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- Corporal Cameron - 1/82 -


CORPORAL CAMERON OF THE NORTH WEST MOUNTED POLICE

A TALE OF THE MACLEOD TRAIL

by RALPH CONNOR

BOOK I

I THE QUITTER

II THE GLEN OF THE CUP OF GOLD

III THE FAMILY SOLICITOR

IV A QUESTION OF HONOUR

V A LADY AND THE LAW

VI THE WASTER'S REFUGE

VII FAREWELL TO CUAGH OIR

VIII WILL HE COME BACK?

BOOK II

I HO FOR THE OPEN!

II A MAN'S JOB

III A DAY'S WORK

IV A RAINY DAY

V HOW THEY SAVED THE DAY

VI A SABBATH DAY IN LATE AUGUST

VII THE CHIVAREE

VIII IN APPLE TIME

BOOK III

I THE CAMP BY THE GAP

II ON THE WINGS OF THE STORM

III THE STONIES

IV THE DULL RED STAIN

V SERGEANT CRISP

VI A DAY IN THE MACLEOD BARRACKS

VII THE MAKING OF BRAVES

VIII NURSE HALEY

IX "CORPORAL" CAMERON

CORPORAL CAMERON

BOOK ONE

CHAPTER I

THE QUITTER

"Oh-h-h-h, Cam-er-on!" Agony, reproach, entreaty, vibrated in the clear young voice that rang out over the Inverleith grounds. The Scottish line was sagging!--that line invincible in two years of International conflict, the line upon which Ireland and England had broken their pride. Sagging! And because Cameron was weakening! Cameron, the brilliant half-back, the fierce-fighting, erratic young Highlander, disciplined, steadied by the great Dunn into an instrument of Scotland's glory! Cameron going back! A hush fell on the thronged seats and packed inner-circle,--a breathless, dreadful hush of foreboding. High over the hushed silence that vibrant cry rang; and Cameron heard it. The voice he knew. It was young Rob Dunn's, the captain's young brother, whose soul knew but two passions, one for the captain and one for the half-back of the Scottish International.

And Cameron responded. The enemy's next high punt found him rock-like in steadiness. And rock-like he tossed high over his shoulders the tow-headed Welshman rushing joyously at him, and delivered his ball far down the line safe into touch. But after his kick he was observed to limp back into his place. The fierce pace of the Welsh forwards was drinking the life of the Scottish backline.

An hour; then a half; then another half, without a score. And now the final quarter was searching, searching the weak spots in their line. The final quarter it is that finds a man's history and habits; the clean of blood and of life defy its pitiless probe, but the rotten fibre yields and snaps. That momentary weakness of Cameron's like a subtle poison runs through the Scottish line; and like fluid lightning through the Welsh. It is the touch upon the trembling balance. With cries exultant with triumph, the Welsh forwards fling themselves upon the steady Scots now fighting for life rather than for victory. And under their captain's directions these fierce, victory-sniffing Welsh are delivering their attack upon the spot where he fancies he has found a yielding. In vain Cameron rallies his powers; his nerve is failing him, his strength is done. Only five minutes to play, but one minute is enough. Down upon him through a broken field, dribbling the ball and following hard like hounds on a hare, come the Welsh, the tow-head raging in front, bloody and fearsome. There is but one thing for Cameron to do; grip that tumbling ball, and, committing body and soul to fate, plunge into that line. Alas, his doom is upon him! He grips the ball, pauses a moment--only a fatal moment,--but it is enough. His plunge is too late. He loses the ball. A surge of Welshmen overwhelm him in the mud and carry the ball across. The game is won--and lost. What though the Scots, like demons suddenly released from hell, the half-back Cameron most demon-like of all, rage over the field, driving the Welshmen hither and thither at will, the gods deny them victory; it is for Wales that day!

In the retreat of their rubbing-room the gay, gallant humour which the Scots have carried with them off the field of their defeat, vanishes into gloom. Through the steaming silence a groan breaks now and then. At length a voice:

"Oh, wasn't it rotten! The rank quitter that he is!"

"Quitter? Who is? Who says so?" It was the captain's voice, sharp with passion.

"I do, Dunn. It was Cameron lost us the game. You know it, too. I know it's rotten to say this, but I can't help it. Cameron lost the game, and I say he's a rank 'quitter,' as Martin would say."

"Look here, Nesbitt," the captain's voice was quiet, but every man paused in his rubbing. "I know how sore you are and I forgive you that; but I don't want to hear from you or from any man on the team that word again. Cameron is no quitter; he made--he made an error,--he wasn't fit,--but I say to you Cameron is no quitter."

While he was speaking the door opened and into the room came a player, tall, lanky, with a pale, gaunt face, plastered over the forehead with damp wisps of straight, black hair. His deep-set, blue-grey eyes swept the room.

"Thanks, Dunn," he said hoarsely. "Let them curse me! I deserve it all. It's tough for them, but God knows I've got the worst of it. I've played my last game." His voice broke huskily.

"Oh, rot it, Cameron," cried Dunn. "Don't be an ass! Your first big game--every fellow makes his mistake--"

"Mistake! Mistake! You can't lie easily, Dunn. I was a fool and worse than a fool. I let myself down and I wasn't fit. Anyway, I'm through with it." His voice was wild and punctuated with unaccustomed oaths; his breath came in great sobs.

"Oh, rot it, Cameron!" again cried Dunn. "Next year you'll be twice the man. You're just getting into your game."

Right loyally his men rallied to their captain:

"Right you are!"

"Why, certainly; no man gets into the game first year!"

"We'll give 'em beans next year, Cameron, old man!"

They were all eager to atone for the criticism which all had held in their hearts and which one of them had spoken. But this business was serious. To lose a game was bad enough, but to round on a comrade was unpardonable; while to lose from the game a half- back of Cameron's calibre was unthinkable.

Meanwhile Cameron was tearing off his football togs and hustling on his clothes with fierce haste. Dunn kept his eye on him, hurrying his own dressing and chatting quietly the while. But long before he was ready for the street, Cameron had crushed his things into a bag and was looking for his hat.

"Hold on! I'm with you; I'm with you in a jiffy," said Dunn.

"My hat," muttered Cameron, searching wildly among the jumble.

"Oh, hang the hat; let it go! Wait for me, Cameron. Where are you going?" cried Dunn.


Corporal Cameron - 1/82

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