, or a squir'l, 
maybe," suggested Miranda, unkindly. 

"Whatever it be," persisted Dave, 
" third time's luck for me, anyways. If 
you save my life agin, Mirandy, you'll 
hev' to take care o* me altogether. I'll git 
to kind of depend on ye." 

" Then I reckon, Dave, you'll get out 
of your next scrape by yourself," answered 
Miranda, with discourapng dcdsion. 

" That's one on you, Dave," remarked 
Kirstie, with a stricdy neutrsd jur. But 
behind Miranda's back she shot him a 


178 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

look which said, " Don't you mind what 
she says, she's all right in her heart!" 
which, indeed, was far from being the 
case. Had Dave been so injudicious as 
to woo openly at this stage of Miranda's 
feelings, he would have been dismissed 
with speedy emphasis. 

Dave was in time to help with the 
milking, — a process which he boyishly 
enjoyed. The cows, five of them, were 
by now lowing at the bars. Kirstie 
brought out three tin pails. "You can 
help us, if you like, Dave," she cried, 
while Miranda looked her doubt of such 
a clumsy creature's capacity for the gentle 
art of milking. " Can you milk ? " she 

" ' Course I can, though I haven't had 
much chance, o' late years, to practise," 
said Dave. 

"Can you milk without hurting the 
cow? Are you sure? And can you 
draw off the strippings clean ? " she per- 
sisted, manifestly sceptical. 

" Try me," said Dave. 

" Let him take old Whitey, Miranda. 

Milking-time 179 

He'll get through with her, maybe, while 
we're milking the others," suggested 

" Oh, well, any one could milk Whitey," 
assented Miranda; and Dave, on his 
mettle, vowed within himself that he'd 
have old Whitey milked, and milked dry, 
and milked to her satisfaction, before 
either Kirstie or Miranda was through 
with her first milker. He stroked the 
cow on the flank, and scratched her belly 
gently, and established friendly relations 
with her before starting; and the elastic 
firmness of his strong hands chanced to 
suit Whitey's large teats. The animal 
eyed him with favour and gave down her 
milk affluently. As the full streams 
sounded more and more liquidly in his 
pail, Dave knew that he had the game in 
his hands, and took time to glance at his 
rivals. To his astonishment there was 
Kroof standing up on her haunches close 
beside Miranda, her narrow red tongue 
lolling from her lazily open jaws, while she 
watched the milky fountains with interest. 

While Kirstie's scarlet kerchiefed head 

i8o The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

was still pressed upon her milker's flank, 
and while Miranda was just beginning to 
draw oflF the rich " strippings " into a tin 
cup, Dave completed his task. His pail 
— he had milked the strippings in along 
with the rest — was foaming creamily to 
the brim. He arose and vaunted him- 
self. " Some day, when I've got lots of 
time," he drawled, " I'll I'arn you two how 
to milk." 

"You needn't think you're done al- 
ready," retorted Miranda, without look- 
ing up. " I'll get a quart more out of 
old Whitey, soon as I'm through here." 

But Kirstie came over and looked at 
the pail. " No, you won't, Miranda, not 
this time," she exclaimed. " Dave's beaten 
us, sure. Old Whitey never gave us a 
fuller pail in her life. Dave, you can 
milk. You go and milk Michael over 
there, the black-an'-white one, for me. 
I'll leave you and Miranda, if you won't 
fall out, to finish up here, while I go and 
get an extra good supper for you, so's 
you'll come again soon. I know you 
men keep your hearts in your stomachs. 

Milking-time i8i 

just where we women know how to reach 
them easy. Where'd we have been if the 
Lord hadn't made us cooks ! " 

Such unwonted pleasantry on the part 
of her sombre mother proved to Miranda 
that Dave was much in her graces, and 
she felt moved to a greater austerity in 
order that she might keep the balance 
true. Throughout the rest of the milk- 
ing, she answered all Dave's attempts at 
conversation with briefest yes or no^ and 
presently reduced him to a discouraged 
silence. During supper, — which consisted 
of fresh trout fried in corn meal, and 
golden hot johnny-cake with red molasses, 
and eggs fried with tomatoes, and sweet 
curds with clotted cream, all in a perfec- 
tion to justify Kirstie's promise, — Mi- 
randa relented a little, and talked freely. 
But Dave had been too much subdued 
to readily regain his cheer. It was his 
tongue now that knew but yes and no. 
Confronted by this result of her unkind- 
ness, Miranda's sympathetic heart • soft- 
ened. Turning in her seat to slip a piece 
of johnny-cake, drenched in molasses, 

1 82 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

into the expectant mouth of Kroof who 
sat up beside her, she spoke to Dave in a 
tone whose sweetness thrilled him to the 
finger-tips. The instinct of coquetry, 
native and not unknown to the furtive 
folk themselves, was beginning to stir 
within Miranda's untaught heart. 

" I'm going down to the lake to-night, 
Dave," she said, " to set a night line and 
see if I can catch a togue.^ There's a full 
moon, and the lake'U be worth looking at. 
Won't you come along with us ? " 

" Won't I, Miranda ? Couldn't think 
of nothin' I'd like better ! " was the eager 

"We'll start soon as ever we get the 
dishes washed up," explained the girl. 
"And you can help us at that — what 
say, mother ? " 

" Certainly, Dave can help us," answered 
Kirstie, " if you have the nerve to set the 
likes of him at woman's work. But I 
reckon I won't go with you to-night to 
the lake. Kroof and Dave'll be enough 
to look after you." 

^ A species of large, grey lake trout. 

Milking-time 183 

" rU look after Dave, more like," ex- 
claimed Miranda, scornftiUy, remembering 
both Wapiti and the panther. " But what's 
the matter, mother ? Do come. It won't 
be the same without you." 

" Seems to me I'm tired to-night, kind 
of, and I just want to stay at home by the 
fire and think." 

Miranda sprang up, with concern in 
her face, and ran round to her mother's 

"Tired, mother!" she cried, scanning 
her features anxiously. " Who ever heard 
of people like you and me, who are strong, 
and live right, being tired? I'm afraid 
you're not well, mother; I won't go one 
step ! " 

"Yes, you will, dearie," answered her 
mother, and never yet had Miranda re- 
belled against that firm note in Kirstie's 
voice. " I really want to be alone to-night 
a bit, and think. Dave's visit has stirred 
up a lot of old thoughts, and I want to 
take a look at them. I reckoned they 
were dead and buried years ago ! " 

"Are you sure you're not sick, mother?" 

184 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

went on Miranda, hesitatingly returning to 
her seat. 

" No, child, I'm not sick. But I have 
felt tired off an' on the last few days when 
there was no call to. I do begin to feel 
that this big solitude of the woods is wear- 
ing on me, someway. I've stood up under 
it all these years, Dave, and it's given me 
peace and strength when I needed it bad 
enough, God knows. But someway I 
reckon it's too big for me, and will crush 
me in the long run. I love the clearing, 
but I don't just want to end my days 

" Mother," cried Miranda, springing up 
again, " I never heard you talk so before 
in my life ! Leave the clearing ! Leave 
the woods ! I couldrCt live, I just couldn't, 
anywheres else at all ! " 

" There's other places, Miranda," mur- 
mured Dave. But Kirstie continued the 

" It's a sight different with you, child," 
she said thoughtfully. " You've grown up 
here. The woods and the sky have made 
you. They're in your blood. You live and 

Milking-dme 185 

breathe them. You were a queer baby — 
more a fairy or a wild thing than a human 
youngster — before ever you came to the 
clearing ; and all the wild things seem to 
think you're one of themselves ; and you 
see what other folks can't see — what the 
folks of the woods themselves can't see* 
Oh, yes ! it's a sight different with you^ Mi- 
randa. Your father used to watch you and 
say you'd grow up to be a hun woman 
or wood goddess, or else the ^ries would 
carry you off. This place is all right for you. 
And I used to think I was that big and 
strong of spirit that I could stand up to 
it all the rest of my Ufe. But I begin to 
think it's too big for me. I don't want 
to die here, Miranda!" 

Miranda stared at her, greatly troubled* 
" You won't die till I'm old enough to 
die too, mother," she cried, ^for I just 
couldn't live without you one day. But/' 
she added passionately, ^ I know I should 
die, quick, right off, if I had to go away 
from the clearing ! I know I would ! '' 

She spoke with the fiercer pot itivenetf , 
because, just as she was fpcaking, there 

1 86 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

came over her a doubt of her own words. 
In a flash she saw herself growing old here 
in the vast solitude, she and Kirstie to- 
gether, and no one else anywhere to be 
seen. The figure so cruelly conspicuous 
in its absence bore a strange, dim likeness 
to Young Dave. She did not ask herself 
if it were possible that she could one day 
wish to desert the clearing, and the still- 
nesses, and all the folk of the ancient wood^ 
but somewhere at the back of her heart 
she felt that it might even be so, and her 
heart contracted poignantly. She ran and 
flung both arms about Kroof 's neck, and 
wiped a stealthy tear on the shaggy coat. 

Dave, with a quickening intuition born 
of his dread lest the trip to the lake should 
fall through, saw that the conversation was 
treading dangerous ground. He dis- 
creetly changed the subject to johnny- 

Chapter XIV 

Moonlight and Moose-call 

WHEN Miranda was ready to start, 
the moon was up, low and large, 
shining broadly into the cabin window. 
Miranda brought forward a small, tin-cov- 
ered kettle, containing some little fish for 

" Where's your line an* hooks ? " asked 

" I keep them in a hollow tree by the 
lake," said Miranda. "But don't you 
go to take that thing along, or you don't 
go with me!" she added sharply, as the 
young man picked up his rifle. 

He set it down again with alacrity. 

" But at night, Mirandy ! " he pro- 
tested. " Air ye sure it's safe ? " 

" Don't come if you're afraid ! " she 
answered witheringly, stepping out into 
the white light and the coldly pungent air. 


1 88 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

Dave was at her side in a moment, ig- 
noring a taunt which could touch him 
least among men. At Miranda's other 
side was the great lumbering form of 
Kroof, with the girl's hand resting lov- 
ingly on her neck. 

"We'll not be long, mother," called 
Miranda to Kirstie, in the doorway. 

But before they had gone twenty paces, 
Kroof stopped short, and sat down to 
deliberate. She regarded it as her own 
peculiar office to protect Miranda (who 
needed no protection) on these nocturnal 
expeditions to which the girl was given 
in some moods. Was the obnoxious 
stranger to usurp her office and her privi- 
lege? Well, she would not share with 
him. She would stay where she was 

"Come along, Kroof!" urged Mi- 
randa, with a little tug at her fur. But 
the jealous bear was obstinate. She 
wheeled and made for the cabin door. 

Miranda was irritated. 

" Let her stay, then ! " she exclaimed, 
setting her face to the forest, and smiling 

Moonlight and Moose-call 189 

in more gracious fashion upon Young 
Dave. Kroof was certainly very pro- 

"That's all right!** said Dave, more 
pleased than he dare show. "She*ll be 
company for yer mother till we git 

" Kroof seems to think she owns me ! ** 
mused Miranda. " I love her better than 
any one else in the world except mother ; 
but I mustn*t spoil her when she gets 
cross about nothing. She oughtn't to be 
so jealous when I'm nice to you, Dave ! 
Fm very angry at her for being so silly. 
She ought to know you're nothing to me 
alongside of her ; now, oughtn't she ? " 

" Of course," assented Dave, with 
such cheerfulness as he could assume. 
Then he set himself craftily to win Mi- 
randa's approval by a minute account of 
the characteristics — mental, moral, and 
physical — of a tame bear named Pete, 
belonging to one of the lumbermen at 
the Settlement. The subject was saga- 
ciously chosen, and had the effect of 
making Miranda feel measurably less re- 

190 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

mote from the world of men. It sug- 
gested to her a kind of possible under- 
standing between the world of men and 
the world of the ancient wood. 

As they left the moonlit open, the long 
white fingers of the phantom light reached 
after them, down the dissolving arches. 
Then the last groping ray was left behind, 
and they walked in the soft dark. Dave 
found it an exquisite but imperative ne- 
cessity to keep close at Miranda's elbow, 
touching her very skirt indeed, for even 
his trained woodland eyes could at first 
distinguish nothing. Miranda, however, 
with her miraculous vision, moved swiftly, 
unhesitatingly, as if in broad day and a 
plain way. 

Soon, however, Dave's eyes adapted 
themselves, and he could discern vague 
differences, denser masses, semi-translu- 
cencies in the enfolding depth of black- 
ness. For there was a light, of a kind, 
carried down by countless reflections and 
refractions from the lit, wet surfaces of the 
topmost leaves. Moreover, clean-blooded 
and fine-nerved as he was from his years 

Moonlight and Moose-call 191 

of living under nature's ceaseless purga- 
tion, his other senses came to the aid of 
his baffled sight. He seemed to feel, 
rather than see, the massive bulk of the 
pine and birch trunks as his face ap- 
proached them to the nearness of an 
arm's length. He felt, too, an added 
hardness and a swelling under the moss, 
wherever the network of roots came close 
to the parent trunk. His nostrils dis- 
cerned the pine, the spruce, the hemlock, 
the balsam poplar, the aromatic moose- 
wood, as he passed them ; and long be- 
fore he came to it he knew the tamarack 
swamp was near. Only his ears could 
not aid him. Except for Miranda's foot- 
steps, feather-soft upon the moss, and his 
own heavier but skilfully muffled tread, 
there was no sound in the forest but an 
indeterminate whisper, so thin that it 
might have been the speech of the leaves 
conferring, or the sap climbing through 
the smaller branches. Neither he nor 
Miranda uttered a word. The stillness 
was such that a voice would have pro- 
faned it. Finding it difficult to keep up 

192 The Heart of the Andent Wood 

without stumbUng and making a rough 
„oi«. Dave fialll., ,«ig«d^hioJ?t 

the girl's supenor craft. 

"YouVc got to be eyes fer me here, 
you wonderful Mirandy, er I can't keep 
up with ye ! '' he whispered at her ear. 
The light warmth of his breath upon her 
neck made her tingle in a way that beml- 
dered her; but she found it pleasant. 
When he took hold of her arm, very 
gently, to steady himself, rather to his 
surprise he was permitted. He was wise 
enough, however, not to attach too much 
importance to the favour. He pondered 
the fact that to Miranda, who was not a 
Settlement girl, it meant altogether nothing. 

Presently, just ahead of them, they saw 
a pair of palely-glowing eyes, about two feet 
from the ground. Miranda squeezed the 
hand inside her arm, as a sign that Dave 
was not to regret his rifle. As a matter 
of fact, he was not disposed to regret any- 
thing at that moment. 

" Lou^-cerfie ! " he whispered at her ear, 
meaning the lynx, or loup-cervier of the 

Moonlight and Moose-call 193 

" No, panther ! " murmured Miranda, 
indifferently, going straight forward. At 
this startling word, Dave could not, under 
the circumstances, refrain from a certain 
misgiving. A panther is not good to 
meet in the dark. But the palely-glow- 
ing eyes sank mysteriously toward the 
ground and retreated as Miranda ad- 
vanced ; and in a few seconds they went 
floating off to one side and disappeared. 

" How on earth do ye do it, Mirandy ? " 
whispered Dave, rather awestruck. 

"They know me," replied the girl; 
which seemed to her, but not to Dave, an 
all-sufficient answer. 

There was no more said. The magic 
of the dark held them both breathless. 
They were strung to a strange, electric 
pitch of sympathy and expectation. 
Dave's fingers, where they rested on the 
girl's arm, tingled curiously, deliciously. 
Once, close beside them, there was a sharp 
rattle of claws going up the bark of a fir 
tree, and then two little points of light, 
close together, gleamed down upon them 
from overhead. Both Miranda and Dave 

194 T^ Heaft cf tbe Andent Wood 

knew it was a raccoon^ and said nodung. 
Faither on diey came saddenljr upcm a 
spectrally luminous figure just in tlidr 
path* It was neariy the height of a man. 
The ghosdy light waxed and waned before 
thdr eyes* A timorous imagination 
might have been pardoned for calling it 
a spirit sent to warn them back from their 
venture* But they knew it was only a 
rotting birch stump turned phosphores- 
cent* As they pa»ied, Dave broke off a 
piece and crumbled it, and for some 
minutes the bluish light clung to his 
fingers, like a perfume. 

At last they heard an owl hoot solemnly 
in the distance* " Tw^ob-boo-boo-boo-ooo,** 
it went, a cold and melancholy sound. 

"We're near the lake," whispered 
Miranda. " I know Wah-hoo ; he lives 
in an old tree close to the water. We're 
almost there." Then glimpses of light 
came, broken and thin, from the far-off 
moon-silvered surface. Then a breath of 
chill, though there was no wind. And 
then they came out upon the open shore. 

Miranda, with a decisive gesture, re^ 

Moonlight and Moose-call 195 

moved her arm from Dave's grasp, and 
side by side the two followed the long 
sweep of sandy beach curving off to the 

" See that point yonder," said Miranda, 
"with the lop-sided tree standing alone 
on it ? Tve got my line and hooks hidden 
in that tree." 

"How do ye set a night line without a 
boat ? " queried Dave. 

" Got one, of course ! " answered the 
girl. "Your father made me a dugout, 
last summer a year ago, and I keep it 
drawn up behind the point." 

The moon was high now, sailing in icy 
splendour of solitude over the immensity 
of the ancient wood. The lake was a 
windless mirror. The beach was very 
smooth and white, etched along its land- 
ward edges with the shadows of the trees. 
At one spot a cluster of three willows 
grew very near the water's brink, spread- 
ing a transparent and mysterious shadow. 
Just as Dave and Miranda came to this 
little oasis in the shining sand, across the 
water came the long, sonorous call of a 

196 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

bull moose. It was a deep note, melodi-* 
ous and far carrying, and seemed in some 
way the very spoken thought of the vast- 

" That's what I call music ! ** said Dave. 

But before Miranda could respond, a 
thunderous bellow roared in answer from 
the blackness of the woods close by ; there 
was a heavy crashing in the underbrush, 
and the towering front of another bull 
appeared at the edge of the sands, look- 
ing for his challenger. Catching sight of 
Dave and Miranda, he charged down upon 
them at once. 

" Get up a tree, quick ! " cried Dave, 
slipping his long knife from its sheath and 
stepping in front of the girl. 

" Don't you meddle and there'll be no 
trouble ! " said Miranda, sharply. " You 
stand behind that tree ! " and seizing him 
by the arm she attempted to push him 
out of sight. But for a second he stupidly 

" Fool ! " she flamed out at him. "What 
do you suppose I've done all these years 
without you?" 

Moonlight and Moose-call 197 

The anger in her eyes pierced his senses 
and brought wisdom. He realized that 
somehow she was master of the situation, 
and he reluctantly stepped behind the big 
willow trunk. It was just in the nick of 
time, for the furious animal was almost 
upon them. At this moment a breath of 
air from the water carried Miranda's scent 
to the beast's nostrils, and he checked 
himself in doubt. At once Miranda gave 
a soft whistle and stepped out into the 
clear flood of moonlight. The moose rec- 
ognized her, stood still, raised his gigantic 
antlers to their full height, and stretched 
toward her his long, flexible snout, sniflT- 
ing amicably. Then, step by step, he 
approached, while she waited with her 
small hand held out to him, palm upward; 
and Dave looked on in wonder from be- 
hind his tree, still doubtful, his fingers 
gripping his knife-hilt. 

At this moment the first call sounded 
again across the lake. The moose forgot 
Miranda. He wheeled nimbly, lowered 
his head toward the great challenge, bel- 
lowed his answer, and charged along the 

198 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

shore to mortal combat. As he disappeared 
around a jutting spur of pines, a tall cow 
moose emerged from the shades and trotted 
after him. 

Miranda turned to Dave with an dr of 
triumph, her anger forgotten. 

" I swan, Mirandy ! " excldmed the 
young hunter, "the girl as can manage 
a bull moose in callin' season is the Queen 
of the Forest, sure. I take off my cap 
to yer majesty ! " 

" Put it on again, Dave," said she, not 
half displeased, " and we'll go set the 
night lines." 

Behind the point, hidden in a thicket 
of mixed huckleberry and ironwood, they 
found the wooden canoe, or dugout, in 
good condition. Dave ran it down into 
the water, and Miranda tossed in a roll of 
stout cod-line, with four large hooks de- 
pending from it, at four-foot intervals, by 
drop strings a foot and a half in length. 
The hooks she proceeded to bait from the 
tin kettle. 

"Why don't ye have more hooks on 
sech a len'th of line ? " inquired Dave. 

Moonlight and Moose-call 199 

" Don't want to catch more togue than 
we can eat/* explained Miranda. "It's 
no fun catching them this way, and they're 
not much good salted." 

There was but one paddle, and this 
Dave captured. "You sit in the bow, 
Mirandy, an' see to the lines, an' FU 
paddle ye out," said he. 

But Miranda would have none of it. 
" Look here, Dave," she exclaimed, " I'm 
doing this, and you're just a visitor. I 
declare, I'm almost sorry I brought you 
along. You just sit where you're put, and 
do as I tell you, or you won't come with 
me again." 

The young man squatted himself meekly 
on his knees, a little forward of amidship, 
but not far enough for his superior weight 
to put the canoe down by the bow. Then 
Miranda stepped in delicately, seated her- 
self on a thwart at the stern, and dipped 
her paddle with precise and masterful 
stroke. The canoe shot noiselessly out 
of the shadow and into the unrippled 
sheen. Just off the point, about twenty 
yards from shore, lay a light wooden float 

2CX) The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

at anchor. Beside this Miranda brought 
her canoe to a standstill, backing water 
silently with firm flexures of her wrist. 
To a rusty staple in the float she fastened 
one end of the line. 

" Deep water off this here point, I 
reckon/* commented Dave. 

" Of course," answered Miranda. " The 
togue only lie in deep water." 

Dave was permitted to make comments, 
but to take no more active part in the pro- 
ceedings. As he was a man of deeds and 
dreams rather than of speech, this was 
not the role he coveted, and he held his 
tongue ; while Miranda, deftly paying out 
the line with one hand, with the other 
cleverly wielded the paddle so that the 
canoe slipped toward shore. She was too 
much absorbed in the operation to vouch- 
safe any explanation to Dave, but he saw 
that she intended making fast the other 
end of the line to a stake which jutted up 
close to the water's edge. 

Miranda now slipped the line under 
her foot to hold it, and, taking both 
hands to her paddle, was about to make 

Moonlight and Moose-call 201 

a landing, when suddenly there was a vio- 
lent tug at one of the hooks. The line 
was torn from under her light foot, and 
at once dragged overboard. Dave saw 
what had happened; but he was wise 
enough not to say, even by look or tone, 
" I told you so ! " Instead, he turned and 
pointed to the float, which was now acting 
very erratically, darting from side to side, 
and at times plunging quite under water. 
The glassy mirror of the lake was shat- 
tered to bits. 

"You've got him a' ready, Mirandy," 
he cried in triumph; and his palpable 
elation quite covered Miranda's chagrin. 
Two or three strong strokes of her paddle 
brought the canoe back to the float, and 
Dave had his reward. 

" Catch hold of the float, Dave," she 
commanded, " and pull him aboard, while 
I hold the canoe." 

With a great splashing and turmoil he 
hauled up a large togue, of twelve pounds 
or thereabouts, and landed it flopping in 
the bottom of the dugout. A stroke in 
the back of the neck from Miranda's knife. 


202 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

sharp but humane, put a term to its strug- 

While Dave gazed admiringly at the 
glittering spoil, Miranda began untying 
the line from the float. 

**What air ye doin' now, Mirandy?" 
he inquired, as she proceeded to strip the 
bait from the remaining hooks, and throw 
the pieces overboard. 

**We won't want any more togue for 
a week," she explained. " This is such 
a fine, big one." And she headed the 
canoe for the landing-place, under the 
shadow of the point. 

Chapter XV 
A Venison Steak 

THROUGHOUT the succeeding 
winter Dave managed to visit the 
clearing two or three times in the course 
of each month, but he could not see that 
he made any progress in Miranda's favour. 
As at first, she was sometimes friendly, 
sometimes caustically indifferent. Only 
once did he perceive in her the smallest 
hint of gratification at his coming. That 
was the time when he came on his snow- 
shoes through the forest by moonlight, 
the snow giving a diffused glimmer that 
showed him the trail even through the 
densest thickets. Arriving in the morn- 
ing, he surprised her at the door of the 
cow stable, where she had been foddering 
the cattle. Her face flushed at the sight 
of him ; and a look came into her wide, 
dark eyes which even his modesty could 


204 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

not quite misunderstand. But his delight 
quickly crumbled. Miranda was loftily 
indifferent to him during all that visit, so 
much so that after he had gone Kirstie 
reproached her with incivility. 

"I can't help it, mother!" she ex- 
plained. " I don't want to hate him, but 
what better is he than a butcher? His 
bread is stained with blood. Pah ! I 
sometimes think I smell blood, the blood 
of the kind wood creatures, when he's 

" But you don't want him not to come, 
girl, surely," protested her mother. 

"Well, you know, it's a pleasure to 
you to have him come once in a while," 
said the girl, enigmatically. 

Dave continued his visits, biding his 
time. He lost no chance of familiarizing 
Miranda's imagination with the needs of 
man as he imagined them, and with a 
rational conception of life as he conceived 
it. This he did not directly, but through 
the medium of conversation with Kirstie, 
to whom his words were sweetness. He 
was determined to break down Miranda's 

A Venison Steak 205 

prejudice against his calling, which to him 
was the only one worth a man's while, — 
wholesome, sane, full of adventure, full of 
romance. He was determined, also, to 
overcome her deep aversion to flesh food. 
He felt that not till these two points were 
gained would Miranda become sufficiently 
human to understand human love or any 
truly human emotions. In this belief he 
strictly withheld his wooing, and waited till 
the barriers that opposed it should be un- 
dermined by his systematic attacks. He 
was too little learned in woman to realize 
that with Miranda his best wooing was 
the absence of all wooing; and so he 
builded better than he knew. 

During the cold months he was glad to 
be relieved of the presence of Kroof, who 
had proved, in her taciturn way, quite 
irreconcilable. He had tried in vain to 
purchase her favour with honey, good 
hive bees' honey in the comb, carried all 
the way from the Settlement She would 
have nothing to do with him at any price ; 
and he felt that this discredited him in 
Miranda's eyes. He hoped that Kroof 

ao6 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

would sleep late that spring in her lair 
under the pine root. 

But while Dave was labouring so assid- 
uously, and, as he fancied, so subtly, to 
mould and fashion Miranda, she all un- 
awares was moulding him. Unconsciously 
his rifle and his traps were losing zest for 
him ; and the utter solitude of his camp 
beyond the Quah-Davic began to have 
manifest disadvantages. Once he hesi- 
tated so long over a good shot at a lynx, 
just because the creature looked unsus- 
pecting, that in the end he was too late, 
and his store of pelts was the poorer by 
one good skin. Shooting a young cow 
moose in the deep snow, moreover, he 
felt an unwonted qualm when the gasping 
and bleeding beast turned upon him a look 
of anguished reproach. His hand was 
not quite so steady as usual when he gave 
her the knife in the throat. This was 
a weakness which he did not let himself 
examine too closely. He knew the flesh 
of the young cow was tender and good, 
and after freezing it he hung it up in his 
cold cellar. Though he would not for 

A Venison Steak 207 

an instant have acknowledged it, even to 
himself, he was glad that bears were not 
his business during the winter, for he 
would almost certainly have felt a sense 
of guilt, of wrong to Miranda, in shooting 
them. For all this undercurrent of qualm 
in the hidden depths of his heart, how- 
ever, his hunting was never more prosper- 
ous than during the January and February 
of that winter ; and fox, lynx, wolverine, 
seemed not only to run upon his gun, but 
to seek his traps as a haven. He killed 
with an emphasis, as if to rebuke the wak- 
ing germ of softness in his soul. But 
he had little of the old satisfaction, as he 
saw his peltries accumulate. His craft 
was now become a business, a mere rou- 
tine necessity. For pleasure, he chose to 
watch Miranda as her feathered pen- 
sioners — snowbirds, wrens, rose gros- 
beaks, and a glossy crow or two — 
gathered about her of a morning for their 
meal of grain and crumbs. They alighted 
on her hair, her shoulders, her arms ; and 
the round-headed, childlike grosbeaks 
would peck bread from her red lips ; and 

ao8 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

a crow, every now and then, would sidle 
in briskly and give a mischievous tug at 
the string of her moccasin. To the girl, 
his heart needed no warming, — it burned 
by now with a fire which all his back- 
wood's stoicism could but ill disguise, — 
but to the birds, and through them to all 
the furry folk of the wood, his heart 
warmed as he regarded the beautiful sight. 
He noted that the birds were quite un- 
afraid of Kirstie, who also fed them ; but 
he saw that toward Miranda they showed 
an active, even aggressive ardour, striving 
jealously for the touch of her hand or foot 
or skirt when no tit-bits whatever were 
in question. And another sight there was, 
toward shut of winter's evening, that 
moved him strangely. The wild, white 
hares (he and Kirstie and Miranda called 
them rabbits) would come leaping over 
the snow to the cabin door to be fed, with 
never cat or weasel on their trail. They 
would press around the girl, nibbling 
eagerly at her dole of clover, hay, and 
carrots; some crouching about her feet, 
some erect and striking at her petticoat 

A Venison Steak 109 

with their nervous fore paws, all twin- 
kHng-eared, and all implicitly trustful of 
this kind Miranda of the clover. 

Toward spring Miranda began to be 
troubled about Kirstie*s health. She saw 
that the firm lines of her mother's face 
were growing unwontedly sharp, the bones 
of her cheek and jaw strangely conspicu- 
ous. Then her solicitous scrutiny took 
note of a pallor under the skin, a greyish 
whiteness at the corners of her eyes, a lack 
of vividness in the usually brilliant scarlet 
of the lips ; for up to now Kirstie had 
retained all the vital colouring and tone 
of youth. Then, too, there was a listless- 
ness, a desire to rest and take breath after 
very ordinary tasks of chopping or of 
throwing fodder for the cattle. This 
puzzled the girl much more than Kirstie's 
increasing tendency to sit dreaming over 
the hearth fire when there was work to be 
done. Miranda felt equal to doing all 
the winter work, and she knew that her 
mother, like herself, was ever a dreamer 
when the mood was on. But even this 
brooding abstraction came to worry her 

aio The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

at last, when one morning, after a drifting 
storm which had piled the snow halfway 
up the windows, her mother let her shovel 
out all the paths unaided, with never a 
comment or excuse. Miranda was not 
aggrieved at this, by any means ; but she 
began to be afraid, sorely afraid. It was 
so unlike the alert and busy Kirs tie of 
old days. Of necessity, Miranda turned 
to Dave for counsel in her alarm, when 
next he came to the clearing. 

The conference took place in the warm 
twilight of the cow stable, where Dave, 
according to his custom, was helping 
Miranda at the milking, while Kirstie got 
supper. The young hunter looked seri- 
ous, but not surprised. 

" I've took note o' the change this two 
month back, Mirandy," he said, "an' 
was a-wonderin' some how them big eyes 
of yourn, that can see things us ordinary 
folks can't see, could be blind to what 
teched ye so close." 

" I wasrCt blind to it, Dave," protested 
the girl, indignantly; "but I didn't see 
how you could help any. Nor I don't 

A Venison Steak 211 

see now; but there was no one else I 
could speak to about it," she added, with 
a break in her voice that distantly pre- 
saged tears. 

" I could help some, if you'd let me, 
Mirandy," he hesitated, "for I know 
right well what she's needin'." 

" Well, what is it ? " demanded the 
girl. There was that in his voice which 
oppressed her with a vague misgiving. 

" It's good, fresh, roast meat she 
wants ! " said Dave. 

There was a pause. Miranda turned 
and looked out through the stable door, 
across the glimmering fields. 

" It's her blood's got thin an' poor," 
continued Dave. "Nothin' but flesh 
meat'U build her up now, an' she's jest 
got to have it." He was beginning to 
feel it was time that Miranda experienced 
the touch of a firm hand. 

" I don't believe you ! " said the girl, 
and turned hotly to her milking. 

" Well, we'll see," retorted Dave. In 
Miranda's silence he read a tardy triumph 
for his views. 

212 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

That evening he took note of the fact 
that Kirstie came to supper with no appe- 
tite, though every dish of it was tempting 
and well cooked. Miranda observed this 
also. Her fresh pang of apprehension on 
her mother's account was mixed with a 
resentful feeling that Dave would inter- 
pret every symptom as a confirmation of 
his own view. She was quite honest in her 
rejection of that view, for in her eyes flesh 
food was a kind of subtle poison. But 
she was too anxious about her mother's 
health to commit herself in open hostil- 
ity to anything, however extreme, which 
might be suggested in remedy. On this 
point she was resolved to hold aloof, let- 
ting the decision rest between her mother 
and Dave. 

Aroused by the young hunter's talk, 
Kirstie was brighter than usual during the 
meal ; but, to her great disappointment, 
Dave got up to go immediately after 
supper. He would take no persuasion, 
but insisted that he had come just to see 
if she and Miranda were well, and de- 
clared that affairs of supreme importance 

A Venison Steak 213 

called him straight back to the camp. 
Kirstie was not convinced. She turned a 
face of reproach on Miranda, so frankly 
that the girl was compelled to take her 

" Oh ! it isn't my fault, mother," she 
protested, with a little vexed laugh. 
" I've not been doing anything ugly to 
him. If he goes, it's just his own obsti- 
nacy, for he knows we'd like him to stay 
as he always does. Let him go if he 
wants to ! " 

" Mirandy," said her mother, in a voice 
of grave rebuke, " I wish you would not 
be so hard with Dave. If you treated 
your dumb beasts like you treat him, I 
reckon they would never come to you a 
second time. You seem to forget that 
Dave and his father are our only friends, 
— and just now, Dave's father being in 
the lumber camp, we've nobody but Dave 
here to look to." 

" Oh ! I've nothing against Dave, 
mother, except the blood on his hands," 
retorted the girl, turning her face away. 

The young hunter shrugged his shoul- 

214 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

ders, deprecatingly, smiled a slow smile 
of understanding at Kirstie, and strode to 
the door. 

"Good night, both of ye," he said 
cheerfully. "Ye'U see me back, liker'n 
not, by this time to-morrow." 

As he went, Miranda noticed with 
astonishment and a flush of warmth that 
for once in his career he was without his 
inseparable rifle. Kirstie, in the vacant 
silence that followed his going, had it on 
her tongue to say, " I do wish you could 
take to Dave, Miranda." But the woman's 
heart within her gave her warning in time, 
and she held her peace. Thanks to this 
prudence, Miranda went to bed that night 
with something of a glow at her heart. 
Dave's coming without the rifle was a di- 
rect tribute to her influence, and to some 
extent outweighed his horrible suggestion 
that her mother should defile her mouth 
with meat. 

The next evening the chores were all 
done up ; the " rabbits " had come and 
gone with their clover and carrots ; and 
Kirstie and Miranda were sitting down 

A Venison Steak 215 

to their supper, when in walked Dave. 
He carried a package of something done 
up in brown sacking. This time, too, he 
carried his rifle. Kirstie's welcome was 
frankly eager, but Miranda saw the rifle, 
and froze. He caught her look, and with 
a flash of intuition understood it. 

" Had to bring it along, Mirandy," he 
explained, with a flush of embarrassment. 
" Couldn't ha' got here without it* The 
wolves have come back again, six of 'em. 
They set on to me at my own camp 

" Oh, wolves ! " exclaimed Miranda, in 
a tone of aversion. " They're vermin." 

Since that far-oflT day when, with her 
childish face flattened against the pane, 
her childish heart swelling with wrath and 
tears, she had watched the wolves attack 
Ten-Tine's little herd, she had hated the 
ravening beasts with a whole-souled hate. 

" I hope to goodness you killed them 
all ! " said Kirstie, with pious fervour. 

"Two got oflT; got the pelts of the 
others," answered Dave. 

Not too bad, that," commented 


21 6 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

Kirstie, with approval; "now come and 
have some supper." 

" Not jest yet, Kirstie," he replied, un- 
doing his package. "I've noticed lately 
ye was looking mighty peaked, an' hadn't 
much appetite, like. Now when folks has 
anything the matter with 'em I know as 
much about it as lots of the doctors, and 
I know what's goin' to set ye right up. 
If ye'U lend me the loan of yer fire, an' 
a frying-pan, I'll have something for yer 
supper that'll do ye more good than a 
bucketful of doctor's medicine." 

Miranda knew what was coming. She 
knew Dave had been all the way back to 
the camp, beyond the Quah-Davic, for 
meat, that he might run no risk of kill- 
ing any of the beasts that were under 
her protection. She knew, too, that to 
make such a journey in the twenty-four 
hours he could scarce have had one hour's 
sleep. None the less, she hardened her 
heart against him. She kept her eyes on 
her plate and listened with strained inten- 
sity for her mother's word upon this vital 

A Venison Steak 117 

Kirstie's interest was now very much 
awake. "There's the fire, Dave," she 
said, " and there's the frying-pan hanging 
on the side of the dresser. But what 
have you got ? I've felt this long 
while I'd like a bit of a change — not 
but what the food we're used to, Miranda 
and me, is real good food and wholesome." 

" Well, Kirstie," he answered, taking a 
deep breath before the plunge, and at the 
same time throwing back the wrapping 
from a rosy cut of venison steak, "it's 
jest nothin' more nor less than fresh meat. 
It's venison, clean an' wholesome; and 
I'll fry ye right now this tender slice I'm 
cuttin' for ye." 

Kirstie was startled quite out of her 
self-possession. The rule of the cabin 
against flesh meat was so long established, 
so well known at the Settlement, so fenced 
about with every sanction of principle and 
prejudice, that Dave's words were of the 
nature of a challenge. She felt that she 
ought to be angry; but, as a matter of 
fact, she was only uneasy as to how 
Miranda would take so daring a proposal. 

;*.- ^ 

fti8 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

At the same time she was suddenly con- 
scious of an unholy craving for the for- 
bidden thing. She glanced anxiously 
at Miranda, but the girl appeared to be 
¥mipped up in her own thoughts. 

" But you know, Dave," she protested 
rebukingly, " we neither of us ever touch 
meat of any Idnd. You know our opin- 
ions on this point/* 

The words themselves would have sat- 
isfied Miranda had she not detected a cer- 
tain irresolution in the tone. They did 
not aflfect Dave in the least. For a mo- 
ment he made no reply, for he was busy 
cutting thin slices off the steak. He 
spread them carefully in the hot butter, 
now spluttering in the pan over the coals ; 
and then, straightening himself up from 
the task, knife in hand, he answered cheer- 
fully: "That's all right. But, ye see, 
Kirstie, all the folks reckon me somethin* 
of a doctor, an' this here meat I'm cookin* 
for ye ain't rightly food at all. It's medi- 
cine ; 't ain't right ye should hold off now, 
when ye need it as medicine. 'T ain't fair 
to Mirandy. I can see ye've jest been 

A Venison Steak 219 

pinin* away like, all winter. It's new 
blood, with iron in it, ye need, It*s flesh 
meat, an' flesh meat only, that'll give ye 
iron an' new blood. When ye' re well, an' 
yer old strong self agin, ye can quit meat 
if ye like, — an' kick me out o' the cabin 
for interferin' ; but now — " 

He paused dramatically. He had talked 
right on, contrary to his silent habit, for a 
purpose. He knew the power of natural 
cravings. He was waiting for Kirstie's 
elemental bodily needs to speak out in 
support of his argument. He waited just 
time for the savoury smell of the steak to 
fill the cabin and work its miracle. Now 
the spell was abroad. He looked to 
Kirstie for an answer. 

The instant she smelled that savour 
Kirstie knew that he was right. Steak, 
venison steak fried in butter, was what 
she required. For weeks she had had no 
appetite ; now she was ravenous. More- 
over, a thousand lesser forces, set in mo- 
tion by Dave's long talks, were impelling 
her to just such a change as the eating 
of flesh would symbolize to her. But — 

220 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

Miranda ? Kirstie stared at her in nervous 
apprehension, expecting an outburst of 
scorn. But Miranda was seemingly ob- 
livious of all that went on in the cabin. 
Her unfathomed eyes, abstractedly wide 
open, were staring out through the white 
square of the window. She was trying 
hard to think about the mysterious blue- 
white wash of radiance that seemed to 
pour in palpable floods from the full 
moon ; — about the furred and furtive 
creatures passing and repassing noise- 
lessly, as she knew, across the lit patches 
of the glades ; — about the herd of moose 
down in the firwoods, sleeping securely 
between walls of deep snow in the " yard," 
which they had trodden for themselves a 
fortnight back ; — of Kroof, coiled in her 
warm den under the pine root, with five 
feet of drift piled over her. But in reality 
she was steeling herself, with fierce desper- 
ation, against a strange appetite which was 
rising within her at the call of that insidi- 
ous fragrance. With a kind of horror she 
realized that she was at war with herself 
— that one half her nature was really more 

A Venison Steak aai 

than ready to partake of the forbidden 

Dave noticed the look of question which 
Kirstie had turned upon Miranda. 

" Oh, ye needn't look to her, Kirstie, to 
back ye up in no foolishness," he went on. 
" I spoke to her last night about it, an* she 
hadn't a word to say agin my medicine." 

Still there was no comment from Mi- 
randa. If Miranda, to whom abstinence 
from flesh was a religion, could tolerate a 
compromise, why she herself, to whom it 
was merely a prejudice and a preference, 
might well break an ancient rule for an 
instant's good. She had been inwardly 
anxious for months about her condition. 
After a second or two of doubt, her mind 
was made up ; and when Kirstie made up 
her mind, it was in no halfway fashion. 

" I'll try your doctoring, Dave," she 
said slowly. "I'll give it a fair trial. 
But while you're about it, why don't you 
cook enough for yourself, too? Have 
you put salt in the pan ? And here's a 
dash of pepper." 

" No," answered the young hunter^ 

222 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

concealing his elation as he sprinkled the 
steak temperately with the proffered salt 
and pepper, " I don*t want none myself, 
I need meat onct in a while, er I git weak 
an* no good. But there's nothin' suits my 
taste like the feeds I git here, — the pipin' 
hot riz buckwheat cakes, with lots o' but- 
ter an* molasses, an* the johnny-cake, an* 
the potater pie, an* the tasty ways ye cook 
eggs. I often think when I'm here that 
I wouldn*t care if I never seen a slice o* 
fresh meat, er even bacon, agin. But our 
bodies is built a certain way, an* there's 
no gittin* over Nature's intention. We*ve 
got the teeth to prove it, an* the in- 
sides, too, — I've read all about it in 
doctors* books. I read a heap in camp. 
Fact is, Kirstie, we*re built like the bear, 
— to live on all kinds of food, includin' 
flesh, — an* if we don't git all kinds onct 
in a while, somethin's bound to go wrong," 
Never had Dave talked so much be- 
fore ; but now he was feverishly eager to 
have no opening for discussion. While 
he talked the venison was cooked and 
served. Kirstie ate it with a relish, which 

A Venison Steak 223 

convinced him of the wisdom of his 
course. She ate all that he had fried ; 
and he wisely refrained from cooking 
more, that her appetite might be kept on 
edge for it in the morning. Then she 
ate other things, with an unwonted zest. 
Miranda returned to the table, talking 
pleasantly of everything but health, and 
food, and hunting. Against herself she 
was angry ; but on Dave, to his surprise, 
she smiled with a rare graciousness. She 
was mollified by his tact in characterizing 
the steak as medicine ; and, moreover, by 
his statement of a preference for their or- 
dinary bloodless table, he seemed in some 
way to range himself on her side, even 
while challenging her principles. But — 
oh, that savoury smell ! It still enriched 
the air of the cabin ; it still stirred riot- 
ous cravings in her astonished appetite. 
She trembled with a fear and hatred of 

When Kirstie, with a face to which the 
old glow was already venturing back, laid 
down her knife and fork, and explained to 
her guest, "You're a good doctor, and 

224 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

no mistake, Dave Titus; I declare I feel 
better already/' Miranda got up and 
went silently out into the moonlight to 
breathe new air and take counsel with 

Dave would have followed her, but 
Kirstie stopped him. **Best let her 
be/' she said meaningly, in a low voice. 
"She's got a heap to think over in the 
last half hour." 

"But she took it a sight better'n I 
thought she would," responded Dave. 

And all on account of a venison steak^ 
his hopes soared higher than they had 
ever dared before. 

Chapter XVI 
Death for a Little Life 

THENCEFORWARD Kirstie twice 
or thrice a week medicined herself 
with fresh venison, provided assiduously 
by Young Dave, and by the time spring 
was fairly in possession of the clearing, 
she was her old strong self again. But 
as for Dave's hopes, they had been re- 
duced to desolation. Miranda had taken 
alarm at her sudden carnivorous craving, 
and in her effort to undo that moment's 
weakness she had withdrawn herself to 
the utmost from Dave's influence. She 
had been the further incited to this by an 
imagined aloofness on the part of her 
furred and feathered pensioners. A pair 
of foxes, doubtless vagrants from beyond 
her sphere, had spread slaughter among 
the hares as they returned from feeding 
at the cabin. The hungry raiders had 
Isud an ambush at the edge of the clear- 

Q 225 

226 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

ing on two successive nights. They had 
killed recklessly. Then they vanished, 
doubtless driven away by the steady resi- 
dents who knew how to kill discreetly and 
to guard their preserves from poachers. 
But the hares had taken alarm, and few 
came now o* nights for Miranda's carrots 
and clover. Miranda, with a little ache 
at her heart, concluded from this that 
she had forfeited her ascendency among 
the kin of the ancient wood. There had 
been a migration, too, among the squir- 
rels, so that now these red busybodies 
were perceptibly fewer about the cabin 
roof. And the birds — they were nearly 
all gone. An unusually early spring, lay- 
ing bare the fields in the lower country, 
and bringing out the insects before their 
wont, had scattered Miranda's flocks a 
fortnight earlier than usual. No crumbs 
could take the place of swelling seeds 
and the first fat May-fly. But Miranda 
thought they were fled through distrust 
of her. Kroof, old Kroof the constant, 
was all unchanged when she came from 
her winter's sleep; but this spring she 

Death for a Little Life 227 

brought an unusually fine cub with her, 
and the cub, of necessity, took a good 
deal of her time and attention away from 
Miranda. When Miranda was with her, 
roaming the still, transparent corridors, 
all the untroubled past came back, crystal- 
line and flawless as of old. Once more 
the furtive folk went about their business 
in the secure peace of her neighbour- 
hood; once more she revelled with a 
kind of intoxication in the miraculous 
fineness of her vision; once more she 
felt assured of the mastery of her look. 
But this was in the intervals between 
Dave's visits. When he was at the clear- 
ing, everything was diflFerent. She was 
no longer sure of herself on any point. 
And the worst of it was that the more 
indiflFerence to him she feigned, the less 
she felt. She was quite unconscious, all 
the while, that her mother was shrewdly 
watching her struggles. She was not un- 
conscious, however, of Dave's attitude. 
She saw that he seemed dull and worried, 
which gratified her, she knew not why, 
and confirmed her in her coolness. But 

rr f Tiu Hear: of the AndcDt Wood 

IT u»t« witn £ slow anger beghimi^ to 
hi2^ a: h!« hssn, hr adopted die policy 
«v ipnnnTit her ahocrerfaer, and ^visg all 
n:> rnourti: rr Kirsric, wbeicupon Mi- 
rsnofi £w:)Cr to th; conduson diat it 
v£> tier r^uiir. dun* ro he dril to her 
Tnr»rncr> cuesi, 

Tr*tf riuLTurr- ace obrrusirc, but <rf great 
mnnr-r: r:^ Drvc, rxne over the giri in 
j^Tir, abr.r rhr daaielions were staning 
TTjf ricjcurt £:^"8S!L The sowing and the 
r^^rirr* pitrda^ werr just done. The lihc 
Sun^k: Sesiie the oibin were a mass of 
rurr'r f rrhi^raert. I: was not a time 
tVr hrri :- dirererce : and Dave was quick 
:o rjirri the =:e:dng n:ood. His manner 
wx? such, however, th^t Miranda could 

" M:ri::dT/' said he, w::h the merest 
good comradeship in tone and sdr, '^ would 
ye take a little trip with me to-morrow^ now 
that the crops can spare ye a bit ? " 

" Where to, Dave ? " interposed Kirstie, 
fearful lest the girl should refuse out of 
hand, before she knew what Dave proposed 
to do. 

Death for a Little Life 229 

" Why, I've got to go over the divide 
an' run down the Big Fork in my canoe to 
Gabe White's clearin', with some medicine 
I've brought from the Settlement for his 
little boy what's sick. He's a leetle mite of 
a chap, five year old, with long, yaller curls, 
purty as a picture, but that peaked an' 
thin, it goes to yer heart to see him. Gabe 
came in to the Settlement yesterday to 
see the doctor about him an' git medicine ; 
but he's had to go right on to the city to 
sell his pelts, an' git some stuff the doctor 
says the little feller must hev, what can't 
be got in the Settlement at all. So Gabe 
give me this " (and he pulled a bottle out 
of the inside pocket of his hunting shirt) 
" to take to him right now, coz the little 
feller needs it badly. It's a right purty 
trip, Mirandy, an* the Big Fork's got some 
rapids 'at'U please ye. What ye say ? " 

Dave was growing subtle under Mi- 
randa's discipline. He knew that the 
picture of the small boy would draw her ; 
and also that the sight of the ailing child, 
acting upon her quick sympathies, would 
iawaken a new human interest and work se- 

230 The Heart of the Andent Wood 

cretly in favour of himself. The beauty of 
the scenery, the excitement of the rapids, — 
these were a secondary influence, yet he 
knew they would not be without appeal 
to the beauty-worshipping and fearless 

The girl's deep eyes lightened at the 
prospect. She would see something a 
little different, yet not alien or hostile, 
— a new river, other hills and woods, a 
deeper valley, a ruder cabin in a remoter 
clearing, a lonely woman, — above all, a 
little sick boy with long, yellow hair. 

" But it must be a long way off, Dave," 
she protested, in a tone that invited con- 

"Not so fur as to the Settlement," 
answered Dave; "an* it don't take half 
so long to go because o' the quick run 
down river. I reckon, though, we'd best 
stay over night at White's clearin' and 
come back easy nex' day — if you don't 
mind, Kirstie ! Sary Ann White's a power- 
ful fine woman, an' Mirandy's sure to like 
her. It'll do her a sight of good, poor 
thing, to hev Mirandy to talk to a bit." 

Death for a Little Life 23 1 

He wanted to say that just a look at 
Miranda's wild loveliness would do Mrs. 
White a lot of good ; but he had not quite 
the courage for such a bold compliment. 

" No, I don't mind, if Miranda likes to 
go," said Kirstie ; " I shan't be lonesome, 
as Kroof '11 be round most of the time." 

It had come to be understood, and ac- 
cepted without comment, that when Dave 
went anywhere with Miranda the jealous 
old bear remained at home. 

Until they were fairly off, Dave was in 
a fever of anxiety lest Miranda should 
change her mind. But this venture had 
genuinely caught her interest, and no whim 
tempted her to withdraw. After a break- 
fast eaten so early that the early June 
dawn was still throwing its streaks of cool 
red through the cabin window and dis- 
couraging the fire upon the hearth, Dave 
and Miranda set out. They followed the 
path to the spring among the alders, and 
then plunged direct into the woods, aim- 
ing a little to the east of north. The dew 
was thick in silver globules on the chips 
of the yard and on the plantain leaves. It 


«7« The Hart of -die 

MM'l t|K young ibHaee of a 
f li<' <lr//ling vdh of tfat c 
I liin lime Dave took i^ sific 
nfi'l Miunda paid no heed to x 
I III- woiA% were drcndcac 
iiiMKiiiiilly pervaded widi Eg^ 
i)(i«M HUM M;nr itf fr»h nt^ 
nfMififlltdci vi^U«, and every 
nlilMlii^ fu< ''t of hark diffused its £zfie 
ffl lifdiM fo fliin the gloom. As 
^»ll li){ilM'r Mttd the dew exhaled 
iwill^lH (ilt(/jitly deepened^ the 
\t\i^ iliMiiy ni flif! shadowed air inuTTira^ 

fii»»l iIm: lirrfif of flic ancient wood 
litf iMfiiiit . 'I'hr ttwc, ai» of an mrharrr- 
iHuiii WMikiii|{ iiMt^ccn, the meaning 
i.)i|iLthiiil fcililliirtiKf the confusion of n 
iuni III! I (li(^ utirriility of the familiar, — all 
\U\ti uHplH'tl (lie irnii({i nation of the two 
fiavL:lU:i4 jiifctt ufii ttliurply as if they had 
iimI lircti hII flirir liven accustomed to it. 
Tliu iiiytitrry cifthc undent wood was not 
(u lie tiUliul by uue. 'Jlicse two, sensitive 
III iiti bjirjl ad a Niirftice of glass to a breathy 
Uy opiMi to it in every nerve, and a tense 

Death for a Little Life 233 

silence fell upon their lips. In the silence 
was understanding of each other. It was 
Dave's most potent wooing, against which 
Miranda had no warning, no defence. 

As they walked thus noiselessly, light- 
footed as the furtive folk themselves, sud- 
denly from a bit of open just ahead of 
them there came the slender, belling cry 
of a young deer. They had arrived now, 
after three hours' rapid walking, at a part 
of the forest unknown to Miranda. The 
open space was rock thinly covered with 
mosses and vines, an upthrust of the 
granite foundations of a hill which tow- 
ered near by. 

It was an unheard-of thing for a young 
deer to give cry so heedlessly amid the 
perilous coverts of the wood. Both the 
travellers instinctively paused, and then 
stole forward with greater caution, peering 
through the branches. To the forest 
dwellers, beast or human, the unusual is 
always the suspicious, and therefore to be 
investigated. A few paces carried them 
both to a point where Miranda caught 
sight of the imprudent youngling. 

aj4 ^he Heart of tfac Aadent Wood 

''Ilu»h!" she whispaicd, Isjii^ lier 
hand on Dave's arm. " Look ! die poor 
tittle thing's lost Don't fiig^nm it!* 

'* 'Jliere'll be something dsell liigLigu 
it ttforc long/' muttered Dave, ''if it dosi^t 
(jiut itti hia'tin'/' 

The words were hardly oat of Us 
month when the little animal jnsqxd, 
ti'ciiihlcdy started to run, and then kxdocd 
piteuusly from side to side, as if unocitna 
which way to flee and from what periL 
An instant more and the greyish-brawn 
furni of tt lynx shot like lightning from the 
unclerhrush. It caught the young deer 
by the throaty dragged it down, tore it 
uuvagcly, and began drinking its blood. 

"Kill it! kill it!" panted Miranda, 
starting forward. But Dave's hand 
checked her. 

" Wait ! " he said firmly. "The little 
critter's dead; we can't do it no good. 
Wait an' we'll git both the varmints. 
There'll be a pair of 'em." 

Under ordinary circumstances, Miranda 
would have resented the idea of getting 
" both the varmints " ; but just now she 

Death for a Little Life 235 

was savage with pity for the young deer, 
and she chose to remember vindictively 
that far-off day when Ganner had come to 
the clearing, and only the valour of Star, 
the brindled ox, had saved herself and 
Michael, the calf, from a cruel death. She 
obeyed Dave's command, therefore, and 

But there was another who would not 
wait. The mother doe had heard her 
lost little one's appeal. In wild haste, 
but noiseless on the deep carpet of the 
moss, she came leaping to the cry. She 
saw what Miranda and Dave saw. But 
she did not pause to calculate, or weigh the 
odds against her. With one bound she 
was out in the open. With the next she 
was upon the destroyer. The hungry 
lynx looked up just in time to avoid the 
fair impact of her descending hooves, 
which would have broken his back. As 
it was, he caught a glancing blow on the 
flank, which ripped his fine fur and hurled 
him several paces down the slope. 

Before he could fully recover, the deer 
was upon him again; and Miranda, her 

236 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

eyes glowing, her cheeks scarlet with 
excitement and exultation, clutched her 
companion's arm with such a grip that 
her slim fingers hurt him ddidously. 
The lynx, alarmed and furious, twisted 
himself over and fixed both daws and 
teeth in his adversary's leg, just below the 
shoulder. Fierce and strong as he was, 
he was nevertheless getting badly pun- 
ished, when his mate appeared bounding 
down the slope, and with a sharp snarl 
sprang upon the doe's neck, bearing her 
to her knees. 

" Shoot! shoot!" cried Miranda, spring- 
ing away from Dave's side to give him 
room. But his rifle was at his shoulder 
ere she spoke. With the word his shot 
rang out ; and the second assailant dropped 
to the ground, kicking. Immediately 
Dave ran forward. The male lynx, dis- 
entangling himself, darted for cover ; but 
just as he was disappearing, Dave gave 
him the second barrel, at short range, and 
the bullet caught him obliquely across the 
hind quarters, breaking his spine. Dave 
was noted as the best shot in all that 

Death for a Little Life 237 

region; but the marksmanship which he 
had just displayed was lost on Miranda. 
She took it for granted that to shoot was 
to hit, and to hit was to kill, as a matter 
of course. Dave's first shot had killed. 
The animal was already motionless. But 
the writhings of the other lynx, prone in 
the bush, tore her heart. 

"Oh, how it's suffering! Kill it, 
quick!" she panted. Dave ran up, 
swung his rifle in a short grip, and struck 
the beast a settling blow at the base of 
the skull. The deer, meanwhile, limping 
and bleeding, but not seriously the worse 
for her dreadful encounter, hobbled back 
to where the body of her young lay 
stretched upon the moss. She sniffed at 
it for a moment with her delicate nose, 
satisfied herself that it was quite dead, 
then moved off slowly into the shadows. 

Miranda went to each of the three 
slain animals in turn, and looked at them 
thoughtfully, while Dave waited in silence, 
uncertain what to do next. He felt that 
it behooved him to step warily while 
Miranda was wrestling with emotions. 

23 8 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

At last she said, with a sob in her voice, 
and her eyes very bright and large, — 

'^ Come, let's get away from this horrid 
place ! " 

Dave experienced a certain mild pang 
at the thought of leaving two good pelts 
behind him to be gnawed by foxes ; but 
he followed Miranda without a word. It 
would have been a fatal error to talk of 
furs at that moment. As soon, however, 
as they were out of sight of the open 
slope, he turned aside and headed their 
course toward a rocky knoll which was 
visible through the trees. 

" What are you going that way for ? " 
asked Miranda. 

" Likely the lou'-cerfies had their den 
in the rocks yonder," was the reply ; "we 
must find it." 

" What do we want of their den ? ** 
queried the girl in surprise. 

** There'll be a couple of lou'-cerfie kit- 
tens in it, I reckon," said Dave, " an' we 
must find 'em." 

" What for ? " demanded Miranda, sus- 

Death for a Little Life 239 

Dave looked at her. 

"You've had me shoot the father an' 
mother, Mirandy," he said slowly, "for 
the sake of the deer. An' now would ye 
hev the little ones starve to death ? " 

" I never thought of that, Dave," 
answered the girl, smitten with remorse ; 
and she looked at him with a new ap- 
proval. She thought to herself that he, 
hunter and blood-stained as he was, 
showed yet a readier and more reasonable 
tenderness for the fiirry kindred than she 

For nearly half an hour they searched 
the hollows of the rocky knoll, and at 
last came upon a shallow cave overhung 
darkly by a mat of dwarf cedar. There 
were bones about the entrance, and inside, 
upon a bed of dry moss, were two small 
rusty brown, kitten-like objects curled 
softly together. Miranda's discerning 
vision perceived them at once, but it took 
Dave's eyes some seconds to adapt them- 
selves to the gloom. Then the furry ball 
of " lou'-ccrfie " kittens looked to him 
very pretty — something to be fondled 

240 The Heart of the Andent Wood 

and protected. He knew wiell how their 
helplessness would appeal to Miranda's 
tender heart. Nevertheless, with a firm- 
ness of courage which, under the cir- 
cumstances, few heroes would have arisen 
to, he stepped forward, stooped, untangled 
the soft ball, and with the heavy handle 
of his hunting-knife struck each kitten 
just one sharp stroke on the neck, killing 
it instantly and easily. 

" Poor little critters ! " he muttered ; 
" it was the only thing to do with *em,'* 
and he turned to Miranda. 

The girl had backed out of the cave 
and now stood, with flushed face, staring 
at him fiercely. 

" You brute ! " she exclaimed. 

Dave had been prepared for some discus- 
sion of his action. But he was not pre- 
pared for just this. He drew himself up. 

" I did think ye was a woman grown ; 
an* for all yer idees were kind of far- 
fetched, I've respected *em a heap ; an' I 
won't say but what they've influenced 
me, too. But now I see ye're but a silly 
child an' don't reason. Did ye think. 

Death for a Little Life 241 

maybe, these here leetle mites o' things 
could live an' take keer o' themselves ? " 

He spoke coldly, scornfully ; and there 
was a kind of mastery in his voice that 
quelled her. She was astonished, too. 
The colour in her face deepened, but 
she dropped her eyes. 

" I wanted to take them home, and tame 
them," she explained, quite humbly. 

Dave's stern face softened. 

" Ye'd never 'a' been able to raise 'em. 
They're too young, a sight too young. 
See, their eyes ain't open. They'd have 
jest died on yer hands, Mirandy, sure an' 
sartain ! " 

" But — how could you ! " she protested, 
with no more anger left, but a sob of pity 
in her throat. 

" It was jest what j^« do to the fish ye 
ketch, Mirandy, to stop their sufFerin'." 

Miranda looked up quickly, and her 
eyes grew large. 

" Do you know, I never thought of 
that before, Dave," she replied. "I'll 
never catch a fish again, long as I live I 
Let's get away from here." 

242 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

'' Ye see," began Dave, making up his 
mind to sow a few seeds of doubt in 
Miranda's mind as to the correctness of 
her theories, "ye see, Mirandy, 't ain't 
possible to be consistent right through in 
this life ; but what ye'll find, life'U make 
a fool o' ye at one point or another. I 
ain't a-goin' to say I think ye're all wrong, 
not by no means. Sence I've seen the 
way ye understand the live critters of the 
woods, an' how they understand you, 
I've come to feel some different about 
killin' *em myself. But, Mirandy, Na- 
ture's nature, an' ye can't do much by 
buckin' up agin her. Look now, ye told 
me to shoot the lou'-cerfie coz he killed 
the deer kid. But he didn't go to kill it 
for ugliness, nor jest for himself to make 
a dinner off of — you know that. He 
killed it for his mate, too. Lou'-cerfie 
ain't built so's they can eat grass. If the 
she lou'-cerfie didn't git the meat she 
needed, her kittens'd starve. She's jest 
got to kill. Nature's put that law onto 
her, an' onto the painters, an' the foxes 
an* wolves, the 'coons an' the weasels. 

Death for a Little Life 243 

An' she's put the same law, only not so 
heavy, onto the bears, an' also onto 
humans, what's all built to live on all 
kinds of food, meat among the rest. An' 
to live right, and be their proper selves, 
they've all got to eat meat sometimes, 
for Nature don't stand much foolin' with 
her laws ! " 

^^Fm well," interrupted Miranda, 
eagerly, with the obvious retort. 

" Maybe ye won't be always ! " sug- 
gested Dave. 

"Then I'll be sick — then I'll die 
before I'll eat meat ! " she protested pas- 
sionately. "What's the good of living, 
anyway, if it's nothing but kill, kill, kill, 
and for one that lives a lot have got to 
die ! " 

Dave shook his head soberly. 

" That's what nobody, fur's I can sec, 
Mirandy, has ever been able to make out 
yet. I've thought about it a heap, an' 
read about it a heap, alone in camp, an' I 
can't noways see through it. Oftentimes 
it's seemed to me all life was jest like a 
few butterflies flitterin' over a graveyard. 






244 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

But all the same, if we don't go to too 
|. much foolish worryin* 'bout what we can't 

' understand, we do feel it's good to be 

! alive; an' I do think, Mirandy, this 

life migbl be somethin' finer than the 
j ' finest kind of a dream." 

Something in his voice, at these last 

words, thrilled Miranda, and at the same 

time put her on her guard. 

"Well," she exclaimed positively, if 

not relevantly, " I'm never going to catch 

another fish." 

The answer not being just what Dave 

needed for the support of his advance, 

he lost courage, and let the conversation 


Chapter XVII 
In the Roar of the Rapids 

A LITTLE before noon, when the 
midsummer heat of the outside 
world came filtering faintly down even 
into the cool vistas of the forest, and here 
and there a pale-blue butterfly danced 
with his mate across the clear shadow, 
and the aromatic wood smells came out 
more abundantly than was their wont, at 
the lure of the persuasive warmth, the 
travellers halted for noonmeat. Sitting 
on a fallen hemlock trunk beside a small 
but noisy brook, it was a frugal meal they 
made on the cheese and dark bread which 
Kirstie had put in Dave's satchel. Their 
halt was brief; and as they set out again, 
Dave said : — 

" 'T ain't a mile from here to the Big 
Fork. Gabe's canoe's hid in the bushes 
just where this here brook falls in. 
Noisy, ain't it?" ' 


246 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

^' I love the sound/' exclaimed Miranda, 
stepping quickly and gaily, as if the light, 
musical clamour of the stream had got 
into her blood. 

" Well, the Big Fork's a sight noisier," 
continued Dave. " It's heavy water, an* 
just rapids on rapids all the ways down to 
Gabe's clearing. Ye won't be skeered, 
Mirandy ? " 

The girl gave one of her rare laughs^ 
very high-pitched, but brief, musical, and 
curiously elusive. She was excited at the 

" I reckon you know how to handle a 
canoe, Dave," was all she said. The 
trust in her voice made Dave feel meas- 
urably nearer his purpose. He durst not 
speak, lest his elation should betray itself. 

In a little while there came another 
sound, not drowning or even obscuring the 
clear prattle of the brook, but serving as a 
heavy background to its brightness. It 
was a large, yet soft, pulsating thunder, 
and seemed to come from all sides at once ; 
as if far-off herds, at march over hollow 
lands, were closing in upon them. Dave 

In the Roar of the Rapids 247 

looked at Miranda. She gave him a shin- 
ing glance of comprehension. 

" It's the rapids ! " she cried. " Do we 
go through those ? " 

Dave laughed. 

"Not those! Not by a long chalk! 
That's the 'Big Soo* ye hear, an' it's 
more a fall than a rapid. Ther's an eddy 
an' a still water jest below, an' that's where 
we take to the canoe." 

As they went on, the great swelling 
noise seemed to Miranda to fill her soul, 
and worked a deep yet still excitement 
within her. Nevertheless, rapidly as its 
volume increased, the light chatter of the 
brook was upborne distinctly upon the 
flood of it. Then, suddenly, as the forest 
thinned ahead, and the white daylight con- 
fronted them, the voice of the brook was 
in an instant overwhelmed, utterly effaced. 
The softly pervasive thunder burst all at 
once into a trembling roar, vehement, con- 
flicting, explosive ; and they came out full 
in face of a long, distorted slope of cataract. 
White, yellow, tawny green, the waves 
bounded and wallowed down the loud 

248 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

steep ; and here and there the black bulks 
of rock shouldered upward, opposing them 

Spellbound at the sight, Miranda stood 
gazing, while Dave fetched from the bushes 
a ruddy-yellow canoe of birch bark, and 
launched it in a quiet but foam-flecked 
back-water at their feet. In the bow he 
placed a compact bundle of bracken for 
Miranda to sit upon, with another flat 
bundle at her back, that the cross-bar 
might not gall her. 

" Best fer ye to sit low, Mirandy, 'stead 
o* kneelin'," he explained, " coz I'll be 
standin' up, with the pole, goin' through 
some o' the rips, an' ye'U be steadier sittin* 
than kneelin'." 

"But I paddle better kneeling," pro- 
tested Miranda. 

" Ye won't need to paddle," said Dave, 
a little grimly. " Ye'U jest maybe fend a 
rock now an' agin, that's all. The current 
an' me'U do the rest." 

The fall of the " Big Soo " ended in a 
basin very wide and deep, whose spacious 
caverns absorbed the fury of the waters 

In the Roar of the Rapids 249 

and allowed them to flow off sullenly. 
Dave knelt in the stern^ paddle in hand, 
and the long pole of white spruce sticking 
out behind the canoe, where he could lay 
his grasp upon it in an instant. A couple 
of strokes sent the little craft out into the 
smooth, purplish-amber swirls of the deep 
current, whereon the froth clusters wheeled 
slowly. A few minutes more and a green 
fringed overhang of rock was rounded, 
the last energy of the current spent itself 
in a deep and roomy channel, the uproar 
of the cataract mellowed suddenly to that 
pulsating thunder which they had heard at 
first, and the canoe, under Dave's noise* 
less propulsion, shot forward over a sur- 
face as of dark brown glass. There was a 
mile of this still water, along which Mi- 
randa insisted upon paddling. The rocks 
rose straight from the channel, and the 
trees hung down from their rim, and the 
June sun, warmly flooding the trough of 
rock and water, made its grimness greatly 
beautiful. Then the rocks diminished, 
and the steep, richly green slopes of the 
hillsides came down to the water's edge. 

a 50 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 


and a rushing clamour began to swell in 
the distance. The currents awakened 
under the canoe, which darted forward 
more swiftly. The shouting of the "rips " 
seemed to rush up stream to meet them. 
The surface of the river began to slant 
away before them, not breaking yet, but 
furrowing into long, thready streaks. Then, 
far down the slant, a tossing white line of 
short breakers, drawn right across the chan- 
nel, clambered toward them ravenously. 

"Ye'd better not paddle now. Mi- 
randy," said Dave, in a quiet voice, standing 
up for a moment to survey the channel, 
while the canoe slipped swiftly down tow- 
ard the turmoil. "There's rapids now 
all the way down to Gabe's clearing. An' 
we won't be long goin*, neither." 

A moment more, and to Miranda it 
seemed that the leafy shores ran by her, 
that the gnashing phalanx of the waves 
sprang up at her. She had never run a 
rapid before. Her experience of canoeing 
had all been gained on the lake. She 
caught her breath, but did not flinch as 
the tumbling waters seethed and yammered 








In the Roar of the Rapids 251 

around her. Then her blood ran hot with 
the excitement of it ; her nerves tingled. 
She wanted to cry out, to paddle wildly 
and fiercely. But she held herself under 
curb. She never moved. Only the grip 
of her hands on the paddle, which lay idle 
before her, tightened till the knuckles 
went white. There was no word from 
Dave; no sign of his presence save that 
the canoe shot straight as an arrow, and 
bit firmly upon the big surges, so that she 
knew his wrist of steel was in control. 
Suddenly, just ahead, sprang a square black 
rock, against which the mad rush of water 
upreared and fell back broken to either 
side. The canoe leaped straight at it, and 
Miranda held her breath. 

"Stroke on the right!'' came Dave'i 
sharp order. She dipped her paddle 
strenuously, twice — thrice — and, iwcrv- 
ing at the last moment, while the currcnti 
seethed up along her bulwarks, the canoo 
darted safely past. 

Miranda stopped paddling. There WAi 
a steeper slope in front, but a clear chan- 
nel, the waves not high but wallowing in- 

1^2 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

ward toward the centre. Straight down 
this centre rushed the canoe, the surges 
clutching at her on both sides, yellow 
green, with white foam-streaks veining 
their very hearts. At the foot of the 
slope, singing sharply and shining in the 
sun, curved a succession of three great 
" ripples,** stationary in mid-channel, their 
back-curled crests thin and prismatic. 
Straight through these Dave steered. 
The three thin crests, thus swiftly divided, 
one after another, slapped Miranda coldly 
in the face, drenching her, and leav- 
ing a good bucketful of water in the 

" Oh ! " gasped Miranda, at the shock, 
and shook her hair, laughing excitedly. 

There was gentler water now for a 
hundred yards or so, and Dave steered 
cautiously for shore. 

" We'll hev to land an* empty her out," 
said he. " Ther's no more big ' ripples * 
like them there on the whole river; an* 
we won't take in water agin 'twixt here 
an' Gabe's." 

" I don't care if we do ! " exclaimed 

In the Roar of the Rapids 253 

Miranda, fervently. "It was splendid, 
Dave ! And you did it just fine ! " 

This commendation took him aback 
somewhat, and he was unable to show his 
appreciation of it except by a foolish grin, 
which remained on his face while he turned 
the canoe over and while he launched it 
again. It was still there when Miranda 
resumed her place in the bow; and, 
strangely enough, she felt no disposition 
to criticise him for it. 

The rest of the journey, lasting nearly an 
hour longer, was a ceaseless succession of 
rapids, with scant and few spaces of quiet 
water between. None were quite so long 
and violent as the first ; but by the time the 
canoe slowed up in the reach of still water 
that ran through the interval meadow of 
Gabe*s clearing, Miranda felt fagged from 
the long-sustained excitement. She felt 
as if it had been she, not Dave, whose 
unerring eye and unfailing wrist had 
brought the canoe in triumph through 
the menace of the roaring races. 

They landed on the blossoming meadow 
strip, and Dave turned the canoe over 

254 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

among the grasses, under the shade of an 
elm that would serve to keep the after- 
noon sun from melting the rosin off the 
seams. Gabe's cabin stood a stone's throw 
back from the meadow, high enough up 
the slope to be clear of the spring freshets. 
It was a bare, uncared-for place, with black 
stumps still dotting all the fields of buck- 
wheat and potatoes, a dishevelled-looking 
barn, and no vine or bush about the house. 
It gave Miranda a pang of pity to look 
at it. Her own cabin was lonely enough, 
but with a high, austere, clear loneliness 
that seemed to hold communion with the 
stars. The loneliness of this place was a 
shut-in, valley loneliness, without horizons 
and without hope. She felt sorry almost 
to tears for the white and sad-eyed woman 
who appeared in the cabin door to wel- 
come them. 

" Sary Ann, this is Mirandy I spoke to 
ye about." 

The two women shook hands somewhat 
shyly, and, after the silent fashion of their 
race, s^d nothing. 

" How's Jimmy ? " asked Dave. 

In the Roar of the Rapids 255 

" * Baout the same, thank ye, Dave," re- 
plied the woman, wearily, leading the way 
into the cabin. 

In a low chair near the window, playing 
listlessly with a dingy red-and-yellow rag 
doll, sat a thin-faced, pallid little boy with 
long, pale curls down on his shoulders. 
He lifted sorrowful blue eyes to Miranda's 
face, as she, with a swift impulse of tender- 
ness and compassion, rushed forward and 
knelt down to embrace him. Her vitality 
and the loving brightness of her look won 
the child at once. His wan little face 
lightened. He lifted the baby mouth to 
be kissed. Miranda pressed his fair head 
to her bosom gently, and had much ado 
to keep her eyes from running over, so 
worked the love and pity and the mother- 
ing hunger in her heart. 

"He takes to ye, Mirandy," said the 
woman, smiling upon her. And Dave, 
his passion almost mastering him, blurted 
out proudly, — 

" An' who wouldn't take to her, I'd like 
to know ? " 

He felt at this moment that Miranda was 

256 The Heart of the Andent Wood 

now all human, and could never quite go 
back to her mystic and uncanny wildness, 
her preference for the speechless, furry kin 
over her own warm, human kind. He pro- 
duced the medicine from his satchel ; and 
from Miranda's attentive hand Jimmy 
took the stuff as if it had been nectar. 
Jimmy's mother looked on with undis- 
guised approval of the girl. Had she 
thought Miranda was going to stay any 
length of time, her mother-jealousy would 
have been aroused ; but as it was she was 
only exquisitely relieved at the thought 
of Jimmy's being in some one else's care 
for a few hours. She whispered audibly 
— a mere chaffing pretence of a whisper 
it was — to Dave : — 

" It's a right purty an' a right smart 
little wife she'll make fer ye, Dave Titus, 
an' she'll know how to mind yer babies. 
Ye're a lucky man, an' I hope ye under- 
stand how lucky ye air ! " 

Poor Dave ! She might as well have 
thrown a bucket of cold water in his face. 
For an instant he could have strangled the 
kindly, coarse-grained, well-meaning, silly 

In the Roar of the Rapids 257 

woman, who stood beaming her pale good- 
will upon them both. He cursed himself 
for not having warned her that Miranda 
could not be chaffed like a common Set- 
tlement girl. He saw Miranda's face go 
scarlet to the ears, though she bent over 
Jimmy and pretended to have heard noth- 
ing; and he knew that in that moment 
his good work was all undone. For a few 
seconds he could say nothing, and the 
silence grew trying. Then he stammered 
out : — 

"I'm afeard ther's no sich luck fer me, 
Sary Ann, though God knows I want her. 
But Mirandy don't like me very well." 

The woman stared at him incredu- 

" Lord sakes, Dave Titus, then what's 
she doin' here alone with you ? " she ex- 
claimed, the weariness coming back into 
her voice at the last of the phrase. " Oh, 
you go 'long ! You don't know nothin' 
about women ! " 

This was quite too much for Dave, whose 
instincts, fined by long months in the com- 
panionship of only the great trees, the great 

258 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

winds, and the grave stars, had grown un- 
erringly delicate. His own face flushed 
up now for Miranda's sake. 

" I'd take it kindly of ye, Sary Ann, if 
ye'd quit the subject right there," he said 
quietly. But there was a firmness in his 
voice which the woman understood. 

" The both of ye must be nigh dead 
for somethin' to eat," she said. " I must 
git ye supper right ofl^." And she turned 
to the fireplace and filled the kettle. 

Thereafter, through supper, and through 
the short evening, Miranda had never a 
word for Dave. She talked a little, kindly 
and without showing her resentment, to 
Mrs. White ; but her attentions were en- 
tirely absorbed in little Jimmy. Indeed, 
she had Jimmy very much to herself, for 
Mrs. White got Dave to help with the 
chores and the milking. Afterward, about 
the hearth-fire, — maintained for its cheer 
and not for warmth, — Mrs. White con- 
fined her conversation largely to Dave. 
She was not angry at him on account of 
his rebuke — but vaguely aggrieved at 
Miranda as the cause of it. She began 

In the Roar of the Rapids 259 

to feel that Miranda was different from 
other girls, from what she herself had been 
as a girl. Miranda's fineness and sensi- 
tiveness were something of an offence to 
her, though she could not define them at 
all. She characterized them vaguely by 
the phrase " stuck up " ; and became 
presently inclined to think that a fine fel- 
low like Dave was too good for her. Still, 
she was a fair-minded woman in her worn, 
colourless way; and she could not but 
allow there must be a lot in Miranda if 
little Jimmy took to her so — "For a 
child knows a good heart," she said to 

Next morning, soon after dawn, the 
travellers were off, Miranda tearing her- 
self with difficulty from little Jimmy's em- 
brace, and leaving him in a desolation of 
tears. She was quite civil and ordinary 
with Dave now, so much so that good, 
obtuse, weary Mrs. White concluded that 
all was at rights again. But Dave felt the 
icy difference ; and he was too proud, if 
not for the time too hopeless, to try to 
thaw it. During all the long, laborious 

26o The Heart of die Andent Wood 

jourttcy up ^ aij dirough the rapids, by 
poling;, he did wonders of skill and 
screngtb^ but in utter silence. His feats 
were sot lost upon Miranda, but she 
hardened her heart resolutely ; for now a 
shan2e> which she had never known be- 
fore^ gave tenacity to her anger. Through 
tr a!I> however, she couldn't help thrilling 
to the strllfe with the loud rapids, and 
exulting in the slow, inexorable conquest 
of them. The return march through the 
woods was in the main a silent one, as 
before ; but how different a silence ! Not 
electric with meaning, but cold, the silence 
of a walled chamber. And, as if the spirits 
of the wood maliciously enjoyed Dave's 
discomfiture, they permitted no incident, 
no diversion. They kept the wood-folk 
all away, they emptied of all life and sig- 
nificance the forest spaces. And Dave 
grew sullen. 

Arriving back at the clearing just before 
sundown, they paused at the cabin door. 
Dave looked into Miranda*s eyes with 
something of reproach, something of ap- 
peal. Kirstie's voice, talking cheerfolly 

In the Roar of the Rapids 261 

to Kroof, came from the raspberry bram- 
bles behind the house. Miranda stretched 
out her hand with a cool frankness, and 
returned his look blankly. 

" I Ve had a real good time, thank you, 
Dave," she said. "You'll find mother 
yonder, picking raspberries." 

Chapter XVIII 
The Forfeit of the Alien 

ALL through the summer and early 
autumn Dave continued his fort- 
nightly visits to the cabin in the clearing, 
and always Miranda treated him with the 
same cold, casual civility. She felt, or 
pretended to herself that she felt, grateful 
now to the blunt-fingered, wan woman 
over at Gabe White's, who had rudely 
jostled her back to her senses when she 
was on the very edge of giving up her 
freedom and her personality to a man — 
a strong man, who would have absorbed 
her. She flung herself passionately once 
more into the fellowship of the furtive 
folk, the secrecy and wonder of the wood. 
As it was a human love which she was 
crushing out, and as she felt the need 
of humanity cravingly, though not under- 
standingly, at her heart, she lavished upon 


The Forfeit of the Alien 263 

Kirstie a demonstrativeness of affection 
such as she had never shown before. It 
pleased Kirstie, and she met it heartily 
in her calm, strong way; but she saw 
through it, and smiled at the back of her 
brain, scarcely daring to think her thought 
frankly, lest the girPs intuition should 
discern it. She made much of Dave, but 
never before Miranda; and she kept 
encouraging the rather despondent man 
with the continual assertion : " It'll be all 
right, Dave. Don't fret, but bide your 
time." To which Dave responded by 
biding his time with a quiet, unaggressive 
persistence; and if he fretted, he took 
pains not to show it. 

If Dave had an ally in Kirstie, he had 
consistent antagonists in all the folk of 
the wood; for never before in all Mi- 
randa's semi-occult experience had the 
folk of the wood come so near to her. 
Kroof was her almost ceaseless companion, 
more devoted, if possible, than ever, and 
certainly more quick in comprehension 
of Miranda's English. And KrooPs cub, 
a particularly fine and well-grown young 

264 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

animal, was well-nigh as devoted as his 
mother. When these two were absent on 
some rare expedition of their own, under- 
taken by Kroof for the hardening of the 
cub's muscles, then the very foxes took 
to following Miranda, close to heel, like 
dogs; and one drowsy £dl afternoon, 
when she had lain down to sleep on a 
sloping patch of pine needles, the self- 
same big panther from whom she had 
rescued Dave came lazily and lay down 
beside her. His large purring at her ear 
awoke her. He purred still more loudly 
when she gently scratched him under the 
throat. She was filled with a curious 
exaltation as she marked how her influ- 
ence over the wild things grew and wi- 
dened. Nothing, she vowed, should ever 
lure her away from these clear shades, 
these silent folks whom she ruled by hand 
and eye, and this mysterious life which 
she alone could know. When Old Dave, 
for whom she cared warmly, made his 
now infrequent visits to the clearing, she 
had an inclination to avoid him, lest he 
should attack her purpose; and the 

The Forfeit of the Alien 265 

thought of little Jimmy's white face and 
baby mouth she put away obstinately, as 
most dangerous of all. And so it came 
that when October arrived, and all the 
forest everywhere was noiselessly astir 
with falling leaves, and the light of the 
blue began to peer in upon the places 
which had been closed to it all summer, 
by that time Miranda felt quite secure in 
her resolve ; and Dave's fight now was to 
keep the despair of his heart from writ- 
ing itself large upon his face. 

Toward the end of that October Dave's 
hunting took him to the rocky open 
ground where, in the previous June, he 
and Miranda had encountered the lynxes. 
He was looking for fresh meat for Kirstie, 
and game, that day, had kept aloof. Just 
as he recognized, with a kind of homesick 
ache of remembrance, the spot where he 
and Miranda had seemed, for a brief 
space, to be in perfect accord with each 
other, — how long ago and how unbe- 
lievable it appeared to him now ! — his 
hunter's eye caught a sight which brought 
the rifle to his shoulder. Just at the 

266 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

edge of the open a young bear stood 
greedily stripping blueberries from the 
laden bushes, and grunting with satisfac- 
tion at the sweet repast. 

" A bit of bear steak/' thought Dave, 
" will be jest the thing for Kirstie. She's 
gittin* a mite tired o' deer's meat ! ** 

An unhurried aim, a sharp, slapping 
report, and the handsome cub sank for- 
ward upon his snout, and rolled over, 
shot through the brain. Dave strode up 
to him. He had died instantly — so in- 
stantly and painlessly that his half-open 
mouth was still full of berries and small, 
dark green leaves. Dave felt his soft and 
glossy dark coat. 

" Ye're a fine young critter," he mut- 
tered half regretfully. " It was kind o* 
mean to cut ye off when ye was havin* 
such a good time all to yerself." 

But Dave was not one to nurse an idle 
sentimentality. Without delay he skinned 
the carcase, and cached the pelt carefully 
under a pile of heavy stones, intending to 
return for it the first day possible. He 
was going to the clearing now, and could 

The Forfeit of the Alieiv 267 

not take a raw pelt with him, to damn 
him finally in Miranda's eyes; but the 
skin was too fine a one to be left to the 
foxes and wolverines. When it was safely 
bestowed, he cut off the choicest portions 
of the carcase, wrapped them in leaves 
and tied them up in birch bark, slung the 
package over his shoulder, and set out in 
haste for the clearing. He was anxious 
that Kirstie should have bear steaks for 
supper that night. 

He had been but a little while gone 
from the rocky open, where the red car- 
case lay hideously aflfronting the sunlight, 
when another bear emerged in leisurely 
fashion from the shadows. It was an 
animal of huge size and with rusty fur 
that was greying about the snout. She 
paused to look around her. On the 
instant her body stiffened, and then she 
went crashing through the blueberry 
bushes to where that dreadful thing lay 
bleeding. She walked around it twice, 
with her nose in the air, and again with 
her nose to the ground. Then she backed 
away from it slowly down the slope, her 

268 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

stare fixed upon it as if she expected it 
might rise and follow. At the edge of 
the wood she wheeled quickly, and went 
at a savage gallop along the trail which 
Dave had taken. 

It was old Kroof ; and Dave had killed 
her cub. 

She rushed on madly, a terrible avenger 
of blood ; but so fast was Dave journey- 
ing that it was not much short of an hour 
before her instinct or some keen sense told ' 
her that he was close at hand. She was 
not blinded by her fury. Rather was she 
coolly and deliberately set upon a sufficing 
vengeance. She moderated her pace, and 
went softly ; and soon she caught sight 
of her quarry some way ahead, striding 
swiftly down the brown -shadowed vistas. 

There was no other bear in all the forests 
so shrewd as Kroof; and she knew that 
for the hunter armed all her tremendous 
strength and fury were no match. She 
waited to catch him at a disadvantage. 
Her huge bulk kept the trail as noise- 
lessly as a weasel or a mink. Young 
Dave, with all his woodcraft, all his alert- 

The Forfeit of the Alien 269 

ness of sense, all his intuition, had no 
guess of the dark Nemesis which was so 
inexorably dogging his stride. He was in 
such haste that in spite of the autumn 
chill his hair clung moistly to his fore- 
head. When he reached the rivulet flow- 
ing away from the cabin spring, he felt that 
he must have a wash-up before presenting 
himself Under a big hemlock he dropped 
his bundle, threw off his cap, his belt, his 
shirt, and laid down his loaded rifle. Then, 
bare to the waist, he went on some twenty 
paces to a spot where the stream made a 
convenient pool, and knelt down to give 
himself a thorough freshening. 

KrooPs little eyes gleamed redly. Here 
was her opportunity. 

She crept forward, keeping the trunk 
of the hemlock between herself and her 
foe, till she reached the things which Dave 
had thrown down under the tree. She 
snifled at the rolled-up package and turned 
it over with her paw. Then, with one 
short, grunting cough of rage and pain, 
she launched herself upon the murderer 
of her cub. 


. Te Tiigs uTiTTgi v^s us xLimi mil ; 

^I'l'ii'n im 5 giu ' JL Wsi 

10 rack ta rie gronrrrf 2=d his rifle ; azid 
Kz'jOt, ^LZZST 2 r!:odcrit*s patisTy dzmbed 
2Xzsr h:m« Bur Dztc oxild not find what 
ht nought. Few were the trees in the 
ancient wood whose topmost branches did 
not twine closely with their neighbour 
trees. But with a man*s natural aversion 
to bathing in water that is not enlivened 
and inspirited by the direct sunlight, Dave 
had chosen a spot where the trees were 
scattered and the blue of the sky looked 

The Forfeit of the Alien 271 

in. He climbed to a height of some forty 
or fifty feet from the ground before he 
found a branch that seemed to offer any 
hope at all. Out upon this he stepped, 
steadying himself by a slenderer branch 
above his head. Following it as far as the 
branch would support him, he saw that his 
position was all but hopeless. He could 
not, even by the most accurate and fortu- 
nate swing, catch the nearest branch of the 
nearest tree. He turned back, but Kroof 
was already at the fork. Her claws were 
already fixed upon the branch; she was 
crawling out to him slowly, inexorably ; 
she had him in a trap. 

Dave stood tense and moveless, await- 
ing her. His face was white, his mouth 
set. He knew that in all human proba- 
bility his hour was come ; yet what might 
be done, he would do. Far below, be- 
tween him and the mingling of rock and 
moss which formed the ground (he looked 
down upon it, chequered with the late 
sunlight), was a stout hemlock branch. 
At the last moment he would drop ; and 
the branch — he would clutch at it — 

27^ The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

might perhaps break his hl\, at least in 
part. It was a meagre chance, but his only 
one. He was not shaken by fear, but he 
felt aggrieved and disappointed at such a 
termination of his hopes ; and the deadly 
irony of his fate stung him. The branch 
bent lower and lower as KrooPs vast 
weight drew near. The branch above, too 
frail to endure his weight alone, still served 
to steady him. He kept his head erect, 
challenging death. 

It chanced that Miranda, not hv off, had 
heard the roar with which Kroof had rushed 
to the attack. The fury of it had brought 
her in haste to the spot, surprised and ap- 
prehensive. She recognized Dave's rifle 
and hunting-shirt under the hemlock tree, 
and her heart melted in a horrible fear. 
Then she saw Dave high up in the beech 
tree, his bare shoulders gleaming through 
the russet leaves. She saw Kroof, now 
not three feet from her prey. She saw the 
hate in the beast's eyes and open jaws. 

" Kroof! " she cried, in a tone of fierce 
command ; and Kroof heeded her no more 
than if she had been the wind whispering. 

The Forfeit of the Alien 273 

" Kroof ! Kroof ! " she cried again, in an- 
guished appeal, in piercing terror, as the 
savage animal crept on. Dave did not 
turn his head, but he called down in a 
quiet voice: "Ye can't do it this time, 
Mirandy. I guess it's good-by now, for 
good ! " 

But Miranda's face had suddenly set 
itself to stone. She snatched up the 
rifle. " Hold on ! " she cried, and taking 
a careful, untrembling aim she pulled first 
one trigger, then the other, in such quick 
succession that the two reports came al- 
most as one. Then she dropped the 
weapon, and stood staring wildly. 

The bear's body heaved convulsively 
for a moment, then seemed to fall to- 
gether on the branch, clutching at it. A 
second later and it rolled off, with a leis- 
urely motion, and came plunging down- 
ward, soft, massive, enormous. It struck 
the ground with a sobbing thud. Mi- 
randa gave a low cry at the sound, turned 
away, and leaned against the trunk of the 
hemlock. Her face was toward the tree, 
and hidden in the bend of her arm. 

274 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

Dave knew now that all he had hoped for 
was his. Yet, after the first overwhelm- 
ing, choking throb of exultation, his heart 
swelled with pity for the girl, with pity 
and immeasurable tenderness. He de- 
scended from his refuge, put on his hunt- 
ing-shirt and belt, looked curiously at the 
empty rifle where it lay on the moss, and 
kicked the corded package of meat into a 
thicket. Then he went and stood close 
beside Miranda. 

After a moment or two he laid an arm 
about her shoulders and touched her with 
his large hand, lightly firm. "Ye won- 
derful Mirandy," he said, "you've give 
me life over agin ! I ain't a-goin' to 
thank ye, though, till I know what ye' re 
goin' to do with me. My life's been jest 
all yours since first I seen ye a woman 
grown. What'U ye do with the life ye've 
saved, Mirandy ? " 

He pressed her shoulder close against 
his heart, and leaned over, not quite dar- 
ing to kiss the bronze-dark hair on which 
he breathed. The girl turned suddenly, 
with a sob, and caught hold of him. 

The Forfeit of the Alien 275 

Mam^BB— B>aaa»s— ^-^~— ^B>aa^»— ^— ^o^— •— ma^a^— ^■•—^■■••-i^ii— ^^^^^^a^^^^i^a^^aaa^ 

and hid her face in his breast. "Oh, 
Dave ! " she cried, in a piteous voice, 
"take mother and me away from this 
place ; I don't want to live at the clearing 
any more. You've killed the old life I 
loved." And she broke into a storm of 

Dave waited till she was quieter. Then 
he said : " If I've changed your life. Mi- 
randy, ye've changed mine a sight, too. 
rU hunt and trap no more, dear, an' the 
beasts'll hev no more trouble 'long o' me. 
We'll sell the clearin', an* go 'way down 
onto the Meramichi, where I can git a 
good job survey in' lumber. I'm right 
smart at that. An' I reckon — oh, I 
love ye, an' I need ye, an' I reckon I 
can make ye happy, ye wonderful Mi- 

The girl heard him through, then 
gently released herself from his arms. 
" You go an' tell mother what I've done, 
Dave," she said, in a steady voice, " and 
leave me here a little while with Kroof." 

That evening, after Miranda had re- 
turned to the cabin, Kirsde and Dave 

276 The Heart of the Ancient Wood 

came with spades and a lantern to the 
beech tree by the pool. Where they 
could find room in the rocky soil, they 
dug a grave; and there they buried old 
Kroof deeply, that neither might the claws 
of the wolverine disturb her, nor any lure 
of spring suns waken her from her sleep. 










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