DOUR DAVIE’S DRIVE

Pinnager was on snow-shoes, making a bee-line toward his field of
sawlogs dark on the ice of Wolverine River. He crossed shanty roads,
trod heaps of brush, forced his way through the tops of felled pines,
jumped from little crags into seven feet of snow—Pinnager’s men called
him “a terror on snow-shoes.” They never knew the direction from which
he might come—an ignorance which kept them all busy with axe, saw,
cant-hook, and horses over the two square miles of forest comprising his
“cut.”

It was “make or break” with Pinnager. He had contracted to put on the
ice all the logs he might make; for every one left in the woods he must
pay stumpage and forfeit. Now his axemen had done such wonders that
Pinnager’s difficulty was to get his logs hauled out.

Teams were scarce that winter. The shanty was eighty miles from any
settlement; ordinary teamsters were not eager to work for a small
speculative jobber, who might or might not be able to pay in the spring.
But Pinnager had some extraordinary teamsters, sons of farmers who
neighbored him at home, and who were sure he would pay them, though he
should have to mortgage his land.

The time was late February; seven feet of snow, crusted, on the level; a
thaw might turn the whole forest floor to slush; but if the weather
should “hold hard” for six weeks longer, Pinnager might make and not
break. Yet the chances were heavily against him.

Any jobber so situated would feel vexed on hearing that one of his best
teams had suddenly been taken out of his service. Pinnager, crossing a
shanty road with the stride of a moose, was hailed by Jamie Stuart with
the news:

“Hey, boss, hold on! Davie McAndrews’ leg’s broke. His load slewed at
the side hill—log catched him against a tree.”

“Where is he?” shouted Pinnager furiously.

“Carried him to shanty.”

“Where are his horses?”

“Stable.”

“Tell Aleck Dunbar to go get them out. He must take Davie’s
place—confound the lad’s carelessness!”

“Davie says no; won’t let any other man drive his horses.”

“He won’t? I’ll show him!” and Pinnager made a bee-line for his shanty.
He was choking with rage, all the more so because he knew that nothing
short of breaking Davie McAndrews’ neck would break Davie McAndrews’
stubbornness, a reflection that cooled Pinnager before he reached the
shanty.

The cook was busy about the caboose fire, getting supper for fifty-three
devourers, when Pinnager entered the low door, and made straight for one
of the double tier of dingy bunks. There lay a youth of eighteen, with
an unusual pallor on his weather-beaten face, and more than the usual
sternness about his formidable jaw.

“What’s all this, Davie? You sure the leg’s broke? I’d ’a thought you
old enough to take care.”

“You would?” said Davie grimly. “And yourself not old enough to have
yon piece of road mended—you that was so often told about it!”

“When you knew it was bad, the more you should take care.”

“And that’s true, Pinnager. But no use in you and me choppin’ words.
I’m needing a doctor’s hands on me. Can you set a bone?”

“No, I’ll not meddle with it. Maybe Jock Scott can; but I’ll send you
out home. A fine loss I’ll be at! Confound it—and me like to break for
want of teams!”

“I’ve thocht o’ yer case, Pinnager,” said Davie, with a curious judicial
air. “It’s sore hard for ye; I ken that well. There’s me and me
feyther’s horses gawn off, and you countin’ on us. I feel for ye, so I
do. But I’ll no put you to ony loss in sendin’ me out.”

“Was you thinking to tough it through here, Davie? No, you’ll not
chance it. Anyway, the loss would be the same—more, too. Why, if I
send out for the doctor, there’s a team off for full five days, and the
expense of the doctor! Then he mightn’t come. Wow, no! it’s out you
must go.”

“What else?” said Davie coolly. “Would I lie here till spring and my
leg mendin’ into the Lord kens what-like shape? Would I be lettin’ ony
ither drive the horses my feyther entrustit to my lone? Would I be
dependin’ on Mr. Pinnager for keep, and me idle? Man, I’d eat the
horses’ heads off that way; at home they’d be profit to my feyther. So
it’s me and them that starts at gray the morn’s morn.”

“Alone!” exclaimed Pinnager.

“Just that, man. What for no?”

“You’re light-headed, Davie. A lad with his leg broke can’t drive three
days.”

“Maybe yes and maybe no. I’m for it, onyhow.”

“It may snow, it may——”

“Aye, or rain, or thaw, or hail; the Lord’s no in the habit o’ makin’
weather suit ony but himsel’. But I’m gawn; the cost of a man wi’ me
would eat the wages ye’re owing my feyther.”

“I’ll lose his team, anyhow,” said Pinnager, “and me needing it bad. A
driver with you could bring back the horses.”

“Nay, my feyther will trust his beasts to nane but himsel’ or his sons.
But I’ll have yer case in mind, Pinnager; it’s a sore needcessity you’re
in. I’ll ask my feyther to send back the team, and another to the tail
of it; it’s like that Tam and Neil will be home by now. And I’ll spread
word how ye’re needin’ teams, Pinnager; it’s like your neighbors will
send ye in sax or eight spans.”

“Man, that’s a grand notion, Davie! But you can’t go alone; it’s clean
impossible.”

“I’m gawn, Pinnager.”

“You can’t turn out in seven feet of snow when you meet loading. You
can’t water or feed your horses. There’s forty miles the second day,
and never a stopping-place; your horses can’t stand it.”

“I’m wae for the beasts, Pinnager; but they’ll have no force but to
travel dry and hungry if that’s set for them.”

“You’re bound to go?”

“Div you tak’ me for an idjit to be talkin’ and no meanin’ it? Off wi’
ye, man! The leg’s no exactly a comfort when I’m talkin’.”

“Why, Davie, it must be hurting you terrible!” Pinnager had almost
forgotten the broken leg, such was Davie’s composure.

“It’s no exactly a comfort, I said. Get you gone, Pinnager; your men
may be idlin’. Get you gone, and send in Jock Scott, if he’s man enough
to handle my leg. I’m wearyin’ just now for my ain company.”

As Davie had made his programme, so it stood. His will was inflexible
to protests. Next morning at dawn they set him on a hay-bed in his low,
unboxed sleigh. A bag of oats supported his back; his unhurt leg was
braced against a piece of plank spiked down. Jock Scott had pulled the
broken bones into what he thought their place, and tied that leg up in
splints of cedar.

The sleigh was enclosed by stakes, four on each side, all tied together
by stout rope. The stake at Davie’s right hand was shortened, that he
might hang his reins there. His water-bucket was tied to another stake,
and his bag of provisions to a third. He was warm in a coon-skin coat,
and four pairs of blankets under or over him.

At the last moment Pinnager protested: “I must send a man to drive. It
sha’n’t cost you a cent, Davie.”

“Thank you, kindly, Pinnager,” said Davie gravely. “I’ll tell that to
your credit at the settlement. But ye’re needin’ all your help, and I’d
take shame to worsen your chances. My feyther’s horses need no drivin’
but my word.”

Indeed, they would “gee,” “haw,” or “whoa” like oxen, and loved his
voice. Round-barrelled, deep-breathed, hardy, sure-footed, active,
gentle, enduring, brave, and used to the exigencies of “bush roads,”
they would take him through safely if horses’ wit could.

Davie had uttered never a groan after those involuntary ones forced from
him when the log, driving his leg against a tree, had made him almost
unconscious. But the pain-sweat stood beaded on his face during the
torture of carrying him to the sleigh. Not a sound from his lips,
though! They could guess his sufferings from naught but his hard
breathing through the nose, that horrible sweat, and the iron set of his
jaw. After they had placed him, the duller agony that had kept him
awake all night returned; he smiled grimly, and said, “That’s a
comfort.”

He had eaten and drunk heartily; he seemed strong still; but what if his
sleigh should turn over at some sidling place of the rude, lonely, and
hilly forest road?

As Davie chirruped to his horses and was off, the men gave him a cheer;
then Pinnager and all went away to labor fit for mighty men, and the
swinging of axes and the crashing of huge pines and the tumbling of logs
from rollways left them fancy-free to wonder how Davie could ever brace
himself to save his broken leg at the cahots.

The terrible _cahots_—plunges in snow-roads! But for them Davie would
have suffered little more than in a shanty bunk. The track was mostly
two smooth ruts separated by a ridge so high and hard that the
sleigh-bottom often slid on it. Horses less sure-footed would have
staggered much, and bitten crossly at one another while trotting in
those deep, narrow ruts, but Davie’s horses kept their “jog” amiably,
tossing their heads with glee to be traveling toward home.

The clink of trace-chains, the clack of harness, the glide of runners on
the hard, dry snow, the snorting of the frosty-nosed team, the long
whirring of startled grouse—Davie heard only these sounds, and heard
them dreamily in the long, smooth flights between cahots.

Overhead the pine tops were a dark canopy with little fields of clear
blue seen through the rifts of green; on the forest floor small firs
bent under rounding weights of snow which often slid off as if moved by
the stir of partridge wings; the fine tracery of hemlocks stood clean;
and birches snuggled in snow that mingled with their curling rags.
Sometimes a breeze eddied downward in the aisles, and then all the
undergrowth was a silent commotion of snow, shaken and falling. Davie’s
eyes noted all things unconsciously; in spite of his pain he felt the
enchantment of the winter woods until—another _cahot!_ he called his
team to walk.

Never was one _cahot_ without many in succession; he gripped his stake
hard at each, braced his sound leg, and held on, feeling like to die
with the horrible thrust of the broken one forward and then back; yet
always his will ordered his desperate senses.

Eleven o’clock! Davie drew up before the half-breed Peter Whiteduck’s
midwood stopping-place, and briefly explained his situation.

“Give my horses a feed,” he went on. “There’s oats in this bag. I’ll no
be moved mysel’. Maybe you’ll fetch me a tin of tea; I’ve got my own
provisions.” So he ate and drank in the zero weather.

“You’ll took lil’ drink of whiskey,” said Peter, with commiseration, as
Davie was starting away.

“I don’t use it.”

“You’ll got for need some ’fore you’ll see de Widow Green place. Dass
twenty-tree mile.”

“I will need it, then,” said Davie, and was away.

Evening had closed in when the bunch of teamsters awaiting supper at
Widow Green’s rude inn heard sleigh-bells, and soon a shout outside:

“Come out, some one!”

That was an insolence in the teamsters’ code. Come out, indeed! The
Widow Green, bustling about with fried pork, felt outraged. To be
called out!—of her own house!—like a dog!—not she!

“Come out here, somebody!” Davie shouted again.

“G’ out and break his head one of you,” said fighting Moses Frost. “To
be shoutin’ like a lord!” Moses was too great a personage to go out and
wreak vengeance on an unknown.

Narcisse Larocque went—to thrash anybody would be glory for Narcisse,
and he felt sure that Moses would not, in these circumstances, let
anybody thrash him.’

“What for you shout lak’ dat? Call mans hout, hey?” said Narcisse.
“I’ll got good mind for broke your head, me!”

“Hi, there, men!” Davie ignored Narcisse as he saw figures through the
open door. “Some white man come out. My leg’s broke.”

[Illustration: MY LEG IS BROKE]

Oh, then the up-jumping of big men! Moses, striding forth, ruthlessly
shoved Narcisse, who lay and cowered with legs up as a dog trying to
placate an angry master. Then Moses carried Davie in as gently as if
the young stalwart had been a girl baby, and laid him on the widow’s one
spare bed.

That night Davie slept soundly for four hours, and woke to consciousness
that his leg was greatly swollen. He made no moan, but lay in the
darkness listening to the heavy breathing of the teamsters on the floor.
They could do nothing for him; why should he awaken them? As for
pitying himself, Davie could do nothing so fruitless. He fell to plans
for getting teams in to Pinnager, for this young Scot’s practical mind
was horrified at the thought that the man should fail financially when
ten horses might give him a fine profit for his winter’s work.

Davie was away at dawn, every slight jolt giving his swollen leg pain
almost unendurable, as if edges of living bone were griding together and
also tearing cavities in the living flesh; but he must endure it, and
well too, for the teamsters had warned him he must meet “strings of
loadin’” this day.

The rule of the long one-tracked road into the wilderness is, of course,
that empty outgoing sleighs shall turn out for incoming laden ones.
Turn out into seven feet of snow! Davie trusted that incoming teamsters
would handle his floundering horses, and he set his mind to plan how
they might save him from tumbling about on his turned-out sleigh.

About nine o’clock, on a winding road, he called, “Whoa!” and his bays
stood. A sleigh piled with baled hay confronted him thirty yards
distant. Four others followed closely; the load drawn by the sixth team
was hidden by the woodland curve. No teamsters were visible; they must
be walking behind the procession; and Davie wasted no strength in
shouting. On came the laden teams, till the steam of the leaders
mingled with the clouds blown by his bays. At that halt angry
teamsters, yelling, ran forward and sprang, one by one, up on their
loads, the last to grasp reins being the leading driver.

“Turn out, you fool!” he shouted. Then to his comrades behind, “There’s
a blamed idyit don’t know enough to turn out for loading!”

Davie said nothing. It was not till one angry man was at his horses’
heads and two more about to tumble his sleigh aside that he spoke:

“My leg is broke.”

“Gah! G’way! A man driving with his leg broke! You’re lying! Come,
get out and tramp down snow for your horses! It’s your back ought to be
broke—stoppin’ loadin’!”

“My leg is broke,” Davie calmly insisted.

“You mean it?”

Davie threw off his blankets.

“Begor, it is broke!” “And him drivin’ himself!” “It’s a terror!”
“Great spunk entirely!” Then the teamsters began planning to clear the
way.

That was soon settled by Davie’s directions: “Tramp down the crust for
my horses; onhitch them; lift my sleigh out on the crust; pass on; then
set me back on the road.”

Half an hour was consumed by the operation—thrice repeated before twelve
o’clock. Fortunately Davie came on the last “string” of teams halted for
lunch by the edge of a lake. The teamsters fed and watered his horses,
gave him hot tea, and with great admiration saw him start for an
afternoon drive of twenty-two miles.

“You’ll not likely meet any teams,” they said. “The last of the
’loading’ that’s like to come in soon is with ourselves.”

How Davie got down the hills, up the hills, across the rivers and over
the lakes of that terrible afternoon he could never rightly tell.

“I’m thinkin’ I was light-heided,” he said afterward. “The notion was
in me somehow that the Lord was lookin’ to me to save Pinnager’s bits of
children. I’d waken out of it at the _cahots_—there was mair than
enough. On the smooth my head would be strange-like, and I mind but the
hinder end of my horses till the moon was high and me stoppit by
McGraw’s.”

During the night at McGraw’s his head was cleared by some hours of sound
sleep, and next morning he insisted on traveling, though snow was
falling heavily.

“My feyther’s place is no more than a bittock ayont twenty-eight miles,”
he said. “I’ll make it by three of the clock, if the Lord’s willin’,
and get the doctor’s hands on me. It’s my leg I’m thinkin’ of savin’.
And mind ye, McGraw, you’ve promised me to send in your team to
Pinnager.”

Perhaps people who have never risen out of bitter poverty will not
understand Davie’s keen anxiety about Pinnager and Pinnager’s children;
but the McAndrews and Pinnagers and all their neighbors of “the Scotch
settlement” had won up by the tenacious labor and thrift of many years.
Davie remembered well how, in his early boyhood, he had often craved
more food and covering. Pinnager and his family should not be thrown
back into the gulf of poverty if Davie McAndrews’ will could save them.

This day his road lay through a country thinly settled, but he could see
few cabins through the driving storm. The flagging horses trotted
steadily, as if aware that the road would become worse the longer they
were on it, but about ten o’clock they inclined to stop where Davie
could dimly see a long house and a shed with a team and sleigh standing
in it. Drunken yells told him this must be Black Donald Donaldson’s
notorious tavern; so he chirruped his horses onward.

Ten minutes later yells and sleigh-bells were following him at a furious
pace. Davie turned head and shouted; still the drunken men shrieked and
came on. He looked for a place to turn out—none! He dared not stop his
horses lest the gallopers, now close behind him, should be over him and
his low sleigh. Now his team broke into a run at the noises, but the
fresh horses behind sped faster. The men were hidden from Davie by
their crazed horses. He could not rise to appeal; he could not turn to
daunt the horses with his whip; their front-hoofs, rising high, were
soon within twenty feet of him. Did his horses slacken, the others
would be on top of him, kicking and tumbling.

The _cahots_ were numerous; his yells for a halt became so much like
screams of agony that he took shame of them, shut his mouth firmly, and
knew not what to do. Then suddenly his horses swerved into the
cross-road to the Scotch settlement, while the drunkards galloped away
on the main road, still lashing and yelling. Davie does not know to this
day who the men were.

Five hours later David McAndrews, the elder, kept at home by the
snowstorm, heard bells in his lane, and looked curiously out of the
sitting-room window.

“Losh, Janet!” he said, most deliberately. “I wasna expeckin’ Davie;
here he’s back wi’ the bays.”

He did not hurry out to meet his fourth son, for he is a man who hates
the appearance of haste; but his wife did, and came rushing back through
the kitchen.

“It’s Davie himsel’! He’s back wi’ his leg broke! He’s come a’ the way
by his lone!”

“Hoot-toot, woman! Ye’re daft!”

“I’m no daft; come and see yoursel’. Wae’s me, my Davie’s like to die!
Me daft, indeed! Ye’ll need to send Neil straight awa’ to the village
for Doctor Aberdeen.”

And so dour Davie’s long drive was past. While his brother carried him
in, his will was occupied with the torture, but he had scarcely been
laid on his bed when he said, very respectfully—but faintly—to his
father:

“You’ll be sendin’ Neil oot for the doctor, sir? Aye; then I’d be
thankfu’ if you’d give Aleck leave to tak’ the grays and warn the
settlement that Pinnager’s needin’ teams sorely. He’s like to make or
break; if he gets sax or eight spans in time he’s a made man.”

That was enough for the men of the Scotch settlement. Pinnager got all
the help he needed; and yet he is far from as rich to-day as Davie
McAndrews, the great Brazeau River lumberman, who walks a little lame of
his left leg.

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