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| SL. MARTINS-HOVSE- TORONTO | 















WILD GEESE 


received the prize 
of $13,500, offered by 


The Pictorial Review 


The Famous Players-Lasky 
Corporation 


and 
Dodd, Mead & Company, 


for the best first novel 
by an American author 






















WILD GEESE 


By MARTHA OSTENSO 





McCLELLAND & STEWART 
PUBLISHERS 33 82 TORONTO 
1 9 2 3 








opyright, Canada, 1925 
cClelland & Stewart, Limited 
Publishers, Toronto 


First Printing. October, 1925 
Second Printing, October, 1925 
Third Printing, November. 1925 


Printed in Canada 


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WILD GEESE 


CHAPTER I 
1 


It was not openly spoken of, but the family was wait- 
ing for Caleb Gare. Even Lind Archer, the new school 
teacher, who had come late that afternoon all the way 
from Yellow Post with the Indian mail carrier and must 
therefore be hungry, was waiting. Amelia Gare, Caleb’s 
wife, with all her cheerful bustling about the kitchen as 
if everything weren’t quite ready, could not break the sus- 
pense. Judith and Charlie had milked several of the 
cows, and had come in and out of the house repeatedly 
for no reason whatever. Martin, slow and clumsy of feel- 
ing as he was, had cleaned the entire stable so thoroughly 
that it looked unnatural. Ellen, Martin’s twin, was play- 
ing the organ, but appeared to have forgotten even the 
more familiar parts of her repertoire, such as Red Wing 
and the less recent Ben Bolt. Ellen played, harmon- 
iously enough, ‘‘by ear.” 

The Teacher sat quietly in the low red plush rocker, 
listening to the springs of it exclaim as she rocked to and 
fro. She reflected, with some misgivings, on the noncom- 
mittal opinions that had been expressed at Yellow Post the 
day before in reply to her delicately asked questions about 


the Gares. She remembered also, with increasing dis- 
1 


fe, 
2 \WILD GEESE 


comfort, the short, scornful grunt of John Tobacco, the 
mail carrier, when she had sought from him what manner 
of being she might expect in Caleb Gare. Now, the 
squeaking rocker kept her mind off her hunger. The 
rocker seemed to say, “Caleb! Caleb! Caleb!” It 
amused the Teacher, rather wanly. 

Presently the outer door swung open. Judith had come 
in again. Lind Archer saw her against the dim light of 
‘the lantern that hung by the kitchen door. She had a 
great, defiant body, her chest high and broad as a boy’s; 
her hair was wild-locked and black and shone on top of 
her head with a bluish luster; her eyes were in sullen 
repose now, long and narrow; her lips were rich and 
drooped at the corners. She wore overalls and a heavy 
sweater, and stood squarely on her feet, as if prepared 
to take or give a blow. 

Judith approached Lind with a heavy, swinging stride. 
Lind thought she had never before seen such vigorous 
beauty. 

“Are you hungry?” the girl asked her abruptly. 

“A little,’ Lind admitted. 

Ellen’s hands paused in mid-air over the organ keys. 
Her eyes held a reproach as she looked at Judith. But 
the younger girl, ignoring her sister, took a few long steps 
and disappeared into the pantry. She emerged with a 
plate on which were two slices of bread well-buttered, and 
a glass of milk. 

Ellen’s reproach grew. She stood up before the organ. 

“Jude, you know father doesn’t——” 

“This won’t spoil your supper any—if you’re ever goin’ 
to get it,’ said Jude to the Teacher, breaking in upon 


WILD GEESE, 3 


Ellen’s speech. Lind took the proffered food, too embar- 
rassed to refuse it. % 

Ellen rose erectly and without a word walked into the 
kitchen. Lind felt that she was conferring in a whisper 
with her mother. The Teacher nibbled uncomfortably at 
her bread and took a sip of the milk. 

Jude, who had been winding a bit of twine about a stick, 
threw herself on the floor at Lind’s feet. 

“You might as well know that he’ll try to bully you,” 
she said matter-of-factly. ‘He’s starting by keeping sup- 
per waiting. He always does the same thing when a new 
teacher comes. He expects you to be a man. All the 
teachers have been men. He’s in for a jolt. But you 
stick up for yourself, Miss Archer. Don’t you let him 
bully you.” 

Amelia spoke from the doorway. 

“Judith!” 

“Never mind, Ma. I’m only tellin’ her the truth.” 

Ellen came back into the room and placed a pitcher 
of water heavily on the table, as if she had miscalculated 
the distance between the table and her hand. A pucker 
of anxiety drew her brows together. Ellen wore silver 
rimmed glasses that were not originally prescribed for 
her. As a result the pupils of her eyes were always di- 
lated and strained, the lids reddish and moist. She stood 
before the table for a moment and shot a bitter glance in 
the direction of Judith. Then she passed quickly out of 
the room. 

Lind Archer finished her bread and butter in silence. 
There was a raw feeling in the air that no superficial re- 
mark could dispel. 


4 \WILD GEESE 


Judith, apparently bent on tormenting her sister Ellen, 
whistled to her dog where he lay in the niche under the 
staircase. The dog looked up. 

“Caleb!” she said sharply. The dog started, pricking 
up his ears. 

Jude smiled maliciously toward Ellen, who moved 
about the kitchen as though she had not heard. 
~ “Vou see—” said Judith, then began on another line. 
“He loves to ride around in the cart to show the Ice- 
landers how much spare time he has during the busy 
season, while the rest of us slave around in the muck 
all day.” | 

A feeling of apprehension was growing upon Lind. 
The high romance which had attended her setting out 
for this isolated spot in the north country was woefully 
deserting her. She had never before looked upon the 
naked image of hate. Here it was, in the eyes of a 
seventeen-year-old girl. 

The light, gritting sound of wheels came from out- 
side. Ellen returned to the organ stool, her face, for 
all its youth, bearing the hard serenity of a strong woman 
in a crisis. Lind wondered why the occasion should call 
for such fortitude. 

“Judith, you had better call Martin,” Ellen said in a 
thin voice. ‘‘Father has come.” 

Judith got to her feet without a word. 

In the kitchen, Amelia hastily cleared the sink and 
placed in it a clean basin of hot water. She whipped the 
towel from its roller and put a fresh one in its place. 
Untying her apron, she straightened her dress and combed 


WILD GEESE 5 


her hair briskly back before the cracked mirror on the 
wall. , 

Then the door opened. At first, Caleb seemed to be a 
huge man. As he drew into the center of the kitchen, 
Lind could see that he was, if anything, below medium 
height, but that his tremendous shoulders and massive 
head, which loomed forward from the rest of his body like 
a rough projection of rock from the edge of a cliff, gave 
him a towering appearance. When attention was di- 
rected to the lower half of his body, he seemed visibly 
to dwindle. He had harsh gray hair that hung in pointed 
locks about his head, a weedy, tobacco-stained mustache, 
and startling black brows that straggled together across 
the bridge of a heavy, bony nose. His eyes were little 
beads of light that sought Lind out where she sat in the 
lamp glow of the other room. He did not speak until 
he had hung his coat and hat on a peg, and had washed 
himself at the sink. 

Lind saw that with Caleb was a frowsy-looking farmer 
in a red mackinaw. He also relieved himself of his 
outer garments and sat down without a word on a chair 
in the kitchen. Mrs Gare spoke to him but he answered 
only in broken monosyllables which Lind could not dis- 
tinguish. The Teacher noticed, however, that Amelia 
addressed him with the same calm deference that had 
been in her attitude when Lind first met her in the 
barnyard that afternoon, upon her arrival with John. 
Tobacco. 

Caleb did not speak until he had finished washing. 
He did not so much as touch a comb to his ragged hair. 


6 WILD GEESE 


“Skuli will stay the night,’ he announced finally to 
Amelia. His voice surprised Lind. It was remarkably 
soft, almost like a purr. 

“But I have no extra bed. The teacher has come,” 
Mrs Gare protested mildly. 

“The teacher—yes, of course—the teacher. Skuli 
stays the night,” he repeated, with no more emphasis 
in his voice than when he had first spoken. 

He called Skuli and proceeded, with a sort of hulking 
shuffle into the dining room, which constituted the other 
part of the ground floor of the log house, and also served 
as a living room. 

“You are the teacher, I suppose,” he said, seating him- 
self near the iron stove with his back half turned from 
Lind. There was nothing in the expression of his face 
to indicate that he was surprised to find the new teacher 
a girl. She rose and extended her hand, which he ig- 
nored. Lind flushed helplessly. 

“This is the other trustee of your school, Skuli Erick- 
son,” said Caleb, with an elaborate sweep of his hand 
toward the Icelander. 

Lind gave Skuli her hand and he shook it heavily. 

“There should by rights be three of us,” Caleb went 
on in a wearied tone, as though he was giving perfunc- 
tory and tiresome information that might as well be 
dispensed with, ‘‘but there ain’t been another appointed 
since old Josh Curtis died. Out here in this unorganized 
territory things go on much as the weather sees fit. And 
I don’t know but what it ain’t just as good with the two 
of us. Eh, Skuli?” 

Skuli uttered a grunt which might have been an affirma- 


WILD GEESE | 7 


tion or a denial. He was slightly deaf, spoke very little 
English and understood little more. 

In a few minutes they were all seated for supper, 
Lind between Ellen and Martin, Skuli directly at the 
other end of the long table from Caleb Gare. 

“Looks like an early spring, eh, Skuli?”’ Caleb called 
to the Icelander. 

Skuli nodded. “Ya,” he agreed, helping himself well 
to potatoes and gravy. 

There was a silence, during which the food was passed 
around the table. The children, all except Judith, sat 
with their eyes lowered to their plates, shame-facedly 
self-conscious in the unused presence of one so pretty and 
dainty as the new Teacher. 

“Much rain down your way lately?” Caleb asked Skuli, 
calling the length of the table. Amelia glanced with 
faint dismay from her husband to Lind. 

“Naat muts,” Skuli replied. “Soom last veek. Purty 
dry.” 

Throughout the meal Caleb exchanged observations 
with the brief-spoken Skuli. You would have thought 
Skuli the honored guest of the evening. Lind looked 
across at Jude, whose eyes were smoldering. The 
Teacher smiled. Caleb’s evident obliviousness of her 
was not half so humiliating to her as it was to Judith. 

After supper the situation remained unchanged. Ca- 
leb ignored the Teacher as cleanly as if she were air. 
She withdrew to the horsehair couch in a corner and 
opened a book. Martin and Charlie, the youngest of the 
family, went out to finish milking, while Judith scraped 
and piled the dishes and removed them to the kitchen. 


8 | WILD GEESE 


“Play us a piece, Ellen, play us a piece,’’ Caleb re- 
quested. He and Skuli had drawn their chairs up to 
the stove in the center of the room and had taken out 
their pipes. A feeler of blue smoke curled up and 
around Caleb’s head. Lind was reminded of a paint- 
ing she had once seen of the fixed, sardonic face of a 
fakir, lifting his eyes upward to catch the demoniacal 
image of his conjuring. 

While Judith helped in the kitchen, Ellen obediently 
went to the organ. She sat erect and prim in her washed- 
out gingham dress, that had apparently shrunk and 
grown too small even for her narrow shoulders and 
uncertain breast. Her fine brown hair, that was lighter 
in color and much less luxuriant than Judith’s, was drawn 
back without a relenting wave from her rather promi- 
nent, austerely white brow. Her eyebrows were exqul- 
sitely shaped and black as ink-lines. Behind the mag- 
nifying glass of her spectacles her dark blue eyes swam 
liquid and vague. Her raw tonine, thin fingers sought 
out the keys. 

“Yes, Bjarnasson’s got the best fishing sites, no doubt 
about it—no doubt about it,”’ Caleb declared in a loud 
voice, while Ellen played Lead, Kindly Light. ‘But 
he’d better not get to thinkin’ he’s goin’ to hog the whole 
lake. Not by a damned sight—not by a damned sight. 
I’m goin’ to send Martin over there one of these days 
with some new nets—too far to do anything during the 
freeze-up. What do you think about it, Erickson? Is 
he showin’ you any fight?” 

“Na-aow,” Skuli grunted. “He geev me vat I vant, 
de dirty djevil. I tak it first.” 


WILD GEESE 9 


Caleb and Skuli both broke into stormy laughter at 
the Icelander’s joke. Ellen faltered over the keys. Ca- 
leb glanced sharply at her and she hurriedly picked up 
the thread of the song. Judith came in from the kitchen 
and sat down on a fur rug on the floor. Her dog fol- 
lowed and snuggled his head in her lap. The girl sighed 
and leaned wearily against the wall. Lind noted again 
how strangely beautiful she was. Like some fabled 
animal—a centauress, perhaps. 

Caleb launched upon an account of an involved sale 
of timber, at times almost shouting into Skuli’s ear to 
make clear to him the technicalities. The strains of the 
hymn mourned lamely to an end. Ellen hastened into 
a patriotic march, stumbled over the keys, shifted to a 
lullaby and then to a waltz. A spot of red showed on 
either cheekbone. Her mouth was tightly drawn, her 
chin flat and long so that in profile she looked like an old, 
tired woman. 

Amelia came and stood by the table. She turned up 
the wick of the lamp slightly. As she did so, the light 
picked out the shadows under her eyes, the rigid lines 
about her mouth, the pale sandy hair whitening about 
her temples. Amelia was fifty and was beginning to put 
on flesh, but she bore herself with a dignified reserve 
that seemed almost a part of her physical being, so 
that the grace which was hers in youth still clung to 
her. She seemed preposterously ill-fitted to her environ- 
ment. Lind was filled with pity as she watched her 
move about the room, picking up a paper, straightening 
a doily, or, from a habit Lind realized must have been 
formed in another life, pulling down the shades before 


10 WILD GEESE 


the windows. Amelia must surely have been worthy of 
a better lot. 

“That reminds me,” Caleb Gare began again. “How 
did you make out with those furs you sent to the Sid- 
ing? Grini buy ’em up?” 

“Ya-a. Gode monney.” Skuli said, sucking com- 
fortably at his pipe. ‘‘Fur-rrs—naow gode. Grini, 
he’s fool himself. Hee! Hee!” 

“Did I show you that wolf pelt Martin got east of 
here? Big beast he was too, eh, Martin? Where’s the 
pelt? Find the pelt, Martin. Made a rug out of it, 
Skuli—you ought to do that with some of yours. Here 
—Jude—show Skuli the rug!” 

Martin had crossed the floor to take the rug from 
Jude. The girl got up slowly. Her resentment flooded 
in a dark wave across her face. 

“Skuli has seen it three times already,” she muttered, 
snatching up the rug. Martin took it from her, a half 
grin on his face at her anger. Martin had long since 
learned the futility of indignation. He was twenty, 
past. 

Caleb smiled blandly. 

“Skuli forgets what a rug it is. Heh, heh!” His 
laugh was genial. 

The Icelander examined it again, to please his host. 
He commented upon its quality, then handed it back to 
Caleb, who sat holding it while he resumed his talk. 

Judith called Pete, the dog, and strode out of the 
room. 

Amelia sighed and sat down with a lapful of worn 
stockings and a handleless cup over which to mend them. 


WILD GEESE 11 


Presently Judith returned, without the dog, and seated 
herself beside Lind. Caleb still held the rug. 

Charlie was playing solitaire at the table. 

“Here, Charlie,’ Caleb said to him. ‘Bought ye a new 
deck of cards at Yellow Post to-day. Couldn’t think of 
anything to buy the girls—they have everything.” 

Judith thrust her shoes out before her. The toe-cap 
was off one of them. Amelia glanced at her quickly 
and shook her head in protest behind Caleb’s back. 

Ellen yawned behind her hand. 

“Cheer up, Ellen my dear, we'll all be goin’ to bed 
soon,” Caleb said. ‘“Skuli and I are both tired. Had 
a hard day, eh, Skuli?” 

Judith sprang up. 

“Well, ’'m goin’ anyway!” she asserted. 

Caleb looked gently at Amelia, pointing with his pipe 
at Jude. 

‘Mother, Jude had better be lookin’ to her manners, 
eh?” he suggested in his softest voice. 

Amelia’s eyes darted to Judith. 

“Judie—remember ie 

The girl reseated herself carelessly enough beside Lind, 
but the Teacher saw that her hands were clenched. Lind 
felt then that, like the other members of the household, 
she would come to hate and fear Caleb Gare. 





Z 


It was so arranged that Judith slept with Lind that 
night. Amelia begged the Teacher to overlook the ir- 
regularity—Skuli, the Icelander, must be accommodated. 


12 WILD GEESE 


The great loft was curtained off into three compart- 
ments—the bed rooms of all the children and such infre- 
quent guests as chanced to come. In the room below 
Caleb and Amelia slept; their bed was a cabinet during 
the day, folded up against the wall. 

The floor of the loft was composed of pine boards 
scrubbed white and smooth. You could look down 
through a knothole and see the stove glowing red in the 
darkness of the room below. Above, the rough, cobweb- 
hung rafters leaned down upon you; and on a wild night a 
jet of wind would ripple over your cheek if you lay with 
your face to the wall. In a winter dawn even tiny sift- 
ings of snow might be found in the crease of your pillow. 

Judith undressed. When she came to her undergar- 
ments she put her nightgown on with her arms free be- 
meath it, so that she might finish disrobing in this manner. 

She watched Lind taking off her trim outer clothing. 
When she saw that she wore dainty silk underthings she 
glanced at her more covertly. She made no comment. 

After both girls had undressed, Judith picked up a 
string of amber beads Lind had placed on the stand 
near the bed. There was also a pair of ear rings of the 
same limpid yellow substance. 

“Wild honey! Drops of wild honey!” Judith ex- 
claimed in a whisper. ‘Just the color of you!” 

Lind looked at her curiously. “You may have the 
beads, Judith,” she said on an impulse. 

Judith laughed. It was a rich laugh, from her deep 
young lungs. “My, wouldn’t I look funny with them on! 
Specially, cleaning the stables. No, thanks, They were 
made for you, Miss Archer,” 


# 


WILD GEESE 13 


When the girl was asleep beside her, Lind, restless in 
her new surroundings, knelt at her window and looked 
out into the night. There was still.a pale glow from the 
sunset, and the land stretched out black and remote 
under it. 


3 


Far out across the prairie a lantern was swinging low 
along the earth, and dimly visible was the squat, top- 
heavy form of a man. It was Caleb Gare. He walked 
like a man leaning forward against a strong wind. He 
frequently went out alone so, with a lantern; no one 
knew where, nor why; no one asked. Judith had once 
told Amelia scornfully that it was to assure himself that 
his land was still all there... . 

Caleb pressed on through the half-dark, leaning for- 
ward as if against some invisible obstacle. Presently he 
came to a ridge from which he could look east and west, 
north and south, upon the land that was his; the two 
tame hayfields, separated from each other. by a neck. of 
timber belonging to Fusi Aronson (it would be well to 
own that timber, a fine stand it was); the dark, newly 
plowed furrows where in another five months the oats 
would again be stirring like a tawny sea under the sun; 
the acres where barley and rye would be sown for cattle 
feed, vanishing into the blue night toward the south; 
the small rectangle of wheat that he raised for chicken 
feed; the acres of narrow woodland stretching northward 
like a dark mane upon the earth; and the good, flat graz- 
ing land with two bluffs, that might have extended farther 


14 WILD GEESE 


westward had it not encountered the holdings of that 
miser, Thorvald Thorvaldson; and, beyond the muskeg 
and a dried lake-bottom, his cherished field of: flax. 

Southeast, under the ridge, bottomless and foul, lay 
the muskeg, the sore to Caleb’s eye. In the heat of 
summer it gave up sickly vapors in which clouds of 
mosquitoes rose. Cattle and horses, breaking through 
the pasture fence and heading for the hayfield, had dis- 
appeared beneath its spongy surface. South of it lay his 
flax field, the most precious part of all his land. To get 
rid of the useless land and buy in its place the neck of 
timber held by Fusi Aronson: that was an honest ambition 
and one to be achieved. That Fusi Aronson would part 
with his -right hand rather than sell him a square inch of 
ground, Caleb knew all too well. But many a better 
man had been glad to part with a right hand in certain 
exigencies. There was the little matter of Bjorn 
Aronson’s slight dishonesty, for instance, that was not 
generally known in the community—that little discrep- 
ancy in Bjorn’s moral balance that hurt Fusi more than 
any other thing on earth. What a comfort it was to 
Fusi that Bjorn was now one of the trustees of the Yellow 
Post church fund, a connection that would surely brace 
his manhood and beat into him a true metal. Caleb 
smiled as he thought of the trusting Fusi. Something 
might come up that could be used to good advantage. 
Somehow he would use brother against brother . . . he 
would wait. 

Caleb felt a glow of satisfaction as he stood there on 
the ridge peering out over his land until the last light 
had gone. He could hold all this, and more—add to it 


WILD GEESE 15 


year after year—add to his herd of pure bred Holsteins 
and his drove of horses—raise more sheep—experiment 
with turkey and goose for the winter markets in the 
south—all this as long as he held the whip-hand over 
Amelia. Amelia’s word would start the children, then it 
would be all over—the results of his labor would be swept 
from these fields like chaff from a barn floor. He was too 
old to carry on alone. Hired help was worse than none— 
lazy, treacherous, rapacious. As long as he kept track 
of the outcome of that little folly of hers. . . . And, 
so far, he had managed very well. True, he might at any 
time lose that little contact—the boy, good Lord, he must 
be a man now—might even die. He had come out of the 
war safely, in spite of Amelia’s praying . .. oh, no 
doubt the woman had prayed that he would die! But 
it was an uncertain world. Amelia, she was a soft fool, 
thank God! Not many women would be so conveniently 
sentimental and self-sacrificing for the sake of a son born 
out of wedlock—and that son a man grown, and a 
stranger to his own mother. Well, if she was loth to 
have Mark Jordan learn of his parentage, Caleb Gare 
would not reveal it to him—providing that Amelia kept 
her place and did not force him to. . . . Mark Jordan 
was a fine young fellow, too, according to Bart Nugent. 
Bart had kept track of him very well, in the town where 
Caleb was unable to do his own spying. The good fathers 
in the mission had taken Amelia’s story for truth, and 
Mark had grown up with the solid idea that he was the 
last of a family of saints. There was a joke for you! 

The war had saved the boy from the priesthood, Bart 
Nugent had thought, and it had also radically altered his 


16 WILD GEESE 


philosophy. He had always been interested in architec- 
ture, and had gone into it seriously after the war. Bart 
had written that a nervous disorder had lately developed 
in Mark Jordan from over-work, and that he might take 
to farming for a spell. Perhaps—the coincidence was 
not beyond thought... . It might not be well, how- 
ever. . . . Amelia might weaken if she saw him. ‘There 
was no guessing what a woman’s reactions might be. 
Amelia had loved the boy’s father, that he knew. The 
knowledge had eaten bitterly into his being when he was a 
younger man and had sought to possess Amelia in a man- 
ner different from the way in which he possessed her now. 
In that earlier passion of the blood he had found himself 
eternally frustrated. The man who had been gored to 
death by a bull on his own farm in the distant south had 
taken Amelia’s soul with him, and had unwittingly left 
her bearing in her body the weapon which Caleb now so 
adroitly used against her. His control over her, being 
one of the brain only, although it achieved his ends, also 
at moments galled him with the reminder that the spirit 
of her had ever eluded him. 

Caleb lifted the lantern and examined the wick. 
Things would turn out to his liking. He would hold the 
whip hand. Judith, yes, she was a problem. She had 
some of his own will, and she hated the soil . . . was be- 
ginning to think she was meant for other things .. . 
getting high notions, was Judith. She would have to 
be broken. She owed him something ... owed the 
soil something. The twins, they would stay—no fear of 
their deserting. Martin and Ellen would not dare to 
leave; there was no other place for them. And Ame- 


WILD GEESE 17 


lia, she was easy ... yes, yes, she was easy, Amelia 
was! 

Caleb glanced again at the coveted bit of woodland, 
and crossed the ridge toward home. After he had 
crawled through the barbed wire fence that surrounded 
the second hayfield he turned down the wick and blew 
out the flame in the lantern. Noneed of wasting oil... . 


4. 


Lind woke to the comfortable drowsiness of farmhouse 
lofts and piece quilts, and the inarticulate outdoor sounds 
of early spring mornings. Something had wakened her. 
She did not know then that it was the three knocks of the 
broom handle upon the ceiling of the room below, which 
was nothing else but the planks of the loft floor. 

She lifted herself upon her elbow and looked down 
upon the dusky rose cheek of the girl beside her. Judith 
was more than three years younger than Lind, but some- 
how there was a wisdom that Lind did not share in the 
bountiful, relaxed beauty of her body as she lay asleep. 
An intangible fragrance rose from her, like warmth. 
Like the warmth of milk, or newly mown hay. 
Lind touched her lightly to waken her. Jude’s eyes slowly 
opened, veiled like a waking child’s. She yawned and 
stretched her round, strong arms above her head. Then 
she turned over on her stomach and lay for a few moments 
without speaking. Lind got out of bed and prepared 
to wash. 

“I hate to get up,’ Jude declared from the pillows. 
“Some day I’m going to have a silk bed and lie in it for- 


18 WILD GEESE 


ever, and hear cows bellowing right at my elbow and know 
I don’t have to get up to water ’em.” 

Lind laughed at the absurd picture, while she saw the 
pathos in it. Three more knocks sounded peremptorily 
against the floor, and the Teacher turned questioningly 
toward Jude. 

Judith drew herself lazily out of bed and began to pull 
on her stockings under her nightgown. 

“Vou’d better hurry,” she said to Lind. “There goes 
Ellen down.” 

Lind wrinkled her brows. ‘You don’t mean that I 
must hurry?” 

“He won’t let breakfast be kept for anybody,” Jude 
told her briefly. 

Lind was thoroughly amazed. “But it must be only 
five o’clock! Whatever shall I do every morning until 
nine?”’ she exclaimed. 

“Hm-p!”? Jude retorted, relishing the perverse con- 
tempt she felt for the Teacher together with her admi- 
ration andenvy. ‘You might milk a cow or two, or chase 
skunks. There’s lots of ’em in the bush. That’s Pete 
after one now. Hear him barkin’? The smell ain’t bad 
—isn’t bad—when you get used to it.” 

The Teacher shook herself free from the annoyance she 
felt at Caleb’s rigor, and resolved to make the best of 
it. After all, it was rather amusing. 

Breakfast, it turned out, was a meal eaten in almost 
complete silence. It was a fixed duty discharged without 
zest. Except Jude, the children did not seem half awake. 
The toil of the day before hung about them still like a 
tedious dream. 


WILD GEESE 19 


“Guess we'll plow up that fallow field over east, after 
all, Martin,” Caleb said, settling back in his chair while 
he wiped his mustache with his hand. “Jude can start 
it all right this morning, eh, Martin?” 

Martin continued eating his porridge. He was a slow 
eater, as he was a thinker. He could not quite appraise 
the meaning of his father’s words. It was folly to seed 
the worn-out east field this spring. And as for Jude’s 
plowing it—it was a heavy field, full of stones, difficult 
enough for a man. And hadn’t there been talk of Jude 
continuing morning school as she had done last year, so 
that she might write her entrance examinations? 

‘““Well—” Martin began solemnly. His face reddened 
as he found himself unable to protest. ‘Guess I could do 
it. Kind o’ tough for Jude.” 

“Tough for Jude? Pshaw! Hear that, Jude? He 
says you can’t do it! Guess there ain’t a field that ’d 
stump you, eh, Jude? Some girl, that, Miss Archer. 
Look at the arm on her! Bigger’n mine. Heh! Heh!” 

It was the first time he had addressed Lind that morn- 
ing. The Teacher shrank from the tyranny so thinly 
veiled behind his jocularity. She ventured to smile at 
Judith, who appeared not to have heard her father’s 
sally. 

After breakfast, Judith went out to milk, and Lind 
accompanied her. The cow pen was overhung at one end 
by weeping willows, which were putting forth tiny buds. 
Judith led her cow to that extremity of the pen. 

“Tt’s a little prettier over here,” she explained. 

The cattle sheds and the shelters for the other animals 
were all of gray logs, the low roofs sodded and showing 


20 WILD GEESE 


faintly green now, although it was still cold and raw. 
The ruts of the cow pen, since there had been no rain or 
snow for weeks, were hard as cement, and reminded 
Lind of the relief maps children made at school. The 
deep tracks of the cattle were almost indistinguishable 
from the human tracks intermingled with them. The 
cold of winter had fixed them there and only the rains of 
spring would wash them away. 

“When did you stop school, Judie?” Lind asked. She 
had seated herself on a stone near the girl, and was 
watching the straight white stream of milk striking the 
bottom of the pail with a thin churring sound. The 
cow’s flanks were satiny, her tail clotted with manure. 
The animal looked over her shoulder with a round, vague 
inquiry, and went on chewing her cud. 

“Went half a day last year—every morning. Guess I 
won’t go at all this year. He hasn’t said, lately. He 
talked some about it during the freeze-up, and it sort of 
cheered me up then. But I guess he didn’t mean any- 
thing by it.” 

Lind felt her indignation mounting once more against 
Caleb. This was criminal, denying the girl what educa- 
tion was at hand. 

“Oh, my dear, hasn’t your mother a thing to say about 
it? Do you want to go?” 

“Wantin’ and goin’ is two different things,” she re- 
plied, looking into the pail between her knees. 

“But Judith,’ Lind said earnestly, bending toward 
her, “is there no way to arrange for your going—can 
he not do without you here?” 

“He can, but he won’t. There’s no use talkin’.” Ju- 


WILD GEESE 21 


dith shifted her great body on the milk stool. She 
seemed to have grown suddenly shy, with this talk that 
lay so close to her inmost desires. 

Lind rose and touched Jude’s shoulder. As she did 
so Caleb appeared from the end of the barn. He 
glanced sharply toward the girls once, then looked stu- 
diously away. ; 

“You’d best go. He ain’t likin’ you being here,” said 
Judith. 

Feeling helplessly a culprit, Lind picked her way back 
across the rutted ground. She decided to go early to the 
school house and air the place thoroughly before the 
children came. It would give her something to do. 


5 


There stood the school house, across the trail from 
the Gare farm. It was low and square, and built of 
uneven logs: the white paint of it had peeled and fallen 
off here and there in large flakes. There it stood, in 
unashamed relief against the gray green haze of spruce 
and tamarac. 

Lind would have liked Judith’s company that first day 
at school. A teacher who had formerly taught at Oeland 
had told her of how he had actually been trampled in a 
stampede that had broken out among the young ruffians 
from beyond Latt’s Slough. 

By nine o’clock, the school room, the porch outside, 
and the playground were over-run by the sturdy demons 
who had gathered from miles around for what was an 
acknowledged holiday. Lind rose from her desk and 


22 WILD GEESE 


rang a small bell, which instantly brought order out 
of chaos. There was a general scamper indoors, and 
a hurried selection of the best and most remote seats by 
the stronger of the small band. Lind looked down upon 
the children, and saw that every seat was occupied; a 
condition that would never prevail again throughout the 
term. The children, some of them six feet tall and well 
on in their ’teens, had come from every direction, even 
from other districts—half of them with the sole purpose 
of conveying to their elders their impressions of the 
Teacher of Oeland, and with no intention of coming a 
second day. 

Lind sat at her desk and introduced herself. There 
was dead quiet while she spoke. Every eye was fixed 
upon her face. 

“We are going to have a very nice time together here, 
I know,” said Lind. ‘You will keep the seats you have 
for to-day, and to-morrow I shall move you about accord- 
ing to your grades. Don’t you think that will be best?” 
She smiled down at two of the ruddy cheeked girls who 
sat together at one desk, and because their opinion was 
thus sought, they nodded their heads energetically, and 
afterwards whispered to each other how pretty the new 
teacher was. 

Lind opened a large black record book and began to 
take their names, up one row and down another. 

“Thorvaldson—Sophia, Anna, Una,” Lind repeated 
after three little girls in the foreground with pigtails as 
white as snow. Behind them sat two boys from Yellow 
Post, half-Cree, who did not know their last names and 


WILD GEESE 23 


looked back in great fright to their elder brother who 
sat in the rear. 

And so on down the line. The Sandbos, who lived two 
miles to the east of the Gares, and five of whom attended 
school. The black-eyed Hungarian Klovacz children, 
whose father had a homestead several miles east of the 
Sandbos. The Bjarnassons, who came from the great 
lake on the west, and drove seven miles to school. 
Swarthy faced young tartars from north of Latt’s Slough, 
momentarily impressed and suppressed, most of whom 
were too old to go to school and would probably not ap- 
pear on the second day at all. 

Lind saw with relief that she had captivated the chil- 
dren. There would be no trouble. She looked around 
at the dingy whitewashed walls. 

“We shall have to have some pictures,” she said. 
“Flow would you like to do a little painting this morn- 
ing?” 

There was vigorous assent. A little apple-cheeked 
Icelandic boy from the Narrows and a half-breed girl 
from Yellow Post importantly passed around the paint 
boxes and the coarse paper Lind had found in the store 
closet. 

And so the first day of school began at Oeland. 


6 
It was April and the little buds were opening stickily 


on the elms, and tingeing their boughs with purple and 
brown. The cottonwoods were festooned with ragged 


24 WILD GEESE 


catkins. A softness was unfurling like silk ribbons in 
the pale air, and the earth was breaking into tiny warm 
rifts from which stole a new green. 

The children came to school in the mornings with their 
arms loaded with the long green catkins of the gray 
birch, which Lind told them was the Betula Lutea; which 
they promptly forgot. The ditches along the wood road 
became a gray blur of pussy willows; and one day Lind 
heard the first robin. It was a time of intense wonder 
in the north, after the long, harsh months when the heart 
is shut out from communion with the earth. 

Lind frequently walked alone through the green filter 
of light in the woods that led away from the Gare farm 
northward to the acres of Fusi Aronson. 

She thought of Caleb Gare and Amelia, and wondered 
how a human soul could keep from breaking utterly. 
Lind had wakened early one morning and had looked 
out from her window to see Amelia staring with trans- 
fixed eyes at the dawn—at something beyond the dawn, 
it seemed. It was not like a farm woman to do that. 
There must be some reason for Amelia’s endurance. 
Was it a hope of compensation of some kind? The 
children? No, there was not enough affection among 
them—after the precious flame had been sucked into the 
very earth upon which and by which they lived—to make 
the sacrifice worth while. There must be something 
Elsen ni 

On a Friday evening, Lind prepared to leave for the 
Sandbos’, whose homestead was in sight down the wood 
road from the Gares’. Caleb and Martin were repair- 
ing the chicken house, removing the winter sod from the 


WILD GEESE 25 


roof and sparingly inserting shingles wherever there was 
a leak. | 

Judith came out of the house with the Teacher, who 
had with her a small bundle. Mrs Sandbo would ex- 
pect her to stay the night, at least. 

“lm going to ride down with you—the cattle are down 
that way,” said Judith, glancing toward the chicken 
house, where Martin was standing on a ladder swinging 
a hammer upon the damp shingles. Judith turned to- 
ward the log barn that crouched like an old moss-backed 
turtle between the wagon-shed and the granary. 

Except for the blows of Martin’s hammer on the soggy 
shingles there was not a sound abroad. The air and the 
earth seemed to be held together in a glass bowl. There 
was that thin luster over everything that comes only on 
a clear April evening. The dank, clinging smell of newly 
turned soil rose like a presence. 

Lind was glad that Judith was to accompany her. 
They would have many things to talk about. Even at 
her age, Judith had a certain fineness of mind which 
came to an extent, perhaps, from the seasonal contact 
with the teachers of Oeland, but more from a deep native 
consciousness drawn from Amelia. Lind delighted in 
the rich spontaneity of the girl, in her naive reactions. 
She saw much less of her than she might wish to. Caleb 
saw to it that Judith was busy about the place or in the 
fields during the day, and at night she wished for sleep 
more than for the comfort of friendship. 

The Teacher stood below Martin and talked to him 
while she waited for Judith. Caleb had gone into the 
tool shed near the barn. 


26 WILD GEESE 


“Martin, it must be wonderful to make things—and 
mend them, with your hands,” she ventured. Martin 
talked so little. He had not yet voluntarily addressed 
her. 

He looked down at her and half grinned, drawing in 
his under lip bashfully. 

“°?Tain’t so wonderful—got to do it in any kind o’ 
weather,” he managed to say. His long, dull face be- 
came suffused; he intently inspected another shingle. 

Poor Martin! At twenty he understood only one 
thing: work. 

Caleb came out of the shed. With his left hand he 
brushed the right side of his weedy mustache: a gesture 
that had become familiar to Lind. He did not look at 
the Teacher. She was rather glad that he had adopted 
the policy of ignoring her. It gave her more oppor- 
tunity to watch him. 

Judith, mounted on the mare, Lady, beckoned to Lind. 
Caleb turned and saw her. 

“Too early to go for the cattle,” he said, lifting the 
bank of his eyebrows toward her meaningly. ‘That 
old seeder has to be fetched from Thorvaldsons’. 
Charlie can bring in the cattle.” 

“Charlie can get the seeder,” Judith said in a clear 
voice. She sat straight and formidable in her saddle, 
facing Caleb coldly. Of the two, Lind felt that the girl 
was the more to be feared, for sheer physical power. 

“Did you hear what I said, Jude?” Caleb asked, hand- 
ing a box of nails up to Martin. His voice was gentle, 
casual. 

In answer, Judith wheeled the mare toward the gate 


WILD GEESE oT 


and started down the wood road. Lind mounted the 
pony that the Sandbo children had left for her. On the 
road she met Jude, her face dark with anger. 

“I’m through putting up with it!” Jude flared. ‘He’s 
got to quit thinkin’ we’re animals he can drive around.” 

They rode along together for a short distance. Then 
Judith turned to go back. 

“Tt’s no use—he’ll take it out on Ma. He knows I’m 
goin’ to the Sandbos’. Find out if Sven is really comin’ 
home, will you, Lind?” 

The Teacher had asked her to call her Lind. 

She nodded in response to the girl’s request and rode 
on down the shimmering wood trail. In the shallow 
ravine on either side lay a mist of flowering dogwood 
trees. Behind her, growing fainter now, came the thud- 
ding sound of Martin’s hammer on the rotten shingles of 
the chicken house. 


7 


The Sandbos boasted a frame house, and a wire fence 
around their buildings, not a sagging wooden one such 
as the Gares did with. The entire place was so over- 
grown with chokecherry and wild plum trees that in a 
short time now the house and barn and cowshed would 
be hidden in a white nebula. This beauty was more 
by accident than by design, for Mrs Sandbo would 
have preferred the frame house to be in full view to 
passers-by the whole year round. Frame houses were 
rare at this distance from the Siding of Nykerk. 

In a remote time, which Mrs Sandbo liked to speak of 


28 WILD GEESE 


as a year or two ago, the family had lived in a small 
village where a locomotive and passenger coaches were 
seen three times a week and where a freight train was a 
daily sight and nothing to be marveled at. The Gare 
children, never having been beyond a radius of ten miles 
from home (save perhaps Martin and Ellen on their 
trips with the cattle to Nykerk), had never seen one of 
these wonders of modern times, and as for having ridden 
in one—! Well, the Sandbos, all of them except little 
Lars, who was born at Oeland, dad ridden on the rail- 
way. So, although they were friendly enough from Mrs 
Sandbo’s point of view, there was a gulf between the two 
families that could not be spanned. 

Mrs Sandbo, having lived in a village, awaited Lind in 
the parlor. Emma, a ponderous girl of fifteen who still 
attended school half days, was stiff and sober in a clean 
dress which had been donned for the occasion. 
She ushered Lind into the presence of her mother without 
a word. She suffered, in fact, the sensation of strangling 
until the Teacher was out of her sight behind the parlor 
door. 

All the blinds, except one, were closely drawn in the 
room where Mrs Sandbo sat. There was a dry smell 
of wall paper, as if the windows had been nailed down 
since the day the room was decorated. Mrs Sandbo her- 
self looked like wall paper, as if she had no sizable depth 
but a crisp, flat surface, the back of which would be 
gritty. On each of the four walls of the room, in geo- 
metrically precise relation, hung an enlarged photograph 
of one or more of the Sandbo family. The photographs 
bore the rainy-day look of all enlargements. That 


WILD GEESE 29 


which first met the eye was an enormous likeness of the 
late Ludvig Sandbo himself, Mrs Sandbo’s husband. 

Lind entered and greeted Mrs Sandbo in her warm 
manner. Her hostess had been sitting on an upright set- 
tee of pale brown imitation leather and elaborately carved 
and scrolled oak. 

“IT em glad to see you, Mees Archer,” Mrs Sandbo 
beamed with a square, Norwegian intonation. ‘“Seet 
down. I vill get coffee. The girls say you like it at 
Gares. Iss that so? You are the first then, much so 
I hate to say it. But vait—the coffee cooks.” She 
rustled out of the room without waiting for a word from 
Lind. 

The Teacher sat down before the frame of Ludvig 
Sandbo. He had eyes like black shoe buttons. They 
chilled Lind. She moved to a chair near the lighted 
window. 

Mrs Sandbo returned with steaming coffee and little 
round pink-frosted cakes. 

She assailed Lind at once with questions, not so much 
to get an answer as to reveal to the Teacher her famil- 
iarity with objects of the world beyond Oeland. 

“Oh, yess, my husband, Ludvig, he vass there, many, 
many times,” she interrupted when Lind mentioned the 
city she had come from. “It iss him, up on the vall. 
And a stinker he vass, too. .Good land, I say, t’ousand 
times a day, I em heppy he iss gone. Vhat he could 
drink, that von! Never vonce sober in six years!” She 
smacked her lips over her coffee cup and wiped her eyes 
with the corner of her apron. 

“Was he not kind to you?” Lind asked gently. 


30 WILD GEESE 


“Kind? Him? Good land, I vass a dog under him. 
Now I live good, not much money, but no dirt from him, 
t’ank God!” She lifted her eyes up to the photograph, 
and Lind saw unmistakably a look of wistfulness in them. 

“Hess Mrs Gare in her new teet’ yet?” she asked pres- 
ently, her pale eyebrows lifting eagerly above her glasses. 

“T don’t believe she has,” said Lind, hesitating. “I 
think she expects to get them.” 

“Expects?” Mrs Sandbo almost snorted. “Her? 
She don’t expect not’ing—not from him.. She been get- 
ting these teet’ now four five years while I get these two 
sets, and vhat have I got to buy vit’ teet’? Old Gare— 
he got money to buy teet’ for hundred head cattle. My 
man, he vass a devil, but he vass easy vit the money. 
He say, long before my teet’ vass all gone, he say, ‘Sigri, 
you tak couple dollar and go to dentist.’ He vass al- 
vays easy—for easy, I told him. Much for easy!” She 
looked fondly up at the photograph and sighed. This 
time there was certainly no doubt as to the wistfulness. 

Lind was impressed. Mrs Sandbo hitched her chair 
more closely to Lind’s and puckered her brows. She 
lowered her voice. 

“Tell me—how goes it there? Iss he crenky vit you, 
too?” 

“No, he hasn’t bothered me,” Lind told her. 

“He’s a rascal, Caleb Gare,” Mrs Sandbo lamented 
with a shake of her head. “I feel sorry for the poor 
woman. To be merried to such a man!” 

“Why does she stand it?” 

“Vell—” Mrs Sandbo hesitated mysteriously, “I 
vould not say it again, but they say who knows it, that 


WILD GEESE (tga 


he bragged vonce to von of the Icelanders that he hess 
it on her. Vhat more, I can not say. Vhat you tink, 
Mees Archer? She iss scared purty near cresy of him, 
I tink.” 

Lind could venture no opinion. Mrs Sandbo drifted 
into other subjects, then rose ceremoniously to show 
Lind about the place and to offer her the freedom of the 
entire farm. 

Lind liked the Sandbos. There had been ten of them, 
but there were only eight left at home. They were big- 
boned children, solemn and hard working. The eldest 
daughter, Dora, had married and lived on a homestead 
north of Latt’s Slough. Sven, of whom Mrs Sandbo 
spoke proudly, had gone to work in town. He was ex- 
pected home in May. 

Emma, the eldest daughter at home, spent much time 
thinking. At least her eyes were always downcast, her 
full, healthy face inscrutable. Lind watched her come 
up the path leading Rosabelle, the Jersey. She clumped 
along, a great hulk of a girl, in step with the cow. 

“What are you dreaming about, Emma dear?” Lind 
called to her from where she sat on the stone step of 
the milk shed. 

Emma looked up, confused. 

Lind drew her down beside her on the step. 

“What are you thinking of, Emma?” she asked again. 

But Emma blushed more furiously than ever, and 
Lind concluded that if she had really been thinking of 
anything, it was just as well left unsaid. Emma kept 
her silence and got up to milk Rosabelle. Her thoughts 
were, indeed, too profound for utterance. 


32 WILD GEESE 


When Lind was out of sight, Emma burst into tears 
of emotion. The Teacher was too beautiful and too 
sweet. She could not endure familiarity with her. 

Such was the effect of Lind’s coming to Oeland. 


8 


_ On Saturday evening, Lind walked home through a 
fine mist drifting down from the swamps that lay to the 
northward. 

Against the strange pearly distance she saw the giant 
figure of a man beside a horse. As she walked across the 
field he came toward her, and she saw that it was Fusi 
Aronson, the great Icelander. Lind had spoken to him 
only once before, when she and Jude had found the cattle 
over on his land. 

He doffed his hat when she spoke to him, and returned 
her greeting in the quaint English that seemed odd in a 
man of his size. There was a vast, rough charm about 
the man. He was grand in his demeanor, and somehow 
lonely, as a towering mountain is lonely, or as a solitary 
oak on the prairie. 

Fusi walked back with her along the margin of a 
stand of spruce that pointed up blackly above the 
mist. 

“T was just thinking how lucky you people are up here 
to have spring so close to you,” Lind said, glancing up 
at him. 

“Yes, we are very, very lucky,” he responded slowly, 
carefully. ‘But few of us know it,” 


WILD GEESE 33 


“Don’t you think most of the farmers realize it— 
in one way or other?” 

“No,” he said. “Here the spirit feels only what the 
land can bring to the mouth. In the spring we know 
only that there is coming a winter. ‘There is too much 
of selfishness here—like everywhere.” 

His voice was deep, sonorous, the tone almost oracular, 
as if his statement were made as much to the air as to 
Lind. She looked at him furtively. 

“T wondered just what Caleb Gare was feeling about 
this—this mist,” she ventured. 

“Caleb Gare—he does not feel. I shall kill him one 
day. But even that he will not feel.” There was no 
anger in Fusi’s voice. Only deep, prescient certainty. 

Lind started. 

“Why?” she murmured. 

“He took the lives of two of my brothers. There was 
epidemic here with the Indians some years back. It 
was a snowstorm and my brothers asked in at his door. 
They were blind from the storm. They were not sick 
—my brothers. But Caleb Gare feared the sickness— 
it was the devil sickness—he feared for himself. And 
he closed the door in their faces. One I found dead a 
mile from Caleb Gare’s farm, two day after the storm. 
He was frozen so stiff we could not put on him his Sun- 
day clothes and he was buried just so he was. The 
other died from the cold. I could not get the cold out of 
him, how long I worked. But first he told me about 
Caleb Gare.” 

There was iron in Fusi’s voice. His face against the 


34 WILD GEESE 


darkening air was like iron. Lind was silent. Fear had 
come to her. Fear of this harsh land. 

Far overhead sounded a voluminous prolonged cry, 
like a great trumpet call. Wild geese flying still farther 
north, to a region beyond human warmth . . . beyond 
even human isolation. .. . 


CHAPTER II 
1 


Linp stayed in the school house working over the chil- 
dren’s lessons usually until the light faded and she knew 
the Gares would be sitting down to supper. Although 
they were crowded with work, these were lonely hours, 
when the last sunlight streamed in across the deserted 
desks and blurred with a vague gold the dusty black- 
boards, so that you could not make out the awkward 
figures that had been written upon them. 

Lind would often take out from her desk drawer the 
letters she had received from home in the twice-weekly 
mail, and, ashamed and impatient with herself as she 
would feel afterwards, she could not check the tears 
that rose to her eyes. And then, strangely enough, she 
would wipe her eyes and suddenly realize that it was 
not herself that she had been thinking of at all, but the 
Gares—Amelia, with her inviolable reserve and quiet 
graciousness, behind which she lived who knew what 
life; Ellen, prim to a point of agony; Martin, the stum- 
bling dreamer, forever silent in his dream; the boy, 
Charlie, whom Caleb pampered and played against the 
others; Judith, vivid and terrible, who seemed the em- 
bryonic ecstasy of all life; and Caleb, who could not be 
characterized in the terms of human virtue or human 


vice—a spiritual counterpart of the land, as harsh, as de- 
35 


36 WILD GEESE 


manding, as tyrannical as the very soil from which he 
drew his existence. 

The Teacher was lonely, and even more conscious of 
the stark loneliness of Amelia, of Judith, of Ellen and 
Martin, each within himself. Work did not destroy the 
loneliness; work was only a fog in which they moved so 
that they might not see the loneliness of each other. 

Days came when the loam was black and rich with 
rain. Judith and Martin, being the strongest of the 
workers under Caleb Gare, carried the soil’s heaviest 
burden. Judith mounted the seeder and wove like a 
great dumb shuttle back and forth, up and down, across 
the rough tapestry of the land. In the adjacent field 
Martin worked with the bowed, unquestioning resignation 
of an old unfruitful man. Occasionally Judith threw a 
glance at him. Then she would scowl and exclaim pro- 
fanely to the plodding horse. 

What with the work in the fields and the occasional 
trips with ax and saw into the bush there was not much 
time for play. And in the evening the body and the 
brain would be heavy with sleep, and there was nothing 
to do but throw one’s self down like a spent animal, and 
seek oblivion from thought and feeling. 

Lind felt that the rigid routine of the farm was im- 
posed by Caleb to keep anything out of the ordinary 
from happening. And nothing happened; nothing hap- 
pened. Day in and day out, not a soul came to the 
Gare farm; not a soul left it, not even to visit the Sand- 
bos, two miles or less away. And Caleb went about with 
the fixed, unreadable face of an old satyr, superficially 
indifferent to what went on, unconscious of those about 


WILD GEESE 37 


him; underneath, holding taut the reins of power, alert, 
jealous of every gesture in the life within which he moved 
and governed. 


Z 


Sunday formed a sort of interval. Caleb was the only 
one of the family who attended church at Yellow Post, 
but since the minister preached there only every third 
Sunday, coming all the way from the Nykerk parish, the 
amount of spiritual guidance the others missed was not 
so great as it might have been. 

It happened that the second Sunday after Lind’s com- 
ing was Easter Sunday, and a new minister was expected 
to hold services. Amelia rose as early as on week days, 
although usually an hour’s grace was allowed on Sunday, 
to prepare Caleb’s breakfast and lay out his white collar 
and black broadcloth suit with the greenish velvet lapels. 
His shoulders were not so square as they had been the 
decade or so before when the suit had been bought, and 
the back of the coat hunched up and made a little groove 
just below the collar, which Amelia could not remove 
with any amount of pressing. Each time he put the coat 
on, she was afraid he would notice it and complain of 
her careless treatment of it. Amelia had had to wash 
the stiff collar he had bought through the mail order 
catalogue, and its wings had lost some of their contour in 
the starching. So that by the time Caleb rose and 
knocked on the ceiling to waken the children, and then 
came into the kitchen to wash, Amelia was thoroughly 
worried about how the day would go. 


38 WILD GEESE 


“Martin washed the gig over yesterday—after work. 
It looks real nice,’ she said to him cheerfully as he 
spread the shaving soap over his jaw. Ever since they 
were first married, Caleb had looked most human and 
likeable when he was lathering his face preparatory to 
shaving, and she had often approached him at such 
times with requests or confessions that she dared not 
make before or after his toilet had been completed. 

Caleb stropped his razor blade to his satisfaction be- 
fore he replied. He always took his time in answering 
Amelia. It gave him leisure to weigh his words and to 
create a certain uneasiness in the woman concerning 
his reply, that was flattering to him even when the 
matter under discussion was a trivial one. This morn- 
ing he was in a generous mood. 

“Martin did well. I’m half a mind to take him with 
me. He’s a way of doin’ things without bein’ driven to 
it,’ he chuckled, as though there were some underlying 
humor in the observation. 

“Martin would like to go,’ said Amelia, careful not 
to make her voice too eager. She set the coffee on to 
boil. Then she went to the door and stood for a mo- 
ment looking down toward the wood road where the 
willows were drooping in early bud as delicate as a green 
rain. 

It would be sweet going to church this Easter morning, 
she thought. It was a long time now since this had been 
a reverent custom with her. Amelia had been Roman 
Catholic before her marriage to Caleb Gare. There 
had been one Easter more blessed and more joyous than 


WILD GEESE 39 


all the others, when she had ridden across country to 
church with Mark Jordan’s father. She had been a girl 
then—such a girl—not like her own daughters, but like 
Lind Archer. Her heart caught her suddenly, and her 
cheek warmed at the little disloyalty to her own flesh 
and blood. No reason why Judith or Ellen should not 
be like Lind. Wasthere none? A strange little jealousy 
crept into her breast. Lind had undoubtedly gone to 
church of an Easter Sunday, just as she had done— 
perhaps even sung in a choir, just as she had done. Jude 
and Ellen knew nothing of such things. Caleb did not 
see fit to permit them to go to Yellow Post services, 
where the lusty young swains of the entire country- 
side gathered to worship in good weather. He had once 
remarked pointedly to Amelia that, as she well knew, 
little good could come of their mixing in with that lot, 
and their salvation might easily prove their damnation. 
Amelia had seen through his pretenses very clearly. And 
she had come to regard with a bitter humor the sermons 
he brought home each Sunday after he had been to Yel- 
‘low Post, genially reading the text from the Bible and 
giving a résumé of the minister’s words as nearly as he 
remembered them, all before dinner. She forgot the 
sweetness of the willows and went back to the kitchen 
stove with the faint tightening about the lips that was 
all that was ever visible of Amelia’s impatience with her 
lot. 

There was no sound in the kitchen save the crackling 
of the wood in the stove and the little scraping of Caleb’s 
razor. In the loft above, she could hear the children 


40 WILD GEESE 


stirring, and she hoped they would not delay in coming 
down. When Caleb saw his collar it would be enough to 
set him off, without further vexation. 

Lind was the first to come down. Amelia glanced at 
her quickly and saw how pretty she was in a blue silk 
gown that seemed to make her hair even more lustrous 
and her skin more delicate. 

“Let me set the table for you, Mrs Gare,” Lind of- 
fered. 

““No—don’t bother,” said Amelia, in an abrupt tone 
that made Lind look at her in surprise. A slight flush 
came into Amelia’s cheek. She could not understand 
herself for hating the girl at the moment. “You go out 
and see how nice it is,’ she hastened to add, “and Jude’ll 
be down and set the table.” 

Wondering a little, Lind went out to the corral where 
a pair of yearlings came up to the wooden bar and 
reached out their muzzles to her for stroking. 

Caleb finished shaving and pulled on his starched 
white shirt. Then he picked up the collar Amelia had 
laid out for him. He looked at it once and laid it down 
again, without a word. Amelia, stirring the porridge on 
the stove, prepared herself for his usual sneering com- 
ment. She was thankful Lind had gone out. But no 
remark came from Caleb. He left the collar where it 
was and passed softly into the other room. 

Jude and Ellen and the boys came down one after the 
other and breakfast was on the table in a few minutes. 
Lind entered from the front doorway that looked out on 
the horse corral, and her silk gown billowed softly in 
the little breeze that came in behind her. She carried an 


WILD GEESE 41 


armful of pussy willows that she had gathered in the 
ditch near the school house, and placed them in a basket 
beside the organ. Ellen gave them a glance and went 
into the kitchen abruptly. 

“Cluttering up the house like that,” she sniffed to 
Amelia, “Father will have something to say about her 
taking it on herself.” 

Amelia sighed. “Let him say it, then, Ellen,” she re- 
plied. ‘Go and eat your breakfast. Tell the others to 
sit in. He'll not get to church if we don’t eat right 
away.” 

On Sundays Caleb said grace. Meals on the other 
days were taken up with discussions of things on the 
farm. Lind and the others bowed their heads, but Judith 
sat upright and looked straight ahead of her. She forced 
herself to think of something else until Caleb had said 
“Amen.” The thing that actually came into her mind 
was that he had not the Lord to thank for what they 
were about to receive, but er, and Martin, and Ellen, 
Amelia, and even Charlie, whose downcast face was hid- 
ing a grin. 

“Yd like to take you with me this morning, Martin,” 
said Caleb. “It?d do you a heap o’ good, gettin’ out 
among young people fora change. But I don’t want you 
to be ashamed o’ your own father, Martin.” 

Martin’s long countenance lifted questioningly. He 
did not understand Caleb’s remark, and before the 
Teacher he dared not ask. So he fell to eating his por- 
ridge again, slowly so that he should make no uncouth 
sound in Lind’s presence. 

Every one ate in silence. An expression of pained re- 


42 WILD GEESE 


gret had come over Caleb’s face when he spoke. Amelia 
knew what that meant. What he was about to say was 
designed to mortify her, she knew. 

“No, Martin, you'll have to wait until some time when 
I have a clean collar to wear,” he said slowly, mildly, 
almost humorously. 

Amelia’s face flamed. Her eyes darted to Lind to see 
if she had heard. But the Teacher went on serenely 
eating her breakfast. 

Judith spoke up, in spite of Amelia’s quick frown. 
“Well—I guess you’d have plenty of clean collars if 
you’d buy more than one a year,” she snapped. “And 
send the stiff ones to Nykerk instead of expecting Ma 
to do ’em up.” 

“You’re right, Jude. You're right,” Caleb chuckled. 
“Guess I’m a little careless.” He pushed his chair back 
and rose from the table. ‘Mind hitchin’ up Lady, Char- 
lie? You and me’ll go to church anyway, collar or no 
collar.’ He turned his stooped back upon them and 
moved into the kitchen. Amelia followed him. 

““Caleb—you’re not going to church without a collar 
on?” she said in dismay. 

He turned slowly and looked at her. ‘Think the Ice- 
landers’ll see what a fine wife you are, eh?” he asked 
softly. “Well—you go talk to Jude. See she looks to 
her manners. That young one is gettin’ a sight too 
smart. Understand?” The sour grimacé appeared on 
his face that Amelia was so used to seeing there. He 
ran his hand over his mustache as if to wipe the expres- 
sion away. He put on his coat and went out of the 


— 


WILD GEESE 43 


house. Amelia was thankful he had not noticed the 
hump behind his coat collar. 

She hurriedly set about clearing the table, and spoke to 
Judith in a low tone. ‘You must not cross him or be 
cheeky to him, Jude. You know he’s getting old and 
can’t stand it,” she murmured, so that Lind should not 
hear. 

“Ffe’s no older now than he ever was. He’s always 
been as bad, and I’m through standin’ for it,” Jude re- 
plied promptly and in no low tone. “Seems to me I’ve 
just started growin’ a brain enough to know how I hate 
him!” 

“Judith!” cried Ellen, aghast. ‘Your own father!” 

“He’s not! Idon’t careif he is! I don’t give a damn 
for him, and you shut up with your talk!” Jude cried, 
wheeling upon Ellen. 

“Be quiet, Jude!” Amelia said calmly. “You’re crazy 
to go on so!_ Before strangers!” 

Lind had discreetly slipped out the front door. 

“‘She’s been that way ever since the Teacher came. As 
if nothing here is good enough for her any more,” Ellen 
said tartly. 

“That’s not so! The Teacher has nothing to do with 
it. I’ve stood enough of his bullying of all of us. If he 
doesn’t get a man here soon I’m going to leave!” 

“Don’t talk nonsense, Judith. You have no place to 
go,’ Amelia told her. 

“Haven’t I? You'll see!” She went on drying the 
dishes then without another word. Ellen’s face was a 
study. 


44 WILD GEESE 


Lind crept under the fence of the sheep pasture and 
set out across the field. The scene was painful enough 
without Lind’s further agonizing Amelia with her pres- 
ence. Distressing conflicts of this kind had become 
increasingly common. She felt vaguely that her com- 
ing had incited Jude to greater rebellion. Lind won- 
dered, as she had wondered time and again since her 
coming to Oeland, if there were any means in her power 
by which she might bring a little happiness into the 
lives of the Gares. And then in a moment, she was over- 
whelmed by her helplessness against the intangible thing 
that held them there, slaves to the land. It extended 
farther back than Caleb, this power, although it worked 
through him. Lind found herself longing for some one 
of her own world to talk with, some one to whom she 
might escape from the oppression of the Gares. 

Judith surlily attended to the milking and helped Ame- 
lia with the separator, then took out Turk, one of the 
colts, and proceeded to break him into the saddle. The 
outraged animal threw her twice, while Martin looked 
on with a dry smile. 

“T don’t need to be thrown, Martin,” Jude protested 
when she heard his rare laugh, “but I kind o’ like it.” 

“Aw—yes you do,” Martin grinned. ‘So does Turk.” 

‘“‘Well—you see if he does it again,” she retorted, jump- 
ing into the saddle once more. 

Lind, who had returned from her walk, came and sat 
on the ground beside Martin. He moved over for her 
deferentially, and blushed. It was a beautiful morning, 
full of sunshine, and with Caleb away the atmosphere on 
the farmstead was almost radiant. Although there was 


WILD GEESE 45 


not much change in their conduct, Lind felt a releasing 
of reserve among the children, and delighted in being 
with them. She stared at Judith on the plunging horse, 
her amazement at the girl’s dexterity increasing every 
moment. 

The animal reared and snorted, pawed the air with 
his forelegs and tossed his mane like a black cloud. He 
was a handsome colt, slender and glossy as black satin, 
with a fine blazing eye. For a half hour Jude wrestled 
with him, careening in mad circles about the corral, taking 
near somersaults as the horse’s forelegs straightened un- 
der him and his rear hoofs shot into the air time after time. 
Her laugh rang out in peals, her eyes were full of mock- 
ery. When she came close to the bar of the corral, 
Lind could see that her wrists, about which the rein 
was tightly wound, were bleeding. 

“Don’t you think she ought to stop, Martin?” Lind 
asked anxiously. 

“She wouldn’t,” said Martin shortly. “He’s near 
done.” 

When it was over, Jude unsaddled the panting, froth- 
covered animal, and threw herself down beside Lind and 
Martin. 

“Nothing like a little exercise to make you feel good,” 
she said, wiping her wrists. Her cheeks were deep red, 
and little beads of moisture shone on her tilted upper 
lip. 

“VYou’re marvelous, Judie,’ Lind said admiringly, 
“but you did frighten me once or twice.” 

“Gee, it’s a great day, Mart,” Judith observed lightly, 
“Couldn’t you manage to sneak the spring wagon after 


46 WILD GEESE 


dinner and take us up to the Slough? I'd like to get 
some crocuses. ‘The air smells full of ’em.” 

“He’d say you was gaddin’, like as not,’ Martin re- 
turned dubiously, but his eyes were unwontedly bright 
as he leaned back on his elbows and looked on the dis- 
tant horizon. “I might try, though.” 

Lind looked with mixed feelings from one to the other 
of these two Gares. The height of their desire this pre- 
cious April Sunday was to go gathering crocuses, and 
simple as the wish was, they took it for granted that 
somehow it would be denied. 

“He'll be back from church about now. Sorry you 
couldn’t go, Mart?” Judith’s eyes twinkled with mis- 
chief, and Martin in appreciation smiled his twisted 
smile. Lind sat quietly watching the two while they 
talked with random happiness about momentous small 
things. 

A half hour later the rattle of a cart sounded down 
the road, and Martin rose quickly to unbar the gate. 
Presently Caleb drove in with Charlie sitting very 
straight and important beside him. It was the first 
time in his life that Charlie had gone to church, and 
the experience had left its mark on his face and bearing 
much as a physical shock might have done. Martin, in 
his quiet, perceiving way, looked at the boy as he got 
out of the gig. Caleb went on to the house, leaving the 
two boys to unharness. 

“How'd ye like it?” Martin asked. 

“T liked the singin’ all right, but the rest—I dunno 
as it was wuth goin’ for,” he said with a noncommittal 
swagger, hands thrust in pockets. “But the singin’— 


WILD GEESE 47 


yeah, it was pretty good. Everybody sung. I sung.” 
He looked down sheepishly and kicked a pebble along 
the ground. “You better go next time, Mart. There 
was a lot o’ guys there from up north way. An’ some 
girls. I didn’t talk to ’em, though—I mean the guys. 
Pa said not. Said they was Swedes and like to beat a 
little fella like me up—huh!—I could o’ licked any of 
?em! > 

Martin led the horse to the corral. He saw that Lind 
and Jude had gone indoors. He was glad. Lind’s pres- 
ence was disturbing to him, he did not know why. 
Charlie walked thoughtfully beside him. 

“Say, Mart—does Pa think he’s goin’ to make us all 
stay here after we get big?” he asked, frowning. He was 
an undersized lad and looked up to his brother with some 
respect because of his superior height. As Caleb had 
always made a favorite of him, and was amused by his 
heedlessness, he had nothing but contempt for his sisters 
who had been trained never to disobey their father or 
to speak impudently to him. 

“Well, I’m big, Charlie, ain’t I? I guess like as not 
we'll all stay,” Martin replied soberly. So now Charlie 
was beginning to wonder, too, he thought. 

Charlie was silent as they went to the house. He was 
only fifteen, it was true. But to-day he had heard sing- 
ing, and had found he liked to sing, with a lot of young 
folks like himself or a little older. There was one boy 
there he would have liked to talk to. The boy had a red 
tie, and put collection in the plate from his own pocket. 

Before dinner on Sunday it was the custom for the 
family to assemble in the sitting room and hear Caleb 


48 WILD GEESE 


recite the sermon that had been delivered at Yellow 
Post church. Although for reasons of his own he did 
not think it well to permit the family to go to the serv- 
ice, he felt that it was unbefitting a Christian to keep 
them from the grace of God’s word. 

“Will you join us in hearing the sermon, Miss Archer?” 
Caleb asked the Teacher when Amelia was drawing the 
chairs into a semicircle in the middle of the room. His 
manner was his best, suave, gentle and benevolent. He 
had taken the Bible down from its place on the shelf 
above the organ, and held it a little distance away from 
him as he had seen the new preacher do, as if not to 
desecrate the book by contact with his sinfully mortal 
person. 

Lind could not well refuse. She sat down with the 
others, and Ellen at the organ played Lead, Kindly Light. 
Then Caleb held up a hand and intoned the Lord’s 
prayer. His voice was miraculously soft. Suddenly 
Lind found herself wanting to cry out against the farce, 
and confront Caleb with the monstrousness of his act. 
But she sat silent. 

Caleb opened the Bible and read: — 


“Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, 
that for this a man is envied of his neighbor. This is . 
also vanity and vexation of spirit. 

“The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his 
own flesh. 

“Better is an handful in quietness, than both the hands 
full with travail and vexation of spirit. 

“Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.” 


WILD GEESE 49 


Caleb paused, cleared his throat, and looked signifi- 
cantly at each member of the family, dwelling last upon 
Lind. The Teacher stirred with discomfort under the 
steely condemnation in the old man’s eyes. His voice 
went on, rising to a grand sonorousness: 


“There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, 
he has neither child nor brother: yet is there no end 
of all his labor; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; 
neither saith he, For whom do I labor, and bereave my 
soul of good? This is vanity, yea, it is a sore travail. 

“Two are better than one; because they have a good 
reward for their labor. 

“For if they fall, the one will lift his fellow: but woe 
to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not 
another to help him up. 

“Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but 
how can one be warm alone? 

“And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand 
him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” 


Caleb sternly closed the book. “So endeth the les- 
son,” he said huskily. 

The children, waiting for the end of the ordeal, had 
only half heard the words. But Amelia, naturally pious, 
had drunk them in. One phrase stuck in her mind. 
“The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own 
flesh.” That was what he was doing. That was what 
she was helping him do. Eating his own flesh, here on 
the land. But for her there was no alternative, no choice 
save which of her flesh she.should eat. O God, it was 


50 WILD GEESE 


unendurable! Caleb was going on—and on—the sermon 
—the new preacher’s sermon .. . 

“So must we, who dwell in this lonely land and strive 
to live Christian lives on the acres the Lord hath given 
us, cling together for warmth and for good reward for our 
labor. ‘Better is an handful with quietness, than both 
the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.’ 
Better live here like we are, poor but content, than to seek 
the world and all its vices for enlargement of our worldly 
wealth. That, Jude, is for you to think of, careful, and 
for you, Ellen and Martin, and like as not, for you, 
Charlie. ‘For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: 
but woe’—hear me—‘woe to him that is alone when he 
falleth.’ Do they understand the lesson, Amelia?” 

Amelia murmured, “Yes, I think they all understand 
it.’ She could have shouted aloud, beaten his face for 
his hypocrisy. She could have risen and belabored him 
with all her strength for his bland misappropriation of a 
noble passage from the book that had given her many an 
hour’s comfort. But she did nothing but sit and listen 
attentively until he had, in a hushed voice, given the 
last blessing. 

“This was not strictly an Easter Sunday sermon, you 
understand. But Reverend Blossom thought it more like 
for us to have a sermon that would fit in with the season, 
so he said. What do you think, Amelia?” 

“T think it was a well chosen sermon,” said Amelia 
quietly. 

Then they all rose and sat down at the table, while Mrs 
Gare brought the food from the kitchen, and Judith, 
yawning with boredom, helped her. 


WILD GEESE 51 


3 


On the following rriday, Gertrude Bjarnasson, who 
had been friendly toward Ellen the time or two that she 
had talked with her at Yellow Post, invited Ellen and the 
Teacher for a visit, sending the message to them through 
the younger children who went to school. Ellen made 
so bold as to ask Caleb for permission to accompany 
Lind to the great stone house of the Icelanders on the 
lake. 

Caleb regarded her with pained surprise. 

“Do you want them to show you their fine house, and 
their fishing nets, and their boats, and their windmill, 
when your own father is too poor to have such things? 
You know how much better they think they are than us,” 
he said gently, wagging his head, “but if you must 
Porn se’ 
Ellen sighed. She had never been at the great stone 
house. She would never, perhaps, be permitted to go. 
But it was of no use to protest—Amelia would be seen 
weeping a short time afterward if she did. There was 
nothing to do but bear with things. And wonder if Mal- 
colm would ever be coming back again. He had said— 
ah, yes, he had said that he would, in the spring. 

It was just a year since Malcolm had left to work in the 
lumber mills to the south. And before that there had 
been only a week or two of incomprehensible, guilty rap- 
ture. Malcolm had kissed Ellen but once when they were 
alone in the barn after milking. An unromantic place it 
was save for the. witching flood of light from a full moon. 
It had been a moment of unforgettable bliss. Had Mal- 


52 WILD GEESE 


colm been less diffident that evening, had he seized the op- 
portunity and taken her away before she had time to re- 
flect, everything would have been different. But Ellen, 
sustained by her habitual loyalty to Caleb and by the fact 
that Malcolm had Indian blood in his veins, regained over- 
night her unbendable control, and Malcolm, wounded 
and perplexed, went away soon afterward. It was only 
the pain in her eyes that prompted him to tell her that he 
would be coming back again. And here it was spring— 
after the long winter... . 

So, without Ellen, Lind went home that Friday eve- 
ning with the children of the Bjarnassons, the great clan 
who lived to the westward. 

The air was soft and vibrant with the whir of migra- 
tory wild fowl. Rain pools filled the ditches along the 
road, and lay like stained glass in the low sun; the over- 
hanging willows were in full leaf now, the sedges vividly 
green and as yet unbowed by a single wind. Such a new, 
ecstatic world of growth! Behind the Bjarnasson chil- 
dren in the cart, Lind held out her hands as if to gather 
in the beauty of it from the wide air. 

In the great stone house on the lake, dwelt four gener- 
ations of Bjarnassons. Old Erik, who was among the 
first of the Icelanders to settle at Oeland, had seen his 
land pass in turn from his son to his son’s son. Erik was 
well into his eighties now, a time for dreaming much, and 
fishing a little when the sun was warm on the white rocks 
in the cove. Young Erik, his grandson, had married long 
since and now sent his children to Oeland School. It was 
young Erik’s father, Mathias, who had built the stone 
house. 


WILD GEESE 53 


Mathias was a massive man, sixty now, but eternal 
in endurance, eternal in warmth and hospitality of nature. 
The house he had built with his own hands was like 
him, was a square stone image of him. He had excavated 
the earth and built its rugged, lasting foundation; had 
hauled stones in slow wagon-loads, and with the care and 
fineness of a woman patterning lace, had fitted them to- 
gether in the mortar and had built four broad walls to 
the blue. 

In all that region, there was not another house like it. 

Like a welcome, its western windows were aflame with 
light from a red sun, when Andres and Helga drove up 
the road with the Teacher. Below the house lay the lake, 
wrought through and through with silver and rose. 

Helga escorted Lind into the house. 

The immaculate kitchen had a warm, good smell, like 
cinnamon. The floor was white as bread. On it were 
round, braided rag mats of bright, clear colors. 

Helga’s mother had never been in Iceland, but her 
English was so little used that it halted here and there. 
Such was the isolation of the place. 

“You will like coffee, now, maybe,” she said to Lind, 
half shyly. “Bring the teacher a chair, Helga.” 

She hurried about, a round little figure of a woman 
with a round, unchanging face. From an immense 
wooden cupboard with red glass doors she brought out 
cups and saucers, and certain thin wafers rolled up 
tightly in sugar. And while Lind ate and drank, she sat 
with her hands clasped in her lap, saying never a word. 

From an inner room, Lind heard a steady, muffled 
sound, between a hum and a purr. 


54 WILD GEESE 


“It is grandmother, spinning,” said Mrs Bjarnasson. 
“She is blind, but she spins. She spins all of our wool.” 

“She speaks no English, of course,” said Lind. 

She spoke none. But when Lind went in and shook 
hands with her, the ancient lady raised her face to hers 
as if she were looking at her with recognition. She was 
so stooped that-as she sat at the spinning wheel, her 
head was almost level with the distaff. 

She murmured something in Icelandic. 

“She means that you are good to look on,” said Mrs 
Bjarnasson the younger. “She always says she can see 
people’s faces when they speak the first time to her. 
She will tell your fortune if you ask her.” 

Lind was eager to hear the old lady, who drew aside 
from her spinning and took both of the Teacher’s hands 
in her own withered ones. She held them and turned her 
knotted, brown face, that had something of the sheen of a 
cocoon, upward to the light, her eyes sealed. 

She spoke rapidly, in a queer, lilting voice. The 
younger Mrs Bjarnasson interpreted as she went along. 

“She says you will have a lover very soon,” Lind was 
told. “There is a shadow over him. You will never 
know the secret of him. But you will be happy. That 
is all—that is enough, she has told you.” 

Lind laughed, but a ripple crossed her heart. 

“Does she always tell the truth?” the Teacher asked. 

“Wait and see,” said Mrs Bjarnasson, nodding her 
head. 

Superstition here lay along life in a broad vein. 

The men came in to supper from work in the fields and 
along the shore: young Erik’s brothers, Peter and Valde- 


WILD GEESE 55 


mar, and his cousin, Johan; Mathias, laughing mightily 
at some joke he had turned on one of them. 

They spoke in the Icelandic, simple and rough, not 
thinking to change in deference to the Teacher. They 
spoke no ill: why should they affect a strange tongue to 
prove it? Each greeted Lind with an awkward polite- 
ness. The women of the family they each kissed in turn. 
It was the custom. 

There were other women in the family as well: Ger- 
trude and Althea, sisters of young Erik, and Althea, his 
maiden aunt. The women were in constant attendance 
upon Lind, to see that she was at ease. While supper 
was being prepared the elder Althea, who was somewhat 
intellectual, brought her a book of Icelandic sagas trans- 
lated into English, and placed a stool under her feet to 
insure her comfort: then she moved as quietly away as 
a wraith. 

The supper was a vast affair of fish that had been 
brought from the “great” river, dried meats, potatoes, 
and many kinds of crisp sugared cakes, and many cups 
of coffee. The men ate heartily of the fish, greatly of the 
potatoes. To Lind it was a revelation. 

A wind rose suddenly before the meal was over, and in 
a surprisingly short time the lake was breaking in a long 
shudder against the rocky shore. Quiet descended upon 
the family group, as though from some unseen force out- 
side. 

“Baldur will not rest to-night,” the elder Althea mur- 
mured in the language. Her eyes were bright and 
strangely young, although she was fifty and had never 
married, 


56 WILD GEESE 


“Baldur was a fool to defy the lake that night. He 
will be a long time on the bottom,” grunted the younger 
Erik. But he started as a door slammed shut in the 
upper part of the house. 

“Tell the Teacher,” Gertrude said. She was round- 
eyed and pretty. She had stared uninterruptedly at 
Lind throughout the meal. Now there was a detached 
look in her face. 

“The Teacher has heard, like as not,” began young 
Erik, in the uneven vowel tones of the Icelander. “The 
Gares know, I think.” 

“No,” said Lind. “I have not heard anything.” 

“The lake has two of our family. One, my brother, 
Gisli, one my sister Althea’s promised husband. They 
were friends, and they quarreled. They carried their 
quarrel into the lake in two boats. It was a storm— 
the lake took them. We have not yet found any of 
them—not a small sign. Until so, we do not let others 
fish in the lake. Caleb Gare, he says, yes, he shall fish. 
We say no. We are a family, Mees Archer—a great 
family. We shall not let others in to fish where our dead 
is buried.” Young Erik ended sternly. 

The wind and water screamed against the shore. Lind 
trembled, and thrilled. 

“No, they will not rest until we find them,” said the 
elder Althea. Her niece and namesake sat still with 
her eyes downcast. | 

There followed tales of supernatural events, of visions 
and omens, and of disaster that befell the unheeding. 
The great, grizzled Mathias told solemnly of the ancient 
pride of the Bjarnassons in Iceland, and of the dire fate 


WILD GEESE 57 


of one who was disloyal to that pride, to that great bond. 
Told of how the curse of the ancients fell upon him, 
and of how his days were a torment and his nights a 
madness, so that even death could not bring forgetfulness. 
There was a weird poetry in Mathias’ telling, a great 
rhythm of melancholy romance. He had lived much in 
communion with solitude, and had come to know that 
there is an unmeasurable Alone surrounding each soul, 
and that nameless and undreamed are the forms that drift 
within that region. So that it was well for the members 
of a great family to cleave together and so ward off the 
menaces and the dreads of the great Alone. 

When the Teacher went to bed finally, the storm had 
abated. High above the soughing of the wind under 
the great eaves of the stone house, Lind heard the trail- 
ing clangor of the wild geese. Their cry smote upon the 
heart like the loneliness of the universe . . . a magnifi- 
cent seeking through solitude—an endless quest. 


4. 


The farm of Thorvald Thorvaldson lay half-way be- 
tween the Gares’ and the Bjarnassons’. 

Thorvald had nine girls, and no boys. Consequently 
his farm was a fragment of neglect, a ragged piece of 
land of no value save as a hindrance to Caleb Gare’s 
ambition to extend his pastures farther westward. 
Which hindrance, Thorvald maintained, was gratifying in 
itself, 

Lind stopped there on her way home from the Bjarnas- 
sons’ to speak to Mrs Thorvaldson about the condition 


58 WILD GEESE 


of the scalps of her younger daughters. She would bring 
the matter up delicately. 

From the seat of the Bjarnasson children’s cart, Lind 
saw Mrs Thorvaldson struggling with the cattle in the 
milk yard—saw her pushed and jostled about by the un- 
manageable animals, which she was trying to separate. 
Lind saw also that she was heavy with child. 

Somehow, Lind could not bring herself to mention the 
heads. She waved good morning to the woman and then 
told Andres to drive back to the road. She herself would 
use kerosene on the young ones. 

From the top of the sharp ridge that looked down 
upon the forks where three roads met, from the north, 
the east and the west, Lind saw a man on horseback. 
His head was bare, his hat slung across the pommel of his 
saddle. His clothes, the contour of his well-groomed 
head, even the way he sat astride his horse signified 
to Lind that he was from the world beyond Nykerk Sid- 
ing, from the direction of which he had come. For some 
reason she felt shy about encountering him, and asked 
Andres to rein in and let the stranger pass ahead of them 
on the forks. Andres stopped the horse, and Lind was 
confident that the man on horseback rode on without hav- 
ing seen them. 


5 
Mark Jordan smiled to himself as he jogged along the 
road on the Indian pony he had hired at the Siding to 


take him to the farm of the Hungarian, Anton Klovacz. 
His greenish, ironical eyes, that could in an instant take 


WILD GEESE 59 


on the shadow of a dream, searched the dust in the road 
ahead of him, and saw never the track or trace of human 
passage. For a day, then, fully, the road had been empty 
save, perhaps, for the foraging sparrows. What an ideal 
place to come to, away from Arbuthnot and his wife and 
their eternal friends, who would leave their tracks on 
pavement, if self-importance counted for anything. But 
then—perhaps he was unfair. Arbuthnot wasn’t such a 
rotter in some ways. But he did get on the nerves of a 
man whose nerves were raw to begin with—with his ever- 
lasting talk on art and the City Beautiful of To-morrow. 
A good architect, in his way, but an unbearable ass. No 
better as an architect than Mark himself, if it came to 
that, for all his name and fame. Well, he was free of 
it all for a half year, thanks to good old Doc Brisbane! 
There was a medico with perception! One who could 
tell what the soul of a man wanted long before the body 
tumbled to it, fret about as it might in the quest. 

God, how good this air was! It smelt like the young 
lilac leaves you used to suck against your lips and break 
with a snap when you were a kid, or like the slippery 
elm bark you used to chew and make a viscous cud of! 

Dwelling on his childhood, Mark thought of the kindly 
old priests in the mission who had given him everything 
in the way of training and education in the hope that his 
mind would develop along religious lines. If they had 
harbored any resentment, they had concealed it well, 
and had encouraged him when he took early to archi- 
tecture. He would have to go back and visit them 
when this “jump cure” as old Brisbane called it, was 
effected. 


60 WILD GEESE 


Mark paused in the road and looked out over the 
prairie, flat and new looking, as though hills had not yet 
been dreamt of by its Creator. On the north side -of 
the road there was stiff timber, scantily green as yet, 
springing up from ground that was black and scarred 
from an old fire. Mark dismounted and stepped in 
among the charred stumps of the old trees. At the base 
of one, leaning against it as if for shelter, grew a tiny 
wood violet, almost colorless. He looked at it but did 
not pluck it as he was first tempted to do. He laughed 
at himself for his compassion and walked back to his 
horse. 

“We all do that—lean up against burnt stumps—some- 
how or other,” he mused. And then he wondered, rather 
relevantly, he thought, “What would have happened to 
me if mother and father had lived?” 

As he rode along, a mood of loneliness overtook him— 
the same cold feeling of belonging nowhere that he had 
had at night when he was a little boy, after the priest 
had put the light out and he lay listening to the rain 
on the glass of the window. He shook himself impa- 
tiently. Time he was getting over that morose habit 
now, nearing thirty. He looked over his shoulder and 
saw that the sun made only a fillip of gold on the rim of 
the horizon. A steady blue was creeping over the prairie 
in place of the magnificent light that had been there 
the moment before. The churr of the frogs had begun 
in the ditches along the road, and the small leaves on the 
willows hung with a faint indolence. Suddenly Mark 
stopped his horse to listen. He lifted his face up to 


WILD GEESE 61 


- catch the strange sound that was passing over him, a 
great summoning trumpet-call, that seemed to hollow out 
the heavens. 

“Wild geese,’ he said aloud. ‘They sound as if they 
know something about it—something about being alone.” 


CHAPTER III 
1 


ON a morning ringing with bird-song, Ellen and Martin 
took the wagon into the “bush” for wood. It was before 
school time, an hour after sunrise, and the Teacher, who 
always breakfasted, of course, with the family, rode with 
them. 

When the horse came to a stand, Lind asked Ellen and 
Martin to listen. In the stillness among the dogwood 
trees the first sunlight lay like a faint yellow dust. Sud- 
denly a cat-bird called. Lind trilled, whistled. The 
cat-bird returned the salute on the identical note. Lind 
laughed. ‘There was a birdish laugh from the trees. 

. “We used to do that when we were kids,” said Ellen. 
“A long time ago y 

“Remember that blue-jay we saw, Ellen? That one 
that was mad at the cat-birds,’’ Martin put in. There 
was something almost eager in his voice. 

Ellen laughed her half-startled laugh. She did every- 
thing suddenly, nervously, after a period of slow con- 
sidering. 

Lind followed them into the timber, where Martin fell 
to with the ax, cleaving with sloping blows into the bole 
of a dry birch. The swing and shock of the ax broke 
into the cool morning and woke a chorus of echoes. 
While Martin chopped, Lind helped Ellen drag the trees, 


which were small, into a clearing. Then Ellen, with a 
62 





WILD GEESE 63 


hatchet, trimmed them down to the trunk. After- 
ward they piled them into the wagon, and saw that the 
sun was now free of the bush and that it must be well 
on toward nine o’clock. Before Ellen returned to the 
wagon the last time she ran a thorn through her shoe 
and into her foot. But she said nothing about it. Ellen 
had come to pride herself on her stoic endurance of 
physical pain, and no matter how small or great it was, 
pain was no longer distinguished for her by its degree. 

Martin was happy this morning. Lind saw that he 
was, and would have liked to engage him in conversation 
about himself, but knew his shyness. 

It always made him happy to feel his strength where 
results were immediate. He did not know, however, 
that this was the cause of his mood. He would have 
whistled, or even stamped with both feet on the floor of 
the wagon had the Teacher not been there. 

Caleb Gare was inspecting a number of cattle in the 
barn-yard when Martin and Ellen returned. They had 
left the Teacher at the school. 

Caleb called to Martin. 

“These steers go in to the Siding to-morrow. Take 
Ellen with you.” 

Martin wondered to himself what object there was in 
selling steers just now, but he said nothing. Then he 
noticed that one of the animals was a favorite of Ju- 
dith’s, which she had raised and planned to sell in the 
fall in order to purchase a winter coat. Still he made 
no comment. It was Judith’s steer... . 

That day Ellen applied poultices of hot soaked bread 
to her foot. Amelia was concerned about it, but, as was 


64 WILD GEESE 


her way, made no mention of it to Caleb when he came 
in for the noon meal. 

Charlie had given Amelia further cause for distress 
that morning. He had ridden the mare so hard that she 
had come home in a white froth: and Charlie knew it 
was forbidden to spend the animal in such a way. The 
mare was still quivering in the stable when Caleb ex- 
amined her. It happened that Judith had just returned 
from the muskeg where, mounted on Prince, she had roped 
out a calf that had broken from the pasture with a num- 
ber of cows. | 

Caleb entered the house. Amelia, busily taking bis- 
cuits from the oven for dinner, saw his face and knew 
that something had happened. Ellen’s foot and now 
trouble over the mare. Amelia pushed her hair back 
from her hot forehead. 

“Where is Judith?” Caleb demanded, the points of his 
eyes fixed. 

Ellen, who was setting the table, straightened her nar- 
row back and listened. So Judith, thoughtless of Amelia, 
had done something again. 

‘“She’s putting ointment on her hands,” Amelia said. 

“And well she might! Ointment! T—t—ch! Bring 
her here!” 

“What is it, Caleb? What has she done?” 

“Done! Bring her here, I say!” The veins in his 
neck swelled to livid welts. Amelia hurried past him to 
call Jude from the loft, but the girl had heard the con- 
versation where she stood upstairs. 

She came into the kitchen, her hands hanging before 
her and covered with yellow salve where the rope with 


WILD GEESE 65 


which she had rescued the calf had burned into the 
flesh. She regarded Caleb coldly. 

“Well?” she asked. 

Caleb approached her, his head jutting forward from 
his shoulders. 

“Don’t you ‘well’? me! What have you done with 
the mare? What have you done with her, I say?” His 
voice rose from a sort of husky whisper to a thin peal. 

“T wasn’t riding the mare!” 

“Then who had her? Who had her but you—tell me 
that.” 

“Charlie rode the mare, Caleb! I told him before he 
took her out to be easy with her,’’? Amelia put in hur- 
riedly. 

Caleb threw back his head with a jerk. He laughed. 

“Vou did! Well, well!” 

Laughing softly, he shuffled into the other room and 
sat down to the table. Presently the others came in and 
quietly took their places. When Lind entered and threw 
her wide lacy hat upon the hair sofa, Amelia winced at 
the incongruity of her presence in the room. The 
Teacher smiled at them all and sat down in her chair. 

“Tt’s the most beautiful day we have had yet this 
spring,’ she remarked. ‘I have never seen the sky so 
blue or the trees so green. The rain last night seems 
to have cleared the whole world. It must have been fine 
for the crops, Mr Gare?” 

“Fim—yes, yes indeed. So she threw you, eh, Char- 
lie?” Caleb asked the boy, scarcely glancing at Lind in 
reply to her question. He winked at Charlie and Charlie 
grinned broadly. The youngest of the Gares had an 


66 WILD GEESE 


habitual snuffle which Amelia had tried in vain to correct. 
He was an anemic looking boy, and cared little for 
anything except that which was forbidden. This trait 
appealed to Caleb, and he chose to humor it, to the an- 
noyance and indignation of the others, especially Judith. 
Charlie had always taken advantage of his father’s len- 
iency. 

“Nix,” said Charlie. “She smelt a bear. The Klo- 
vaczs shot at two last night—one got away with a pig.” 

“Bears, eh? That means trouble,’’ Caleb observed, 
to switch the subject. ‘Have to look out on the way to 
Nykerk to-morrow, Martin. Keep Ellen under cover. 
She’s nice and plump. Eh, Ellen?” He leaned over 
and playfully tweaked Ellen’s arm. She smiled, duti- 
fully. Judith made a grimace which she did not try to 
hide. 

To the end of the meal Caleb was genial, jovial, in 
fact. No further mention was made of the mare. Ju- 
dith had not ridden her, after all. 


2 


For the rest of that day, Judith’s hands were of no 
use to her, so she slipped away with her dog, Pete, 
through the bush to a little ravine where a pool had 
gathered below the thread of a spring. Pete caught a 
scent and was off, and Judith was left alone. 

It was clingingly warm, as before rain. Not know- 
ing fully what she was doing, Judith took off all her 
clothing and lay flat on the damp ground with the waxy 
feeling of new, sunless vegetation under her. She needed 


WILD GEESE 67 


to escape, to fly from something—she knew not what. 
Caleb ... Ellen . . . the farm, the hot reek of manure 
in the stable when it was close as to-day. Life was 
smothering, overwhelming her, like a pillow pressed 
against her face, like a feather tick pinning down her 
body. 

She would have struck Caleb to-day had it not been 
for Amelia. Always pity stood in the way of the tide of 
violence she felt could break from her. Pity for Amelia, 
who would get what Caleb did not dare mete out to her, 
Judith. 

Oh, how knowing the bare earth was, as if it might 
have a heart and a mind hidden here in the woods. The 
fields that Caleb had tilled had no tenderness, she knew. 
But here was something forbiddenly beautiful, secret as 
one’s own body. And there was something beyond this. 
She could feel it in the freeness of the air, in the depth 
of the earth. Under her body there were, she had been 
_ taught, eight thousand miles of earth. On the other 
side, what? Above her body there were leagues and 
leagues of air, leading like wings—to what? The mar- 
velous confusion and complexity of all the world had 
singled her out from the rest of the Gares. She was no 
longer one of them. Lind Archer had come and her 
delicate fingers had sprung a secret lock in Jude’s being. 
She had opened like a tight bud. There was no going 
back now into the darkness. 

Sven Sandbo, he would be home in May, so they said. 
Was it Sven she wanted, now that she was so strangely 
free? Judith looked straight above her through the net- 
work of white birch and saw the bulbous white country 


68 WILD GEESE 


that a cloud made against the blue. Something beyond 
Sven, perhaps . . . Freedom, freedom. She dipped her 
blistered hands down into the clear topaz of the pool, 
lifted them and dipped them and lifted them, letting 
the drops slip off the tips of her fingers each time like 
tiny cups of light. She thought of the Teacher, of her 
dainty hands and her soft, laughing eyes . . . she came 
from another life, another world. She would go back 
there again. Her hands would never be maps of blisters 
as Jude’s were now, from tugging a calf out of a mud- 
hole. Jude hid her hands behind her and pressed her 
breast against the cold ground. Hard, senseless sobs 
rose in her throat, and her eyes smarted with tears. She 
was ugly beyond all bearing, and all her life was ugly. 
Suddenly she was bursting with hatred of Caleb. Her 
large, strong body lay rigid on the ground, and was 
suddenly unnatural in that earthy place. Then she re- 
laxed and wept like a woman. .. . 


3 


Judith dressed, whistled to Pete, and when he came 
bounding joyously toward her, walked slowly back home. 
On the way she passed the north cow-pasture where Caleb 
kept a few bull-calves among the milch cows. She 
leaned against the fence and looked in at two of the 
plump young bulls who were dancing about and playfully 
skulling each other, having apparently just discovered 
their sprouting horns. She saw how they had developed 
since she had last observed them. Their grizzled, stupid 
faces had become more surly, their flanks heavier, their 


a 


‘py 
v 


& # 


WILD GEESE 69 


dewlaps smoother and whiter and thicker. Caleb would 
soon be ringing their noses, and they would become spirit- 
lessly ugly, with all this madcap frenzy suppressed. 
They were beautiful bulls, and would bring a nice sum 
from one of the Icelanders, perhaps. Judith felt an in- 
ner excitement in watching them. She turned to go, feel- 
ing dismayed that she should be so attracted by the 
young beasts. But a curiosity over which she had no 
control held her there for many minutes. Ah, how 
violent they were becoming in their play. . . . 

Judith heard Charlie crashing through the timber on 
his horse, calling the cattle. With the dog at her heels 
she fled home. 

Ellen was examining her foot when Jude came into the 
house. 

“T can take the cattle with Martin to-morrow, Ellen,’ 
Jude said sympathetically. ‘Your foot looks like it’s 
spavined.” 

“Tt’ll be all right in the morning, I hope,’ Ellen re- 
plied. “Father wants me to go.” 

“Huh!” Judith retorted. ‘And you’d go, too,—on 
crutches!” 

‘Flush, girls!”” Amelia pleaded. “Let’s not have any 
more trouble to-night. The mare’s enough for one day.” 

However, when Caleb came in from the stable, Judith 
took pains to mention to Ellen again her willingness to 
go in her place. The Teacher, working at her desk at 
the other end of the room, watched Caleb out of the 
corner of her eye. She made a little wager with herself 
that he would appear not to have heard Judith. She 
won the wager. 


70 WILD GEESE 


After a moment, Caleb, looking up from his agriculture 
journal, called loudly to Amelia who was in the kitchen. 

“Heard to-day that Sven Sandbo’s comin’ up from the 
Siding to-morrow,” he said. 

Jude’s color rose at once. Ellen glanced at her. Both 
knew, as did the Teacher, that he had not been off the 
farm all day and could not possibly have heard such a 
thing, no one having stopped in. 

A little later, after he had talked casually on other 
things, he turned to Judith and said, “You can use the 
new harrow on the east garden to-morrow, Jude.” 

“Ellen can’t go with Martin the WAY hr foot is,’ 
Judith observed. 

“You mean, Jude, not if Sven Sandbo is coming up 
from Nykerk. Hah! Hah! Caught you that time!” He 
laughed heartily, passing his hand across his mustache. 
His eyes gleamed with open-hearted mischief. How he 
loved to have sport with the girls on the subject of 
beaux! ‘“You’re too young to be moonin’, Jude. I no- 
tice it in you lately. Haven’t you, Miss Archer?” 

Lind smiled at Judith, who sprang up, furious. Caleb 
regarded her with amusement. 

“Mother, I’m afraid Jude is forgetting herself.” He 
turned and chuckling almost inaudibly went out once 
more on one of his mysterious inspections about the place. 

“Oh, Jude, you know what that always means!” ElI- 
len whispered so Lind should not hear. ‘Why on earth 
can’t you control yourself?” 

But Judith was sitting dumb and somber at the win- 
dow, looking out into the twilight. In a few minutes 
she got up and began to help Amelia with the supper. 


WILD GEESE 71 


“T wish we could stop eating once in a while,”’ Amelia 
sighed. “It gets tiresome.” 

Caleb did not come in at all for supper. Everyone, 
even Lind, knew the significance of that. After the 
children had gone to bed he would be heard talking in 
a low tone to Amelia, and in the morning her eyes would 
be ringed with shadows. During the meal, Ellen looked 
across the table at Judith with the rebuke that the 
younger girl had come to hate. Judith bolted her food 
and went upstairs. 

When Caleb returned indoors it was to announce bed 
time. He did so pleasantly, but Amelia saw below his 
pleasantness. The children and Lind went to the loft. 
Caleb was the clock by which the family slept, woke, ate 
and moved. 

“Five in the morning, everybody. Ellen and Martin 
are going to take the steers in to Nykerk, remember,” he 
called after them. 


4 

Everyone, including Lind, to whom the tyranny was 
rather novel, was at breakfast at half past five. 

There was this to be said about the enforced early ris- 
ing: you saw the unbelievable dawn whether you wished 
to or not. It unfolded like a vast flower over the edge of 
the horizon. The earth was clear and dark under it, 
as if seen through blue glass. One was aware for the 
first time of standing on a sphere that moved rhythmi- 
cally through space. It was an hour of crystal-clear 
perceptions. 


72 WILD GEESE 


But breakfast was a bleak affair: Ellen was pale from 
the pain in her foot, and Amelia torn between mother 
solicitude and the submission she had learned through her 
trying wifehood. Caleb and Martin talked about the 
sale of the cattle; no mention was made of Judith’s steer, 
although Martin resolved to see that she was given one 
in its place. 

Judith sullenly hurried out after she had had a cup 
of coffee, and began to pitch manure into the cart. Her 
hands were still swollen and sore, but pride kept her 
from complaining. If Ellen could stand it for Amelia’s 
sake, she could. 

Ellen and Martin drove away with the steers before 
the Teacher could say good-by to them. 

She ran out and watched them disappear down the 
road, Martin stooped over on the wagon seat like an old, 
tired man, Ellen sitting rather too stiff to be natural. 

And Caleb Gare left to attend a business meeting of 
the church at Yellow Post. Although it took time from 
his own affairs, it pleased him to be one of the trustees 
of the church, as he was of the school. The pleasure 
came mainly from seeing that none of the other guard- 
ians of the church funds abused the trust placed in them. 

It was because he had a little suspicion concerning 
Bjorn Aronson, who was treasurer of the church funds, 
that he went to the meeting that particular day. 

He watched the younger brother of Fusi Aronson nar- 
rowly throughout the meeting, in which it was taken for 
granted that the money Bjorn was entrusted with lay 
safely in the strong box at the Aronson farm. Caleb 
saw no reason why Bjorn, at this time of the year, should 


WILD GEESE 73 


have been able to buy three head of pure bred Jersey 
cattle from that infidel, Klovacz, who did not even belong 
to the church. Caleb had singled out the new cattle in 
the herd, and had recognized them at once. 

After the meeting he stepped up behind Bjorn, who 
was untying his horses from the hitching post. 

“See you have some Jerseys,” he said, tapping the 
young man on the shoulder. Bjorn started. Caleb 
smiled. 

“Ya-—a, sure,” said Bjorn. 

“Get ’em at the Siding?” 

“Naa-ow. Bought from Klovacz. He needed the 
money, before he goes avay,’ Bjorn said. His eyes 
traveled down the road. Caleb smiled again, balancing 
back on his heels thoughtfully. Bjorn got into his wagon 
and drove down toward Yellow Post proper, giving his 
horses the whip. 

Bjorn was not the man his brother was, but because 
Fusi was honest Oeland took it that good blood ran all 
the way through the family. There they made their 
little mistake, Caleb thought, congratulating himself 
upon having discovered a stain upon the Aronson es- 
cutcheon which he might with ease lay his finger on. 
No, he had long known that Bjorn was not the boy his 
brother was. Bjorn had not even troubled to learn Eng- 
lish with the pains that Fusi had given to it. Caleb 
would pay a little visit to Fusi on the way home, he de- 
cided. 

_ There was another little matter that Caleb thought it 
would be advantageous to attend to. He got into his 
cart, clucked to the horse and headed him in the direc- 


74 WILD GEESE 


tion of the Klovacz homestead. The day was pleasant 
and Caleb was in an exceedingly good humor. By turn- 
ing his head westward he could look upon his own fields, 
already green and promising. On the east lay the strag- 
gling, stony land of Anton Klovacz, with his few acres of 
miserable timothy. He laughed at the irony that lay 
in Mark Jordan’s coming to this morose patch of land, 
all that Anton Klovacz, with rarest good luck pending 
upon the granting of the government title, would leave 
in his will a few short months hence! 

Caleb turned into the narrow, infrequently-used wood 
road that led past Anton Klovacz’s outbuildings. He 
drove slowly, and let the wheels run on the grass along- 
side, so that there should be as little sound as possible 
from them. He craned his neck to see all that he could 
of the Klovacz place. 

It was months since he had talked with Anton, but he 
had heard at Yellow Post that the man was failing fast 
and was leaving very soon for the city where a great spe- 
Cialist was to examine him. But that news only corrobo- 
rated the statement of Bart Nugent, who in his last letter 
had told Caleb that Mark Jordan was leaving at once to 
tend to Klovacz’s homestead during his absence. Bart 
was a clever man, and he had done Caleb a life-long serv- 
ice, never suspecting to what purpose. Bart had fondly 
thought that Caleb had Mark’s interest at heart because 
of Amelia. A veterinary surgeon and a keeper of stables, 
Bart had managed to continue his acquaintance with 
Mark Jordan in a friendly fashion even after the war, 
and had faithfully reported every move that the young 
man made. Caleb chuckled to himself when he reviewed 


WILD GEESE 75 


the situation. Bart had been a good sort. But now—— 

Caleb removed his last letter from his vest pocket, to- 
gether with the one from the hospital which had for- 
warded it to him. He shook his head, and a look came 
into his eyes that was seldom seen there. It was the 
look of the old when they hear of the passing of the old. 
Amelia must never learn that Bart Nugent was gone. 
For it was Bart and his assiduous reporting on Mark that 
she feared. Bart was Caleb’s only connection with the 
outer world. Even if Amelia did learn of Mark’s pres- 
ence on the Klovacz farm, she must never know that 
Bart Nugent was dead. Mark Jordan would return to 
the city, and Caleb would lose all trace of him, but that 
Amelia must never know. For that would mean an end 
to Amelia’s fear. 

Caleb skulked along in the cart, close to the alder 
bushes that were flowering like creamy curds between 
the road and the Klovacz farm. He heard the voices of 
two men who were approaching on the opposite side of the 
fence. One voice was reedy and high as a child’s, almost 
with the thin wail of wind in a chimney; the other was rich 
and controlled, full of another kind of youth. Caleb at 
once hated the deep assurance in the second voice. He 
knew by instinct that it was Mark Jordan’s. The other 
was that of Anton Klovacz, dying of consumption with 
his feet on government soil. 

Through the thick weave of the bushes, Caleb caught 
a glimpse of the two men. Jordan was tall and broad, 
Anton Klovacz still taller and as narrow as a pine board. 
His shoulders were scoop-shaped, his face all gone to 
cheek bones and hollows. “God, how he looks!” said 


76 WILD GEESE 


Caleb to himself. Disease—destruction—things that he 
feared—things out of man’s control. 

As the men passed, Caleb turned his head and followed 
the form of Mark Jordan until his eyes ached from the 
strain. Pah, how like his father he was—walking like 
he was God Almighty! The furious jealousy of Caleb’s 
earlier years came into his heart again like a ravaging 
disease long checked and now broken out more vio- 
lently than ever. Bareheaded, he sat in the cart with 
his long arms stretched rigid down between his knees, his 
hands clasped together. The reins hung loose, the horse 
pawed impatiently at the ground. A cat-bird in the 
nearest alder-bush made a querying little sound. But 
Caleb sat on, oblivious to all about him. Not his son, 
not his son, that handsome lad! The son of Amelia and 
big Del Jordan, who was gored by a bull. Caleb’s sons 
—Caleb’s children, what were they? Well born, it was 
true, and not out of wedlock. But twisted and gnarled 
and stunted as the growth on the bush land he owned, 
and barren as had been his acres before he had put his 
own life’s blood into them for a meager yield. Caleb’s 
head slipped down until his chin touched his chest. The 
soft wind moved in his scrag of hair, and in the invisible 
touch was a gesture of infinite pity. 


5 


Caleb turned into the farmyard of Fusi Aronson. 
His face was lined with hard mirth. He had come upon 
a choice errand. The great Icelander strode down to 
meet him, and bade him a stiff good day. 


WILD GEESE re 


“I hear Bjorn has bought some cattle from Klovacz,” 
Caleb began smoothly, dismounting from the cart. “He 
must be well off this spring.” 

“It was in settlement of a debt Klovacz owed him,” 
Fusi replied shortly. 

Caleb laughed. “Oh, no, it wasn’t, Fusi. Klovacz 
got good money in return for those same Jerseys.” 

Fusi started. “What do you mean, Mr Gare?” 

Caleb stepped closer to the Icelander and lifted his eye- 
brows meaningly. 

“Of course he’ll put the money back in the strong box, 
Fusi. The church needs it, you know,” he said gently, 
laying his finger on the bib of the big man’s overalls. 
He turned to go. 

“Of course,” he added, “you needn’t fear that I’m goin’ 
to squeal.” 

Fusi, in his heavy way, was looking at him uncertainly, 
not quite grasping the thing. Then the slow red surged 
up into his face. He knotted his huge fists and plunged 
toward Caleb. 

“Take your time, Fusi, take your time,”’ Caleb mocked. 
“Look in the strong box first. And by the way, when 
you are ready to deal with me about that timber down 
there between my hayfields, let me know. ‘The sooner 
the better for me.” 

He mounted the cart and drove away. 


CHAPTER IV, 
1 


Tur three black-eyed Klovacz children no longer 
brought crocuses and violets to Lind on the May morn- 
ings. Their father, Anton Klovacz, was seriously ill, 
Lind was told. And because there was no mother in the 
family, all the children left with him in the covered 
wagon for the city in the south, where a great physician 
would be called into attendance. Anton’s savings would 
go, of course. 

He had hired a man to look after his live-stock during 
his absence, the children informed Lind on their last 
day at school. He was a very nice, strong man, they 
said, who had brought them candy from the city and had 
let them search his pockets and keep all the silver they 
found there. On the very first day they had got so well 
acquainted with him that the younger of them had scram- 
bled all over him in a free-for-all tumble, until they 
finally got him on his back on the ground, where he lay 
laughing heartily. 

A few days later he had gone to Yellow Post and had 
brought back a box that sang and made music. It had 
been sent to him from the city from which he had come. 
A number of books with shiny leather covers had come, 
too, but the children couldn’t make out a word of them, 


or at least not a whole line anywhere. Whoever the 
78 


WILD GEESE 79 


man was, it was plain that the children had been won 
over by him completely. 

The evenings were now so marvelously tender that 
Lind could not tolerate the imprisoned feeling on the 
Gare farm. She made a habit of going on long cross- 
country tramps alone, after school, returning barely in 
time for supper. She rarely met anyone, either driv- 
ing or on foot, to detract from the lonely charm of her 
jaunts. Wondering a little about the man from the city 
who had come to the Klovacz place, she had several times 
been tempted to walk over that way. Of course he 
would be only a laborer, and would doubtless not be 
bothered with talking to her, but merely a glimpse of 
him would restore her confidence that the world she had 
come from was still in existence. 

One day the Sandbo children left their pony for her to 
ride. The evening set in with a fine gray web of rain, 
and Lind dressed in rough clothes, mounted the pony 
and rode southeast, toward the Klovacz homestead. She 
took the narrow, winding trail that Caleb had driven 
on not long before. She passed the alder bushes and 
came to a stretch where the chokecherry trees on either 
side bowed toward each other and almost shut out the 
sky. 

On the road Lind met a man, walking bareheaded 
with his hat in his hand in the gray half-light. She rec- 
ognized him as the man she had seen from the top of the 
ridge on her way from the Thorvaldsons’. 

He was tall and rangy, and dressed in the conven- 
tional “camp” outfit of the outsider: breeches and leg- 
gings, brown shirt open at the throat, mackinaw and 


80 WILD GEESE 


slouch hat. When Lind saw him approaching she smiled 
faintly at his ostentatiously appropriate clothes. She 
knew immediately that he was Klovacz’s “hired man.” 

As they passed each other, they exchanged the furtive 
survey of strangers meeting in lonely parts. Lind saw 
that he was rugged and brown, with an odd over-casting 
of paleness, delicateness; that his eyes were thoughtful 
and well set. Mark Jordan saw only that here was a 
girl who was riding in the rain as if she was enjoying it. 

Then they passed on. 

But Lind could not continue. She was overcome with 
a desire to turn back and stop in at the Klovacz place, 
to make some pretext. He was not an ordinary laborer, 
after all. She held the horse on the road for fully a 
minute trying to decide on what to do. Then it began 
to rain in earnest. 

The little “sod” house of the Klovaczs, and the few 
straggling out-buildings that the recent settlers had 
erected, stood in the downpour like huddling outcast 
things. Until two weeks ago this place had been home— 
a place to come to from the field, from the bush, from 
school. Lind’s eyes grew misty as she thought of the 
Klovaczs, that plucky Hungarian family. 

The pony trotted up to the “stoop” before the house, 
and Lind in a moment was knocking at the door. 

Mark Jordan opened it. 

“May I come in out of the wet?” Lind smiled, winking 
the rain off her eyelashes. ‘I am Lind Archer, the 
teacher at Oeland.” 

Mark stepped back and threw the door wider, check- 
ing the exclamation that came to his lips. His keen eye 


WILD GEESE 81 


took in his unexpected guest in a quick sweep, and left 
him a bit bewildered. 

“Hello!” he said. ‘‘You’re out in bad weather, I’d 
say. Come right in!” | 

Lind looked hesitatingly toward the pony, and Mark 
stepped quickly out of the door. “‘I’ll tend to the horse, 
Miss Archer. You go in and make yourself comfort- 
able.” Standing on the narrow stoop, they looked at 
each other for a moment rather awkwardly, and then 
for no reason whatever, both laughed outright. Mark 
turned away to the pony and Lind went indoors. 

She looked about the kitchen into which she had 
stepped. It already bore that masculine orderliness, 
where bits of rubbish were brushed out of the way and 
invisible unless one stooped and looked under stove or 
cupboard. 

Something was cooking on the stove. The oilcloth- 
covered table was set for one. The rain pattered with 
myriad fingertips on the pane. Lind pulled down the 
blind. 

Mark Jordan came back into the house. The rain 
clustered in his dark hair like beads and streamed down 
his cheeks. 

“Tt’s a bad night to be out in,” he offered by way of 
conversation, and then remembered that he had said 
something like that before. To tell the truth, the com- 
ing of Lind when he had given himself up to friendless 
solitude for an indefinite period had somewhat discon- 
certed him. 

“Oh, I love it,” said Lind, happy and at ease. “I 
love riding or walking in the rain. If you turn me out 


82 WILD GEESE 


I won’t be a bit concerned.” She laughed up at him 
from the chair she had taken near the stove. 

“Then why did you come at all?” he countered, re- 
gaining himself. 

“Why—oh, I don’t know. I was lonely, I guess,” 
Lind said slowly. ‘You looked like a human being out 
there on the road, and I-haven’t seen a real one for over 
a month.” 

“H-m. Well, I hope you won’t be disappointed,” 
Mark smiled. Lind saw that he had good white teeth, 
and a very attractive mouth. “I was just making a 
little supper. A hermit doesn’t eat much for the reason 
that it’s a lot of fuss preparing food for one person. 
Nearly always make too much or too little.” 

He had put his foot up on one of the kitchen chairs 
in front of the fire, and rested his elbow on his knee, 
while he watched the coffee come to a boil on the stove. 
Lind removed her soft hat and her jacket. She wore 
corduroy knickerbockers that were almost waterproof, 
and stout shoes. 

“This is really a cozy little house,’’ she observed. 

“Yes,” said Mark, glancing about it with her, “not 
bad at all considering what Klovacz had to go on. Poor 
devil. I don’t expect to see him come back at all.” He 
reached across the stove to a row of pans that hung 
behind it and took down a small skillet. This he placed 
on the open fire, dropping into it a spoonful of lard from 
acan. The lard began to snap and smoke, and he deftly 
broke two eggs into the skillet. Lind watched him as 
though she had known him for a long time. He turned 
toward her. 


WILD GEESE 83 


“Will you set in with me, as they say hereabouts, 
Miss Archer?” he asked. “Or have you a dinner en- 
gagement?”’ 

Lind laughed and said, “Well, if you’ll let me do the 
dishes afterward. I’m afraid there won’t be anything 
left when I get home now, anyway, and Mr Gare doesn’t 
approve of feeding the tardy.” She watched Mark com- 
fortably while he went about setting the food on the 
table. His hands were fine and capable. Lind won- 
dered about him, but asked no questions. 

When everything was ready, Mark beckoned her to 
come to the table. He saw for the first time that she 
had taken off her hat, and that her hair glowed, smooth 
and lucent, away from her flushed cheeks. She moved to 
the chair at the table across from him. They looked 
at each other. Mark felt suddenly that he could not 
take his eyes off her. 

He pushed his chair back and squatted forward, lean- 
ing toward her. His eyes were dark and intent, with 
a regard that was almost impersonal. Damn it, he 
thought, it wasn’t fair for anyone so lovely to come and 
take a man unawares! 

“T wonder where you came from just now?” he asked 
curiously. 

Lind returned his gaze without smiling. For a mo- 
ment she seemed to be in a spell of abstraction, unable 
to answer. Fine whips of rain lashed about the little 
house, and the wind whistled in the birch trees out- 
side, bleak as a lost bird. These sounds defined the 
feeling of enclosed warmth and safety in the kitchen of 
the Klovaczs’. But they did also the opposed thing. 


84 WILD GEESE 


They stirred the fear of loneliness, the ancient dread of 
abandonment in the wilderness in the profounder natures 
of these two who found shelter here. For an imponder- 
able moment they sought beyond each other’s eyes, 
sought for understanding, for communion under the vast 
terrestrial influence that bound them, an inevitable part 
and form of the earth, inseparable one from the other. 
The moment was like a warm handclasp. 

Lind’s eyes dropped to the table. She lifted a fork, 
and put it down precisely in the same place. Mark 
Jordan sat with his chin resting on his hand, watching 
her. 

“Down,” said Lind, pointing upward with her finger. 

“T believe it,” he replied seriously. “I think I shall 
love you.” 

Lind laughed nervously. He frightened her, with his 
intent look. He had said that almost as if he wanted to 
hear how it would sound. 

“Do you? Will you tell me what your name is, first?” 
she said in a light tone, so that she might keep her 
voice casual. She picked up her fork. 

Mark was suddenly astounded at himself. What- 
ever had come over him to-night? He had probably 
driven her away. 

“Forgive me—I didn’t mean to startle you. But I’m 
quite sure of it. I want you to know that no one ever 
came to me as you have to-night—as if it were fated. 
I’ve been God-forsakenly lonely.” 

A wave of incredible feeling came over Lind as he 
spoke. Her impulse was to rush over to him and touch 


WILD GEESE 85 


this strange man’s hair, run her fingers through it so 
that he should no longer be a stranger to her. 

“Oh!” she cried, “I know that—so well!” She 
stretched her hand out suddenly on the table and leaned 
toward him. He put his own over it with a light pres- 
sure, and they smiled at each other. 

“But you haven’t yet told me your name?” she re- 
minded him. | 
He straightened in his chair. ‘Oh, lord no—I haven’t! 
It’s Jordan—Mark Jordan. Now let’s eat. You must 

be hungry.” He passed her the bread. 

“Flow’s the coffee?” he asked brusquely after a mo- 
ment. 

“Very, very good,” she assured him. “TI think you’re 
a surprisingly good cook.” 

The tension was for the moment broken, and they 
seemed to become fast friends in a few minutes. So 
they ate together, eggs and fried potatoes, bread and 
preserved wild plums that the Klovaczs had left, and 
coffee. They talked of the life at Oeland and of the 
harsh charm of it that each had felt upon arrival. Mark 
had not yet had time to get acquainted with the settlers. 
Lind sketched them to him in brief, sharp outlines. He 
was amused by her observations. 

“The Sandbos are your nearest neighbors,” she in- 
formed him. “Mrs Sandbo thinks she is happy in the 
death of her husband, but in reality he is more alive now 
than he ever was.” 

She told him of the Gares and the leaden spell that 
seemed to hang over them all. 


86 WILD GEESE 


“Judith is a beautiful creature. She’s like a—a wild 
horse, moré than anything I know of. But Caleb doesn’t 
give her a moment to herself even to think in. I seldom 
get near her, much as I should like to know her better.” 

“Fim—you could do a lot for the girl, I should think, 
if you got the chance,” said Mark. 

He told her a little of himself, of his upbringing among 
the priests in whose care he had been left upon the death 
of his father, whom he did not remember; the little he 
knew of his mother, an English gentlewoman who had 
died while he was still an infant; of his profession, and 
his hope of returning to the city at the end of six months 
with renewed eagerness to work. And Lind in turn told 
him of how she had happened to come here, and of her 
resolve to stay in spite of the rancor of Caleb Gare and 
the terrible oppression in his household. 

Lind finally whisked the dishes off the table and 
washed them, while Mark dried and set them in a neat 
row in the cupboard. Then Lind looked out the window 
and observed that the rain had nearly stopped. 

“Mrs Gare will think I am at the Sandbos’, and will not 
worry. But I must be getting home,” she said. Mark 
took his cap and coat off the wall and they went out 
together. There was still a thin rain and the trees were 
great watery blots against the darkening sky. 

Mark fed and watered Lind’s pony, then saddled a 
horse for himself. Lind stood in the dark stable while 
he got ready. There was a snug intimacy about the low- 
ceilinged log barn with the drip of the rain faintly audible 
on the roof, that made her doubly aware of Mark’s 
nearness. 


WILD GEESE 87 


He did not bother to light a lantern for the saddling 
of his horse. He worked hastily in the darkness lest 
the feeling he had toward this unaccountable girl should 
sweep him off his feet completely. When he was ready 
he walked the horse out, brushing against Lind who did 
not at once see him. The brief contact made his heart 
beat unreasonably. 

With the sensitive rain on their faces, they rode down 
the wood trail, the horses side by side. 

Although he had intended turning back long before, 
Mark rode with Lind well over the miles that led to the 
Gare farm. The rain stopped and finally overhead a 
great billow of hurrying cloud broke and revealed a 
misty star. From the northern swamps came a solitary 
hollow call, as if it was blown by a wind. It was the 
honking of a belated wild goose, the last to fly over 
the land to the half frozen marshes of the remoter north. 
Lind and Mark listened, standing still, then looked at 
each other. Suddenly, it seemed, the air had cleared, 
and the night stood over them, wide, infinite, transparent 
as a Strange dream... . 


2 


Amelia was getting a pail of water from the well when 
Lind returned. 

“Have you had supper, Miss Archer?” she asked as 
Lind came up to her. There was an almost anxious note 
in Amelia’s voice. 

“Yes, thanks, I have,” Lind replied rather breathlessly. 


88 WILD GEESE 


She was flushed and preoccupied after taking leave of 
Mark Jordan. . 

Amelia looked after her keenly. Lind turned sud- 
denly and came back to give the woman a hand with the 
pail. 

“Tve had an adventure to-night, Mrs Gare,” Lind 
confided. “I’ve been riding with a most interesting 
man, and a handsome one, too.” 

Amelia smiled. She thought Lind was joking. “Who 
is he? He must have dropped down with the rain.” 

“He is Klovacz’s hired man—just for a while. Out 
here for his health, or his nerves, rather. He’s not a 
farm hand by nature, of course,” Lind told her, and then 
could have bitten her tongue through for her thoughtless 
words. Intuitively she felt Amelia wince. 

“What is his name?” 

“Oh, what is it, anyway? Jordan—Mark Jordan,” 
Lind said. 

““Wh-—what?” 

“Mark Jordan,” Lind repeated, pulling at the pail 
which seemed suddenly to have thrown all its weight into 
her hand. Amelia paused for a moment as if she were 
staring at something in the dark pasture beyond the fence. 

“What is it?” Lind asked, looking in the same direc- 
tion. 

For a moment Amelia stood dumb. Her hand on the 
pail was limp. 

“Do you see anything, Mrs Gare?” Lind urged, glanc- 
ing at her. 

The woman’s face in the indefinite light was expression- 


WILD GEESE 89 


less, stony. When Lind spoke the second time, she 
started, and jerked at the handle of the pail. 

“No—no ...I thought I saw something. Bears 
around,” she murmured. ‘Martin must tend to those 
sheep pens.” 

They went indoors and Lind released the pail. 

Caleb was reading his weekly agriculture journal in 
the light of the lamp in the sitting room. After she had 
removed her outer clothing Lind came and sat at the 
table also, laying out her work for the morrow. Caleb 
did not glance up or speak to her. Lind had the feeling 
that he disapproved of her being absent from meals. 
_ She smiled to herself. 

Amelia entered the room and changed the chimney of 
the lamp, polishing the one she had taken off with a 
woolen cloth. During the momentary flickering of the 
light Caleb hitched his shoulders impatiently. 

Amelia spoke to Caleb lightly about the good amount 
of rain that had fallen, and casually mentioned the fact 
that she would soon have to be sending to the “mail or- 
der” for garden seed. Caleb made no response but 
shifted his position finally so that his back was almost di- 
rectly toward her. Amelia smiled at the Teacher, almost 
mischievously. Lind had never seen her in this lively, 
self-possessed mood. She wondered what had caused it. 

The others, after an unusually heavy day, had gone 
to bed early. In a little while Lind also went up to the 
loft. Caleb and Amelia were left alone. 

“Vou didn’t tell me he had come here,’’ Amelia darted 
out. Her eyes shone above white cheeks. She stood at 


90 WILD GEESE 


the side of the table and began with both hands to roll 
up the edge of the table cloth into a tight little furl. 

Caleb turned slowly. ‘‘Heh!” he sneered. “You 
found out, didn’t you?” 

“Ves, I found out,” Amelia repeated, holding each 
word as if she were trying to memorize it. “The Teacher 
has talked to him.” 

Caleb raised his eyebrows, and drew his left hand 
across his mustache. So the Teacher had done her little 
part, had she? He might have known that soft eyed 
chit would not keep her place. 

“Well? Are you going to fall on his neck? He'll 
thank ye for it,’ he said. He turned the pages of the 
journal, and Amelia heard his short clucking laugh. Her 
hands tightened on the rolled cloth. 

“No ... I won’t do anything,” she said. 

Caleb got up, looked into the stove, spat into it, and 
started to take off his shoes. 

Without another remark he went to bed. 

For the first time in his life, it was uncertainty that 
kept him silent, not the confidence that his will was under- 
stood without the utterance of his word. 


Ein 


CHAPTER V. 
1 


ANTON Ktovacz had left a five acre plot of scrub 
brush for Mark Jordan to clear. On the day after 
Lind’s visit he began “slashing,” going down into the 
bush with his ax after he had tended to the animals. 
The air was cool and clear, admirable for hard labor. 
He swung the ax with rapid, clean sweeps, enjoying the 
feel of the smooth wood handle on his palms. 

He thought of Lind Archer. Late the night before he 
had lain awake thinking of her. She had made him feel 
for the first time in his life that he was not hopelessly 
locked within himself. Her physical radiance alone car- 
ried him beyond himself, but that might have been simply 
explained away since she was the only woman he had 
seen or was likely to see during his sojourn here. Un- 
reasonable and out of keeping with his conceptions as 
it seemed, the deepest pulse of his being had leaped in 
recognition of her as he had looked across the table into 
her eyes the night before. The whole circumstance made 
him feel very humble and diffident now as he reviewed it. 
He must see her again, at once, and yet he feared to meet 
her lest he should disclose his feelings and find them 
unwelcome to her. And yet, he could not persuade him- 
self that she had not responded to him in part, at least. 
He knew his own impetuous, strong desires so well, and 
he realized that to see much of Lind here would be a tor- 


ment to him, especially if he should learn, for instance, 
91 


92 WILD GEESE 


that there was some one else in her life. He would have 
to see her again,in a day or two, call at the school per- 
haps, and ask permission to see her at the Gares. That 
would be the proper procedure. The modest country 
swain courting . . . he grinned as he thought of himself 
in the new role. And yet how different life seemed to-day. 
He rested one hand on the end of the ax and loosened 
his shirt about the throat. His eyes drifted down the 
stretch of Klovacz’s land where the homesteader’s elder 
sons had planted fodder grains before their departure. 
The landscape seemed to have a gentler look than it had 
yesterday. 

Lind . . . Lind Archer—what a pretty name it was! 
There had never been any one so suddenly complete, so 
gratifying to the complex and dubious thing that was 
himself—the self that had come out of nowhere and had 
always seemed to belong nowhere in spite of his advan- 
tages of education and natural endowment. Mark 
found himself wanting her again beside him, wanting 
her terribly as some one from whom he had never in his 
life been separated. 

He struggled to reason with himself. He had no 
right to dream about her this way. The next time he 
saw her he would keep himself well in check. He began 
again energetically slashing the ranks of choked birch 
trees right and left. 


2 


Fusi Aronson, on foot, came to deal with Caleb Gare 
in regard to a bit of timber land. He came with great 


WILD GEESE 93 


strides across the country, like some giant defender of 
a forgotten race. 

To fortify himself against killing Caleb Gare outright, 
he stopped to talk with the Teacher in her school. 

“T would do it now, but you say it would be no good. 
That is true: somehow his time will come,” Fusi agreed. 

He shook hands with Lind soberly and she admon- 
ished him once more against using violence on Caleb. 
Fusi, the great Icelander, proceeded across the road to 
make a sale of a certain piece of wood land. 


3 


Days flow on, even after the coming of an event of 
great purport. Even after great sorrow and great glad- 
ness, days flow on, and all things become the shining woof 
and the shadowed warp of the tapestry of the past. So 
went the day of Lind’s finding Mark Jordan, and Amelia’s 
learning of it. 

The Teacher came into the house after school on the 
day following the rain, to find Amelia bending over a 
half-completed piece-quilt which she had stretched out 
on the floor. She kept her eyes lowered to the bright 
squares and triangles of the quilt. A bar of sunlight, 
falling from the window across her sandy hair, cut the 
quilt diagonally. 

“What a gay comforter that’s going to be!” Lind ex- 
claimed, stooping to touch a bit of yellow satin. ‘How 
long did it take you to collect enough pieces?”’ 

Amelia did not answer at once, and when she did it 
was without raising her eyes. Lind divined that she 


94 WILD GEESE 


had been crying. Her impulse was to kneel beside 
Amelia and ask her what the trouble was, but she had come 
in a short time to know that sympathy would only embar- 
rass her. Whatever her grief, she jealously kept it to 
herself as if it were too intimate for unburdening. The 
gaudy pieces of the quilt shimmered and blazed. 

“These are odds and ends I’ve been saving since the 
twins were born,” Amelia said at last. ‘‘We don’t have 
much use for silks here you know. I thought I’d save 
up until the girls grew old enough to appreciate a nice 
cover.” 

Lind knelt and fingered one of the larger pieces of silk. 
“That’s pretty—a kind of brocade, isn’t it? Was it a 
dress?” 

““Ves—one that I had a long time before I was married.” 

“Tt must have been beautiful.” 

Amelia made no reply, and Lind, with a dozen fancies 
about the dress and where and how it had been worn, got 
to her feet and went out of doors. Before what was 
called the front of the log house, Ellen was planting 
sweet peas under a window. 

“There must be something—something over-ruling— 
greater than life, even,” Lind thought about Amelia. 

Ellen looked up, blinking. 

“Oh, I thought you were mother,” she laughed as 
Lind stopped beside her. ‘This light gets me all mixed 
up.” 

Lind knew it was not the light. 

“Ellen, when are you going to get new glasses?” 

Ellen glanced down at the flower bed. 


WILD GEESE 95 


“Oh, these will do till the doctor comes to the Siding 
again.” 

Lind knew that they had already done too long—per- 
haps forever too long. 

“Ellen,” began Lind, squatting on the ground beside 
the girl. “Would your father let me buy glasses for you?” 

“Oh, dear, don’t say anything like that to him!” 
Ellen cried. “He intends to get them for me—only he 
forgets. It isn’t the money.” 

Ellen’s discomfort was so apparent that Lind could 
say nothing more. Her defense of her father was a pitiful 
thing. There was nothing she could do—no help she 
could give that would be accepted. Even Judith was 
proud and distant when it came to gifts. She would not 
take Lind’s amber beads, for instance—insisted that they 
did not become her at all. 

‘Ellen, are you going to stay here all your life?” Lind 
asked quietly. 

Ellen tore a corner off a package of seed and poured 
some of the contents into her hand. 

“What else is there for me to do?” she returned, a 
slightly hostile line appearing at either side of her mouth. 
“There’s nothing the matter with this place, is there? 
I’ve lived here long enough to like it if you don’t.” Lind 
had never before heard her speak with such emotion. 
Her head was thrown back defiantly, her flat cheeks 
faintly pink. 

“Oh, Ellen, you know what I mean! You are bright, 
intelligent—with a little education you could make a great 
deal of yourself. You are wasted here. Have you 


96 WILD GEESE 


never asked your father to let you go away for a while?” 

“No,” she answered indifferently. ‘I don’t want to 
go.” Along the little trench she had dug she sifted the 
seeds. 

“Don’t tell me that, Ellen,” Lind persevered. ‘You 
do. I don’t want to turn you against your own home, 
or anything like that, dear. But I see such fine things in 
you—your love of music, for instance. Your father 
could afford to do without you for a few months every 
year, I’m sure. Why don’t you ask him?” 

“It’s no use for you to talk, Miss Archer,” Ellen re- 
turned calmly. She sometimes called Lind ‘teacher,’ 
but never used her first name. “I know just how hard 
he has to work to give us this home, and I know he can’t do 
without any of us. It’s not for you to say.” 

Lind got to her feet, hurt in spite of herself at Ellen’s 
attitude. She knew very well that the girl did not really 
believe what she said. But the contorted sense of loyalty 
that had been inbred in Ellen had overrun every other 
instinct like a choking tangle of weeds. She reasoned only 
as Caleb had taught her to reason, in terms of advantage 
to the land and to him. 

Lind went into the house and got a favorite book of 
verse which she took with her down the wood road past 
the school house to a little green mound overlooking a 
marsh, full of marigolds. Here she seated herself and 
tried to see the words on the page before her. But 
somehow her eyes would lift and lose themselves in the 
clear distance, where the long reeds stood like etchings 
of green and gold in the sun. She found herself won- 
dering about Mark Jordan, and, ridiculously enough con- 


tt nee 


WILD GEESE 97 


necting him with the auguring of the ancient grand- 
mother of the Bjarnassons. She had not invited him to 
call on her at the Gares’. It did not seem fitting some- 
how, although she knew he had wanted her to suggest it. 
So there seemed to be nothing for it but to make an er- 
rand to the Klovacz place... . 

With her long, smooth fingers she dug a half black, 
half white, stone loose from the earth at her side. 

“Tf the other side is mostly white, old Grandma Bjar- 
nasson’s tale is true. If black, not true,” she whimsied. 
The other side of the little stone was all white. Lind 
smiled to herself. 


4 


Every evening that Jude went for the cattle her eye 
roved in the direction of the Sandbos’. Any day now, 
Sven would come home. She knew that he would be 
looking for her, although he would not venture actually 
to the Gare farm. Caleb had, in the past, made it clear 
that young Sven Sandbo was not welcome on the place. 
His smile and the easy swagger of his shoulders were 
a little too impudent. } 

At sunset one evening in the middle of May, Judith 
rode the colt, Turk, north across the grazing land like 
some dark young goddess, her hair low against the 
horse’s mane, her blood avid for speed. She was con- 
scious of the picture she made, magnificently riding. 
And she was conscious of being watched. She reined 
in suddenly and threw up her head. Her cheeks, al- 
ready crimson, grew hot with color, her eyelids dropped. 


98 WILD GEESE 


Then, with a sweeping flourish of her whip, she rode 
forward to meet Sven Sandbo. 

Sven was walking across the open stretch between his 
own home and the brush that belonged to Fusi Aronson 
on the north. From here one could not be seen by any 
one at the Gares’. Sven came up to her and rested his 
arms across the damp neck of the horse. 

“You look great, Jude,” he said, looking at her delib- 
erately from head to foot. His hand ran over her over- 
alled thigh. She drew her foot back in the stirrup with 
a jerk. Sven laughed and thrust his hands into his 
pockets. He threw his weight on one foot and crossed 
the other lazily in front of it. “How’s everything to 
home?” he asked. 

Judith returned his searching glance with equal delib- 
erateness; took in coolly the city cut of his clothes, his 
flaming tie, his long shining shoes that had no bumps on 
the toes such as Martin’s yellow Sunday shoes had; and 
she made no comment upon his appearance. She knew 
that Sven expected her to. 

Sven was no fool. He laughed, and when he laughed 
there was no woman could withstand him, he had found. 
He had the most engagingly male smile in the world. 

‘“‘Aw, come on, Jude, you ain’t sore on me,” he coaxed, 
shaking her foot. “How are you, that’s what I’d like 
to know.” 

“T’m all right,” she replied coldly. ‘How are you?” 

“Fine. Couldn’t wait till I got back. Thought about 
you all the time, and I would o’ written, too, if I thought 
the old man wouldn’t get hold of it. Gosh, you’re pret- 


ee ee 


WILD GEESE 99 


tier ’n ever, Jude. Girls in town can’t: hold a candle 
to you. I’ve seen ’em all.” 

He whipped out a sterling silver cigarette case and 
held it so that it flashed in the sun. It seemed that he 
kept it out unnecessarily long to draw a cigarette from 
it. Judith looked away to the horizon, and her horse 
stamped an impatient hoof. Sven put a hand on the 
horse’s bridle, snapped the case together and slipped it 
back in his pocket. | 

“Come riding with me some night? I'll rot here if 
I don’t do something—or see somebody,” said he, in- 
dolently blowing the smoke upward into the air and flip- 
ping off the ash of his cigarette with his forefinger. He 
had not done that before he went away. Do something 
—see somebody, that was what he wanted to do, was 
it? Not something or somebody in particular. 

Judith sat silent, her eyes moodily on the distance. 

“Oh, that reminds me,” he went on, “‘here’s something 
I got you. All the girls are carryin’ ’em.’”’ He drew a 
little package out of his pocket and unwrapped it. From 
the tissue paper he took out a gold plated vanity case 
which he held up to Judith, looking at her face for the 
smile of surprise he fully expected to see there. 

Judith gave the thing a quick glance. 

Then with a swift twist of her body she forced the 
horse to rear upright on his hind legs, his mouth wide, 
nostrils distended, eyes swimming. She dropped her 
head against his mane, wheeled him about and was off in 
an instant on an animal that had gone mad. 

Sven, completely dazed, stared after her, saw the horse 


100 WILD GEESE 


jerk from the road and take the fence that enclosed a hay- 
field at a fine long sweep, like a slender boat rising on a 
wave. 

““Well—I’ll be—” he marveled. ‘By gosh, she’s a live 
one. Worse’n ever. What did she get sore at, any- 
way?” 

But Sven felt uneasily that he knew. She thought he 
had been showing off. 

Galloping away on the horse, Judith gave way to tears. 


5 


The days grew steadily warmer and longer, the dis- 
tance over field and brush took on a deeper green. 
Caleb’s herds on the prairie westward sought shelter 
from the noonday sun under the trees on the bluffs, 
and the milch cows in the north pasture gave up nibbling 
sweet-grass for long moments to stand knee-deep in the 
tepid swamps already a-drone with insects that ricocheted 
like sparks across the surface of the water. The season 
of cold morning dews changed to that of fireflies and 
evening mist. The yield of the earth passed from timor- 
ous seedling to rugged stalk and stem. 

But in the life in the Gare household there was no 
apparent change, no growth or maturing of dreams or 
fears, no evidence of crises in personal struggle, no peak 
of achievement rapturously reached. There was no out- 
ward emotion or expressed thought save that which led 
as a great tributary to the flow of Caleb’s ambition. He 
talked now day and night of nothing but the livestock, 
circled the fields by day in the cart or walked abroad with 


WILD GEESE 101 


his lantern alone at night, and compared the strength 
of his hay and his flax with that of Skuli Erickson or 
Joel Brund, the husband of Mrs Sandbo’s daughter Dora. 
The early summer season was to him a terrific, prolonged 
hour of passion during which he was blind and deaf and 
dumb to everything save the impulse that bound him 
to the land. 

His flax was growing in such a way that he scarcely 
dared look at it lest it should vanish like a vision. He 
would put off examining it for a week at a time for 
fear that in a twinkling something dire had happened 
to it. 

But smoothly as affairs seemed to run on the surface 
of life at the Gares’, there had been a subtle diverting 
of the undercurrent. Lind Archer perceived it and was 
troubled. 

Sven Sandbo had come home. And Judith’s behavior 
was incomprehensible. Lind had tried to talk to her 
about him, but she had walked rudely away. And when 
Lind had offered Judith a book to read which had been 
sent her from the city, the girl’s manner had been much 
more like Ellen’s than her own. She had no time for 
the book, she had said. Amelia was preoccupied these 
days, and her attitude toward Caleb had become almost 
one of indulgence. There had been a letting down of the 
familiar tension on Amelia’s part, and a tightening of 
restraint on the part of Judith. Caleb for a time was 
too engrossed in the affairs of the farm to notice any 
one. Unlike himself, he went puttering about haphazard 
trifles, constantly looking for something to do rather than, 
as usual, for something that Martin or Judith might do. 


102 WILD GEESE 


Lind felt that something momentous had happened, and 
then realized how impossible it was for anything at all 
to happen here save the monotonous round of duty. 

It was Lind alone who noticed these nuances in the 
life at the Gares. She had much time to herself in the 
evenings when she sat at her desk after the children 
were gone, and fell often to thinking about the Gares. 
But since the evening of the rain she had thought more 
of Mark Jordan. 

On the third day after her visit at the Klovacz place, 
Lind sat at her desk in the school house. The children 
had been dismissed. The room was heavy with the 
smell of chalk and plum blossoms. Lind felt tired 
and rather depressed. She closed her eyes and leaned 
her head against the palms of her hands. She went in 
detail again over the frightening and delicious night of | 
the rain. | 

The door opened slowly. Mark Jordan stood framed 
against the light, smiling, bareheaded, his hat in his hand. 
Lind clapped her hands to her cheeks. Then she laughed. 

“Vou look guilty,” said Mark. He came slowly down 
the aisle in the center of the room, looking at her happily. 

“T confess I am,” Lind said shyly. “I was thinking of 
inviting myself to dinner again at your house.” She got 
up from her desk and stretched her hand out to him. 
He held it, looked at it, pointed to the chalk and ink 
stains. 

“Salt of the earth: a school teacher. I was one myself 
for about a month. Got fired for encouraging the kids 
to play hookey,” he laughed. He dropped her hand and 
strode around the room examining the drawings and 





WILD GEESE 103 


knick-knacks the children had made and hung on the 
walls. Taking a piece of chalk he drew on the black- 
board a ridiculous figure with knock-knees and turned-in 
eyes, and under it wrote in a childish scrawl. “Teacher.” 
Then he stepped back ten paces and took aim with the 
chalk, succeeding in tossing it on the ledge of the black- 
board. This he did several times, stepping back a few 
paces farther each time. 

Lind watched the game for a while half-amusedly. 
Then she was conscious of a faint irritation. He appar- 
ently had forgotten she was there. His restlessness shut 
her out. Irrelevantly she recalled the words of the an- 
cient grandmother of the Bjarnassons: she would never 
know the secret of him. As he stood in profile to her, 
her eyes outlined the well-bred shape of his head and 
shoulders. He turned to her so suddenly that she started. 

“Let’s walk,” he said. ‘“What’s the matter?” 

“Nothing,” she answered. She would have to try to 
understand him. “I really don’t want to walk now that 
you have decided upon it for me so peremptorily. But 
I'll use you as a means to control my temper, and go 
with you. You are terribly used to having your own 
way, I can see that. As if you were the only person 
on earth.” 

“YT always was—until you came, Lind. I just have 
to get used to the idea of your presence,” he said, so 
seriously that she had to smile. 

“Did any of the Gares see you come in here?” she 
asked uneasily. 

“The Gares? Oh, those people? Don’t know. I 
didn’t see anybody except a robin in the road, and he 


104 WILD GEESE 


didn’t even turn a feather,” he told her, going to the 
window while she cleared her desk. “Why? Are you 
afraid of them?” 

“Oh, by no means,” she said hastily. “It’s just that 
I don’t want them to—oh, I want to know you separately 
from them—in another world, so to speak. If you go 
there, or talk with them, I’ll feel that the dea of you has 
mingled with them. See? I don’t want you to see them 
or them to see you, except, perhaps, Judith—”’ She 
glanced at him thoughtfully, as if to make up her mind 
as to the good judgment that lay in the reservation. 

“You walked?” she asked, after they had slipped out 
and had taken a little path that insinuated itself through 
the thick growth of fir trees behind the school house. 

“No, I came on an elephant. It evaporated at your 
door,” he said, and they both laughed. 

“But curiosity impels me to see this Gare family,” 
Mark declared a little later. ‘Especially Caleb Gare. 
They told me at Yellow Post that he’s the devil himself.” 

“No, he’s too cowardly to be the devil. He’s too cow- 
ardly even for a man to want to kill him. That’s why 
Fusi Aronson hasn’t done it long ago.” 

She told him about Fusi. 

“T’d like to meet him,” Mark said. 

They talked of the strange unity between the nature 
of man and earth here in the north, and of the spareness 
of both physical and spiritual life. 

“There’s no waste—that’s it,” Mark observed, “either 
in human relationships or in plant growth. There’s no 
incontinency anywhere. I’ve made trips around Yellow 





WILD GEESE 105 


Post since I’ve been here, and I haven’t talked with a 
single farmer who wasn’t looking forward to the time 
when he wouldn’t have a grain of any kind in his bins 
if he didn’t rake and scrape for all he’s worth now. 
They seem to have no confidence in the soil—no confi- 
dence in anything save their own labor. Think of the 
difference there would be in the outward characters of 
these people if the land didn’t sap up all their passion 
and sentiment.” 

Lind nodded. “That’s what’s wrong with the Gares. 
They all have a monstrously exaggerated conception of 
their duty to the land—or rather to Caleb, who is nothing 
but a symbol of the land.” 

They sat down upon a flat rock near the trail. 

“T spent some time farther north—went up to a mis- 
sion when I was only a kid with one of the priests, and 
later after I had grown up,” Mark told her. “That’s 
a country for you. If there’s a God, I imagine that’s 
where he sits and does his thinking. The silence is aw- 
ful. You feel immense things going on, invisibly. There 
is that eternal sky—light and darkness—the endless 
plains of snow—a few fir-trees, maybe a hill or a frozen 
stream. And the human beings are like totems—figures 
of wood with mysterious legends upon them that you can 
never make out. The austerity of nature reduces the 
outward expression in life, simply, I think, because there 
is not such an abundance of natural objects for the 
spirit to react to. We are, after all, only the mirror of 
our environment. Life here at Oeland, even, may seem 
a negation but it’s only a reflection from so few exterior 


106 WILD GEESE 


natural objects that it has the semblance of negation. 
These people are thrown inward upon themselves, their 
passions stored up, they are intensified figures of life 
with no outward expression—no releasing gesture.” 

“Yes, I think perhaps human life, or at least human 
contact, is just as barren here as farther north,” Lind 
remarked. “The struggle against conditions must have 
the same effect as passivity would have, ultimately. It 
seems to me that one would be as dulling as the other— 
one would extort as much from human capacity for ex- 
pression as the other. There’s no feeling left after the 
soil and the live stock have taken their share.” 

They talked about books and disagreed spiritedly here 
and there. Mark urged her to let him come to see her 
at the Gares’ and bring with him two or three of his 
treasured volumes, and she consented to speak to Mrs 
Gare about it. 

To Lind it was miraculous that she should have found 
him here. To Mark it seemed the most natural thing in 
the world that he should have found her. 

“T may come to the school house then any evening?” 
Mark asked almost timidly. It was time for him to go, 
and it amazed him that he hated so to leave her. She 
put out her hand to him simply. 

“Yes, do,” she said warmly. They had come within 
sight of the gate at the Gares’. 

He looked at her oddly, then turned and walked rap- 
idly down the road. He looked back once, and saw her 
standing where he had left her. Raising his slouch hat 
he waved his arm in a wide arc, Lind walked on into 


WILD GEESE 107 


the barnyard of the Gares’. Her heart was beating bois- 
terously. 


6 


Shearing time was at hand. Thirty-odd sheep, so heav- 
ily coated that they looked clumsy in their own wool, 
were herded into the pen where Judith, Martin, Amelia 
and Ellen proceeded with the work of shearing. The 
smell of the wool always nauseated Ellen, so Amelia 
contrived to have her indoors with the housework a large 
part of the time. Judith moved among the sheep, sin- 
gling out her own to see that justice was done in regard 
to the disposition of the wool. It had been a point with 
Caleb since the children were little to let them have a few 
animals of their own to bring up and sell, and in this man- 
ner pay for their own clothing. _He contended that it 
gave them an active interest in the business of the farm 
and instilled in them early a feeling of independence. 
Amelia had long since seen through this mock generosity. 

Caleb, although he did not materially assist in the 
task, paused before the pen where the three were at work, 
after Ellen had gone indoors. Beside him stood Thor- 
vald Thorvaldson, the Icelander, who prided himself 
upon being a Master. Caleb rested his elbows on the 
board fence and gave arbitrary instructions in regard to 
the:shearing. It gave him the gratifying feeling of over- 
seer. 

“Hiere, Jude! That’s no way toclip! Get the shears 
under it more—come along! Come along! Can’t take 


108 WILD GEESE 


all day with a sheep, you know. Little closer there! 
Fine wool, eh, Thorvald? How many pounds do you 
reckon I'll get off that sheep?” 

Judith turned her back directly on the two men and 
kept at her work. The sheep was one of her pets, a ewe 
who always bore well. Judith hated the Icelander, who 
stood glowering above her. She had glanced sideways up 
at him and had found his piggish little eyes surveying 
her limbs and the backs of her thighs as she bent over, 
the overalls she wore tightening across her body. She 
dug down into the ewe’s chest and clenched a fistful of 
the thick wool. There were limits to endurance, even 
for Amelia’s sake. 

Amelia did not glance up. Her serenity troubled 
Caleb. It was a change in her he could not fathom. It 
had come with her discovery that Mark Jordan was on 
the Klovacz homestead. You could never rely on how 
any woman would react to a thing, not even Amelia. 

“Come, come, Amelia! Thorvald is thirsty. Plenty 
of time to finish that before dark,” he said to her. His 
tone was like a sudden prod in the back. Amelia 
straightened quickly, brushed a wisp of dun colored hair 
out of her eyes. The homely gesture gave her an un- 
couth look for an instant, a pitiful gaucheness: 

“T thought you said Mr Thorvaldson had no time for 
coffee?” 

Caleb stared at her. ‘Mr Thorvaldson will have cof- 
fee. He has changed his mind,” he said finally, turning 
with the glum-faced, inscrutable Icelander to the house. 
No mention of coffee had been made to Thorvaldson. 
He grinned flatteringly at Caleb. Here indeed was con- 


WILD GEESE 109 


trol that was at once subtle and sure! The trouble was 
that Thorvaldson’s women folk had not the intelligence 
to understand and properly respect such ruling. More 
obvious tactics had to be used with them. . . 

“How is your wife coming?” Amelia asked Thorvald 
when she had served him with coffee. 

“She’s coming long purty good,” he responded, empty- 
ing the contents of his saucer down his throat. “Coming 
in soon, I t’ink, haa! haa! Vun after another—such a 
voman!” 

Amelia turned away from the man. He had grotesque, 
overhanging mustaches that trailed in the saucer he held 
to his mouth. Caleb was filling his pipe. He saw Ame- 
lia turn away. He saw the tightening about her lips. 

Caleb smiled cunningly. “Sit down, my dear,” he said, 
placing a chair for her directly in front of Thorvald. 
“The shearing can wait. Have a chat with Thorvald. 
Heh, heh! My wife gets sick of seein’ only her husband 
around, Thorvaldson. A woman should have a change, 
eh?” Both men laughed heartily, Caleb tilting back his 
head and letting his eyes rest casually on Amelia, who 
had without a word sat down into the chair he indicated. 

Amelia’s eyes wandered to the window. They were 
not timid, submissive, as they had been a week ago. 
They were nervous, alert. Caleb was disturbed. 

Thorvald swallowed great fistfuls of bread and butter 
and cold meat that Amelia had set out for him, swallowed 
with an eager noise. Amelia sat before him, uttering not 
a word. 

Yes, Caleb was disturbed. He made up his mind once 
more that Amelia must not set eyes on Mark Jordan. 


110 WILD GEESE 


After the departure of Thorvald Thorvaldson, Caleb 
approached his wife. His voice was smooth, easy. 

“The Teacher has talked with that son of yours again. 
If she asks to have him come here, remember it isn’t best. 
For one thing, Amelia, it would only remind you of things 
you want to forget. For another, he’s not the kind I 
want to have round my children.” He lit his pipe again 
leisurely, as if he had spoken of the most commonplace 
of things, and went out the door scarcely lifting his feet 
off the ground, his head thrust forward, his hands clasped 
behind him. He had been satisfied with Amelia’s pallor. 
Whatever her state of mind, he must assure himself that 
he could in a moment change it. That was control. 


7 


The shearing completed, and the wool packed into 
flour sacks ready to be taken to the Siding of Nykerk, the 
round of more usual work began again. 

While Ellen worked in the vegetable garden, weeding 
and hoeing, until her narrow back was numb from the 
strain, Judith made a number of trips to Yellow Post in 
the dog cart for provisions. 

“Yes!” she burst out at Ellen who finally reproached 
her for her selfishness. ‘‘Why do you stick? I’m not 
sorry for you. I’m not sorry for any of us! We're all 
old enough to get out. Why do you stick, if you don’t 
like it? I don’t like it and I’m going to get out—soon. 
I’m not going through another winter up to my knees in 
manure—not much! I’ve handled enough calves for 
him! What do I get for it? What do you get for it? 


WILD GEESE 111 


It was different when we were small and she couldn’t 
help herself. I tell you—lI’m quitting!” Her voice rose 
to an uncontrollable pitch, her full breasts shook. 

Ellen adjusted her glasses over her nose, a thing she al- 
ways did when under excitement of any kind. 

“Judith,” she said solemnly. “It isn’t only that. 
There’s something else. He has some kind of threat he 
always makes to her—you’ve heard him—I’ve heard him. 
I don’t know what it is, but she’s afraid—afraid of what 
he'll do. We can’t let him do it. You know we can’t. 
It would kill her. I have given up a lot more than you 
ever will to stay a 

“Oh ...” Judith gave vent to a word that made 
Ellen start. 

“Judith, you’re dreadful!” 

“I’m worse than you think! A lot worse!” said Jude, 
driving off in the cart. 

Lind was awaiting her at the school house. 

“You look angry, Judie, what’s the matter now?” Lind 
asked her when they were on their way. 

“Nothing, but Ellen makes me sick with her whining. 
She loves to suffer. And loves to see everybody else 
doing it. But just because she isn’t quite as strong as I 
am she gets it only half as bad.” 

“T don’t think she loves it at all, Judie. I think she is 
giving up a great deal to stay on here, and she knows it. 
Has there ever been anybody that she cared for very 
much—who wanted to marry her?” 

“T guess old Goat-eyes liked her all right. But he’s 
been gone a year, and she never talks about him. Any- 
way, he’s a halfbreed, or nearly.” 





112 WILD GEESE 


“Of course, if Ellen loved him, that wouldn’t have mat- 
tered, do you think?” 

“No, I s’pose not. He was too good for her, anyway.” 
Judith’s eyes were full of intolerant contempt. She 
slapped the horse’s rump with the reins, and the rattle of 
the cart soon made conversation difficult. They did not 
stop at Sandbos’, as Jude knew that Caleb would be spy- 
ing from the slight rise on which the Gare farm was built 
to see that the horse emerged from around the bend in 
due time. 

Yellow Post lay in a little valley shaped like the palm 
of a hand, a narrow creek curving across it like a life 
line. Jude drove briskly up to the store of Johanneson, 
the Swede trader, and Lind went into the store to make a 
few purchases of her own while Judith tied up the horse. 
A few halfbreeds ventured into the store after her, to 
skulk about with furtive glances. 

Leaning against the counter in the store and smoking 
his pipe, stood Mark Jordan. He came toward her with 
a quick stride, looking down at her almost querulously. 

“You didn’t come,” he said in a low tone, glancing with 
annoyance at the open stares about them. 

““Come—where—when?” Lind asked innocently. 

“Let’s go outside and talk,” he said. He picked up his 
box of groceries and steered Lind out of the door before 
she had an opportunity to make her own purchases. 
Judith passed them at the doorway. 

“Come on out after you’ve got your things, Judie,” 
Lind called back to her. The girl went on into the store, 
showing none of the curiosity she felt about the stranger 
who was with Lind. 


WILD GEESE 113 


Mark placed his provisions in the bottom of the 
buggy in which he had driven to Yellow Post, and 
walked with Lind to the creek. They sat down on the 
grassy bank and watched the tiny minnows dart down 
with the gentle current in silver schools, and turning, 
snub their way quiveringly back up stream with no more 
provocation, perhaps, than the shadow of a sailing leaf 
on the water. 

“I’ve missed you. It rained last night, and I was sure 
you’d come,” Mark told her. “I listened until midnight.” 

“Oh, how ridiculous! You did not!” 

“T swear it!” 

“But it would be a little—irregular.” 

Mark frowned at her. “It wasn’t the night you did 
come. You do the thing you want to here, anyway. I 
need you, Lind, more than you know. I’ve been plug- 
ging away clearing Klovacz’s land, or I would have been 
over at the school yesterday. Has Mrs Gare given you 
permission to have me call on you?” 

“T’ve not asked her yet. It’s terribly hard. But I'll 
come over and cook you a dinner—” she said impulsively. 
“May I bring Judith? That’s Jude back in the store.” 

Mark gave her a searching look. 

“Oh, just to make it jollier,” she hastened to add. 

“Bring her, by all means, and any one else you like.” 

They walked back toward the store. As Jude did not 
come out, Lind decided that she felt shy about meeting 
Mark, and did not go in for her. She said good-by to 
him, and Mark climbed into the buggy and drove off. 

It was the day on which mail arrived with John To- 
bacco, and when Lind returned alone to the store, Sven 


114 WILD GEESE 


Sandbo was there talking with Judith. Sven had dis- 
carded his city clothes and most of his braggadocio air. 
His heavy shoulders stood out from his narrow hips, the 
calves of his legs were slightly bowed from the saddle. 
The mobility of his mouth and nostrils, the lazy droop 
of his eyes at the corners, the careless gesture of the hand 
that held his cigarette, his frank maleness, made him at 
once attractive and exasperating. 

Judith, hostile-eyed and withdrawn, was trying hard 
not to smile at his advances. 

“Tell me,” he was saying, “‘do you like me better with- 
out my tenderfoot get-up?” 

“A little,’ she admitted. “But you think you’re too 
smart.” 

Sven laughed teasingly. “‘Wouldn’t notice my clothes 
the other day at all, would you? And me comin’ all the 
way from town just to show you ’em. You hurt my 
feelin’s, Jude, terrible!” She looked sternly away and 
he moved closer to her. ‘Have you forgot all about the 
picnic last summer, Judie? Remember what you said? 
I ain’t forgot.’”? His voice was so low that the pitch 

of it alone made Judith blush. 

_ Lind, followed by the nudges and leering eyes of the 
halfbreeds who hung about, came up to Jude, who in- 
troduced her to Sven. Sven, quite at ease, talked with 
the Teacher while Judith argued with Johanneson over 
the merits of a certain dried codfish. 

“‘What’s the matter?” Johanneson demanded. ‘That’s 
good fish, and double worth the money. Guess yer paw 
give ye only ten cents to buy for, ha?” 

Judith tossed her head angrily. ‘You keep still, you 


WILD GEESE DY5 


flat-faced Swede! If there was another store here we’d 
not give our good money for your bum stuff. Give mea 
dollar’s worth of the fish, and be quick about it!’ She 
stamped her foot and all the men in the store looked 
toward her appreciatively. She had been told to get 
only fifty cents worth of the fish. She would have to ex- 
plain to Amelia, who would understand well enough, but 
perhaps not approve. 

Johanneson turned sheepishly about and wrapped up 
the package of cod. He could not afford, on second 
thought, to lose Gare as a customer. But this big girl’s 
insolent quibbling over prices always annoyed him. No 
doubt she had been prompted by those at home. 

Still somewhat ruffled, Judith went out with Sven, fol- 
lowed immediately by Lind when she had made her pur- 
chases. The two girls got into their own cart and Sven 
drove slowly away alone behind them. 

“Lind,” said Judith, when they were out of sight of 
Yellow Post, “Sven asked me to ride with him. Will 
you take the cart home? And I'll get out and wait for 
him.” 

“But your father 

“T don’t care. I get hell anyway.” 

Lind obligingly, though with some misgivings, took the 
cart home, and Judith rode with Sven. 

“Judie,” Sven began, putting an arm around her 
shoulders. ‘I want you to marry me.” 

Judith was silent. She thought of Amelia. Ellen 
would never forgive her... . 

“Don’t you love me any more, Judie? You used to,” 
said Sven, almost humbly. 


”? 





116 WILD GEESE 


Judith’s head was high, her eyes half-closed. The 
buggy rumbled down the hollow over a little bridge that 
led through a dense growth of spruce and cedar. Sven 
drew her suddenly into his arms, letting the reins fall 
slack over his knees. 

“Damn—you’re beautiful, Judie 

Judith smiled. Her body softened toward him. It 
rippled with strength. She was peculiarly aware of her 
strength. It seemed to flow upward from her spine in a 
powerful current and issue from her breast and her 
fingertips and all the sensitive surface of her body. A 
strange desire seized her. She could not free herself 
from the obsession . . . it had come upon her first the 
day she had seen Sven after his return. 

“YT wonder if I can throw you,” she said suddenly. 

Sven laughed aloud. 

“T’ll bet I can,” she asserted. “Let me try.” 

“All right, some time,” he agreed, laughing still. 

“No, right now,” Judith insisted, her eyes roving over 
the muscles that moved under his shirt sleeve. 

It was warm and neither wore a coat. 

Sven glanced at her and saw that she was in earnest. 
They got down from the buggy, tying the horse to a tree 
at the side of the road. Then they crawled through the 
fence into a little clearing among the cedars, where the 
sunlight lay in a warm pool on the ground. 

“Kiss me first,” said Sven. 

“No—after,” Judith said steadily. 

So they wrestled. Judith was almost as tall as Sven. 
Her limbs were long, sinewy, her body quick and lithe as 
a wild-cat’s. Sven, who started the tussle laughing, could 


1? 


WILD GEESE 117 


get no lasting grip on her. She slid through his arms and 
wound herself about his body, bringing them both to the 
earth. As their movements increased in swiftness and 
strength, Sven forgot to laugh and became as serious as 
Judith. It did not occur to him that he might have to 
use his real energy in defending himself until he saw that 
the girl’s face was set and hard, her eyes burning. He 
realized suddenly that she was trying to get a head lock 
on him that he himself had taught her. He caught both 
her hands, twisting her right arm backward. She threw 
herself upon him violently, almost somersaulting over 
his shoulder, freeing her arm with a terrific jerk. Sven 
turned quickly, caught her about the waist with one 
arm and pressed the other against her throat, so that she 
was bent almost double and unable to breathe. He 
looked at her, saw that her eyes were closed and her 
face almost scarlet and dripping with perspiration. 
“Had enough?” he asked, slightly loosening his hold. 
Judith took advantage of the moment, and with a twist 
of her head was out of his grip like an eel. Her eyes 
were blazing, her breath coming in short gasps. She 
lashed out with her arm, striking him full across the face. 
While Sven, half stunned from the weight of the blow, 
was trying to understand the change in the issue, she 
hurled herself against him and he fell to the earth under 
her. Then something leaped in Sven. They were no 
longer unevenly matched, different in sex. They were 
two stark elements, striving for mastery over each other. 
Sven crushed the girl’s limbs between his own, bruised 
her throat, pulled her arms ruthlessly together behind her 
until the skin over the curve of her shoulders was white 


118 WILD GEESE 


and taut, her clothing torn away. Her panting body 
heaved against his as they lay full length on the ground 
locked in furious embrace. Judith buried her nails in 
the flesh over his breast, beat her knees into his loins, set 
her teeth in the more tender skin over the veins at his 
wrists. She fought with insane abandon to any hurt he 
might inflict, or he would have mastered her at once. 
The faces, throats and chests of both were shining with 
sweat. Sven’s breath fell in hot gusts on Judith’s face. 
Suddenly her hand, that was fastened like steel on his 
throat, relaxed and fell away. Her eyelids quivered 
and a tear trickled down and mingled with the beads of 
perspiration on her temple. Sven released the arm that 
he had bent to breaking point. He was trembling. 

“Judie,” he muttered, “Judie—look at me.” 

Judith raised her eyelids slowly. 

“Kiss me—now,” she said in a breath. 


CHAPTER VI 
1 


THERE was a thick hedge of dwarf firs at the end of 
the garden which lay toward the main trail. Amelia was 
on her knees spraying the tomato vines that grew there. 
The night before had been cold, and from long habit the 
tomatoes were last in her thoughts before she had gone 
to sleep, and first when she had wakened, although her 
heart was heavy with other things. 

She got to her feet, and hearing the approach of a 
horse, stepped into the shadow of the fir hedge to see 
who might be riding by. It was a break in the day’s 
routine even to see the passing face of a stranger. The 
horse came into view at a walk, the rider sitting lazily in 
the saddle, looking ahead of him toward the school house. 
He presently turned from the road and cut across the 
school lot, where the horse stopped and the rider 
dismounted. 

Amelia’s heart sickened her with its beating. The 
hedge gave way slightly behind her as she leaned against 
it, but her eyes held the face of the man riding as if they 
were physically fastened to it. The man passed and the 
back of his head and shoulders were all that she could see 
of him. Then she turned and knelt before the blanket 
that had covered the tomato plants the night before. He 
was his father over again . . . but not so simple. She 


wondered if it would be necessary to blanket the tomatoes 
119 


120 WILD GEESE 


to-night again... aman of the world . . . education 
lay on his brow like a light. He wore his clothes with 
such an air, sat in the saddle like a soldier... . 
And his father had been gored by a bull... after 
everything. ... 

Amelia knelt on the ground above the tomato vines. 
She felt cold and exhausted and exposed, as she had 
years ago after being up all night with one of the chil- 
dren during sickness. It was as if she had been dragged 
terrified out upon a stage to play the leading rdéle in a 
tragedy at which the audience would laugh. The un- 
believable drama of her whole life flashed before her. 
She shrank from the spectacle as she might have from 
a hanging, or a brutal and unfamiliar scene of crime, in 
which she had no part. Her body trembled with actual 
cold. She had been so unfitted for the réle that life had 
chosen for her—no more fitted than Lind. She had been 
so unshaped for the burden that had never known a 
moment’s easing. In her heart she cried out for eternal 
release from the still crueller consequence of her im- 
pulse, the punishment that Caleb had in store—the 
carrying out of his threat that fell upon her mind like an 
awful gong sounded at regular intervals. 

After a few minutes, her mind became clearer. She 
had seen Mark Jordan. He was a man of the world, 
perhaps his friends were people who commanded respect 
and looked upon him with respect. Who was she, a com- 
mon farm woman, to know’ what his life was or what it 
demanded of him? His face was proud, sensitive. He 
must never know. She would break under Caleb rather 


WILD GEESE 121 


than have him know, Caleb’s children could wither and 
fall like rotten plants after frost—everything could fall 
into dissolution. He was his father’s son, Mark Jordan, 
the son of the only man she had ever loved. Ellen, 
Martin, Judith and Charlie, they were only the offspring 
of Caleb Gare, they could be the sacrifice. She would 
bend and inure them to the land like implements, just 
as Caleb wished her to do. She would not intercede in 
their behalf hereafter. She would see them dry and fade 
into fruitlessness and grow old long before their time, 
but her heart would keep within itself and there would 
be no pity in her for the destruction of their youth. 
Amelia’s face grew pale and hard as she knelt in the 
garden. A distinct change had come over her. 

She carried the blanket indoors, thinking that it would 
be unnecessary to cover the tomatoes that night. The 
air seemed visible and intimate, as before rain. Her eyes 
wandered to the fields of tame hay and rye-grass that lay 
beyond the sheep pasture. There would be a tremendous 
yield this year. Always before, the sight of growth had 
somehow thrilled her, had struck a vital, creative chord 
within her that was otherwise left unsounded in this bar- 
ren life. Now her mind was dulled by the sight of it. 
Growth—with death in its wake. She felt that in an 
instant her life had reached finality, that all the years be- 
hind her had been spent in a chrysalis, in a beginning. 
There had been no development in between—only a 
beginning and an end. ; 

She went indoors and began energetically to polish the 
stove with a blackened cloth, 


122 WILD GEESE 


2 


Before long Amelia returned to her old pale manner of 
self-effacement and submission, and the atmosphere on 
the Gare farm became normal once more to Lind’s per- 
ception. The place was holding its breath again after a 
quiet exhalation. 

Feeling that what had disturbed Amelia was at least 
for the present lulled, Lind approached her one day with 
a question. Mrs Gare was gathering eggs in the barn 
mangers, and, since it was Saturday morning, the Teacher 
had undertaken to help her. 

“Mrs Gare, Mark Jordan would like very much to 
come here to see me, and to meet you people as well. 
Do you think Mr Gare would like to have him call?” 

Amelia was prepared for just such a question. She 
smiled at Lind, and shook her head. 

“Y’m afraid it would only excite the children, Miss 
Archer, and stir up trouble. Mr Jordan would talk 
about things that we can’t afford to think about.” 

“Well, then,” said Lind, “will you permit Judie to 
come with me to see him? He is living there all alone 
and I think it would be kind to cook a good meal for 
him, now and then.” 

Amelia glanced at her, and looked away quickly. 

“Judith might make an errand over that way, but 
don’t speak of it before her father.’ Mark Jordan 
should have what he wanted, she resolved. 

“ll be careful not to, Mrs Gare,” Lind said grate- 
fully. She groped about in the hay and came upon an- 
other brown egg, which she placed carefully in the pan 


WILD GEESE 123 


with the others. The feeling of conspiracy against Caleb 
was rather enjoyable. 

She took the eggs to the house, and then went to the 
potato patch where Judith was absently hoeing between 
the rows. The sun was beating down upon the girl’s 
bare head and on the strong honey-brown nape of her 
neck. A hot, dusty wind was stirring the tops of the 
dry potato plants. A little groove of dust had formed 
on either side of Judith’s nose, and there were gray fil- 
aments of dust on the hair of her forearms. She crossed 
her arms and leaned forward on the hoe as Lind came up 
to her. 

“A little romance, Judie,” Lind said softly. ‘“We’re 
going 'to have supper to-morrow night with Mark Jordan 
—the man you saw me with at Yellow Post.” 

Judith frowned. To-morrow was Sunday. On Sun- 
days Caleb usually went to the farm of one of the Ice- 
landers in the afternoon, and did not return until late in 
the evening. 

“Ma say I could gor” 

Lind told her what Amelia had said. Judith was 
silent for a moment and then decided to confide in the 
Teacher to an extent. 

“Will you let Sven come?” 

“Why, that would be fine! We'll have a real party. 
If only Ellen and Martin could get away too. They 
never have any fun.” 

“No,” said Jude with conviction. “They wouldn’t 
enjoy themselves. Anyway, they mustn’t know that 
Sven is going to be there—at least Ellen mustn’t. Sven 
wants me to marry him, Lind, and go away to town.” 


124 WILD GEESE 


Lind looked at her quietly for a moment. A change 
had come over the girl during the past few days. She 
was not so boisterous in her care of the animals, nor so 
defiant toward the human beings on the farm as she had 
been. 

“And shall you?” 

‘“VYes—before long. Don’t let the others know.” 

Lind slipped away and Judith went on with her hoe- 
ing. She cast a resentful eye over the long rows of 
potatoes. Food for another winter—another winter of 
stumbling about in the bleak, icy dawn and tugging at 
stubborn calves and hauling icicle-rimmed buckets full 
of water through manure and frozen mud. Another 
winter of inhibition and growing restiveness, and hope- 
less dreaming of a better time to come. Another winter 
under Caleb Gare . . . no, anything else was preferable. 

As the work on the farm grew and grew, Judith was 
struggling to see her way clear to liberty. Covertly she 
watched Ellen and Amelia and Martin, even Charlie now 
that he was learning to take his place, and saw them all 
bowing without a question under the stupefying load. 
And she recognized in herself an alien spirit, a violent 
being of dark impulses, in no way related to the life about 
her. She was alternately seized with an agony of pity 
for Amelia, whose reticence she could not fathom, and 
futile rage at Ellen and Martin for their endurance. 
And beneath it all her passion for Sven pressed through 
her being like an undercurrent of fire. She lay awake at 
night with hot cheeks, thinking of him . . . of the day in 
the clearing among the cedars . . . running her fingers 
over the muscles of his throat. Caleb had not found out 


WILD GEESE 125 


that Lind had brought the cart home that day. She had - 
not seen Sven since they had fought, had not wished 
to see him. She had need of an interim in which to 
think. 

After another hour’s work, Judith, looking up, saw 
Martin entering the gate from the pasture with three 
cows that were about to calve. More money for Caleb 
Gare, more toil for the workers under him. He had 
nearly twice as many cattle this year as three years ago: 
and no hired man now to help with their care, because 
Martin and Judith were old enough to do it together, 
and judith strong enough to do it alone when Martin 
was otherwise occupied. In a hollow in the pasture she 
saw the sheep grazing, all of them shorn now, shorn of 
dollars and dollars worth of wool that would go toward 
the acquisition of more sheep . . . and more sheep... . 
but not more freedom for the workers under Caleb Gare, 
not more joy in living. She remembered suddenly that 
the bag of wool she had got from her own sheep was still 
stowed away under the rafters in the loft. She must 
dispose of it some way before Caleb found it. 

The hoe over her shoulder, Judith went to the barn 
where she found Martin, hammering new planks into the 
rotten floor. 

“Martin,” she began with difficulty. ‘“Do you sup- 
pose he figures on getting a man for the haying?” 

Martin looked at her dryly. 

“Not with threshers askin’ what they’re goin’ to. 
We'll be lucky if he hires a full crew. What you ask 
for?” 

Judith threw herself down upon the threshold of the 


126 WILD GEESE 


barn door and leaned her head against the worn log 
frame. ‘Oh, nothing, but I was just thinkin’ Ellen isn’t 
really strong enough to help. Remember how she ran 
the fork into her foot last year ’cause she couldn’t see it.” 

“Well—” Martin said slowly, “T’ll ask him again.” 

Judith looked sideways at Martin where he was on his 
hands and knees fitting the new boards into the floor. 
She felt a sudden fullness of heart as she looked at him, 
and wished that somehow she might talk with him about 
things. She had always felt more kinship with Martin 
than with any of the others. How stooped already his 
shoulders were, how pitifully scrawny his neck! She 
watched him drive nails into the boards after he had 
fitted them, and saw how gentle his face was in the doing 
of the mean task. Why had she never seen these things 
in Martin before? ‘Tears came into her eyes as they 
dwelt on him, and she could have rushed to him and 
thrown her arms about him from a sudden sheer realiza- 
tion of what he was. Martin would have been certain 
that she had gone out of her mind. She rose hastily and 
left him, before she should do the unaccountable thing. 

Martin looked after her. In his uncertain way, he 
felt that it was not so much Ellen that Judith was con- 
cerned about. Jude was not adept at dissimulation. 

His job in the barn done, Martin went to the pile of 
long, straight poplar logs he had cut, planed and meas- 
ured for the new wagon shed. Martin was always build- 
ing in his spare time. Caleb often chided him for the 
material and time he wasted on what he considered 
purely decorative and unnecessary outhouses, but since 


* 


WILD GEESE 127 


building was the thing that lay nearest Martin’s heart, 
he was not so readily deterred. 

Martin marked off with pegs which he drove in the 
ground, the area which the wagon shed was to cover. 
Now and then his eye wandered to the rough, unpainted 
log house that had been his home all his life, and in his 
heart he conceived a dream. ‘The dream grew to a desire 
that crept into his hands. His hands grasped the good, 
enduring lumber, the plaster, the fine laths, the shingles, 
the panes of glass, the stones for the foundation and the 
chimney of the New House. It would be painted brown, 
a rich, dark brown . . . gallons of paint and turpentine 
that you could smell all over the place. There would be 
a veranda facing the main road such as he had seen on 
the houses pictured in the mail order catalogue. And 
there would be a tall iron fence across the driveway, and 
the road would be cleared of the ruts made by the cattle 

. and he would plant an acorn on either side of the 
road that in years to come would be a great spreading 
oak tree... . 

That evening Martin’s face wore an almost rapt look 
as he sat planing smooth a board that was to be a 
shelf for Amelia’s preserves. 

Caleb had come in after a tour of the fields. He hung 
his lantern on the wall, shaking it first to see whether it 
needed oil. Finding that it did, he handed it to Amelia 
to fill. 

“Goin’ to be a bumper crop if it keeps up like this, 
Martin,” he remarked, ignoring Judith and Amelia, who 
were washing the parts of the separator, 


128 WILD GEESE 


“‘How’s the wagon shed comin’?” he asked pleasantly, 
sitting down to take off his heavy boots. He had asked 
Martin the same question during supper, but it was the 
first subject that occurred to him which would obliquely 
shut the women out of the conversation. It was not 
exactly to show an interest in Martin’s work that he 
asked it. 

“Pretty good,” Martin told him again. The thing that 
was on his mind gathered courage for utterance when he 
heard Caleb speak optimistically of the crops. 

Slowly shaving at the wood, he said, “I was thinkin’ 
we might build next spring if we have a good harvest.” 

Judith and Amelia half turned to hear what he was 
saying. Caleb saw their looks of interest. 

‘Yeah, the barn does look as if it was saggin’ in the 
middle,” he said softly, moving into the other room. 

Martin and Judith and Amelia exchanged involuntary 
glances. 

“Hm,” said Judith. ‘Then we'll live in the barn, 
Martin.” 

Amelia said nothing, although she saw that Martin felt 
the rebuff keenly. 

But Martin was a builder born, and the dream reared 
itself in his mind and would not down. He resolved to 
approach Caleb when the women were not around. He 
would wait until he saw what the end of the summer 
brought. Even if the crops failed the cattle should bring 
something, and Caleb was keeping far too many horses 
in pasture now. He could well afford to build in the 
spring. 


WILD GEESE 129 


3 


As it happened, the next day was a “‘church” day, and 
Caleb at the Yellow Post service was invited to dinner 
at Thorvaldson’s. He drove back home with Thorvald, 
and told Amelia that he was going on west and would not 
be back until dark. In the afternoon Judith and the 
Teacher, with Amelia’s deliberate sanction, took two of 
the horses and rode to the Sandbos’. 

Lind felt excitedly happy. 

“Judie,” she said. “Have you told your mother about 
Sven?” 

“No,” she replied. ‘She would only worry. And he 
would find out, and then it would be all over.” 

“Why all over?” 

“He would kill me rather than let me marry Sven, or 
anybody. He knows that would mean a change on the 
farm. He’d have to get a man—he couldn’t save so 
much money—it would start Elle. and Martin and 
Charlie wanting to go away.” 

“But, Judie—you can’t all stay here forever?” 

“Oh, yes, we can. We can stay here until Ellen goes 
blind and I go crazy and the others die. That’s the way 
people live up here. But I’m not goin’ to stick. Wait 
until the haying is over.” 

They rode along in silence then, the afternoon warm upon 
them. Lind glanced down at the drying pools that lined 
the road, and saw the countless “lucky bugs” darting 
about on the water like crazy sparks of light. The reeds 


130 WILD GEESE 


stood up straight and brittle. It must rain soon. Lind 
could not bear the dry dust on the reeds. Then she 
suddenly realized that it was not the reeds that she was 
thinking of, but the Gares.... 

At the Sandbos’, Sven joined them eagerly. He came 
running up the road when he saw them, and caught hold 
of the pummel of Judith’s saddle. He would have kissed 
her, but she drew back and looked at Lind. 

‘“We’re goin’ over to Klovacz’s. Come along?” Jude 
asked him casually. He lifted his healthy, eager face to 
her and she thrilled through and through at the sight of 
him again. 

“Vou bet I will! I talked with Jordan one day on the 
road. He’s not a bad sort, for a city guy,” Sven com- 
mented generously. “I'll be along. Comin’ in to talk 
to ma?” 

Mrs Sandbo and the girls came out to the road and 
Lind and Judith dismounted while Sven got his own 
horse out. 

Mrs Sandbo, who had not talked with Judith Gare 
for some time, eyed her inquisitively. She congratulated 
herself upon getting a look at one of the Gares again at 
such close range. Jude did not yet have her new shoes, 
she noticed. Emma, who had seen her one day near the 
school house, had reported that her toes were sticking 
out. It was almost true. And her dress! What a 
faded calico it was for a Sunday! Mrs Sandbo would 
have a choice bit of news for Dora. What a man Caleb 
Gare was! What a father! Ludvig had had his faults, 
but he had not been stingy—a spender, in fact. 

“Your mother, then—how goes it vit’ her?” Mrs 


WILD GEESE 131 


Sandbo asked Judith. “She had so bad toot’ache last I 
see her.” 

Lind forebore from smiling. Mrs Sandbo always 
seemed intent on learning the latest concerning Mrs 
Gare’s teeth. 

“She’s well, thank you,” Jude said stiffly. The fer- 
reting gaze of Mrs Sandbo and her plump young daugh- 
ters in their pink lawn dresses did not please her. She 
wished Sven would hurry. 

He was with them at last, and they took leave of Mrs 
Sandbo and Emma and Dena. Sven was full of talk 
about the improvements he had made on the place since 
he came home. 

“Can’t stand having nothing to do,” he told them. 
“Farming is my idea of nothing to do, on a place like 
ours, anyway. Had a real job in town—brick layin’. 
Good money. I'll just get ma to sell the place and go 
back, soon’s the summer’s over.” 

They rode gaily over the miles to the Klovaczs’. 

Judith scarcely looked at Sven in the presence of Lind, 
but when the Teacher rode ahead to announce their com- 
ing to Mark Jordan, she leaned over in her saddle and 
kissed him quickly. 

Mark laughed with boyish pleasure when Lind swung 
the screen door of the kitchen open and walked in upon 
him. He was stretched out upon a couch in the sitting 
room, reading a magazine which had come from the city. 
He sprang up and lifted Lind by her elbows. She dis- 
engaged herself demurely. 

“T’ve brought Paul and Virginia,” she smiled. “May 
they come in?” 


132 WILD GEESE 


Mark went out with her and beheld the two jumping 
easily off their horses. ‘What a pair they make, eh?” 
he murmured. Lind nodded. 

Jude shook hands a little bashfully with Mark when 
Lind introduced them. It was not long before Mark’s 
good humor put them both at their ease. They all went 
into the house, Judith glancing about the kitchen a little 
fearfully as if she expected it to fall upon her, so unused 
was she to being in other people’s houses. 

They sat about in the sitting room for an hour listen- 
ing to Mark’s phonograph. Judith had heard one in the 
home of an Icelander, but it had had a horn and had not 
produced the alluring music that she listened to now. 
Her eyes grew dark and absent as she let her emotions 
drift with the spirit of the dance. A waltz was played, 
and she feared that she would cry before it came to an 
end. 

Lind and Mark danced a little, and Jude watched them 
enraptured. It was all so new to her, and yet it seemed 
part of the thing to which she belonged. Sven, knowing 
that she could not dance as Lind and Mark danced, did 
not ask her, and she was grateful to him. 

The supper, which Mark called a “banquet,” was a 
merry occasion. Judith and Lind concocted many 
savory dishes while the men smoked and talked about 
things which Sven had heard of and some which he had 
seen. When they finally sat down to the table, gay 
humor prevailed. Judith was peculiarly alert and bright 
eyed, as if to seize every moment of happiness in the 
evening. 

They went home soon after supper, Judith fearing the 


WILD GEESE 133 


return of Caleb. The horses of Lind and Mark loitered, 
while Judith and Sven hurried ahead of them. The air 
in the wood road was redolent of tree gums. Occa- 
sionally a swallow dipped across the light and vanished 
like the wraith of a bird. As they reached the summit of 
a ridge half way between Klovacz’s and Sandbo’s, Mark 
and Lind noticed that the sun was just sinking beyond 
Latt’s Slough, drawing a bar of crimson across the long, 
motionless water. The sprawling shadows of the horses 
purpled; it seemed as if their hoof beats in the gray 
dust became softer. Silence had come over the world 
like a wing—like a brooding thought. 

After a while Mark spoke. 

“Tt changes you—this life. You won’t come out of it 
quite the same, Lind.” 


CHAPTER VII 
1 


Caes did not learn of Judith’s trip with the Teacher 
to the farm of the Klovaczs’. But Ellen, absorbing the 
knowledge in his stead and reacting to it as she knew he 
would have done, vented her disapproval upon Amelia. 
She and her mother were frying doughnuts, of which 
Caleb was very fond, when she brought the matter up. 

“Tt don’t seem just decent to me—Jude going off that 
way on a Sunday to visit a strange man with no older 
person along,” she began with a censorious press of the 
cutter into the dough she had rolled out on the table. 
“And father not home. It seems straight deceitful.” 

“The Teacher was along, and she 7s older, Ellen,” 
Amelia said mildly. ‘Surely no harm could come of it, 
their going off for an afternoon. Judie has so little 
pleasure, and she works so hard.” Amelia bent over the 
pan of sizzling lard on the stove and felt hypocritically 
happy. Lind had told her of how Mark Jordan had en- 
joyed having his visitors there. 

“Well,” Ellen retorted, drawing a deep, injured breath, 
“it seems we all work hard.” | 

“Of course we do, Ellen, and you ought to have a holi- 
day now and then as well as Jude,” Mrs Gare hastened 
to say. “There’s no reason why you shouldn’t. And 
you do get out more than Jude, you know. Jude has 


never been with Martin to Nykerk, and you have.” 
134 


WILD GEESE 135 


“VYes—with the cattle,’ Ellen fretted. “But I 
wouldn’t sneak around getting fun. What if he had 
found out where she was yesterday? What if he hears 
about it somehow? Jude is getting more and more selfish 
every day. She doesn’t care about any of the rest of us. 
She doesn’t give a pin for anybody but herself.” 

“Now, Ellen,’ Amelia said conciliatorily. ‘Don’t take 
on so. There’s no deceiving about it. Jude and the 
Teacher just went over to cook supper for that poor 
young man who’s living all alone there. There can’t be 
anything so wrong in that, can there?” 

“Him,” sniffed Ellen. ‘‘You’d think he was some rela- 
tion or something! There’s enough bachelors living 
alone on homesteads around here to keep Jude busy all 
week at that rate.” 

Amelia smiled and turned the doughnuts over in their 
pan with a fork. Ellen, out of her high tower of self- 
righteousness, if she learned the truth, would be the 
first to condemn her mother. 

The days were growing longer and more full. Caleb 
was sending cream and some butter to the Siding again, 
and there was the separating and the churning to be 
done. The garden cost Amelia no end of work and 
worry; she tended the delicate tomato vines as though 
they were new born infants, and suffered momentary sink- 
ing of the heart whenever she detected signs of weak- 
ness in any of the hardier vegetables. She was grateful 
for the toil in which she could dwell as a sort of refuge 
from deeper thought. Caleb spent much time away 
from the farm dealing with breeders and horse traders, 
returning heavy with importance and news from other 


136 WILD GEESE 


parts which he did not divulge to those at home. The 
care of the animals fell largely to the children. 

Following the eventful Sunday, Judith walked about in 
a strange dream, not quite realizing what had happened 
to her. That she had been for a brief space in another 
world, she knew—a world marvelously familiar in spite 
of its strangeness. But the music—it enveloped her. 
She herded cattle, cleaned the stable, or hoed the potatoes 
to the strains of a waltz or the melody of a popular song 
as though it had been a symphony concert that had 
lodged in her heart. And then, waking, she found 
Amelia, Ellen, Martin and Charlie going about in the 
same dumb way, weeding the garden, tending mares in 
foal, carrying water, leading horses to the trough, search- 
ing the sky for rain. And above all, reporting to Caleb 
Gare by their wordless code the fact that all was serene 
over the land he owned. 

Observing the increasing confidence with which Caleb 
conducted affairs on the farm, and the meek resignation 
of the others, Judith began to fear that there was a 
sinisterly passive influence in the soil tying her to it hand 
and foot even while she was planning to escape. Sven, 
on the two occasions when she had seen him during her 
circling of the north pasture after the cattle, had urged 
her to speak to her mother of their plan to be married. 
But Judith had put off doing so, hoping that some change 
in Caleb’s running of the farm would make it easier for 
Amelia to look kindly upon the announcement. 

She went again to Martin and asked him if Caleb in- 
tended to hire a man for the haying. 

“Til ask him,” Martin said dubiously. 


WILD GEESE 137 


He approached Caleb in the barn, where he was un- 
wrapping a package of patent horse-medicine newly ar- 
rived through the mail order. 

“That hay is sure comin’ up,” Martin began. 
“‘There’ll be half as much again as last year.” 

Caleb peered at him. He drew the cork out of one of 
the bottles of medicine and smelt it. Then he replaced 
the cork and arranged the bottles on the shelf of the barn 
wall. 

As he made no remark, Martin was forced to go on 
with what he had to say without any encourage- 
ment. 

“T was thinkin’ it mightn’t be a bad idea to get one of 
the halfbreeds up. They’re cheap, and we could get it 
in quicker than with the girls.” 

“Can’t do it, Martin—can’t do it this year. Wool 
went down ten per cent, you know,” Caleb said gently. 
“The girls will have to be shown how to hurry.” 

What anger Martin was capable of feeling came to 
the surface now like a squall on smooth water. ‘I don’t 
see what difference a little wool makes,” he broke out. 
“T call it poor economy, figgerin’ like that.” 

Caleb turned slowly. “It doesn’t make much dif- 
ference what you call it, my boy,” he said in the same 
even tone. “This farm is goin’ to be run like I want it 
run. When youw’re old enough to do it better, then Tl 
ask ye how.” He slapped the dust from the shelves off 
his hands and shuffled out of the barn. Martin, red of 
face and humiliated, went off to find Judith. 

She was mixing chicken feed in the hen house. 

“Well, Jude, you might as well stop worryin’ about 


138 WILD GEESE 


Ellen. There ain’t goin’ to be any man for the hayin’,” 


he remarked. 

“There ain’t?” Jude repeated dully after him. Her 
eyes hardened but she made no further comment. After 
she had prepared the feed, she went into the house and 
faced Amelia. 

Judith stood before her mother with her hands in her 
pockets, much in the attitude of a laborer demanding his 
wages. ‘There was nothing soft or confiding in the girl’s 
manner. She had an announcement to make, and she 
made it. 

“Sven Sandbo wants me to marry him,” she stated. 

Amelia looked at her dazedly. ‘And will you?” she 
asked in a faint voice. One of the things she had feared 
had come, then. 

“As soon’s I know he won’t kill everybody if I do,” 
was her reply. ‘‘You best tell him he’ll need another 
man for the haying, and see what he says. I can’t stay 
after that, anyway—I just can’t.” 

She turned abruptly on her heel and went upstairs. It 
had surprised her that Amelia was not at once opposed to 
the idea. She would go straight ahead now, and agree 
to any plan Sven suggested. 

As the girl went out, Amelia lifted her eyes and looked 
long at the rough plaster of the wall before her. It 
was coming, in spite of all that she could do. She could 
not expect the girls to sacrifice all their youth for her— 
she could not achieve that sacrifice for all her concentrat- 
ing. Caleb would be obdurate if Jude went away with 
Sven. He would carry out his threat concerning Mark 
Jordan in order to keep the others on the farm. The 


WILD GEESE 139 


disgrace would fasten them all within these log walls 
forever. No one would want to marry into the family 
after the truth was out about the mother. Caleb would 
ruin Mark Jordan to insure himself against the deser- 
tion of the others. She knew him so well. Would it 
make any difference to Mark? To Lind Archer? That 
was the question. And she had no way of finding the 
answer to it. 

That night, after the others had gone to the loft, 
Amelia spoke hurriedly to Caleb. He was in an un- 
usually mellow mood, having transacted profitably during 
the day in regard to a second-hand hayrack. 

“Caleb, Sven Sandbo wants to marry Jude,” she be- 
gan in a low tone, lest those in the loft should hear. 

Caleb glanced up irritably. ‘Speak out, woman, speak 
out. There’s nothing you’re ashamed of, is there?” 

Amelia drew her lips in, a flush gathered on her 
cheeks. 

“T think she ought to marry him now, before Bart 
Nugent comes up here, if he does. He might—he might 
not be so careful what he says when he has had some- 
thing to drink,” she said nervously. 

Caleb had been hinting lately that Bart Nugent might 
take a trip up from the city during the summer. Amelia 
did not know whether to believe him or not. 

Caleb began to enjoy the situation. “You think, do 
you? Hah! Scared Bart might tell the truth, eh? 
Rather have Sven taken in, eh? Have him think he’s 
marryin’ into fine stuff?” 

“You know—you know nobody around here would 
marry the girls—if—if they knew.” 


140 WILD GEESE 


“No,” he agreed softly, “the people around here are 
careful of their morals. But that’s no reason why you 
should take advantage of them. Wouldn’t it be better 
to wait and find out what Jude is going to be before you 
turn her over to an honest man?” 

Amelia sprang to her feet, her face white. 

“T’ve had enough from you, you hypocrite!” she said, 
her voice breaking. “It isn’t Jude you're thinking of. 
It’s your filthy greed—and the work you can get out of 
her. If you even told the truth—I might—I might 
respect your bullying. But this—this I won’t bear it— 
you—you sneak!” 

She heard her own voice without recognizing it. As he 
descended upon her, his eyes burning into her face, she 
stood rigid, all feeling gone out of her body. Then sud- 
denly the old fear of him swept upon her like a torrent 
of icy water, beads of sweat broke out about her lips, 
her hands shook. 

Caleb laughed under his breath. He spoke now 
almost in a whisper, as he always did when frenzy had 
its way with him. 

“Getting independent suddenly, are you? Mark 
Jordan isn’t so far away but what I could reach him 
to-night, before I go to bed.” 

Amelia shook her head, her lips moving silently. If 
she did not end the scene the children would know that 
something was happening below. Lind would hear. 
Caleb looked at her. She was a poor thing, after all, 
scarcely worth the trouble. 

Calmly taking off his shoes, he barred the door for the 
night, blew out the lamp, and went to bed. In the 


WILD GEESE 141 


kitchen Amelia sat for a long time in the light of the 
lantern, shelling tiny new peas, for something to do. 


2 


Judith, who had heard fragments of the talk from the 
thinly partitioned staircase, noiselessly crept back to bed. 
But she lay all that night without being able to sleep. 
She felt that she had learned something too terrible to 
frame in words. Something that kept her eternally 
from Sven. Monstrous conjectures as to what it might 
be fled through her mind like a waking nightmare. 
Whatever the disaster that hung over Amelia, she knew 
now that it threatened her as well. 

The next day the thing gnawed at her mind like a 
pain. She could not unburden her knowledge to any 
one. She watched Amelia and her pity grew, an in- 
tangible thing. There was no demonstration of affection 
between them, no mother and daughter sentiment. In- 
deed, the feeling Judith had in regard to Amelia was 
rather a deeper thing, springing from the broad stratum 
of human sympathy. 

When she went for the cattle she took the wood road 
on the opposite side of the timber out of sight of the 
Sandbos’, to avoid meeting Sven. The evening was so 
clear that the trees in the brush seemed to be standing 
in a glaze. She heard him calling across the swamps to 
his own cattle, and knew that it was to make her hear. 
It made her bitterly lonely. But there was no romance 
of desire in her loneliness. What she had heard had 
made her feel soiled and mysteriously unworthy. ‘No- 


142 WILD GEESE 


body would marry her if they knew,” Amelia had said. 

She shut herself in from the Teacher completely. 
Here was something raw, inexorable, that Lind, who had 
soft fingers and belonged to that other world of dance 
and magic music, could never understand. 

A horse dropped dead ene day in the pasture, and 
Caleb sent Martin and Charlie out to skin it. Before 
the carcass had been taken away, Judith came upon it, 
red and horrible in the burning sunlight. After that, 
the hurt in her mind seemed to take on the image of the 
horse. 

She worked like a tireless machine from morning till 
night, and Caleb almost admitted his pleasure in her 
industry. 

“T’ll be goin’ in to town one of these days, Jude. Per- 
haps there’s something you’d like me to bring you—a 
pair of shoes, or something like that,” he suggested, as 
though he did not know that she was wearing Charlie’s 
boots for want of shoes. 

“H-mp!” Judith muttered. “I don’t want anything.” 

Amelia noticed Judith’s stolid indifference to every- 
thing about her, and she reproached herself even while 
she was reminded of the vow she had made to herself in 
the garden the day she had seen Mark Jordan. “She is 
too proud to ask me whether I have spoken to him about 
the man for the haying,” she guessed, “and it’s worrying 
her.” But long custom kept her silent. They were 
separate workers under Caleb Gare, each with her own 
concerns. 

Caleb’s acres of delicate flax became a tissue of pale 
silver under the sky. Caleb watched it daily now, 


WILD GEESE 143 


measured its height, noticed the moisture in the soil. 
The flax was his pride—his great hope. He had planted 
twice as much this year as last. Articles on its cultiva- 
tion had become to him the Word of God. The rye 
grass would grow abundantly without a thought, and he 
would sell it well, but the flax was a thing to pray over. 

On the day following his little difference, as he called 
it, with Amelia, he walked with increasing satisfaction, 
through and through the timber he had “bought” of Fusi 
Aronson. To the south lay the muskeg and the dried 
lake bottom that he had disposed of in exchange for the 
timber. Fusi would no doubt be able to put it to good 
use—the Icelanders were a thrifty lot. . . . He smiled 
to himself as he saw how things were shaping up. It 
was all a matter of resolve and one got what one wanted. 
True, it might be a little difficult to persuade the pig- 
headed Thorvaldson to sell the grazing land adjacent to 
his own on the west. It was a shameful waste of land, 
given up to a few head of moth-eaten scrub horses. He 
would have to get around Thorvaldson. 

Caleb felt secure and mellow after his encounter with 
Amelia. She had betrayed by her attitude that she 
would not abet Judith in any scheming. And, thorough 
egoist that he was, he could not conceive of Jude’s cross- 
ing him without the support of at least one other member 
of the family. Caleb had no special desire to bring 
matters to a climax in regard to Mark Jordan. As it 
stood now, the thing savored of intrigue and the per- 
vasive, subterranean control of a Master. In a sense, 
it had lost its serious significance and had become a sort 
of game by which he amused himself. A dénouement, 


144 WILD GEESE 


while it would perhaps tighten the screws on the fixtures 
on the farm, would make him less an heroic figure in a 
mystery. For Caleb, although he had known of Amelia’s 
moral defection before he had married her, had always 
looked upon himself as the betrayed and cheated victim 
in a triangle. It was perhaps this which prevented him 
from ever feeling pangs of remorse for his acts. His 
sensibilities were crystallized in the belief that life 
had done him an eternal wrong, which no deed of his own 
could over-avenge. 


3 


On the last day of June Caleb went to the city in the 
south. It was a semi-annual journey which occupied 
only three or four days, and was made solely for the 
purpose of laying in such provisions as could not be 
obtained at Yellow Post or at Nykerk, but it was at- 
tended always by a show of solemn importance. And 
there was never a releasing of tension after Caleb’s de- 
parture: he always took pains to set tasks which would 
remain behind like stern images of himself. 

Judith was free to go where she liked without dis- 
covery for four days. But she did not try to find Sven 
Sandbo. 


CHAPTER VIII 
1 


CALEB was away, but things went on with the same 
unbroken monotony: Martin finished the wagon shed, 
and dreamed his dream of the New House; Amelia and 
Een worked in the garden, milked, churned, and sent 
the remainder of the cream to the Siding with Skuli Erick- 
son, from whom the cans were borrowed for the purpose. 
Caleb did not believe in buying them for so short a season. 
Judith and Charlie tended the livestock. 

The Teacher, free of her school duties for two weeks 
in the month of July, watched the Gares out of the pity 
of her heart, and came no closer to any of them. Ellen 
harbored a scarcely concealed resentment for every- 
thing about Lind Archer, from the dainty underwear she 
hung on the line to dry, to the manner in which she 
taught the children at school to look for beauty in every 
living thing. She pointedly refrained from remember- 
ing whether Lind took sugar in her tea or not, so little did 
the Teacher and her tastes mean to her. Martin avoided 
her out of sheer shyness and awe. Charlie was more 
unbending, and offered to play “catch” with her now 
and again, but the boy, old as he was, was peevish, and 
sulked when he did not get his own way, and Lind could 
draw nothing from him that was not a reflection of 
Caleb. 

145 


146 WILD GEESE 


Lind was nonplussed by Judith. Whenever the girl 
spoke to her it was in a brusque, almost offensive tone. 
The Teacher had gone to the Sandbos’ one evening, where 
she frequently met Mark Jordan, and Sven had asked her 
why Judith went out of her way not to meet him when 
she brought in the cattle. But she could get no response 
from Judith when she approached her in Sven’s behalf. 
It hurt and surprised her, especially after the pleasant 
Sunday when the girl’s restraint had been so completely 
broken. 

On a drowsy afternoon during Caleb’s absence, Lind 
took the little pony of the Sandbo children and rode to 
the homestead of Dora Brund, Mrs Sandbo’s married 
daughter, who, according to her mother, lived a life of 
misery under a brutal husband. “The poor girl,” Mrs 
Sandbo had lamented. “She vill be so glad vhen you 
come.” 

The trail led several miles along a swamp mottled with 
clumps of floating moss and rank, hair-like grass. The 
landscape had a suave bleakness, as if it were complacent 
in its poverty. 

Lind wished that Mark Jordan were with her. She 
got so much from him of warm ease and contemplative 
companionship. There was an impersonal glow in him. 
He offered her always a deliciously casual intimacy that 
never once had bordered upon a redeclaration of the feel- 
ing he had expressed on the night when she had come in 
upon him out of the rain. It piqued her to know, how- 
ever, that the thought dwelt just behind his eyes when- 
ever he looked at her, and that there had been times 


WILD GEESE 147 


when she had not dared to meet his eyes for fear of precip- 
itating the moment that each knew lay ahead. 

Lind was wisely aware that she could not see much of 
Mark without causing comment of a malicious nature 
among the settlers. The intolerance of the earth seemed 
to have crept into their very souls. And the school 
teacher above all was looked to as a model of propriety. 
But there were moments when Lind could have thrown 
her concern to the winds and fled from the overhanging 
chill of the Gares to the shelter of the Klovacz home- 
stead and buried her face in Mark Jordan’s shoulder 
from utter loneliness. 

She looked out now upon the level monotony of the 
prairie with its low, ragged woodland on the west, north 
of the Gares’, and wondered how she would live through 
the summer. Were it not for Mark, who, she knew, 
would miss her keenly, she would have gone back to the 
city for the short vacation. 

Back among a few lean shreds of birch trees, stood the 
“shack” of the Brunds. It was covered with tar paper 
and perpendicular laths. It looked like a flat pan up- 
side down on the ground. In the only window at the 
front of the house hung a lace curtain with frayed 
edges. The slanting barn and the two ungainly looking 
outhouses that could be looked straight through, so 
large were the crevices in them, stood below a slope near 
the margin of Latt’s Slough. Joel Brund’s cattle stood 
knee deep in the water, all staring absently at Lind. 

Dora Brund opened the door and looked at Lind with 
round china-blue eyes. Her face was emptily pretty, her 


148 WILD GEESE 


full small mouth had a sulky droop. She wore a pink 
wrapper that was sticky with food, and on her round 
breast dangled four linked safety pins. An odor of 
cheap talcum powder hung about her heavily. 

“Tt am Lind Archer,” the Teacher smiled at her. 
“Your mother told me where you live and I thought I’d 
like to call on you.” 

“Oh—yes, you’re the Teacher,’ Dora said. “Sit 
down, please, and I’ll get my clothes on. I been work- 
ing round all day. You got no idea how it is in a place 
like this. No time to clean up decent, even.” Her voice 
was reedy and petulant as a child’s. 

While she was gone, Lind looked around the room, one 
of the two in the house. 

The linoleum on the floor had been washed in streaks. 
A little iron stove in the corner had spilt its ashes from 
the grate. On the oil cloth of the table were little clots 
that looked like dark gum. A smell of old rags filled the 
place. 

Dora came back presently from the other room, the 
door of which was closed. She had put on a pale blue 
figured cotton dress ornamented with rosettes of black 
velvet, and looked listlessly pretty. 

She sat down in a chair by the table and rested her 
cheek on her hand. 

“My, it’s getting warm, ain’t it?” she said with a sigh. 
“How do you like it up here?” 

“T like it very well. I find the people most interest- 
ing,” Lind told her. “You and your husband have been 
back only a short time, your mother tells me?” 


WILD GEESE 149 


““Yes—and long enough. I’m near dead, I’m so lone- 
some,” she fretted. ‘This is the slowest place on earth. 
Nothin’ ever happens except the weather, and it’s rotten 
most of the year.” ! 

“Does your husband expect to stay here long?”’ 

“Expect? He never thinks of anything else. Never 
been anywhere else, except the six months we was away 
in Nykerk. I wouldn’t care if we had a little pleasure 
once in a while, or if I could get some decent clothes, or 
somebody to look at ’em. But he don’t care whether 
I’ve got anything or not. Don’t know the difference be- 
tween a coat and a hat.” Her eyes traveled discon- 
tentedly out the window. 

“You have no children, Mrs Brund?” 

“No—thank God, and I’m not goin’ to,” Dora asserted. 
“That’s a pretty waist you got on, Miss Archer. Get it 
in the city?” She scrutinized it avidly, biting her under 
lip with her small white teeth. 

“Ves. But you could make one very easily.” 

Dora shrugged. 

“T ain’t got any sewing machine, and if he got me 
one he’d expect me to do all my own sewing.” She sur- 
veyed Lind from head to foot with a sort of grudging ad- 
miration and envy. Then she rose and went to the stove 
from which she took a small granite-ware coffee pot. She 
emptied the grounds out of it into a pail that stood near 
the sink, rinsed it out briefly with cold water, filled it again 
and replaced it on the stove. With limp hands she meas- 
ured out two large spoonfuls of coffee and put them into 
the pot. All of this without a word. 


150 WILD GEESE 


She sat down again by the window to wait for the coffee 
to boil. Lind asked her how long she had been in Loyola, 
where she had been employed. She brightened. 

“T was there nearly six months, on the lunch counter. 
Before I was married, that was. Blundell’s place— 
maybe you been there?” 

Lind had not been there, and Dora went on to tell her 
about the town. Then a smell of coffee rose in the air, 
and the Teacher was served with a cup of it—wan stuff 
with grounds floating on the top. While they sat at the 
table Dora told her of the “guys” who used to come to 
Blundell’s lunch counter, and of how all of them were 
“stuck” on her. She was sighing over the romances of 
her past when the door opened and Joel Brund stepped 
in. He was ponderous as an ox, nearly as tall as Fusi 
Aronson. He looked abashed when he saw the Teacher, 
and half turned as if to go out again. 

Dora called him languidly. He came forward and 
took Lind’s hand in his own huge hairy one. Without a 
word he turned away and opened a tool chest that stood 
under the window. Dora glanced at him sideways and 
shrugged her pretty shoulders. Lind pitied the man— 
so like a great, kindly ox. 

When he left the house he barely looked at the 
Teacher, and nodded. Dora did not say a word to him. 

In a short time Lind took leave of Dora Brund, promis- 
ing to call again. When she got outside the house she 
breathed with deep relief. Down near the thatched barn 
she saw Joel moving about, as though he were as heavy in 
spirit as in body: an ox, dimly, uneasily aware of a 
man’s pride. 


WILD GEESE 151 


2 


Riding home, Lind met Mark Jordan, who was on foot. 
He had been at the Sandbos’. She felt that she had 
known all along that she would meet him—she needed 
him to-day. A fleet wonder passed through her mind 
that they had not acknowledged each other long ago— 
what was keeping them apart? When the thought was 
gone she would not believe that she had harbored it. It 
was not for her to make overtures, after what he had 
said. 

“Lind,” Mark said softly, his arm across the pommel 
of her saddle, ‘“‘you always come at the right moment— 
like hope.” 

Lind looked down into his eyes. “It’s ages since I 
saw you last. Dve been so busy promoting the children. 
What have you been doing?” She strove to keep her 
voice even. 

“Well, I have most of that brush cut down. [T’m 
starting to burn it now, before the leaves get too dry. 
I don’t want to start a bush fire.” Mark stroked the 
muzzle of the horse. 

As she was silent, he said, “(Come home with me. I 
need scientific nourishment. T’ll walk slowly beside you 
while you gallop your horse.” Lind laughed at his 
nonsense. Impulsively she reached down with her hand 
and tugged at his hair. 

“Are you so vain that you have to show your hair off 
to the birds?” she teased. ‘‘Better be careful or they’ll 
be wanting it for their nests.” 

She consented to ride to the Klovaczs’. On the way 


152 WILD GEESE 


she told him of Dora Brund and her husband, and of the 
absence of Caleb Gare. 

“T’ye heard more of that man Gare,’ Mark com- 
mented. “One of the Icelanders was saying that he has 
something on his wife and is blackmailing the whole 
family into staying on the farm. He must be quite a — 
character. Are you still against my calling on him?” 

“No. But Mrs Gare hasn’t changed her mind about 
your coming. She is afraid it would rouse the children 
to revolt, it seems.” 

“Poor kids! That girl Judith has fine stuff in her. 
Sven Sandbo was telling me a little about her to-day. 
He’s thinking of carrying her off bodily out of the clutches 
of the old man. Sven is a decent chap, too. Funny 
how you see interest in classes up here that you would 
ordinarily not think about. Too much civilization is a 
stifling thing.” 

They went easily along through the aisle of shadow 
formed by the rough spruce trees, down the hollow that 
led to a clearing, and beyond that to another hollow 
filled with clustering dogwood bushes. ‘There wasn’t the 
lifting of a leaf; the air hung in a leaden haze. The 
palms of Lind’s hands were moist on the reins; a spoken 
word seemed scarcely to leave one’s lips. 

“TI am afraid it’s going to rain,” Lind said, looking up 
at the sky. “TI really ought not to come.” 

“Oh, but that’s just what you ought,” Mark corrected 
her. 

At the Klovacz place, Lind made a custard, and set it 
away on a Shelf. Then she spread a white cloth on the 
table, and went about preparing the meal. Mark was 


WILD GEESE 153 


outside feeding the chickens. She thought about him, in 
spite of herself, and finally gave up trying not to. She 
saw his other pair of shoes standing under a chair and 
thought how familiar, how friendly, they looked. 

After the supper, they sauntered out to the chicken 
house, where Mark showed her twelve newly hatched 
chicks. They looked at the sky and found it heavy with 
rain. Lind decided it would be better not to start for 
home until it had gone over, and they returned indoors 
with great round drops falling about them. 

Lind played the phonograph while Mark smoked his 
pipe. He looked more remote than ever when he smoked, 
as if he found in the blue spirals an irresistible mystery. 
Suddenly Lind went over to him and snatched his pipe 
away. He looked up in boyish surprise. Lind thrust 
the pipe between her lips and puffed violently. 

“Nothing much to that,” she said, handing it back to 
him. 

“Most satisfying thing in the world.” 

“Must be, the way you devote yourself to it.” 

“T thought you were listening to the music. I'll get 
you a pipe if you like.” He got up as if to find a pipe. 
She smiled and went to the window to look at the rain. 
It came down in great curves, and with it came the dark. 

Mark lit the lamp, and while he plucked at the wick, 
Lind held the chimney. He took it from her and their 
hands touched briefly. Mark’s lips almost touched her 
hair. He drew away quickly and Lind clasped her hands 
together and began to hum a little tune. 

When the rain had gone, the evening was as soundless 
and clear as if it stood over a newly created earth. Lind 


154 WILD GEESE 


and Mark walked down the wood road, leading their 
horses. Above the darkening cedars the moon rose, and 
the night opened upon them like a tender, gloomed flower. 
They moved together involuntarily. Lind looked up and 
saw his face clear and intent upon her in the ashy light. 
His absorption was gone now. He was all human and 
very near to her. They stood still in the road and looked 
at each other. The moonlight seemed to form a globe 
over them, locking out every alien sound. Without a 
word Lind went to him. His arms, his breast and his 
lips possessed her. She yielded herself to the dark, warm 
entirety of him, knowing the full moment. 

“Lind ... Lind .. .” he whispered her name, over 
and over. 

The horses walked on ahead, keeping to the road. 


CHAPTER IX 
1 


On the day that Caleb was expected home, Mrs 
Sandbo became suddenly aware that life was tedious. 
True, Mrs Thorvaldson over westward was “expecting,’’ 
and she, Mrs Sandbo, would be present at her confine- 
ment, but that was at least two weeks off. No wind of 
gossip had blown her way for a long time, no choice 
morsel of scandal had fallen into her hands to knead and 
reshape. The Teacher, who must surely hear things, was 
not the one to recount them generously. On the day 
that Caleb was expected home, then, Mrs Sandbo’s 
curiosity won her over to its side completely. 

Sven having gone to Yellow Post, she maneuvered the 
cattle into the Gares’ hayfield, and proceeded in an 
elaborately unscientific manner to herd them out. Lind, 
watching her flying across the east field, wondered what 
her purpose was in driving them toward the Gares’. 
Presently the scheme behind it became obvious to her, 
and she smiled to herself. 

When Mrs Sandbo had finally cornered the beasts 
up against the fence, Martin came to her rescue and 
opened the gate into the yard, through which she drove 
the cattle, heading them toward the road. Then she 
turned, panting, with a hand on her chest, to see who was 
about. Lind, who had been looking at Ellen’s sweet-pea 


vines, came toward her and smiled a greeting. 
155 


156 WILD GEESE 


Mrs Sandbo responded absently, apparently over- 
come at finding herself at last on the spot where she had 
craved to be. She looked past the Teacher toward the 
house with eyes greedy for revelations. 

‘‘And where is Mrs Gare—and the girls?” she asked, 
her words stumbling over each other with eagerness. 
While she talked, she noticed the garden with its clean, 
straight rows, the new wagon shed, and the plump white 
leghorns tilting tail as they pecked and scratched in the 
screened yard. Her cows had ambled out into the road, 
but they could wait. 

“Ellen is working indoors, Mrs Sandbo,” Lind told 
her. ‘Judith is at Yellow Post, and Mrs Gare is busy 
at something.” She knew Amelia would be embarrassed 
at finding the woman here. 

“Vell—issn’t—vell!”” Mrs Sandbo found no expres- 
sion for her feelings at the moment. She was too dis- 
concerted at seeing no one rush to meet her, as she would 
have done had a caller approached her home under such 
circumstances, that it did not occur to her at once to turn 
to the house. 

Before she could say any more, Mrs Gare came into 
sight among the outbuildings, her white apron gathered 
up in front of her and bulging roundly. Amelia shielded 
her eyes with her free hand as she approached them. 

“Vell—vell—Mrs Gare,” said Mrs Sandbo, in the 
manner she used in her own parlor among the bright 
brown leather furniture and the looming photographs of 
all the Sandbos. “You look just like you alvays vass! 
My, vhat eggs! Do you get so many every—ver day!” 


WILD GEESE 157 


Her eyes traveled quickly over Amelia’s dress, her shoes, 
the look of her face. 

Amelia smiled, glancing with amusement at Lind. She 
had never cared particularly for Mrs Sandbo on the two 
or three occasions when she had met her before, but she 
would nevertheless have liked to ask her in, were it not 
for her old fear of Caleb’s criticism. ‘Not every day,” 
she replied. “And how are you keeping, Mrs Sandbo?” 

“Oh, me, I’m not vell lately. Since he vent it’s been 
purty hard. A farm goes up—phoo!—vit’out a man. 
Sven, he’s got no use for the place after he been to town. 
He vill back—and vhat can a poor voman do?” She 
glanced disconsolately toward the house. Was not 
Amelia going to ask her in? 

“Yes, it must be hard for you,’ Amelia said. She 
looked toward Mrs Sandbo’s cattle scattering in the 
road. 

“T had such a time to get those lubbers out of your 
field, Mrs Gare! They vill after sveet hay. I have 
Sven fix the fence vhere they got through. And vhere 
is the girls?” she asked, sweeping the place with a sharp 
look. She had heard Lind’s reply to that question well 
enough. 

Amelia told her. 

“Oh, Ellen iss sewing? New summer dresses, now, 
maybe?” 

“Well—not exactly. How is Dora?” 

“Oh, that one,” Mrs Sandbo composed herself with 
her hands across her waist, glad of an inexhaustible 
subject. She had a feeling that was nettling and at the 


158 WILD GEESE 


same time gratifying because of its implication, that 
Amelia was trying to get rid of her. ‘“Vhat a life she 
hess! Vit’ such a man! I alvays says to her, I says, 
you have no bissness to marry him. But she hess her 
vay, and now you see vhat it iss! She vass a purty girl, 
Dora, and a good girl. Everybody vass after her, in 
Loyola vhere she vaited on table. But vhat can you say 
to them—the young ones! Sven—he vill run off and 
marry some dirt, too, maybe. If Judith” (she pro- 
nounced it Vudit) “vill not look on him. Hee, hee! 
Vhat you t’ink of dose two, Mrs Gare?” She tittered 
at Lind, and looked again toward the house. Surely now 
that this much had been said, Mrs Gare could do 
nothing but ask her in. A cup of coffee, anyway. 

“I don’t think Dora is so badly off, Mrs Sandbo,” 
Lind said, “now that I’ve seen her. I think her husband 
looks like a good man.” 

“Hm! You don’t yet know him.” 

Amelia took a securer grip on the eggs in her apron. 
Lind touched Mrs Sandbo’s arm. “Let me help you 
drive the cows home, Mrs Sandbo. They’ll be all over 
the place in a minute.” 

“I hope you get them in safe,” Mrs Gare smiled. 
““Good-by, Mrs Sandbo.” 

On the way down the road, Mrs Sandbo could not 
contain her chagrin and amazement at the fact that she 
had not been invited into the Gare household. 

“Iss it him? Iss she so scared of him that she can’t 
ask a neighbor in to coffee?” she demanded of Lind. 

“T think it’s because he’s away,” said Lind, clearing 
her throat. 


WILD GEESE 159 


“‘Vell—so I vill come one day vhen he iss home. The 
stinker!’ she said emphatically. | 

Mrs Sandbo was well acquainted with the situation on 
the Gare farm, but occasionally when life hung dully 
about her, she liked to regale herself by freshening her 
knowledge of the state of affairs. So that now she was 
doubly shaken, first by her renewed awe at the tyranny 
of Caleb Gare, secondly by the personal affront she had 
suffered. 


2 


Judith had not counted on finding Sven at Yellow Post. 
Somehow he had gone out of her mind, to give place to 
that dark thing that had agonized her thoughts ever since 
she had overheard the conversation between Amelia and 
Caleb. For some reason unknown to herself she was 
wretchedly unworthy, even to live. 

Sven was hiring a halfbreed for the haying time when 
Judith first saw him. Out of the corner of her eye she 
watched his dominating gestures, watched him flip a 
match out of the open window with a‘ male grace 
that tantalized her. It was only necessary to see him, 
then . . . She hated herself suddenly. 

He turned and saw her, leaning against the enormous 
vinegar barrel near the counter. The corners of her 
lips tightened, and she looked away. Sven dismissed the 
halfbreed with a word and sauntered lazily toward her. 

“So that was all you wanted me for, eh?” he mocked. 
He strove to look indifferent, but his lips worked nerv- 
ously. “Well—it’s all right with me. I just want to 
know where I stand.” 


160 WILD GEESE 


Judith raised her eyes but could not keep them on his 
face. 

“Listen, Jude. I mean what I say. You make up 
your mind one way or the other, and meet me at the 
water hole in the bush. I’m not throwing myself around 
like a fool for anybody. Be there for the cattle, to- 
night.” 

“Not to-night—to-morrow night,” Judith said shortly, 
and turned to Johanneson. 

Perplexed, Sven went away. He could swear in his 
heart that Judith loved him. But she was strange. 
What on earth had he done to make her avoid him? 
Nothing that she herself had not provoked. He was half 
tempted to force her to ride home with him, to frighten 
her into submission, as he had done. . . . The morning 
was pure and mobile with a soft wind. It would be 
sweet riding together. He would tell her again of the 
town where he had worked, and where he would 
take her when they were married. He would—oh, what 
was the use? She, likely as not, would lash him across 
the face with her whip if he spoke to her again that day. 

Judith rode home in a flux of emotions. To demand 
of Amelia what there was to prevent her marrying Sven 
might perhaps lead to the unfolding of secrets that would 
forever bind her to the life on the farm. And yet, this 
agitation of the spirit would not cease until she knew. 

As she jogged along in the cart, her eyes idled across 
the flat, unsurprising earth that went on and on into the 
north with scarcely a perceptible undulation. Here was 
the bush land, without magnificence, without primitive 


WILD GEESE 161 


redundance of growth: here was the prairie, spare as an 
empty platter—no, there was the solitary figure of a man 
upon it, like a meager offering of earth to heaven. Here 
were the little wood trails and prairie trails that a few 
men had made on lonely journeyings, and here the cross- 
Ings where they had met to exchange a word or two. 
The sky above it all was blue and tremendous, a vast 
country for proud birds that were ever on the wing, seek- 
ing, seeking. And a little delicate wind that was like a 
woman, Jude thought to herself, but could in a moment 
become a male giant violating the earth. 

She could find the sky and the wind in a more profuse 
place, where life was like silk, and she belonged there. 
She would have to ask Amelia what that was... . 

Amelia was spraying lice powder on the interior of the 
chicken coop when Judith returned. The girl stood at 
the door and watched her for a while in silence, then told 
her there was no mail. Amelia had not expected any. 
There never was any mail with any meaning for her. 
She went on with her task without comment. 

“What were you talking about with him that night you 
told him about Sven?” Judith asked abruptly. 

Amelia had her back to her and did not turn. 

“Why—lI can’t remember anything special,” she re- 
plied slowly. ‘He wouldn’t listen to it, of course.” 

“There’s something else—I heard you. I have to 
know right now what it is,” Judith kept on. 

Amelia faced her. “I guess you heard what he said 
about my family,” she began haltingly. ‘He’s always 
reminding me that he came from better people than I did. 


162 WILD GEESE 


He makes my parents out a lot worse than they were— 
they were only poor, nothing worse. You know how he 
is, Judie. That was all.” 

The chicken coop smelt pungently of lime. It was suf- 
focating. But Amelia apparently did not notice it. Ju- 
dith looked at her hard for a moment. Amelia’s face 
was blank. She turned again and continued spraying 
the roosts. 

Judith turned doubtfully away. It was like Caleb to 
make a great to-do over so little, but 

In the chicken coop Amelia’s hands were inert. She 
set the spray down. Judith had not heard Caleb’s ref- 
erence to Mark Jordan, then. She would have to submit 
to anything hereafter rather than create a scene that 
would lead to disaster. 

The next day Caleb returned. He had shoes for Ju- 
dith, stout leather things with room for heavy woolen 
stock tinge: There would be another winter. 





CHAPTER X 
1 


At the spring where weeks before she had lain on the 
ground with her clothing in a heap beside her, Judith 
met Sven. They sat down together beside the water-hole 
and listened to the insects in the air humming of rain. 
Judith placed her hand over Sven’s mouth when he 
started to speak. 

“Don’t!” she whispered. ‘You can hear the clouds 
move!” 

They sat in silence and listened to the close, forbod- 
ing stir above and around them. The air became gray 
under the trees, and from the clearing the cattle lowed 
uneasily. 

Judith moved close to Sven and studied his face. He 
kissed her almost fearfully on the lips and at the base of 
the throat. It seemed that he had never known how 
beautiful she was. 

“T will go with you after the haying,” she told him. 


Z 


True to her word, a week later Mrs Sandbo came to 
visit the Gares. She came dressed in her finest, bringing 
with her a fruit cake. Surely such a token of neighbor- 
liness would offset any rebuff. 


When Ellen met her at the door, Mrs Sandbo stepped 
163 


164 WILD GEESE 


hastily inside. Amelia, who was working in the garden, 
did not come in at once although she had seen Mrs 
Sandbo drive into the yard. She stood for a while with 
her eyes out toward the bluffs on the prairie, where 
Caleb had gone to look over some cattle. 

Lind was sewing in the sitting room when Mrs 
Sandbo stepped in. It was the Teacher who placed a 
chair for her. Ellen stood back uncertainly. 

“Vell—” Mrs Sandbo began, settling herself. She 
looked critically about the room before she went on. 
“Vell—it’s getting varm, Mees Archer. My! Ellen, I 
vould not know you again! How thin you are. Vhat 
you doing vit’ yourself, now? Somet’ing the matter?” 

Ellen smiled stiffly. ‘“No—nothing. I feel good,” she 
responded. 

“You are a real big girl, now, though. Perhaps you 
vill be getting married von of these days, ya? And 
Mees Archer, you are yourself looking for a husband 
now, I hear?” 

Pre 

“Oh,” Mrs Sandbo supplemented elaborately, “maybe 
it’s a mees-take. But I vass t’inking it vassn’t for 
not’ing that Fusi Aronson vent over to Thorvaldson. Of 
course, they say so much at the Siding.” 

“What do you mean, Mrs Sandbo?” Lind asked 
uneasily. 

“Oh—not’ing—not’ing to say again. It vass only at 
the Siding the story vent that Fusi Aronson knocked 
Thorvaldson crezy on his own farm for saying about 
the teacher and this hired man on Klovacz place. 
Not’ing to say again.” 


WILD GEESE 165 


Lind sat aghast. How on earth—did the very wind 
carry spite here? It had been, perhaps, unwise to go 
there at all. 

Amelia came in at that moment and greeted Mrs 
Sandbo quietly. Ellen, who had heard the latter’s story, 
gave Lind a sidelong glance and went out. She had her 
Own opinion of such downright and flagrant indiscretion. 

“And how is Mr Gare, back from the city?” Mrs 
Sandbo asked mildly. Amelia told her he was well. 

“He brings many nice t’ings for the girls, now, maybe?” 

“We can’t afford anything that isn’t useful, Mrs 
Sandbo. I want to thank you for that fruitcake. I 
haven’t had time to make a cake for quite a while. The 
garden keeps me busy.” 

““Yess—” sighed Mrs Sandbo. ‘And it takes money 
too, to bake and cook fancy.” 

“Ellen,” Amelia called toward the kitchen. ‘Make 
some tea for Mrs Sandbo, please.” 

“Mrs Thorvaldson, she iss the unlucky von,’ Mrs 
Sandbo said profoundly, folding her hands in her lap. 

‘“What’s the matter with her?” Amelia asked, seeing 
that her visitor wished to be prompted. 

“She had a young von last veek, and it vass born 
dead—a boy, too. It vass too soon for me to get over,” 
she said regretfully. ‘Thorvaldson vass so mad he al- 
most bust—nine girls already, and this the first boy. 
But I t’ink it vass a mercy it died.” 

“Why, was anything wrong?” 

“Wrong? And haven’t you heard?” she exclaimed, 
prolonging the mystery with relish. Of course the 
Gares hadn’t heard. How could they have? 


Pees) WILD GEESE 


“No.” 

‘“‘Well—” she cleared her throat, settling back in her 
chair. “I vouldn’t say it again—but the baby vass born 
with the head of a calf.””’ Having launched her informa- 
tion she watched bright-eyed for the effect. 

“Gracious!” Lind cried. 

“Vou mean it wasn’t right?” Amelia asked calmly. 

“Tt vass a fright. Mrs Lindahl, she helped, and she 
told me all. It came before they could let me know. 
The voman vass stepped on vit’ a cow just a month be- 
fore. It serves him good—that man—to make a voman 
vork like that just before.” 

“That’s dreadful,” Lind murmured. She saw that 
Mrs Sandbo actually believed that the child’s head was 
shaped like a calf’s. 

Ellen brought Mrs Sandbo tea, and some of her own 
cake. 

Caleb came in after a while and glanced at Mrs 
Sandbo. He did not speak to any one in the room, but 
rummaged around in a drawer for a letter which he took 
to the table. 

“Fusi Aronson hass sold you his timber, I hear, Mr 
Gare? It vass more than he vould sell me, and I offered 
him a good price for it, too.” 

Caleb scarcely glanced up. “Yes,” he said absently, 
peering at the paper before him. 

“That vass a terrible t’ing that happened to the Aron- 
son boys, four five years ago. Fusi iss not the same 
since.” 

“Tt was sad,” Amelia remarked. 

“Nobody seems to know much of it,” she went on. 


WILD GEESE 167 


“Funny t’ing nobody vass around to pick them up, or 
take them in for the night. It wassn’t so far from people 
vhere they froze.” 

“Of course the storm would keep people from going 
out, Mrs Sandbo,” Amelia said hurriedly. 

“Yess, and the epidemic vass around, too.” 

“I’m afraid T’ll have to go to the garden, again, Mrs 
Sandbo,” Amelia told her, glancing at Caleb. “I’m pick- 
ing beans for supper, and it’s after four now.” 

“Good land, I stop so long already! Vell—good-by, 
Miss Archer. And don’t t’ink not’ing of that Thorvald- 
son. He’s a mean von. Good-by, Mr Gare. Good 
luck vit’ the hay.” She rustled out, her skirts making 
almost the rattling sound of paper. Amelia followed her 
gratefully. 

After she had gone, Caleb coughed softly and re- 
placed the letter in the drawer of the secretary. He had 
actually not looked at a word of it. He closed the 
drawer and turned the key in the lock of it, placing the key 
in his vest pocket where he kept his large silver watch. 
The drawer of the secretary reserved for Caleb’s cor- 
respondence and papers was never touched by the rest 
of the family. 

Amelia, in the garden, worried about what he would 
say when she returned to the house. She knew that he 
had come in only to torment her with his knowledge that 
Mrs Sandbo was there. 

Lind hurried to her room and wondered just how far 
the news had gone that she had been seen with Mark 
Jordan. No one could have known that she had eaten 
with him at the Klovaczs’, so that any report of this 


168 WILD GEESE 


kind must be nothing but malicious conjecture. But 
she must give them nothing to talk about while she was 
teaching at Oeland. It occurred to her that Amelia was 
justified in fearing Caleb if he held any damaging knowl- 
edge about her. Once the countryside got hold of it her 
name would be bandied about mercilessly. 


3 


“Tf I see her here again I’ll put her off the place,” 
Caleb added, after giving Amelia a dressing down for 
entertaining Mrs Sandbo. ‘We'll have no mixin’ in 
with that lot. The Teacher’s settin’ her cap for Mark 
Jordan, eh? The Siding knows about it. She'll not 
want to find out the truth about that handsome young 
man, eh?” He chuckled under his breath and went out 
to the cattle yard. Amelia stood still and thought. The 
Teacher was so fine, so generous—it would not matter 
to her. But it would matter to him—yes, it would mat- 
ter a great deal to Mark Jordan. A sudden impulse 
came to her. Caleb was well out of hearing, and Ellen 
had gone to bring in water. 

She called up stairs to the Teacher. Lind came and 
looked down at her. 

“I’m going to bake two chickens—would you like to 
take one over to that young man at the Klovaczs’?” 
Amelia asked. ‘Keep it a’secret, of course.” 

Lind smiled at her, hiding her surprise. “What will 
the Icelanders say if they see me going there?” 

“‘Well—do as you like. They will talk anyway, here.” 

It followed that Lind took the chicken, full of savory ~ 


WILD GEESE 169 


dressing, to the Klovacz homestead. On the way she 
wondered at Amelia’s sudden bold generosity, and won- 
dered also what the woman’s real self was. 

Mark Jordan was repairing a binder when Lind rode 
up to him. His hair clung in damp little curls to his 
forehead, his bare arms were sunburnt and the muscles 
stood out on them. She laughed aloud with delight as 
She looked at him. He came and put his arms around 
her where she sat in the saddle. 

“Do you know, I think you’re an awful fraud. There 
isn’t a thing wrong with you, and it’s not necessary for 
you to be here at all,” she told him. 

“Well—it wasn’t, but it is now,” he smiled at her. ‘At 
least until the end of October.” 

He helped her down from the saddle and took the 
parcel she gave him. 

“‘There’s a scandal about us,” she said. ‘The prairies 
have seen me riding with you.” 

“‘Well—then we'll have to be married right away. And 
Oeland will lose a first class school teacher,” he declared. 

“No—just for spite we’ll wait,” she laughed. “But 
that’s delicious chicken. Mrs Gare is a dear. I could 
kill the old man ten times a day. There must be some- 
thing terrific keeping her there.” 

Mark caught her about the shoulders and kissed her 
repeatedly, taking off her hat so that he could bury his 
face in her hair. 

“You are too lovely to be alive,’ he whispered. “TI 
think sometimes that I’ve just dreamt you.” 

She kissed his hands, that were becoming tough in the 
palms with callouses. ‘Wonderful, isn’t it?” she said, 


170 WILD GEESE 


examining the callouses. ‘The doctor won’t know his 
trembling patient.” 

They walked together to the house with their arms 
about each other, since from that point no one on the 
road could see them. When they were seated at the table 
for supper, Mark told her that he had had a letter from 
Anton Klovacz and that he was returning home in a 
few weeks. The letter had been dispirited, and Mark 
feared that the great doctor had not given him much 
hope. Anton had been spending the summer in a 
sanitarium, but his money was dwindling, and additional 
improvements would have to be made on the homestead 
before the government granted it to him. 

“Tll stay on here until the winter work begins, Lind, 
to help the poor devil out. So that means that we shall 
be leaving together.” 

Lind looked at him thoughtfully. It would be at the 
time of the wild goose flight. Suddenly she clasped her 
hands about his own and held them to her breast. 
“Dearest dear—I love you,” she said. Mark drew her 
into his arms and they sat for a long time saying nothing. 

She left early, after they had arranged to meet again 
the following day at Yellow Post. 


4 


Caleb made daily tours of the fields now and took care- 
ful note of the weather. Every evening for a week he 
went out with his lantern while the others were milking, 
coming back with it unlit after dark. He spoke to no 
one except to give directions about the work on the farm, 


WILD GEESE 171 


and at mealtime he was absolutely silent. He was ab- 
sorbed with the process of growth on the land he owned, 
lending to it his own spirit like physical nourishment. 

While he was raptly considering the tender field of 
flax—now in blue flower—Amelia did not exist to him. 
There was a transcendent power in this blue field of flax 
that lifted a man above the petty artifices of birth, life, 
and death. It was more exacting, even, than an in- 
visible God. It demanded not only the good in him, but 
the evil, and the indifference. 

Caleb would stand for long moments outside the fence 
beside the flax. Then he would turn quickly to see that 
no one was looking. He would creep between the wires 
and run his hand across the flowering, gentle tops of the 
growth. A stealthy caress—more intimate than any he 
had ever given to woman. 

The tame hay and the rye grass were coming up as if 
there were hands at their roots pushing them. The fod- 
der grains too, were heavy headed, straight and yellow- 
ing. And the cattle and horses in pasture were grow- 
ing sleek and round. 

Martin, dutifully going about his daily chores, knew 
that the signs were good. 

“Thinkin’ of buildin’ in the spring?” he asked Caleb. 
The New House stood large and beautiful in his mind. 

‘Buildin’? Buildin’ what?” Caleb said absently. He 
was peering westward, where he thought he saw some 
of his cattle in Thorvaldson’s summer fallow. 

““A house.” 

“A house? Heh, heh! Well, well, Martin, the women 
must be gettin’ you. What on earth do you want to 


172 WILD GEESE 


build a house for, when we have one? Heh, heh!” He 
went off chuckling to himself at Martin’s vagaries. 

Martin split a log with a tremendous swing of his ax. 
Well, he had dreamt a little vainly, then. That was all. 
But Caleb couldn’t live forever. 

Caleb watched the market and decided it was time 
to sell a number of head of cattle. The roads to Nykerk 
Siding were dry and hard, it would be easy to herd them 
in. Martin and Ellen were summoned before Caleb in 
the sitting room and told to prepare to leave on the mor- 
row. Then Martin went out with Caleb and selected 
fifteen steers and cows from the herd. Among them 
were the two steers that Judith had assumed were her 
own in place of the two that had been sold in the spring. 

“These are Judith’s steers,” Martin said this time. 

“Eh?- Judith’s—oh, yes, yes,” Caleb agreed. “She'll 
get the money for ’em.” He prided himself upon his 
fairness. 

“But she doesn’t want to sell until the fall.” 

“‘Nonsense—nonsense. Beef is going down.” 

Judith, who was at Yellow Post with Lind, did not see 
the steers turned into the pen. The next morning Ellen 
and Martin left before daybreak, while Judith was help- 
ing Amelia indoors with the morning work. So she did 
not see the herd of cattle mottling the early gray air with 
their swinging flanks of red and white and black and 
white. It was not until after Ellen and Martin had gone 
that it occurred to her that she should have looked for 
her steers. 

At Yellow Post the day before, Judith had disposed of 
the wool she had been hiding under the beam of the loft. 


WILD GEESE 173 


She had scorned to ask Johanneson not to mention the 
sale of the wool to Caleb. He had paid her for it and 
she had sent the money at once to the city for material 
for a dress that Lind had promised to make for her. 

Judith soon discovered that her steers were gone. She 
vowed to demand payment for them. Caleb had gone to 
Yellow Post, and she waited for his return to bring up 
the subject. 

At Yellow Post Johanneson spitefully asked Caleb if 
he had any more of the same wool that Judith had 
brought in. Caleb smiled blandly and said that he had 
not. 

When he returned home he came slowly upon Amelia 
in the kitchen. She stepped back. 

“‘So—she’s showing the streak, eh? It’d come out 
somehow—somehow, yes! And you encouragin’ her in 
it, too, like as not, eh?” His voice was a soft purr, his 
lower lip thrust forward. Amelia whitened. 

‘“‘What—what is it?” she stammered. 

“What is it? You know well enough what it is. 
You know she kept that wool—you know she sold it, 
you ) 

“T didn’t—what wool—she had wool coming to her 
from her ewes ‘ 

“T-ch! She has no ewes—from now on. Hear me!” 
He spat between his teeth as he went out. Amelia, fear- 
ing .a thousand things worse that might have happened, 
pushed her hair back from her brow. It was beginning 
to tire her spirit, this constant anticipation. 

Judith met Caleb on the path. Over an arm-load of 
kindling wood which she just chopped, she said to him, 








174 WILD GEESE 


“T’ll be wanting the money for those two steers you 
sent in.” 

“Tch—you! Go in and talk to your mother. She'll 
show you it pays to be honest.” 

Judith expected to find Amelia in tears. Instead she 
was coldly composed. ‘‘He’s found out about the wool,” 
she said, her fingers working quickly over the yellow 
beans she was stringing. 

“What about it? Is he kicking?” Judith dropped 
the wood noisily into the box beside the stove. 

“You should have told him you had it.” 

“Told him—hell! I’m not going to tell him anything 
from now on. And when the haying is over I’m leaving.” 

“No, Judith, you are not.” 

Judith turned on her. ‘‘Why not? Who’s going to 
stop me? Him?” She flung a long brown arm toward 
the door. 

“No. If you go it’s against my will, and you won’t 
be let back.” Amelia had straightened her shoulders 
against the chair, and her voice came hard and even. 

“You? What—when—” Judith was for a moment 
speechless. 

“T don’t want you to go away, Judie, until you are 
old enough to take care of yourself,’ Amelia said in a 
softer voice. ‘You have never been off this farm, really, 
and you would only be miserable.” 

Judith narrowed her eyes at her. Then her face 
flamed. 

“Youre lying! That’s not the reason at all. You’re 
afraid—afraid to let me go because of what he’ll do to 
you! You'd keep us all here to protect yourself, be- 


WILD GEESE 175 


cause you’re scared green of him! You’re a coward!” 
Her voice rose to a bitter pitch, the tears trembled in 
her eyes. Amelia recoiled as though she feared she 
would strike her. Then Judith suddenly plunged out of 
the door, caught Prince who was in the corral, and in 
another moment was racing the wind down the wood 
road. 

Judith beat the horse furiously, goaded him with her 
heels. She raged at him, because he was not in a mood 
with her. Then, as if he wanted no more of her on his 
bare back, he curved and danced like an overbalanced 
see-saw, kicking his hoofs in the air behind him. Judith 
laughed and cried. The horse proceeded into a terrific 
gallop, turning finally off the road into a clearing beyond 
which he saw a fence. The clearing was full of low 
stumps, and the animal’s legs buckled under him, throw- 
ing Jude over his head. She fell on her side, a sharp 
splinter of a stump tearing open the flesh of her arm. 
She lay there motionless for a few minutes in a sort of 
ecstasy, her eyes closed. Then she looked at her arm, 
and glanced about for the horse. He had risen, unhurt, 
and was standing on the road. 3 

She turned her sleeve around so that the torn part 
would not show, first stopping the bleeding of the wound 
with some dry moss. Then she mounted Prince and 
rode home. She said nothing about her adventure, bind- 
ing up her arm so that no one saw there was anything the 
matter with it. 


CHAPTER XI 
1 


At Oeland no game laws were taken into account 
except those which the settlers agreed among themselves 
were good. Fishing in the lakes of those who were 
fortunate enough to have them on their land was open 
to those who did not have them, most of the year round. 
It had become such an old custom that the owner’s right 
in the matter had been lost sight of. So that Caleb 
saw no reason why he should humor the sentimental 
Bjarnasson to the extent of doing without fish, when 
this food saved him dollars’ worth of meat. He resolved 
that during the coming autumn there should be no lack 
of fish at his table, whether the bodies of the two that had 
been drowned were recovered or not. It was well to 
fix this idea in the mind of Bjarnasson at once, although 
there would be little time for fishing during the summer, 
and no way of keeping the fish more than a day. 

On a morning before haying began, he sent Martin to 
the Jake. Martin was dubious, and as reluctant as he 
had ever been to carry out any order of Caleb’s. Never- 
theless, he went, fish pole and tackle in the cart behind 
him, as well as a small net which Caleb had borrowed 
from one of the halfbreeds at Yellow Post. Martin 
realized the significance of that net. It was that which 
he balked against particularly, though he said nothing. 

176 


WILD GEESE 177 


It meant that Caleb intended selling what fish he could 
not use, probably to Johanneson at Yellow Post. 

Martin’s long face lengthened as he drove down the 
road westward. There were ruthless things a man might 
do honorably, such as violating another’s property to 
secure needed food for those dependent upon him. But 
what he had been sent out to do was neither honorable 
nor necessary. 

As he struck the open road, his eyes turned toward 
the prairie lying on the south. This was Caleb’s cattle 
land, broad and flat, with two good bluffs for shade. The 
great herd was scattered over it with an intermingling 
of horses. The milch cows were kept separate, in the 
richer grass near the marshes to the north. Dull anger 
surged through Martin as he regarded this manifesta- 
tion of his father’s cupidity. The great herd meant the 
sacrifice of one dream after another. There would be 
no new house in the spring, but the year following the 
herd would have doubled in size—and perhaps the flax 
lying to the east would have stretched still farther, like 
a greedy hand gathering the earth. 

Martin loved the land, but there was something else 
in him that craved expression. It had been represented 
by the dream of the new house, the dream of the thing © 
that was to be made by his own hands, guided by his 
own will. Now that, too, was gone. Nothing to do now 
but toil on without a dream. It might have been kinder 
of Caleb to have deceived him until the end of the harvest 
—there would then have been a vision to ease the burden. 
A false vision was better than none. 

There was no rebellion in Martin’s soul—only a sort 


178 WILD GEESE 


of passive resentment that did not often rise above the 
hard, surrounding shell of endurance in which he had 
grown. Had he been asked he could not have told why 
he endured—the fact was that he did not even recognize 
the state in which he lived as endurance. And yet he 
understood Judith better than he did Ellen. The 
subjected manhood in him admired Judith, although it 
never found expression toward her. 

Judith had not known he was going to the lake. He 
half hoped that she would not find it out, if he came 
back without fish. Her eyes had of late held a contempt 
that one had to turn away from. 

At the Bjarnassons’, Martin decided to go against 
Caleb’s instructions. Instead of taking the road that 
led around to the opposite side of the lake, he drove into 
the farm yard, where young Erik was unharnessing his 
horses. : 

“Doin’ any fishing yet?” he asked Erik, who had come 
up to shake hands with him. 

Erik shook his head soberly. ‘Not a sign of one of 
them,” he said in reply. ‘We do not fish ourselves, yet. 
Soon we shall drag the whole bottom again, and maybe 
we shall find. Until so—no.” 

“Not after freeze-up, either?” 

“If we find, yes. If not—no.” 

“Lots of fish goin’ to waste, don’t you think?” 

Erik shrugged. ‘‘Caleb Gare—he should not want for 
fish. The poor homesteader round, maybe so. Caleb 
Gare, he have beef, pork, sheep, chicken—he should not 
want for the fish, too.” 


WILD GEESE 179 


Martin looked away. ‘No,” he said slowly, ‘“‘only for 
a change.” 

“You go up to the house,” Erik went on heartily. 
“They give you coffee.” 

“No, thanks,”’ Martin answered, clucking at the horse. 
“Got to go along.” Erik’s hospitality shamed him 
doubly. 

He drove out of the farm yard, and Erik looked after 
him, seeing the fish pole and net in the back of the cart. 
The Icelander’s face screwed into a half pitying, half 
ironical smile. But he did not wait to see whether 
Martin would take the main road or branch off below 
the willows to the road that went around the lake. There 
was in this Icelandic family, a sort of grand faith in the 
honor of human kind. 

Martin did not take the lake road. He thought with 
self-scathing of his original plan in coming here—to slip 
down below the willows and around the bend to the cove 
where he would not be seen by the Bjarnassons. Such 
had been Caleb’s instructions—given in full belief that 
they would be obeyed. He would have to tell his father 
the truth when he arrived home. Caleb would be in a 
towering rage, which would express itself in a gentle 
sarcasm and later in a strange and sinisterly effective 
abuse of Amelia, that Martin never understood. 

But he was glad that he had followed his own instincts 
not to: violate the sentiment of the Icelanders. He had 
felt the hidden scorn of Caleb Gare in Erik’s words. 
Now, perhaps, the Icelanders would have reason to think 
better of a Gare. 


180 WILD GEESE 


Amelia came out of the house as he was unharnessing 
the horse. Her face bore a shade of distress, and Martin 
guessed what she was looking forward to. There would 
be trouble somewhere—all under the surface. It would 
gather like a storm when the children were not around. 

“Vou didn’t get the fish?” she asked, looking into the 
back of the wagon. 

“No,” Martin answered shortly. ‘“They’re not fishing 
yet.’ 

Amelia left him and went to the garden, where she 
counted the new tomatoes on the vines. They would 
not be ripe until late in August. The vines were still 
delicate and needed careful propping.. Amelia stood with 
one hand on her hip, the other on her chin, trying to 
think of something for supper to take the place of fish. 
Caleb had planned on having fish. Anything else, no 
matter how good, would not be fish. She would have to 
prepare something especially savory to lessen his disap- 
pointment. She would have new carrots and chicken— 
no, they had had chicken the Sunday before, and Caleb 
disapproved of killing them while they were laying so 
well that the eggs were preserved for the fall market— 
something else would have to do. Amelia pulled an 
apronful of new carrots, and went into the house to 
consider. 

Caleb came home late that evening from the farm of 
an Icelander with whom he had arranged for a thresh- 
ing crew. He had not intimated that he would be late 
and supper was held over an hour. The omelet and bacon 
was cold, the potatoes soggy from being heated over. 


WILD GEESE 181 


Judith had seized some food off the stove and had gone 
out. She had not returned. 

In silence everybody sat down to the table. Caleb’s 
eye fell on the dishes before him. Without a word he 
began to serve the food. 

“Did you get the crew for the first of September?” 
Amelia asked, after a long silence. 

Caleb helped himself to butter and passed it to Lind 
before he answered. “‘Yes—yes,” he said then, as if he 
had just recollected that she had spoken. 

Characteristically, he made no reference to the absence 
of fish. Suddenly he threw a sharp glance around the 
table. 

“Where’s Jude?” he asked. 

“One of her calves is missing,” Ellen put in for the - 
sake of Amelia. 

“No doubt—no doubt,” he mumbled, and went on eat- 
ing as though there was no one else present. 

After the meal, Lind went out and walked down the 
road to look for Judith. Ellen and Charlie had the milk- 
ing to do. 

“Got cold feet, eh? ’Fraid of a couple of dead ones 
like the rest of ’em,’’ Caleb sneered at Martin. “You'll 
bring back another story before freeze-up, or—we’ll do 
without meat. Think I’ve been keepin’ the lot of ye for 
nothin’ all these years, while I’ve been breakin’ my back 
to make a living out of this soil? <A pack of good for 
nothings I’ve got for it!” 

“The Bjarnassons ain’t fishin’ themselves, yet,” Martin 
said in a low voice. ‘And I won’t until they let us.” 


182 WILD GEESE 


“Fh? You won’t, eh? We'll see if you won't! 
Hm!” 

He went out with his lantern chuckling to himself. 
As he moved along the cow path into the pasture and 
across it to the flax field, he speculated upon some way 
of compelling Martin to fish when the cooler weather 
came. It was not altogether that he wanted the satisfac- 
tion of taking fish from the obdurate Bjarnasson; it was 
also that he must quell any rising independence in 
Martin. If he started at twenty to show a will of his 
own, at twenty-five there would be no holding him. He 
must think of something. ... 

Caleb walked in the approaching dusk like a thing that 
belonged infinitely to the earth, his broad, squat body 
leaning low over it. Presently his mind was far from 
the annoying trifles that symbolized his family. Be- 
fore him glimmered the silver gray sheet of the flax—rich, 
beautiful, strong. All unto itself, complete, demanding 
everything, and in turn yielding everything—growth of 
the earth, the only thing on the earth worthy of respect, 
of homage. 

North of it lay the muskeg, black and evil and potted 
with water-holes. Aronson ought to fence the rotten 
land now that it was his. 


2 


Mark and Lind agreed to meet at the Sandbos’ until 
the return of the Klovaczs. 

“School-ma’ams must toe the line,” she laughed at 
Mark, “and I just couldn’t stand a scene. That would 


WILD GEESE 183 


finish me as far as earning my own living for the rest of 
the season is concerned.” | 

“T would like that,” Mark urged. “I really have a 
little money of my own, somewhere.” 

But Lind would not listen to him. She would stay 
conscientiously to the end of the term. 

At the Sandbos’ the chokecherry trees were bending 
over in wine-red arches. Sven picked Lind a tin-canful 
of them, and she and Mark ate them until their mouths 
were puckered and dry. Mrs Sandbo enjoyed having 
the Teacher and her “boy” as she called Mark, around, 
and often served them with coffee and some trifle. At 
heart Mrs Sandbo was sound, and as she became more 
used to Lind’s visits, she did not ply her usual busy 
questions. 

The Teacher walked with Mark to the edge of Latt’s 
Slough, where they knelt and picked tiny, black snails 
off the reeds. Lind found little waxy water lilies grow- 
ing there, but the mud was too soft at the edge of the 
swamp for her to reach out and get them. 

“They would die right away after I got them, any- 
way,” she said to Mark, stepping back to firm ground. 

“Yes, and they would be mostly long slimy roots,” he 
consoled her. 

They walked half a mile or so to a little sunny knoll 
at the edge of Gare’s timber. Here they sat down, Lind 
spreading her pale, billowy dress out about her. In a 
little while Mark stretched himself out full length, shad- 
ing his eyes with his hand and nibbling at a straw. 

The grass below them leaned up the hill, like the 
smoothly combed hair of a person’s head. Lind re- 


184 WILD GEESE 


garded it curiously. The air was strung with humming 
insects, poised like little black periods in the light. Oc- 
casionally a blue-bottle sailed majestically past, the tissue 
of its wings gathering the sun. A droning bee blun- 
dered into a swarm of tiny, jigging gnats, disentangled 
itself and soared lazily on to a distant flower, unconscious 
of the excitement it had caused. Below them, a few feet 
away, stood the gray, pocked cone of an ant hill; up 
and down its slope the ants twinkled, providently ab- 
sorbed. A tiny world of intense life. 

“Mark,” Lind said softly. ‘Every second something 
is going—going.” 

“And coming, Lind,” he told her. 

“JT don’t know. We can’t stop the going—that’s be- 
yond our control. But we can stop the coming—we have 
the power to stop everything, in ourselves.” 

Mark would not be serious. He rolled over and put 
both his arms about her tightly, holding his head against 
her breast. ‘Don’t, Lindy—don’t. You saved me from 
all those gloomy contemplations. If anything happened 
now to take you away from me I don’t know what I’d 
do. I was always so alone, Lind—beached on a desert 
island. You don’t know how it was. I wasn’t even sure 
of my own identity, sometimes.” She kissed his hair 
and drew her fingers across the tanned skin at the back 
of his neck. 

“Tt’s never going to be like that any more,” she whis- 
pered. She dropped her head against his and clung to 
him. “We are one entity now, my dearest.” 


CHAPTER XII 
1 


On a late afternoon in July, before the haying began, 
the cattle on the swamp land to the north came hurrying 
home, bawling out their warning of the approaching 
storm. The herd farther away sought shelter with the 
horses under the bluffs. Close to the earth there was a 
pale, unnatural glow, like the reflection from a white 
fire. Higher up the air was slag-gray, hanging in sultry 
folds. The hot voice of the grasshoppers was the only 
sound abroad; it cut like little scissors in the grass. 

Amelia, hoeing in the garden, drew the back of her 
hand across her wet forehead. The gray heat was over- 
whelming. She looked westward to the drab bank of 
cloud that had been building up for ten minutes or more. 
Now it was a gigantic unraveling of soot, widening out to 
the south and the north. It broke with lightning as 
Amelia looked at it. 

Suddenly a greenish light shot up as if from below the 
horizon. It had the effect of hollowing out a luminous 
void between heaven and earth. 

“Fail,” said Caleb almost under his breath as he came 
out of the barn. He would not admit it aloud. It might 
pass over. 

“Hail,” said Amelia to herself, her hand going in- 
stinctively to her breast. 


She looked around and saw Caleb approaching. He 
185 


186 WILD GEESE 


passed her without speaking, as if nothing unusual was 
about to happen. 

Martin, who was building an extra pigpen for two new 
sows, threw his leg over the bar and herded all of the 
pigs into the shed. Then he turned the milch cows that 
had come home and were drinking at the trough, into the 
cattle yard. 

Lind, who had been reading, put aside her book at the 
sound of thunder. It had grown suddenly dark, and 
then suddenly light again. She spoke to Ellen, who was 
baking bread in the kitchen. 

“Looks like a storm, doesn’t it?” She stood in the 
doorway and looked out. Judith was running about in 
the sheep pasture, getting her sheep into the pen. Pete 
was circling about them, helping her. 

Lind thought how wildly beautiful she looked in the 
unnatural glamour: the able grace of her tall young body; 
her defiant shoulders over which her black hair now 
fell; the proud slope of her throat and breast. 

Then Lind saw Judith suddenly stop, standing erect. 
Caleb had come to the fence of the pasture, and was 
shouting to her. Jude called Pete off, and he ran at her 
heels back to the barn yard, leaving the sheep in the 
pasture. Lind saw the girl throw her arm out char- 
acteristically in argument with Caleb, then toss her head 
and leave him abruptly. 

Judith came to the house, her eyes blazing. She hur- 
ried past Lind at the doorway without a word. 

“What’s the matter now?” Ellen asked, looking up 
from the oven before which she knelt. 

“Huh! What do you ask for? You'll only say he’s 


WILD GEESE 187 


right, anyway. A lot you care, any more than ke cares, 
what happens to the sheep,” she declared, throwing her- 
self into a chair in the kitchen. ‘“There’s goin’ to be 
either a cyclone or hail, or both—and he thinks that by 
his not letting it come, it won’t come. So he leaves the 
lambs in the pasture. Besides being the devil himself, 
he’s crazy.” 

There was a heavy rumble of thunder. Martin and 
Charlie came indoors, and a moment later, Amelia. The 
strange green light darkened to purple and gray. A few 
large drops of rain struck the window. Amelia closed 
the kitchen door, first letting in Pete, the dog. Caleb 
had not come in. From the window he could be seen 
moving quietly about the barnyard, not even glancing 
at the sky. 

A crash of thunder split the dome of the world. Lind 
covered her ears with her hands. The dog whined, and 
crept under the hair sofa in the sitting room. Then the 
wind came. It strained at the roots of the old house, 
rattled the window panes like cracking bones, rushed in 
a great tide of sound through the poplars beyond the 
garden. The poplars and the fir hedge would protect the 
garden—maybe. The sheep were in the pasture, the 
lambs cowering under them. The rain came in colossal 
gusts. Now the outer world was black, except for the 
livid flares of lightning. The thunder was almost 
incessant, shattering. Martin lit the lantern in the 
kitchen, and they all sat about, waiting. Caleb did not 
come in. 

“The hail must have gone over,” said Ellen presently, 
from the window. 


188 WILD GEESE 


“And it wasn’t a cyclone—I thought I made out a 
funnel in the clouds, but it was getting too dark to see,” 
Jude remarked. 

A deafening crash of thunder sounded immediately 
outside the barn. The house rocked. 

“The barn!” Ellen cried. They all flocked terrified 
to the window. They could see nothing. 

Martin opened the door and stumbled out. In a mo- 
ment he returned, drenched to the skin. “It was the 
pump,” he said, and they all breathed once more. Jude 
giggled nervously, and Ellen looked her rebuke. 

“That’s bad enough,” said Charlie, squatting on the 
floor. 

Amelia, in a trice, had an image of Caleb lying dead 
on the barn floor. She was trembling now. 

The storm kept up with pitched violence for over a 
half hour, and then yielded as suddenly as it had begun. 
The air became pellucid and cool, the low, ragged clouds 
hurried to the east before a wind that did not touch the 
earth. Pete crawled out from beneath the sofa. 

No one had mentioned Caleb. After it was all over, 
he came quietly into the house. 

“Well, well! Some little storm we had, eh? The hail 
passed right over—they’re gettin’ it over east,” he said. 

Judith went out immediately, a hard light in her eyes. 
She went to the sheep pasture, where she saw the ewes 
huddling, wet to the skin under their cropped wool. She 
picked up one of the lambs and hugged it to her. Then 
she glanced up and saw a man on an Indian pony riding 
in at the gate. She recognized the pony. 

““Goat-eyes!” she exclaimed to herself. 


WILD GEESE 189 


2 


Ellen came out of doors. When she saw the man on 
the horse she stopped stock-still, her hands darting to- 
gether before her. 

He got down from the saddle, and quietly fastened the 
bridle to the post. Then with long, slow steps he ap- 
proached Ellen, removing his wide brimmed felt hat as he 
did so. 

“T’ve come back, Ellen, like I said,” he told her in a 
low voice. “You look surprised.” She had given him 
her hand dazedly. 

“T—I wasn’t sure,” she murmured. 

“‘All the folks here?” 

Ellen nodded, adjusting her glasses over her nose. 
“Won’t you come in? Where were you during the 
storm?” 

“Where was I?” he laughed, walking beside her to- 
ward the house. “My pony and I find a place in any 
storm.” 

He told her that he had been camping out all the way 
from the southern lakes, and that he intended to do so 
for the rest of the distance to the most northern outpost 
on the great river. 

“Will you come?” he whispered, just before she opened 
the door of the house. 

Ellen dropped her eyes before his dark face. His 
eyes were peculiarly drawn back, and a yellow olive in 
color, like the eyes of a goat. He was Scotch, with Cree 
blood two generations back, and had been Caleb Gare’s 
hired man for three years until a year ago. 


190 WILD GEESE 


They went indoors and Caleb saw him. 

“Well—” he declared, stepping forward to seize Mal- 
colm’s hand, “if here ain’t Malcolm back again! How 
are ye—how are ye, boy?” 

Malcolm grinned and shook hands with Amelia and 
Martin in turn. By his heartiness, Caleb made it ap- 
pear that there was no embarrassment felt at his coming 
—although each member of the family privately sus- 
pected that it meant more to Ellen than she had any 
right to permit it to mean. Ellen stayed in the back- 
ground and buttered the crusts of the biscuits she had 
taken from the oven, while Malcolm replied to Caleb’s 
questions about his trip. 

“We can put Malcolm up for a couple of days, eh, 
mother?” Caleb suggested, turning to Amelia. “Better 
rest before you start on the next lap.” 

Malcolm thanked him, but said that he had arranged 
at Yellow Post to do some boat building for Erik 
Bjarnasson, and that he would be leaving again that very 
evening, westward. 

Malcolm went out to the barn with Martin and Caleb. 
Ellen began to prepare supper, while Amelia hurried to 
see whether damage had been done to her tomato vines. 
While Ellen was alone, in spite of herself the thing that 
was young in her heart cried out for recognition. She 
had only one little memory—before he went away Mal- 
colm had kissed her in the half darkness when they were 
milking, and later he had in a breath asked her to wait 
until his return. ‘Then it had been all over, and she had 
gone about her work as if her day was not just one great 
loneliness. For no one must know. No one must know. 


OE NE aa sm 


ath 


WILD GEESE 191 


The tears rose in her eyes and she brushed them hastily 
aside, starting as the screen door creaked. 

It was only Lind, coming in quietly as she always did. 
She stepped up and put an arm around Ellen’s waist. 

“Who is that dark man with your father, Ellen?” she 
asked. 

“Oh—just an old hired man of his,” she responded. 

Lind noticed that she said, “‘his.” Everything about the 
place was “‘his,”’ even the hired man, it appeared. She 
wondered if he were the one Judith had spoken of. He 
seemed to have come out of nowhere, like the storm. 
_ Lind looked out of the window to the west where the 
evening was setting in a cloudless rose. It would be 
beautiful down the wood road now, the trees washed and 
shining. 

“YT wish you had time to come for a little walk with 
me,” she said to Ellen. “It’s so peaceful out now after 
the storm.” 3 

“Have to get supper,” said Ellen. 

“Well, then I think Ill go alone.” 

When Lind had left, Ellen stepped softly to the door 
and glanced in the direction of the barn. On the cattle 
trail that led along the pasture, she saw Malcolm with 
Caleb, who was sweeping his arm toward the south in an 
inclusive gesture. Her mind tried to follow them, to 
learn what Malcolm was being told. There was some- 
thing behind this cordiality of Caleb’s. Its motive would 
be clear before long. It was pride of a strangely severe 
kind that kept Ellen from rebelling against her father. 
Rebellion would be the open admission of the conscious- 
ness of a wrong. Caleb was her father, and any wrong 


192 WILD GEESE 


that he had committed must, necessarily, reflect upon 
herself. Hence she strove to vindicate in her own mind 
Caleb’s conduct of the lives and the affairs on the farm. 
In her struggle to do this she was driven farther and 
farther within herself. The coming of Malcolm into 
her life again was like the scene in a mirage which she 
hoped with her whole heart were solid land, even while 
she knew it to be only a vision. It could not materialize. 
Nothing ever did. 

She stood in the doorway, a shallow-bodied little girl 
with red hands and a flat chin. Her large, dilated eyes 
that somehow gave her an appearance of beauty, watched 
the two men until they turned and went southeast in the 
direction of the flax field. She wondered if Malcolm 
would not look back and see her standing there—then she 
remembered that she would not at that distance be able to 
see whether he did or not. Presently the figures of Caleb 
and Malcolm merged into one, and the distant pallor of 
the flax field swallowed them. Ellen pressed her hands 
to her eyes and turned from the door. 


3 


“Pretty fine stuff, that, eh?” Caleb demanded of Mal- 
colm, who stooped to examine the texture of the flax. 
“That'll mean a new house in the spring, if it keeps on 
the way it’s goin’. Got to build, you know, Malcolm. 
The girls—they deserve a decent home. Ellen’s gettin’ 
old enough now to have beaux and the like, and they’ll 
be comin’ round—young fellows with farms of their own, 
like as not. I want to show ’em the girls come from as 


Aint les 


WILD GEESE 193 


good stuff as they’re goin’ to. Have to build—have to 
build. The girls ’ve got to have something good to catch 
something good, see? Heh, heh. No slouchin’ round in 
mean homesteads for them—you ought to hear ’em talk. 
Ah—no, indeed!” 

Malcolm was silent. His eyes roved admiringly over 
the rich flax, and around northward to the acres of 
luxuriant tame hay and rye grass. Caleb Gare was a 
prosperous man. A mean man, he knew, but his children 
would live after him—his children would be established 
in comfort for the rest of their lives on this land—and 
he, Malcolm, was a wanderer, hearing ever a call in the 
wind, a summons to far lakes and lonely forests. 

They went back by way of the dried lake bottom, 
skirted the edge of the swamps, and crossed the hayfield 
that lay farthest south. Malcolm brushed his fingers 
through the long silky hay, breathed deep of its rich, 
sweet smell that rose in the air. It was good, the hay, 
good to lie down in under the stars... . 

“Yes—yes, no way out of it—have to build—Ellen and 
Martin both want a good house to live in—save on other 
things, maybe.” 

Caleb spoke almost to himself, it seemed. But be- 
side him, Malcolm, who was simple as a tree, and wise 
only as a tree is wise in directness and free living, heard 
every word he said. 

At supper that evening Caleb confined the conversation 
to himself and Malcolm: talked with him about the con- 
dition of the crops around Oeland and asked him what 
the prospects were farther south; discussed the epidemic 
of foot and mouth disease that had broken out among the 


194 WILD GEESE 


cattle in the west, and observed that this ought to mean 
a rise in the price of beef; told him of his plan to raise 
turkey and goose next year; occupied many minutes with 
the details of a story of a trade in horses, in which he 
had got badly swindled. 

“Ves—yes,” Caleb chuckled. ‘We all get fooled 
sometime or other, eh, Malcolm? All get fooled some- 
time! Heh, heh!” 

There seemed to be some special ironical significance 
in his laughter. 

“By the way,” he continued after a moment. “There’s 
a bit of building goin’ on at Yellow Post, ain’t there? 
Talk with any of ’em down there on the way up? Some- 
body was askin’ about you just the other day—John 
Tobacco’s daughter, if I’m not mistaken. Fine girl, for 
an Indian. Been goin’ to school over in the mission. 
Goin’ to teach at Yellow Post chen they get the school 
built, old John was tellin’ me.’ 

“T didn’t stop but a few minutes there,” said Malcolm, 
glancing across at Ellen. “Come right through from 
Shell Lake.” 

“Didn’t, eh? Well—you sort o’ lose interest in your 
old friends when you’ve been away a while. I know how 
it goes—I know how it goes,” Caleb mused. 

Ellen kept her eyes on her plate. Her cheeks were 
warm. She struggled against the shame that rose in her 
heart toward Caleb’s unfairness—tried to tell herself that 
it was a just advantage that he took, that Malcolm was, 
after all, of mixed blood and should be shown his place. 
That he was all she had ever known of romance did not 
matter. 


WILD GEESE 195 


Judith watched Caleb and her lips curled. Not for 
long—not for long would she stand the spectacle of his 
tyranny. Only until after the haying. 

Amelia, in her place, sat still, unflinching. If this 
was to be Ellen’s part of the cost, let her pay it. She 
was a child of Caleb Gare. Amelia had determined to 
isolate herself wholly from Caleb’s children, so that she 
might not weaken in her resolve. She would be as hard 
with them as he had been, lest they dare break for free- 
dom and so bring ruin on Mark Jordan. With this 
thought she looked at Ellen’s lowered face as if she were 
a stranger to her. 


4 


It happened that Skuli Erickson drove in at the Gares’ 
just after dusk and sought conference with Caleb in re- 
gard to the new shingles for the school house roof. 
Where Ellen was milking she saw him drive up, and her 
heart stopped for a moment. He would take Caleb’s at- 
tention away from Malcolm for a while. Ellen got up 
and moved her stool to a cow that stood in a corner be- 
tween two sheds in the milk yard, out of sight of Judith 
and Charlie, who were milking farther down the yard. 

Presently Malcolm came, from behind the shed as he 
used to do, in a roundabout way so that the others 
should not see him. 

“Ellen,” he muttered, standing erect close beside her. 
“I’m not goin’ to coax you away from all you’ve got. 
But if you'll come without, I want you. I’m not much, 
but Ill be good to you. I used to think you liked me.” 


196 WILD GEESE 


Ellen glanced aside and saw his strong legs encased in 
their old leather leggings. She wanted suddenly to throw 
her arms about them, and hold on tight, tight; to cry 
and laugh, and look up at him and say, yes, she would go 
with him. But she did none of these things. She went 
on milking, the white stream entering the pail with a 
thin, purling sound, the warm smell of the milk coming 
up into her face. 

“T’d buy a horse for you—we’d go slow, and sleep out 
nights all summer under the stars, Ellen, and in my silk 
tent when it rains. I’ve got an old cabin up north— 
make lots of money on furs—you wouldn’t be needin’ for 
nothin’.”” Furtively he touched her soft brown hair, the 
thing he had remembered as lovely about Ellen. 

The touch thrilled her unbearably. Her back straight- 
ened, her hands dropped before her. Her heart beat like 
a gong sounding a brief hour. Why didn’t he snatch her 
up and carry her bodily away before she had time to 
make up her mind? But he wouldn’t—things didn’t 
happen that way, for her. 

“T can’t, Malcolm. I can’t leave them,” she said 
tonelessly. 

He was silent for a while. 

“Well—you don’t want to go, then. No use my 
stayin’ round. Ill be gettin’ out to-night, for Bjarnas- 
sons’. When I’m through with the boat over there—I’ll 
be thinkin’ of you all the time, Ellen. After that—the 
trail north.” 

Ellen’s body was a great tight knot. She could neither 
move nor speak, but sat staring at the still heavy udder 
of the cow. 


i a i 


WILD GEESE 197 


“So long, then, Ellen girl, and good luck,’ Malcolm 
said, putting out his hand. She placed her own in it 
nervelessly, without looking up into his face. His eyes 
above her were dark and sad, with the despair of humil- 
ity, since he thought it was because he was unworthy 
that she would not go with him. But she did not see his 
eyes. 

Then he vaulted easily over the board fence of the 
milk yard and was gone. 

Ellen sat and stared at the downy udder of the cow, a 
rich and unfailing supply of nourishment for the human 
body, that would go on living in spite of pain and grief. 

That evening Malcolm, the Scotch halfbreed, as he 
was incorrectly called, took leave of the Gares, thanking 
them for their hospitality. Ellen was present, only one 
of the Gares now. 

“Better get yourself a wife for that trip, Malcolm,” 
Caleb grinned, nudging Skuli Erickson in the ribs. ‘The 
Bible says it is not good for man to live alone.” 

On his Indian pony, Malcolm, whom Jude called 
“Goat-eyes,” made a low, graceful sweep of his broad 
brimmed hat that was full of mockery. Ellen’s heart 
contracted, for she saw that he did not understand. 


5 


The hay and the rye grass ripened into great wide curves 
under the sun. Martin overhauled the hay racks and 
oiled the mower. Judith prayed that it would not rain 
and so delay the cutting. Caleb went about rubbing his 
hands together with pleasure at the beauty of his land. 


198 WILD GEESE 


The days went on and Ellen wondered how long it took 
to build a boat. 

The price of beef went up two cents, and Caleb sent 
Ellen and Martin to the Siding with another lot of cattle. 

They left at the sound of the first bird, to escape the 
bare heat of the day upon the prairie. Ellen rode until 
sunrise half asleep in her saddle, wishing that Judith 
were more trustworthy so that Caleb would occasionally 
send her instead. She heard Martin’s voice and the 
snap of his long whip, and the sound of the cattle brush- 
ing one another’s flanks. Catbirds and jays darted to 
and fro across the trail, and every feathered throat in 
the bush was awake and singing. But Ellen found her- 
self in a heavy world, outside of song. 

They went along the northeast shore of Bjarnasson’s 
Lake, but from that point they could not see the farm, 
which was hidden by a long stand of spruce. Ellen did 
not glance back southward, lest Martin should see her 
do so. Out on the middle of the lake they could see two 
boats and a flat-bottomed scow. 

“Guess Bjarnasson’s draggin’ the lake again,”’ Martin 
observed. 

Ellen made no comment. But she thought what a 
restful place the lake would be. It was glassy and lay 
in white and blue patches in the clear light. There would 
be no sound under its surface, only a luculent, gloamy 
peace. 

They returned home in the evening, as usual, when 
the frogs were croaking for miles and miles in the 
swamps on the north. The frogs would croak at the 
stars, no matter who came or went. 


WILD GEESE 199 


Then, one blistering hot day, Caleb’s prize sow gave 
birth to a litter of twelve and unaccountably died. 
Caleb was at Yellow Post when the tragedy occurred, 
and the family held their breath like one man while they 
waited for his return. 

Caleb’s face was a study when he saw the dead sow, a 
poor bloated thing lying in the small new pen. Martin 
had divided the sucklings among three other animals 
who had smaller litters. 

Without a word Caleb went to the trough and in- 
spected the dregs of the feed the animal had last been 
given. Then he felt her body over for bruises or pos- 
sible kicks in the abdomen. 

“Who fed her last?” he demanded of Martin. 

“T did,” Martin told him. 

“Uh.” Caleb grunted. ‘Thought perhaps it was 
Jude.” 

He went off to see how the young pigs were faring, 
and found them busily tugging at their foster mothers. 
Then he returned to Martin and instructed him to dis- 
pose of the remains of the sow. 

“Cart it into the pasture and bury it,” he said shortly. 
As if Martin wasn’t well aware of what was to be done! 

For three days after that Caleb spoke to no one, and 
was addressed only when it was absolutely necessary. 
His replies were less than monosyllables, and often he 
did not hear at all. 

“Do you think you let her lie in the sun too long, 
Martin?” Amelia asked by way of relief. 

“She wasn’t in the sun all day until she came out and 
died,” Martin said. 


200 WILD GEESE 


Amelia sighed and went about her work. 

Each evening, after milking, Ellen trimmed her flower 
bed, which was under the west window. By casually 
turning, she could see the bend in the road beyond the 
poplar grove and the fir hedge—the open road where a 
man on a horse would be outlined black against the sun- 
set. A rider coming from the Bjarnassons’ would be 
seen on that road—there would be no other way that he 
could come. Ellen’s flower bed was so carefully weeded 
that the blooms began to look self-conscious. 

At the supper table one evening, Charlie announced the 
news that Ellen had been waiting to receive in one form 
or other. He had been at Yellow Post that day. 

“Malcolm has finished the work for Bjarnasson, and 
is starting north to-night. He’s taking the road past 
the swamps—up past Brund’s. He’ll be comin’ past 
here. Goat-eyes’ll have another look at you, Ellen,” the 
boy grinned at her. 

Caleb made no comment for some time. Then he 
said, “‘I’ll be goin’ up to Erickson’s to-night. Have the 
cart ready, Charlie. Leavin’ early.” 

“T saw some of the children over at the school to-day, 
Teacher. I think it was some from north of Latt’s 
Slough. They’re like as not to break in and do some 
damage,” Ellen said to Lind. Lind made some answer, 
but Ellen did not hear her. Perhaps Caleb would be 
gone before Malcolm came past—he would assume that 
his very absence was powerful enough to stay her from 
doing anything that he would disapprove of—that was 
his way of reasoning. | 

She helped Amelia with the dishes and then went out 


WILD GEESE 201 


to the milk yard. From her stool beside the cow she 
watched Caleb with straining eyes, watched him putter 
about to and fro from the house to the barn, from the 
barn to the granary, from the granary to the tool shed, 
with his preoccupied, slow shuffle. Prince was hitched 
to the dog cart, waiting. But Caleb did not look toward 
the horse. He vanished into the barn and had not come 
out when the sun was a flaming globe through the poplars. 
Had he changed his mind, and was not going? Ellen 
tried to see beyond the grove to the turn in the trail, 
but the poplars danced together crazily before her eyes. 
She bowed her head once more and pulled at the cow’s 
teats. Then she heard, still quite far away, the sound 
of a horse’s hoofs coming through the still evening. 

At that moment Caleb came out of the barn and un- 
tied Prince, mounting the cart. Ellen hoped desperately 
that the rider coming from the west would rein in. Then 
Caleb got down from the cart and went into the house, 
emerging in a few moments with his duster on his arm. 

But the horse’s hoofs were passing the curve now, be- 
hind the poplars. Caleb climbed into the cart again and 
drove hurriedly toward the outer gate. 

Ellen heard Malcolm’s greeting to Caleb, but from 
where she sat she could not see him. She sprang up, 
and ran to the wooden fence of the milk yard, leaning 
out over it. Then she hastily glanced about to see if 
any one were watching her. She could see Malcolm on 
his pony, sitting straight and dark, with a sifting of light 
falling upon his shoulders through the poplar grove. 
Now he was riding away, Caleb driving beside him in 
the cart. Skuli Erickson lived just beyond the home- 


202 WILD GEESE 


stead of the Brunds, on the road that Malcolm would 
take north. 

Lind and Mark, who after supper had ridden by way 
of the wood road to visit Fusi Aronson, took another trail 
coming back, one that led eastward and met the other 
road on which the Brunds and the Ericksons lived. 
They rode slowly, for the evening was one to be enjoyed 
slowly. They were now on a dry ridge north of the 
swamps, and could look down upon the stagnant water 
lying in the sunset like ragged ribbons of rose and gold. 
On the margin, Lind saw a few delicate purple orchis 
flowers growing, and fern so fragile that it seemed to 
bend under the light. 

Mark was looking eastward. 

‘“‘A lone horseman,” he said. 

Lind followed his eyes. ‘Oh, that’s an Indian pony— 
I think it’s the man that was at Gares’ for supper not 
long ago,” she exclaimed, trying to make out the figure 
on the horse. “I believe Ellen was in love with him, 
once.” 

The glow from the west seemed to envelop horse and 
rider in a golden luster, so that they blended into one. 


CHAPTER XIII 
1 


Now came ideal haying weather, dry with only a slight 
wind. The sky was as clear as a shell day after day. 
Caleb hoped that it would last only until the hay had 
been stacked. There were rumors of bush fires to the 
north as a result of drought, and Yellow Post was full 
of bad omens. But the Indians were always ready to 
predict evil for the white settlers. It meant nothing. 
Crops in these parts grew slowly and there would be 
need of more rain, and more rain would come—it would 
have to come. 

Caleb knocked on the ceiling under the loft at five 
o’clock of the morning that was to begin the haying. 
Amelia was already in the kitchen starting the fire. Her 
shoulders ached from the stooping that she had done 
the day before when she had taken up a large quantity 
of vegetables for preserving. Her heart misgave her as 
she thought of Ellen, who had helped in the garden. 
Ellen would have to work on the rake to-day. 

“Tt’s not too late to get a man for the haying, Caleb,” 
she ventured. 

Caleb put on his boots, stamping heavily on the floor 
after drawing on each one. ‘This was a signal for those 
in the loft above to hurry. After he had laced. his 
boots he went to the sink to wash. 


“You'll do well not to put high ideas into their heads,” 
203 


204 WILD GEESE 


he finally replied. ‘‘Who’s goin’ to pay for an extra 
man, do y’think? Might get Mark Jordan for nothin’, 
of course. Heh, heh! You amuse me, Amelia—you 
amuse me!” 

Amelia fried eggs and strips of salt pork, and heated 
over the oatmeal that had been cooked the night before. 
She set the table with the red and white checked cloth, 
and put in precise position the cracked plates and the 
old forks with the bent prongs, and the half-black knives. 
Then at each place she laid a carefully ironed, worn 
napkin. It was one of the little observances she had 
carried over from a somewhat gentler life. Caleb had 
always ignored the napkin beside his plate because it 
symbolized something in his wife’s life that he had tried 
to obliterate—a certain fineness that was uneconomical 
and pretentious. Amelia had known better in the last 
five years than ever to ask for money for new napkins. 

The food was on the table when the children came 
down, Lind with them. All, except the Teacher, were 
heavy-eyed and scarcely conscious of one another. 

“Come, come now—no time to waste. Lot of stuff 
down there. We work better in the morning, y’know,” 
Caleb admonished them. He ate leisurely himself, and 
the others were away from the table long before he was 
through. 

Protest meant only the expenditure of extra effort— 
the work would have to be done anyway. Ellen and 
Charlie hitched the horses to the two rakes, and Judith 
and Martin went ahead with the mowing machines. It 
was deadening work, so that after a while the spirit for- 
got to follow the body behind the horses up and down, 


WILD GEESE (1) SOD 


- up and down, in the bright heat that rose from the earth 
and fell from the bare, cloudless sky. The nostrils be- 
gan to ache from the sweet, hot, dusty smell of the hay. 
The hands grew dry and swollen from the reins, the sun 
lay like a hot iron on the shoulders, no matter which 
way one turned. But presently it was only the body 
that was there, enduring; the spirit seemed to have gone 
somewhere else, and left an absence of thought, an 
absence of everything except attention to the task at 
hand, 

Judith mowed the field west of the neck of timber that 
had been bought of Fusi Aronson, Charlie following be- 
hind with the rake. Martin was working in the east 
field, the hay falling behind him in a smooth aisle. Ellen 
worked with difficulty because of her eyes, and fre- 
quently had to close them to ease their smarting. The 
hay dust bit at her lids so that they became bright red. 

Lifting her eyes from the sweating flanks of the horses, 
Judith saw Caleb mounting the cart near the barn. He 
would be coming down now to see how things were going. 
He would call directions from the edge of the field, or he 
might even take the trouble to walk in and inspect the 
cutting, to see that an extra inch of hay did not escape 
with the roots. Well, it would not be long now till it 
was over. All the more reason to hurry the horses. 

Martin looked back and saw that Ellen was faring 
none too well. It would have been cheaper in the end 
to have hired a man. Caleb must have had some other 
reason for not taking on extra help. It was his idea, 
apparently, to blind them all with work—an extra man 
would give them time for thinking, and dreaming. 


206 WILD GEESE 


Dreaming of a new house and the like, perhaps. What 
Ellen would dream of Martin could not guess. Ellen 
was like a pea pod that had ripened brittle, but could not 
burst open. Then he realized that he, too, was a closed 
pea pod—they were all closed pea pods, not daring to 
open. The idea fascinated Martin. He felt as though 
he had just learned to think, that he had just found his 
mind with a unique idea in it. Then one of the horses 
stumbled, and in pulling at the reins Martin lost his idea. 
His mind closed again, except to the heat that jigged 
visibly in the air, and to the heavy, pungent-dull smell 
of the hay. 

He glanced back at Ellen, who was piling at uneven 
intervals. Then he saw Caleb drive up to the fence in 
the opposite field, where Judith had just come into sight 
south of the bush. Judith stopped her horses. She was 
evidently listening to something Caleb was calling to 
her. Martin looked uneasily toward Ellen, and at the 
slovenly piles. 

Presently Caleb drove around the west field to the 
southern border of the one in which Martin worked. 
Martin was close enough to the fence to talk with him. 

“Hardly a thistle in the whole thing,” he told Caleb. 
“Got last year’s beat, all right.” 

“H—m,”’ Caleb muttered, striving to conceal his pleas- 
ure. “Ellen’s draggin’ it there, I see. Ellen!” He 
beckoned to her, and she got down from the seat and 
came toward him. 

“What’s the matter with you? Day dreamin’, or 
something? Look at that stuff there—all over the place. 


WILD GEESE 207 


Go over it again from the end of the strip—’way back,” 
he said gently, as if with extreme patience. 

Ellen went back to the rake and turned the horses 
around. She toiled over the whole strip again, picking 
up the strewn piles and measuring the distance between 
the new ones that she made, trying not to feel the pain 
in her eyes and in her back. 

The sun moved toward the noon mark, and the two 
fields were nearly a quarter mown. Amelia waved a 
towel at them from the end of the garden, and Judith, 
who was the first to see the signal, called to Martin. 
The four teams were unhitched and turned in toward 
the road, and the first half day’s work was done. Ellen, 
Charlie and Martin went ahead of Jude, who lingered 
behind looking in the direction of the Sandbos’, just 
across the road. She knew that Sven must have seen 
them at work in the field, and that he would be watching 
for them to return home for dinner. She waited in the 
shadow of some willows. 

Then Sven came. He stepped down into the enclosure 
of the willows and drew her after him. 

“T’ve got to see you more than this,” he said. ‘Charlie 
was out for the cattle last night. Why didn’t you come?” 

“Can’t let him get suspectin’ things, Sven,” Judith re- 
minded him. ‘No use spoilin’ our chances. He’d lock 
me up if he knew.” 

‘“Well—be there to-night, anyway. Just for a little 
while,” Sven urged. She promised and then drew away. 
He stood and watched her while she strode away be- 
hind the horses. Her head was high and fine as that of 


208 WILD GEESE 


a thoroughbred horse, Sven thought. She did not look 
back at him. 

At the noon meal Judith, Martin and Charlie ate like 
young animals. Amelia glanced uneasily at Ellen, who 
scarcely touched her food. 

“‘What’s the matter, Ellen?” she asked. 

“Nothing—it’s a little too warm to eat much,” Ellen 
replied. | 

Caleb laughed softly. “Tut—tut, Ellen. Another 
day or two of healthy work and you won’t think of the 
heat. Wish I wasn’t too old to pitch in and get an ap- 
petite, too. Nothin’ like it—nothin’ like it, eh, Charlie? 
Charlie’s gettin’ to be a first class raker, too, I see. 
Have to promote you to the cutter next year, eh?” 

Caleb was in good spirits, loquacious, optimistic. He 
had met one of the Icelanders from beyond the lake, and 
reports from that direction were good. . Then, too, he 
had bought from Erickson, at a ridiculous bargain, two 
fine young sows in place of the one that had died. So 
things were working out very well—very well indeed. 

He left the table adjuring the others to get back to the 
field again without delay. Then he hitched the mare to 
the dog cart and drove to the Bjarnassons’. 


: 


As the little cart rattled along the dry road, Caleb let 
his eye embrace the holdings of Thorvaldson, lying in- 
definitely westward. Excellent cattle land going to 
waste in the hands of a lot of women—Thorvaldson him- 
self being one of them, in Caleb’s opinion. A man who 


WILD GEESE 209 


could do no better than raise nine girls should not be 
farming. And yet Thorvaldson, somehow, was on 
friendly terms with the great Bjarnasson—had, it was 
known, received generous loans from him on occasion 
when things went badly with him and his ten women. 
There should be some way of forcing Thorvaldson to 
loosen his hold on at least part of that excellent land. . . . 

Caleb’s thoughts turned to Amelia. She had behaved 
well of late. Perhaps she was even beginning to realize 
that no good would come of it if the children rebelled— 
apart from the consideration of Mark Jordan. And yet, 
it was well to keep her reminded of that little mistake 
of hers—that little mistake. Also, it might be well to 
pay a visit to the young man, before the return of the 
Klovaczs. To sound him out, as it were, and to report 
to Amelia on his parts as a gentleman. Good idea, that. 
Amelia would break her heart rather than let a gentle- 
man know the truth about himself. He might not even 
want to marry the Teacher if he knew that he had no 
name to offer her. Amelia would seize upon that little 
thought. Yes, it would be well, indeed, to pay a visit to 
Mark Jordan. 

But here was the ramshackle farm of Thorvald Thor- 
valdson. And Thorvald’s mower standing in the yard. 
He had not started cutting, then. Perhaps one of his 
daughters had a toothache and the hay had to wait. 
Although, true enough, Thorvald usually brooked no de- 
lays. He prided himself upon being a master, but he 
used too little foresight. He had no right to be a farmer, 
no right to own a fine tract ‘of land—a tract of grazing 
land. 


210 WILD GEESE 


The surly bulk of Thorvald Thorvaldson appeared in 
the doorway of the house. He wiped his hand across his 
mustaches to indicate that he had just eaten. Then he 
extended his hand to Caleb, who greeted him bldndly. 
On Thorvald’s vest front Caleb saw unmistakably a fish 
bone and the scale of a fishh H-mm. 

Caleb stepped in front of Thorvald, and put his hand 
on the latch of the screen door. An uneasy flash crossed 
Thorvald’s face. 

“Come on in where I can talk to you, Thorvald,” Caleb 
grinned at him. “I’d be waitin’ here all day for you to 
ask me.’ His mood was facetious. Thorvald’s face 
grew red, but he said nothing as Caleb opened the door. 

In the kitchen the women were still eating dinner. 
Caleb’s eye swept the table, then indifferently he passed 
on to the sitting room beyond, Thorvald close behind 
him. Neither of the men troubled to speak to the 
women. 

Caleb had seen what he wished to see. The Thorvald- 
son family had fish for dinner. There was only one 
place where Thorvald could have got that fish—in the 
sacred lake of the Bjarnassons, his respected friends, to 
whom he was obliged for many favors in the past. And 
to whom, if rumor was correct, he was looking for an- 
other favor in the near future. Thorvald had no money 
to pay threshers, and would not be able to get his grain 
threshed without the help of Bjarnasson. Bjarnasson 
had his own threshing machine, and his own crew, and he 
would help a neighbor. He was a kind man, was young 
Erik, but a hard man when it came to a matter of honor. 
Fishing in his lake would not be readily forgiven, 


WILD GEESE ote 


especially if the offender were a trusted and indebted 
friend. It would surely mean an end to favors, and 
loans. . 

Thorvald sat down with a heavy sigh and Caleb took 
a seat near him. 

“Hain’t started your hayin’ yet, I see?’’ Caleb ob- 
served casually. 

“Na-ow. Too much to do ’round the ples,” he 
grunted. 

“Think you'll be threshin’ on the first of September?” 

Thorvald looked at him heavily, his little eyes glint- 
ing uncertainly. 

“Yaa—sure. Got crew already.” 


“Yeah? Who’re ye gettin’? Thought things was»»- 


kind o’ tied up,” Caleb said mildly. 

Thorvald coughed in his throat. 

“Gang from across the lake—halfbreeds,” he said 
with a vague wave of his hand. 

Caleb smiled. Thorvald was a poor liar, although he 
lied often enough to be skillful at it. 

“Wish you’d let me know how to reach ’em,” he said. 
“T can’t get a machine until the end of September. And 
if they come here, they’d like as not be willin’ to come 
on over and thrash for me.” 

Thorvald crossed one leg over the other. 

“Wa-al,’ he said. “That outfit have too much 
already.” 

“T’m goin’ over to Bjarnasson’s this afternoon. Pretty 
far, but I’ve got to see if I can hire their crew.’ Caleb’s 
eyes played idly over Thorvald’s face. The Icelander’s 
great bulk moved gloomily. 


212 WILD GEESE 


“Wa-al, I vould not like you to say it to Yellow Post, 
but Bjarnasson vill let me hire his thrasher,”’ he said 
slowly. 

“Hire it? He let you have it free last year, didn’t 
he?” 

Caleb was inwardly amused at Thorvald’s lame efforts 
to dignify his position. 

“And you’d tell me a story like that, Thorvald?” he 
laughed comfortably. ‘Shame on you.” 

“Wa-al, I vill not have it round, or everybody t’ink I 
can’t pay him. I can pay—after harvest.” 

Again Caleb smiled to himself. He knew Thorvald 
would never pay what Bjarnasson did not expect him to. 

‘““He’s been pretty decent to you, though, h’ain’t he? 
Let’s see—how much is it you owe him now, for imple- 
ments? Must be quite a little sum, with interest, 
Thorvald?”’ 

Thorvald’s big feet moved across each other. He did 
not answer. He was busy listening to the women remov- 
ing the dishes from the table in the kitchen. 

““Well—let’s go out and look at your potatoes, Thor- 
vald. Quite some time since I was here now, ain’t it?” 

Thorvald muttered a reply and the two men went out 
together. Thorvald saw to his relief that the table was 
clear, and hoped that Caleb had not noticed the fish on 
the table as he had come in. He became at once talkative 
and cheerful. 

They went out through the sun to the potato field, that 
stood tall and dusty over two entire acres. This was 
Thorvald’s chief produce for sale purposes, and the only 
thing that ever grew successfully on his farm. He had 


WILD GEESE 213 


no instinct for raising cattle or horses, and his grains 
were indifferent. 

“Fine crop, that, Thorvald. Ought to bring a nice 
little sum,” Caleb said almost in a whisper, as if he 
spoke to himself. ‘And it’s work the women can do, 
too. With a big herd it’s different. You’ve got to have 
aman. You're lucky not to have a lot of animals, 'Thor- 
vald. They need lookin’ after.” 

Thorvald ao and picked off a bug from a potato 
plant. 

“Nat many, you see,” he said proudly, indicating the 
clean plants. 

“Potatoes you can eat when you got nothing else,” 
Caleb remarked. “Good investment—good investment. 
By the way, that reminds me—Bjarnasson’s fishin’ again, 
ain’t he?” 

“Uh? Na-aw, not vhat I know,” Thorvald said 
hurriedly. 

Caleb waited for a moment, enjoying Thorvald’s 
discomfiture. 

“Well, well, didn’t I see fish on your table? That 
couldn’t have come from any other place except Bjarnas- 
sons’ this side of the river, and sure you didn’t go way 
up there to fish?” 

“You see fish? Na-ow—na-ow if 

“Don’t lie to me, Thorvald. You had fish for dinner 
and you stole it—stole it out of Bjarnasson’s lake. By 
night, like as not. And you know what Bjarnasson 
would do if he found out. But I’m not goin’ to tell him, 
Thorvald. Don’t think it—don’t think it. Id rather 
see you get your thrashin’ done. Nobody knows but me, 





214 WILD GEESE 


and nobody’s goin’ to know, but it was a mean trick, 
Thorvald, a mean trick.” 

Thorvaldson’s face was livid. His large hands fum- 
bled about in his pockets, his shoulders slumped. 
Caleb’s left hand moved across his mustache caressingly. 

“By the way, Thorvald, we talked once about that half 
section of yours layin’ next to my land. You didn’t feel 
like sellin’ it then. And yet it’s no good to you. How 
do you feel about it now?” 

Thorvald’s eyes grew sullen. Caleb Gare was getting 
him, then. ‘“Na-ow! Not von acre!” he rasped. 

Caleb shrugged his shoulders and turned to go. ‘All 
right, but don’t blame me if Bjarnasson don’t come 
across with the crew,” he said. 

Thorvaldson strode quickly into step with him as he 
walked toward the cart. Better than to lose Bjarnas- 
son’s support... 

“Vhen you vant it?” He almost sniveled. 

“Oh, any time, the sooner the better for me. Ii pay 
you cash, Thorvald, that’s the way I do business. Per- 
haps it’ll help just now, eh?” 

They arranged to meet at the store of Johanneson, 
who was a notary public, and close the deal on the follow- 
ing day. 

“Well—s’long, Thorvald,” said Caleb, climbing into 
the cart.. “It’s been a good day for us both, eh?” 

He drove off, leaving Thorvaldson cursing behind him. 

The day was brilliantly blue. A good part of the 
mowing ought to be completed by evening. Ellen was 
falling down a little on the job, and Amelia was molly- 
coddling her, Caleb had noticed at dinner. Amelia would 


WILD GEESE 215 


have to be reminded of her position. Caleb wondered 
just what the occasion would be, if it came to that, which 
would finally force him to play his trump card, as he liked 
to call it. He never doubted that it would make any 
difference on the farm except to bind the members of 
the family more closely to it. He firmly believed that 
knowledge of Amelia’s shame would keep the children 
indefinitely to the land, and knew that he would not hesi- 
tate to reveal the truth to Mark Jordan if he were com- 
pelled to do so. But he drew a sort of satisfaction out 
of the suspense, and particularly out of seeing its effect 
on Amelia. He would save the revelation for the emi- 
nently opportune moment. 


a 


When she came in from the field at the end of that 
first day, Judith’s clothing was heavy with perspiration. 
She did not wash at the sink as the others did, but carried 
a basin of cold water up to Lind’s room where she knew 
no one else would enter. Then she stripped and bathed 
her entire body, her flesh rippling under the cold water. 
She hurriedly donned clean clothing from head to foot, 
and placed in her bosom a little bagful of lavender she 
had grown the summer before. Over her garments she 
pulled the greasy overalls she had worn all day, so that 
the others should not notice any change in her dress. 
Then she heard Amelia’s call to supper. 

After the meal, which the family ate in the silence of 
complete fatigue, Judith hurried out and got Prince from 
the corral. She hoped the cattle would be close at hand 


216 WILD GEESE 


so that she might have more time with Sven. She felt no 
tenderness toward him, but a terrible need of contact with 
something apart from the life about her. 

Sven was not at the spring when she arrived. She tied 
the horse to a tree near the edge of the clearing, beyond 
which she could see the cattle among the willows. Then 
she threw herself upon the moss under the birches, grasp- 
ing the slender trunks of the trees in her hands and strain- 
ing her body against the earth. She had taken off the 
heavy overalls and the coolness of the ground crept into 
her loose clothing. The light from the setting sun 
seemed to run down the smooth white bark of the birches 
like gilt. There was no movement, except the narrow 
trickle of the water from the spring, and the occasional 
flare of a bird above the brown depth of the pool. There 
was no sound save the tuning of the frogs in the marsh 
that seemed far away, and the infrequent call of a catbird 
on the wing. Here was clarity undreamed of, such clar- 
ity as the soul should have, in desire and fulfillment. 
Judith held her breasts in ecstasy. 

Sven stepped down from the bank on the opposite side 
of the water hole, and she saw him for a moment in the 
light with the long shadow stripes of the birches falling 
upon him. In that moment he came as a god, out of 
space. Judith did not move and he came and looked 
down at her. 

“Why don’t you say something, Judie?” he finally 
asked querulously, “I never know what you're thinkin’ 
about.” 

Judith flushed with disappointment. She sprang up. 

“OQh—you,” she said hotly. “Why do I always have 


WILD GEESE 247 


to say something? Isn’t it enough for you that I’m here 
at all?” ! 

Sven looked up, hurt. 

“Oh—well. If that’s how you feel about it—” he 
turned to go. 

“Come here,” Judith muttered, looking away from him. 

He came slowly and stood before her. “What?” 

“T thought you might know—” Her breast rose 
quickly. She turned and threw her arms about him pas- 
sionately. ‘I don’t want you to go—you’ve got to learn 
to be like me. There’s something in me you don’t know. 
Nobody knows—in here. We’re going off somewhere— 
far away, you and I. We're goin’—going—to be some- 
body else, great people, like you read about. I know I 
can be, and you must be, because you can hurt me. 
We’re going to be different, not like people round here, 
Sven, or even in the town you worked in. We’re going 
away, across the ocean, maybe. Aren’t we, Sven?” 

Sven patted her shoulder to quiet her. He strove to 
understand her. He wanted to be kind, but a man 
couldn’t lie. 

“We'll go places, Judie, after I’ve worked hard for a 
year or two. But we can’t just get up and go on nothin’, 
can wee” 

They sat down at the edge of the water and Judith’s 
mood became quiet again. Presently a cow lowed and 
they remembered that the sun had set. The girl hastily 
drew on her overalls and soiled shirt over her clean dress. 
Sven smiled a little ruefully as he watched her. 

Judith untied Prince from the tree and sprang into the 
saddle. This time she looked back at Sven and waved 


218 WILD GEESE 


to him until he was out of sight. She drove the cattle 
home rapidly to make up for the lost time. She felt 
recklessly happy for the first time in weeks. 

Ellen and Charlie were waiting in the milk yard. 

“Where have you been all this time?” Ellen com- 
plained. ‘“He’s in the kitchen calling her down, all on 
your account. You might think of somebody else be- 
sides yourself once in a while.” 

“Oh shut up!” Judith retorted. “If you did any 
thinkin’ at all you’d be better off.” 

She ran toward the house, but Caleb had already gone 
out when she got there. Across the field she saw him, his 
lantern swinging along the earth. Amelia was preparing 
the separator. Her face betrayed the tongue-lashing she 
had just undergone. 

“Jude,” she said. ‘Charlie will get the cattle after 
this. It needn’t have taken you an hour.” 


CHAPTER XIV 
1 


THERE was a sudden change in the weather and the 
haying had to be delayed. It became raw and wet, al- 
most like early spring. Amelia had the girls in the house 
helping her with the canning of the early vegetables, and 
wild strawberries and green gooseberries which she had 
spent hours gathering in the meadows and the bush. 
Then followed a day of high wind, with great canvases of 
white cloud sailing across the blue. 

It was on that day that the Klovacz family returned in 
the covered wagon which had taken them months before 
to the city in the south. Caleb had gone away for the 
day, and Amelia out of pity ran out to the road and bade 
them welcome home. 

Anton Klovacz was emaciated out of recognition. 
But his face was bright with gratitude when Amelia urged 
him and the children to come in and rest for a while. 
They had traveled all that day from Nykerk, and were 
dusty and cramped from sitting still in the wagon. The 
two eldest boys were almost twenty, sturdy and good to 
look at. Anton would have left them at home to take 
care of the farm had it not been that he feared he might 
never return. There were two girls, in their early ’teens, 
with Slavic eyes and gleaming white teeth. The three 
youngest children were boys, dusky and mischievous; 


their clothing was in tatters, and they were barefooted. 
219 


220 WILD GEESE 


Amelia gave them hot water and soap with which to 
wash their hands, and spread the table with a hearty 
lunch. Anton sat by, watching her in silence, the tears 
coming to his eyes again and again. He twined his thin 
fingers about each other, almost as a woman might do. 
Amelia hurried about, talking and laughing with the chil- 
dren, a feeling of tremendous, free warmth coming over 
her. It seemed that this little act of kindness was mak- 
ing up for all the meanness of the past years. She found 
herself unable to look at Anton. His great, dark eyes 
with the hollows under them were like something within 
herself that she kept concealed. .. . 

Finally, they were all seated about the table and Amc- 
lia was pouring milk into the cups for the younger chil- 
dren. She asked Anton whether he intended staying on 
the farm. 

“Until God says, ‘No more, Anton,’ ” he smiled, his 
voice husky. “I will try to make these improvements 
the government wish. Then it will be mine—the home- 
stead. And my children will have a home. After—” he 
made a characteristic outward and upward motion of his 
hands, like brown leaves blowing in the wind. 

When the children returned to the wagon, Anton lin- 
gered behind and thanked Amelia for her hospitality, 
grasping both her hands. 

“T will remember it, Meese Gare,” he told her. “TI 
have only a small time to live, so he tell me, the great 
doctor. But I work now for to make these improve- 
ments, and the homestead will be for them. I thank you 
many times.” 

And the Klovacz family drove off in their white topped 


WILD GEESE 221 


wagon, the canvas curtain at the back flapping in the 
wind. The great boundless clouds of midsummer moved 
over them like a majestic fleet with sails as pure as snow. 


2 


It was earlier on that day, too, that Caleb drove in the 
cart to call un Mark Jordan. He drew his left hand 
across his mustache every now and then as if to wipe off 
a smile that came at the thought of the trip he was tak- 
ing. As he drove past the hayfields he measured the 
height of the grass with his eye and considered that the 
few days respite had perhaps been of value. Martin and 
the girls would have to get out again to-morrow—idleness 
bred mischief. 

Mark’s hammer was ringing on new lumber when Caleb 
drove into the barnyard of the Klovaczs. He got down 
from the short ladder on which he had been standing 
against the wall of a low shed and came to meet Caleb 
as soon as he saw him. He wondered what the old man’s 
mission could be. 

“Good morning, neighbor,” Caleb greeted him heartily, 
getting down from the dog cart. ‘I’m Caleb Gare, from 
over near the school. Thought as how you might be 
gettin’ a mite lonesome here.” 

Mark shook hands with him. ‘A man does get rather 
lonesome,” he said. ‘Have to keep busy on jobs like 
this—” he indicated the repair work on the shed ‘“—to 
make the time go. Anton Klovacz will be coming home 
soon, and as I hear won’t be able to do much. So I’m 
just trying to put the place in shape for him.” 


222 WILD GEESE 


“He'll be gettin’ in his fodder soon’s he’s back, eh?” 
Caleb suggested. His eyes ran over the well set shoul- 
ders and the fine, narrow thighs of Mark, and covertly 
took in the clean lines of his face. Amelia must not see 
him, he reiterated to himself. 

“That’ll be the first thing, I guess. Come over here 
and sit down, Mr Gare—” Mark turned toward a bench 
outside the milk shed. Caleb followed him, his head 
bent forward as if there were a weight on his neck, his 
feet half dragging. Both men seated themselves on the 
bench. 

“How’ll he manage with just the two boys?” Caleb re- 
sumed easily. 

“Oh, Pll stay on and see him through that,” Mark told 
him. He threw Caleb a close scrutiny while the old 
man’s eyes were on the distant fields. 

“Yes, yes, of course,”’ Caleb said, as if in afterthought. 
“But what brings you out here, among these heathens? 
A young fellow like you Y 

Mark laughed. ‘“Doctor’s orders. I had a little nerv- 
ous trouble that came from overwork—nothing much, 
but the doctor thought he ought to nip it in the bud. He 
happened to hear of Klovacz who wanted to come in 
for examination, and the doctor, whom I know very well, 
thought I would fit in here while Klovacz was away. So 
the two patients changed places. I’m afraid poor Klo- 
vacz has lost on the proposition, as far as his own health 
goes. The doctor writes me he’s too far gone even for 
hope.” 

Caleb made a clucking sound of commiseration. He 





WILD GEESE 223 


drew his hand over his mustache, shaping his next re- 
mark adroitly. ‘What’ll you do when you leave here? 
Wouldn’t like to come over and work for me, would you?” 

““No—I guess Ill be through with farming when Klo- 
vacz gets settled again. I'll pull out before the cold 
weather starts.” 

“Your folks likely want you back, eh?” 

“Folks?” Mark smiled. ‘‘My folks are all dead, Mr 
Gare. So I can come and go much as I please.” 

“Well—” Caleb spoke softly. ‘Perhaps it’s best 
so—perhaps it’s best. Folks er lot o’ trouble sometimes 
—lot o’ trouble. Your people was farmers, now, like as 
not?” 

“No—as much as I know of my father, he was a 
scholarly sort.” 

“A scholar, eh? And a gentleman, I suppose—yes, 
yes,” Caleb repeated, delighted with the irony of the situ- 
ation. “Us farmers are not so fine, like, but we know 
what education is wuth. Nothin’ like it—nothin’ like it, 
eh? Your father perhaps gave you your first lesson? 
A B C’s like, eh?” 

“No. I don’t remember him at all. He died just be- 
fore I was born.” 

Caleb took out his pipe and filled it thoughtfully. 

“You don’t say! And your mother left alone with 
your That was bad—that was bad!” 

Mark glanced at Caleb and thought what a whimsi- 
cal old man he was, after all. A character, indeed. Sit- 
ting there sentimentalizing over a near-stranger. Mark 
smiled. 


224 WILD GEESE 


“Mother died soon after. She had very little money 
and I was brought up by some priests in a mission,” he 
explained, thinking to humor the old fellow. 

“Well—well. But you must have folks somewhere?” 
Caleb seemed incredulous. Inwardly he applauded his 
cunning. How Mark Jordan unfolded himself before 
him! What a story for Amelia! 

“Perhaps, in England. My parents came over to- 
gether, and as far as I know, my father was the last of a 
very old family. I intend to look up my ancestry some 
day, and perhaps I’ll locate some relatives. But I don’t 
miss them, Mr Gare.” Mark grinned as he saw Caleb 
shake his head as if in sympathy. ‘I couldn’t very well 
find any of my mother’s people, because I don’t know her 
maiden name. ‘The priests forgot it, on purpose, I think, 
because they hoped by keeping me away from any possi- 
ble relatives they would be able to train me for the 
priesthood.” 

Caleb passed his left hand gently over his mustache. 
Fe could scarcely keep from smiling at this complete 
show of confidence. It would repeat itself well to Amelia 
—very well indeed. He almost squirmed with pleasure. 

“The little teacher at our place is a mighty fine girl, 
eh?” he observed presently, with a side long glance at 
Mark. 

Mark crossed one knee over the over and folded his 
arms. He would have to head the old fellow into another 
direction. “Yes, she’s a very fine young woman,” he re- 
marked, looking out toward the fields. ‘How long ago 
was that school house built, Mr Gare?” 

“Eh?—Oh, let me see... it must be close on to 


WILD GEESE 225 


twenty year ago. Solid old cabin that—stand forever. 
I was in my prime when I built that, my boy—in my 
prime. All my kids got their learnin’ there . . . maybe 
they ought o’ had a little more, but I’m a poor man, 
Jordan, I’m a poor man, and I give ’em all I can afford. 
Don’t grudge ’em anything—give ’em all they need of 
everything. Like to have ’em around, you know. It 
doesn’t do no good for ’em to be scallywaggin’ off to 
towns where they get high ideas. The simple life’s the 
best, eh? Best for soul and body. That’s what I say.” 

“Well, you can certainly get too much of the other,” 
Mark agreed. ‘But it wouldn’t hurt them to get out for 
awhile. They might do better at something other than 
farming, if they got a chance.” 

Caleb’s face seemed to close in upon itself like a fold- 
ing door. ‘No—no. Not my children. They’re too 
close to the land,” he said. “The Gares are farmers, 
from way back. No Gare ever did good at anything 
else. No—they’ll not leave—they’ll not leave.” 

“Mark glanced at him, curiously. The old man’s voice 
was soft, intent, as if he were repeating to himself the 
words of a charm. 

“Looks as if those beasts are breaking down that fence 
back there,”’ Mark said, getting to his feet and shading 
his eyes with his hands as he looked east. ‘“They’re 
trying to get into the clover. Guess I’d better go down 
and stop them, Mr Gare.” 

A temptation came to Caleb to get a last grain of 
amusement out of his call. He held up his hand. 

“Just a minute—just a minute. Did you ever run 
across a horse dealer in town by the name of Bart Nu- 


226 WILD GEESE 


gent? Him and I used to be right friendly.” He raised 
his eyebrows and put his hands behind his back. 

“Bart Nugent? Why, sure, I’ve rented riding horses 
from him right along. He had a farm near the mission 
when I was only a kid, and he used to let me ride then. 
He’s a fine scout.” Mark smiled with pleasure. “But 
he’s not been well lately, I think.” 

“No,” said Caleb. ‘‘He’s dead.” 

Mark was shocked. Bart Nugent, in his homely way, 
had been a good friend. A greater lover of horses he had 
never known. 

Caleb climbed into the cart. ‘Come again, Mr Gare,” 
Mark called to him, saluting with his hand. 

“That I will,’ Caleb assured him, smiling grimly to 
himself. 

“Funny old codger,’’ Mark mused as he went down to 
the field. ‘“‘Fancy him having known Bart Nugent. But 
I can see the tyrant in him.” 


3 


On the road home Caleb saw approaching him the 
clumsy, gray-white bulk of a covered wagon. The Klo- 
vaczs were returning, he thought to himself. It would 
be well to stop and talk with Anton—perhaps he might 
learn from him just how long Mark Jordan would be 
staying on. 

Two teams with gay trappings drew the covered wagon. 
The scarlet tassels at the horses’ ears tossed about in the 
wind like the decorations on circus horses. On the high 
seat behind them Anton Klovacz held the reins, sitting 


WILD GEESE 227 


straight as a reed. The boys had driven over the miles 
that had gone before, but on the home stretch Anton 
himself would drive. It might be the last time... . 

Caleb drew his horse to the side of the road as the 
Klovaczs approached. ‘“‘Hullo—hullo!” he called out 
when he saw Anton’s face. ‘Back again, eh? How are 
ye—how are ye, Anton?” 

Anton leaned out from the wagon seat and smiled his 
strange foreign smile at Caleb. “Very good, we are all,” 
he replied. “And how go these things with you, 
neighbor?” 

“Everything fine—just like when you left,” Caleb re- 
turned. “I’ve just come from your place—been talkin’ 
with your hired man. Fine fellow, that, Anton. Think 
you'll keep him on?” 

“Eef he stay, yes. He write me maybe on-til freeze 
up. I hear these crops they are good, yes? But you 
have always the good crops, Mr Gare. You have the 
fine wife to help you, too. I will thank you for her great 
kindness to me and these children, Mr Gare. We have 
just been in to your house, a great kindness she gave, 
thanks. A very good woman your wife is, my friend.” 

Caleb’s eyes narrowed. ‘‘Yes—yes, you stopped in? 
That’s fine, that’s fine. The children got something to 
eat, and you too, I hope, Anton? And maybe some little 
thing to take home?” 

“The good food, that was plenty. We should not take 
more,” Anton said. Then he held his hand to his dusty, 
flat-brimmed hat and bade Caleb a good journey home, 
after the manner of the Hungarian. 

And Caleb, leaving him, thought with satisfaction of 


228 WILD GEESE 


the accident of meeting him. Here would be a choice 
morsel of discovery for Amelia. He took the road north, 
which led around the long stretch of bush and met the 
west road, so that he could approach his own farm from 
the west and make it appear that he had been, perhaps, 
calling on the Thorvaldsons. In which case it would 
have been impossible for him to have met Anton Klovacz 
in the covered wagon. These little tricks gave a dash 
of variety to life, besides being mighty useful. 

He drove slowly along the west road home, in order to 
give Amelia ample time to see him coming from that di- 
rection. As he had hoped, she was in the garden bending 
over her tomato vines when he drove into the yard. 

“Thorvaldson feels pretty good over the sale of that 
half section,” he told her when she came out of the gar- 
den to met him. “The money came in pretty handy— 
pretty handy.” 

“Yes,” she said, and he noticed the light tone of her 
voice. She thought he did not know about the visit of 
the Klovaczs. Well, he’d give her a little time to tell the 
truth about it. 

“Have to start mowin’ again to-morrow,” he went on 
as they both entered the house. ‘Martin get the bolts 
for that old machine?” 

““VYes—he went to Yellow Post and got them,” she said. 

“Where are the girls and Charlie?” 

“They went berrying.” 

‘Been alone all day, then, eh?” 

Amelia bent down and dragged some milk pans out 
from under the table, lifting them with a clatter to the 
sink. He noticed narrowly that her face was red when 


WILD GEESE 229 


she straightened up. ‘“Yes—I’ve been busy all day,” she 
said. “The tomatoes are starting to get ripe.” 

Caleb grinned under his mustache. She’d try to get 
out of the lie, then, eh? Well, that made the skirmish 
more interesting. 

“Guess people are beginning to be too busy for vis- 
itin’,” he continued, puttering about his tool cabinet that 
was nailed on the kitchen wall. 

“Likely,” Amelia said. He could not have known the 
Klovaczs had stopped in. To tell him would only bring 
on trouble. 

“Think [ll take a little trip out to the Klovaczs’ after 
supper. Heard in Yellow Post that they’re gettin’ home 
soon. Perhaps they’re come, already.” 

Amelia drew in her lip. He might not go, after the 
trip he’d taken to-day. She would chance it.... 

He went out to the barn and Amelia breathed a sigh 
of relief. Then she heard voices outside and realized 
that the girls and Charlie had returned from the bush. 
The Teacher was with them. ‘They would have a bushel 
of berries among them. She should have asked Martin 
to buy more sugar at Yellow Post. There were a hun- 
dred things to think of. Thank God for that. 

The girls came in with two great baskets full of blue- 
berries. Their hands and faces were stained with the 
ripe fruit, and they were laughing and arguing as to 
which one had picked the most during the afternoon. 

“I’m sure Teacher did,” Amelia observed eagerly, to 
get into the conversation. ‘Her face is bluest.” 

“T’m afraid I did eat more than I put into the basket,” 
Lind laughed. “But there’s lots here, anyway.” 


230 WILD GEESE 


They heard Caleb calling to Charlie immediately out- 
side the door, and their mirth subsided. Lind carried 
water to her room, and Ellen and Judith went about wash- 
ing at the sink. Afterwards Judith came up to Lind in 
the loft and sat down on the bed, watching the Teacher 
wash her face and neck and long smooth arms with a 
fragrant soap. Lind turned and surprised a peculiar 
look in the girl’s eyes. Judith grew red and leaned back 
on the pillows. 

“Tt makes my mouth water to watch you do that,” she 
said. “It’s so—oh, I don’t know what it is—just as if 
somebody’s stroking my skin.” 

“Why don’t you use this soap, Judith? I have lots of 
it. I’ve told you so many times to use anything of mine 
you like. Next time you expect to meet Sven—” Lind 
lowered her voice and smiled roguishly at Jude—“‘let me 
fix you all up, will you? Nice smelling powder and a 
tiny drop of perfume in your hair. He’ll die of delight, 
Judie! Just die.” 

Judith chuckled and ran her hands over her round 
breasts. 

“Tt doesn’t take perfume to kill him,” she murmured. 

Lind looked at her, stretched full length across the bed. 
What a beautiful, challenging body she had! With a 
terrible beginning of consciousness, like a splendid she- 
animal, nearly grown. 

“Let me comb your hair, Lind, will you?” Jude asked. 

The Teacher sat down on the floor beside the bed and 
Judith loosened the long skeins of bronze hair that fell 
all about her shoulders. Judith loved to run her fingers 
through it, and to gather it up in a shining coil above the 


WILD GEESE 231 


white nape of Lind’s neck. Lind talked to her about 
things of the outer world, as she often did when they 
could be alone together. But presently Ellen’s voice 
came up from below, the thin, usual protest. Judith fas- 
tened Lind’s hair up with a single pin and left her. Lind 
thought that her step was a little lighter than it had been. 


4 


That evening, before Amelia was aware of his intent, 
Caleb had harnessed the mare to the dog cart and was 
driving eastward in the direction of the Klovaczs’. Ame- 
lia looked down across the sheep pasture and saw him go. 
He would find out, then, that she had evaded telling him 
the truth. Perhaps, somehow, the Klovaczs would not 
mention having been here. But they would. They 
would. And Caleb would advance upon her with a 
dreadful sneer and insinuate, and threaten, and probably 
insult her before the whole family, as he had done again 
and again, in his gentle way. She stood for many mo- 
ments shuddering physically in anticipation of his return— 
staring after him to see if he would not, after all, change 
his mind and come back. But the cart became smaller 
and smaller along the bluish road, and finally vanished 
around the curve of the timber. 

Caleb, reaching the road on the east where it went 
north, turned in the direction of Skuli Erickson. 

Amelia washed the dinner dishes and declined Lind’s 
offer to wipe them. Lind thought her face looked more 
drawn to-night than usual, and would have liked to help 
her with her work. 


232 WILD GEESE 


Ellen and Martin and Charlie milked, Judith fed the 
pigs and the calves that were no longer sucking. After 
the separating, Ellen carried the crocks of cream into the 
cellar. Then she, Amelia and Judith sat and picked over 
the blueberries until the flame in the lantern near the 
door became smoky and the smell of soot and rank oil 
stung the nostrils. 

“Td better fill the lantern,” said Judith, rising to do so. 

“Not to-night, child,’”’ said Amelia, brushing the bits of 
leaves and blueberry stems from her apron. ‘We've done 
enough. I’ll wash the chimney and clean the wick to- 
morrow.” 

Ellen and Judith went up to bed where Martin and 
Charlie were already asleep. Lind, who was tired after 
her day in the bush, had also gone to the loft. She 
listened to Judith’s step on the stair. It was again 
heavy as a man’s. 

In the kitchen below Amelia took the lantern down 
from its place near the door. Moving the sitting room 
lamp into the kitchen, she filled the lantern with oil, cut 
the wick, and rubbed the chimney with a piece of old 
wool till it shone. Then she lighted the lantern to see how 
it burned. Caleb would be coming in, and would notice 
if it were not ready for his use should he want it. 

Amelia returned the lamp to the sitting room table. It 
had a long, white glass pedestal, and a ruby colored, 
round body, within which the wick floated like a red, 
swollen tongue. Amelia stood looking into the rosy 
globe as if it held some strange significance. It was half 
full of kerosene. But under the ruby colored glass the 
kerosene looked like thin silver. 


WILD GEESE 233 


The outer door opened slowly. Amelia heard Caleb’s 
step but did not turn. She could hear him taking off his 
hat and coat, hanging them on the wall; turning down the 
wick of the lantern; walking across the floor, like a large 
turtle dragging its shell. 

“Everybody gone to bed?” he asked pleasantly, sit- 
ting down to unloosen his shoes. 

““Ves—they’re all tired out,” Amelia said cheerfully. 

“Hm. Why haven’t you gone? You must be more’n 
tired, after a hard day like this. Heh, heh! Yeah— © 
you must be more’n tired, Amelia.” 

Amelia did not answer. She sat prepared for the next. 

“But you’re a fine woman, Amelia. Least as I know, 
Anton Klovacz says so. And he ought to know,” Caleb 
said gently, drawing his hand across his mustache and 
leaning back in his chair. 

“Well—what could I do but ask them in?” Amelia 
said suddenly. She was startled at herself. She felt 
no desire to placate Caleb. 

Caleb turned his head slowly, not moving his body. 
He tilted his head back and regarded her through half 
closed eyes. Then a sneer spread over his face like a 
mask. The look terrified Amelia. She knew a sort of 
insanity had him when he looked like that. An insanity 
for power over her, at any cost. Her hands moved up 
and down over her apron in her lap. Then she caught 
hold of the edge of the checked table cloth and began to 
roll it up tightly. 

“So—you’d lie, too, eh? What else have you done, 
tell me that, can you? Anton Klovacz—the infidel—in 
my house! He’d say you’re a fine woman, he'd say it, 


234 WILD GEESE 


- heh, heh! And with a reason, perhaps, eh? Him and 
his lice—your kind, eh? Tch-ch! Mark Jordan and 
Anton Klovacz—pah!” 

He thrust his face out toward her, snapping his fingers 
under her nose. Amelia recoiled as if he had struck her. 
He laughed softly, in his throat. “Ha! That beautiful 
son of yours—he’s a fine boy, he is. I’ve talked to him, 
I have—” he tapped his chest with a knotted forefinger. 
“the likes of me. And he told me what his father 
was—heh! heh! A scholar and a gentleman. And his 
mother, a lady, like as not. Tch-ch! How would you 
like me to tell him, eh? Perhaps I’m not good enough to 
tell him. Perhaps Anton Klovacz should tell him—or 
maybe yourself—” a little light appeared in his eyes— 
“Heh, heh! That’s good—vyoz tell him, Amelia, you tell 
him, the pretty boy!” 

Amelia stood upright. Her eyelids were drawn back 
beyond the iris of her eyes. 

“Do it!” she whispered. “Do it! See what'll hap- 
pen!” 

Again her own voice alarmed her. It seemed to come 
from some other person. She sank weakly back into her 
chair. Caleb laughed. He saw that she was overcome. 

Slowly he undressed and went to bed, turning the lamp 
low so that Amelia sat almost in the dark. She sat so 
for a long time, stroking her apron over her knees. She 
would have to go to bed soon—lie beside Caleb, lie awake, 
far into the night. 


CHAPTER XV, 
1 


CaLEp’s instructions, through Amelia, were that Charlie 
should go for the cattle every evening. And a few days 
later Charlie was appointed to take Judith’s place in go- 
ing for the mail and provisions at Yellow Post. So that 
now Judith’s freedom was narrowed down to the space 
within her own thoughts as she moved up and down the 
hayfield on the mowing machine. Following the rains, 
the heat was not so intense, and the dust had been washed 
from the sweet hay. There was something almost sooth- 
ing in the whirr of the mowing machine. It enclosed 
one’s thoughts from every other sound. 

But Sven would be wondering why she didn’t come to 
the meeting place. She wouid look for him to-day on the 
way out of the field and try to tell him that Caleb was 
watching her. That he would have to wait for a few 
evenings until her father made a trip somewhere so that 
they could meet at the spring without danger of discovery. 
While she thought about Sven, her eyes fell alongside the 
mower where the depth of the hay stirred under the wind 
like something alive. A sudden gust flattened the tops 
of the growth into a gray sheet, as if an enormous in- 
visible hand had brushed across it. A dark understanding 
had come upon Judith and now every living thing caressed, 
or was caressed. 


She looked behind her at Charlie and across into the 
235 


236 WILD GEESE 


other field where Martin and Ellen were working. She 
knew Ellen had wanted to go away with Malcolm. That 
Ellen had denied the greatest impulse of her life Judith 
could not forgive. She hated Ellen, and found it in her 
heart to hope that she would have to remain forever re- 
gretting and waiting for a thing that did not come. 

Jude’s thoughts turning toward Lind. She had found 
herself stepping softly in her presence, had found her- 
self looking into the mirror for some resemblance to Lind. 
These things Sven would not understand. He would have 
to learn to understand them, in the other world where they 
were going together after the haying. Amelia’s suffering 
eyes came before Judith’s mind, but she brushed them 
away. It would have to be sometime, it might as well be 
now. Perhaps with the going of Lind the dream would 
go—and there would be nothing but another winter of 
frozen manure and hungry cattle... . 

On the last day of the mowing, Caleb declared his in- 
tention of going that evening to see Bjorn Aronson about 
the purchase of a bell for the church at Yellow Post. He 
told Martin about it at the dinner table, and Judith pre- 
tended not to hear him by turning abruptly to Lind and 
asking her something about the school. Caleb went on 
to tell Martin that he might get Bjorn for the threshing. 

“He'll not ask more than the breeds, and he’ll work 
harder,” Caleb added. 

Returning to the field with the horses after the others, 
Judith stood in the hollow near the road where the wil- 
lows hid her, and whistled for Sven. He would be moving 
about in the Sandbo farmyard if he had not yet returned 
to his own field lying to the north. Judith sounded a 


WILD GEESE 237 


long sharp whistle and presently he came, running. He 
kissed her clumsily in his haste. 

“Oh, Judie!” he cried, “I’ve got to have if 

“To-night,” she said quickly, “and don’t be late.” 

She slapped the reins across the backs of the horses and 
turned into the field. Her heart beat like a hammer under 
the greasy breast of her overalls. Sven had been clean 
and ruddy, and his shirt was open at the throat over his 
fresh skin. 

They completed the mowing in the early afternoon, and 
took the machines home. Judith saw that Ellen’s face 
was white, her eyelids red and swollen. But the feeling 
she had toward her was only one of contempt. There was 
nothing admirable in Ellen’s suffering. Before the re- 
turn of Malcolm Judith had pitied Ellen and would have 
done much to spare her from duties that were too heavy 
for her. Now she felt that anything that befell Ellen was 
her just due. She had had her choice. 

Judith drove ahead of the others going home. She hur- 
riedly unharnessed the horses and turned them into the 
pasture. Then she strode into the kitchen where Amelia 
was pickling tiny cucumbers. 

“What are you going to do?” Amelia asked when she 
saw her take a basin full of hot water from the kettle. 

“Wash my hair,” said Judith shortly. 

Amelia looked at her curiously. It seemed an odd time 
of the week for doing such a thing. It was usually done 
on Sunday morning, when it did not interfere with the 
work. However, Caleb was far down the pasture ex- 
amining some horses and he might not return until she 
was through. 





238 WILD GEESE 


Judith took the water into the sun outside the house 
and placed it on the ground. ‘Then she knelt down and 
dipped her whole head into the basin, scrubbing the black 
mass of her hair with the soap that Lind had told her to 
use. Afterward she sat on the ground sunning it until it 
was dry. It had a lovely, unforgettable smell now, like 
Lind. 

Then she went to Lind’s room and bathed. It was 
delightful beyond words, the delicate soap. She had 
never before used any but Amelia’s home-made soap. 
She made her whole body white now with lather, hating 
finally to wash it off. 

Lind came in from school while she was dressing. The 
Teacher gave her a silk blouse to wear, but Judith was 
afraid that Caleb would notice it. She let Lind dress 
her hair, however, and promised that after Caleb had gone 
she would permit her to put a drop of perfume at the nape 
of her neck. Then they went downstairs, where Ellen 
was playing the organ. 

Ellen still played Red Wing. Years ago somebody had 
stopped at the Gares’ and had sung and played the song. 
No popular air had become familiar to her since then. 
It was a childhood memory that she never lost. Lind 
had offered to teach her other songs, but Ellen protested 
that she had no time to learn them. Lind suspected that 
she had resented the offer. 

Ellen looked up when Judith came into the room, but 
made no comment on the fashion of her sister’s hair. 
Judith marched outdoors. 

In the corral stood a shining black stallion that had been 
brought from the farm of one of the Icelanders. The 


WILD GEESE 239 


animal stood pawing the earth and arching his huge, 
glistening neck. Judith paused for a moment beside the 
corral gate, looking at the horse. He lifted his head and 
turned his flaring nostrils toward her. His eyes were 
hostile. Judith turned away, instinctively lifting her 
chest. 

Z 

Immediately after Charlie had gone for the cattle, 
Caleb drove away in the cart. From the sheep pasture 
Jude got a glimpse of him turning off the wood road and 
going north. She was content that he had gone to Aron- 
son’s. 

Sven was waiting for her at the spring when she got 
there. She stepped quietly down the bank and parted 
the birch trees, standing for a moment framed in the 
light as she remembered he had done on the last evening 
they had come together. 

“Gosh, you’re a picture, Judie,” he exclaimed. She 
was pleased at that and came and sat beside him. 

He noticed the fragrance about her. Noticed how fine 
and dusky her hair was, and how gratifying it was to 
touch her. Judith put her strong arms about him and 
felt the beating of his heart against her own. She pulled 
down her dress so that her skin would be bare against 
his. breast, and she was glad that she had bathed with 
the fragrant soap. | 

“Judie . . .”. Sven whispered, and put his lips to her 
ear. 

“Y’m a little bit afraid, to-night,’’ she murmured. 


240 WILD GEESE 


He held her hungrily in his arms. Time drifted into 
a blissful eternity. 

Behind a clump of willows north of the wood road, 
Caleb had stopped the mare and waited. He had sat 
patiently looking in the direction of the Sandbo home- 
stead until to his satisfaction he had seen Sven ride out 
into the clearing and cut across the pasture westward. 
Then he had tied the mare to a tree and had slipped 
through the bush to the point where he had seen Sven 
enter. ‘ 

He crept along slowly, taking care not to step on dry 
branches. As the light fell he could make out low voices 
that seemed to come from a hollow. Now he could look 
down and see them, seated together, their arms about 
each other on the bank above the pool. Caleb drew his 
hand slowly across the lower part of his face. He turned 
and went noiselessly back to the edge of the pasture, 
then north to where the mare was tied. 


3 


The next day was full of dreams for Judith. She 
stood getting chicken feed from the bag in the barn, 
thinking of Sven, and of the distant place where they 
would soon go together. Sven had been wonderful last 
night, had talked to her as he had never talked before. 
It had been almost impossible to get up and say good-by 
to him. Soon there would be no more good-bys. They 
would have a snug cottage in town, and Sven would go to 
his work every day, but at night they would be together 
again—all night... . It seemed that it was already 


WILD GEESE 241 


true, that Caleb, and the cattle, and the land, and sweat, 
and hay dust, were gone forever. She glanced up and 
saw a shadow fall across the floor of the barn. Then 
Caleb stood in the doorway. 

Judith stood erect. She saw his face, like a mask cut 
out of granite. He had seen them—she knew it in- 
stantly. Somehow he had discovered—spied on them. 
He stepped into the barn. Judith was dumb. 

‘“‘Well—what’ve ye got to say for yourself, eh? 
What’ve ye got to say for yourself?” He descended 
upon her, his head thrust forward. Judith did not move. 
Her eyes swept the floor for the fraction of a second. 
A yard from her feet lay a small ax with a short handle. 
It had fallen from a strap on the wall behind her. 

“What ’er you up to, out there in the bush, eh? With 
that Sandbo dog, heh, heh! A bitch like your mother, 
eh? Come here and I'll show ye it pays to be decent!” 
He took another step toward her. Judith’s hand swept 
down and grasped the handle of the ax. 

She straightened like a flash and flung it with all her 
strength at Caleb’s head. Her eyes closed dizzily, and 
when she opened them again he was crouching before her, 
his hand moving across his mustache. The ax was 
buried in the rotten wall behind his head. 

“So—that’s your little trick, is it? Well!” He 
sprang forward and seized Judith by the wrists, throwing 
her to the floor. Then he snatched a coil of rope from 
the wall and tied her hand and foot to the base of the 
manger, : 

Judith was too stunned by the violence of her own act 
to struggle. She lay on her face, as he had leit her, 


242 WILD GEESE 


scarcely aware of the smell of manure from the floor of 
the stall. Presently she began to tremble uncontrollably. 
She knew he had gone out. She was not afraid of him on 
her own part. But he would go to Amelia. Amelia was 
powerless against him. He would be insane with rage. 


Murder, perhaps . . . everything going, now . . . every- 
thing closing in . . . only the land, and the cattle, and 
manure. . . . She lay until the diagonal shadow that 


fell within the door of the barn lay toward the west in- 
stead of the east; until the rope had chafed red circles 
about her wrists, and her hair was full of bits of dry 
manure. 


4 

“She’s in the barn,” said Caleb when the family had 
made an effort to eat supper and no mention had been 
made of Judith. 

He need not have said that. Everyone knew where 
she was. Everyone had been told to keep out of the barn 
that day. 

“Now, what shall we do with her, eh? What shall 
we do with her, mother?” he turned amiably to Amelia, 
who was white and speechless. 

He leaned back in his chair and assumed the pose of 
a judge. 

“There are no courts near enough by to do the right 
thing,” he went on softly, as if he were talking to him- 
self. ‘So we shall have to do the best we can by our- 
selves—by ourselves.” 


WILD GEESE 243 


Martin, Ellen, Charlie and Amelia sat about the room, 
in the circle in which they listened to Caleb’s sermons 
from Yellow Post. The Teacher, who had heard from 
Charlie what had happened, was completely unstrung. 
She had gone to the Sandbos in the afternoon in the 
hope of finding Mark there, and human warmth. 

“There has been an attempt at murder on this farm,” 
Caleb went on sonorously. ‘A crime has been com- 
mitted. The responsibility of dealing with the criminal 
lies with us. Now, first of all, we must go out and see 
the evidence. Amelia, you will take the children with 
you to the barn. I will wait here.” 

Amelia, Martin, Ellen and Charlie went out without a 
word. They went into the barn and saw Judith lying 
on the floor of the stall. Amelia held herself stiff lest she 
should fly to her and release her. It was a terrible mo- 
ment for her. Martin’s face grew longer as he saw the 
ax with its head almost buried in the rotten log of the 
wall. Judith did not stir nor look up at them. Her 
clothes were twisted about her body and there were bits 
of chaff and manure in her hair. 

“Jude,” Ellen said, standing on the threshold. 

Judith did not answer. 

“Oh, well—” said Ellen. But her body shook. 

They went back to the house. Caleb was sitting in 
exactly the same position as when they had left him. 
They resumed their chairs again. 

“There are several ways of treatin’ this case,’”’ he went 
on judiciously. ‘One I have mentioned—the city. The 
other, you saw for yourself—in the barn. But there is 


244 WILD GEESE 


still another one—perhaps Amelia would like you to know 
what it is—” he glanced slowly at Amelia, the lower part 
of his face covered with his hand. 

Amelia sat rigid. It was coming now, then. Mark 
Jordan would have to pay for Judith’s insane ‘act. No, 
as God lived, she would kill him first—no one would know 
the reason for that. 

“Flowever—I shall let Amelia choose—after all, Ju- 
dith is her child. Heh, heh! Her child, indeed!” Ca- 
leb sat chuckling to himself, apparently having forgotten 
that he was waiting for Amelia to speak. 

Amelia glanced at Ellen, then at Martin, then at Char- 
lie. It might be a trick, after all. He might tell them 
even yet. She swallowed to control her breath. 

“I think, Caleb, it would be better to keep her here.” 

Caleb regarded her with amusement. “Let her run 
amuck, you mean?” 

“‘No—keep her in—for a while—until she quiets down. 
Talk to her—make her see her mistake.” 

Amelia had hit the right’ word—meake. It flattered 
Caleb. He grew mellow. Perhaps this was not the op- 
portune moment, after all. He would save the revela- 
tion. Mark Jordan would not leave for some time, 
yet. He rose amiably from his chair as though the 
discussion had been on a pleasant subject of general . 
interest. 

“T think you’re right, Amelia, I think you’re right. 
Now let’s see about the milkin’ and the separatin’. I’m 
goin’ ’cross to look at the flax, mother. Got the lan- 
tern full?” 


WILD GEESE 245 


5 


Lind ate a little supper at Sandbos’ so that there should 
be no questions asked. But she took Sven aside and 
hurriedly told him what had happened. 

Sven swore fiercely and became white. It was all Lind 
could do to keep him from leaving at once for the Gares’. 
But he made her promise that if Jude was not let out that 
night she would come and tell him. He tugged at his hair 
wretchedly and tears of rage and futility came into his 
eyes. Lind talked to him until he was calmer, and then 
he walked down the road with her toward the Klovaczs’. 
When he saw Mark coming he turned back. 

Lind met Mark on the road beyond the cedars. He 
jumped down from his saddle and put his arm about 
her. She leaned against him shaking. He tightened 
his hold around her shoulders and put his hand under her 
chin to look at her face. 

“What has happened?” 

“Judith has tried to kill Caleb,” she told him. 

“My God—that kid?” 

Lind gave him what she knew of it. They went on 
for a while in silence. 

‘Lindy, dear, you’ve got to get away from that place 
before the old boy goes crazy and kills you with the 
rest of them,” Mark said finally: ‘Why don’t you go 
to live at Sandbos’?” 

Lind shook her head. ‘Judith won’t be let off the 
place at all now. I think it would only be human for 


246 WILD GEESE 


me to stay there and be as much of a comfort to her as I 
can. I told Sven what happened, and he’s going to wait 
until a chance comes for him to take her away—forcibly. 
Then the old man will probably burst and it will be all 
over with him.” 

They went on through the deepening shadows between 
the cedars. The road lay like a blue ribbon ahead of 
them, and the evening was as pure as many that they had 
known. But over the earth hung a pall, as if there had 
come a halt in the process of growth. 

““Mark—this place is sinister—can’t you feel the dread 
in it?” 

“But it doesn’t touch us, Lind. We don’t belong to 
it. We have each other.” 

Lind moved closer to him to assure herself that it 
was so. 


CHAPTER XVI 
1 


Ir was an unusually dry August, and the stacking 
would begin early. Martin wondered whether Caleb 
would get a man to help now that Judith was confined to 
the house. Ellen and Charlie were scarcely skillful 
enough for the job. But Martin knew better than to ask 
any questions after what had happened. Conversation 
between Caleb and the rest of the family had practically 
ceased, and the only bond now was the work that went 
on without interruption and without question. 

Amelia went about her tasks in the house and the 
garden from morning until night with almost rapt atten- 
tion, as if they were something she was afraid to lose. 
When she came in from the glaring sun, the comparative 
darkness of the house would blind her, and she would 
have the feeling that Judith was not there, that she had 
gone. Then she would see her, sitting with her back 
bent, peeling potatoes for dinner, probably, or mending a 
bit of harness that Caleb had handed her without a word 
that morning. And Amelia would harden her heart again 
and repeat her resolve. Judith was Caleb’s child. She 
did not speak to the girl, except to give her instructions 
about the cooking or the house work. Judith had be- 
come only a pair of hands that did what they were told. 
She spoke to no one, looked at no one. 


To Lind her apathy was heart-breaking. For days the 
247 


248 WILD GEESE 


Teacher did not approach her, knowing that it would do 
no good. When she came in from school she would hear 
her, perhaps, moving heavily about upstairs, scrubbing 
the pine floors, or would see her sitting stolidly absorbed 
over a pailful of vegetables that she was cleaning. Lind 
knew that it could not go on like this, that the fire in 
Judith would break out in some still more turbulent form 
the longer she was kept under control. 

The ax was left in the barn wall where Judith had 
driven it. It was Caleb’s wish that it should not be 
removed. : 

The days became languid and sonorous with the drone 
of bees over tawny meadows; white and yellow butter- 
flies danced as thoughtlessly as ever over the pink rem- 
nant of the last wild rose; the bush was a flurry of wings 
and song, and every day the children brought to school 
deserted nests to make drawings of with charcoal or 
colored crayon. Lind felt a false mellowness in the air; 
growth had come to an end. But she went on with her 
work, grateful for the duties that kept her in the school 
house, away from the Gares. 

Martin learned, to his mild consternation, that a man 
would not be hired for the stacking. 

“Ellen and Charlie will start stacking with you to- 
morrow,” Caleb said to him at the supper table. 

Judith appeared not to have heard the statement, al- 
though everyone knew that she must have been looking 
forward to the stacking to release her from the house. 

For the first few days Caleb was on hand to super- 
vise the work. The hay was gathered from the field 
where it had been drying, in ricks. Ellen worked with 


WILD GEESE 249 


Martin on the stacks while Charlie handled the crane be- 
low. Martin saw,that the work Judith should be doing 
was too heavy for Ellen, but he said nothing. Physical 
inability to do a set task was a thing that Caleb never 
recognized. It was set down as unwillingness. 

Caleb sat in the cart patiently watching the growing 
stacks. Occasionally he gave an encouraging word to 
Charlie or rebuked Ellen for her carelessness. Ellen 
set her mouth in a straight line and her small red hands 
took a firmer grip on the handle of the hay fork. The 
stacks grew, large, smooth and rain-proof, gratifying to 
the eye of Caleb Gare. It was product of Ais land, re- 
sult of dis industry. As undeniably his as his right hand, 
testifying to the outer world that Caleb Gare was a suc- 
cessful owner and user of the soil. 

He had ease for thinking, there in the field surrounded 
by the rich produce that was his.. The case of Judith 
had been fortunate rather than otherwise. At first it had 
been a bit disturbing. The ax might have done more 
than graze his hair. As it was, the incident merely gave 
him greater control over affairs. It was another thing 
to hold over Amelia. And it gave him security in regard 
to Judith—it was a case for the police if he wished to 
make it one. The ax must remain where it was, in case 
he should ever have need to use the evidence. However, 
as long as Judith was managable, he would be lenient. 
Her work was more satisfactory than that of any hired 
help he could get. He would keep her indoors until the 
malevolent spirit was broken in her and then he would 
keep it broken with work in the fields during harvest. 

Caleb lifted his eyes to the south, where the flax was 


250 WILD GEESE 


ripening, slowly, deliberately. The crew would have to 
return to thresh it on the first of October, after the other 
crops were in. A pang of regret struck him as he thought 
of the cutting of the flax. It had grown with such pride, 
such rich dignity. It was beautiful, stretching out and 
stirring with life, as though nothing could end its being. 
But there would be other years and other yields, he com- 
forted himself. Next year he would plant more flax. 
Its delicacy was a challenge to the harsh conditions under 
which it grew—it was a challenge to Caleb himself to 
force from the soil all that it would withhold. 

He glanced casually once more at the labor of Ellen 
and Martin and Charlie, then turned the mare out of the 
field. As he passed the timber he got from Fusi Aron- 
son in exchange for the lake bottom and the muskeg he 
smiled to himself. This would be a dull life if one 
could not invent artifices of amusement. Still, in a year 
or two the lake bottom might become arable land, and the 
muskeg be dry enough for flax. Then he would have to 
buy it back again from Fusi. There was a joke for you! 
In the meantime, however, the timber would be of value 
for fire wood and for building. And what was there to 
stop him from cording it and selling it at the Siding? 
Judith and Martin would be idle after the harvest. ... 

As he drove home his mind turned to Amelia, and he 
speculated upon just what her thoughts might be these 
days. He would have to create conversation again, lest 
by too much silence he lose contact. Circling about in 
her own thoughts Amelia might even begin to think that 
unselfishness did not pay, and that Mark Jordan might 
as well know the truth about himself. That would bring 


WILD GEESE 251 


about a sort of hiatus. Things would run along smoothly 
only as long as he kept a balance of contrariness. He 
would have to make conversation, and in a few days 
release Judith for work in the fields. 


z 


One day when the Teacher came in from school Judith 
was running the churn in the kitchen. Amelia was in 
the garden and there was no one else about. Lind sat 
down on the floor beside Jude, and watched her strong 
arm move around and around as steadily as a machine. 
Her eyes were on the floor, and she made no sign that 
she had seen Lind enter. 

“‘Judie—Judie, why can’t you talk to me?” Lind asked 
softly. She could scarcely keep the tears from her eyes 
as she watched this great dark girl, sitting absorbed in 
turning the handle of a churn as if nothing else mattered. 

Judith lifted her eyes slowly. “Nothing to talk about, 
is there?” she asked. ‘They were the first words Lind 
had heard her speak since the day of her commitment 
to the house. 

“You must not let it affect you this way, Judith. I 
know why you did it—you just lost your temper, and it 
was an awful mistake. But it will blow over—he’ll for- 
get it. Why don’t you begin to talk to them now, so 
that everything will become natural again? Sven is 
waiting to hear from you, too, Judith.” 

A flush came to Jude’s cheeks, and Lind thought she 
saw tears in her eyes as she turned her head away. 

“Tt won’t do any good,” Judith muttered. “If I see 


252 WILD GEESE 


Sven he’ll find out and then he’ll send me to the city. 
I know—nothing good ever happens.” 

“Judie, your own life matters more than anything else. 
If you stay here much longer you'll get to be like Ellen, 
and you’re too splendid to waste yourself like that. 
What if he does send you to—to the city? The judge 
would find out all about how he has been treating you 
before they would do anything to you. People aren’t 
all like him, you know. Everything would be better in 
the end, Judie, I’m sure.” 

Judith sat back in her.chair and looked at her. 

“You might just tell Sven not to worry about me, if 
you see him,” she said. ‘He can’t keep me here forever, 
anyway.” 

Lind was glad to find some response in Judith. “T’ll 
see him, perhaps to-morrow, Jude. I’m sure he’s think- 
ing about you all the time,” she said cheerfully, putting 
her arm about Judith’s shoulder. ‘Do you know what 
I’m going to do now? I’m going to make you something 
pretty. Something you can wear without anyone else 
seeing it. You just wait.” Lind went into the other 
room, smiling back at Jude, who half smiled in return. 

Amelia came in then and Judith stood up and looked 
into the churn at the butter. 

“T’ll have to be getting some new crocks from Johan- 
neson,” said Amelia. 

“He has two of our old ones down there,” Judith re- 
marked. 

Amelia looked at her quickly. It was the first volun- 
tary word she had uttered for days. ‘There was a change 
in her. She wondered what would happen when Judith 


WILD GEESE 253 


came fully to herself again. But the girl kept within 
herself for the rest of that day and went to bed immedi- 
ately after supper, so that Amelia had no way of know- 
ing what was forming in her mind. Amelia herself would 
give her no reason to think that her mad act would bring 
her ultimate freedom. She had not spoken to Judith of 
the thing that had happened, thinking in this way to 
impress upon her the appalling aspect of it. 

That night Judith lay awake. The suggestion the 
Teacher had made, that the authorities of peace and jus- 
tice would perhaps not be so harsh as she had feared, if 
Caleb brought the thing to their notice, occupied her 
mind and crowded out sleep. 

And yet, she could not be sure. She knew so little of 
such matters. Perhaps the Teacher was mistaken. A 
halfbreed girl from Yellow Post two or three years be- 
fore had tried to kill her baby, and she had been sent to 
prison for it. Prison—a place where you were confined 
to a tiny cell and never saw the sky, or felt the wind on 
your face—a wretched place, worse perhaps, than this 
farm. Caleb would manage to send her there if he found 
any other reason to be dissatisfied with her. He had a 
special hatred for her, she knew it—had always known it. 
It was because she hated the things that were God to 
him—the crops, the raising of animals, the rough pro- 
duce of the land. 

She thought of Sven. When the opportunity came, she 
knew he would take her away. She knew he was waiting 
day and night for the moment to come, that he would at 
once defy Caleb if any good would come of it. But Ca- 
leb held the whip just now. They would get no farther 


254 WILD GEESE 


than the Siding before he would be upon them—would 
notify the police. For the first time in her life, Judith 
felt a need of Sven that did not spring from passion. 
She no longer saw the powerful muscles of his throat, or 
the taut, narrow shape of his loins. What she did see 
was a certain wistfulness in his eyes, that had come there 
through her scorn of him. Lying in the darkness beside 
Ellen, she felt a great need just to-sit near him and not 
say anything for a long time. She began to cry and 
covered her face with her pillow so that Ellen should not 
hear her. 


3 


After school the next day Lind walked home with the 
Sandbo children to convey Jude’s message to Sven. At 
the side of the road the milk-weed stalks hung with heavy 
purple bloom, and dandelions stood a foot and a half 
high, fluffing their down in the wind. It was a year of 
lavish growth for Oeland. The children had found more 
varieties of birds and butterflies than ever before. The 
leaves of the trees were free from insects. Lind thought 
how the plan of nature for a perfect year had been car- 
ried out between her and Mark Jordan. She wished that 
this harmony could have extended to the Gares, and 
thought sadly of Judith. 

Lind had seen Mark Jordan nearly every day since 
the return of the Klovaczs. He had managed to ride 
over and talk with her in the late afternoons while she 
was still at the school house, or they had walked together 
into the timber and had sat beside the little pool that 


WILD GEESE 255 


Lind had found long before. They began to make plans 
for the fall, when they would leave together for the ‘‘out- 
side.” The winters at Oeland were too bitter to keep 
school open when the children had so far to go. 

“I’d rather like to spend a winter here,” Mark had 
said once. ‘Particularly at the Gares’. What a chance 
to study human nature that would be.” 

“T’m afraid ’'d emerge from it unable to study any- 
thing for the rest of my life,” Lind had replied. “It’s 
heart breaking enough under favorable weather condi- 
tions.” 

Sven was watering the horses when the Teacher and 
the children arrived. He came forward eagerly to meet 
her. 

“Judith send any word?” he asked when the children 
were out of hearing. 

Lind put her hand on his arm and walked with him 
back to the water trough. 

“She’s beginning to forget, Sven, and she wants you 
not to worry. He doesn’t let her out of the house yet, 
but as soon as he does she'll try to see you. Perhaps 
you'd better try to be patient until after the hay is 
stacked. He’ll have to let her out on the binder, and 
he won’t be able to watch her all the time.” 

Sven scowled. “Damn him! I’d like to wring the 
old devil’s neck,” he said. “But he’d live to have me 
jailed for it.” 

“That’s the trouble, Sven. He’d make a terrible fuss 
if you went away just now. Perhaps after the harvest 
he might be able to get over it. But Judith is as anxious 
to see you as you are to see her.” 


256 WILD GEESE 


Mrs Sandbo came out of the house then, shooing the 
flies away from the door as she opened it. Sven went to 
the pasture with the horses. 

“Vell, and how goes it vit’ Gare and the haying?” she 
asked. 

“Fine as can be,” Lind smiled. She had not told 
Mrs Sandbo of the affair between Caleb and Judith. 

Lind had told Mrs Sandbo that she and Mark were 
planning to be married at the end of the school term. 
Mrs Sandbo bore the information without too great a show 
of surprise. She had been expecting it all along. “T’ink 
tvice and jump vonce,” she had warned Lind, reminding 
her of the disastrous marriage of her daughter Dora. 
But the confidence had pleased Mrs Sandbo’s vanity, 
and she now treated Lind with a motherly solicitude. 

Mark came a little later and Mrs Sandbo would not be 
denied the right to make coffee for them. After they 
were seated at the table she ostentatiously slipped out 
and left them alone. 

The coffee was very good, and had a cheering effect 
on Lind. She discussed the situation at the Gares’ with 
Mark, who decided that there was nothing that could be 
gained by outside interference. 

“The kid ought to bolt, as soon as she’s sure of getting 
clear. But that old rascal could catch the wind if he felt 
like it,” Mark said. 

“Yes, I know,” Lind admitted. ‘But even if they got 
no farther than the Siding, something favorable might re- 
sult. I scarcely think Caleb Gare would dare call in the 
authorities to stop them—lI think his wife would stand 
up for Judith and tell them the abuse she has suffered. 


WILD GEESE 257 


And yet—” Lind thought suddenly of the rumors she 
had heard of the threat Caleb Gare held over his wife. 

“It’s a pity. If the girl ever gets to town I’ll certainly 
do all I can for her,” Mark declared. ‘But I guess if I 
went over to talk to the old man he’d throw me off the 
place. He was over dickering with us yesterday about 
the hay Anton has to sell even before it’s mown to get 
cash. I told Anton to hang on for a better price, and 
the old man almost flew at me. He’d steal from the dead, 
I believe. Anyway, Anton is waiting until he calls again, 
because he’s got to get rid of the hay in order to make 
‘these improvements’ as he calls them, before the govern- 
ment inspector comes around.” 

“How is he, Mark? Do you think he'll fe 

“The winter will do for him, I’m afraid. Of course you 
never can tell— But Lindy, come here. Let’s talk 
about us for awhile. It’s two whole days since I last 
Saw you.” 

Lind glanced out of the window and saw Mrs Sandbo 
far down near the barn. 





3 


On the day that Caleb decided he would free Judith 
from her household duties to help Martin in the field, 
Martin slipped from a hay stack and dislocated his 
shoulder. 

Now that it became imperative that he should release 
Judith, Caleb was reluctant to do so. He turned over 
in his mind every possibility of doing without her on the 
field. But that would mean hiring two men, no matter 


258 WILD GEESE 


how he considered it, and the remainder of the hay wasn’t 
worth it. 

“You could o’ watched where you stepped—always 
something—always something,” Caleb complained softly, 
going to and fro from the kitchen to the sitting room where 
Amelia was bandaging Martin’s shoulder so that he could 
go to the doctor at the Siding. There was no doctor at 
Yellow Post. 

Martin made no reply. He knew why he had fallen 
from the stack. It was to catch Ellen, who was just 
about to step backward off the hay. Ellen might as well 
leave her eyes at home as try to use them on the field. 

Caleb drove Martin himself to Nykerk. He would see 
to it that the doctor charged a fitting fee. A dislocated 
shoulder was, after all, not a broken one. It was a 
nuisance—a nuisance. Now the haying would be held 
up another day while they saw the doctor, since he could 
not let Jude off the farmstead into the field without 
proper surveillance. The weather was getting sultry 
again. There would be rain perhaps before they got it 
all stacked, if Martin did not get around quickly. So 
Caleb fretted to himself, all the way to the Siding. He 
did not speak to Martin. The boy had a feeling of 
having committed an offense, a feeling more keen than 
the hurt in his shoulder. 

The doctor discovered that the dislocation was not a 
bad one, and that Martin would be able to work again in 
two or three weeks. Caleb paid the fee, and because he 
thought it a little high he did not speak to Martin on the 
way home. 

That evening he told Judith to be ready to take 


WILD GEESE 259 


Martin’s place on the stacks to-morrow. He resented the 
fact that an accident should have definitely set the course 
of events for him, even though he had decided previously 
that that was the course to take. 

Lind did not get a chance to talk to Judith until they 
had both gone to the loft. As Ellen had not yet come 
upstairs, Lind slipped into the girls’ curtain-partitioned 
bedroom, and whispered with her for a moment. 

“Don’t do anything reckless, Jude. Remember he 
spied on you once and he'll do it again,” she cautioned 
her. “If I were you I would wait until I thought he had 
forgotten this, and then simply tell them all outright that 
you want to marry Sven.” 

Judith looked away. Her eyes were obstinate, with 
something of Caleb’s own evasiveness when he wished 
to avoid an issue. Hot color came into her cheeks. 

“T can’t wait—longer than after the haying,” she said 
shortly, then began to undress, turning her back half way 
to Lind. 

Lind tried to fathom her expression. “Why not, 
Judie?” 

“YT have my own reasons.” 

Her underclothing slipped down off her breast and 
she quickly snatched it up to cover herself. A defiant 
look came into her eyes as she met Lind’s. She blew 
out the lamp and crawled between the covers of her bed, 
leaving Lind standing in the dimness from the light that 
shone through from her own side of the curtain. 


CHAPTER XVII 
1 


MarTINn’s accident seemed to Amelia to be a direct 
move on the part of fate to hasten what was in store. 
Judith would have broken away eventually, but her re- 
lease from the house now with the indignities she had 
suffered still fresh in her mind would surely be followed 
by an immediate effort to escape. On the night before 
Jude was to go to the field, Amelia put her mind to the 
problem and resolved to make clear to her the folly that 
would lie in further rebellion. 

The morning broke heavy and gray, but there was 
sufficient wind to prevent rain. Judith came down be- 
fore the others, washed at the sink, and then began to 
set the table for breakfast. Caleb was already outside, 
Amelia busy over the stove. 

Before he had gone out Caleb had said to Amelia, 
“You'll tell her it’s the city if she tries any more tricks.” 

Amelia had understood that. Judith would have to be 
kept on the farm at any cost. 

“You know, Judith, you’ll be worse off if you cross him 
in anything, now. The ax is still stuck in the barn wall,” 
Amelia said while they were alone together in the kitchen. 
“FHe’ll send you to the city—you’re of an age now when 
they can keep you there for years for sucha thing. Don’t 
do anything foolish, child. It’ll be worse for you if you 


do. He'll catch you anywhere you go.” 
260 


WILD GEESE 261 


Judith made no reply but her face grew hard. She 
knew what she had to do. She took the coffee pot in to 
the other room and set it on the table. Then she called 
upstairs to the others. 

After breakfast Lind stood out near the fence of the 
sheep pasture and watched them leaving for the hayfield: 
Judith, Ellen, Charlie, and Caleb. Caleb was riding in 
the cart while the others, on foot, drove the horses ahead 
of them. Lind thought of prisoners being escorted to 
stone quarries by armed guards. 

Amelia went about her work that day as if she were 
holding Judith mentally in leash. She kept reminding 
herself of the thing at stake, and strengthening her will 
against Judith’s. All the possibilities of evil befalling 
Mark Jordan now resided in Judith. 

Amelia’s mind reeled under the weight of this knowl- 
edge. But she must maintain control. Judith must be 
broken. Judith was Caleb’s child. 

Caleb remained in the field all that day, casually 
watching the stacking from his seat in the cart. He 
had turned the mare loose, and the cart stood in the shade 
at the southern end of the bush. Once in a while he 
walked across the field to see how the girls and Charlie 
were faring. His mood was genial, his comments on their 
work encouraging. 

Judith, pitching and pounding the hay tirelessly, re- 
fused either to hear or see him. She permitted nothing 
to enter her mind but one thought, that after the hay was 
stacked she would leave, no matter what the consequences. 
She knew now that there was no other thing to do. Some- 
how she would have to see Sven and tell him what had 


262 WILD GEESE 


happened to her. She would wait a few days. She 
would close her ears to the warning of Amelia. They 
meant nothing—except that Amelia was afraid of Caleb. 
What if Caleb did send her to the city? They could 
prove nothing by the presence of the ax in the wall. She 
might even be able to break into the barn and take the ax 
out. Caleb had locked the door, but it was an easy mat- 
ter to break a window. No, she would not take the ax 
out. That would be cowardly—as cowardly as Caleb’s 
leaving it in. The ax could stay where it was. They 
could do anything they liked with her. But after the 
stacking she would go. 

Judith looked over the flat country, colorless under 
the gray sky. To the north there was a whitish haze. 
Smoke. Bush fires. And there had been no rain for a 
long time. But now the wind was falling, and the air 
became thick and hot in the nostrils. The smell and the 
heat of the hay rose in gusts. The lips grew prickly 
from the little particles of chaff, and sweat fell in cold 
drops from the armpits to the hot skin below. The stack 
grew and grew, and finally was completed with a last fork- 
ful of hay. Judith looked at Ellen, saw her terrible, in- 
flamed eyes, and turned away with the pitchfork gripped 
tightly in her hand. They both slid down from the stack 
and began a new one a distance away. | 

Judith saw Caleb walking to the cart in the bush, his 
top-heavy body forming an arc toward the earth. She 
considered what would have happened if she had not 
missed the mark with the ax. Martin would be building 
a house in the spring. Ellen would have new glasses. 
There would be a hired man or two. Amelia would have 


WILD GEESE 263 


a new set of teeth. The neighbors would stop in on the 
way to and from Yellow Post. She herself would be 
taken away somewhere—there wouldn’t be anything any 
more. Sven would marry someone else. Lind would 
marry Mark Jordan. Everything would go on, but not 
for her. Again she found herself growing cold at the 
thought of her own violence. It was a thing Lind would 
never have done, a thing no one else would do. That’s 
why they wouldn’t understand it—those people in the 
city before whom Caleb would take her. No—she could 
never face them. She could never make them under- 
stand. There would be no one to plead for her. The 
whole family would be against her, they were all afraid of 
Caleb. She would be closed in, forever, in a tiny space, 
no sky, no wind, nothing but her own thoughts, and that 
hot flood of feeling that came upon her sometimes when 
she thought of Sven, and always when she was with him. 

In the listless heat that hung over the hayfields, Judith 
shivered. She caught Ellen looking at her, and took a 
firmer hold on the fork in her hand. She hated Ellen 
and her red eyes, and would gladly have struck her for 
that curious look. But she contained herself and went 
on working. 

When they were driving the horses home at the end 
of that day, large rain drops began to pock the dust of 
the road.. The sky was slow and heavy as if it were 
full of eternal rain. The stacking would be delayed 
now another while. But what did that matter? The 
end of the stacking would not bring freedom. Nothing 
would bring freedom. The land was here, they were all 
rooted to it, like the hay, and the grain, and the trees in 


264 WILD GEESE 


the bush. Departure from it would only mean an end 
of growth, not a beginning of life. Judith’s thoughts 
turned over and over each other on the way home. She 
lifted her hot face to the rain, but somehow this time there 
was no coolness in its touch. 

She looked ahead and saw Caleb stooped over on the 
cart. Although he had his back to her, he was watch- 
ing her. He would know it if she so much as glanced 
in the direction of the Sandbos’. It was his way to go 
ahead, as if he were not concerned with what she was 
doing. 

“Tf we’d had another day at it we would ’ a’ finished,” 
Caleb said at the supper table. The rain had turned 
to a steady drizzle, which promised to last several days. 
“Always somethin’—always somethin’.” It depended 
upon his mood whether Caleb pronounced his “g’s” or 
not. 

Martin who was lying on the couch, twitched un- 
comfortably. He knew what Caleb was hinting at. The 
day that had been wasted was the day on which he had 
gone to the doctor. Since that day Caleb had scarcely 
spoken to him. 

“Jude will help with the milking, mother,” Caleb said 
huskily just before they rose from the table. The red 
crept into Judith’s cheeks. This instruction was a re- 
minder to them all that she was still a prisoner. 

Ellen glanced at Judith. Judith saw her eyes, in which 
there was something like satisfaction. Again there came 
upon her the need of striking Ellen full in the face. 

The milking was done in the cattle shed that evening. 
After the others had gone out, Lind threw a coat over her 


WILD GEESE 265 


shoulders and went out to the shed, the door of which 
was open. The lantern was hanging from one of the 
rude, low beams, and the light fell directly on Judith and 
the black and white flanks of the cow she was milking. 
The heavy smell of the cattle with their wet hides steam- 
ing in the warm enclosure of the shed, struck Lind’s nos- 
trils as she stood in the doorway. Then she saw Judith’s 
fine dark face. She stepped in without being seen by 
Ellen and Charlie, and bent down beside Judith. In 
the dim light she saw the vapor rising from the milk in 
the pail under the cow. 

“Judith,” she whispered. ‘I have just finished it, and 
I thought you’d like to see it right away.” 

Judith watched her take a folded silk undergarment 
out of her pocket. Lind spread it out over her knees. 

“Tt’s lovely,” Judith murmured, tracing a lace inser- 
tion with her finger but not quite touching it. ‘Too 
pretty for me.” 

“Nonsense, Judie,” Lind scolded. ‘You put it on to- 
morrow—you won’t have to go to the field. Here—” 
she thrust it down into the front of Judith’s blouse. 
“Keep it.” 

Lind was to have met Mark at Sandbos’ to-night. She 
knew that he would be there regardless of the rain. 
Going to her room, she put on her heavy breeches and 
her short jacket, and set out down the trail. The sky 
and the earth were indistinguishable, blended like dark 
water. The timber poured away into the night, a black, 
liquid mass. Dimly Lind made out the fence posts along 
the road. Once she saw a gray shape dart across the 
trail ahead of her. It was perhaps a furtive coyote seek- 


266 WILD GEESE 


ing shelter, and was harmless, but Lind started to run 
after she had seen the thing. 

The Sandbos were separating the milk in the kitchen 
when she arrived there. She threw the door open with- 
out knocking, and stood in the doorway laughing at her 
own fright. | 

Sven was uneasy. He wanted to get Lind out at once 
where he could talk to her. He saddled two horses and 
they rode down the trail together toward Klovaczs’. 

“She’s been let out to work now, on the field,” Lind 
told him. ‘But you had better not try to see her, be- 
cause he is watching her all the time. Why don’t you 
both wait until after the harvest, when he will have for- 
gotten about the ax, and then tell him right out that 
you want to be married? He can surely have nothing 
against that, can he?’’ 

Lind, like the others, had fallen into the habit of re- 
ferring to Caleb as “he.” 

““Yeh—” Sven laughed bitterly. ‘He’d as soon let me 
marry Judith as cut off his nose. He just wants to keep 
her there to work. He’d shoot me if I came near the 
place. But there’s something else I want to tell you. 
He’s been talking at Yellow Post—about you and Mark 
Jordan.” 

“Talking—how?” 

“Oh—braggin’ about how he could put a stop to all 
that, quick enough. I heard him telling Johanneson and 
one of the Icelanders. He likes to show how he’s got 
a hand on everybody. He didn’t say it in just so many 
words, but he sort o’ hinted that he could finish Mark 


ae as 


WILD GEESE 267 


Jordan quick enough. Like he dad something on him. 
Sneerin’ about him. I stepped up and says, ‘You better 
be careful what you’re sayin’ about Jordan, Caleb Gare.’ 
He looks at me and sort o’ smiles, and says, ‘Who’re you 
to be talkin’ to me, eh? You take care o’ yourself, and 
don’t step in where you’re not wanted.’ Then he laughs 
and goes out o’ the store. I would ’a’ swung on him if 
he wasn’t so old. But I knew what he meant—about me. 
I don’t know what he meant about Mark, though. You 
be careful of him, Miss Archer. He’ll go sneakin’ around 
tryin’ to find some way of hurtin’ you and Mark if he 
gets any reason to think he ought. Perhaps he thinks 
right now you're tryin’ to get Judie away.” 

Lind was silent for a while. 

“Perhaps he will try to do some damage to Mark, but 
he can’t really. Mark doesn’t depend on this life for 
his living, you know, Sven, so you needn’t worry. There 
isn’t a thing he could do to him, and surely not to me, 
other than have me put out of the school, and that 
wouldn’t matter a great deal.” 

“Well, you better tell Mark to look out, anyway.” 

“Oh, I will, Sven. Is there anything you want me to 
tell Judie?”’ 

“You might just give her this—” Sven reached into 
his breast pocket and took out an envelope. “I been — 
carryin’ it round with me for a while. Perhaps she'll 
answer.” 

Lind smiled in the darkness at Sven’s brusque atti- 
tude. 

Mark rode up to them then and Sven turned back. 


268 WILD GEESE 


“It’s so dark I can hardly see your face, Lind,” Mark 
said, dismounting. “I want to be sure it’s you.” 

He put his arms about her and she leaned down and 
kissed him. ‘Now, are you sure?” she whispered. 

They rode toward the Gares’ to take their favorite 
wood trail north. Just before they came to the Gares’ 
Lind thought she saw a shadow cross the road toward the 
place where the wood trail branched off from it. It was 
too large to be a coyote. 

“Mark,” she said, moving closer to him, “I’m nervous 
to-night, I guess. I’m sure I saw something cross the 
road.” 1 

Mark peered into the darkness. “I can’t see any- 
thing. Don’t be nervous, dear. That’s not like you. 
It’s a wonderful night. There’s nothing out but what 
ought to be here.” 

They turned their horses into the wood trail and heard 
the soughing of the rain through the branches that crossed 
overhead. It was so dark that they could not see the 
trees against the sky, but had only a mysterious knowl- 
edge of their presence. Lind kept close to Mark. 

“Do you know that Caleb Gare has you blacklisted, 
for some reason?” she asked softly. ‘Sven said he had 
heard him talking about you in Yellow Post.” 

“About me?” Mark broke out. ‘What on earth—per- 
haps it’s because I told him where to get off at in regard 
to the price he tried to make Anton take for the hay.” 

“Perhaps that was it—but I hope he doesn’t do any- 
thing to upset poor Anton.” 

“T’ll not let him. By the way, Anton has sent in his 
report to the government. Inspectors will be out soon, 


a 


WILD GEESE 269 


I suppose. Poor devil, he certainly deserves that home- 
stead.” 

They had come to the end of the wood road, where it 
opened upon the clearing. Here there was no shelter 
whatever from the rain, and Lind turned back. When 
they rode again into the main trail she looked about to 
see whether there was any sign of the shape she had seen 
move through the dark. As she thought of it, it had 
appeared broad and bent over at the shoulders, like a 
bear. She glanced about without saying anything to 
Mark. But she saw nothing except the dense black blur 
that shut in the garden. There was no light visible in 
the farm yard at the Gares’, and they could not see the 
house where they paused to say good night to each other 
on the road. Lind let Mark take the pony back to 
Sandbos’. 

When Lind turned in at the gate after leaving Mark, 
she started at a sound that seemed to come out of the 
rain. It was like fir branches brushing together. The 
darkness was too closely knit for her to see anything 
except the sprawling bulk of the out-houses. The lan- 
tern was lit in the kitchen, and she ran toward the house. 

Judith was inside washing the parts of the separator 
when she entered. She spoke to her quietly. 

“Judie, don’t say anything to the others, because I 
may be mistaken, but I thought I heard something in the 
hedge near the road. Is everybody in?” 

“They’ve all gone to bed, except him and mother,” 
Judith replied. Lind saw Amelia moving about in the 
other room. “T’ll go take Pete out and have a look 
around when I’m through with this,” Jude added. 


270 WILD GEESE 


Lind went upstairs and took off her wet coat. She 
stood for a moment in the dark, looking out of the win- 
dow. As it was still darker outside, she could make out 
a shadowy, top-heavy figure coming from the direction 
of the front gate. It came within the light from the kit- 
chen window, and she saw that it was Caleb Gare. At 
first she wanted to laugh from sheer relief. Then an 
unaccountable feeling of dread came over her. He must 
have been spying upon them, from within the hedge. It 
was he who had hurried across the road when they had 
turned into the wood trail. What was his motive in 
watching them? 

Lind sat down on her bed without lighting the lamp. 
She heard him come in downstairs with his dragging step. 
There was something ominous in it. Lind shivered and 
undressed with weak fingers. She let her hair down and 
crawled between the blankets. 

Judith came upstairs and lit the lamp on the other side 
of the curtain. 

“Judie,” Lind whispered. 

Judith came around from behind the curtain. 
“What?” she asked. 

“Did you go out and look?” 

““Yes—there wasn’t anything,” said Jude, and then 
after a moment, ‘“Thanks for the—the thing you gave me, 
but I can’t wear it. Not yet, anyway.” 

Lind gave her the letter from Sven. Jude leaned to- 
ward the light that came through the curtain, and read the 
letter. She could not go back to her own bed to read 
it, because Ellen was there. 

When she had gone, Lind lay trying to think clearly. 








WILD GEESE 271 


But she came back always to the baffling conviction 
that Caleb was trying to bring some evil upon Mark and 
herself. 

She went to sleep finally from the monotony of the 
rain upon the roof of the log house. 


CHAPTER XVIII 
1 


It rained steadily for two days. Ellen, Judith and 
Charlie took care of the animals, milked and churned, and 
prepared the cream and butter for shipment. Skuli 
Erickson came twice a week to take their produce to 
the Siding, in rain or shine, and Caleb would learn of 
it were they not ready for him. Martin still lay on the 
couch, asking no attention, no sympathy. Amelia began 
knitting heavy woolen stockings for the girls in prep- 
aration for the winter. And Caleb puttered about all 
day between the house and the barn and the tool shed, 
unlocking drawers and reading old, yellowed letters, ex- 
amining bottles of medicine and matching the parts of 
broken tools and implements, deeply concerned with 
things of which no one knew the significance. 

But Judith knew that under his preoccupation he was 
watching every step she took, hovering over her like a 
hawk. Until something happened to take him away 
from the farm there would not be a moment’s respite for 
her. He still kept the door of that part of the barn 
where the ax was, locked, and went past it every hour 
or so to see that it was secure. Once or twice she had 
seen him unlock the door and go in, closing it fast be- 
hind him. She fancied him standing before the ax, 
gloating over it as a symbol of his control over her. 


Judith felt circumstances closing over her head like rush- 
272 


WILD GEESE 213 


ing water. She went about her work on the farm all day 
as helpless as when she had lain tied hand and foot on 
the floor of the stall in the barn. There would be no 
escape. Amelia was already knitting woolen stockings 
for the coming winter. This year there would be more 
calves than last, more manure to walk through, and more 
freezing water to carry from the pump to the barn. And 
Caleb’s doubled hatred and his doubled power, and an- 
other thing now... 

She had destroyed the letter Sven had sent her through 
Lind, after carrying it about inside her blouse all day. 
During the night after she had received it, she lay beside 
Ellen and said over and over to herself that she must 
go—after the hay was stacked. But in the morning when 
she had seen Caleb’s face at the head of the breakfast 
table, and had heard him single her out with instructions 
for the day’s work, her courage failed her again. He had 
not for a moment forgotten the ax. He would not for 
a moment let her forget it. 

In the only secret place on the whole farm she com- 
posed a letter to Sven. The words came laboriously, 
without much meaning. But when she finally signed her 
name she thought he would understand. She carried it 
about with her all day, to give it to Lind when she came 
from school. 

Judith avoided Ellen lest her pent-up emotion should 
take form in the injury she had considered inflicting upon 
her sister when they were together on the stack. Once, 
when she was churning, she watched Ellen out of the 
tail of her eye, saw her scrubbing the rough floor of the 
other room, moving on her hands and knees about 


274 WILD GEESE 


the couch where Martin was lying. Ellen’s mouth was 
drawn, her chin flat, and every now and then she cleared 
her throat and coughed from the fumes of lye that rose 
from the scrubbing pail. Judith hated her dolorous ex- 
pression and could have choked her when she uttered 
that hard little cough. Then Ellen got a sliver in her 
hand. It was because she had not seen a particularly 
worn board over which she ran the scrubbing brush. 
From where she sat Judith saw a trickle of blood run 
down Ellen’s wrist. Ellen sighed and rose to attend to it. 
Judith found herself viciously glad that it had happened. 
There was nothing admirable in Ellen’s suffering. It 
had no purpose. 

Amelia came in from the chicken house. Judith per- 
mitted herself to glance at her and saw for the first time 
the dark hollows under her eyes. What had happened 
that she should look so? It was not she who had thrown 
the ax. Uncomfortably, Judith turned again to the 
churn and applied all her attention to it. 

In the evening she gave Lind the letter to take to Sven. 

The two days of rain came to an end, and a wind rose 
at nightfall promising sun for the morrow. 


2 


The door of the barn remained locked, and Caleb was 
pleasant and genial about the house, talking cheerfully 
about the crops, the animals, and the weather. The 
softer his mood became, the more alert Amelia grew to 
the reactions of Judith. 

“Remember now—nothing foolish,” she said to her on 


le 


WILD GEESE 275 


the morning of the day that was to complete the stack- 
ing. ‘“You’re better off here than locked up with a lot 
of thieves and what not.” The words sounded terrible 
to Amelia as she uttered them. 

Judith made no response. As she stalked down the 
road behind the horses she tried to believe that Amelia 
had her interests at heart when she warned her against 
Caleb. But somehow Amelia was too deliberate about 
it all. Judith could not understand what it was. Amelia 
appeared to feel no pity. Perhaps if she knew the truth 
she might . .. Judith’s heart began to beat heavily 
under her overalls. 

The haying would be finished to-day. After that they 
would be working on the binders in the fields to the south, 
out of reach of Sven entirely. A bitter feeling rose in 
Judith’s throat as she thought of him. She could not 
bear the separation and the doubt and the unhappiness 
any longer. She was not an animal, to be driven, and 
tied, and tended for the value of her plodding strength. 
She knew what beauty was, and love, and things in no 
way connected with the rude growth of the land. She 
had something that Lind had, who was sweet and lovely, 
as wild honey . . . wild honey . . . who was she to be 
thinking this? She, Judith, who had hurled an ax with 
the intent to kill... 

Lind would not have done that. Lind was fine, and 
controlled. She, Judith, was just an animal, with an 
animal’s passions and sins, and stupid, body-strength. 
And now she held an animal’s secret, too. She was 
coarse, brutal, with great beast-breasts protruding from 
her, and buttocks and thighs and shoulders of a beast. 


276 WILD GEESE 


What was she to be comparing herself with Lind? The 
tears rose to her eyes and ran unchecked down her 
face. 

She glanced suddenly aside and saw that Ellen had 
come softly abreast of her. Ellen had not been ready 
to leave the house when Judith took the horses out. 
Judith saw her curious red-rimmed eyes peering at her 
from behind their glasses, and in an instant all her fury 
against Ellen broke upon her. She dropped the reins 
and whirled about. 

“You get away—you bitch! Don’t you look at me 
like that or T’ll smash your face!” Judith shouted. 
Ellen darted back before a great swing of Judith’s arm. 

““Stop—Jude—” she gasped. “He'll see you!” 

“T hope he does—let him! And you stop sneaking 
around looking at me, or you’re going to get it worse than 
this!”” She drove out with a terrific blow which caught 
Ellen on the cheek, knocking her to the ground. Then 
she marched off, catching the reins up from the road. 

Ellen got to her feet in a moment or two, sobbing hys- 
terically. But it was not like her to go back to the house. 
She followed Judith slowly, wiping the tears from her face 
and soothing her cheek with her hand. 

Amelia had seen it all from the door of the chicken 
house. She glanced hurriedly about and thankfully saw 
no sign of Caleb. But Judith had broken out again. 
Nothing could stop her now. Caleb would never spare 
Amelia if Judith broke away. Mark Jordan would be 
told. Lind would learn of it. Caleb would play his 
“trump card” as he had called it. Illegitimacy was a 
stigma which would not be overlooked by the society to 





WILD GEESE 277 


which Lind and Mark belonged. Amelia had given her 
whole life to preventing him from finding out. She felt 
suddenly tired and old beyond thought. 

The stacking was completed without further trouble. 
Caleb was on hand all that day, smoothly encouraging the 
girl, joking with Charlie, or sitting quietly in the cart with 
his eyes out upon the land. The grain would be cut next 
week. And after that the threshers would come. And 
then the flax would be cut, and the crew would thresh it 
on their return trip. Everything was working out 
smoothly this year, at last, and as it would work out 
in the years to come. The completion of a perfect cycle: 
plowing, harrowing, planting, growing, reaping and 
threshing. In all life, where was there such harmony as 
could be found in the cultivation of the land? Caleb 
could well afford to be mellow and content before the wide 
testimony of his success as a farmer, as a tiller of the 
soil. 

Ellen, Judith and Charlie walked home behind the 
horses that evening too tired to be aware of hunger, or 
thirst or heat. The haying was finished, and no extra 
man had been hired to help. 


3 


Caleb had business the next day at the Klovaczs’. 

“You will come with me, Jude,” he said amiably. 
“And put up a lunch, Mother. We’ll not ask the heathen 
for a bite.” 

Amelia was glad that Judith was going with him. She 
would at least be relieved of worry for the day. She hur- 


278 WILD GEESE 


ried about and got together a basket full of food, which 
she placed in the back of the cart. Then, while Caleb 
was harnessing the mare, she spoke to Jude. 

“Tf you don’t know it by this time, I’ll have him tell 
you himself,” she said coldly. “And what you did to 
Ellen yesterday isn’t doing you any good, either. If he 
had seen you he wouldn’t ’a’ given you another chance. 
You best be careful, and watch what you’re doing, Jude.” 

Judith sullenly drew on the heavy boots that Caleb had 
bought her that summer. They were still new, since she 
had refused to wear them. 

Judith mounted the cart beside Caleb without saying a 
word to either him or Amelia, who came out to see them 
off. 

“That’s a fine crop o’ hay out there—a mighty fine 
crop,” Caleb commented, indicating the stacks in the field 
with his whip as they drove past them. ‘Not another 
like it among all the Icelanders—not even Bjarnasson 
himself, [’ll warrant. We done mighty well—mighty 
well.” 

The rest of the trip was made in silence, Judith watch- 
ing the sailing gossamer against the sun and noticing the 
streaks of red and yellow that were already tingeing the 
leaves. It was the end of summer—the end, perhaps of 
everything. She sank into a lethargy, her shoulders 
slumped forward and her hands hung listlessly between 
her knees. After her rage at Ellen yesterday, the thing 
that had risen within her had died a clumsy death. Her 
spirit was in thick sleep. 

At the Klovaczs’ they found Anton confined to his bed. 
His voice was almost inaudible when he spoke to them. 


WILD GEESE 279 


Judith withdrew after she had given him a greeting, and 
left him alone with Caleb. She sat and talked with the 
girls in the kitchen, and was impressed with their beauty 
and their somehow elegant manners. She had seen them 
only once before, at Yellow Post, and then it was at a 
distance. Because she did not know that the girls ad- 
mired her equally, she felt extremely awkward and large. 
They began to prepare dinner, and Jude saw that they 
set the table with two extra plates. She blushed at the 
thought of the lunch basket out in the cart, and despised 
Caleb anew. She hastily told the girls not to set places 
for her and her father, that they had to be going at once. 

In the room where Anton lay, Caleb sat beside the 
sick man for nearly an hour. Caleb Gare was not the 
man to advance upon an objective ungracefully. Even 
a dying man had to be treated with diplomacy. 

“T have examined the hay, Anton,” he began gently, 
“and it’s half sow thistle. Besides any amount of stink 
weed. You’ve got to learn to cultivate it, Anton.” Then 
he went into a long discourse on the growing of tame 
hay, advising Anton what to do next year. Anton moved 
from side to side, trying to escape the pain that racked 
his body. 

“What I will do next year, it is not for you to say, my 
friend,” he smiled at Caleb. 

“‘Nonsense—nonsense, Anton. You'll be around again 
before you know it—before you know it. Remember 
now, clear that field soon’s the hay’s cut. There’s no 
reason why you shouldn’t have as clean a crop next year 
as I have. Your land is as good as mine, Anton—every 
bit as good. But you can’t ask that for the stuff that’s 


280 WILD GEESE 


on it now. Why, it’s scarcely worth the cutting— 
scarcely worth the cutting!” Caleb raised his eyebrows 
and leaned back in his chair, throwing out the palms of 
his hands in a deprecatory gesture. 

Anton sighed and turned his face toward the open win- 
dow, through which he could see the hayfield under dis- 
cussion. His unfailing sense of humor kept him from 
calling Caleb a liar outright. True, there was a certain 
amount of weed in the field, but it was far from worth- 
less. Caleb’s berating of the hay was only another way 
of telling Anton that he would buy it for exactly the 
amount of money that Anton would have to pay to a 
threshing crew. He knew that Anton could not and 
would not sell for less. He might as well let it rot in the 
field. 

“T am tired, my friend. Take the hay,” said Anton, 
closing his eyes from the glare of the light through the 
window. 

“You don’t give me credit, Anton, for helping you out,” 
said Caleb injuredly. ‘There’s not another man this 
side of Nykerk who would ’a’ bought you out, cash.” 

Anton laughed softly. “You are the good man, Caleb 
Gare, the very good man, God bless you! And may the 
hay feed your many cattle well!” 

Caleb rose to go. ‘‘There’s only about a day’s cutting. 
I'll have it off right away. And you might’s well as not 
take the money for it now.” He reached into his pocket 
and drew out a shiny black wallet, frayed at the edges. 

Anton did not even look at the roll of bills he handed 
to him. He stuck it under the pillow at his head and 
crossed his hands behind his thin neck. Then he turned 


WILD GEESE 281 


his hollow eyes upon Caleb with amusement. He would 
force the man Gare to extend his hand in token of good 
feeling. Anton enjoyed the irony. 

“Well—well,” Caleb said mildly, replacing the wallet 
back in his inner pocket. “It has been a good day for us 
both, eh, Anton? And perhaps you'll sign a receipt for 
the money?” He drew a note book from his vest pocket, 
and a fountain pen, and after he had made out the receipt 
form he handed it to Anton. Anton signed it unsteadily 
and gave it back to Caleb. Then he replaced his hands 
behind his head. 

Caleb cleared his throat. ‘Yes—yes,” he said ab- 
sently, picking his hat up from the table. ‘And how 
long will this Jordan fellow be with you, Anton? Kind 
o’ hard on you keepin’ hired help now, eh?” 

“This Jordan—he is one of God’s good fellows,”’ Anton 
said. “He is cutting the grain with my boys—but not 
for money.” 

“Well, Anton, must get along—must get along. Lot o’ 
work over on my place these days. Come over and have 
a look at my crops when you get around again,” Caleb 
said from the doorway. 

“T will come on these wings, Mr Gare,” Anton smiled. 
Caleb had not offered his hand. It amused him a great 
deal. A farmer who did not offer his hand after a 
transaction. ... 

In the kitchen Caleb told Judith to wait for him. Then 
he went out and drove the mare down to the field where 
the Klovacz boys and Mark were already shocking the 
grain. In two or three weeks Anton would have the 
threshers here. He would have feed for the winter. 


282 WILD GEESE 


Then, too, he had a smaller hayfield farther away. But 
he would have no hay to sell in the markets to the south. 
He would have to sell some of his cattle soon, to get 
money to live on. Anton was well known for his fine 
cattle. They were all he had of any worth. How he 
had come by them no one seemed to know—a poor home- 
steader like him. Probably in questionable ways, Caleb 
thought—he was capable of anything, heathen that he 
was. 

Mark Jordan paused at the end of the field when he 
saw him coming. What was the old rascal up to now, he 
wondered. 

Caleb got down from the cart. 

“Thought you’d like to know that Anton and I closed 
the deal,”’ he said when he had come up to Mark. “So 
Anton is fixed for the thrashin’.”” There was a sardonic 
grin on his face as he spoke. He’d show this interfering 
city fellow a thing or two. 

Mark looked at him. How he was gloating, behind his 
smooth, genial smile. ‘Got it for nothing, I suppose?” 
Mark asked, his anger mounting. 

“Nothing? Nothing? Heh, heh! A lot you know 
about the value of hay! A lot you know, my boy! 
There’s not another man in the country would a’ taken 
that stuff off his hands for real cash. Nothing, indeed!” 
Caleb laughed softly, a cold gleam appearing in his eyes. 
He peered craftily at Mark. 

“And what ’er you doin’ round here, I’d like to know?” 

Mark smiled tolerantly down at Caleb. After all, 
he was a pathetic, meddling old man. Mark could afford 


WILD GEESE 283 


to keep his temper. ‘What am J doing? Oh, cooking, 
washing the babies 3 

“None o’ your smartness, young fella. You'll mind 
your business and not butt in between me and Anton, see? 
Or we’ll soon find out who’s the trustee of Oeland school.” 
With that he turned on his heel and was about to jump 
into the cart. But Mark’s curiosity was roused. 

“Wait a minute, Mr Gare. I really didn’t mean to 
be smart, as you say. I beg your pardon. But what do 
you mean about your being trustee—that has nothing to 
do with me, has it?” 

Caleb turned about. “No? I kind o’ thought it had,” 
ne observed, with a knowing lift of his eyebrows. 

“If I were you I would not mix my doings up with 
Miss Archer,’ Mark told him quietly, “if that’s what 
you're hinting at. We aren’t all fools, you know, and I 
might make trouble for you if you did. You aren’t trus- 
tee for life, remember.”’ 

“Y’m not, eh? We'll see if I’m not. Heh, heh! 
What I want to be, I am. And the likes 0’ you won’t 
stop me from bein’ it.” 

Mark leaned his elbow upon a fence post and looked 
down at him. “Is there anything in the world you care 
for as much as for yourself, I wonder, Caleb Gare?” he 
asked curiously. 

“Eh? What is there worth caring about? Nobody 
helps me except myself—what else should I care about? 
What do you care about, except yourself? What does 
anybody care about? Every man for himself, that’s 
what I say. Nothing matters to me but myself. What 





284 WILD GEESE 


do you think of that, eh? What do you think of that, 
my boy?” 

Caleb’s shoulders shook with almost noiseless mirth as 
he got into the cart. Mark watched him drive away, 
his feelings a mingling of pity and amusement and 
resentment. 

Then he went back to tke field, and wondered for the 
rest of the day if Caleb really might not create some mis- 
chief for Lind and himself before they got away. The 
old fellow would stop at nothing to achieve some perverse 
object, or satisfy a groundless grudge. 


» 0 


CHAPTER XIX 
1 


On a Sunday morning, Lind and Mark walked to the 
farm of Fusi Aronson. It was very quiet on the wood 
trail, as if the trees were keeping the hour. Already 
many of the birds had gone south, and there was not so 
festive a singing. But the woods were gorgeous with 
color, and the swamps a scarlet maze of cranberry bushes. 
The sky was infinitely remote and blue, with scarcely a 
cloud sailing. 

Mark and Lind walked slowly and talked over their 
plans for the coming year. He had a little money—they 
would go to the cities in the east and play around for a 
while. 

“Y’m beginning to be so impatient, Mark,” Lind told 
him. “But I’m in honor bound to stay here till the end 
of the term.” 

They walked on past the slough with its little bright 
tufts of islands, and came finally to the farm of Fusi 
Aronson. The great Icelander strode down to meet them 
before they were well within the gate of the barn yard. 

He ushered them hospitably into the rude cabin where 
he and his brother Bjorn lived alone. Bjorn had gone to 
church in Yellow Post. The brothers took turns in at- 
tending, since one of them had to be about to look after 


the place. 
285 


286 } WILD GEESE 


“Anton Klovacz will not live, they say at Yellow Post,” 
Fusi said slowly, looking questioningly at Mark. 

“I’m afraid not, Fusi,’’ Mark replied. “I wish you had 
been able to buy his hay, instead of Caleb Gare. 
He forced him to sell it for almost nothing.” 

Fusi scowled. ‘One day I shall do for Caleb Gare. 
He should not live,” he declared. “Mees Archer—she 
say it would do no good. But I think it is bad for the 
world that he lives.” | 

Lind shook her head. “It would only bring you 
trouble, Fusi, to try to get even with him,” she warned. 
“He is too sly for honest people. If you did anything 
to make him angry at you, he would hound you out of 
the country.” 

The great Icelander smiled. “A small girl like you 
are afraid, but I am not afraid of Caleb Gare. I will 
take my time, but I will get him. I cannot forgive what 
he did to my brothers. He shall suffer for that, Mees 
Archer.” 

He took them out then to his barn and showed them 
the new addition he had built to it, and told them of the 
house he hoped to build in the spring. Then he showed 
them the stone cyclone cellar he had dug in the earth, 
where he kept cream and eggs before he took them to the 
Siding. 

“You need a wife, Fusi,” Lind smiled at him. 

Fusi laughed his great, deep laugh. 

“When I have a house—then maybe, a wife,’ he an- 
swered. 

Mark and Lind intended walking back across the ridge 


WILD GEESE 287 


and dropping in upon Joel Brund and his wife, so they 
left Fusi before Bjorn returned. 

“And don’t get mixed up with Caleb Gare,” Lind ad- 
vised him again. 

Fusi’s face hardened. ‘Do not fear, Mees Archer,” 
he said, “when I shall make Caleb Gare pay for what he 
have done, he will go where he can do nothing back.” 

He walked with them to the beginning of the ridge, 
then turned back. Lind looked after him, a tremendous 
hulk of a man, with long, powerful arms that could crush 
out human life in an instant. 

“Do you suppose he ever will, Mark?” she asked un- 
easily. 

“Kill Caleb? If he gets more reason to, I shouldn’t be 
surprised,”’ Mark observed. 

They walked across the ridge and from the top of it 
could see the morning light lying like a pale sheet all 
over the earth below them. This was the highest eleva- 
tion of land at Oeland. From it, they could look south- 
ward across the slough to Sandbos’ pastures, and beyond 
that to the fields of Caleb Gare. They could barely make 
out the southern ridge where Caleb was used to going 
with his lantern. The two ridges might at one time have 
been the steep margins of a lake. It gave Lind a very 
lofty feeling to stand here in the clear morning, with the 
serene world lying below. 

“It’s hard to imagine that people are concerned with 
anything ignoble when you look out on the world like 
this, isn’t it?” she said. 

They walked on across the ridge and down the north 


288 WILD GEESE 


road past Ericksons’ toward the homestead of Joel Brund, 
discussing as they went the possibility of Caleb Gare’s 
making mischief for either or both of them. Mark had 
been inclined to scoff at Lind’s suspicion that he had been 
spying on them from the hedge on the night when they had 
ridden in the rain. But he promised her that he would 
do nothing to incite the old man’s rancor. 

At the fork in the road where it took three new direc- 
tions, one to Yellow Post, one to the Klovaczs’, and one 
to Sandbos’, they met Joel Brund driving two work 
horses. He was sitting on the high seat of a sparkling 
new green lumber wagon. 

“Hello, Mr Brund,” Lind called out. He had been 
about to drive past without looking at them. He drew 
in the horses and glanced down. 

“How do?” he said. He reached down and shook 
hands with them both, Lind: introducing Mark. 

“Tt’s such a lovely morning, we’ve already been out for 
a walk,” Lind told him. “Where have you been, Mr 
Brund?”’ 

“To Yellow Post. I bought this wagon this morning 
from Johanneson.” 

“It’s a fine wagon,” Mark said. 

“Pretty good. Johanneson sells cheap on Sunday,” 
Joel said shortly. ‘How is Anton Klovacz coming?” 

“Not very well, I’m afraid,” Mark said. ‘“He’s a sick 
man.” | 

Joel shifted about on his seat. He seemed to have 
nothing more to say, and his heavy body stirred awk- 
wardly. He looked away. 

Lind and Mark said good-by to him, and he clumsily re- 


WILD GEESE 289 


moved his wide straw hat and picked up the reins. Then 
the wagon rumbled on down the road. 

“Poor Joel,” Lind murmured. “Think of all that must 
be going on in his soul that he can’t get out, Mark.” 

“He'll get it out—somehow.”’ 

“In work.” 

“Perhaps.” 


2 


The days went by, and Martin was able to use his arm 
again. Caleb continued his soft chiding whenever he 
came into the house. 

“Could ’a’ got that wagon from Johanneson for half 
price if I’d ’a’ had somebody to send down for it,’”’ he 
said in the presence of the entire family at the dinner 
table. “Always losin’ on somethin’—I’m no business 
man, or I’d ’a’ had somebody down. I'll have to get you 
to go for me next time, Charlie. You’re dependable.” 

Martin’s face grew red, but he said nothing. Dur- 
ing the days of inactivity he had been thinking. He had 
found himself, and with the finding had come a sense of 
shame. He resolved to assert himself as a man should 
as soon as he had all his strength back. There would be 
a new house in the spring. But he would wait—until 
after the harvest. 

One day was spent in mowing the hay at the Klovaczs’ 
and carrying it to Caleb’s land, where it would be stacked 
after a period of drying. Then they turned to the grain. 

Judith and Charlie began the cutting and binding. 
Martin would be strong enough to go to the fields the 


290 WILD GEESE 


next week. The work began on a raw, windy day, from 
which the last vestige of summer seemed to have departed. 
Judith had been inert and dull since the day when she 
had vented herself upon Ellen, and Caleb was confident 
concerning her, but he remained on the place nevertheless, 
occupying himself with mysterious tasks that kept him in 
full view of the field in which Judith was binding barley. 

She came home to meals every day with apparently no 
change in her mood. Her eyes were heavy and shad- 
owed, and Amelia was almost unable to wake her in the 
mornings. Lind tried in vain to speak to her once or 
twice. She remembered the peculiar expression in the 
girl’s eyes the last night Lind had talked with her in her 
room, when she had covered her body quickly with her 
clothing. A thought had come into Lind’s mind then 
that she had later dismissed. Now it returned to her. 

Ellen elaborately paid no attention to Judith, but the 
girl was too heavy in spirit even to know that she was 
being ignored. ‘The only thing she was conscious of was 
the eternal vigilance of Caleb, and the hostile reminding 
Amelia gave her every time she came into the house. She 
was become so inured to misery that nothing else seemed 
to exist in the world. 

The weather cleared again, and now came the bright, 
dry heat of late summer. Lind went down one day to 
stand outside the fence and watch Jude where she drove 
up and down the field on the binder. The grain stood 
like stiff brown gold, and over it the heat moved in 
dazzling waves. Judith went on and on monotonously, 
not once turning to look at Lind. Not once, even, did 
she lift her hand to wipe the moisture from her face. 


WILD GEESE 291 


Her spirit was gone, and all that remained was her great, 
lasting body, that went on working like a machine. 

Lind was startled at the change in her. She hoped that 
when Martin was ready to help with the grain, there 
would be a lift in her mood. She saw Sven one evening 
_and told him that she feared Caleb was breaking Judith 
by his ceaseless watchfulness. Sven sprang up at once 
on the impulse to go to Caleb and handle him as he saw 
fit, but Lind persuaded him to wait. Something must 
surely come up soon to take Caleb away from the farm. 

Martin was finally able to go to the field. His shoulder 
was still sensitive and stiff, but he could no longer remain 
idle and see Judith going out each morning and coming 
in each night. Then, too, Caleb’s oblique complaints 
were becoming intolerable. So he went to the field, and 
his shoulder, so lately out of its tight bandage, smarted 
under the sun. But he doubled his industry to make up 
for the time he had lost. Caleb, watching from the out- 
side of the fence, drew his hand across his mustache and 
smiled. Martin knew his place. 

Judith’s mood did not change with the coming of Mar- 
tin into the field. Amelia watched her narrowly, and 
felt that there was something unnatural about her attitude 
that did not grow out of the surveillance under which 
she was kept. She did not question her, however, fear- 
ing to rouse her from her stupor to greater tempestuous- 
ness than she had yet shown. It might be, too, that her 
terror of Caleb’s threat had had a lasting effect. Amelia 
did not forget to remind her of it every day. 

One evening Ellen, driving home from Yellow Post, 
saw an Indian on a pony riding south on the road that 


292 WILD GEESE 


led past the Brunds’ and Ericksons’ northward into the 
wild bush country and beyond that to the land of myriad 
lakes and rivers where men went to lose themselves from 
the world. She recognized the Indian. He was the son 
of John Tobacco, and he had been spending the summer 
in that region. On his way home he must have met Mal- 
colm, and talked with him. She turned her head and 
watched him until he was out of sight. 

When she could no longer see him her throat tightened 
and her lids winked rapidly behind her glasses. For a 
moment she had been near someone who had seen 
and talked with Malcolm. Now even that moment was 
gone.. 

She raised her eyes and could see dimly the white 
clothes fluttering on the line in the yard at home. She 
would take them in when she got there, and dampen and 
roll them up fer ironing. 


3 


On a night of high wind, Anton Klovacz died. Mark 
went the next day to Yellow Post to arrange with Johan- 
neson about the burial, and Caleb Gare was notified in a 
message sent by a halfbreed to come to a meeting in the 
church. The question to be discussed was whether it was 
ethical to bury a Catholic in a Protestant cemetery. 

Mark happened to be on hand when Johanneson sent 
the message with the halfbreed. He waited at Yellow 
Post until the man returned with the answer. Caleb had 
promised to be at the church on the morrow, when the 
weighty question would be gone into. Johanneson as- 


i iim ee ii ii i ee 


tei ee 


J ————— 


WIL'D GEESE 293 


sured Mark that he would do his best to bring about a 
favorable decision, but reminded him that Caleb Gare 
was a hard man, and a “Christian.” 

Mark returned to a scene of desolation. Mrs Sandbo 
and Lind were there with the children, who were sitting 
about the kitchen in great-eyed terror. The door to the 
other room was closed. Behind it lay the body of Anton 
Klovacz. Mrs Sandbo had washed and dressed him, 
telling Lind between her sobs that it was the tenth time 
that she had “laid out” since she had come to Oeland. 

Anton had died in peace. The inspector had come 
the day before and had gone over the place, and papers 
were signed which made him sole owner of the land to 
which he had given the last glow of his spirit. He had 
satisfactorily “proved up” his homestead. 

Lind and Mark went out to talk alone when the latter 
returned from Yellow Post. “If Caleb Gare holds out, 
by God, Ill throttle him!” Mark muttered after he had 
told her of the meeting that was to be held. 

“Surely he can’t,” Lind protested. “He hasn’t the 
power, has he?” 

“Well, the church has, I suppose, and e’s the church, 
here.” 

Lind was thoughtful for a moment. “He'll be gone 
most of the day to-morrow, I should think?” 

Mark thought he probably would. 

“Tt’ll be a chance for Sven to see Judith,’ Lind ob- 
served. “I had better take the children and the girls 
over to Sandbos’ now, hadn’t I? And you intend to go to 
Yellow Post to-morrow afternoon?” 

“Ves, I'll see to that. If Caleb won’t give his consent, 


294 WILD GEESE 


itll have to be the Indian cemetery at the mission. 
That’s far away, but it’ll have to be.” 

““They—they wouldn’t let him be buried on the place, I 
supposeP”’ 

“These people are superstitious as the devil. No—but 
I'll certainly make a few facts plain to old Gare if he re- 
fuses.” 


Amelia signaled to Judith three times that evening be- 
fore she finally turned the horses toward home. Lind 
met her at the door of the kitchen and saw her face 
grimed with dust and sweat. She did not so much as 
glance at the teacher when she went to the sink to wash. 

As Amelia was outside, Lind ventured to speak to 
Judith. 

““Come up to my room and wash, Judy,” she said. 

Judith looked at her heavily. “It’s no use,” she re- 
plied, ‘‘no use for you to try to fix me up.” 

“But I have something to tell you,” Lind went on in a 
low tone. ‘Come on, bring the hot water and use my 
basin.” 

Judith picked up the kettle of water and followed Lind. 
In the room above, Lind helped her undress and found 
her unreluctant this time to having her body exposed. 
When she was thoroughly bathed, Judith oe back 
upon Lind’s bed, and closed her eyes. 

“What do you want to tell me?” she asked. “Oh 
Lind, I feel so nice now, I guess I must be going to die.” 
She sighed heavily and stroked her smooth sides with both 
hands. 

“Wait a minute—where’s that silk thing I made you?” 


a i i 


WILD GEESE 295 


Judith had put it preciously away, but Lind found it 
and made her slip it on. Jude took a deep breath. 
“Now tell me it,” she said. 

“You are going'to meet Sven to-morrow.” 

“How?” Judith looked at her with startled eyes. 

“Don’t be frightened, child. Your father will be away 
all day to-morrow. Or at least most of the day. Anton 
Klovacz has died, and he has to go to a meeting about the 
funeral at Yellow Post. I told Sven to watch and notice 
just when he leaves. Then he’ll ride around south and 
meet you at the end of the field, where Amelia won’t be 
able to see you. How’s that?” 

Judith sat up doubtfully. ‘Are you sure he’s goin’— 
going—and that it isn’t just a trick?” 

Lind assured her that it was no trick. 

“‘Well—but nothing comes out right, somehow. It was 
nice of you, though, Lind—to think of it,” she said slowly, 
her eyes upon the floor. Lind put her arm about her and 
kissed her cheek. 

“Things will come out right, I know it. Now where 
are your clean clothes?” 


4 

The next day, while the air was still fresh and cool, 
Caleb left for Yellow Post. Sven, watching covertly, saw 
him. leave, and immediately saddled his horse and rode 
south, skirting the acres of Caleb Gare until he came to 
the rough timber land beyond the dried lake bottom. 

He saw Judith in the southern field, within hailing dis- 
tance from the fence. When he realized that she had 


296 WILD GEESE 


sighted him, he jumped from his horse and lay in the 
long grass looking up at the clouds. 

She drove the binder to the fence, tied the horses, and 
crawled under the barbed wire. She knew-Sven was hid- 
ing somewhere. Before she had time to look around he 
grabbed her by the ankles and she fell forward upon him. 
They both laughed boisterously at his little prank, and 
then Judith burst into tears. He drew her down into his 
arms, where she lay flat, crying bitterly and unable to 
speak. 

“Judie, Judie, don’t cry so,” he urged softly, rocking 
her back and forth as though she were a child. ‘What’s 
the matter, anyway, with her? Here I come galloping to 
see her the first chance I get, and she cries all over me. 
That’s thanks for you! Listen, dear Judie, I love you, 
and I’m goin’ to take you away from here real soon. 
I don’t care what happens, you’re comin’ away. What do 
you think of that?” 

Judith sat up and wiped her eyes. Sven got to his 
knees and looked at her. Then he put his arms about 
her, felt her shoulders, her arms, and breast. “Judie, 
you’re gettin’ thin!” he exclaimed. ‘Why, you're nothin’ 
but a little girl! What’s the matter?” 

“T just can’t stand it any longer, Sven. Ill die,” she 
whispered, her lips quivering. 

“Will you come away right now, Judie?” 

She looked across the field. Her heart leaped at the 
thought of going away with Sven, of having him with 
her all the time, out in that lovely, gentle world where 
Lind came from. She felt that another day under the si- 
lent persecution of Caleb Gare would drive her mad. 


WILD GEESE 297 


Then, too, there was that other thing, that even Sven did 
not know, yet. She must tell him. She must tell him 
now. He would force her to come away at once if she 
told him. Perhaps it would be better to wait—until after 
the harvest. By then Caleb might have forgotten the 
ax. At least she would have spared him the expense of 
a hired man. Judith decided not to tell Sven—just yet. 

“Wait until the thrashin’ is over, Sven,” she replied. 

““Oh—thrashin’—damn the thrashin’,”’ he exclaimed im- 
patiently. “First it’s the hayin’ and now it’s the 
thrashin’—what d’you s’pose I came back for, if it wasn’t 
for you? Icould’a’ sent ma money to hire a man for our 
work.” 

“But he’d only catch us, Sven, and put me in—in jail,” 
Jude pleaded. 

“Jail—shucks! They’d put dim in, more like!” 

But Jude’s fear stayed, and they decided to wait until 
after the threshing. 

She pressed close to him once more, and lay still for a 
while with a luxurious feeling of rest and comfort, then 
she slipped under the fence and mounted the binder. 
Sven sprang to his saddle and waved his hat at her until 
she was far down the field, the long path of cut grain un- 
rolling behind her, smooth and yellow. 


CHAPTER XX 
1 


Marx JorpDAN was already at Johanneson’s store when 
Caleb arrived there. | 

Anton Klovacz’s horses were tied among the slender 
birches behind the church up the road, and in the back of 
the wagon there was a long box made of rough, split pop- 
lar logs and crossings of lath. In the box lay the body 
of Anton Klovacz. 

Mark was smoking his pipe and leaning back with his 
elbows upon the counter when Caleb Gare entered. 
Caleb shot a quick glance at him from beneath his brows, 
then went over to talk with a small group of men who 
were waiting for the arrival of the other members of the 
church committee. 

Presently he sauntered leisurely over to Mark and 
stood before him with his left thumb hooked in the pocket 
of his vest where he rubbed the secretary key against his 
silver watch. His other hand moved thoughtfully across 
his chin. 

“So you’re makin’ this your business, too, eh?” he 
smiled up at Mark, his eyebrows raised. 

Mark kept his temper. “As far as I am able to,” he 
returned, his eyes hard. He was glad the Klovacz boy 
had remained out with the wagon. 


“Fim—well, like as not—like as not,” Caleb mused. 
298 


WILD GEESE 299 


He gave vent to a deep sigh, and continued, “Of course— 
you understand how this is kind o’ hard on us members of 
the church. The responsibility of conductin’ affairs lies 
on us, and we can’t shirk it, like. Id be glad as the next 
one to do all I could, even for a heathen. But you ought 
to know, comin’ from the city like you do, that the sanc- 
tity o’ the church and its grounds has got to be considered. 
I’m willin’ to do all I can, but you see how it is.” He 
raised his eyebrows again and tossed his hands out on 
either side of him to indicate the rather hopeless aspect 
of the matter. 

Mark’s teeth came together in spite of himself. The 
man’s smooth arrogance was maddening. “You'll take 
care what you say about Anton Klovacz’s religion, Caleb 
Gare,” he said evenly. ‘Make your decision and have 
it over with. And remember that even now Anton Klo- 
vacz isn’t begging for anything from you—not even a 
grave.” 

Caleb Gare’s eyes narrowed to veiled points. 

“You take it upon yourself, young man—you take it 
upon yourself. I can show you, for all your city smart- 
ness, that Anton Klovacz might still be beggin’ from me. 
His land ain’t so far from mine but what I could link it 
up »? 





Mark drew himself up, his anger going out of bounds 
at last. “So that’s what you’ve got your eye on, is it? 
Well, just take it off. You'll not get an acre of Anton 
Klovacz’s land so long as there is justice in this country!” 

The group in the corner of the store were looking to- 
ward them. They were most of them easy-going farmers 
who would not have thought twice about permitting Anton 


300 WILD GEESE 


Klovacz’s body to be buried in the cemetery. But they 
had fallen into the habit of looking to Caleb for leader- 
ship in any issue, great or small. Now Mark Jordan’s 
evident animosity toward Caleb amused and gratified 
many of them. 

Caleb glared up at Mark, his head jutting out menac- 
ingly. He lifted his hand and snapped his fingers under 
Mark’s nose. 

“You get out o’ here before I make it hot for ye, hear 
me? Before I tell the whole place what I know about ye 
—ye slick alick. You and that little chit of a school 
marm—yeah & 

Mark’s arm had shot out. His right hand circled Ca- 
leb’s throat and lifted him almost clear of the floor. 
Then, grasping him by the lapels of his coat, Mark fairly 
hurled him into the group of staring farmers, where he fell 
sprawling. 

White with fury, Mark stood above him. “Take every 
word of that back, damn you, or I’ll break your neck!” 
he shouted. 

The farmers had cleared a space for him, and Caleb 
pulled himself together. He stood up and carefully 
dusted and straightened the tails and the lapels of his 
treasured broadcloth coat, which he had worn for the 
occasion. 

“Don’t know as I said anything to take back,” he said 
with a bland smile. “I think the little school marm is 
too good for any man. Heh, heh!” While Mark stood 
before him with his lips twitching, Caleb took his silver 
watch from his pocket. 

“Time for the meetin’ to commence, gentlemen,” he 





WILD GEESE 301 


said. “Everybody ready? If so, we'll repair to the 
church.” | 

The amazed farmers looked at one another. Mark 
strode grimly to the doorway. He looked back. 

“Never mind the meeting. Anton Klovacz wouldn’t 
rest in ground that Caleb Gare squeezed him into,” he 
said, and was gone. 

Caleb looked after him, his eyes glinting under their 
heavy brows. “Hm. You'll be sorry for that, my boy! 
You'll be sorry for that,” he muttered to himself. 

The farmers, as one man, felt heavily abashed. 

Mark saw that the Klovacz boy was still sitting on the 
seat of the wagon. 

“We'll ride to the mission, son,” he said to him kindly. 
“They have more room there.” 

So the two of them rode on the seat of the wagon over 
the twenty miles to the Catholic mission that lay to the 
south. It was a long, rough road, seldom frequented and 
for that reason neglected. A great. stretch of it lay 
through timber, where the air was mellow with the scent 
of drying leaves. Cranberry bushes hung in red cascades 
along the trail, and the thorn apple trees were heavy with 
clusters of waxy fruit, already tinged with pink. The 
day was still save for sudden little gusts of wind that 
lifted a whirl of dry leaves now and then in the road be- 
fore them. Mark had never in his life known such a 
mood of loneliness. The boy sat beside him in heavy 
silence all the way, glancing back once or twice toward 
the box in the wagon. Under the canvas, the rough 
boards of the box rattled against the floor of the wagon 
with a monotonous sort of rhythm over the endless miles 


302 WILD GEESE 


to the mission. The sun rose to noon, the heat beat down 
and made little shining disks on the black flanks of the 
horses, and Mark and the boy knew it was time to stop at 
some settler’s home for food. 

The afternoon led them through marsh country, flat 
and dun-colored with dying reeds. The Klovacz boy sat 
beside Mark without uttering a word. Occasionally he 
adjusted the canvas more securely over the box, as the 
heat became more intense and the way led on without 
shade. Once they saw a giant hawk swoop down over 
the marsh and keep low to the earth until it rose suddenly 
almost straight into the air. Then it vanished against 
the sky with some little animal fast in its claws. The 
Klovacz boy saw it but made no comment. The unusual 
sight scarcely started an expression of surprise on his 
brooding face. 

There was only a narrow sheaf of color in the western 
sky when they drove the horses up to the front of the 
mission house. Mark got down and knocked at the door. 
An aged priest opened it and peered out upon the 
strangers. 

When Mark had told him his story he bade them come 
in. Then he vanished to another part of the building, 
and returned with a younger priest, who greeted Mark 
with great kindliness. 

“Tt is very sad,” he said softly. ‘We shall have mass 
for the poor soul in the morning. I will have my men 
take in the casket. Now you will come with me.” 

He led them into a warmly lighted room where there 
was a table set with simple food. “I always have it in 


WILD GEESE 303 


readiness for wayfarers,”’ he said, indicating chairs for 
them to be seated in. 

On the morrow, which was the third day after his 
death, Anton Klovacz was buried, in a grave among the 
Indians. It was a simple ceremony. Mark and Anton’s 
eldest son stood bareheaded beside the grave while the 
priest chanted the requiem. Then a crude wooden cross 
with name and date was erected, and Anton Klovacz was 
left alone. The wind blew with a little dry sound through 
the long yellow grass among the graves. It was the end 
of the season of growth. 


2 


At the Gares’ things went on just the same. Judith, 
Martin and Charlie finished the binding, then began to 
shock the grain. Caleb watched them confidently from 
the house. 

So that Caleb would not increase his vigilance, Judith 
tried to hide the change in her mood after her meeting 
with Sven. She had come home at the end of that day 
with the same heavy face, and had eaten her supper with- 
out looking at anyone. But Lind, watching her shrewdly, 
and knowing what the others did not know, saw the buoy- 
ant change in her. 

Something had happened to Caleb. He had come 
home after the meeting at Yellow Post surly and uncom- 
municative, and Amelia, giving him a sidelong glance, 
wondered just how she would be made aware of what had 
happened. That what had happened had been unflatter- 


304 WILD GEESE 


ing to Caleb she knew. She could see by his face that 
something was rankling bitterly in his mind. He would 
stand for long periods with one foot up on the lowest wire 
of the sheep pasture, his arms crossed and leaning on the 
fence before him, his eyes brooding out toward the wide 
fields where the new haystack stood. Then he would 
come into the kitchen and tinker about absently with 
broken bits of harness or boxes of rusty nails and screws. 
Amelia prepared herself for an avalanche of abuse: these 
were the signals for its approach. 

Two days after Caleb’s trip to Yellow Post it came. 
The children and the Teacher had gone to the loft. 
Amelia was preparing the oatmeal for the next morning’s 
breakfast. Caleb had come in from the field, closed the 
door gently behind him, shaken the lantern and hung it 
on its hook near the door. 

“Your son is a gentleman, Amelia. A fine gentleman,” 
he said almost in a whisper, going past her into the inner 
room. : 
Amelia sighed. She felt suddenly very tired, as if she 
had worked a long time for nothing. In spite of every- 
thing she had done, it was coming. Her mind grew dull 
under the certainty. She made no reply to Caleb’s re- 
mark. 

“Well? Thought you might like to know it,” Caleb 
went on in an injured tone. “Got nothin’ to say?” 

“‘No—nothing,”’ Amelia said. 

Caleb returned to the kitchen and stood before her, his 
head thrust out. “You'll probably have somethin’ to say 
when I tell you what the pretty boy done to me,” he 
sneered, tapping his chest with his hand. “And perhaps 


WILD GEESE 305 


you won’t blame me for doing what I’m going to do— 
when I get good and ready.” ) 

Amelia looked at him. She paled before his eyes. 
“What did he do?” she asked faintly. 

“Yeah—heh, heh! What did he do?” he laughed 
gently. “You'd like to know, eh? Well—keep on guess- 
mn 

With that he returned to the other room and began to 
undress, dropping each of his shoes with a thump to the 
floor. Amelia heard him laughing softly to himself. 

She stood over the stove in the kitchen for a long time, 
trying to think what it could possibly be that had roused 
Caleb’s direct spite toward Mark. Whatever it was, it 
would simply add weight to that greater grievance he held 
against him. For Amelia believed that Caleb considered 
Mark’s existence in the light of a personal offense, which 
would be vindicated only in one way. Amelia cast about 
in her mind for some straw of hope. The thought had 
occurred to her many times that she might go to Mark 
Jordan and beseech him to leave before any ill befell him 
through Caleb. But each time she had realized that this 
would only hasten his discovery of the truth, for Mark 
Jordan would never be induced to run away without 
sound reason. She knew that she was helpless. The 
only thing to do was to wait and pray that something 
unforeseen would preclude his ever finding out the thing 
that haunted her. She would have given anything to 
know whether Bart Nugent was alive or dead. Caleb 
spoke casually now and then of having heard from him, 
but Amelia knew that signified nothing. 

Finally she set the pot of porridge on the back of the 


306 WILD GEESE 


stove, blew out the lantern in the kitchen and went into 
the other room. Caleb had let down the folding bed and 
was already asleep. Amelia looked at his rough hair 
standing up at the edge of the quilt. He had his face 
to the wall, and was snoring heavily. A wave of disgust 
came over her. She could not bring herself to undress 
and lie down beside him. Softly she blew out the lamp, 
picked up the fur rug that lay on the floor, groped in the 
dark for her shawl, and went outside. 

Amelia went to the more recently built section of the 
stable, which was not locked, and through the dark found 
her way to a pile of clean straw in a corner. Caleb 
was a sound sleeper, and she was always the first up in 
the morning. He would not miss her. She wrapped 
the shawl about her and lay down on the straw, covering 
herself with the fur rug. All night through her sleep, 
fear beat on her heart like the wings of some ominous 
bird. 


3 

Ellen joined the others in the fields to shock the grain. 
They worked tremendously, to get it up in time to be 
dried for the threshing. 

It was in Martin’s mind a number of times to go to 
Yellow Post and hire a half-breed to help, without ask- 
ing Caleb’s permission. But before he actually got 
started, his will fell, and long habit kept him under Ca- 
leb’s dominance. 

Judith’s body failed a little now under the heavy work. 
But she strove to conceal the falling off in her strength 


WILD GEESE 307 


by being the first up in the mornings and by making a 
great show of swift industry in the fields. Ellen regarded 
her skeptically, but avoided any further collision with 
her. Caleb was secretly pleased with her and was con- 
vinced that her spirit was broken. But Amelia watched 
her with growing anxiety, undeceived. 

Lind contrived to talk with Judith whenever it was 
propitious. She kept reminding her that escape lay 
ahead, and that she must keep up her courage and take 
advantage of the opportunity when it came. Judith 
clung to Lind desperately, thinking of her all day when 
she was in the field, seeking to be near her for the sake 
of the physical sweetness of her when the others were not 
about. 

Finally the grain was all in russet gold shocks, drying 
on the field. Caleb wound his way among them, ex- 
amining the wheat and the rye and the barley with mi- 
nute attention, and deciding upon what land should lie 
fallow next season. Judith had no way of telling before- 
hand how long he would be away on these tours, so she 
dared not go beyond the school house if she left the farm 
gate at all. In any case, Amelia kept close watch on her, 
and Amelia was becoming a more severe task master, in 
a way, than Caleb. 

Ellen, Judith and Amelia went into the bush that had 
been bought of Fusi Aronson and gathered the wild 
grapes that grew there. The vines weighed down the 
branches of the slippery elms over which they had grown 
like a net. They were a blue mass of tiny, pungently 
sweet clusters. The women carried home several flour 
sacks full, the blue stain oozing through the white cotton 


308 WILD GEESE 


of the sacks. Then there were the jelly and preserves 
to make and wine for Caleb. So that every day was full, 
and every evening came with sleep for mind and body. 

Lind, observing the unbelievable amount of work that 
was done by the women in the Gare household, wondered 
what would happen to them if they were suddenly bereft 
of these endless duties. She realized that it was only oc- 
cupation that kept them sane beneath the sneering vig- 
ilance of Caleb Gare, and saw that somehow things bal- 
anced themselves under the most appalling conditions. 
But her pity for Judith grew with the passing of every 
day. She saw that Caleb was by no means releasing his 
hold on her, and wondered how it was going to be pos- 
sible for her to free herself. The door of the barn re- 
mained locked, and Caleb examined it now and then to 
make sure that it had not been tampered with. Had it 
not been for her affection for Judith, Lind would not 
have been able to bear the rigid atmosphere at the Gares’. 
When she saw Mark in the evenings, it seemed as if 
she was relieved of a physical burden. 

The time during which the grain dried on the fields 
was a trying one for Judith. She did not once see Sven, 
and the messages that Lind brought from him only served 
to make her impatience more pointed. Even after the 
heaviest day she would lie awake for hours thinking of 
him, feeling the dark pressing down upon her like a 
weight. She avoided Amelia and her detecting eyes, and 
went out of her way in order not to encounter Ellen, 
whose triumphant passivity was galling to her. Ellen’s 
face had taken on a perpetual, self-righteous smirk. It 
seemed to Judith that it gave her sister some satisfaction 


WILD GEESE 309 


to witness her debasement—as if she were congratulating 
herself on having given up what would have ultimately 
brought her the same misery that she, Judith, was endur- 
ing. 

Martin, somehow, lost sight of the dream that had 
come back to him during his days of convalescence. 
Every hour that brought him back to the land and its 
exactions took him farther away from the vision that had 
stirred him while he had time for dreaming. His shoul- 
ders resumed their tired slope, as if nothing had happened 
to set them straight. And when he finally looked out 
over the fields dotted with their cone-shaped shocks, it 
was only with the relieved feeling that Caleb would have 
no fault to find with his work. 


4 


The threshing machine came, with its crew of three 
men, great coarse farmers from north of Latt’s Slough. 
They were housed in the newer part of the barn, where 
Amelia and Martin had built beds for them on the floor 
of cedar branches and straw. But they ate with the 
family, and Lind, after making an heroic effort to ignore 
them at the table, finally gave it up and had her meals, 
except breakfast, at Sandbos’ during the three days of 
their stay. 

Judith worked with the men and Martin. Caleb had 
not hired an extra man. 

At the end of the first day, Lind, coming from school, 
saw her lithe young body standing against the sun on 
the top of a load of grain. She was rapidly pitching 


310 WILD GEESE 


great forkfuls of grain down into the feeder of the thresh- 
ing machine. Martin worked with her. 

Lind walked past the load of grain to where the men 
were working at the other end of the machine. The 
grain was brought in huge rackfuls from the fields by 
Judith, Ellen, Martin and Charlie, and was being threshed 
a short distance from the stable. Lind sat down on the 
ground and watched the yellow chaff shooting in a great 
arc out of the funnel of the threshing machine. Against 
the late sun it was a volley of gold particles. The 
Teacher wondered whether Judith, from her height on the 
rack, saw any beauty in the scene. She glanced back at 
the girl and noted that her face was expressionless, her 
arms moving swiftly and easily as pendulums over the 
pitchfork. While Lind was watching her, she looked up, 
as if she had suddenly become aware of her regard. Lind 
pointed at the yellow cascade of chaff that was being 
thrown out by the machine. Judith nodded and half 
smiled, then went on pitching as steadily as ever. 

On the last day of the threshing, Caleb went out across 
the stubble to the standing flax, the only grain left now. 
A slow-growing, deliberate, delicate thing it was, and a 
pride to any man who could successfully raise it. As he 
had done when it was in blue flower, he slipped between 
the wires of the fence and stood in the midst of it, almost 
furtively running his hand over the rough, fully seeded 
tops. Then, stepping with care, he waded far into it, 
touching it now and then, his eyes roving over it hun- 
grily. 

When he had had his fill of delight in looking at the 
flax, he turned toward home across the empty fields. A 


WILD GEESE 311 


thing lay on his mind which discolored his satisfaction 
with his crops. Mark Jordan had inflicted upon him 
bodily injury, in the presence of the most dignified mem- 
bers of the church. It was a thing that he could never 
forgive nor forget. He had hidden his humiliation, had 
brushed the affair lightly away, but he knew the tongues 
of the country-side would wag forever with the episode. 
_At church hereafter he would be pointed at and there 
would be stifled snickers. He who had been unap- 
proachable, revered, had been picked up and tossed like 
a puppy into a group of the church’s most prominent 
personages. That he was helpless to retaliate save in 
one way was not gratifying to him. He desired that the 
moment of his revelation to Mark Jordan should be one 
of his own choosing. He felt that he should keep his 
“trump card” for some overwhelming offense against 
himself, that also involved Amelia.. So he forced him- 
self to lie idle until something occurred which would jus- 
tify his revealing to Mark Jordan his true identity, and 
so forever clear the score. He would see that such a 
consequential thing came about before Mark left for the 
city. 

In a few weeks’ time, the flax would be taken off, 
threshed, and the seed sold to the markets in the south for 
a fine sum. Yes, yes, things were going along very 
smoothly indeed, very smoothly indeed. 


CHAPTER XXI 
1 


Two announcements were posted in Johanneson’s 
store. One was to the effect that fishing was now open 
in Bjarnasson’s lake. Everyone read it with a mingling 
of awe and fear, knowing what it meant. The other gave 
the particulars of a harvest jubilee that was to be held 
in Latt’s School, and was to take the form of a masquer- 
ade. 

Charlie brought the news home to the Gares. Caleb 
took no notice of the harvest jubilee announcement, but 
his face soured when he heard that the Bjarnassons had 
at last found what they had sought for a year. 

“Could ’a’ had fish the year round if I’d ’a’ had some- 
body with a mite o’ spunk to send for it,” he complained. 
When the children were all in bed that night, Caleb 
sat reading his farm journal under the lamp. Amelia, — 
busy with her knitting, thought of the jubilee and re- 
solved that none of the children should go, since she 
could not with fairness single Judith out to remain at 

home. 

Caleb looked up. ‘‘Figgerin’ on sendin’ to the mail or- 
der for stuff for this masquerade, eh?” he asked genially. 

“No,” Amelia answered. ‘“They’ll not be going.” 

Caleb looked at her narrowly. Then a smile relaxed 
his face. He raised his eyebrows. “Not goin’? Why 


not?” 
312 


WILD GEESE 313 


Amelia looked at him and saw his amusement. She re- 
alized at once that she had made a mistake: “Oh, well— 
if you'll let them. I just thought maybe we couldn’t 
afford it.” 

She dropped her eyes to her work so that he should 
not see her anxiety. Had he seen through her excuse, 
she wondered? Or did he think she was as confident 
concerning Judith as he was himself? She waited al- 
most without breathing to hear what he would say next. 

““Well—” he yawned comfortably, “—we’ll see. We'll 
see. Plenty of time yet, eh? And let’s go to bed. I’m 
gettin’ old, I guess—gettin’ old.” 

Amelia went to bed and prayed that he would refuse 
to let them go. She knew in her heart that Judith could 
‘ not be trusted. There was something beneath her quiet 
these days that baffled and harassed Amelia. She was 
constantly on the alert for a change in her mood, and 
relentlessly reminding her of what lay in store if she 
crossed Caleb again. But Judith would not think twice 
if the opportunity came for her to get away free. She 
prayed Caleb would forbid them to go. 

Caleb, turning his face to the wall, laughed to himself. 
This was one of the little strategies that made life in- 
teresting. 

In the loft above, Judith and Lind talked, quietly so 
that Ellen should not hear. They had turned the lamp 
low, and were sitting on Lind’s bed. Judith was comb- 
ing the Teacher’s long, fine hair. 

“You must keep on working, Judie, and don’t let them 
suspect for a moment,’ Lind whispered. “If they let 
you go to the masquerade you must keep on the road until 


314 WILD GEESE 


you get to the Siding. I’ll see Sven to-morrow and tell 
him about it. When it’s all over, they’ll forgive you. 
What else can they do, unless what de threatens? And 
I don’t think he’ll dare do that, Judie. He knows that I 
would be a witness against him. Anyway, you must risk 
it, dear.” 

Lind looked up at Judith and could have cried at the 
change in her. Her defiant beauty was gone. She was 
pale and listless, and the only indication that any of her 
old spirit remained was a certain dogged look in her 
eyes. 

“Vou are tired, Judie. Go to bed now, and to-morrow 
T’ll talk to Sven,” Lind said gently. 

Judith rose from the bed. ‘He'll not let us go to the 
dance,” she murmured indifferently. “It'll have to be 
some other way.” 

Then she went to bed with heavy thoughts and fears 
moving to and fro in her mind. They would have to go 
before the end of the month. She could not bear the 
secret knowledge of her body any longer than that. 


3 


Caleb said nothing more about the masquerade than 
when he winked at Ellen at breakfast the following day 
and chuckled, “Ellen’Il be findin’ herself a beau at the 
jubilee, like as not, eh?” 

But everybody was waiting his final word. Amelia 
most of all. She dared not broach the subject to him, 
lest he should see her perturbation. She knew that he 
would keep them all in suspense until the very day of the 


WILD GEESE 215 


affair. It was his way. They would have no time for 
making costumes. Amelia Gare created work for her- 
self about the place; it blunted her feelings somewhat, 
and kept her thoughts occupied. 

Dismissing school early, Lind rode to Yellow Post on 
the Sandbos’ pony and bought gaudy cottons and rib- 
bons. She and Mark made it an occasion to be together, 
as he had to make a trip there for provisions. They went 
to old John Tobacco and got an outfit of doeskin and 
feathers for Mark, and a costume for Lind ornate with 
beads and feathers. 

Riding home in the soft fall evening they discussed the 
situation of Judith and Sven. 

“Tt’s criminal of him to keep that girl here as he does,” 
Lind asserted. ‘And I see nothing wrong in urging her 
to get away. Even if he does follow them, it will lead 
to something better for her in the end.” 

Mark agreed with her that at least no worse condition 
could result. Then they talked of the Klovaczs’, and 
Mark told her that a woman relative of Anton’s was com- 
ing out to spend the winter with the children. Mark 
was surprised that Caleb had not already tried some 
vindictive trick to mollify his injured vanity. But Lind 
was uneasily anticipating some catastrophe that would 
sweep away all that she had found in Mark. It was a 
fear that was somehow bound about Caleb Gare. She 
looked at Mark’s reassuring profile against the light, and 
tried to shake herself free from the oppressive dread. 

They rode on toward the Sandbos’. Along the hori- 
zon were knots of scarlet and gold; here an isolated bush 
or a single fiery-leafed tree stood out and took the sun, 


316 WILD GEESE 


and here the water of a swamp shone, already a cold, 
metallic blue. 

Sven met them at the gate. Lind quickly told him to 
prepare for the masquerade on the chance that Caleb 
would permit Judith to go. Sven was almost beside him- 
self with impatience and indignation at Caleb Gare. He 
had planned advancing upon him and taking Judith mas- 
terfully away if no opportunity came soon for their es- 
cape. He had heard from his former employer in the city 
and had had an offer of work. He was ready to go at 
once. He looked toward the Gare farm as Lind stood in 
the road talking with him, and his wholesome face twisted 
into a scowl. He finally agreed to wait until she brought 
him further news. Then he went back to the house, his 
step a little lighter. 

Lind looked quickly up at Mark, who stood holding 
her hands in his own. “It makes me—impatient, too,” 
she whispered to him. Although Mark knew Mrs 
Sandbo was looking out of the window, he stooped quickly 
and kissed her hair. Then he mounted his horse and 
rode back to the Klovaczs’. 

Judith was pouring a mixture of buttermilk and feed 
into the pig trough when Lind returned. Caleb was in 
sight beyond the granary so Lind merely waved to Ju- 
dith and went on into the house. She hurried upstairs 
and hid the things she had bought at Yellow Post under 
the bed in her room. When she returned to the kitchen 
Ellen threw her a curious glance. 

“Ellen,” said Lind, ‘“aren’t you a bit anxious to go to 
the party?” 

Ellen shrugged and continued washing out the milk 


WILD GEESE 317 


can at her feet. ‘Why should I be? I'll go if he says,” 
she returned. ‘“Can’t see as it'll be a lot of fun, any- 
how.” 

Martin came in then. ‘‘Don’t you want to go to the 
masquerade, Martin?” Lind asked him. 

Martin smiled slowly. ‘“Well—I can’t dance,” he re- 
plied, “but I guess we won’t be goin’, anyhow. Ain’t 
nothin’ been said about it, eh, Ellen?” 

“No,” said Ellen shortly, scrubbing away at the can. 

“Well, if you were given permission, you’d go, wouldn’t 
you?” 

“Guess so,” Martin said. 

Lind turned away disheartened. So ‘well did they 
know their place that their imaginations had not been 
stirred in the least by the coming of this novel event. 

Amelia took up the remainder of her vegetables. Her 
tomatoes had ripened beautifully, and there was a great 
crop. She would preserve them in various ways, and 
they would do the family for the whole winter. Yes, the 
winter was coming. Presently there would be frost. 
Then there would be the old months again of housing and 
bedding the cattle, the horses, the sheep, and the 
hogs. And sod would soon have to be placed on the roof 
of the chicken house, and manure spread over the garden. 
Then the snow would come like a white presence, and en- 
close them all in the log house. Caleb would be watch- 
ful as ever, and would receive letters now and then from 
Bart Nugent, keeping him informed of the movements of 
Mark Jordan, who would have gone back to the city. 
Judith would rebel occasionally and would have to be 
quelled with threats and reminders. Another winter of 


318 WILD GEESE 


life under Caleb Gare. No, no... anything but that. 
But in another moment she would have resigned herself 
to the prospect. 

She knew what satisfaction it was giving Caleb to with- 
hold his decision about the jubilee. In the end he would 
probably let them go. That would be the end... . 

On the following day Ellen and Martin were sent to 
Nykerk with a drove of cattle. They went while the 
morning was still dim and gray and heavy with dew, 
and drove the spotted heifers and steers before them like 
fantastic figures in a dream. Ellen slumped forward in 
her saddle half asleep, and was dully startled now and 
then by the crack of Martin’s whip upon the flanks of 
the cattle. When she opened her eyes the animals 
looked unreal and incredible in the road before her. 
She wished again that Judith were more trustworthy and 
could be sent in her place. Judith was always thinking of 
herself. A lot she would get for it in the end! She 
would be tied more closely to the farm than any of them. 
Perhaps it would have been delightful to have gone away 
with Malcolm. The northern lakes would have been 
deep and blue, and there would have been infinite rest 
beside them at night, under the stars. 

Ellen found herself nodding again over the pommel of 
her saddle. Her feet were asleep and full of needles in 
the stirrups. She shook herself and sat upright, stretch- 
ing her red-rimmed eyes. They were going through the 
timber, and the gray glamour of early morning still ob- 
scured the brilliance of the foliage. It seemed to Ellen 
that they had been going for hours through sleep. 

There was a telegrapher at Nykerk who kept the farm- 


WILD GEESE 319 


ers informed concerning the prices of grains and live- 
stock. From him Martin learned that flax had taken a 
tremendous leap upward. It was the news that Caleb 
had been waiting to hear. 

When Martin announced it to him on the return home, 
he drew his hand across his mustache and wiped off the 
smile of satisfaction that appeared upon his face. There 
was still time for something to happen to the flax. No 
need of rejoicing too soon. 

“Gone up, eh? Well—lots of time for it to go down— 
lots of time,” he said. 

But the news was sufficient cause for him to go out to 
the flax field that evening with his lantern to look out 
on the broad wealth of it. A short time now, and it 
would be taken off. And there would not be a farmer in 
all the country around so rich as Caleb Gare. It was 
well that even Amelia did not know the extent of his for- 
tune. It might make her avaricious, or turn her head. 

Caleb thought of the Bjarnassons. They were well 
supplied with this world’s goods, too. But they could 
not raise flax like this. They did not go much beyond 
cattle and horses, that bred in the flesh. There was a 
spirit in the flax—the growing of it was a challenge to 
a man’s will in this gaunt land. It took Caleb Gare to 
raise flax. 

The Bjarnassons—they had at last found the precious 
remains for which they had dragged the lake a whole year. 
A great deal of satisfaction that gave Caleb Gare—a 
great deal! And Martin, that poor weakling, had not 
dared take what was his just due. There had been 
twelve months during which the Bjarnassons had arro- 


320 WILD GEESE 


gantly set their will against that of Caleb Gare for the 
sake of so puny a thing as sentiment, and kept it set. An 
annoying thought. But it was Martin’s fault. He 
should have compelled Martin to fish. What was the 
matter with him, was he losing his grip on the family at 
last? No—no, Amelia was still in her place, and there 
was a tremendous change for the better in Judith. He 
had no cause for apprehension. It occurred to him that 
to taunt Bjarnasson, the family would do without fish 
that winter. 

Mark Jordan. Yes, there was something in store for 
him. Caleb turned back across the stubble with his 
lantern swinging low along the earth. He chuckled with 
confidence in his power. It was all a huge joke, so simple 
was this living and ruling. And to make the season com- 
plete, the price of flax had shot up like a rocket. 


4 


Secretly, in every spare moment that week, Lind and 
Judith worked on the costumes in the privacy of the 
Teacher’s room. Judith stitched half-heartedly, dubious 
as to whether there would ever be any use for the gaudy 
apparel. Lind was generous enough to make a gown 
for Ellen without saying a word about it to her. She 
took Martin into her confidence, however, and fitted a 
clown suit over his awkward body. He grinned bash- 
fully, and she had the gratification of seeing his face light 
up with amusement when he beheld himself in the bulky 
garment. 

Judith’s somber demeanor did not lift, however, 


WILD GEESE 321 


throughout the week of hopeful planning. Lind began 
to fear that she was losing courage, that Caleb’s vigilance 
and the plied warnings of Amelia were achieving their 
end. 

During the week Thorvald Thorvaldson drove up on 
his way from Yellow Post, stopped in and stayed until 
Amelia could do nothing but ask him to have dinner, at 
Caleb’s prompting. Otherwise nothing unusual hap- 
pened all week. Amelia thought it would never come to 
anend. No mention was made of the jubilee, and every- 
one on the place went about his accustomed tasks as if 
the entire community were not alive with preparations 
for merriment. 

Judith plodded about, from the pig pen to the sheep 
pasture, from the sheep pasture to the wood pile, where 
she stood splitting kindling wood for Amelia as if that 
were the thing she wanted most to do. 

One day she and Martin and Charlie went to the bush 
for more wood, and on the way her heart quickened with 
the hope that somehow she might see Sven, since the 
neck of timber bought of Fusi Aronson led past the 
Sandbo farm. But she did not see him, and on the way 
home her body felt heavy and lifeless. Lind was unable 
to rouse her or to get any confidence from her. 

The door of the stable remained locked. On Friday, 
the day before the masquerade at Latt’s School, Caleb 
went past the stable and smiled to himself. The incident 
of the ax had been a piece of good luck, after all. It was 
time that he should try Judith out, to further convince 
himself that she was permanently subdued. It was well 
to know where he stood. Moreover, Amelia was set 


322 WILD GEESE 


against Judith’s going to the masquerade—he could see 
that. And it would be well to show Amelia that her will 
in the matter bore no weight. 

Caleb was confident that Judith would not dare go be- 
yond Latt’s School. And if she did—the responsibility 
was Amelia’s. It might bring a settlement of that little 
score he had against Mark Jordan. 

On Friday evening he announced to the family that 
the children would go to the jubilee at Latt’s School. 
There was a general start around the table. But Caleb 
kept his eyes on Amelia, his hand stealthily moving across 
his chin and mustache. Amelia did not flinch. She 
smiled across at Martin and said, ‘‘You’ll have to learn 
to dance before then, Martin.” 

Her equanimity disturbed Caleb. He took his lantern 
out and started across the stubble before darkness set 
in. The feeling had come upon him suddenly that some- 
how he was losing his grip. Perhaps after all he had 
made a mistake. Perhaps it had been Amelia’s wish that 
Judith should go—should have this chance to escape with 
Sven Sandbo. Perhaps the woman had been adroit 
enough to conceal her real design from him. Perhaps 
she was even now plotting to get Judith away. Well, let 
her plot! She would remember in due time who was 
master. He still had control of the secret of Mark Jor- 
dan. Let Amelia try her tricks! 


6 


Lind rode that evening toward the Klovaczs’ and met 
Mark in the hollow of the wood trail. He dismounted 


WILD GEESE 323 


and put both arms about her where she sat in her saddle, 
as he liked to do. | 

“Dear little Lind,” he whispered, lifting his face to 
hers, “every day seems a year.” 

Lind held him close against her. “Do you know, 
Mark, I can’t shake this feeling that something fearful 
is about to happen. A loon passed right over the house 
last night,” she told him, and he felt her body shiver 
against him. 

Mark laughed. “It’s your worry about Judith that’s 
doing it, dear. We'll be away in a few weeks, now, and 
this life will seem like a dream. Here—let me help you 
down. Let’s walk. How’d you like to go around that 
dried lake bottom? It’s a weird enough place for your 
thoughts.” 

There would be light enough for an hour to walk over 
the rough land. Lind agreed. “I’ve only seen it from 
the top of the south ridge. It looks like the land in 
the pictures you see of Noah’s Ark standing on Mount 
Ararat after the flood, with the creeping vegetation down 
below.” 

They walked their horses through the dry timber, 
where the yellow drift of leaves rustled underfoot, and 
the branches overhead made a brittle sound. When they 
emerged from the timber they skirted the hayfield of the 
Gares’, where the generous stacks were standing. Then 
they came to the muskeg beyond which lay the lake bot- 
tom, a drab, flat disk with enormous, ugly cracks criss- 
crossing upon its surface. Grotesque roots and stones 
still covered with a pale sediment stood out in the wan 
- light. Lind and Mark made their way across the nar- 


324 WILD GEESE 


row strip of solid land between the lake bottom and 
the muskeg. 

“You’d be swallowed up on either side, Lind,” Mark 
observed, glancing across the treacherous, hair-like reeds 
of the muskeg and then across the gray lake bottom, that 
grew darker toward the center, where it was not so dry. 

Southward, across the hollow where the lake had been, 
lay Caleb Gare’s flax field. From where they stood, 
Lind and Mark could see him going away from the field, 
his squat body leaning forward toward the earth, and 
outlined against the amber sky. 

“Mark,” Lind murmured, taking his hand, “he fright- 
ens me.” 


eee 


CHAPTER XXII 
1 


In order to get all the work done before they left tor 
the jubilee at Latt’s School, everyone was up at dawn the 
next day. 

When Caleb had gone to the barn after breakfast, Lind 
ventured to show Ellen the costume she had made for her. 
Ellen’s comments on it were sparing. 

“But will it fit?” she said, eyeing it askance. 

But Lind could see that Ellen was pleased. She put 
her arm about her and said, “Try it on.” 

The dress was made to resemble a great sunflower, 
with a skirt of petals. It was very becoming to Ellen’s 
figure. Ellen blushed when she looked down at herself. 

Amelia and Judith went immediately to the potato 
patch where they began to dig up the potatoes. Martin 
was building a new bin for them in the cellar. It had 
been Caleb’s request at breakfast that they should be- 
gin taking them up to-day. It was his way of reminding 
them that the duties on the farm must go on, jubilee 
or no jubilee. 

Judith worked with Amelia in the potato patch until 
well toward noon, when Amelia left her to make dinner. 
Then Judith sat down among the dried stems of the 
plants and pressed her hands against her abdomen. The 
stooping she had done for five unbroken hours had 


brought a strange new pain there. She made a pretense 
325 


326 WILD GEESE 


of pulling at the potato vines so that no one from the 
house should notice that she was resting. Then, finally, 
she saw Amelia beckoning to her from the doorway. 

In the afternoon they returned to the potato patch 
with bushel baskets. Judith doubled her energy so that 
Amelia should not become curious. 

Occasionally Amelia glanced at her. From her re- 
signed attitude she half believed that the girl had no 
intention of abusing the freedom she was to be given 
that evening. And yet it was folly to trust her. Be- 
fore night came on she would have to give her another 
severe admonishment. It was the most she could do to 
keep everything from falling into ruin. For Caleb 
would be inexorable. He would not spare Mark Jordan 
for a moment if Jude got away. 

During the afternoon Amelia worked incessantly to 
keep from collapsing under the strain of her thoughts. 
It seemed that the awful knowledge of the possible out- 
come of the approaching night had stretched her mind 
until it would contain nothing more without breaking. 
In countless ways she pictured the scene in which Mark 
Jordan would learn the truth about himself. She went 
over and over the images until they were a continuous 
scroll unfurling automatically in her mind. Her hands 
became gray and coated with dirt, her back stiff from 
bending, and she carried basket after basket of potatoes 
to the house, almost unaware of the physical effort she 
exerted. 

At the end of the day Judith carried the last basketful 
of potatoes into the house and down to the bin in the 
cellar. Then she hurried upstairs before Amelia could 


WILD GEESE 327 


talk to her, and threw herself on Lind’s bed. The 
Teacher had gone to the Sandbos’ to talk with Sven. 
Ellen was out gathering eggs, and the boys and Caleb were 
about tending to the animals. 

Amelia came upstairs to talk with Judith. She found 
her on Lind’s bed, half asleep. The girl sat up and 
brushed her hair back from her eyes. 

“What’s the matter with you?” Amelia asked sharply. 

“Nothing,” said Judith, starting to rise. She sat back 
again suddenly with a quick tightening of her lips. 
Amelia gave her a searching look. 

“You don’t look right tome. You better not go to this 
thing to-night if you feel bad.” 

“T don’t feel bad. I’m just tired,” Jude insisted, an 
obstinate look appearing in her eyes. 

‘“‘Well—I just want to tell you this,’ Amelia went on, 
“if you go, you go to Latt’s School and nowhere else. 
And you go with Martin and Ellen. And you come back 
with them. If I hear different to-morrow, you needn’t 
look to me to save you from him. He has told me it’s 
the city for you if anything goes on. And remember this, 
Judith, he can catch you no matter how far you go. It 
won’t do you a bit of good to try to get away. Do you 
understand that?” Amelia’s eyes were sharp and search- 
ing, her mouth firm. 

When she got no response from her, she leaned down 
and shook Judith by the shoulder. 

‘What makes you so stupid, child?” she asked, a little 
anxiously. 

Suddenly Judith sprang to her feet. Her face was 
white. 


328 WILD GEESE 


“Who’re you to be talkin’ to me?” she cried harshly. 
“Vou don’t know—anything—about me! I don’t be- 
long to you—or him. I don’t belong here. And I’m 
goin’ away. Right now—to-night—” her voice came in 
gasps, almost unintelligibly—“—and I don’t care—what 
happens! He can put me in jail—if he wants to. He 
can kill me—or you—or everybody. I don’t care, I’m 
goin’! And you can’t stop me! You can’t stop me, do 
you hear!” She flung her body forward and Amelia re- 
coiled, aghast at her vehemence. Her eyes were terrible 
to see. Then suddenly she shrank backward and sat 
on the bed. Her head dropped and her arms hung limp 
at her sides. She had become in an instant almost help- 
less. 

Amelia stared at her. “You shan’t go—you shan’t go, 
Judith! I forbid you to go! Ill tell him—TI’ll go out 
and tell him now, if you don’t take back those words,” she 
said evenly. “You are not going to leave this farm.” 

“Your talkin’ doesn’t do any good,” Judith said dully. 
“T’ve got to go.” 

Amelia’s eyes fastened upon her. “What do you 
mean—you’ve got to go?” she demanded. 

Judith stood erect. Her eyes were cold and emotion- 
less. “It’s none of your business—what. I’ve said I’ve 
got to go. That’s enough. You don’t care anything 
about me—why should I tell you anything? Go away 
and leave me alone.” 

The older woman’s eyes swept over her. Amelia felt 
suddenly as if cold water had been poured into her 
veins. The inevitable knowledge had come to her. 
Judith was going to have a child. 


WILD GEESE 329 


Without another word Amelia turned and walked care- 
fully down the stairs. She felt as if a terrific, incog- 
nizable world had opened upon her. She had need of 
something familiar to cling to. As she crossed the din- 
ing room the floor seemed to swim up toward her. In 
the kitchen she stirred the fire and put more water in 
the tea kettle. Then she beat up a custard and began 
to peel potatoes for supper. One by one the others 
came in from the yard. The Teacher returned from the 
Sandbos’. Ellen began to set the table in the other room. 
The natural routine was, mercifully, still going on. 

Caleb was in high spirits that evening. A group of 
horse traders had passed by and he had made a profitable 
deal with them. He discussed the trade with Martin at 
some length. 

“The fires up north have turned east. Swept out five 
homesteads, they said. No danger of us gettin’ it down 
here—no danger at all. The rangers have checked it 
on this side,’ he said comfortably. “It’s been dry 
though. Good thing they controlled it just when they 
did. Couldn’t of stopped it down this way, if it once got 
a hold, eh, Martin?” 

Martin agreed that it would have been a bad situation. 

“Goin’ to have a good time to-night, everybody?” 
Caleb went on, including them all this time, magnan- 
imously. ‘What ’er you goin’ to wear, Ellen? You'll 
be the belle of the ball, like as not, eh?” He winked 
good-naturedly at Ellen, who contrived to half smile in 
response. 

Caleb let his eyes rest on Amelia with an amused 
twinkle. Amelia was so transparent. It was almost no 


330 WILD GEESE 


trick to follow her thoughts. At this moment, for in- 
stance, she was joking with Martin and Charlie about 
not eating too much at supper lest they be unable to rel- 
ish the jubilee feast. She was trying to hide her real 
- feelings. Well, he would do her justice—she was not 
doing so badly—not so badly. 

The girls went to the loft immediately after they had 
done the milking, and Lind helped them dress. Their 
brief comments on the costumes she had made them were 
pathetic to the Teacher. They were afraid to say too 
much lest they should seem ignorant of and unused to 
such frivolous array. But Lind understood them, and 
was unhurt by their seeming indifference. 

When they were finally dressed she stood them both 
off at arm’s length and exclaimed, ‘‘You’ll be the prettiest 
girls at the party! Wait and see if I’m not right!” 

“No, we won’t, Lind—you’ll be,” Judith said. She 
looked down at herself and half sighed. Lind had made 
a flowing white Greek robe for her, of delicate material, 
which might with slight alterations be worn as a dress. 
Jude blushed slightly as she thought of the significant 
color. She felt ponderous in the garment. Her shoul- 
ders seemed too large for it, her arms too strong. It 
was the kind of thing more fitting for Lind. 

“Tf I take a deep breath this will fall off me, Lind,” 
she said doubtfully. 

Lind laughed. “Oh, scarcely, Judie. You really look 
glorious in it, with your dark hair and shining eyes. 
And so does Ellen in hers.” 

Downstairs Amelia ran the separator. Her mind was 
stumbling about among confused objects that seemed 


WILD GEESE Sah 


to have no relation to each other, but the old familiar 
tasks came easily to hand. Jude, then, must go away. 
That was what she had meant. There could be no doubt 
of it. She had read it in her face. She remembered the 
look in her own face, years ago, when she had confronted 
herself in the glass. 

Judith would have to go away. With Sven. Caleb 
would hold her responsible. He had promised he would 
hold her responsible. It was a thing like this that he 
had been waiting for. What would happen now? What 
would happen? Would Mark Jordan believe the story? 
Would Lind Archer believe it? Who was she, a poor 
down-trodden woman of the land, to be the mother of 
Mark Jordan? It would be a dreadful blow to find him 
unable to believe it—unwilling to believe it. And yet 
Caleb had proof. He would have to accept it. What 
then? Would Lind Archer change toward him—or he 
toward her, feeling himself unworthy? What would be- 
come of them all? What would become of Mark Jordan, 
who had grown to manhood in the belief that he was 
well-born? How would he adjust himself to the truth? 
No—no, he must not know—he must not know. Some- 
how she must outwit Caleb. She must match his cun- 
ing with her own. She must pit her whole soul against 
his will. Somehow ...somehow. Even if it came 
to... Judith had not been sure enough with the ax. 
What did life mean, anyway, for her, Amelia? 

She watched the last drop of cream enter the con- 
tainer under the separator, then she lifted it from the 
floor and poured the cream into a large can beside her. 
The can would be full to send with Skuli Erickson on 


332 | WILD GEESE 


Monday. She must remember to have Martin paint the 
name on the outside of it more plainly before Skuli took 
it away. Lately old cans had been sent back because the 
name was not clearly written on them. The cans be- 
longed to Skuli, anyway, and it was only right that he 
should get his own property back. 

She heard Judith and Ellen come down the stairs with 
Lind Archer. Immediately after them came the boys. 
They all appeared in the kitchen to show themselves to 
Amelia. She managed a smile of pleased surprise as 
they stood before her. 

“Where on earth—is this your work, Teacher?” she 
exclaimed to Lind. “That was nice of you, I declare! 
My, don’t they look fine!” 

She turned the boys around admiringly. Martin 
grinned and was apparently enjoying the novelty. 
Charlie regarded his high pointed cap in the glass on 
the wall, and cocked it a little more to one side. 

Judith returned to the inner room while the others 
still stood and talked with Amelia. She suddenly felt 
faint from the suppressed excitement of getting ready. 
And the knowledge that Amelia had guessed the truth 
about her bored dully into her brain. She had wanted 
none of them to know. They were not fine enough to 
know. They would denounce her for the thing she re- 
garded with pride. She belonged to another, clear, 
brave world of true instincts, she told herself. They 
were muddled, confused souls, not daring to live honestly. 
Living only for the earth, and the product of the soil, 
they were meager and warped. She had not wanted them 
to know. Well—now that Amelia knew she would not 


WILD GEESE 333 


stop her from going away—she could not stop her. 
Judith looked from the window. In the corral Caleb was 
bringing out the team, Prince and Lady. He would 
harness them, probably. He was in a very good-natured, 
playful mood. 

The sun was dropping behind the poplar grove, and 
the trees stood before it like long black bars. Sven 
would be ready to leave soon. He had sent word through 
Lind that he would meet her at Latt’s School, to avoid 
any trouble with Caleb. It was safer that way. From 
there they would leave for Nykerk. He would arrange 
with somebody at the Siding to take his team back home. 
There was a train that stopped there for a few minutes 
on Saturday nights. Judith had never seen a train. 
Neither had Ellen, or Martin, although they had been 
at the Siding many times. They had seen flat cars 
standing on the tracks. But never a train. It must be 
marvelously free riding on a train. Like the Magic 
Carpet she remembered about when she was a child at 
school. Going somewhere—away to another place. 
Just away—that was enough. But with Sven, that was 
heaven. ‘Tears sprang into her eyes. It could not be 
that the night had at last come. She could scarcely con- 
trol her excitement. 

She sat down on a chair near the window, got up again 
and walked across the floor to the organ, where she picked 
out a few notes of Ellen’s favorite song, Ben Bolt. ‘Then 
she jumped up again and went out of doors, passing 
Amelia and the others in the kitchen. She saw that 
Caleb was, indeed, harnessing the horses. She returned 
to the kitchen and told the others that it was time they 


334 WILD GEESE 


were getting into their coats. Her hands trembled so 
that she had difficulty in putting on her own things. 

Amelia placed a cloth and paper over the basket of 
food they were bringing as a contribution to the feast. 
Her thoughts bounded about uncontrolled in her mind. 
Judith—Judith. Herself over again. Judith must go. 
Enough to have one life ruined. Not Judith’s, too. 
“History repeating itself,’ Caleb would mock at her. 
Judith was her child, all right, with all of her virtues, 
hah! Amelia could hear his sneering laugh. It took 
more than one generation to wipe out bad blood, he would 
say. Judith’s indiscretion would ring in her ears forever. 
She could not stand it—she could not stand it. Her 
brain reeled. She straightened up and placed her hand 
to her head. 

“What is it, Mrs Gare?” Lind asked softly. She had 
come up to the table where Amelia was preparing the 
basket. ‘‘Headache?” 

Amelia smiled at her. “Just a littlhe—worked hard 
to-day getting the potatoes in,” she said. 

Ellen, Martin and Charlie, ready to go, said good-by 
to Amelia. Judith stood before her when the others had 
gone out with Lind. ‘Good-by,” she muttered, “T’ll 
write to you—if you want.” 

Amelia’s hands moved spasmodically toward the girl, 
then fell stiffly to her sides. ‘‘Yes—write, Judie,” Amelia 
whispered, her mouth dry. “Good-by, Jude.” Then 
Judith was gone. She had not stopped her. 

She had not stopped her. Amelia stared at the vacant 
doorway through which she had gone, as if she expected 
to see her return. Her fingers opened and closed over 


WILD GEESE SoD 


her hot, moist palms. Judith was gone. She had had 
to go. She, Amelia, had let her go. There was a ring- 
ing tumult in her ears. Mark Jordan would know now 
. . . but another young life would not be ruined as hers 
had been . . . the room seemed to grow dark and in- 
tolerably warm... 

Amelia went and leaned against the side of the door- 
way, looking out. Caleb was hustling the children 
jovially into the wagon. Lind stood smiling up at them. 
Now they were off—driving through the gate. Caleb 
was waving after them. There—he closed the gate. 
There was only a narrow streak of gold threading through 
the poplars. Caleb entered the barn. Lind returned 
to the house, and Amelia withdrew into the other room. 

Lind went upstairs to her room, and Amelia looked 
about for something to do. She dreaded being alone 
and unoccupied. All her pent-up emotion would break 
out if she did not get to work at something at once. She 
decided to start a new pair of socks for Martin. Then 
she could find only four of her knitting needles. She kept 
new ones in a drawer of the secretary. She went to it 
and found that somehow the lock of the drawer had got 
caught and she could not open it. She gave the handle 
of it a jerk, and when it flew open the front of the drawer 
above it fell out. It was the drawer in which Caleb kept 
all his correspondence and papers safely locked away. 
Amelia straightened up, frightened. She tried to put 
the front of the drawer back in place, but it would not 
fit. She hurried to the window and looked out. There 
was no sign of Caleb. 

For fully a minute she stood before the secretary, un- 


336 WILD GEESE 


decidedly hovering over it. Then she dropped to her 
knees and snatched out the handful of papers and letters 
it contained. Most of them were yellow and ragged with 
age. No one wrote to Caleb now, or had any dealings 
with him, except at the bank. There were one or two 
documents and land deeds, newer in color. But there 
was one envelope addressed in a cramped hand. Amelia 
knew the writing. It was Bart Nugent’s. Nervously 
she drew out the letter. It was brief and almost impos- 
sible to decipher. But Amelia made out from it that 
Bart Nugent was dying at the time it was written. The 
date was obscure. With numb hands she fumbled 
through the other papers and found a letter sent from a 
hospital in the city. It apprised Caleb Gare of the death 
of Bart Nugent, stating that it was the dying man’s last 
request that the enclosed letter should be sent to him. 
The letter was dated nearly six months before. Bart 
had lived just long enough to let Caleb know that Mark 
Jordan was coming to Oeland. 

Amelia sank to the floor and leaned against the secre- 
tary. Hysteria seized her. She was still sitting there 
with the litter of yellow papers and envelopes about her 
when Lind came down stairs. The Teacher had heard 
her sobbing while she was in the loft above. She knelt 
down beside Amelia and put her arm about her heaving 
shoulders. 

“What is it—what is it, Mrs Gare?” she cried. 

Amelia drew herself up with a tremendous effort. 
“Never—never mind. It’s nothing,’ she said breath- 
lessly. “Help me fix this, will you—quick.” 

Lind gathered the papers hastily together, and put them 


WILD. GEESE 337 


back in the drawer. Then she inserted the front of the 
drawer while Amelia tapped it lightly with a small ham- 
mer she got from the kitchen. It was finally in its place 
again. 

They were no more than away from the secretary when 
Caleb came in. Lind’s heart was beating nervously. 

‘““They have a fine evenin’ for it—a fine evenin’,’”’ Caleb 
declared in a pleasant voice. “I’m going to take one of 
the nags I bought out for a trial. Wouldn’t like to come, 
eh, mother?” 

“‘No—not to-night, Caleb. I’m starting a new pair of 
socks for Martin,’’ Amelia said calmly. 

‘All right—all right. You women sure like work,” he 
observed in a mild tone. Then he went out once more. 

Lind sat down and breathed freely again. Whatever 
it was, a catastrophe had been averted. Amelia’s face 
had been for a moment distorted with fear. 

The Teacher returned to her room, where she was go- 
ing over some school work. She and Mark had planned 
not to go to the affair at Latt’s School until late in the 
evening, as it would last all night and they would have 
had enough of it even though they weren’t among the 
first arrivals. 

A wind was coming up, and whistled thinly under the 
eaves of the log house. It made its way into Lind’s 
mood and haunted her. Again there came to her the 
feeling that something evil was in store. 

She waited uneasily for the hours to pass so that she 
might go out to meet Mark on the road. The Sandbos’ 
pony was already in the barn for her to ride. She would 
go out soon and lead the animal to the watering trough. 


338 WILD GEESE 


It would be something to do. And then she decided that 
she would not water him until just before she would 
leave. 

The house was heavy with mystery. What was the 
reason for Amelia’s breaking into the drawer of the 
secretary? And why had she acted so strangely? Lind 
felt herself the victim of a bewildering fear. From some- 
where out on the marshes she heard the call of a loon. 
And the wind whined under the eaves. Lind wanted 
Mark near her. His presence was reassuring, always. 
But was it? It was he who needed her. He needed her 
to keep him from himself, to keep him from his isolation. 
Lind felt warmed by the thought. 


2 


The school house beyond Latt’s Slough was festooned 
with sheaves of wheat and yellow corn husks and colored 
paper lanterns hung from the ceiling. The great Mathias 
Bjarnasson played the fiddle on a low stool in the corner, 
and an accordeon and an organ were keeping pace with 
him. The shuffle of heavy feet could be heard above 
the music, and against the colored light of the lanterns 
the dust rose in a gray sheet. But there was no limit to 
the merriment among the dancers. 

Ellen was carried out of herself by the attention the 
young Icelanders showed her. She felt giddy from the 
noise and the music. But beneath the ripple of excite- 
ment, there was a flat, hard ache. Malcolm had loved 
to dance. It was he who had taught her the few steps 
she knew. 


WILD GEESE 339 


Suddenly she realized that she had not seen Judith for. 
some time. She went out to the porch of the school 
house and glanced about. ‘There were a number of people 
seated on the railings and the steps to get fresher air 
between dances. But she could not see Judith. She 
returned indoors and sought out Martin and Charlie. 
Neither of them had seen Judith for over an hour. 

Ellen’s eyes drew into a straight, narrow line. 

“She’s gone,” she said to herself. Tears sprang into 
her eyes. They were tears of vexation and something 
akin to envy. 


The trail to Nykerk led for a considerable distance 
through timber and then broke upon the bare prairie. 
Judith and Sven rode in the latter’s buggy over the long 
miles through the bush without meeting a soul. Every- 
one was at the jubilee. Judith kept urging the horse on 
and looking back now and then to see that they were not 
being followed. 

““Say—cut that out,” Sven commanded at last, seizing 
her roughly about the shoulders and kissing her. “If 
you look back once again, Ill i 

It was starlight now and a wind had risen. The dry- 
leafed branches along the road rubbed each other and 
made an uncanny sound. Judith moved closer to Sven. 

“We'll have to hurry if we’re going to make the train,” 
he said, spanking the horses with the reins. 

Ahead of them a team rumbled over a small wooden 
bridge. Someone was coming. Judith raised her head 
defiantly. 

“Wa-al! Who’s this?” a voice called out. Judith 





340 WILD GEESE 


recognized it as that of Thorvald Thorvaldson. They 
had come upon the prairie road, and had met him on the 
forks that led south. 

Sven exchanged a brief hello with him and passed on. 
But Thorvald had seen Judith. They knew that by the 
chuckle that sounded after him. 

“Well—he’ll not be seeing dim until to-morrow at the 
earliest. And by that time we’ll be in town,” Sven com- 
mented, and squeezed Jude’s hand. She returned a quick, 
nervous pressure. 

The touch of her hand excited Sven. He quickly for- 
got all the misfortune that threatened their journey, and 
drew Judith over upon his knees. She clung to him and 
felt deliciously small and helpless. His arms surround- 
ing her, he held the reins and drove all the way to Nykerk 
without changing his position. 


3 


Thorvald thought it a good joke. Too good to keep. 
It wasn’t so late but what he might find Caleb up if he 
drove to his farm. So when he reached the road upon 
which his own farm was situated, he continued eastward 
to the Gares’. 

Caleb was going the rounds to see that everything was 
safe for the night when Thorvald drove up to the gate. 

“I will not stop,” he told Caleb, keeping his seat in 
the cart. ‘Thought you should like to know somet’ings.” 

Caleb peered at him. ‘Well—out with it, man—out 
with it!” He was losing his patience with this Thorvald- 
son. 


WILD GEESE 341 


“Wa-al, now, you maybe wait,” the Icelander said, 
enjoying his advantage for once. ‘Why, perhaps, is 
your purty daughter on the way to Nykerk when all 
others they are at the jubilee, eh?” 

Caleb was silent for only a moment. “Oh!” he 
laughed. ‘You fool yourself, Thorvald. You fool 
yourself! She’s not goin’ to Nykerk. She’s goin’ to 
fetch one of the Teacher’s friends from up west way. 
No—no, Thorvald.” 

Thorvald threw back his head. “Not so smart, Caleb 
Gare, are you. Who wass with her then, but this young 
feller, Sven Sandbo? Hah, hah!” He turned the horse 
about and drove off down the road, laughing as he 
went. 

Caleb stood in the road and looked after him, his heavy 
head drooping forward. ‘“She’s gone—she’s gone!” he 
muttered to himself. Then a bedeviling fury broke loose 
within him. 

He rushed to the barn and threw open the door. He 
struck a match and looked at the wall where the ax 
had been buried. There was a hole in the wall where 
the rotted wood had dropped out with the weight of the 
ax. The ax lay on the floor, still deep in the wood 
that had fallen with it. Caleb backed out of the barn 
and the match was blown out by the wind. 


4. 


Fusi Aronson had been burning out a stretch of willows 
that day, intending to clear the land for planting next 
year. The willows grew in soggy ground, where the 


342 WILD GEESE 


grass was matted deep. Darkness came down upon him 
before he had finished the job, and he carefully stamped 
out every glow of the fire he had been watching. He 
had started burning the willows out at a short distance: 
from the edge of Caleb Gare’s timber—the timber that 
used to be his own. He was confident that not a spark 
of the fire remained at that end of the burned stretch. 
But the day had been calm and treacherous. With night- 
fall came the wind. 

Smouldering cinders under the thick black web of burnt 
grass grew to a red glow. The glow quickened in the 
bits of dry grass that remained—spread underground 
through the roots of the willows, and was caught in the 
wind that lifted it into the timber. Because there had 
been a smell of smoke abroad all day from Fusi’s willows, 
those who remained at Sandbos’ thought nothing of it. 
And the wind was directly south, so it did not penetrate 
immediately westward to the Gares’. But within an 
amazingly short time the fire rose like a flaming feather 
fan against the sky, and hurtled southward. 


5 


Caleb stepped softly into the kitchen. He could see 
Amelia sitting in the other room, her head bent over her 
knitting. Carefully he closed the door behind him. 

“Done it at last, eh?” he chuckled. Amelia looked up. 
She stepped forward and laid her knitting on the table. 
Something was wrong. But he could not possibly have 
found out about Jude already. 

Caleb stood before her, his hands behind his back. 


WILD GEESE 343 


“You tell him, Amelia,” he said softly. “You'll tell 
him—to-night.”’ | 

““What—tell who?” Amelia stuttered. 

“You know well enough what I mean. Heh! Had 
your nerve, eh, sending her off when you knew what was 
comin’? Youw’re goin’ to Klovaczs’ now and tell him— 
tell him all about it, your pretty son! Are you gettin’ 
ready ?”’ 

Amelia looked him squarely in the face. ‘“No,’’ she 
said between her teeth. “I am not.” 

“You’re not, eh? Well—we’ll see if you’re not!” He 
drew his hands from behind his back and Amelia saw the 
huge cattle whip he held. 

“Have your choice, Amelia—have your choice! He'll 
find out anyway, but I’d rather you’d tell him. He in- 
sulted me one day, and I’d like him to see that I’m above 
retaliatin’!’”? He raised his eyebrows at her and smiled. 

“T tell you, Ill not/’’? Amelia cried. He advanced upon 
her a step, confident that he could, as usual, frighten her 
into submission with a look. But Amelia faced him 
without cringing. 

He stooped and looked into her eyes. There was no 
fear in them. For the first time in her life Amelia was 
not afraid of Caleb Gare. 

Caleb raised the whip and struck. His face was livid 
with wrath—wrath at her resistance. What had become 
of his power over her? She recoiled when the whip bit 
into her flesh, but she did not cry out. 

“Not a whimper, eh? Like it, maybe. Are you 
comin’? No? Then Ill show you who youw’re answerin’ 
to round here—i’ll show you!” 


344 WILD GEESE 


His voice was rising to a thin, high pitch. He was be- 
side himself now, baffled and furious at her endurance. 
Amelia cowered in the corner between the organ and the 
wall. She kept her eyes unwaveringly upon him. 
Steadily in her mind, like a balance of fine weights, she 
kept the thought that all depended upon her will now. 
Bart Nugent was gone. Once Mark Jordan got away 
from Oeland no harm could reach him. 

Caleb reached out his long arm and caught her by the 
hand, throwing her into the middle of the room. 

Lind, who had been listening in paralyzed horror above, 
now came running down the stairs.. Caleb had his back 
to her. She saw the whip and flung herself upon him. 
“I did it—I sent her away!” she cried wildly. ‘Leave 
her alone—I did it!” 

Caleb turned slowly and looked at her, a curious smile 
on his face. 

“Heh! You did! No, you didn’t. Don’t try to lie 
to me, Miss. It wouldn’t give me any satisfaction to 
know that you did it. She did it.” He pointed with 
the butt of the whip at Amelia, on the floor. Then he 
turned again to Lind. “Get out!” he shouted hoarsely. 
“Get out before I throw you out!” 

Lind shot a glance at Amelia and ran out of the house. 
She stumbled over the ruts of the cattle yard until she 
came to the gate. Sobbing and trembling from head to 
foot, she climbed over it and kept on running blindly 
down the trail toward the Sandbos’. Surely Mark must 
be coming! She raised her head to see if he were in 
sight. Then an astounding spectacle met her eyes, and 
at once she perceived that the air was thick with smoke. 


WILD GEESE 345 


North of the trail the timber had become a blazing spume 
that was being thrown southward by the wind. Even 
at this distance she could hear the roar of the flames. 
For many seconds she was unable to move. Where was 
Mark? Had he passed the neck of timber? Were the 
Sandbos safe? What would happen to Amelia, indoors 
with Caleb? She ran down the road a bit, scarcely 
thinking of what she was doing. Then she made out a 
horse coming along the trail, and heard the swift hoof- 
beats. In another moment Mark reined in beside her, 
and dismounted. 

“Lind!” he cried, throwing his arm about her, ‘‘we’re 
in for it!” 

Lind broke away. ‘Mark—hurry—Caleb is killing 
Amelia!” 

Amelia still had consciousness. Caleb leaned forward 
over her. His face was twisted with disbelief. He 
could not bring himself to admit that she had beaten him 
—beaten him in the very crisis of her life. The moment 
he had waited for had come. And she had cheated him. 
He would be forced to tell Mark Jordan himself now if 
he wanted it told. Little satisfaction in that—little in- 
deed—a clumsy business. He stepped back from her 
prostrate body. Cold realization came upon him sud- 
denly. He had spent all his will on her—with no effect. 
She had broken him. Broken him in the crisis. Some- 
thing crumbled within him, like an old wall, leaving bare 
his spirit. His sanity came back to him, the cold clear 
sanity that had been gone from him during the years of 
his hatred. It was like sudden, clarifying sobriety after 
a drunken brawl. Shame and self-loathing broke upon 


346 WILD GEESE 


him over-poweringly. He lunged aside and made for 
the door, feeling his way as if he had gone suddenly 
blind—blind with sight. His eyes were half closed. 

Outside he lifted his face to the air. A pungent odor 
struck his nostrils. Then, his eyes opening, he saw the 
east sky. 

“God!” he shouted. He felt his brain splitting. He 
ran down the sheep pasture to see more clearly the ex- 
tent to which the fire had spread. The wind was due 
south. 

Caleb rushed to the tool shed and dragged out a small 
plow. Then he got one of the work horses out of the 
corral and hitched it to the plow. He let down the bars 
of the sheep pasture and lashed the horse furiously, 
driving him toward the southern point of the timber he 
had bought of Fusi Aronson. He would have to plow 
a fire-guard around it so that the flames would not jump 
to the bush on the east. Once into the bush, it would 
have a clean sweep to the edge of the flax field. There 
had been no fires here for years. He had thought a fire 
guard between the bush and the flax would be a waste 
of land.... 

Back at the house Lind and Mark came in upon 
Amelia. She had dragged herself to the couch and was 
lying there motionless. Mark stood in the doorway 
while Lind bent over her. 

“Dear Mrs Gare,” Lind whispered, “has he gone?” 

Amelia nodded. She was unable to speak. 

“Let me get you some water,” the Teacher said. 
“Mark Jordan is here. If he comes back he won’t dare 
to do anything.” 


WILD GEESE 347 


Lind put her hand under Amelia’s head. She ap- 
peared to have fainted. “Mark—get me some water,” 
Lind said quickly. 

Presently Amelia sat up and half smiled at them. She 
brushed the disordered hair back from her face, and drew 
her collar over a great red welt on her neck. 

“Tf I had known he would carry on like that, I should 
have done everything I could to prevent Judith from go- 
ing,” Lind said regretfully. ‘Although I am sure she 
would have gone anyway.” 

‘““Ves—she would have gone,’ Amelia said in a weak 
voice. “I wanted her to go.” 

Lind hid her surprise. 

“We'll have to tell Mrs Gare, I’m afraid, Lind,” Mark 
said then. “She may have to be prepared to leave.” He 
glanced at the woman pityingly, and with rage in his heart 
for Caleb Gare. If he had only come a little sooner 

Amelia looked up quickly. “What is it?” she asked. 

“The bush is burning,” Mark told her. “Making 
south—it will be almost at the trail by this time. And 
there’s a strong wind. [I'll have to ride to Yellow Post 
and get help.” 

Amelia straightened up. ‘Where has he gone?” she 
asked. “He must have taken the plow out—” She got 
to her feet unsteadily and ran to the door. When she 
saw the burning timber she made an exclamation of dis- 
may: Mark hurried after her. 

“Yl go to Yellow Post,” he said. “Lind, you’d bet- 
ter stay here with Mrs Gare. Ill come back by way of 
the west road. We can’t do anything alone with that 
gale.” 





348 WILD GEESE 


“Wait, Mark,” Lind kissed him quickly. “Take care 
of yourself.” Amelia opened the door for him and he ran 
out. 

It was a matter of minutes before the fire would reach 
the road leading to Yellow Post on the east. Mark rode 
as he had never ridden before in his life. He passed 
safely through the neck of timber and left the roar of 
the flames behind him, heading south. Then he looked 
back, and could make out against the glare the figure 
of a man stooping forward over a plow, driving a horse 
before him. It was Caleb Gare, trying to cut off the fire 
at the southern extremity of the timber he had bought of 
Fusi Aronson. Mark knew it was futile work. The 
wind would launch flaming torches into the bush a short 
distance from the place where Caleb was plowing, long 
before it got to the stubble of the hayfield at the edge 
of the timber. Because of the direction of the wind, 
Caleb might with great good luck save the hay. But the 
bush south of Fusi’s timber was doomed. And adjacent 
to it stood Caleb’s flax field, dry and rich with oil... . 

Caleb faced the lurid column of flame and smoke on 
the north and beat the horse, pressing down with all 
his strength on the plow share. Presently the heat ad- 
vanced, and with it tiny sharp sparks that stung the face 
and hands like buck-shot. But Caleb did not feel it. 
He had only one thought—to confine the fire to the neck 
of timber. He cursed himself for having permitted Mar- 
tin to go to the jubilee. With Martin here the thing 
would be simple. He looked up and saw great bright 
flakes sailing through the air, accompanied by darker 
flakes. He coughed and sputtered from the smoke and 


WILD GEESE 349 


once or twice the horse stumbled. But he would not 
yield, although the heat was becoming terrific. The horse 
would probably bolt—there was that danger. He must 
get the most out of him before he became unmanageable. 
To and fro he plowed, across the whole end of the neck 
of timber. The roar from the north seemed to shake 
the sky and the earth. When Caleb had finally plowed 
the entire stretch between the two pieces of timber, the 
trees on the north were glowing just a short distance 
inward from the edge of the stubble he had turned up. 
He whipped the horse and turned him toward home. 
The exhausted animal used his last bit of strength in a 
gallop across the field toward the sheep pasture. Caleb 
ran after him to escape the intense heat. 

In the farm yard he looked back. A single tree at 
the end of the bush south of the strip he had plowed was 
waving like a plume of fire. Caleb stood staring at it 
stupidly. Then he groaned. His work had been all 
for nothing. He ran toward the house. There was only 
one thing to do. Plow a division through the flax and 
burn the part nearest the bush. From old habit, he lit 
the lantern, ignoring Amelia and Lind who were waiting 
in terror in the other room. 

When Caleb started across the fields southward, with 
a fresh horse, he saw that the fire had got well into the 
bush and was sweeping everything before it. He drove 
the horse like a madman. There was a remote chance 
of making it. He must have that chance. The flax 
must be saved, the beautiful flax, rich and strong 

. . acres and acres of it. ... He looked back and 
saw that the fire was gaining on him. It was swell- 


350 WILD GEESE 


ing against the sky in great blown clouds of flame and 
smoke. If it weren’t for the wind he could get ahead of 
it. He saw presently that it was of no use trying to plow 
a fire-guard. He would have to burn the flax a distance 
inward from the bush without plowing. He would be 
careful to stamp it out as he went along. It would not 
have to spread. 

He let the horse go, left the plow on the field and ran 
on alone. In the bush the flames were leaping from tree 
to tree like grotesque, golden animals. Even alone he 
could never cover all the distance around the muskeg. 
Damn that muskeg! And yet—the autumn had been 
extremely dry. Perhaps it would hold the weight of a 
man. No—no, this was madness. The muskeg had not 
been dry for years. All summer it had been full of water 
holes. He hurried on, panting from his exertion. He 
would have to get around the muskeg and the dried lake 
bottom. It was a mile out of his way, but he would have 
to make it. The flax must be saved. He might have 
ridden the horse. But the animal would have gone wild. 
From the tail of his eye he could see the fire now, with- 
out turning his head. 

Caleb stumbled over a rut in the field and lay for a 
moment without being able to breathe. The earth 
seemed to be playing him a trick. He got to his hands 
and knees and looked toward the burning timber. It 
seemed to have jumped forward half a mile while he lay 
on the ground. He picked up the lantern which was still 
lighted, and rushed toward the muskeg. A shattering 
rage at the fire seized him. It seemed to be taunting him 
with human ingenuity. He would beat it with all its 


WILD GEESE 351 


tricks. The earth under him became black and began 
to give beneath his feet like cushions. He ran on blindly, 
conscious only of the direction in which the flax field 
lay. The fire was gaining with every moment. The 
wind kept up its velocity. Now silky reeds were begin- 
ning to tangle themselves about Caleb’s legs. They im- 
peded his progress. He stepped higher so as to crush 
them under foot. The earth seemed to billow like water. 
But Caleb paid no heed. He clung to the lantern and 
rushed on, his head leaning far forward, his shoulders high. 
Then suddenly, something seemed to be tugging at his 
feet. He could not release them. Water was oozing into 
his shoes and pushing up about his ankles. He was close 
to the timber now, so that he could feel the gusty heat 
from the fire, but the water about his legs was colder 
than ice. He bent down and pulled at the reeds in an 
effort to jerk his feet free. But the strength in the earth 
was irresistible. His arms were those of a feeble puppet 
fanning at the air. He stood upright again and strained 
with all his might. But the insidious force in the earth 
drew him in deeper. He raised the lantern as far as he 
could stretch and signaled toward the farm house. He 
shouted but his voice was carried away in the wind and 
lost in the roar from the burning timber. He reached 
his arms outward toward the flax, as if in supplication 
to its generous breadth. The fire had now got past the 
point where he was sinking in the black mud. He turned 
away so that he should not see it. But he knew that his 
position would force him to look upon it to theend ... 
unless he closed his eyes. He bent down and pulled 
frantically at the reeds, but they gave way at the roots 


352 WILD GEESE 


and came up in slippery clods. He fell back upon his 
hands and clutched fistfuls of the wet sod, straining 
at his legs. His hat fell off and his pointed locks of hair 
tossed about uncouthly with the twisting and heaving 
of his body. 

Disconnected images began to pass before him. He 
closed his eyes but they continued to come. Thorvald- 
son, rejoicing when he heard what had happened to him. 
Fusi Aronson, on whose land he was about to die. 
Amelia . . . he had failed there, bitterly . . . and Mark 
Jordan, who was not his son . . . the ax buried in the 
rotten wood of the barn wall... . 

The fire was racing ahead. Only a little while now, 
and it would have the flax . . . a fine, abundant growth 
it was ... only a little while . . . ah, the over-strong 
embrace of the earth . . . Caleb closed his eyes. He felt 
tired, too tired to struggle any more. He had given his 
soul to the flax . .. well, it would go with him. He 
could see it shimmering still, gray-silver, where the light 
of the fire fell upon it. The earth was closing ice-cold, 
tight, tight, about his body .. . but the flax would go 
with him ... the flax... 


From the door of the log house Amelia spoke to Lind. 

“Look—his lantern is standing still—low down. 
Teacher, isn’t that where the muskeg ought to be?” 

Lind came to the doorway and looked out, her eyes 
following the older woman’s. She felt a long shudder 
pass through Amelia’s body. 

“Yes,” she replied in a whisper. 


CHAPTER XXIII 
1 


OcTOBER came, and the languid peace of Indian sum- 
mer. In the early morning a milky scud hid the horizon, 
but by noon the entire sky was clear and blue as a hare- 
bell. And over everything was a profound silence, as if 
somewhere a hand had been raised commanding rever- 
ence. It was a time of rest on the Gare farm. 

Amelia was quiet and serene, and went about her work 
as before. But she did not do it hurriedly now, crowd- 
ing her day full of unnecessary tasks. 

Martin journeyed to the city, and there saw Jude and 
Sven. He found them very happy, and carried this news, 
together with a plan for the New House, back to the 
farm with him. Ellen received both items of informa- 
tion morosely, with secret indignation. 

Young Erik Bjarnasson came to the Gares’ one day. 

“There is good fishing now, in the lake,” he said to 
Martin. ‘We want you should come over any time you 
will.” 

Martin thanked him and told the others about it at 
supper. 

“T don’t think you ought,” said Ellen. ‘He didn’t 
invite father to.” 

“Well—” said Martin slowly. He was thinking of 


a humiliating day in midsummer, when Erik had seen the 
353 


354 WILD GEESE 


fish-pole in the back of the wagon. “Well—I’m not 
goin’ to look like a fool by mot. And I’m not goin’ to 
insult Erik by not.” 

On another day, Mrs Sandbo came. Amelia Gare 
made her at home and served her with excellent coffee, 
bought in the city. Mrs Sandbo noticed that the coffee 
was not the brand obtainable at Johanneson’s, but con- 
tained her curiosity. Privately, she thought it almost in- 
decent of Amelia to put on airs so soon. Buying town 
coffee so immediately after— Well, she, for one, wouldn’t 
say anything... . 

The first hoar frost came, and Lind woke one morning 
to find the earth covered with white, powdered glass. 
The sun took its glitter within a few minutes, but the 
land was not the same after it had gone. It seemed to 
have left a shadow over the stubble and over the short 
brown grass of the pastures to the west, and over the 
black corpses of the trees that had been ravished by the 
fire. The days that followed were as full of mellow 
radiance as those that had gone before, the wind was as 
soft and the sky as intimate a blue, but there had come 
a change in the mood of the earth. 

Then Lind heard the honking of the first wild goose, 
high overhead. On a night that was cold with moon- 
light she heard it, a full, clear trumpeting, in a sky that 
was vacant of clouds. The wild geese were passing over 
—passing over the haunts of man in their remote seeking 
toward the swamps of the south. They marked the be- 
ginning and the end of the period of growth. Next year 
they would fill the sky with their cold, lonely clamor at 


WILD GEESE 355 


sowing time, and again when the earth would have 
closed in upon itself after yielding its growth. But next 
year Caleb Gare would not be here to note their coming 
or their going. 

Lind felt humble as she heard the wild geese go over. 
There was an infinite cold passion in their flight, like the 
passion of the universe, a proud mystery never to be 
solved. She knew in her heart that Mark Jordan was 
like them—that he stood inevitably alone. But because 
of the human need in him, he had come to her. It 
warmed her to dwell on the thought. 

The day came when Lind locked the door of the school 
house and watched the children she had taught scatter 
to the three roads that led east and west and north. 

On the following day she and Mark left Oecland, 
promising Amelia that they would return some time. 
But Amelia knew that they would never come back again, 
and in her heart she was glad. 

They drove by night to Nykerk, to take the train from 
the Siding to the city. They would leave the team in the 
livery stable there, and the Klovacz boys would get them 
the following day. 

“T wonder just what the mystery was at the Gares’,” 
Lind mused as they rumbled along in the buggy over the 
hard road. “It seemed to vanish with Caleb.” 

“Strange the way it worked out—the only thing he 
really cared for claimed him in the end,” Mark ob- 
served. 

Lind shivered a little and he put his arm about her, 
drawing her bare head down beneath his lips. 


356 WILD GEESE 


Far overhead in the night sky sounded the honking of 
the wild geese, going south now . . . a remote, trailing 
shadow ...a magnificent seeking through solitude 
. . . an endless quest... 


THE END 


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