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The Homesteaders A Novel of the Canadian West   By: (1880-1959)

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First Page:

THE HOMESTEADERS

A NOVEL OF THE CANADIAN WEST

by

Robert J. C. Stead

Author of "Kitchener and Other Poems," "Songs of the Prairie," "The Cow Puncher," ETC

The Musson Book Company Limited Publishers Toronto

FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1916.

CONTENTS

PRELUDE I. THE BECK OF FORTUNE II. INTO THE WILDERNESS III. PRAIRIE LAND IV. ROUGHING IT V. THE SHORES OF THE INFINITE VI. IN THE SPELL OF THE MIRAGE VII. THE CALL OF THE FARTHER WEST VIII. INTO THE NIGHT IX. CRUMBLING CASTLES X. INTO THE FARTHER WEST XI. THE PRICE OF "SUCCESS" XII. A WHIFF OF NEW ATMOSPHERE XIII. SETTING THE TRAP XIV. THE GAMBLERS XV. THE LURE OF EASY MONEY XVI. THE HONOUR OF THIEVES XVII. THE FIGHT IN THE FOOTHILLS XVIII. CONVERGING TRAILS XIX. PRISONERS OF FATE XX. AN INQUEST AND SOME EXPLANATIONS

THE HOMESTEADERS

PRELUDE

Six little slates clattered into place, and six little figures stood erect between their benches.

"Right! Turn!" said the master. "March! School is dismissed"; and six pairs of bare little legs twinkled along the aisle, across the well worn threshold, down the big stone step, and into the dusty road, warm with the rays of the Indian summer sun.

The master watched them from the open window until they vanished behind a ridge of beech trees that cut his vision from the concession. While they remained within sight a smile played upon the features of his strong, sun burned face, but as the last little calico dress was swallowed by the wood the smile died down, and for a moment he stood, a grave and thoughtful statue framed within the white pine casings of the sash. His sober grey eyes stared unseeing into the forest, while the light wind that stirred the golden maple leaves toyed gently with his unruly locks.

His brown study lasted only a moment. With a quick movement he walked to the blackboard, caught up a section of sheepskin, and began erasing the symbols of the day's instructions.

"Well, I suppose there's reward in heaven," he said to himself, as he set the little schoolroom in order. "There isn't much here. The farmers will pay a man more to doctor their sick sheep than to teach their children. But, of course, they get both mutton and wool from a sheep. I won't stand it longer than the spring. If others can take the chance I can take it too. If it were not for her I would go to morrow."

The last remark seemed to unlink a new chain of thought. The grey eyes lit up again. He wielded the broom briskly for a minute, then tossed it in a corner, fastened the windows, slipped a little folder into his pocket, locked the door behind him, carefully placed the key under the stone step where the first child in the morning would find it, and swung in a rapid stride down a by path leading from the little schoolhouse into the forest.

Ten minutes' quick walking in the woods, now glorious in all their autumn splendour, brought him to a point where the sky stood up, pale blue, evasive, through the trees. The next moment he was at the water's edge, and a limpid lake stretched away to where the forests of the farther shore mingled hazily with sky and water. The point where he stood was a little bay, ringed with water worn stones and hemmed around by the forest, except for one wedge of blue that broadened into the distance. He glanced about, as though expecting someone; he whistled a line of a popular song, but the only reply was from a saucy eavesdropper which, perched on a near by limb, trilled back its own liquid notes in answer.

"I may as well improve the moments consulting my chart," he remarked to his undulating image in the water. "This thing of embarking on two new seas at once calls for skilful piloting." He seated himself on a stone, drew from his pocket the folder, and spread a map before him.

In a few moments he was so engrossed that he did not hear the almost noiseless motion of a canoe as it thrust its brown nose into the blue wedge before him. The canoe slid with its own momentum gracefully through the quiet waters, suddenly revealing a picture for the heart of any artist... Continue reading book >>




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