XXVI THE RED KNIGHT SINGS OF THE FAIRIES
The sun was sinking behind a sky of golden fleeces. Through the dazzling cloud-rims streamed the lava of sunny light, flooding The Qu'Appelle with its restful glow. Below lay the lake, a rippling basin of molten gold.
Everywhere the shadowy greens of the crests were checkered with square patches of ripe wheat. Some fields were mellow for the sickle. Upon the morrow the binders would hum the overture of the harvest symphony.
Two watchers sat on the Grant lawn drinking in the liquid glow of the west. Down upon them rolled a field of Red Knight, covering the terrace to their feet. The light of a blazing summer and its dews and rains lay before them, stored in a forest of magic heads. The grain was standing thick and erect, its cream-gold surface dappled with pursuing waves of shade and shine. The eyes of the watchers rested on the sea of plumes. They were talking of it.
"Wonderful! Indeed!" exclaimed Margaret softly. "It is as wonderful as Ned and his father think it is."
"Yes!" agreed Andy. "I for one believe it will far surpass their hopes. And yet I am scarcely qualified to judge since the ride of a certain girl to the rescue of The Red Knight. His precious gold kernels were the sesame that opened her eyes. I have a natural bias toward him but he is a marvel all the same and the king of cereals. The scientists, the cereal breeders, even the millers agree with the Pullars and the farmers in pronouncing The Red Knight a wonder grain. I believe with old Edward Pullar that it will be the elixir of life to millions of farmers. It is interesting to conjure just what this will mean to the future of our country. Beyond a doubt it will draw the strong of the earth to the virile North."
Andy paused musing for a time. Then he said gently:
"There is something great, magnificently great in all this, something that dwarfs The Red Knight himself."
At his words the girl sought her companion's eyes. Swiftly she divined his thoughts.
"You mean somebody is great, do you?" said she.
Andy nodded thoughtfully.
"Yes. There is Edward Pullar and Ned, himself, and the little mother. These dear neighbours of ours have been great in vision and patience. We have not understood. Most people about Pellawa never will. The old homestead at The Craggs has been a place of unobtrusive but astounding achievement. These quiet farmers are mighty benefactors. What farmers they are!"
"Look!" cried Margaret, suddenly pointing into the west.
Along the distant edge of the wheat were moving three shapes, black shadows of riders suspended in the amber light as they skimmed along the high shoulder of an upper bench. A moment only were they visible. Then they melted into the yellow sea.
"The McClures!" announced Margaret, a reflective light shining in her eyes. "This is Mary's first ridesince the storm. She is happy to-night."
"I am sure she is. But how do you know?" mused Andy.
"The curvetings of Bobs assured me," was the reply. "Mary is in the happy mood that inspires Bobs with a foolish notion that he has wings instead of legs and must fly away."
"Which reminds me," said Andy with a smile, "that I, too, am foolishly happy. Have you observed my grove lately? If not, better take a careful look."
Margaret followed his gesture. She saw a strange white object among the trees. Her eyes brightened, but dissembling with feminine facility, she looked up in na?ve curiosity.
"It is the gable of our roof," explained Andy, looking deep into the clear eyes. "I cut down that old rotten elm that you might get a glimpse of what is to be expectedof you. Hum!"
Margaret made no reply except a widening of innocent eyes.
"To resume," continued Andy. "It will be plastered before the frost; during the winter we shall finish it. Then, after seeding, some day in June"
Andy paused. The gaze of his companion was gratifyingly intent. He waited.
"Well?" came the incurious query.
"Well!" was the deliberate reply. "What so rare as a bride in June?"
Margaret read the face above her, read it deeply, gravely, for a moment, then released an entrancing smile.
"Would you care to really know?" was her arch reply.
"Then hear! It is the bold fellow who conspires with himself against her."
Edward Pullar was passing among his head-row plots, spending a busy hour in the cool of the twilight. His eyes were ashine and a cheerful humming proclaimed a happy worker, deeply in love with his work. And it was so, for was not the Red Knight scaling another wall in the grand assault? Already the aged gleaner had harvested a wealth of selected heads and the tub on the kitchen floor was the receptacle of several gallons of the astonishing brown-red kernels. There was a prophetic light on the old man's face as he plucked the wonderful heads. So deep was his self-communion that he was startled when a voice called for the second time:
The voice was powerful but suppressed, its tone familiar. The old man looked up in surprise.
Before him stood Rob McClure and his wife. With instinctive gentility he doffed his hat and bowed.
"Good-evening to you, friends!" was his cordial greeting.
"Thank you for your kindness, Edward Pullar," was McClure's slow reply. "I have ridden over to see you though you may not desire conversation with me. I would not blame you"
Edward Pullar raised his hand.
"Hush! My friend!" he entreated gently, a brightness glowing in his eyes. "I understand all. Nick Ford has given me the tale without reserve. The past has been very dark for all of us; the expiationcostly. There are enigmas that remain unexplained but the explanation would merely satiate curiosity. It would not alter anything. We have forgotten the past. Life is new, sacredly new for Ned and mesince the storm. We want no confession, no ceaseless grieving, simply your dear friendship. We are looking ahead into the gloriously happy days. Give me your hands."
The others stepped impulsively to him and seized his hands.
"You mean it! I know you mean it!" said Rob McClure, his great eyes lingering reverently on the old man's face. "Do you know that we attempted to steal your bins of Red Knight? That we sold your farm by a devil's ruse? That we fought Ned, nine to one, with savage design to maim him for life? That we planned a terrible wrong and carry the red brand of crime? Do you"
"Hush! My friend!" cried the old man, stemming the hot torrent of self-condemnation. "Do not recall it, I implore you. I know it all, but it is cast behind. We hold in our memories only the joys of those dark days, for there was much that was precious. Besides, there are the bairns. For their sakes and for our own I will be having you always for my friends."
"Edward Pullar!" cried the soft, thrilled voice of Helen McClure. "God will bless you for those noble words. He will nourish this dear friendship into which you are taking us."
As she spoke the moon rolled up over the prairie edge, throwing over them all a faint, rosy light through the gauzy fringe of a low cloud.
"How wonderful!" cried Helen McClure. "It is the warm light of promise."
Through the shadows of the young night came suddenly the voice of laughter, silvery as the call of a bird to its mate. It was barely audible indeed, but distinct and athrob with joy. It was Mary's voice. At the sound a wave of deep emotion swept over the three people and their hands tightened in a clinging grip.
Mary was in just the fettle Margaret had surmised. Discovering Ned busy at his binders, she had lured him with her call. In a moment he was with her and gathered her into his arms. About them flowed the light of the moon, bathing tree trunks and leaves and the rippling wheat in its soft, red shine.
"See her!" cried the girl, pointing to the glowing orb veiled in its tracery of leaves and limbs. "Have you ever seen her so benign?"
"Never!" cried Ned happily. "To-night she is witching. She is painting you with her dainty rouge, face and lips, and this soft, brown hair. In your eyes her light of wonderful old rose is the light of dear desire."
"Evidently she holds a spell," teased Mary, "and does not scruple to throw dream stuff into the foolish eyes of young farmers."
"What an occult magician she is!" cried Ned delightedly, abandoning himself to the deceit of the moment. "She has everything about us revelling. The little winds are flirting scandalously with your curls and there is a whispering music out there in the moving grain. There are voices in the wheat that haunt me. Often have I dreamed of them but never have I caught their singing until now. Something tells me you understandyou favourite sorceress of rose-light moons."
"This is our mad-moon, Ned," laughed Mary softly. "I begin to feel the strange thrill of its lunacy. This old-rose light is a glamourous thing. Put your cheek against mine, dear pal, and I'll whisper to you the secret that is throbbing in the heart of our wonderful Knight.
"His voices come sweetly in stealing from very far and in all their singing there is a tender tale they tell of kind eyes that glanced upon him one great day and of a gentle hand that plucked him out of the wilds and set his roots in the wise hearts of men. With a million, adoring tongues he is hymning to-night the tender spirit of Kitty Belaire. Hark to the legends he sings of the coming days! One beautiful noon your father, Ned, told me a remarkable thing. 'The Red Knight,' said he, 'will push the grain belt three hundred miles nearer the poles.' It is of this The Red Knight is whispering now. His prophetic voices are winging in from everywhere and they tell of a wondrous host trekking the illimitable plains of this magic North. Listen, Ned, and you will hear their tramp through the enchanting glow of our mad rose moon."
"I can hear it, Mary!" was the hushed reply as he nestled the brown head close. "And in all the tramping of the countless feet I hear a fairy patter like the sound of falling leaves. Are they the fragile feet of the fairy children flitting to us out of the infinite?"
"Ned, my Ned!" was the endearing cry. "The Red Knight is singing of the homes he will build in his gardens of wheat, of the tiny fairies, the little children of the plains who shall play in his gardensin your garden, Ned, and mine."
Ned's answer was the drawing tight of his great arms and the sheltering crush of his mightier love.
A mist crept over Mary's eyes. Looking through the glad tears she whispered:
"It is the 'bestest' year we have ever seen, both for us and forthem."
Over all rose the moon, now white and serene, pouring upon them the silver light of her purity.