About the middle of the winter that followed, a messenger from one of the hospitals came to me and said that an Indian by the name of Charlo, who was a patient in the institution, suffering from frozen feet wished to see me. I answered the summons at once, and found my quondam companion of the preceding summer, minus several toes, but otherwise convalescing. While caribou hunting he had broken through the ice, and before he could reach his camp, both feet were badly froxen. It was Angus McTavish who found him, and with infinite toil had drawn him out to the settlement on a toboggan, from whence he was brought in to the hospital in Quebec.
“Hein! ” said he, ” you ‘av’ de good ‘art for, come see a h’ole Injin man, m’sieu’, I would not h’ax you for come but for de grand communication which I ‘av’ for mak’.”
“Found a new fishing ground in the river for us to try next summer, I suppose,” said I, at random.
“Baguette! non, m’sieu’, it ees more strange dan h’ all does tings. Attendez m’sieu’, for I would not spik loud for it is not that ‘e should yet know of wat I ‘av’ for say,” and Charlo pointed to a man in the next cot, but whose back was turned to us.
I drew my chair nearer to Charlo’s bed-side and he went on:
“Twothree day, mebbe, h’after I come h’on dis place I spik h’on dat man. ‘E h’ole H’Irishman wat av’ de pneumone, but ‘e go for get bettar. I h’ax him who he was, and e’ say ‘e was wan of dem fellers wat fight for de Queen, but ‘e not fight h’any more, but look for ‘e’s wife wat was los’ .. Den I h’ax him ‘ow for ‘e lose ‘is wife, an’ ‘e say, `It ees long story for tell. I was married man h’on de regiment wat come to Montreal from H’Englan’. My wife she come too. She was great woman for mak’ de work h’on de h’officers’ house an’ for de wash. Bime-by she say, `Pat,’ you ‘av’ three month more for serve h’on de regiment den we go buy de Ian’ for mak’ farm at Quebec. I av’ four huner dollar what I save,’ I feels so good h’over dat news dat I mak’ beeg spree de night tam h’on de canteen. Den I mak’ de beeg fool and keeck h’up wan grand row. De h’officer h’of de night tam come for see who mak’ dat row, but I feel so bully for fight I strike im h’im de face, tree, four tam. Dat’s bad ting for do, h’an I go h’on de lock-up. Nex’ day wan I’m sobre I feel verra bad, but no matter, I ‘av’ for stan’ trial h’all de sam’. De h’officer wat I strike h’ax de court for be h’easy, dat I good soldier-man. De court say dey tak’ dat word h’an’ would give me h’only ten year h’in jail h’in H’Englan’, My wife she feel de shame, but she say, “You ‘av’ a good ‘eart, Pat, h’an I go for mak’ a farm h’all de same, h’an I wait for you.” I get wan letter to say she go h’on Quebec, den I not ‘ear any more. Mebbe she die, but h’anyway when I get out h’on dat jail one year before my tam, I hire me h’out h’on de ship for come to Quebec for see. Two month I h’ax h’alway for Mrs. O’Scanlen, but nobody not know her, h’an’ den, I tak’ de seekness which bring me h’on de’ ‘ospital.”
“Baguette! M’sieu’, when I ‘ear dat H’Irishman says Mrs. O’Scanlen, I jump h’on de bed queeck.
“You ‘av’ de pain,’ says ‘e.
” `Begosh!’ I say, `I ‘av’ im bad.’
“Den I h’ax ‘im eef de wife wat ‘e wants ees short woman, h’an verra beeg’ roun’ ?”
“O’Scanlen, ‘e laf, but ‘e say: `No, my woman tall, lik’ man, h’an thin.”
“I know dat woman fine, but I not say word to O’Scanlen but sen’ for you, m’sieu.'”
“What!” said I, “the Maid of the Mountain?”
“De sam’, m’sieu’, I ‘av’ seen de name h’on de prayer book which she keeps h’on de ‘ouse. I would h’ax you, m’sieu’, wat it ees bes’ for do ?”
I thought for a moment or two and decided upon a plan of action. “Leave it to me,” said I to Charlo, `I’ll make it the event of the winter.”
I got up and walked around to the bedside of O’Scanlen. “Well, my man,” said I, extending my hand to him, “I’m glad to see that you’re almost better, for I’ve some news for you that you’ll be pleased to hear.”
“Is it”and here O’Scanlen raised himself in bed, and fixed me with an appealing look”is it that she’s alive and well?” said he, in a voice trembling with emotion.
“It is,” I simply answered.
“Glory be to God!” said O’Scanlen, “but this is a great hour.”
Thereupon I told him the story of the Maid of the Mountain, and Charlo’s part in the discovery. “And now,” I added at the close, “as both Charlo and you are to be discharged from the hospital to-morrow, I am going to drive you two out to the mountain, instead of sending for Mrs. O’Scanlen, and we’ll have a house warming when we get there.”
As I was leaving the hospital, I almost ran into the arms of Angus McTavish, who was on his way, as he expressed it, “To see the black Haythen.” I drew him aside, and as briefly as possible I related to him what you, dear reader, already know.
“Man, man, but it’s a queer yarn, and all my stumpin’ this ten years past gone for nothin.” McTavish looked so doleful as the thought of this loss, and the greater loss which was not expressed, that I laughed outright.
“Tut,” I said, “an old bachelor like you ought to rejoice at so happy an ending to a romance like this. You’ll drive out tomorrow with us to the house-warming.”
“Well,” he replied, “I suppose I might as well.”
My story ought to end here, but it doesn’t. The happenings in real life are so much stranger than in fiction that I am forced to go on with it to the end.
It was near the close of the short winter day when I drew rein on the edge of the clearing from which the Maid’s house was visible. The sun, setting in majestic glory over the western mountains, spread a soft pink glow across the open fields of snow, while from the windows of the house shone the reflected light that glowed like beacons. We sat silent for a few moments, each, no doubt, filled with an emotion inspired by the scene and the circumstance of our being there. It was O’Scanlen who first spoke.
“By my faith! Maggie has made a grand fight, and it’s a beautiful place entirely.”
“‘She ‘av’ dè great courage,” said Charlo, simply. “And, man, but she’s fine at the stumpin”, replied McTavish.
“I made no remark, for something in the stillness about the place jarred unpleasantly upon my nerves. I tipped the horse with the whip, and we drove up to the door. “I’ll rap,” said I to O’Scanlen, “not to cause too great surprise, and you follow me in.” There was no response, however, to my rap, and I lifted the latch. The door opened, and I entered, closely followed by O’Scanlen. Sitting by the table, facing one of the windows, but with her back turned to us, was the Maid, evidently writing. She held a pen in her hand, and before her on the table was spread a large sheet of paper. She did not turn, however, at the noise of our entrance.
“Maggie, Maggie dear, I have come at last, exclaimed O’Scanlen, reaching out his arms, as he advanced towards the sitting figure.
“Have you no word for me, Maggie?” said O’Scanlen, touching the shoulder of the woman.
“Man, said I,” as gently as I could, “she has left a message for you, but she is dead”
He staggered and would have fallen, but for McTavish, who at that moment came into the house and caught him in his arms.
We made a fire to warm the chilled house, and in the last flickering light of the day I read to O’Scanlen the message which I had found upon the table.
Dear Pat,I am ritin’ this in hopes that you will get it to let you know that I am true to you to the ind, and that the prisint year, God be praised, will be your last in prison. It has been a lonesome time, dear Pat, but glory be to God, it’s a great farm I’ve got, and it’s happy you’ll be whin you get here for it’s a great country entirely. It’s the Maid of the Mountain I am, dear Pat, for I’ve kept our sacret, and it’s several of the lads, fine mm, Pat, and trew, who would marry me, but I put them off with one excuse and another for it’s thinkin’ of you, Pat, I am, and the little dead one. They think it’s hard I am, Pat, but it’s you who knows best, for it’s always of you I’m draming of nights, and the days and months are long without youHere the letter ended abruptly.
It was summer come again, and it was Charlo who met me at the river with his “Saluts m’sieu’, I verra glad for see you some more for fish. Dat feller Angoose h’ax you for come h’an camp h’on ‘is ‘ouse, for see O’Scanlen wat lived wid ‘im now ‘an’ we h’all mak’ fish togedder, for we ‘av’ feenish with de stumps.”
This story was contributed by the author to Dr. F. M. Johnson’s work, “Forest, Lake and River,” which was published in an edition de luxe at $300.00 a copy.