THE BLACK CREEK STOPPING-HOUSE
NELLIE L. McCLUNG
To the Pioneer Women of the West, who made life tolerable, and even
comfortable, for the others of us; who fed the hungry, advised the
erring, nursed the sick, cheered the dying, comforted the sorrowing,
and performed the last sad rites for the dead;
The beloved Pioneer Women, old before their time with hard work,
privations, and doing without things, yet in whose hearts there was
always burning the hope of better things to come;
The godly Pioneer Women, who kept alive the conscience of the
neighborhood, and preserved for us the best traditions of the race;
To these noble Women of the early days, some of whom we see no more,
for they have entered into their inheritance, this book is respectfully
dedicated by their humble admirer,
"Let me live in a house by the side of the road, and be a friend of
THE BLACK CREEK STOPPING-HOUSE—
I. The Old Trail
II. The House of Bread
III. The Sailors' Rest
IV. Farm Pupils
V. The Prairie Club-House
VI. The Counter-Irritant
VII. Ladies' Day at the Stopping-House
VIII. Shadows of the Night
IX. His Evil Genius
X. Da's Turn
XI. The Blizzard
XII. When the Day Broke
THE RUNAWAY GRANDMOTHER
THE RETURN TICKET
THE UNGRATEFUL PIGEONS
YOU NEVER CAN TELL
A SHORT TALE OF A RABBIT
THE ELUSIVE VOTE
THE WAY OF THE WEST
THE BLACK CREEK STOPPING-HOUSE
THE OLD TRAIL.
When John Corbett strolled leisurely into the Salvation Army meeting in
old Victoria Hall in Winnipeg that night, so many years ago now, there
may have been some who thought he came to disturb the meeting.
There did not seem to be any atmospheric reason why Mr. Corbett or
anyone else should be abroad, for it was a drizzling cold November
night, and the streets were muddy, as only Winnipeg streets in the old
days could be—none of your light-minded, fickle-hearted, changeable
mud that is mud to-day and dust to-morrow, but the genuine, original,
brush-defying, soap-and-water-proof, north star, burr mud, blacker than
lampblack, stickier than glue!
Mr. Corbett did not come to disturb the meeting. His reason for
attending lay in a perfectly legitimate desire to see for himself what
it was all about, he being happily possessed of an open mind.
Mr. Corbett would do anything once, and if he liked it he would do it
again. In the case of the Salvation Army meeting, he liked it. He liked
the music, and the good fellowship, and the swing and the zip of it
all. More still, he liked the blue-eyed Irish girl who sold War Crys
at the door. When he went in he bought one; when he came out he bought
all she had left.
The next night Mr. Corbett was again at the meeting. On his way in he
bought all the War Crys the blue-eyed Irish girl had. Every minute he
liked her better, and when the meeting was over and an invitation was
given to the anxious ones to "tarry awhile," Mr. Corbett tarried. When
the other cases had been dismissed Mr. Corbett had a long talk with the
captain in charge.
Mr. Corbett was a gentleman of private means, though he was accustomed
to explain his manner of making a livelihood, when questioned by
magistrates and other interested persons, by saying he was employed in
a livery stable. When further pressed by these insatiably curious
people as to what his duties in the livery stable were, he always
described his position as that of "chamber maid." Here the magistrates
and other questioners thought that Mr. Corbett was disposed to be
facetious, but he was perfectly sincere, and he had described his work
more accurately than they gave him credit for. It might have been more
illuminative if he had said that in the livery stable of Pacer and
Kelly he did the "upstairs" work.
It was a small but well appointed room in which Mr. Corbett worked. It
had an unobtrusive narrow stairway leading up to it. The only furniture
it contained was several chairs and a round table with a well-concealed
drawer, which opened with a spring, and held four packs and an assorted
variety of chips! Its one window was well provided with a heavy blind.
Here Mr. Corbett was able to accommodate any or all who felt that they
would like to give Fortune a chance to be kind to them.
The night after Mr. Corbett had attended the Salvation Army meeting,
his "upstairs" room was as dark inside as it always appeared to be on
the outside. Two anxious ones, whose money was troubling them, had to
be turned away disappointed. Mr. Corbett had left word downstairs that
he was going out.
After Mr. Corbett had explained the situation to the Salvation Army
captain, the captain took a day to consider. Then Mrs. Murphy, mother
of Maggie Murphy who sold War Crys, was consulted. Mrs. Murphy had
long been a soldier in the Army, and she had seen so many brands
plucked from the burning that she was not disposed to discourage Mr.
Corbett in his new desire to "do diff'rent."
Soon after this Mr. Corbett, in his own words, "pulled his freight"
from the Brunswick Hotel, where he had been a long, steady boarder, and
installed himself in the only vacant room in the Murphy house, having
read the black and white card in the parlor window, which proclaimed
"Furnished Rooms and Table Board," and regarding it as a providential
opportunity for him to see Maggie Murphy in action!
Having watched Maggie Murphy wait on table in the daytime and sell War
Crys at night for a week or more, Mr. Corbett decided he liked her
methods. The way she poised a tray of teacups on her head proclaimed
her a true artist.
At the end of two weeks Mr. Corbett stated his case to Mrs. Murphy and
"I've a poor hand," he declared; "but I am willing to play it out if
Maggie will sit opposite me and be my partner. I have only one gift—
I'm handy with cards and I can deal myself three out of the four aces—
but that's not much good to a man who tries to earn an honest living. I
am willing to try work—it may be all right for anything I know. If
Maggie will take me I'll promise to leave cards alone, and I'll do
whatever she thinks I ought to do."
Maggie and her mother took a few days to consider. On one point their
minds were very clear. If Maggie "took" him, he could not keep any of
the money he had won gambling—he would have to start honest. Mr.
Corbett had, fortunately, arrived at the same conclusion himself, so
that point was easily disposed of.
"It ain't for us to be hard on anyone that's tryin' to do better," said
Maggie's mother, as she rolled out the crust for the dried-apple pies.
"He's wasted his substance, and wasted his days, but who knows but the
Lord can use him yet to His honor and glory. The Lord ain't like us,
havin' to wait until He gets everything to His own likin', but He can
go ahead with whatever comes to His hand. He can do His work with poor
tools, and it's well for Him He can, and well for us, too."
Maggie Murphy and John Corbett were married.
John Corbett got a job at once as teamster for a transfer company, and
Maggie followed her mother's example and put a sign of "Table Board" in
the window. They lived in this way for ten years, and in spite of the
dismal prognostications of friends, John Corbett worked industriously,
and did not show any desire to return to his old ways! When he said he
would do what Maggie told him it was not the rash promise of an eager
lover, for Mr. Corbett was never rash, and the subsequent years showed
that his purpose was honest to fulfil it to the letter.
Maggie, being many years his junior, could not think of addressing him
by his first name, and she felt that it was not seemly to use the
prefix, so again she followed her mother's example, and addressed him
as her mother did Murphy, senior, as "Da."
It was in the early eighties that Maggie and John Corbett decided to
come farther west. The cry of free land for the asking was coming to
many ears, and at Maggie's table it was daily discussed. They sold out
the contents of their house, and, purchasing oxen and a covered wagon,
they made the long overland journey. On the bank of Black Creek they
pitched their tent, and before a week had gone by Maggie Corbett was
giving meals to hungry men, cooking bannocks, frying pork, and making
coffee on her little sheet-iron camp-stove, no bigger than a biscuit-
The next year, when the railroad came to Brandon, and the wheat was
drawn in from as far south as Lloyd's Lake, the Black Creek Stopping-
House became a far-famed and popular establishment.
THE HOUSE OF BREAD.
Across the level plain which lies between the valley of the Souris and
the valley of the Assiniboine there ran, at this time, three trails.
There was the deeply-rutted old Hudson Bay trail, over which went the
fabulously heavy loads of fur long ago—grass-grown now and broken with
badger holes; there was "the trail," hard and firm, in the full pride
of present patronage, defying the invasion of the boldest blade of
grass; and by the side of it, faint and shadowy, like a rainbow's
understudy, ran "the new trail," strong in the certainty of being the
trail in time.
For miles across the plain the men who follow the trail watch the steep
outlying shoulder of the Brandon Hills for a landmark. When they leave
the Souris valley the hills are blue with distance and seem to promise
wooded slopes, and maybe leaping streams, but a half-day's journey
dispels the illusion, for when the traveller comes near enough to see
the elevation as it is, it is only a rugged bluff, bald and bare, and
blotched with clumps of mangy grass, with a fringe of stunted poplar at
After rounding the shoulder of the hill, the thick line of poplars and
elms which fringe the banks of Black Creek comes into view, and many a
man and horse have suddenly brightened at the sight, for in the shelter
of the trees there stands the Black Creek Stopping-House, which is the
half-way house on the way to Brandon. Hungry men have smelled the bacon
frying when more than a mile away, and it is only the men who follow
the trail who know what a heartsome smell that is. The horses, too,
tired with the long day, point their ears ahead and step livelier when
they see the whitewashed walls gleaming through the trees.
The Black Creek Stopping-House gave not only food and shelter to the
men who teamed the wheat to market—it gave them good fellowship and
companionship. In the absence of newspapers it kept its guests abreast
with the times; events great and small were discussed there with
impartial deliberation, and often with surprising results. Actions and
events which seemed quite harmless, and even heroic, when discussed
along the trail, often changed their complexion entirely when Mrs.
Maggie Corbett let in the clear light of conscience on them, for even
on the very edge of civilization there are still to be found finger-
posts on the way to right living.
Mrs. Maggie Corbett was a finger-post, and more, for a finger-post
merely points the way with its wooden finger, and then, figuratively,
retires from the scene to let you think it over; but Maggie Corbett
continued to take an interest in the case until it was decided to her
Black Creek, on whose wooded bank the Stopping-House stands, is a deep
black stream which makes its way leisurely across the prairie between
steep banks. Here and there throughout its length are little shallow
stretches which show a golden braid down the centre like any peaceful
meadow brook where children may with safety float their little boats,
but Black Creek, with its precipitous holes, is no safe companion for
any living creature that has not webbed toes or a guardian angel.
The banks, which are of a spongy black loam, grow a heavy crop of
coarse meadow grass, interspersed in the late summer with the umbrella-
like white clusters of water hemlock.
* * * * *
About a mile from the Stopping-House there stood a strange log
structure, the present abode of Reginald and Randolph Brydon, late of
H.M. Navy, but now farmers and homesteaders. The house was built in
that form of architecture known as a "Red River frame," and the corners
were finished in the fashion called "saddle and notch."
Whatever can be done to a house to spoil its appearance had been done
to this one. There was a "join" in each side, which was intended, and a
bulge which was accidental, and when the sailor brothers were unable to
make a log lie comfortably beside its neighbor by using the axe, they
resorted to long iron spikes, and when these split the logs, as was
usually the case, they overcame the difficulty by using ropes.
What had brought the Brydon brothers to Manitoba was a matter of
conjecture in the Black Creek neighborhood. Some said they probably
were not wanted at home; others, with deeper meaning, said they
probably were wanted at home; and, indeed, their bushy eyebrows,
their fierce black eyes, the knives which they carried in their belts,
and their general manner of living, gave some ground to this
The Brydon brothers did not work with that vigor and zeal which brings
success to the farmer. They began late and quit early, with numerous
rests in between. They showed a delightfully child-like trust in Nature
and her methods, for in the springtime, instead of planting their
potatoes in the ground the way they saw other people doing it, they
sprinkled them around the "fireguard," believing that the birds of the
air strewed leaves over them, or the rain washed them in, or in some
mysterious way they made a bed for themselves in the soil.
They bought a cow from one of the neighbors, but before the summer was
over brought her back indignantly, declaring that she would give no
milk. Randolph declared that he knew she had it, for she had plenty the
last time he milked her, and that was several days ago—she should have
more now. It came out in the evidence that they only took from the cow
the amount of milk that they needed, reasoning that she had a better
way of keeping it than they had. The cow's former owner exonerated her
from all blame in the matter, saying that "Rosie" was all right as a
cow; but, of course, she was "no bloomin' refrigerator!"
There was only one day in the week when the Brydon brothers could work
with any degree of enjoyment, and that was on Sunday, when there was
the added zest of wickedness. To drive the oxen up and down the field
in full view of an astonished and horrified neighborhood seemed to take
away in large measure from the "beastliness of labor," and then, too,
the Sabbath calm of the Black Creek valley seemed to stimulate their
imagination as they discoursed loudly and elaborately on the present
and future state of the oxen, consigning them without hope of release
to the remotest and hottest corner of Gehenna. But the complacent old
oxen, graduates in the school of hard knocks and mosquitoes, winked
solemnly, switched their tails and drowsed along unmoved.
The sailors had been doing various odd jobs around the house on Sundays
ever since they came, but had not worked openly until one particular
Sunday in May. All day they hoped that someone would come and stop them
from working, or at least beg of them to desist, but the hot afternoon
wore away, and there was no movement around any of the houses on the
plain. The guardian of the morals of the neighborhood, Mrs. Maggie
Corbett, had taken notice of them all right, but she was a wise woman
and did not use militant methods until she had tried all others; and
she believed that she had other means of teaching the sailor twins the
advantages of Sabbath observance.
About five o'clock the twins grew so uproariously hungry they were
compelled to quit their labors, but when they reached their house they
were horrified to find that a wandering dog, who also had no respect
for the Sabbath, had depleted their "grub-box," overlooking nothing but
the tea and sugar, which he had upset and spilled when he found he did
not care to eat them.
Then it was the oxen's turn to laugh, for the twins' wrath was all
turned upon each other. Everything that they had said about the oxen,
it seemed, was equally true of each other—each of them had confidently
expected the other one to lock the door.
There was nothing to do but to go across to the Black Creek Stopping-
House for supplies. Mrs. Corbett baked bread for them each week.
Reginald, with a gun on his shoulder, and rolling more than ever in his
walk, strolled into the kitchen of the Stopping-House and made known
his errand. He also asked for the loan of a neck-yoke, having broken
his in a heated argument with the "starboard" ox.
Mrs. Corbett, with a black dress and white apron on, sat, with folded
hands, in the rocking-chair. "Da" Corbett, with his "other clothes" on
and his glasses far down on his nose, sat in another rocking-chair
reading the life of General Booth. Peter Rockett, the chore boy, in a
clean pair of overalls, and with hair-oil on his hair, sat on the edge
of the wood-box twanging a Jew's-harp, and the tune that he played bore
a slight resemblance to "Pull for the Shore."
Randolph felt the Sunday atmosphere, but, nevertheless, made known his
"The bread is yours," said Mrs. Corbett, sternly; "you may have it, but
I can't bake any more for you!"
"W'y not?" asked Reginald, feeling all at once hungrier than ever.
"Of course I am not saying you can help it," Mrs. Corbett went on,
ignoring his question. "I suppose, maybe, you do the best you can. I
believe everybody does, if we only knew it, and you haven't had a very
good chance either, piratin' among the black heathen in the islands of
the sea; but the Bible speaks plain, and old Captain Coombs often told
us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, and I can't encourage
Sunday-breakin' by cookin' for them that do it!"
"We weren't breakin', really we were only back-settin'," interposed
"I don't wish to encourage Sabbath-breakin'," repeated Mrs. Corbett,
raising her voice a little to prevent interruptions, "by bakin' for
people who do it, or neighborin' with people who do it. Of course there
are some who say that the amount of work that you and your brother do
any day would not break the Sabbath." Here she looked hard at her man,
John Corbett, who stirred uneasily. "But there is no mistakin' your
meanin', and besides," Mrs. Corbett went on, "we have others besides
ourselves to think of—there's the child," indicating the lanky Peter
The "child" thus alluded to closed one eye—the one farthest from Mrs.
Corbett—for a fraction of a second, and kept on softly teasing the
"Now you need not glare at me so fierce, you twin." Mrs. Corbett's
voice was still full of Sunday calm. "I do not know which one of you
you are, but anyway what I say applies to you both. Now take that look
off your face and stay and eat. I'll send something home to your other
Having delivered her ultimatum on the subject of Sunday work, Mrs.
Corbett became quite genial. She heaped Reginald's plate with cold
chicken and creamed potatoes, and, mellowed by them and the comfort of
her well-appointed table, he was prepared to renounce the devil and all
his works if Mrs. Corbett gave the order.
THE SAILORS' REST.
When Reginald reached home he found his brother in a state of mind
bordering on frenzy, but when he shoved the basket which Mrs. Corbett
had filled for him toward Randolph with the unnecessary injunction to
"stow it in his hold," the lion's mouth was effectively closed. When he
had finished the last crumb Reginald told him Mrs. Corbett's decree
regarding Sunday work, and found that Randolph was prepared to abstain
from all forms of labor on all days in the week if she wished it.
That night, after the twins had washed the accumulated stock of dishes,
and put patches on their overalls with pieces of canvas and a sail
needle, and performed the many little odd jobs which by all accepted
rules of ethics belong to Sunday evening's busy work, they sat beside
the fire and indulged in great depression of spirits!
"She can't live forever," Reginald broke out at last with apparent
irrelevance. But there was no irrelevance—his remark was perfectly in
He was referring to a dear aunt in Bournemouth. This lady, who was
possessed of "funds," had once told her loving nephews—the twins—that
if they would go away and stay away she might—do something for them—
by and by. She had urged them so strongly to go to Canada that they
could not, under the circumstances, do otherwise. Aunt Patience Brydon
shared the delusion that is so blissfully prevalent among parents and
guardians of wayward youth in England, that to send them to Canada will
work a complete reformation, believing that Canada is a good, kind
wilderness where iced tea is the strongest drink known, and where no
more exciting game than draughts is ever played.
Aunt Patience, though a frail-looking little white-haired lady, had, it
seemed, a wonderful tenacity of life.
"She'll slip her cable some day," Reginald declared soothingly. "She
can't hold out much longer—you know the last letter said she was
"Failin' fast!" Randolph broke in impatiently. "It's us that's failin'
fast! And maybe when we've waited and waited, and stayed away for 'er,
she'll go and leave it all to some Old Cats' 'Ome or Old Hens' Roost,
or some other beastly charity. I don't trust 'er—'any woman that 'olds
on to life the way she does—'er with one foot in the grave, and 'er
will all made and everything ready."
"Well, she can't last always," Reginald declared, holding firmly to
this one bit of comfort.
The next news they got from Bournemouth was positively alarming! She
was getting better. Then the twins lost hope entirely and decided to
treat Aunt Patience as one already dead—figuratively speaking, to turn
her picture to the wall.
"Let her live as long as she likes," Reginald declared, "if she's so
jolly keen on it!"
When they decided to trust no more to the deceitfulness of woman they
turned to another quarter for help, for they were, at this time,
"uncommonly low in funds."
It was Randolph who got the idea, one day when he was sitting on the
plow handle lighting his pipe.
"Wot's the matter with us gettin' out Fred for our farm pupil? He's got
some money—they say he married a rich man's daughter—and we've got
"He's only a 'alf-brother!" said Reginald, at last, reflectively.
"That don't matter one bit to me," declared Randolph, generously, "I'll
treat him just the same as I would you!"
Reginald shrugged his shoulders eloquently.
"What about his missus?" asked Reginald, after a silence.
"She can come," Randolph said, magnanimously. "We'll build a piece to
The more they talked about it the more enthusiastic they became. Under
the glow of this new project they felt they could hurl contempt on Aunt
Patience and her unnatural hold on life.
"I don't know but what I would rather take 'elp from the livin' than
the dead, anyway," Reginald said, virtuously, that night before they
went to bed.
"They're more h'apt to ask it back, just the same," objected Randolph.
"I was just goin' to say," Reginald began again, "that I'd just as soon
take 'elp from the livin' as the dead, especially when there ain't no
They began at once to write letters to their long-neglected brother
Fred, enthusiastically setting forth the charms of this new country.
They dwelt on the freedom of the life, the abundance of game, and the
view! They made a great deal of the view, and certainly there was
nothing to obstruct it, for the prairie lay a dead level for ten miles
north of them, only dotted here and there with little weather-bleached
warts of houses like their own, where other optimists were trying to
make a dint in the monotony.
The letters which went east every mail were splendid productions in
their way, written with ease and eloquence, and utterly untrammeled by
any regard for facts.
Their brother responded just as they hoped he would, and the twins were
greatly delighted with the success of their plan.
Events of which the twins knew nothing favored their project and made
Fred and his wife glad to leave Toronto. Evelyn Grant had bitterly
estranged her father by marrying against his wishes. So the proposal
from Randolph and Reginald that they come West and take the homestead
near them seemed to offer an escape from much that was unpleasant.
Besides, it was just at the time when so many people were hearing the
call of the West.
At the suggestion of his brothers, Fred sent in advance the money to
build a house on his homestead. But the twins, not wishing to make any
mistake, or to have any misunderstanding with Fred, built it right
beside their own. Fred sent enough money to have a frame building put
up but the twins decided that logs were more romantic and cheaper. It
was a remarkable structure when they were through with it, stuck
against their own house, as if by accident, and resembling in its
irregularity the growth of a freak potato. Cables were freely used;
binder twine served as hinges on the doors and also as latches.
They gave as a reason for sticking the new part against their own
irregularly that they intended to use the alcoves for verandahs!
They agreed to put in Fred's crop for him—for a consideration; to put
up hay; to buy oxen. Indeed, so many kindly offices did they agree to
perform for him that Fred had advanced them, in all, nearly two
The preparations were watched with great interest by the neighbors, and
the probable outcome of it all was often a topic of conversation at the
Black Creek Stopping-House.
June in Manitoba, when the tender green of grass and leaf is bathed in
the sparkling sunshine; when the first wild roses are spilling their
perfume on the air, and the first orange lilies are lifting their glad
faces to the sun; when the prairie chicken, intent on family cares,
runs cautiously beside the road, and the hermit thrushes from the
thickets drive their sweet notes into the quiet evening. It is a time
to remember lovingly and with sweet gratitude; a time when the love of
the open prairie overtakes us, and binds us fast in golden fetters.
There is no hint of the cruel winter that is waiting just around the
corner, or of the dull autumn drizzle closer still; there is nothing
but peace and warmth and beauty.
As the old "Cheyenne," the only sidewheeler on the Assiniboine,
churning the muddy water into creamy foam, made its way to the green
shore at Curry's Landing, Fred and Evelyn Brydon, standing on the
narrow deck, felt the grip of the place and the season. Even the
captain's picturesque language, as he directed the activities of the
"rousters" who pulled the boat ashore, seemed less like profanity and
more like figure of speech.
The twins had made several unfruitful journeys to the Landing for their
brother and his wife, for they began to go two days before the
"Cheyenne" was expected, and had been going twice a day since, all of
which had been carefully entered in their account book!
Their appearance as they stood on the shore, sneering at the captain's
directions to his men from the superior height of their nautical
experience, was warlike in the extreme, although they were clothed in
the peaceful overalls and smock of the farmer and also had submitted to
a haircut at the earnest instigation of Mrs. Corbett, who threatened to
cut off all bread-making unless her wishes were complied with!
Evelyn, who had never seen her brothers-in-law, looked upon them now in
wonder, and she could see their appearance was somewhat of a surprise
to Fred, who had not seen them for many years, and who remembered them
only as the heroes of his childhood days.
They greeted Fred hilariously, but to his wife they spoke timidly, for,
brave as they were in facing Spanish pirates, they were timid to the
point of flight in the presence of women.
As they drove home in the high-boxed wagon, the twins endeavored to
keep up the breezy enthusiasm that had characterized their letters.
They raved about the freedom of the West; they went into fresh raptures
over the view, and almost deranged their respiratory organs in their
praises of the air. They breathed in deep breaths of the ambient
atmosphere, chewed it up with loud smacks of enjoyment, and then blew
it out, snorting like whales. Evelyn, who was not without a sense of
humor, would have enjoyed it all, and laughed at them, even if she
could not laugh with them, if she could have forgotten that they were
her husband's brothers, but it is very hard to see the humorous in the
grotesque behavior of those to whom we are "bound by the ties of duty,"
if not affection.
A good supper at the Black Creek Stopping-House and the hearty
hospitality of Mrs. Corbett restored Evelyn's good spirits. She
noticed, too, that the twins tamed down perceptibly in Mrs. Corbett's
Mrs. Corbett insisted on Fred and his wife spending the night at the
"Don't go to your own house until morning," she said. "Things look a
lot different when the sun is shining, and out here, you see, Mrs.
Fred, we have to do without and forget so many things that we bank a
lot on the sun. You people who live in cities, you've got gas and big
lamps, and I guess it doesn't bother you much whether the sun rises or
doesn't rise, or what he does, you're independent; but with us it is
different. The sun is the best thing we've got, and we go by him
considerable. Providence knows how it is with us, and lets us have lots
of the sun, winter and summer."
Evelyn gladly consented to stay.
Mrs. Corbett, observing Evelyn's soft white hands, decided that she was
not accustomed to work, and the wonder of how it would all turn out was
heavy upon her kind Irish heart as she said goodbye to her next
A big basket of bread and other provisions was put into the wagon at
the last minute. "Maybe your stove won't be drawin' just right at the
first," said Maggie Corbett, apologetically. As she watched Evelyn's
hat of red roses fading in the distance she said softly to herself:
"Sure I do hope it's true that He tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,
tho' there's some that says that ain't in the Bible at all. But it
sounds nice and kind anyway, and yon poor lamb needs all the help He
can give her. Him and me, we'll have to do the best we can for her!"
Mrs. Corbett went over to see her new neighbor two or three days after.
In response to her knock on the rough lumber door, a thin little voice
called to her to enter, which she did.
On the bare floor stood an open trunk from which a fur-trimmed pale
pink opera cloak hung carelessly. Beside the trunk in an attitude of
homesickness huddled the young woman, hair dishevelled, eyes red. Her
dress of green silk, embroidered stockings and beaded slippers looked
out of place and at variance with her primitive surroundings.
When Mrs. Corbett entered the room she sprang up hastily and apologized
for the untidiness of her house. She chattered gaily to hide the
trouble in her face, and Mrs. Corbett wisely refrained from any
apparent notice of her tears, and helped her to unpack her trunks and
set the house to rights.
Mrs. Corbett showed her how to make a combined washstand and clothes
press out of two soap boxes, how to make a wardrobe out of the head of
the bed, and set the twin sailors at the construction of a cookhouse
where the stove could be put.
When Mrs. Corbett left that afternoon it was a brighter and more
liveable dwelling. Coming home along the bank of Black Creek, she was
troubled in mind and heart for her new neighbor.
"This is June," she said to herself, "and wild roses are crowdin' up to
her door, and the meadow larks are sittin' round all over blinkin' at
the sun, and she has her man with her, and she ain't tired with the
work, and her hands ain't cracked and sore, and she hasn't been there
long enough to dislike the twins the way she will when she knows them
better, and there's no mosquitoes, and she hasn't been left to stay
alone, and still she cries! God help us! What will she do in the long
drizzle in the fall, when the wheat's spoilin' in the shock maybe, and
the house is dark, and her man's away—what will she do?"
Mrs. Brydon spent many happy hours that summer at the Stopping-House,
and soon Mrs. Corbett knew all the events of her past life; the
sympathetic understanding of the Irish woman made it easy for her to
tell many things. Her mother had died when she was ten years old, and
since then she had been her father's constant companion until she met
She could not understand, and so bitterly resented, her father's
dislike of Fred, not knowing that his fond old heart was torn with
jealousy. She and her father were too much alike to ever arrive at an
understanding, for both were proud and quick-tempered and imperious,
and so each day the breach grew wider. Just a word, a caress, an
assurance from her that she loved him still, that the new love had not
driven out the old, would have set his heart at rest, but with the
cruel thoughtlessness of youth she could see only one side of the
affair, and that her own.
At last she ran away and was married to the young man, whom her father
had never allowed her to bring to see him, and the proud old man was
left alone in his dreary mansion, brooding over what he called the
heartlessness of his only child.
Mrs. Corbett, with her quick understanding, was sorry for both of them,
and at every opportunity endeavored to turn Evelyn's thoughts towards
home. Once, at her earnest appeal, after she had got the young woman
telling her about how kind her father had been to her when her mother
died, Evelyn consented to write him a letter, but when it was finished,
with a flash of her old imperious pride, she tore it across and flung
the pieces on the floor, then hastily gathered them up and put them in
One half sheet of the letter did not share the fate of the remainder,
for Mrs. Corbett intercepted it and hastily hid it in her apron pocket.
She might need it, she thought.
THE PRAIRIE CLUB-HOUSE.
The tender green of the early summer deepened and ripened into the
golden tinge of autumn as over the Black Creek Valley the mantle of
harvest was spread.
Only a small portion of the valley was under cultivation, for the
oldest settler had been in only for three years; but it seemed as if
every grain sowed had fallen upon good soil and gave promise of the
Across John Corbett's ten acres of wheat and forty acres of oats the
wind ran waves of shadow all day long, and the pride of the land-owner
thrilled Maggie Corbett's heart over and over again.
Not that the lady of the Stopping-House took the time to stand around
and enjoy the sensation, for the busy time was coming on and many
travellers were moving about and must be fed. But while she scraped the
new potatoes with lightning speed, or shelled the green peas, all of
her own garden, her thoughts were full of that peace and reverent
gratitude that comes to those who plant the seed and see it grow.
It was a glittering day in early August; a light shower the night
before had washed the valley clean of dust, and now the hot harvest sun
poured down his ripening rays over the pulsating earth. To the south
the Brandon Hills shimmered in a pale gray mirage. Over the trees which
sheltered the Stopping-House a flock of black crows circled in the blue
air, croaking and complaining that the harvest was going to be late. On
the wire-fence that circled the haystack sat a row of red-winged
blackbirds like a string of jet beads, patiently waiting for the oats
to ripen and indulging in low-spoken but pleasant gossip about all the
other birds in the valley.
Within doors Mrs Corbett served dinner to a long line of stoppers. Many
of the "boys" she had not seen since the winter before, and while she
worked she discussed neighborhood matters with them, the pleasing
sizzle of eggs frying on a hot pan making a running accompaniment to
The guests at Mrs. Corbett's table were a typical pioneer group—
homesteaders, speculators, machine men journeying through the country
to sell machinery to harvest the grain not yet grown; the farmer has
ever been well endowed with hope, and the machine business flourishes.
Mrs. Corbett could talk and work at the same time, her sudden
disappearances from the room as she replenished the table merely
serving as punctuation marks, and not interfering with the thread of
the story at all.
When she was compelled by the exigencies of the case to be present in
the kitchen, and therefore absent in the dining-room, she merely
elevated her voice to overcome distance, and dropped no stitch in the
"New neighbor, is it, you are sayin', Tom? 'Deed and I have, and her
the purtiest little trick you ever saw—diamond rings on her, and silk
skirts, and plumes on her hat, and hair as yalla as gold."
"When she comes over here I can't be doin' my work for lookin' at her.
She was brought up with slathers of money." This came back from the
"cheek of the dure", where Mrs. Corbett was emptying the tea leaves from
the teapot. "But the old man, beyant, ain't been pleased with her since
she married this Fred chap—he wouldn't ever look at Fred, nor let him
come to the house, and so she ran away with him, and no one could blame
her either for that, and now her and the old man don't write at all, at
all—reach me the bread plate in front of you there, Jim—and there's
bad blood between them. I can see, though, her and the old man are fond
o' one another!"
"Is her man anything like the twin pirates?" asked Sam Moggey from Oak
Creek; "because if he is I don't blame the old man for being mad about
it." Sam was helping himself to another quarter of vinegar pie as he
Mrs. Corbett could not reply for a minute, for she was putting a new
bandage on Jimmy MacCaulay's finger, and she had the needle and thread
in her mouth.
"Not a bit like them, Sam," she said, as soon as she had the bandage in
place, and as she put in quick stitches; "no more like them than day is
like night—he's only a half-brother, and a lot younger. He's a
different sort altogether from them two murderin' villains that sits in
the house all day playin' cards. He's a good, smart fellow, and has
done a lot of breakin' and cleanin' up since he came. What he thinks of
the other two lads I don't know—she never says, but I'd like fine to
"Sure, you'll soon know then, Maggie," said "Da" Corbett, bringing in
another platter of bacon and eggs and refilling the men's plates.
In the laugh that followed Maggie Corbett joined as heartily as any of
"Go 'long with you, Da!" she cried; "sure you're just as anxious as I
am to know. We all think a lot of Fred and Mrs. Fred," she went on,
bringing in two big dishes of potatoes; "and if you could see that
poor, precious lamb trying to cook pork and beans with a little wisp of
an apron on, all lace and ribbons, and big diamonds on her fingers,
you'd be sorry for her, and you'd say, 'What kind of an old tyrant is
the old man down beyant, and why don't he take her and Fred back?' It's
not wrastlin' round black pots she should be, and she's never been any
place all summer only over here, for they've only the oxen, and altho'
she never says anything, I'll bet you she'd like a bit of a drive, or
to get out to some kind of a-doin's, or the like of that."
While Mrs. Corbett gaily rattled on there was one man at her table who
apparently took no notice of what she said.
He was a different type of man from all the others. Dark complexioned,
with swarthy skin and compelling black eyes, he would be noticeable in
any company. He was dressed in the well-cut clothes of a city man, and
carried himself with a certain air of distinction.
Happening to notice the expression on his face, Mrs. Corbett suddenly
changed the conversation, and during the remainder of the meal watched
him closely with a puzzled and distrustful look.
When the men had gone that day and John Corbett came in to have his
afternoon rest on the lounge in the kitchen, he found Maggie in a self-
"Da," she began, "the devil must have had a fine laugh to himself when
he saw the Lord puttin' a tongue in a woman's head. Did ye hear me
to-day, talking along about that purty young thing beyant, and Rance
Belmont takin' in every word of it? Sure and I never thought of him
bein' here until I noticed the look on that ugly mug of his, and mind
you, Da, there's people that call him good-lookin' with that heavy jowl
of his and the hair on him growin' the wrong way on his head, and them
black eyes of his the color of the dirt in the road. They do say he's
just got a bunch of money from the old country, and he's cuttin' a wide
swath with it. If I'd kept me mouth shut he'd have gone on to Brandon
and never knowed a word about there being a purty young thing near. But
I watched him hitchin' up, and didn't he drive right over there; and I
tell you, Da, he means no good."
"Don't worry, Maggie," John Corbett said, soothingly. "He can't pick
her up and run off with her. Mrs. Fred's no fool."
"He's a divil!" Maggie declared with conviction. "Mind you, Da, there
ain't many that can put the comaudher on me, but Rance Belmont done it
Mr. Corbett looked up with interest and waited for her to speak.
"It was about the card-playin'. You know I've never allowed a card in
me house since I had a house, and never intended to, but the last day
Rance Belmont was here—that was away last spring, when you were away—
he begins to play with one of the boys that was in for dinner. Right in
there on the sewin'-machine in plain sight of all of us I saw them, and
I wiped me hands and tied up me apron, and I walked in, and says I,
'I'll be obliged to you, Mr. Belmont, to put them by,' and I looked at
him, stiff as pork. 'Why, certainly, Mrs. Corbett,' says he, smilin' at
me as if I had said somethin' pleasant. I felt a little bit ashamed,
and went on to sort of explain about bein' brought up in the Army and
all that, and he talked so nice about the Army that you would have
thought it was old Major Morris come back again from the dead, and
pretty soon he had me talkin' away to him and likin' him; and says he,
'I was just going to show Jimmy here a funny trick that can be done
with cards, but,' says he, 'if Mrs. Corbett objects I wouldn't offend
her for the world!' Now here's the part that scares me, Da—me, Maggie
Murphy, that hates cards like I do the divil; says I to him, 'Oh, go
on, Mr. Belmont; I don't mind at all!' Now what do you think of that,
John Corbett sat thinking, but he was not thinking of what Maggie
thought he was thinking. He was wondering what trick it was that Rance
Belmont had showed Jimmy Peters!
When Fred Brydon made the discovery that his two brothers spent a great
deal of their time in the pleasant though unprofitable occupation of
card-playing with two or three of the other impecunious young men of
the neighborhood, he remonstrated with them on this apparent waste of
time. When he later discovered that they were becoming so engrossed in
the game that they had but little time to plant, sow or reap, or do any
of the things incidental to farm life, he became very indignant indeed.
The twins naturally resented any such interference from their farm
pupil. They told him that he was there to learn farming, and not to
give advice to his elders.
Nearly everyone agrees that card playing is a pleasant and effective
way of killing time for people who wait for a long delayed train at a
lonely wayside station. This is exactly the position in which the twins
found themselves. So, while Aunt Patience, of Bournemouth, tarried and
procrastinated, her loving nephews across the sea, thinking of her
night and day, waited with as good grace as they could and played the
Unlike the twins, Fred Brydon liked hard work, and applied himself with
great energy to the work of the farm, determined to disprove his angry
father-in-law's words that he would never make a success of anything.
The fact that the twins were playing for money gave Fred some uneasy
moments, and the uncomfortable suspicion that part of his money was
being used in this way kept growing upon him.
He did not mention any of these things to Evelyn, for he knew it was
hard for her to keep up friendly relations with Reginald and Randolph,
and he did not want to say anything that would further predispose her
However, Evelyn, with some of her father's shrewdness, was arriving at
a very correct estimate of the twins without any help from anyone.
The twins had enjoyed life much better since the coming of their
brother and his wife. They quite enjoyed looking out of the fly-specked
window at their brother at work with the oxen in the fields. Then, too,
the many flattering remarks made by their friends in regard to their
sister-in-law's beauty were very grateful to their ears.
One day, in harvest time, when something had gone wrong with their
binder, and Fred had sent to Brandon for a new knotter, the twins
refused to pay for it when it came, telling him that he could pay for
it himself. Fred paid for it and worked all afternoon without saying
anything, but that evening he came into their part of the house and
told them he wanted a detailed statement of how his money had been
The twins were thoroughly hurt and indignant. Did he think they had
cheated him? And they asked each other over and over again, "Did
anybody ever hear of such ingratitude?"
The next day Evelyn made a remark which quite upset them. She told them
that if Fred did all the work he should have more than half the crop.
The twins did not like these occurrences. Instinctively they felt that
a storm was coming. They began to wonder what would be the best way to
The prairie-dwellers have a way of fighting a prairie fire which is
very effective. When they see the blue veil of smoke lying close to the
horizon, or the dull red glare on the night sky, they immediately start
another fire to go out and meet the big fire!
Some such thought as this was struggling in the twins' brains the day
that Rance Belmont came over from the Stopping-House, and in his
graceful way asked Mrs. Brydon to go driving with him, an invitation
which Fred urged her to accept. When the drive was over and Rance came
in to the twins' apartments, and on their invitation had a game with
them and lost, they were suddenly smitten with an idea. They began to
see how it might be possible to start another fire!
LADIES' DAY AT THE STOPPING-HOUSE.
The glory of the summer paled and faded; the crimson and gold of the
harvest days had fled before the cold winds of autumn, and now the
trees along the bank of the creek stood leafless and bare, trembling
and swaying as if in dread of the long winter that would soon be upon
them. The harvest had been cut and gathered in, and now, when the
weather was fine, the industrious hum of the threshing-machine came on
the wind for many miles, and the column of blue smoke which proclaimed
the presence of a "mill" shot up in all directions.
At the Black Creek Stopping-House the real business of the year had
begun, for every day heavily-loaded wheat wagons wound slowly over the
long trail on their way to Brandon, and the Stopping-House became the
foregathering place of all the farmers in the settlement. At noon the
stable yard presented a lively appearance as the "boys" unhitched their
steaming teams and led them to the long, straggling straw-roofed
stables. The hay that John Corbett had cut on the meadows of Black
Creek and stacked beside the stables was carried in miniature stacks
which completely hid the man who carried them into the mangers, while
the creaking windlass of the well proclaimed that the water-troughs
were being filled. The cattle who foraged through the straw stack in
the field near by always made the mistake of thinking that they were
included in the invitation, much to the disgust of Peter Rockett, the
chore boy, who drove them back with appropriate remarks.
Inside of the Stopping-House the long dining-room, called "the room,"
was a scene of great activity. The long oilcloth-covered table down the
centre of the "room" was full of smoking dishes of potatoes and ham and
corned beef, and piled high with bread and buns; tin teapots were at
each end of the table and were passed from hand to hand. There were
white bowls filled with stewed prunes and apricots and pitchers of
"Goldendrop" syrup at intervals down the table.
Table etiquette was fairly well observed—the person who took the last
of the potatoes was in duty bound to take the dish out to the kitchen
and replenish it from the black pot which stood on its three legs on
the back of the kitchen stove. The same rule applied to the tea and the
bread. Also when one had finished his meal the correct plan of
procedure was to gather up his plate, knife and fork and cup and saucer
and carry them out to the kitchen, where Mrs. Corbett or Peter Rockett
hastily washed them to be ready for the next one.
When entering the Black Creek dining-room with the purpose of having a
meal there were certain small conventions to be observed. If a place
was already set, the newcomer could with impunity sit down and proceed
with the order of business; if there was no place set, but room for a
place to be set, the hungry one came out to the kitchen and selected
what implements he needed in the way of plate and knife and proceeded
to the vacancy; if there was not a vacant place at the table, the
newcomer retired to the window and read the Northern Messenger or the
War Cry, which were present in large numbers on the sewing-machine.
But before leaving the table conversation zone, it was considered
perfectly legitimate to call out in a loud voice: "Some eat fast, some
eat long, and some eat both ways," or some such bright and felicitous
remark. It was a bitter cold day in November—one of those dark, cold
days with a searching wind, just before the snow comes. In Mrs.
Corbett's kitchen there was an unusual bustle and great excitement, for
the women from the Tiger Hills were there—three of them on their way
to Brandon. Mrs. Corbett said it always made her nervous to cook for
women. You can't fool them on a bad pudding by putting on a good sauce,
the way you can a man. But Mrs. Corbett admitted it was good to see
There was Mrs. Berry and her sister, Miss Thornley, and Mrs. Smith.
They had ridden fifteen miles on a load of wheat, and had yet another
fifteen to go to reach their destination. In spite of a long, cold and
very slow ride, the three ladies were in splendid condition, and as
soon as they were thawed out enough to talk, and long before their
teeth stopped chattering, they began to ask about Mrs. Corbett's
neighbor, young Mrs. Brydon, in such a way, that, as Mrs. Corbett
afterwards explained to Da Corbett, "you could tell they had heard
"Our lads saw her over at the Orangemen's ball in Millford, and they
said Rance Belmont was with her more than her own man," said Mrs.
Berry, as she melted the frost from her eyebrows by holding her face
over the stove.
"Oh, well," Mrs. Corbett said, "I guess all the young fellows were
makin' a lot of her, but sure there's no harm in that."
Miss Thornley was too busy examining her feet for possible frostbites
to give in her contribution just then, but after she had put her
coldest foot in a wash-basin of water she said, "I don't see how any
woman can go the length of her toe with Rance Belmont, but young Mrs.
Brydon went to Brandon with him last week, for my sister's husband
heard it from somebody that had seen them. I don't know how she can do
Mrs. Corbett was mashing potatoes with a gem-jar, and without stopping
her work she said: "Oh, well, Miss Thornley, it's easy for you and me
to say we would not go out with Rance Belmont, but maybe that's mostly
because we have never had the chance. He's got a pretty nice way with
him, Rance has, and I guess if he came along now with his sorrel pacer
and says to you, 'Come on, Miss Thornley,' you would get on that boot
and stocking in two jiffies and be off with him like any young girl!"
Miss Thornley mumbled a denial, and an angry light shone in her pale
Mrs. Smith was also full of the subject, and while she twisted her hair
into a small "nub" about the size, shape and color of a peanut, she
expressed her views.
"It ain't decent for her to be goin' round with Rance Belmont the way
she does, and they say at the dance at Millford she never missed a
dance. Since Rance has got his money from England he hasn't done a
thing but play cards with them twins and take her round. I don't see
how her man can put up with it, but he's an awful easy-goin' chap—just
the kind that wouldn't notice anything wrong until he'd come home some
night and find her gone. I haven't one bit of respect for her."
"Oh, now, Mrs. Smith, you're too hard on her. She's young and pretty
and likes a good time." Mrs. Corbett was giving her steel knives a
quick rub with ashes out of deference to the lady stoppers. "It's easy
enough for folks like us," waving her knife to include all present, "to
be very respectable and never get ourselves talked about, for nobody's
askin' us to go to dances or fly around with them, but with her it's
different. Don't be hard on her! She ain't goin' to do anything she
But the ladies were loath to adopt Mrs. Corbett's point of view. All
their lives nothing had happened, and here was a deliciously exciting
possible scandal, and they clung to it.
"They say the old man Grant is nearly a millionaire, and he's getting
lonely for her, and is pretty near ready to forgive her and Fred and
take them back. Wouldn't it be awful if the old man should come up here
and find she'd gone with Rance Belmont?"
Mrs. Berry looked anxiously around the kitchen as if searching for the
"Oh, don't worry," declared Mrs. Corbett; "she ain't a quitter. She'll
stay with her own man; they're happy as ever I saw two people."
"If she did go," Miss Thornley said, sentimentally, "if she did go, do
you suppose she'd leave a note pinned on the pin-cushion? I think they
When the ladies had gone that afternoon, and while Mrs. Corbett washed
the white ironstone dishes, she was not nearly so composed and
confident in mind as she pretended to be.
"Don't it beat the band how much they find out? I often wonder how
things get to be known. I do wish she wouldn't give them the chance to
talk, but she's not the one that will take tellin'—too much like her
father for that—and still I kind o' like her for her spunky ways.
Rance is a divil, but she don't know that. It is pretty hard to tell
what ought to be done. This is surely work for the Almighty, and not
for sinful human beings!"
That night Mrs. Corbett took her pen in hand. Mrs. Corbett was more at
home with the potato-masher or the rolling-pin, but when duty called
her she followed, even though it involved the using of unfamiliar
She wrote a lengthy letter to Mr. Robert Grant, care of The Imperial
Lumber Company, Toronto, Ontario:
"Dear and respected sir," Mrs. Corbett wrote, "I take my pen in hand to
write you a few things that maybe you don't know but ought to know, and
to tell you your daughter is well, but homesick sometimes hoping that
you are enjoying the same blessings as this leaves us at present. Your
daughter is my neighbor and a blessed girl she is, and it is because I
love her so well that I am trying to write to you now, not being handy
at it, as you see; also my pen spits. As near as I can make out you and
her's cut off the same cloth; both of you are touchy and quick, and, if
things don't suit you, up and coming. But she's got a good heart in her
as ever I see. One day she told me a lot about how good you were to her
when her mother died, and about the prayer her mother used to tell her
to say: 'Help papa and mamma and Evelyn to be chums.' When she came to
that she broke right down and cried, and says she to me, 'I haven't
either of them now!' If you'd a-seen her that day you'd have forgot
everything only that she was your girl. Then she sat down and wrote you
a long letter, but when she got done didn't she tear it up, because she
said you told her you wouldn't read her letters. I saved a bit of the
letter for you to see, and here it is. We don't any of us see what made
you so mad at the man she got—he's a good fellow, and puts up with all
her high temper. She's terrible like yourself, excuse me for saying so
and meaning no harm. If she'd married some young scamp that was soaked
in whiskey and cigarettes you'd a-had something to kick about. I don't
see what you find in him to fault. Maybe you'll be for telling me to
mind my own business, but I am not used to doing that, for I like to
take a hand any place I see I can do any good, and if I was leaving my
girl fretting and lonely all on account of my dirty temper, both in me
and in her, though for that she shouldn't be blamed, I'd be glad for
someone to tell me. If you should want to send her a Christmas present,
and she says you never forgot her yet, come yourself. It's you she's
fretting for. You can guess it's lonely for her here when I tell you
she and me's the only women in this neighborhood, and I keep a
stopping-house, and am too busy feeding hungry men to be company for
"Hoping these few lines will find you enjoying the same blessings,
The writing of the letter took Mrs. Corbett the greater part of the
afternoon, but when it was done she felt a great weight had been lifted
from her heart. She set about her preparations for the evening meal
with more than usual speed.
Going to the door to call Peter Rockett, she was surprised to see Rance
Belmont, with his splendid sorrel pacer, drive into the yard. He came
into the house a few minutes afterwards and seemed to be making
preparations to stay for supper.
A sudden resolve was formed in Mrs. Corbett's mind as she watched him
hanging up his coat and making a careful toilet at the square looking-
glass which hung over the oilcloth-covered soap box on which stood the
wash-basin and soap saucer. She called to him to come into the pantry,
and while she hurriedly peeled the potatoes she plunged at once into
"Rance," she began, "you go to see Mrs. Brydon far too often, and
people are talking about it."
Rance shrugged his shoulders.
"Now, don't tell me you don't care, or that it's none of my business,
though that may be true."
"I would never be so lacking in politeness, however true it might be!"
he answered, rolling a cigarette.
Mrs. Corbett looked at him a minute, then she broke out, "Oh, but you
are the smooth-tongued gent!—you'd coax the birds off the bushes; but
I want to tell you that you are not doing right hanging around Mrs.
Brydon the way you do."
"Does she object?" he asked, in the same even tone, as he slowly struck
a match on the sole of his boot.
"She's an innocent little lamb," Mrs. Corbett cried, "and she's lonely
and homesick, and you've taken advantage of it. That poor lamb can't
stand the prairie like us old pelters that's weatherbeaten and gray and
toughened—she ain't made for it—she was intended for diamond rings
and drawing-rooms, and silks and satins."
Rance Belmont looked at her, still smiling his inexplicable smile.
"I can supply them better than she is getting them now," he said.
Mrs. Corbett gave an exclamation of surprise.
"But she's a married woman," she cried, "and a good woman, and what are
you, Rance? Sure you're no mate for any honest woman, you blackhearted,
smooth-tongued divil!" Mrs. Corbett's Irish temper was mounting higher
and higher, and two red spots burned in her cheeks. "You know as well
as I do that there's no happiness for any woman that goes wrong. That
woman must stand by her man, and he's a good fellow, Fred is; such a
fine, clean, honest lad, he never suspects anyone of being a crook or
meanin' harm. Why can't you go off and leave them alone, Rance? They
were doin' fine before you came along. Do one good turn, Rance, and
take yourself off."
"You ask too much, Mrs. Corbett. I find Mrs. Brydon very pleasant
company, and Mr. Fred does not object to my presence."
"But he would if he knew how the people talk about it."
"That is very wrong of them, and entirely unavoidable," Rance answered,
calmly, "But the opinion of the neighbors has never bothered me yet,"
he continued; "why should it in this instance?"
Mrs. Corbett's eyes flashed ominously.
"Do you know what I'd do if it was my girl you were after?" she asked,
pausing in her work and fixing her eyes on him.
"Something very unpleasant, I should say, by the tone of your voice—
and, by the way, you are pointing your potato knife at me—"
Mrs. Corbett with an effort controlled her temper.
"I believe, Mrs. Corbett, you would do me bodily injury. What a
horrible thought, and you a former officer in the Salvation Army!"
Rance was smiling again and enjoying the situation. "What a thrilling
headline it would make for the Brandon Sun: 'The Black Creek
Stopping-House scene of a brutal murder. Innocent young man struck down
in his youth and beauty.' You make me shudder, Mrs. Corbett, but you
look superb when you rage like that; really, you women interest me a
great deal. I am so fond of all of you!"
"You're a divil, Rance!" Mrs. Corbett repeated again. "But you ain't
goin' to do that blessed girl any harm—she's goin' to be saved from
you some way."
"Who'll do it, I wonder?" Rance seemed to triumph over her.
"There is One," said Maggie Corbett, solemnly, "who comes to help when
all other help fails."
"Who's that?" he asked, yawning.
Maggie Corbett held up her right hand.
"It is God!" she said slowly. Rance laughed indulgently. "A myth—a
name—a superstition," he sneered; "there is no God any more."
"There is a God," she said, slowly and reverently, for she was Maggie
Murphy now, back to the Army days when God walked with her day by day,
"and He can hear a mother's prayer, and though I was never a mother
after the flesh, I am a mother now to that poor girl in the place of
the one that's gone, and I'm askin' Him to save her, and I've got me
answer. He will do it."
There was a gleam in her eyes and a white glow in her face that made
Rance Belmont for one brief moment tremble, but he lighted another
cigarette and with a bow of exaggerated politeness left the room.
The days that followed were anxious ones for Mrs. Corbett. Many
stoppers sat at her table as the Christmas season drew near, and many
times she heard allusions to her young neighbor which filled her with
apprehension. She had carefully counted the days that it would take her
letter to reach its destination, and although there had been time for a
reply, none came.
SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT.
It was a wind-swept, chilly morning in late November, and Evelyn
Brydon, alone in the silent little house, stood at the window looking
listlessly at the dull gray monochrome which stretched before her.
The unaccustomed housework had roughened and chapped her hands, and the
many failures in her cooking experiments, in spite of Mrs, Corbett's
instructions, had left her tired and depressed, for a failure is always
depressing, even if it is only in the construction of the things which
This dark morning it seemed to her that her life was as gray and
colorless as the bleached-out prairie—the glamor had gone from
She and Fred had had their first quarrel, and Fred had gone away dazed
and hurt by the things she had said under the stress of her anger. He
was at a loss to know what had gone wrong with Evelyn, for she had
seemed quite contented all the time. He did not know how the many
little annoyances had piled up on her; how the utter loneliness of the
prairie, with its monotonous sweep of frost-killed grass, the deadly
sameness, and the perpetual silence of the house, had so worked upon
her mind that it required but a tiny spark to cause an explosion.
The spark he had supplied himself when he had tried to defend his
brothers from her charges. All at once Evelyn felt herself grow cold
with anger, and the uncontrolled hasty words, bitterer than anything
she had ever thought, utterly unjust and cruel, sprang to her lips, and
Fred, stung to the quick with the injustice of it, had gone away
without a word.
It was with a very heavy heart that he went to his work that day; but
he had to go, for he was helping one of the neighbors to thresh, and
every dry day was precious, and every man was needed.
All day long Evelyn went about the house trying to justify herself. A
great wave of self-pity seemed to be engulfing her and blotting out
every worthier feeling.
The prairie was hateful to her that day, its dull gray stretches cruel
and menacing, and a strange fear of it seemed to possess her.
All day she tried to busy herself about the house, but she worked to no
purpose, taking up things and laying them down again, forgetting what
she was going to do with them; strange whispering voices seemed to
sound in the room behind her, trying to tell her something—to warn
her—and it was in vain that she tried to shake off their influence.
Once or twice she caught a glimpse of a black shadow over her shoulder,
just a reflecting vanishing glimpse, and when she turned hastily round
there was nothing there, but the voices, mocking and gibbering, were
louder than ever.
She wished Fred would come. She would tell him that she hadn't meant
what she said.
As the afternoon wore on, and Fred did not make his appearance, a
sudden deadly fear came over her at the thought of staying alone. Of
course the twins occupied the other half of the house, and to-night, at
least, she was glad of their protection.
Suddenly it occurred to her that she had heard no sound from their
quarters for a long time. She listened and listened, the silence
growing more and more oppressive, until at last, overcoming her fears,
she went around and tried the door. Even the voices of her much-
despised brothers-in-law would be sweet music to her ears.
The door was locked and there was no response to her knocks.
An old envelope stuck in a sliver in the door bore the entry in lead-
pencil, "Gone Duck Shooting to Plover Slough," for it was the custom of
the twins to faithfully chronicle the cause of their absence and their
probable location each time they left home, to make it easy to find
them in the event of a cablegram from Aunt Patience's solicitors!
Evelyn turned away and ran back to her own part of the house. She
hastily barred the door.
The short autumn day was soon over. The sun broke out from the dull
gray mountain of clouds and threw a yellow glare on the colorless
field. She stood by the window watching the light as it faded and paled
and died, and then the shades of evening quickly gathered. Turning
again to replenish the fire, the darkness of the room startled her.
There was a shadow under the table like a cave's mouth. Unaccustomed
sounds smote her ear; the logs in the house creaked uncannily, and when
she walked across the floor muffled footfalls seemed to follow her.
She put more wood in the stove and tried to shake off the apprehensions
which were choking her. She lit the lamp and hastily drew down the
white cotton blind and pinned it close to keep out the great pitiless
staring Outside, which seemed to be peering in at her with a dozen
white, mocking, merciless faces.
In the lamp's dim light the shadows were blacker than ever; the big
packing-box threw a shadow on the wall that was as black as the mouth
of a tunnel in a mountain.
She noticed that her stock of wood was running low, and with a mighty
effort of the will she opened the door to bring in some from a pile in
the yard. Stopping a minute to muster up her courage, she waited at the
open door. Suddenly the weird cry of a wolf came up from the creek
bank, and it was a bitter, lonely, insistent cry.
She slammed the door, and coming back into the room, sank weak and
trembling into a chair. A horror grew upon her until the beads of
perspiration stood upon her face. Her hands grew numb and useless, and
the skin of her head seemed stiff and frozen. Her ears were strained to
catch any sound, and out of the silence there came many strange noises
to torment her overstrained senses.
She thought of Mrs. Corbett at the Stopping-House, and tried to muster
courage to walk the distance, but a terrible fear held her to the spot.
The fire died out, and the room grew colder and colder, but huddled in
a chair in a panic of fear she did not notice the cold. Her teeth
chattered; spots of light danced before her tightly-shut eyes. She did
not know what she was afraid of; a terrible nameless fear seemed to be
clutching at her very heart. It was the living, waking counterpart of
the nightmare that had made horrible her childhood nights—a gripping,
overwhelming fear of what might happen.
Suddenly something burst into the room—the terrible something that she
had been waiting for. The silence broke into a thousand screaming
voices. She slipped to the floor and cried out in an agony of terror.
There was a loud knocking on the door, and then through the horrible
silence that followed there came a voice calling to her not to be
She staggered to the door and unbarred it, and heard someone speak
again in blessed human voice.
The door opened, and she found herself looking into the face of Rance
Belmont, and her fear-tortured eyes gave him a glad welcome.
She seized him by the arm, holding to him as a child fear-smitten in
the night will hold fast to the one who comes in answer to his cries.
Rance Belmont knew how to make the most, yet not too much, of an
advantage. He soothed her fears courteously, gently; he built up the
fire; he made her a cup of tea; there was that strange and subtle
influence in all that he said and did that made her forget everything
that was unpleasant and be happy in his presence.
A perfect content grew upon her; she forgot her fears—her loneliness—
her quarrel with Fred; she remembered only the happy company of the
Under the intoxication of the man's presence she ceased to be the
tired, discouraged, irritable woman, and became once more the Evelyn
Grant whose vivacity and wit had made her conspicuous in the brightest
She tried to remind herself of some of the unpleasant things that
neighborhood gossip said of Rance Belmont—of Mrs. Corbett's dislike of
him—but in the charm of his presence they all faded into vague
There was flattery, clever, hidden flattery, which seemed like
adoration, in every word he spoke, every tone of his voice, every
glance of his coal-black eyes, that seemed in some way to atone for the
long, gray, monotonous days that had weighed so heavily upon her
"Are you always frightened when you are left alone?" he asked her.
Every word was a caress, the tone of his voice implying that she should
never be left alone, the magnetism of his presence assuring her that
she would never be left alone again.
"I was never left alone in the evening before," she said. "I thought I
was very brave until to-night, but it was horrible—it makes me shudder
to think of it."
"Don't think!" he said gently.
"Fred thought the twins would be here, I know, or he would not have
stayed away," Evelyn said, wishing to do justice to Fred, and feeling
indefinitely guilty about something.
"The twins are jolly good company,—oh, I say!" laughed Rance, in tones
so like her brothers-in-law that Evelyn laughed delightedly. It was
lovely to have someone to laugh with.
"But where are the heavenly twins to-night?"
"I suppose they saw a flock of ducks going over, or heard the honk-honk
of wild geese," she answered. "It does not take much to distract them
from labor—and they have a soul above it, you know."
Rance Belmont need not have asked her about the twins; he had met them
on their way to the Plover Slough and had given Reginald the loan of
his gun; he had learned from them that Fred, too, was away.
"But if dear Aunt Patience will only lift her anchor all will yet be
well, and the dear twins will not need to be bothered with anything so
beastly as farm-work." His tone and manner were so like the twins that
Evelyn applauded his efforts. Then he told her the story of the cow,
and of how the twins, endeavoring to follow the example of some of the
Canadians whom they had seen locking their wagon-wheels with a chain
when going down the Souris hill, had made a slight mistake in the
location of the chain and hobbled the oxen, with disastrous results.
When he looked at his watch it was nine o'clock.
"I must go," he said, hastily rising; "it would hardly do for me to be
"What do you mean?" she asked in surprise.
"What do you suppose your husband would say if he came home and found
Evelyn flushed angrily.
"My husband has confidence in me," she answered proudly. "I don't know
what he thinks of you, but I know what he thinks of me, and it would
make no difference what company he found me in, he would never doubt
me. I trust him in the same way. I would believe his word against that
of the whole world."
She held her handsome head high when she said this.
Rance Belmont looked at her with a dull glow in his black eyes.
"I hope you are right," he said, watching the color coming in her face.
"I am right," she said after a pause, daring which she had looked at
him defiantly. He was wise enough to see he had made a false move and
had lost ground in her regard.
"I think you had better go," she said at last. "I do not like that
insinuation of yours that your presence here might be misconstrued.
Yes, I want you to go. I was glad to see you; I was never so glad to
see anyone; I was paralyzed with fear; but now I am myself again, and I
am sure Fred will come home."
There was a sneering smile on his face which she understood and
"In that case I had better go," he said.
"That is not the reason I want you to go. I tell you again that Fred
would not believe that I was untrue to him. He believes in me utterly."
She drew herself up with an imperious gesture and added: "I am worthy
of his trust."
Rance Belmont thought he had never seen her so beautiful.
"I will not leave you," he declared. "Forgive me for speaking as I did.
I judged your husband by the standards of the world. I might have known
that the man who won you must be different from other men. It was only
for your sake that I said I must go. I care nothing for his fury. If it
were the fury of a hundred men I would stay with you; just to be near
you, to hear your sweet voice, to see you, is heaven to me."
Evelyn sprang to her feet indignantly as he arose and came towards her.
Just at that moment the door opened, and Fred Brydon, having heard the
last words, stood face to face with them both!
HIS EVIL GENIUS.
When Fred Brydon went to his work that morning, smarting from the angry
words that Evelyn had hurled at him, everyone he met noticed how gloomy
and burdened he seemed to be; how totally unlike his former easy good-
nature and genial cheerfulness was his strange air of reserve.
They thought they knew the cause, and told each other so when he was
When he came into the kitchen to wash himself at noon he heard one of
the men say to another in an aside: "He'll be the last one to catch
He paid no particular attention to the sentence at the time, but it
stuck in his memory.
The day was fine and dry, and the thresher was run at the top of its
speed. One more day would finish the stacks, and as this was the last
threshing to be done in the neighborhood, the greatest effort was put
forth to finish it before the weather broke.
They urged him to stay the night—they would begin again at daylight—
the weather was so uncertain.
He thought, of course, that the twins were safely at home, and Evelyn
had often said that she was not afraid to stay. He had consented to
stay, when all at once the weather changed.
The clouds had hung low and heavy all day, but after sundown a driving
wind carrying stray flakes of snow began to whistle around the stacks.
The air, too, grew heavy, and a feeling of oppression began to be
The pigs ran across the yard carrying a mouthful of straw, and the
cattle crowded into the sheds. Soon the ground was covered with loose
snow, which began to whirl in gentle, playful eddies. The warmth of the
air did not in any way deceive the experienced dwellers on the plain,
who knew that the metallic whistle in the wind meant business.
The owner of the threshing machine covered it up with canvas, and all
those who had been helping, as soon as they had supper, started to make
the journey to their homes. It looked as if a real Manitoba blizzard
was setting in.
In spite of the protestations of all the men, Fred did not wait for his
supper, but set out at once on the three-mile walk home.
Evelyn's hasty words still stung him with the sense of failure and
defeat. If Evelyn had gone back on him what good was anything to him?
Walking rapidly down the darkening trail, his thoughts were very bitter
and self-reproachful; he had done wrong, he told himself, to bring her
to such a lonely place—it would have been better for Evelyn if she had
never met him—she had given up too much for his sake.
He noticed through the drifting storm that there was something ahead of
him on the trail, and, quickening his steps, he was surprised to
overtake his two brothers leisurely returning from their duck hunt.
"Why did you two fellows leave when you knew I was away? You know that
Evelyn will be frightened to be left there all alone."
Instantly all his own troubles vanished at the thought of his wife left
alone on the wide prairie.
His brothers strongly objected to his words.
"We don't 'ave to stay to mind 'er, do we?" sneered Reginald.
"Maybe she ain't alone, either," broke in Randolph, seeing an
opportunity to turn Fred's wrath in another direction.
"What are you driving at?" asked Fred in surprise.
"Maybe Rance Belmont has dropped in again to spend the evenin'—he
usually does when you're away!"
"You lie!" cried Fred, angrily.
"We ain't lyin'," declared Randolph. "Everybody knows it only you."
The words were no sooner said than Fred fell upon him like a madman.
Randolph roared lustily for help, and Reginald valiantly strove to save
him from Fred's fury. But they retreated before him as he rained his
blows upon them both.
Then Reginald, finding that he was no match for Fred in open conflict,
dodged around behind him, and soon a misty dizziness in his head told
Fred that he had been struck by something heavier than hands. There was
a booming in his ears and he fell heavily to the road.
The twins were then thoroughly frightened. Here was a dreadful and
They stood still to consider what was to be done.
"It was you done it, remember," said Randolph to Reginald.
"But I done it to save you!" cried Reginald, indignantly, "and you
can't prove it was me. People can't tell us apart."
"Anyway," said Reginald, "everybody will blame it on Rance Belmont if
he is killed—and see here, here's the jolly part of it. I'll leave
Rance's gun right beside him. That'll fix the guilt on Rance!"
"Well, we won't go home; we'll go back and stay in the shootin'-house
at the Slough, and then we can prove we weren't home at all, and
there'll be no tracks by mornin', anyway."
The twins turned around and retraced their steps through the storm,
very hungry and very cross, but forgetting these emotions in the
presence of a stronger one—fear.
But Fred was not killed, only stunned by Reginald's cowardly blow. The
soft flakes melting on his face revived him, and sitting up he looked
about him trying to remember where he was. Slowly it all came to him,
and stiff and sore, he got upon his feet. There were no signs of the
twins, but to this Fred gave no thought; his only anxiety was for
Evelyn, left alone on such a wild night.
When he entered his own house with Rance Belmont's words ringing in his
ears, he stood for a moment transfixed. His brother's words which he
had so hotly resented surged over him now with fatal conviction; also
the words he had heard at the threshing, "He'll be the last one to
catch on," came to him like the flash of lightning that burns and
uproots and destroys.
His head swam dizzily and lights danced before his eyes. He stood for a
moment without speaking. He was not sure that it wasn't all a horrible
If he had looked first at Evelyn, her honest face and flashing eyes
would have put his unworthy suspicions to flight. But Rance Belmont
with his fatal magnetic presence drew his gaze. Rance Belmont stood
with downcast eyes, the living incarnation of guilt. It was all a pose,
of course, but Rance Belmont, with his deadly gift of being able to
make any impression he wished, made a wonderful success of the part he
had all at once decided to play.
Looking at him, Fred's smouldering jealousy burst into flame.
There was an inarticulate sound in his throat, and striding forward he
landed a smashing blow on Rance Belmont's averted face.
"Oh, Fred!" Evelyn cried, springing forward, "for shame!—how could
you!—how dare you!—"
"Don't talk to me of shame!" Fred cried, his face white with anger.
"Don't blame her," Rance said in a low voice. He made no attempt to
In her excitement Evelyn did not notice the sinister significance of
his words and what they implied. She was conscious of nothing only that
Fred had insulted her by his actions, and her wrath grew as terrible as
She caught him by the shoulder and compelled him to look at her.
"Fred," she cried, "do you believe—do you dare to believe this
She shook him in her rage and excitement.
Rance Belmont saw that Fred would be convinced of her innocence if he
did not gain his attention, and the devil in him spoke again, soft,
misleading, lying words, part truth, yet all false, leaving no chance
"Don't blame her—the fault has all been mine," he interposed again.
In her blind rage again Evelyn missed the significance of his words.
She was conscious of one thought only—Fred had not immediately craved
her pardon. She shook and trembled with uncontrollable rage.
"I hate you, Fred!" she cried, her voice sounding thin and unnatural.
"I hate you! One minute ago I believed you to be the noblest man on
earth; now I know you for an evil-minded, suspicious, contemptible,
dog!—a dog!—a cur! My father was right about you. I renounce you
She pulled the rings from her finger and flung them against the window,
cracking the glass across. "I will never look on your face again, I
hope. This is my reward, is it, for giving up everything for you? I
boasted of your trust in me a minute ago, but you have shamed me; you
have dragged my honor in the dust, but now I am free—and you may
believe what you please!"
She turned to Rance Belmont.
"Will you drive me to Brandon to-night?" she asked.
She put on her coat and hat without a word or a look at the man, who
stood as if rooted to the ground.
Then opening the door she went out quickly, and Rance Belmont, with
something like triumph on his black face, quickly followed her, and
Fred Brydon, bruised in body and stricken in soul, was left alone in
his desolate house.
The wind was whistling down the Black Creek Valley, carrying heavy
flakes of snow that whirled and eddied around them, as Rance Belmont
and Evelyn made their way to the Stopping-House. The stormy night
accorded well with the turmoil in Evelyn's brain. One point she had
decided—she would go back to her father, and for this purpose she
asked her companion if he would lend her one hundred dollars. This he
gladly consented to do.
He was discreet enough to know that he must proceed with caution,
though he felt that in getting her separated from her husband and so
thoroughly angry with him that he had made great progress. Now he
believed that if he could get her away from the Stopping-House his
magnetic influence over her would bring her entirely under his power.
But she had insisted on going in to the Stopping-House to see Mrs.
Corbett and tell her what she was going to do. It was contrary to
Evelyn's straightforwardness to do anything in an under-handed way, and
she felt that she owed it to Mrs.
Corbett, who had been her staunch friend, to tell her the truth of the
story, knowing that many versions of it would be told.
Mrs. Corbett was busy setting a new batch of bread, and looked up with
an exclamation of surprise when they walked into the kitchen, white
with snow. It staggered Mrs. Corbett somewhat to see them together at
that late hour, but she showed no surprise as she made Mrs. Brydon
"I am going away, Mrs. Corbett," Evelyn began at once.
"No bad news from home, is there?" Mrs. Corbett asked anxiously.
"No bad news from home, but bad news here. Fred and I have quarrelled
and parted forever!"
Mrs. Corbett drew Evelyn into the pantry and closed the door. She could
do nothing, she felt, with Rance Belmont present.
"Did you quarrel about him?" she asked, jerking her head towards the
Evelyn told her story, omitting only Rance Belmont's significant
remarks, which indeed she had not heard.
Mrs. Corbett listened attentively until she was done.
"Ain't that just like a man, poor, blunderin' things they are. Sure and
it was just his love for you, honey, that made him break out so
"Love!" Evelyn broke in scornfully. "Love should include trust and
respect—I don't want love without them. How dare he think that I would
do anything that I shouldn't? Do I look like a woman who would go
"Sure you don't, honey!" Mrs. Corbett soothed her, "but you know Rance
Belmont is so smooth-tongued and has such a way with him that all men
hate him, and the women like him too well. But what are you goin' to
do, dear? Sure you can't leave your man."
"I have left him," said Evelyn. "I am going to Brandon now to-night in
time for the early train. Rance Belmont will drive me."
Something warned Mrs. Corbett not to say all that was in her heart, so
"Sure, if I were you I wouldn't go off at night—it don't look well.
Stay here till mornin'. The daylight's the best time to go. Don't go
off at night as if you were doin' something you were ashamed of. Go in
"What do I care what people say about me?" Evelyn raged again. "They
can't say any worse than my husband believes of me. No—I am going—I
want to put distance between us; I just came in to say good-bye and to
tell you how it happened. I wanted you and Mr. Corbett to know the
truth, for you have been kind friends to me, and I'll never, never
"I'd be afraid you'd never get to Brandon tonight, honey." Mrs. Corbett
held her close, determining in her own mind that she would lock her in
the pantry if there was no other way of detaining her. "Listen to the
wind—sure it's layin' in for a blizzard. I knew that all day. The
roads will be drifted so high you'd never get there, even with the big
pacer. Stay here tonight just to oblige me, and you can go on in the
morning if it's fit."
Meanwhile John Corbett had been warning Rance Belmont that the weather
was unfit for anyone to be abroad, and the fact that George Sims, the
horse trader from Millford, and Dan Lonsbury, had put in for the night,
made a splendid argument in favor of his doing the same. Rance Belmont
had no desire to face a blizzard unnecessarily, particularly at night,
and the storm was growing thicker every minute. So after consulting
with Evelyn, who had yielded to Mrs. Corbett's many entreaties, he
agreed to remain where he was for the night. Evelyn went at once to the
small room over the kitchen, which Mrs. Corbett kept for special
guests, and as she busied herself about the kitchen Mrs. Corbett could
hear her pacing up and down in her excitement.
Mrs. Corbett hastily baked biscuits and "buttermilk bread" to feed her
large family, who, according to the state of the weather and the
subsequent state of the roads, might be with her for several days, and
while her hands were busy, her brain was busier still, and being a
praying woman, Maggie Corbett was looking for help in the direction
from which help comes.
The roaring of the storm as it swept past the house, incessantly
mourning in the mud chimney and sifting the snow against the frosted
windows, brought comfort to her anxious heart, for it reminded her that
dominion and majesty and power belong to the God whom she served.
When she put the two pans of biscuits in the oven she looked through
the open door into the "Room," where her unusual number of guests were
lounging about variously engaged.
Rance Belmont smoked cigarettes constantly and shuffled the cards as if
to read his fate therein. He would dearly have loved a game with some
one, for he had the soul of a gambler, but Mrs. Corbett's decree
against card-playing was well known.
Dan Lonsbury, close beside the table lamp, read a week-old copy of the
Brandon Times. George Sims, the horse-dealer, by the light of his own
lantern, close beside him on the bench, pared his corns with minute
attention to detail.
Under the wall lamp, which was fastened to the window frame, Da
Corbett, in his cretonne-covered barrel-chair of home manufacture, read
the War Cry, while Peter Rockett, on his favorite seat, the wood-box,
played one of the Army tunes on his long-suffering Jew's-harp.
"They can't get away as long as the storm lasts, anyway," Mrs. Corbett
was thinking, thankful even for this temporary respite, "but they'll go
in the mornin' if the storm goes down, and I can't stop them—vain is
the help of man."
Suddenly Mrs. Corbett started as if she had heard a strange and
disturbing noise; she threw out her hands as if in protest. She sat
still a few moments holding fast to the kitchen table in her
excitement; her eyes glittered, and her breath came short and fast.
She went hurriedly into the pantry, fearful that her agitation might be
noticed. In her honest soul it seemed to her that her plan, so
terrible, so daring, so wicked, must be sounding now in everybody's
In the darkness of the pantry she tried to think it out. Was it an
inspiration from heaven, or was it a suggestion of the devil? One
minute she was imploring Satan to "get thee behind me," and the next
minute she was thanking God and whispering Hallelujahs! A lull in the
storm drove her to immediate action.
John Corbett came out into the kitchen to see what was burning, for
Maggie had forgotten her biscuits.
When the biscuits were attended to she took "Da" with her into the
pantry, and she said to him, "Da, is it ever right to do a little wrong
so that good will come of it?"
She asked the question so impersonally that John Corbett replied
without hesitation: "It is never right, Maggie."
"But, Da," she cried, seizing the lapel of his coat, "don't you mind
hearin' o' how the priests have given whiskey to the Indians when they
couldn't get the white captives away from them any other way? Wasn't
"Sure and it was; at a time like that it was right to do anything—but
what are you coming at, Maggie?"
"If Rance Belmont lost all the money he has on him, and maybe ran a bit
in debt, he couldn't go away to-morrow with her, could he? She thinks
he's just goin' to drive her to Brandon, but I know him—he'll go with
her, sure—she can't help who travels on the train with her—and how'll
that look? But if he were to lose his money he couldn't travel dead
broke, could he, Da?"
"Not very far," agreed Da, "but what are you coming at, Maggie? Do you
want me to go through him?" He laughed at the suggestion.
"Ain't there any way you can think of, Da—no, don't think—the sin is
mine and I'll take it fair and square on my soul. I don't want you to
be blemt for it—Da, listen—" she whispered in his ear.
John Corbett caught her in his arms.
"Would I? Would I? Oh, Maggie, would a duck swim?" he said, keeping his
voice low to avoid being heard in the other room.
"Don't be too glad, Da; remember it's a wicked thing I'm askin' you to
do; but, Da, are you sure you haven't forgot how?"
John Corbett laughed. "Maggie, when a man learns by patient toil to
tell the under side of an ace he does not often forget, but of course
there is always the chance, that's the charm of it—nobody can be quite
"I've thought of every way I can think of," she said, after a pause,
"and this seems to be the only way. I just wish it was something I
could do myself and not be bringing black guilt on your soul, but maybe
God'll understand. Maybe it was so that you'd be ready for to-night
that He let you learn to be so handy with them. Sure Ma always said
that God can do His work with quare tools; and now, Da, I'll slip off
to bed, and you'll pretend you're stealin' a march on me, and he'll
enjoy himself all the more if he thinks he's spitin' me. Oh, Da, I wish
I knew it was right—maybe it's ruinin' your soul I am, puttin' you up
to such wickedness, but I'll be prayin' for you as hard as I can."
Da looked worried. "Maggie, I don't know about the prayin'—I was
always able to find the card I needed without bein' prayed for."
"Oh, I mean I'll pray it won't hurt you. I wouldn't interfere with the
game, for I don't know one card from another, and I'm sure the Lord
don't either, but it's your soul I'm thinkin' of and worried about.
I'll slip down with the green box—there's more'n a hundred dollars in
it. And now good-bye, Da—go at him, and God bless you—and play like
Mr. John Corbett slowly folded up the War Cry and placed it in his
pocket, and when Maggie brought down the green box with their earnings
in it he emptied its contents in his pocket, and then, softly humming
to himself, he went into the other room.
The wind raged and the storm roared around the Black Creek Stopping-
House all that night, but inside the fire burned bright in the box-
stove, and an interested and excited group sat around the table where
Rance Belmont and John Corbett played the game! Peter Rockett, with his
eyes bulging from his head, watched his grave employer cut and deal and
gather in the stakes, with as much astonishment as if that dignified
gentleman had walked head downward on the ceiling. Yet John Corbett
proceeded with the game, as grave and solemn as when he asked a
blessing at the table. Sometimes he hummed snatches of Army tunes, and
sometimes Rance Belmont swore softly, and to the anxious ear which
listened at the stovepipe-hole above, both sounds were of surpassing
When the door closed behind Rance Belmont and Evelyn, Fred sank into a
chair with the whole room whirling dizzily around him. Why had the
world gone so suddenly wrong?
His head was quite clear now, and only the throbbing hurt on the back
of his head reminded him of Reginald's cowardly blow. But his anger
against his brothers had faded into apathy in the presence of this new
trouble which seemed to choke the very fountains of his being.
One terrible fact smote him with crushing force—Evelyn had left him
and gone with Rance Belmont. She said she hoped she would never see him
again—that she was done with him—and her eyes had blazed with anger
and hatred—and she had stepped in between him and the miserable
villain whom he would have so dearly loved to have beaten the life out
He tried to rage against her, but instead he could think of nothing but
her sweet imperiousness, her dazzling beauty, her cheerfulness under
all circumstances, and her loyalty to him.
She had given up everything for him—for his sake she had defied her
father, renounced all share in his great wealth, suffered the hardships
and loneliness of the prairie, all for him.
Her workbag lay on the table, partly open. It seemed to call and beckon
to him. He took it tenderly in his hands, and from its folds there fell
a crumpled sheet of paper. He smoothed it out, and found it partly
written on in Evelyn's clear round hand.
He held it to the light eagerly, as one might read a message from the
dead. Who was Evelyn writing to?
" When you ask me to leave my husband you ask me to do a dishonorable
and cowardly thing. Fred has never"—the writing ceased abruptly. Fred
read it again aloud, then sprang to his feet with a smothered
exclamation. Only one solution presented itself to his mind. She had
been writing to Rance Belmont trying to withstand his advances, trying
to break away from his devilish influence. She had tried to be true to
herself and to him.
Fred remembered then with bitter shame the small help he had given her.
He had wronged her when he struck Rance Belmont.
One overwhelming thought rose out of the chaos of his mind—she must be
set free from the baneful influence of this man. If she were not strong
enough to resist him herself, she must be helped, and that help must
come from him—he had sworn to protect her, and he would do it.
There was just one way left to him now. Fred's face whitened at the
thought, and his eyes had an unnatural glitter, but there was a deadly
purpose in his heart.
In his trunk he found the Smith and Wesson that one of the boys in the
office had given him when he left, and which he had never thought of
since. He hastily but carefully loaded it and slipped it into his
pocket. Then reaching for his snowy overcoat, which had fallen to the
floor, and putting the lamp in the window, more from habit than with
any purpose, he went out into the night.
The storm had reached its height when Fred Brydon, pulling has cap down
over his ears, set out on his journey. It was a wild enough night to
turn any traveller aside from his purpose, but Fred Brydon, in his
rage, had ceased to be a man with a man's fears, a man's frailties, and
had become an avenging spirit, who knew neither cold nor fatigue. A
sudden stinging of his ears made him draw his cap down more closely,
but he went forward at a brisk walk, occasionally breaking into a run.
He had but one thought in his mind—he must yet save Evelyn. He had
deserted her in her hour of need, but he would yet make amends.
The wind which sang dismally around him reminded him with a sickening
blur of homesickness of the many pleasant evenings he and Evelyn had
spent in their little shack, with the same wind making eerie music in
the pipe of the stove. Yesterday and to-day were separated by a gulf as
wide as death itself.
He had gone about three miles when he heard a faint halloo come down
the wind. It sounded two or three times before the real significance of
it occurred to him, so intent was he upon his own affairs. But louder
and more insistent came the unmistakable call for help.
A fierce temptation assailed Fred Brydon. He must not delay—every
minute was precious—to save Evelyn, his wife, was surely more his duty
than to set lost travellers on their way again. Besides, he told
himself, it was not a fiercely cold night—there was no great danger of
any person freezing to death; and even so, were not some things more
vital than saving people from death, which must come sooner or later?
Then down the wind came the cry again—a frightened cry—he could hear
the words—"Help! help! for God's sake!" Something in Fred Brydon's
heart responded to that appeal. He could not hurry by unheeding.
Guided by the calls, he turned aside from his course and made his way
through the choking storm across the prairie.
The cries came nearer, and Fred shouted in reply—words of impatient
encouragement. No rescuer ever went to his work with a worse grace.
A large, dark object loomed faintly through the driving storm.
"What's the matter?" called Fred, when he was within speaking distance.
"I'm caught—tangled up in some devilish thing," came back the cry.
Fred hurried forward, and found a man, almost covered with snow,
huddled beside a haystack, his clothing securely held by the barbs of
the wire with which the stack was fenced.
"You're stuck in the barbed wire," said Fred, as he removed his mittens
and with a good deal of difficulty released the man from the close grip
of the barbs.
"I hired a livery-man at Brandon to bring me out, and his bronchos
upset us and got away from him. He walked them the whole way—the roads
were heavy—and then look at what they did! I came over here for
shelter—the driver ran after the team, and then these infernal
fishhooks got hold of me—what are they, anyway?"
"This is surely a God-forsaken country that can jerk a storm like this
on you in November," the older man declared, as Fred carefully dusted
the snow off him, wondering all the time what he was going to do with
"Where are you going?" Fred asked, abruptly.
"I want to get to the Black Creek Stopping-House. How far am I from
"About three miles," said Fred.
"Well, I guess I can walk that far if you'll show me the road."
"I am going to Brandon," he said.
"What is any sane man going to Brandon to-night for?" the stranger
cried, impatiently. "Great Scott! I thought I was the only man who was
a big enough fool to be out to-night. The driver assured me of that
several times. I guess there's a woman in the case with you, too."
"Did you meet anyone?" Fred asked, quickly. "Not a soul! I tell you
you and I are the only crazy ones to-night."
Fred considered a minute.
"I'll take you on your way," he said.
The stranger suddenly remembered something. "I'm a good bit obliged to
you, young man, whoever you are. I guess I'd have been here all night
if you hadn't come along and heard me. I was beginning to get chilly,
too. Is this a blizzard?"
"Yes, I guess it is," Fred answered, shortly, "and it's not improving
any, so I guess we had better hurry on."
It was much easier going with the wind, and at first the older man,
helped along by Fred, made good progress. Fred knew that every minute
the drifts were growing higher and the road harder to keep.
The night grew colder and darker, and the storm seemed to thicken.
"Pretty hard going for an old man of sixty," the stranger said,
stopping to get his breath. The storm seemed to choke him.
Soon he begged to be let rest, and when Fred tried to start him again
he experienced some difficulty. The cold was getting into his very
bones, and was causing a fatal drowsiness.
Fred told him this and urged him to put forth his greatest efforts.
They were now but a mile from Fred's house. Every few minutes the light
in the window glimmered through the storm, the only ray of light in the
maze of whirling snow which so often thickened and darkened and blotted
it out altogether.
When they were about half a mile from the house, the old man, without
warning, dropped into the snow and begged Fred to go on without him. He
was all right, he declared, warm and comfortable, and wanted to rest.
"You'll freeze to death!" Fred cried. "That's the beginning of it."
"Feel very comfortable," the old man mumbled.
Fred coaxed, reasoned, entreated, but all in vain. He shook the old
man, scolded, threatened, but all to no purpose.
There was only one thing to be done.
Fred threw off his own coat, which was a heavy one, and picked the old
man up, though he was no light weight, and set off with him.
But the man objected to being carried, and, squirming vigorously,
slipped out of Fred's arms, and once more declared his intention of
sleeping in the snow.
With his frozen mitten Fred dealt him a stinging blow on the cheek
which made him yell with pain and surprise.
"Do what I tell you!" cried Fred.
The blow seemed to rouse him from his stupor, and he let Fred lead him
onward through the storm.
When they arrived at Fred's house he put the old man in a rocking-
chair, first removing his snowy outer garments, and made sure that he
had no frost-bites. Then hastily lighting the fire, which had burned
itself out, he made coffee and fried bacon.
When the old man had taken a cup of the coffee he began to take an
interest in his surroundings.
"How did I get here?" he asked. "The last thing I remember I was
sitting down, feeling very drowsy, and someone was bothering me to get
up. Did I get up?"
"Not until I lifted you," said Fred.
"Did you carry me?" the other man asked in surprise.
"I did until you kicked and squirmed so I couldn't hold you."
"What did you do then?" queried his visitor, tenderly feeling his sore
"I slapped you once, but you really deserved far more," said Fred,
"What did I do then?"
"You got up and behaved yourself so nicely I was sorry that I hadn't
slapped you sooner!"
The old man laughed to himself without a sound.
"What's your name?" he asked.
While this dialogue had been in progress Fred had been studying his
companion closely, with a growing conviction that he knew him. He was
older, grayer, and of course the storm had reddened his face, but Fred
thought he could not be mistaken.
The old man repeated the question.
"Brown!" said Fred, shortly, giving the first name he could think of.
"You're a strapping fine young fellow, Brown, even if you did hit me
with your hard mitt, and I believe I should be grateful to you."
"Don't bother," said Fred shortly.
"I will bother," the old man cried, imperiously, with a gesture of his
head that Fred knew well; "I will bother, and my daughter will thank
"Your daughter!" Fred exclaimed, turning his back to pick out another
stick for the stove.
"Yes, my girl, my only girl—it's her I came to see. She's living near
here. I guess you'd know her: she's married to a no-good Englishman, a
real lizzie-boy, that wouldn't say boo to a goose!"
Fred continued to fix the fire, poking it unnecessarily. He was
confident that Evelyn's father would not recognize him with his crop of
whiskers and sunburnt face. His mind was full of conflicting emotions.
"Maybe you know him," said the old man. "His name is Brydon. They live
somewhere near the Stopping-House."
"I've not lived here long," said Fred, evasively, "but I've heard of
The comfort and security of the warm little shack, as well as the good
meal Fred had given him, had loosened the old man's tongue.
"I never liked this gent. I only saw him once, but it don't take me
long to make up my mind. He carried a cane and had his monogram on his
socks—that was enough for me—and a red tie on him, so red you'd think
his throat was cut. I says to myself, I don't want that shop window
Judy round my house,' but Evelyn thought he was the best going. Funny
thing that that girl was the very one to laugh at dudes before that,
but she stuck it out that he was a fine chap. She's game, all right, my
girl is. She stays right with the job. I wrote and told her to come on
back and I'd give her every cent I have—but she pitched right into me
about not asking Fred. Here's her letter. Oh, she's a spunky one!" He
was fumbling in his pockets as he spoke. Drawing out a long pocketbook,
he took out a letter. He deliberately opened the envelope and read.
Fred with difficulty held back his hand from seizing it.
"Listen to this how she lit into me: 'When you ask me to leave my
husband you ask me to do a dishonorable thing—'"
Fred heard no more—he hung on to the seat of his chair with both
hands, breathing hard, but the old man took no notice of him and read
"'Fred is in every way worthy of your respect, but you have been
utterly unjust to him from the first. I will enjoy poverty and
loneliness with him rather than endure every pleasure without him.'"
Fred's world had suddenly righted itself—he saw it all now—this was
the man she was writing to—this was the man who had tried to induce
her to leave him.
"I haven't really anything against this Fred chap—maybe his clothes
were all right. I was brought up in the lumber business, though, and I
don't take to flowered stockings and monograms—I kept wondering how
he'd look in overalls! What was really wrong with me—and you'll never
know how it feels until you have a girl of your own, and she leaves
you—was that I was jealous of the young gent for taking my girl when
she was all I had."
Fred suddenly understood many things; a fellow feeling for the old man
filled his heart, and in a flash he saw the past in an entirely
He broke out impetuously, "She thinks of you the same as ever, I know
she does—" then, seeing his mistake, he said, "I know them slightly,
and I've heard she was lonely for you."
"Then why didn't she tell me? She has always kept up these spunky
letters to me, and said she was happy, and all that—she liked to live
here, she said. What's this Fred fellow like?" The old man leaned
toward him confidentially.
"Oh, just so-so," Fred answered, trying to make the stove take more
wood than it was ever intended to take. "I never had much use for him,
and I know people wondered what she saw in him."
The old man was glad to have his opinion sustained, and by a local
"It wasn't because he hadn't money that I objected to him—it wasn't
that, for I have a place in my business where I need a smart, up-to-
date chap, and I'd have put him there quick, but he didn't seem to have
any snap in him—too polite, you know—the kind of a fellow that would
jump to pick up a handkerchief like as if he was shot out of a gun. I
don't care about money, but I like action. Now, if she had taken a
fancy to a brown-faced chap like you I wouldn't have cared if he hadn't
enough money to make the first payment on a postage stamp. I kinda
liked the way you let fly at me when I was acting contrary with you out
there in the storm. But, tell me, how does this Fred get on? Is he as
green as most Englishmen?"
"He's green enough," Fred agreed, "but he's not afraid of work. But
come now, don't you want to go to bed? I can put you up for the night,
what there's left of it; it's nearly morning now."
The old man yawned sleepily, and was easily persuaded to go to bed.
When the old man was safely out of the way Fred put his revolver back
where he had found it. The irony of the situation came home to him—he
had gone out to kill, but in a mysterious way it had been given to him
to save instead of take life. But what good was anything to him now?—
the old man had come one day too late.
At daylight, contrary to all expectations, the storm went down, only
the high packed drifts giving evidence of the fury of the night before.
As soon as the morning came Fred put on his father-in-law's coat,
having left his in the snow, and went over to the Black Creek Stopping-
House. Mrs. Corbett was the only person who could advise him.
He walked into the kitchen, which was never locked, just as Mrs.
Corbett, carrying her boots in her hand as if she were afraid of
disturbing someone, came softly down the stairs.
Mrs. Corbett had determined to tell Fred what a short-sighted, jealous-
minded man he was when she saw him, but one look at his haggard face—
for the events of the previous night were telling on him now—made her
forget that she had any feeling toward him but sympathy. She read the
question in his eyes which his lips were afraid to utter.
"She's here, Fred, safe and sound," she whispered.
"Oh, Mrs. Corbett," he whispered in return, "I've been an awful fool!
Did she tell you? Will she ever forgive me, do you think?"
"Ask her!" said Mrs. Corbett, pointing up the narrow stairs.
WHEN THE DAY BROKE.
All night long the tide of fortune ebbed and flowed around the table
where Rance Belmont and John Corbett played the game which is still
remembered and talked of by the Black Creek old settlers when their
thoughts run upon old times.
Just as the daylight began to show blue behind the frosted panes, and
the yellow lamplight grew pale and sickly, Rance Belmont rose and
stretched his stiffened limbs.
"I am sorry to bring such a pleasant gathering to an end," he said,
with his inscrutable smile, "but I believe I am done." He was searching
through his pockets as he spoke. "Yes, I believe the game is over."
"You're a mighty good loser, Rance," George Sims declared with
The other men rose, too, and went out to feed their horses, for the
storm was over and they must soon be on the road.
When John Corbett and Rance Belmont went out into the kitchen, Maggie
Corbett was chopping up potatoes in the frying-pan with a baking-powder
can, looking as fresh and rested as if she had been asleep all night,
instead of holding a lonely vigil beside a stovepipe-hole.
John Corbett advanced to the table and solemnly deposited the green box
thereon; then with painstaking deliberation he arranged the contents of
his pockets in piles. Rance Belmont's watch lay by itself; then the
bills according to denomination; last of all the silver and a slip of
brown paper with writing on it in lead-pencil.
When all was complete, he nodded to Maggie to take charge of the
Maggie hastily inspected the contents of the green box, and having
satisfied herself that it was all there, she laid it up, high and dry,
on the clock shelf.
Then she hastily looked at the piles and read the slip of brown paper,
which seemed to stand for one sorrel pacer, one cutter, one set single
harness, two goat robes.
"Rance," said Maggie, slowly, "we don't want a cent that don't belong
to us. I put Da at playing with you in the hope he would win all away
from you that you had, for we were bound to stop you from goin' away
with that dear girl if it could be done, and we knew you couldn't go
broke; but now you can't do any harm if you had all the money in the
world, for she's just gone home a few minutes ago with her man."
Rance Belmont started forward with a smothered oath, which Mrs. Corbett
"So take your money and horse and all, Rance. It ain't me and Da would
keep a cent we haven't earned. Take it, Rance"—shoving it toward him—
"there's no hard feelin's now, and good luck to you! Sure, I guess Da
enjoyed the game, and it seems he hadn't forgot the way." Maggie
Corbett could not keep a small note of triumph out of her voice.
Rance Belmont gathered up the money without a word, and, putting on his
cap and overcoat, he left the Black Creek Stopping-House. John Corbett
carried the green box upstairs and put it carefully back in its place
of safety, while Maggie Corbett carefully peppered and salted the
potatoes in the pan.
* * * * *
When Robert Grant, of the Imperial Lumber Company, of Toronto, wakened
from his slumber it was broad daylight, and the yellow winter sun
poured in through the frosted panes. The events of the previous night
came back to him by degrees; the sore place on his face reminding him
of the slight difference of opinion between himself and his new friend,
young Mr. Brown.
"Pretty nice, tasty room this young fellow has," he said to himself,
looking around at the many evidences of daintiness and good taste.
"He's a dandy fine young fellow, that Brown. I could take to him
without half trying."
Then he became conscious of low voices in the next room.
"Hello, Brown!" he called.
Fred appeared in the doorway with a smiling face.
"How do you feel this morning, Mr. Grant?" he asked.
"I feel hungry," Mr. Grant declared. "I want some more of your good
prairie cooking. If I get another meal of it I believe I'll be able to
make friends with my son-in-law. When are you going to let me get up?"
Just then there was a rustle of skirts and Evelyn came swiftly into the
"Oh, father! father!" she cried, kissing the old man over and over
again. "You will forgive me, won't you?"
The old man's voice was husky with happy tears.
"I guess we won't talk about forgiveness, dearie—we're about even, I
think—but we've had our lesson. I've got my girl back—and, Evelyn, I
want you and Fred to come home with me for Christmas and forever.
You've got the old man solid, Evelyn. I couldn't face a Christmas
Evelyn kissed him again without speaking.
"I will apologize to your man, Evelyn," the old man said, after a
pause. "I haven't treated the boy right. I hope he won't hold it
"Not a bit of it," declared Evelyn. "You don't know Fred—that's all."
"Oh, how did you get here, Evelyn? Do you live near here? I have been
so glad to see you I forgot to ask."
"Mr. Brown brought me over," said Evelyn, unblushingly. "He came over
early this morning to tell me you were here. Wasn't it nice of him?"
"He's a dandy fellow, this young Brown," said the old man, and then
Evelyn's eyes were sparkling with suppressed laughter.
"But where is Fred?" her father asked, with an effort, and Evelyn
watched him girding himself for a painful duty.
"I'll call him," she said, sweetly.
The old man's grey eyes grew dark with excitement and surprise as his
friend Brown came into the room and stood beside Evelyn and quite
brazenly put his left arm around her waist. His face was a study in
emotions as his quick brain grasped the situation. With a prolonged
whistle he dropped back on the pillow, and pulling the counterpane over
his face he shook with laughter.
"The joke is all on me," he cried. "I have been three or four different
kinds of a fool."
Then he emerged from the bed-clothes and, sitting up, grasped Fred's
"There's one thing, though, I am very proud of, Fred," he said; "I may
not be a good judge of humanity myself, but I am glad to know that my
girl had all her wits about her when she went to pick out a man for
Randolph and Reginald stayed in hiding until it was established beyond
all doubt that their brother Fred was alive and well. Then they came
back to the "Sailors' Rest," and life for them went on as before.
At Christmas time a bulky letter and a small white box came addressed
to them, bearing the postmark of Bournemouth.
The brothers seized their letter with undiluted joy; it was addressed
in a bold, masculine hand, a lawyer's undoubtedly—a striking though
perhaps not conclusive proof that Aunt Patience had winged her flight.
They were a little bit disappointed that it had not black edges—they
had always imagined that the "blow" would come with black edges.
Reginald opened it, read it, and let it fall to the floor.
Randolph opened it, read it, and let it fall to the floor.
It contained a thick announcement card, with heavy gold edge, and the
news that it carried was to the effect that on December the first Miss
Priscilla Abigail Patience Brydon had been united in marriage to Rev.
Alfred William Henry Curtis Moreland, Rector of St. Albans, Tilbury-on-
the-Stoke, and followed this with the information that Mr. and Mrs.
Alfred William Henry Curtis Moreland would be at home after January the
first in the Rectory, Appleblossom Court, Parklane Road, Tilbury-on-
The envelope also contained a sweetly happy, fluttery little note from
Aunt Patience, saying she hoped they were well, and that she would try
to be a good mother to the Rector's four little boys.
The small white box contained two squares of wedding cake!
THE RUNAWAY GRANDMOTHER
(Reprinted by permission of The Globe, Toronto.)
George Shaw came back to his desolate hearth, and, sitting by the
untidy table, thought bitter things of women. The stove dripped ashes;
the table overflowed with dirty dishes.
His last housekeeper had been gone a week—she had left by request.
Incidentally there disappeared at the same time towels, pillow-covers,
a few small tools, and many other articles which are of a size to go in
His former housekeeper, second to the last, had been a teary-eyed
English lady, who, as a child, had played with King George, and was
well beloved by all the Royal family. She had a soul above work, and
utterly despised Canadians. Once, when her employer remonstrated with
her for wearing his best overcoat when she went to milk, she fell
a-weeping and declared she wasn't going to be put on. Mr. Shaw said the
same thing about his coat, and it led to unpleasantness. The next day
he found her picking chips in his brown derby, and when he expressed
his disapproval she told him it was no fit hat for a young man like
him—he should have a topper. Mr. Shaw decided that he would try to do
Before that he had had a red-cheeked Irishwoman, who cooked so well,
scrubbed so industriously, that he had thought his troubles were all
over. But one day she went to Millford, and came home in a state of
wild exhilaration, with more of the same in a large black bottle. When
Mr. Shaw came to put away the horse, she struck him over the head with
her handbag, playfully blackening one of his eyes, and then begged him
to come and make up—"kiss and forgit, like the swate pet that he was."
Exit Mrs. Murphy.
George Shaw decided to do his own cooking, but in three days every dish
in the house was dirty; the teapot was full of leaves, the stove full
of ashes, and the floor was slippery.
George Shaw's farm lay parallel with the Souris River in that fertile
region which lies between the Brandon and the Tiger Hills. His fields
ran an unbroken mile, facing the Tiger Hills, blue with mist. He was a
successful young farmer, and he should have been a happy man without a
care in the world, but he did not look it as he sat wearily by his red
stove, with the deep furrows of care on his young face.
The busy time was coming on; he needed another man, and he did hate
trying to do the cooking himself.
As a last hope he decided to advertise. He hunted up his writing-pad
and wrote hastily:
"Housekeeper wanted by a farmer; must be sober and steady. Good wages
to the right person. Apply to George Shaw, Millford, Man."
He read it over reflectively. "There ought to be someone for me," he
said. "I am not hard to please. Any good, steady old lady who will give
me a bite to eat, not swear at me or wear my clothes or drink while on
duty will answer my purpose."
Two days after his advertisement had appeared in the Brandon Times,
Shaw saw a smart-looking woman gaily tripping along the road, and his
As she drew near, however, he was relieved to find that her hair was
"Good evening, Mr. Shaw!" she called to him as soon as she was within
"Good evening, madam," he replied, lifting his hat.
"I just asked along the road until I found you," she said, untying her
bonnet strings; "I knew this lonesome little house must be the place.
No trees, no flowers, no curtains, no washing on the line—I could tell
there was no woman around." She was fixing her hair at his little glass
as she spoke. "Now, son, run out and get a few chips for the fire, and
we'll have a bite of supper in a few minutes."
Shaw brought the chips.
"Now, what do you say to pancakes for supper?"
Shaw declared that nothing would suit him so well as pancakes.
The fire crackled merrily under the kettle, and soon the two of them
were sitting down to an appetizing meal of pancakes and syrup, boiled
eggs and tea.
"Land sakes, George, you must have had your own time with those
housekeepers of yours! Some of them drank, eh? I could tell that by the
piece you put in the paper. But never mind them now; I'll soon have you
feeling fine as silk. How's your socks? Toes out, I'll bet. Well, I'll
hunt you up a pair, if there's any to be found. If I can't find any you
can go to bed when you get your chores done, and I'll wash out them
you've on—I can't bear my men folks to have their toes out; a hole in
the heel ain't so bad, it's behind you and you can forget it, but a
hole in the toe is always in your way no matter which way you're
After supper, when Shaw was out doing his chores, he could see her
bustling in and out of the house; now she was beating his bedclothes on
the line; in another minute she was leaning far out of a bedroom window
dusting a pillow.
When he came into the house she reported that her search for stockings,
though vigorous, had been vain. He protested a little about having to
go to bed when the sun was shining, but she insisted.
"I'm sorry, George," she said, "to have to make you go to bed, but it's
the only thing we can do. You'll find your bed feels a lot better since
I took the horse collar and the pair of rubber boots out from under the
mattress. That's a poor place to keep things. Good-night now—don't
read lying down."
When he went upstairs Shaw noticed with dismay that his lamp had gone
from the box beside his bed. So he was not likely to disobey her last
injunction—at least, not for any length of time.
Just at daylight the next morning there came a knock at his door.
"Come, George—time to get up!"
When he came in from feeding his horses a splendid breakfast was on the
"Here's your basin, George; go out and have a good wash. Here's your
comb; it's been lost for quite awhile. I put a towel out there for you,
too. Hurry up now and get your vittles while they are nice!"
When Shaw came to the table she regarded him with pleasure.
"You're a fine-looking boy, George, when you're slicked up," she said.
"Now bow your head until we say grace! There, now pitch in and tell me
how you like grandma's cooking."
Shaw ate heartily and praised everything.
A few days afterwards she said, "Now, George, I guess I'll have to ask
you to go to town and get some things we need for the house."
Shaw readily agreed, and took out his paper and pencil.
"Soap, starch, ten yards of cheesecloth—that's for curtains," she
said. "I'll knit lace for them, and they'll look real dressy; toilet
soap, sponge and nailbrush—that's for your bath, George; you haven't
been taking them as often as you should, or the hoops wouldn't have
come off your tub. You can't cheat Nature, George; she always tells on
you. Ten yards flannelette—that's for night-shirts; ten yards
sheeting—that's for your bed—and your white shirts are pretty far
"How do you know?" he asked in surprise; "they are all in my trunk."
"Yes, I know, and the key is in that old cup on the stand, and I know
how to unlock a trunk, don't I?" she replied with dignity. "You need
new shirts all right, but just get one. I never could abear them
boughten shirts, they are so skimpy in the skirt; I'll make you some
lovely ones, with blue and pink flossin' down the front."
He looked up alarmed.
"Then about collars," she went on serenely. "You have three, but
they're not in very good shape, though, of course, you couldn't expect
anything better of them, kept in that box with the nails—oh, I found
them, George, you needn't look so surprised. You see I know something
about boys—I have three of my own." A shadow passed over her face and
she sighed. "Well, I guess that is all for to-day. Be sure to get your
mail and hurry home."
"Shall I tell the postmaster to put your mail in my box?" he asked.
"Oh, no, never mind—I ain't expectin' any," she said, and Shaw drove
A few nights after she said, "Well, George, I suppose you are wonderin'
now who this old lady is, though I am not to say real old either."
"Indeed you are not old," Shaw declared with considerable gallantry;
"you are just in your prime."
She regarded him gratefully. "You're a real nice boy, George," she
said, "and there ain't going to be no secrets between us. If you wet
your feet, or tear your clothes, don't try to hide it. Don't keep
nothing from me and I won't keep nothing from you. Now I'll tell you
who I am and all about it. I am Mrs. Peter Harris, of Owen Sound,
Ontario, and I have three sons here in the West. They've all done well,
fur as money goes. I came up to visit them. I came from Bert's here. I
couldn't stand the way Bert's folks live. Mind you, they burn their
lights all night, and they told me it doesn't cost a cent more. Land o'
liberty! They can't fool me. If lights burn, someone pays—and the
amount of hired help they keep is something scandalous. Et, that is
Bert's wife, is real smart, and they have two hired girls, besides
their own two girls, and they get in a woman to wash besides. I wanted
them to let the two girls go while I was there, but no, sir! Et says,
'Grandma, you didn't come here to work, you must just rest.' They
wouldn't let me do a thing, and that brazen hired girl—the housemaid,
they call her—one day even made my bed; and, mind you, George, she put
the narrow hem on the sheet to the top, and she wasn't a bit ashamed
when I told her. She said she hoped it didn't make me feel that I was
standin' on my head all night; and the way that woman hung out the
clothes was a perfect scandal!" Her voice fell to an awed whisper. "She
hangs the underwear in plain sight. I ain't never been used to the like
of that! I could not stay. Bert is kind enough, so is Et, and they have
one girl, Maud, that I really do like. She is twenty-one, but, of
course, brought up the way she has been, she is awful ignorant for that
age. Mind you, that girl had never turned the heel of a stocking until
I got her at it, but Maud can learn. I'd take that girl quick, and
bring her up like my own, if Bert would let me. Well, anyway, I could
not put up with the way they live, and I just ran away."
"You ran away!" echoed Shaw. "They'll be looking for you!"
"Let 'em look!" said the old lady, grimly. "They won't ever find me
"I'll hide you in the haymow, and if they come in here to search for
you I'll declare I never knew you—I am prepared to do desperate
things," Shaw declared.
"George, if they ever get in here—that is, Et anyway—she'll know who
did the fixin' up. There ain't many that know how to do this Rocky Road
to Dublin that is on your lounge. Et would know who'd been here."
"That settles it!" declared Shaw. "Et shall not enter. If Et gets in it
shall be over my prostrate form, but maybe it would be better for you
to take the Rocky Road with you to the hayloft!"
The old lady laughed heartily. "Ain't we happy, George, you and me?
I've tried all my own, and they won't let me have one bit of my own
way. Out at Edward's—he's a lawyer at Regina—I tried to get them all
to go to bed at half-past ten—late enough, too, for decent people—and
didn't Edward's wife get real miffed over it? And then I went to Tom's
—he's a doctor down at Winnipeg, but he's all gone to politics; he was
out night after night makin' speeches, and he had a young fellow
lookin' after his practice who wouldn't know a corn from a gumboil only
they grow in different places. Tom's pa and me spent good money on his
education, and it's hard for us to see him makin' no use of it. He was
nice enough to me, wanted me to stay and be company for Edith, but I
told him he should try to be company for Edith himself. Well, he didn't
get elected—that's one comfort. I believe it was an answer to prayer.
Maybe he'll settle down to his doctorin' now. Then I went to Bert's,
and I soon saw I could not stay there. Just as soon as I saw your
little bit in the paper, I says, 'The Lord has opened a door!' I gave
Maud a hint that I would clear out some day and go where I would be let
work, and the dear child says to me, 'Grandma, if I ever get a house of
my own you can come and live with me, and you can do every bit of the
work, and everyone will have to do just what you say; they'll have to
go to bed at sundown if you say so.' Maud's the best one I have
belongin' to me. She'll give them a hint that I'm all right."
But Shaw was apprehensive. He knew who Bert was, and he had
uncomfortable visions of Mr. Albert Harris driving up to his door some
day and demanding that Mrs. Peter Harris, his mother, immediately come
home with him; and the fear and dread of former housekeepers swept over
George Shaw's soul. No, he would not give her up! Of course, there were
times when he thought she was rather exacting, and when he felt some
sympathy for Edward's wife forgetting "miffed."
When she was with him about a week she announced that he must have a
daily bath! "It is easier to wash you than the bed-clothes, that's one
reason," she said, "and it's good for you besides. That's what's wrong
with lots of young boys; they git careless and dirty, and then they
take to smoking and drinking just natcherally. A clean hide, mind you,
is next to a clean heart. Now go along upstairs; everything is ready
Henceforth there was no danger of the hoops falling off the tub, for it
was in daily use, and, indeed, it was not many nights until George Shaw
looked forward with pleasure to his nightly wash.
The old lady's face glowed with pleasure as she went about her work, or
sat sewing in the shade of the house. At her instigation Shaw had put
up a shed for his machinery, which formerly had littered the yard, and
put his wood in even piles.
The ground fell away in a steep ravine, just in front of the house, and
pink wild roses and columbine hung in profusion over the spring which
gushed out of the bank. Away to the east were the sand-hills of the
Assiniboine—the bad lands of the prairie, their surface peopled with
stiff spruce trees that stand like sentries looking, always looking out
across the plain!
Mrs. Harris often sat with her work in the shade of the house, on
pleasant afternoons, looking at this peaceful scene, and her heart was
full of gladness and content.
The summer passed pleasantly for George Shaw and his cheery old
housekeeper. Not a word did they hear from "Bert's" folks.
"I would like to see Maud," Mrs. Harris said one night to Shaw as she
sat knitting a sock for him beside their cheerful fireside. He was
"What is Maud like?" he asked.
"Maud favors my side of the house," she answered. "She's a pretty good-
looking girl, very much the hi'th and complexion I used to be when I
was her age. You'd like Maud fine if you saw her, George."
"I don't want to see her," Shaw replied, "for I am afraid that the
coming of Maud might mean the departure of Grandma, and that would be a
bad day for me."
"I ain't goin' to leave you, George, and I believe Maud would be
reasonable if she did come! She'd see how happy we are!"
It was in the early autumn that Maud came. The grain had all been cut
and stacked, and was waiting for the thresher to come on its rounds.
Shaw was ploughing in the field in front of his house when Maud came
walking briskly up the road just as her grandmother had done four
months before! The trees in the poplar grove beside the road were
turning red and yellow with autumn, and Maud, in her red-brown suit and
hat, looked as if she belonged to the picture.
Some such thought as this struggled in Shaw's brain and shone in his
eyes as he waited for her at the headland.
He raised his hat as she drew near. Maud went right into the subject.
"Have you my grandmother?" she asked.
Shaw hesitated—the dreaded moment had come. Visions of former
housekeepers—dirty dishes, unmade bed, dust, flies, mice—rose before
him and tempted him to say "no," but something stronger and better,
perhaps it was the "clean hide" prompting the clean heart, spoke up in
"I have your grandmother," he said slowly, "and she is very well and
"Will you give her up?" was Maud's next question.
"Never!" he answered stoutly; "and she won't give me up, either. Your
grandmother and I are very fond of each other, I would like you to
know—but come in and see her."
That night after supper, which proved to be a very merry meal in spite
of the shadow which had fallen across the little home, Mrs. Harris said
almost tearfully: "I can't leave this pore lamb, Maud—there's no
knowin' what will happen to him."
"I will go straight back to the blanket and dog soup," Shaw declared
with cheerful conviction. "You can't imagine the state things were in
when your grandmother came—bed not made since Christmas, horsenails
for buttons, comb and brush lost but not missed, wash basin rusty! Your
grandmother, of course, has been severe with me—she makes me go to bed
before sundown. Yet I refuse to part with her. Who takes your
grandmother takes me; and now, Miss Maud, it is your move!"
That night when they sat in the small sitting-room with a bright fire
burning in the shining stove, Maud felt her claim on her grandmother
growing more and more shadowy. Mrs. Harris was in a radiant humor. She
was knitting lace for the curtains, and chatted gaily as she worked.
"You see, Maud, I am never lonely here; it's a real heartsome place to
live. There's the trains goin' by twice a day, and George here is a
real good hand to read out to me. We're not near done with the book
we're reading, and I am anxious to see if Adam got the girl. He was set
on havin' her, but some of her folks were in for makin' trouble."
"Folks sometimes do!" said Shaw, meaningly.
"Well, I can't go until we finish the book," the old lady declared,
"and we see how the story comes out, and I don't believe Maud is the
one to ask it."
Maud made a pretty picture as she sat with one shapely foot on the
fender of the stove, the firelight dancing on her face and hair. Shaw,
looking at her, forgot the errand on which she came—forgot everything
only that she was there.
"Light the lamp and read a bit of the book now," Mrs. Harris said.
"Maud'll like it, I know. She's the greatest girl for books!"
Shaw began to read. It was "The Kentucky Cardinal" he read, that
exquisite love-story, that makes us lovers all, even if we never have
been, or worse still, have forgotten. Shaw loved the book, and read it
tenderly, and Maud, leaning back in her chair, found her heart warmed
with a sudden great content.
A week later Shaw and Maud walked along the river bank and discussed
the situation. Autumn leaves carpeted the ground beneath their feet,
and the faint murmur of the river below as it slipped over its pebbly
bed came faintly to their ears. In the sky above them, wild geese with
flashing white wings honked away toward the south, and a meadow lark,
that jolly fellow who comes early and stays late, on a red-leafed
haw-tree poured out his little heart in melody.
"You see, Mr. Shaw," Maud was saying, "it doesn't look right for
Grandma to be living with a stranger when she has so many of her own
people. I know she is happy with you—happier than she has been with
any of us—but what will people think? It looks as if we didn't care
for her, and we do. She is the sweetest old lady in the world." Maud
was very much in earnest.
Shaw's eyes followed the wild geese until they faded into tiny specks
on the horizon. Then he turned and looked straight into her face.
"Maud," he said, with a strange vibration in his voice, "I know a way
out of the difficulty; a real good, pleasant way, and by it your
grandmother can continue to live with me, and still be with her own
folks. Maud, can you guess it?"
The blush that spread over Maud's face indicated that she was a good
Then the meadow-lark, all unnoticed, hopped a little nearer, and sang
sweeter than ever. Not that anybody was listening, either!
THE RETURN TICKET
(Reprinted by permission of The Canadian Ladies' Home Journal.)
In the station at Emerson, the boundary town, we were waiting for the
Soo train, which comes at an early hour in the morning. It was a
bitterly cold, dark, winter morning; the wires overhead sang dismally
in the wind, and even the cheer of the big coal fire that glowed in the
rusty stove was dampened by the incessant mourning of the storm.
Along the walls, on the benches, sat the trackmen, in their sheepskin
coats and fur caps, with earlaps tied tightly down. They were tired and
sleepy, and sat in every conceivable attitude expressive of sleepiness
and fatigue. A red lantern, like an evil eye, gleamed from one dark
corner; in the middle of the floor were several green lamps turned low,
and over against the wall hung one barred lantern whose bright little
gleam of light reminded one uncomfortably of a small, live mouse in a
cage, caught and doomed, but undaunted still. The telegraph instruments
clicked at intervals. Two men, wrapped in overcoats, stood beside the
stove and talked in low tones about the way real estate was increasing
in value in Winnipeg.
The door opened and a big fellow, another snow shoveller, came in
hurriedly, letting in a burst of flying snow that sizzled on the hot
stove. It did not rouse the sleepers from the bench; neither did the
new-comer's remark that it was a "deuce of a night" bring forth any
argument—we were one on that point.
The train was late; the night agent told us that when he came out to
shovel in more coal—"she" was delayed by the storm.
I leaned back and tried to be comfortable. After all, I thought, it
might easily be worse. I was going home after a pleasant visit. I had
many agreeable things to think of, and still I kept thinking to myself
that it was not a cheerful night. The clock, of course, indicated that
it was morning, but the deep black that looked in through the frosted
windows, the heavy shadows in the room, which the flickering lanterns
only seemed to emphasize, were all of the night, and bore no relation
to the morning.
The train came at last with a roar that drowned the voice of the storm.
The sleepers on the bench sprang up like one man, seized their
lanterns, and we all rushed out together. The long coach that I entered
was filled with tired, sleepy-looking people, who had been sitting up
all night. They were curled up uncomfortably, making a brave attempt to
rest, all except one little old lady, who sat upright, looking out into
the black night. When the official came to ask the passengers where
they were going, I heard her tell him that she was a Canadian, and she
had been "down in the States with Annie, and now she was bringing Annie
home," and as she said this she pointed significantly ahead to the
There was something about the old lady that appealed to me. I went over
to her when the official had gone out. No, she wasn't tired, she said;
she "had been up a good many nights, and been worried some, but the
night before last she had had a real good sleep."
She was quite willing to talk; the long black night had made her glad
"I took Annie to Rochester, down in Minnesota, to see the doctors
there—the Mayos—did you ever hear of the Mayos? Well, Dr. Smale, at
Rose Valley, said they were her only hope. Annie had been ailing for
years, and Dr. Smale had done all he could for her. Dr. Moore, our old
doctor, wouldn't hear of it; he said an operation would kill her, but
Annie was set on going. I heard Annie say to him that she'd rather die
than live sick, and she would go to Rochester. Dave Johnston—Annie's
man, that is—he drinks, you know—"
The old lady's voice fell and her tired old face seemed to take on
deeper lines of trouble as she sat silent with her own sad thoughts. I
expressed my sorrow.
"Yes, Annie had her own troubles, poor girl," she said at last; "and
she was a good girl, Annie was, and she deserved something better. She
was a tender-hearted girl, and gentle and quiet, and never talked back
to anyone, to Dave least of all, for she worshipped the very ground he
walked on, and married him against all our wishes. She thought she
could reform him!"
She said it sadly, but without bitterness.
"Was he good to her?" I asked. People draw near together in the stormy
dark of a winter's morning, and the thought of Annie in her narrow box
ahead robbed my question of any rudeness.
"He was good to her in his own way," Annie's mother said, trying to be
quite just, "but it was a rough way. She had a fine, big, brick house
to live in—it was a grand house, but it was a lonely house. He often
went away and stayed for weeks, and her not knowing where he was or how
he would come home. He worried her always. The doctor said that was
part of her trouble—he worried her too much."
"Did he ever try to stop drinking?" I asked. I wanted to think better
of him if I could.
"Yes, he did; he was sober once for nearly a year, and Annie's health
was better than it had been for years, but the crowd around the hotel
there in Rose Valley got after him every chance, and one Christmas Day
they got him going again. Annie never could bear to mention about him
drinkin' to anyone, not even me—it would ha' been easier on her if she
could ha' talked about it, but she wasn't one of the talkin' kind."
We sat in silence, listening to the pounding of the rails.
"Everybody was kind to her in Rochester," she said, after a while.
"When we were sitting there waitin' our turn—you know how the sick
people wait there in two long rows, waitin' to be taken in to the
consultin' room, don't you? Well, when we were sittin' there Annie was
sufferin' pretty bad, and we were still a long way from the top of the
line. Dr. Judd was takin' them off as fast as he could, and the
ambulances were drivin' off every few minutes, takin' them away to the
hospital after the doctors had decided what was wrong with them. Some
of them didn't need to go to the hospital at all—they're the best off,
I think. We got talkin' to the people around us—they are there from
all over the country, with all kinds of diseases, poor people. Well,
there was a man from Kansas City who had been waitin' a week, but had
got up now second to the end, and I noticed him lookin' at Annie. I was
fannin' her and tryin' to keep her cheered up. Her face was a bad color
from the pain she was in, and what did this man do but git up and come
down to us and tell Annie that she could have his place. He said he
wasn't in very bad pain now, and he would take her place. He made very
little of it, but it meant a lot to us, and to him, too, poor fellow.
Annie didn't want to do it, but he insisted. Sick folks know how to be
kind to sick folks, I tell you."
The dawn began to show blue behind the frost ferns on the window and
the lamps overhead looked pale and sickly in the grey light.
"Annie had her operation on Monday," she went on after a long pause.
"She was lookin' every day for a letter from Dave, and when the doctor
told her they would operate on her on Monday morning early, she asked
him if he would mind putting it off until noon. She thought there would
be a letter from Dave, for sure, on that morning's mail. The doctor was
very kind to her—they understand a lot, them Mayos—and he did put it
off. In the ward with Annie there was a little woman from Saskatchewan,
that was a very bad case. She talked to us a lot about her man and her
four children. She had a real good man by what she said. They were on a
homestead near Quill Lake, and she was so sure she'd get well. The
doctor was very hopeful of Annie, and said she had nine chances out of
ten of getting better, but this little woman's was a worse case. Dr.
Will Mayo told her she had just one chance in ten—-but, dear me, she
was a brave woman; she spoke right up quick, and says she, 'That's all
I want; I'll get well if I've only half a chance. I've got to; Jim and
the children can't do without me.' Jim was her man. When they came to
take her out into the operating room they couldn't give her ether, some
way. She grabbed the doctor's hand, and says she, kind of chokin' up,
all at once, 'You'll do your best for Jim's sake, won't you?' and he
says, says he, 'My dear woman, I'll do my best for your sake.' Busy and
all as they are, they're the kindest men in the world, and just before
they began to operate the nurse brought her a letter from Jim and read
it to her, and she held it in her hand through it all, and when they
wheeled her back into the ward after the operation, it was still in her
hand, though she had fainted dead away."
"Did Annie get her letter?" I asked her.
My companion did not answer at once, but I knew very well that the
letter had not come.
"She didn't ask for it at the last; she just looked at me before they
put the gauze thing over her face. I knew what she meant. I had been
down to see if it had come, and they told me all the mails were in for
the day from the West. She just looked at me so pitiful, but it was
like Annie not to ask. A letter from Dave would have comforted her so,
but it didn't come, though I wired him two days before telling him when
the operation would be. Annie was wonderful cheerful and calm, but I
was trembling like a leaf when they were givin' her the ether, and when
they wheeled her out all so stiff and white I just seemed to feel I'd
lost my girl."
I took the old lady's hand and tried to whisper words of comfort. She
returned the pressure of my hand; her eyes were tearless, and her voice
did not even waver, but the thought of poor Annie going into the valley
unassured by any loving word gave free passage to my tears.
"Did Dave write or wire?" I asked when I could speak.
"No, not a word; he's likely off on a spree." The old lady spoke
bitterly now. "Everybody was kind to my Annie but him, and it was a
word from him that would have cheered her the most. Dr. Mayo came and
sat beside her just an hour before she died, and says he, 'You still
have a chance, Mrs. Johnston,' but Annie just thanked him again for his
kindness and sort o' shook her head…..
"The little woman from Saskatchewan didn't do well at all after the
operation, and Dr. Mayo was afraid she wouldn't pull through. She asked
him what chance she had, and he told her straight—the Mayos always
tell the truth—that she had only one chance in a hundred. She was so
weak that he had to bend down to hear her whisperin', 'I'll take that
"And did she?" I asked eagerly.
"She was still living when I left. She will get better, I think. She
has a very good man, by what she was tellin' us, and a woman can stand
a lot if she has a good man," the old lady said, with the wisdom born
of experience. "I've nursed around a lot, and I've always noticed
I have noticed it, too, though I've never "nursed around."
"Dave came with us to the station the day we left home. He was sober
that day, and gave Annie plenty of money. Annie told him to get a
return ticket for her, too. I said he'd better get just a single for
her, for she might have to stay longer than a month; but she said no,
she'd be back in a month, all right. Dave seemed pleased to hear her
talk so cheerful. When she got her ticket she sat lookin' at it a long
time. I knew what she was thinkin'. She never was a girl to talk
mournful, and when the conductor tore off the goin' down part she gave
me the return piece, and she says, 'You take this, mother.' I knew that
she was thinkin' what the return half might be used for."
We changed cars at Newton, and I stood with the old lady and watched
the trainmen unload the long box. They threw off trunks, boxes and
valises almost viciously, but when they lifted up the long box their
manner changed and they laid it down as tenderly as if they had known
something of Annie and her troubled life.
We sent another telegram to Dave, and then sat down in the waiting-room
to wait for the west train. The wind drove the snow in billows over the
prairie, and the early twilight of the morning was bitterly cold.
Her train came first, and again the long box was gently put aboard. On
the wind-swept platform Annie's mother and I shook hands without a
word, and in another minute the long train was sweeping swiftly across
the white prairie. I watched it idly, thinking of Annie and her sad
home-going. Just then the first pale beams of the morning sun glinted
on the last coach, and touched with fine gold the long white smoke
plume, which the wind carried far over the field. There is nothing so
cheerful as the sunshine, and as I sat in the little grey waiting-room,
watching the narrow golden beam that danced over the closed wicket, I
could well believe that a rest remains for Annie, and that she is sure
of a welcome at her journey's end. And as the sun's warmth began to
thaw the tracery of frost on the window, I began to hope that God's
grace may yet find out Dave, and that he too may "make good" in the
years to come. As for the little woman from Quill Lake, who was still
willing to take the one chance, I have never had the slightest doubt.
THE UNGRATEFUL PIGEONS
Philip was a little boy, with a generous growth of freckles, and a
loving heart. Most people saw only the freckles, but his mother never
lost sight of his affectionate nature. So when, one warm spring day, he
sat moodily around the house, she was ready to listen to his grievance.
"I want something for a pet," said Philip. "I have no dog or cat or
"What would you like the very best of all?" his mother asked, with the
air of a fairy godmother.
"I want pigeons! They are so pretty and white and soft, and they lay
eggs and hatch young ones."
All his gloom had vanished!
"How much a pair?" asked his mother.
"Twenty-five cents out at Crane's. They have millions of them; I can
walk out—it's only five miles."
"Where will we put them when you bring them home?" she asked.
Philip thought they could share his room, but this suggestion was
Then Philip's father was hurriedly interviewed by Philip's mother, and
he agreed to nail a box on the end of the stable, far beyond the reach
of prowling cats, and Philip, armed with twenty-five cents, set forth
gaily on his five-mile walk. It was Saturday morning, and a beautiful
day of glittering April sunshine. The sun was nearly down when Philip
returned, tired but happy. It seemed there had been some trouble in
catching them. The quoted price of twenty-five cents a pair was for
raw, uncaught pigeons, but Philip had succeeded at last and brought
back two beauties, one with blue markings, and the other one almost
The path of true love never ran smooth; difficulties were encountered
at once. Philip put a generous supply of straw in one end of the box
for a bed, but when he put them in they turned round and round as if
they were not quite satisfied with their lodgings. Then Philip had one
of those dazzling ideas which so often led to trouble with the other
members of his family. He made a hurried visit to Rose's—his sister's
—room. Rose was a grown-up lady of twelve.
When he came back, he brought with him a dove-grey chiffon auto veil,
the kind that was much favored that spring by young ladies in Rose's
set, for a head protection instead of hats.
Rose's intimate friend, Hattie Matthews, had that very day put a knot
in each side, which made it fit very artistically on Rose's head.
Philip carefully untied the knots, and draped it over the straw. The
effect was beautiful. Philip exclaimed with delight! They looked so
pretty and "woozy"!
In the innocence of his heart, he ran into the house, for Rose; he
wanted her to rejoice with him.
Rose's language was pointed, though dignified, and the pretty sight was
ruthlessly broken up. Philip's mother, however, stepped into the gap,
and produced an old, pale blue veil of her own, which was equally
It was she, too, who proposed a pigeon book, and a very pleasant time
was spent making it,—for it was not a common book, bought with money,
but one made by loving hands. Several sheets of linen notepaper were
used for the inside, with stiff yellow paper for the cover, the whole
fastened with pale blue silk. Then Philip printed on the cover:
but not in any ordinary, plain, little bits of letters! Each capital
was topped off with an arrow, and ended with a feather, and even the
small letters had a thick blanket of dots.
The first entry was as follows:
April 7th.—I wocked out to Crane's, and got 2 fantales. they are hard
to ketch. I payed 25 scents. My father knailed a box on the stable, and
I put in a bed of straw, they are bootiful. my sister would not let me
have her vale, but I got one prettier. they look woozy.
The next day, Sunday, Philip did not see how he could go to church or
Sunday-school—he had not time, he said, but his mother agreed to watch
the pigeons, and so his religious obligations did not need to be set
Monday afternoon the Browns' back yard was full of little boys
inspecting Philip's pigeons, not merely idle onlookers, but hard-headed
poultry fanciers, as shown by the following entry:
April 9th.—I sold a pare of white ones to-day to Wilfred Garbett, to
be kept three weeks after birth, Eva Gayton wants a pare too any color,
in July. She paid for them.
Under this entry, which was made laboriously in ink, there was another
one, in lead pencil, done by Philip's brother, Jack:
This is called selling Pigeons short.
Philip's friends recommended many and varied things for the pigeons to
eat, and he did his best to supply them all, as far as his slender
means allowed; he went to the elevator for wheat; he traded his good
jack-knife for two mouse-eaten and anaemic heads of squaw-corn, which
were highly recommended by an unscrupulous young Shylock, who had just
come to town and was short of a jack-knife. His handkerchief,
scribblers and pencils mysteriously disappeared, but other articles
came in their place: a small round mirror advertising corsets on the
back (Gordon Smith said pigeons liked a looking-glass—it made them
more contented to stay at home); a small swing out of a birdcage, which
was duly put in place (vendor Miss Edie Beal, owner unknown). Of
course, it was too small for pigeons, but there were going to be little
ones very soon, weren't there?
He also brought to them one day five sunflower seeds, recommended and
sold by a mild-eyed little Murphy girl, who had the stubby fingers of a
money-maker. Philip, being very low in funds that day, wanted her to
accept prospective eggs in payment, but the stubby-fingered Miss Murphy
preferred currency! Philip decided to make no entry of these
transactions in his Pigeon Book.
His young brother, Barrie, began to be troublesome about this time, and
to evince an unwholesome interest in the pigeons. The ladder, which was
placed against the stable under their house, at first seemed to him too
high to climb, but seeing the multitude of delighted spectators who
went up and down without accident, he resolved to try it, too, and so
successfully that he was able after a few attempts to carry a stick
with him, stand on the highest rung, and poke up the pigeons.
One day he was caught—with the goods—by Philip himself. So indignant
was Philip that for a moment he stood speechless. His young brother,
jarred by a guilty conscience and fear of Philip, came hastily down the
ladder, raising a few bruises on his anatomy as he came. Even in his
infant soul he felt he deserved all he had got, and thought best not to
mention the occurrence. Philip, too, generously kept quiet about it,
feeling that the claims of justice had been met. The only dissatisfied
parties in the transaction were the pigeons.
The next Sunday in Sabbath School there was a temperance lesson, and
Barrie Brown quoted the Golden Text with a slight variation—"At the
last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like a ladder!"
Philip was the only one who knew what he meant, and he said it served
him good and right.
The following entry appears in the Pigeon Book:
My brother Barrie poks them, but he got his leson. tomoro I'll let
them out—there fond enough of home now I gess.
The next day being Saturday, when Philip could watch them, he let them
out. All day long his heart was torn with pride and fear—they looked
so beautiful, circling and wheeling over the stable and far away across
the road, and yet his heart was chill with the fear that they would
That night the Pigeon Book received the following entry:
April 21st.—I let them out and, they came back—they are sweet pets.
I dreem about them every night I have two dreems, my good dreem is
the've layd my bad dreem is about tomcats and two little heaps of
fethers its horrid.
The next week another entry went into the book:
I sold another pare to-day I've raised the price this pare is to be
delivered in Ogist. I gave them a bran mash to-day, it makes them lay
Under this Jack wrote:
Thinking of the August delivery.
The next entry was this:
May 1st.—Wilfred G. is pritty meen, he thinks he knows it all. they
aint goin to lay all in a hurry.
There seemed to be no doubt about this. They certainly were not. In
spite of bran mashes, pepper, cotton batting, blue veil and tender
care, they refused to even consider the question of laying.
Philip was quite satisfied with them as they were, if they would only
stay with him, but the customers who had bought and paid for highly
recommended young fowl were inclined to be impatient and even
unpleasant when the two parent birds were to be seen gadding around the
street at all hours of the day, utterly regardless of their young
Philip learned to call them. His "cutacutacoo—cutacutacoo" could be
heard up and down the street. Sometimes they seemed to pay a little
attention to him, and then his joy was full. More often they seemed to
say, "Cutacutacoo yourself!" or some such saucy word, and fly farther
One night they did not come home. Philip's most insistent "cutacutacoo"
brought no response. He hired boys to help him to look for them,
beggaring himself of allies and marbles, even giving away his Lucky
Shooter, a mottled pee-wee, to a lynx-eyed young hunter who claimed to
be able to see in the dark. He even dared the town constable by staying
out long after the curfew had rung, looking and asking. No one had seen
Through the night it rained, a cold, cruel rain—or so it seemed to the
sad-hearted, wide-awake little boy. He stole out quietly, afraid that
he might be sent back to bed, but only his mother heard him, and she
understood. It was lonesome and dark outside, but love lighted his way.
He groped his way up the ladder, hoping to find them, but though the
straw, the cotton batting, the blue veil, the water-dish were all in
place—there were no pigeons!
Philip came back to bed, cold and wet in body, but his heart colder
still with fear, and his face wetter with tears. Under cover of the
night a boy of ten can cry all he wants to.
His mother, who heard him going out and who understood, called softly
to him to come to her room, and then sympathized. She said they were
safe enough, never fear, with some flock of pigeons; they had got
lonesome, that was all; they would come back when they got hungry, and
the rain would not hurt them, and be sure to wipe his feet!
The next day they were found across the street with Jerry Andrews'
pigeons, as unconcerned as you please. Philip parted with his Lost Heir
game—about the only thing he had left—to get Jerry to help him to
catch them when they were roosting. He shut them up for a few days and
worked harder than ever, if that were possible, to try to please them.
The Pigeon Book would have been neglected only for his mother, who said
it was only right to put in the bad as well as the good. That was the
way with all stories. Philip made this entry:
They went away and staid and had to be brot back by force I guess they
were lonesome. I don't know why they don't like me—I like them!
When his mother read that she said, "Poor little fellow," and made
pancakes for tea.
In a few days he let them out again, and watched them with a pale face.
They did not hesitate a minute, but flew straight away down the street
to the place they had been before, to the place where the people often
made pies of pigeons and were not ashamed to tell it!
Philip followed them silently, not having the heart to call.
"Say, Phil," the boy of the pigeon loft called—he was a stout boy who
made money out of everything—"I guess they ain't goin' to stay with
you. You might as well sell out to me. I'll give you ten cents for the
pair. I'm goin' to sell a bunch to the hotel on Saturday."
An insane desire to fight him took hold of Philip. He turned away
At school that day he approached the pigeon boy and made the
proposition that filled the boy with astonishment: "I'll give them to
you, Jerry," he said, hurriedly, "if you promise not to kill them. It's
all right! I guess I won't bother with pigeons—I think I'll get a dog
—or something," he ended lamely.
Jerry was surprised, but being a business man he closed the deal on the
spot. When Philip went home he put his pigeon book away.
There was a final entry, slightly smeared and very badly written:
They are ungrateful broots!
YOU NEVER CAN TELL
(Reprinted by permission of Saturday Night, Toronto.)
It was at exactly half-past three in the afternoon of a hot June day
that Mrs. Theodore Banks became smitten with the idea. Mrs. Banks often
said afterwards she did not know how she came to be thinking about the
Convention of the Arts and Crafts at all, although she is the
Secretary. The idea was so compelling that Mrs. Banks rushed down town
to tell Mr. Banks—she felt she could not depend on the telephone.
"Ted," she cried, when she opened the door of the office, "I have an
Theodore raised his eyelids.
Mrs. Banks was flushed and excited and looked well. Mrs. Banks was a
handsome woman any time, and to-day her vivacity was quite genuine.
"You know the Convention of the Arts and Crafts—which begins on the
"I've heard of it—somewhere."
"Well, it just came to me, Teddy, what a perfectly heavenly thing it
would be to invite that little Mrs. Dawson, who writes reviews for one
of the papers here—you remember I told you about her—she is awfully
clever and artistic and good-looking, and lives away off from every
place, and her husband is not her equal at all—perfectly illiterate,
I heard—uncultured anyway. What a perfect joy it would be to her to
have her come, and meet with people who are her equals. She's an Ottawa
girl originally, I believe, and she does write the most perfectly sweet
and darling things—you remember I've read them for you. Of course, she
is probably very shabby and out of date in her clothes by this time.
But it doesn't really matter what one wears, if one has heaps of
brains. It is only dull women, really, who have to be so terribly
careful about what they wear, and spend so much money that way!"
"Dull women!" Theodore murmured. "Oh! is that why? I never really
She laughed at his look of enlightened surprise. When Mrs. Banks
laughed there were three dimples plainly showing, which did not
entirely discourage her merriment.
"And you know, Teddy, there is such a mystery about her marriage! She
will really be quite an acquisition, and we'll have her on the
"What mystery?" Mr. Banks asked.
"Oh, well, not mystery, maybe, but we all suppose she's not happy. How
could she be with so few of the real pleasures of life, and still she
stays with it, and actually goes places with her husband, and seems to
be keeping it up, and you know, Ted, she has either three or four
"Is it as bad as that?" he asked, solemnly.
"Oh, Ted! you know well enough what I mean—don't be such an owl! Just
think of how tied down and horrible it must be for her out there in
that desolate Alberta, with no neighbors at all for miles, and then
only impossible people. I should think it would drive her mad. I must
try to get her on the programme, too. She will at least be interesting,
on account of her personality. Most of our speakers are horribly prosy,
at least to me, but of course I never listen; I just look to see what
they've on and then go straight back to my own thinking. I just thought
I'd ask your advice, Teddy dear, before I asked the Committee, and so
now I'll go to see Mrs. Trenton, the President. So glad you approve,
dear! And really there will be a touch of romance in it, Ted, for Bruce
Edwards knew her when she lived in Ottawa—it was he who told me so
much about her. He simply raved about her to me—it seems he was quite
mad about her once, and probably it was a lover's quarrel or something
that drove her away to the West to forget,—and now think of her
meeting Bruce again. Isn't that a thriller?"
"If I thought Bruce Edwards had brains enough to care for any woman I'd
say it was not right to bring her here," said Mr. Banks; "but he
"Oh, of course," Mrs. Banks agreed, "he is quite over it now, no doubt.
Things like that never last, but he'll be awfully nice to her, and give
her a good time and take her around—you know what Bruce is like—he's
so romantic and cynical, and such a perfect darling in his manners—
always ready to open a door or pick up a handkerchief!"
"I am sure he would—if he needed the handkerchief," Theodore put in,
"Oh, Ted! you're a funny bunny! You've never liked Bruce—and I know
why—and it's perfectly horrid of you, just because he has always been
particularly nice to me—he really can't help being dreamy and devoted
to any woman he is with, if she is not a positive fright."
* * * * *
Mrs. Trenton, the President of the Arts and Crafts, received Mrs.
Banks' suggestion cautiously. Mrs. Trenton always asked, Is it right?
Is it wise? Is it expedient? It was Mrs. Trenton's extreme cautiousness
that had brought her the proud distinction of being the first President
of the Arts and Crafts, where it was considered necessary to temper the
impetuosity of the younger members; and, besides, Mrs. Trenton never
carried her doubts and fears too far. She raised all possible
objections, mentioned all possible contingencies, but in the end
allowed the younger members to carry the day, which they did, with a
clear and shriven conscience, feeling that they had been very discreet
and careful and deliberate.
Mrs. Banks introduced her subject by telling Mrs. Trenton that she had
come to ask her advice, whereupon Mrs. Trenton laid aside the work she
was doing and signified her gracious willingness to be asked for
counsel. When Mrs. Banks had carefully laid the matter before Mrs.
Trenton, dwelling on the utter loneliness of the prairie woman's life,
Mrs. Trenton called the Vice-President, Miss Hastings, who was an oil
painter by profession, and a lady of large experience in matters of the
heart. Mrs. Trenton asked Mrs Banks to outline her plan again.
When she had finished, Mrs. Trenton asked: "Is it wise—is it kind? She
has chosen her life. Why bring her back? It will only fill her heart
with vain repinings. This man, illiterate though he may be, is her
lawful husband—she owes him a duty. Are we just to him?"
"Maybe she is perfectly happy," Miss Hastings said. "There is no
accounting for love and its vagaries. Perhaps to her he is clothed in
the rosy glow of romance, and all the inconveniences of her life are
forgotten. I have read of it," she added in explanation, when she
noticed Mrs. Trenton's look of incredulity.
Mrs. Trenton sighed, a long sigh that undulated the black lace on her
"It has been written—it will continue to be written, but to-day
marriage needs to be aided by modern—" she hesitated, and looked at
Mrs. Banks for the word.
"Methods," Mrs. Banks supplied, promptly, "housemaids, cooks, autos,
theatres, jewelry and chocolates."
"You put it so aptly, my dear," Mrs. Trenton smiled, as she patted her
pearl bracelet, Mr. Trenton's last offering on the hymeneal altar. "It
requires—" she paused again—Mrs. Trenton's pauses were a very
important asset in her conversation—"it requires—"
"Collateral," said Mrs. Banks.
Miss Hastings shook her head.
"I believe in marriage—all the same," she said heroically.
"Now, how shall we do it?" Mrs. Banks was anxious to get the
preliminaries over. "You have decided to invite her, of course."
Mrs. Trenton nodded.
"I feel we have no choice in the matter," she said slowly. "She is
certainly a woman of artistic temperament—she must be, or she would
succumb to the dreary prairie level. I have followed her career with
interest and predict great things for her—have I not, Miss Hastings?
We should not blame her if in a moment of girlish romance she turned
her back on the life which now is. We, as officers of the Arts and
Crafts, must extend our fellowship to all who are worthy. This joining
of our ranks may show her what she lost by her girlish folly, but it is
better for her to know life, and even feel regrets, than never to
"Better have a scarlet thread run through the dull gray pattern of
life, even if it makes the gray all the duller," said Miss Hastings,
who worked in oils.
And so it came about that an invitation was sent to Mrs. James Dawson,
Auburn, Alberta, and in due time an acceptance was received.
From the time she alighted from the Pacific Express, a slight young
woman in a very smart linen suit, she was a constant surprise to the
Arts and Crafts. The principal cause of their surprise was that she
seemed perfectly happy. There was not a shadow of regret in her clear
grey eyes, nor any trace of drooping melancholy in her quick, business-
Naturally the Arts and Crafts had made quite a feature of the Alberta
author and poet who would attend the Convention. Several of the
enthusiastic members, anxious to advertise effectively, had interviewed
the newspaper reporters on the subject, with the result that long
articles were published in the Woman's Section of the city dailies,
dealing principally with the loneliness of the life on an Alberta
ranch. Kate Dawson was credited with an heroic spirit that would have
made her blush had she seen the flattering allusions. Robinson Crusoe
on his lonely isle, before the advent of Friday, was not more isolated
than she on her lonely Alberta ranch, according to the advance notices.
Luckily she had not seen any of these, nor ever dreamed she was the
centre of so much attention, and so it was a very self-possessed and
unconscious young woman in a simple white gown who came before the Arts
It was the first open night of the Convention, and the auditorium was
crowded. The air was heavy with the perfume of many flowers, and pulsed
with dreamy music. Mrs. Trenton, in billows of black lace and glinting
jet, presided with her usual graciousness. She introduced Mrs. Dawson
Whatever the attitude of the audience was at first, they soon followed
her with eager interest as she told them, in her easy way, simple
stories of the people she knew so well and so lovingly understood.
There was no art in the telling, only a sweet naturalness and an
apparent honesty—the honesty of purpose that comes to people in lonely
places. Her stories were all of the class that magazine editors call
"homely, heart-interest stuff," not deep or clever or problematical—
the commonplace doings of common people—but it found an entrance into
the hearts of men and women.
They found themselves looking with her at broad sunlit spaces, where
struggling hearts work out noble destinies, without any thought of
heroism. They saw the moonlight and its drifting shadows on the wheat,
and smelled again the ripening grain at dawn. They heard the whirr of
prairie chickens' wings among the golden stubble on the hillside, and
the glamor of some old forgotten afternoon stole over them. Men and
women country-born who had forgotten the voices of their youth, heard
them calling across the years, and heard them, too, with opened hearts
and sudden tears. There was one pathetic story she told them, of the
lonely prairie woman—the woman who wished she was back, the woman to
whom the broad outlook and far horizon were terrible and full of fear.
She told them how, at night, this lonely woman drew down the blinds and
pinned them close to keep out the great white outside that stared at
her through every chink with wide, pitiless eyes—the mocking voices
that she heard behind her everywhere, day and night, whispering,
mocking, plotting; and the awful shadows, black and terrible, that
crouched behind her, just out of sight—never coming out in the open.
It was a weird and gloomy picture, that, but she did not leave it so.
She told of the new neighbor who came to live near the lonely woman—
the human companionship which drove the mocking voices away forever—
the coming of the spring, when the world awoke from its white sleep and
the thousand joyous living things that came into being at the touch of
the good old sun!
At the reception after the programme, many crowded around her,
expressing their sincere appreciation of her work. Bruce Edwards fully
enjoyed the distinction which his former acquaintance with her gave
him, and it was with quite an air of proprietorship that he introduced
to her his friends.
Mrs. Trenton, Mrs. Banks and other members of the Arts and Crafts, at a
distance discussed her with pride. She had made their open night a
wonderful success—the papers would be full of it to-morrow.
"You can see how fitted she is for a life of culture," said Miss
Hastings, the oil painter; "her shapely white hands were made for
silver spoons, and not for handling butter ladles. What a perfect joy
it must be for her to associate with people who are her equals!"
"I wonder," said Mrs. Banks, "what her rancher would say if he saw his
handsome wife now. So much admiration from an old lover is not good for
the peace of mind of even a serious-minded author—and such a
fascinating man as Bruce! Look how well they look together! I wonder if
she is mentally comparing her big, sunburned cattleman with Bruce, and
thinking of what a different life she would have led if she had married
"Do you suppose," said Mrs. Trenton, "that that was her own story that
she told us? I think she must have felt it herself to be able to tell
Just at that moment Bruce Edwards was asking her the same question.
"Oh, no," she answered, quickly, while an interested group drew near;
"people never write their own sorrows—the broken heart does not sing—
that's the sadness of it. If one can talk of their sorrows they soon
cease to be. It's because I have not had any sorrows of my own that I
have seen and been able to tell of the tragedies of life."
"Isn't she the jolly best bluffer you ever heard?" one of the men
remarked to another. "Just think of that beautiful creature, born for
admiration, living ten miles from anywhere, on an Albertan ranch of all
places, and saying she is happy. She could be a top-notcher in any
society in Canada—why, great Scott! any of us would have married that
girl, and been glad to do it!" And under the glow of this generous
declaration Mr. Stanley Carruthers lit his cigarette and watched her
with unconcealed admiration.
As the Arts and Crafts had predicted, the newspapers gave considerable
space to their open meeting, and the Alberta author came in for a large
share of the reporters' finest spasms. It was the chance of a lifetime
—here was local color—human interest—romance—thrills! Good old
phrases, clover-scented and rosy-hued, that had lain in cold storage
for years, were brought out and used with conscious pride.
There was one paper which boldly hinted at what it called her
"mesalliance," and drew a lurid picture of her domestic unhappiness,
"so bravely borne." All the gossip of the Convention was in it
intensified and exaggerated—conjectures set down as known truths—the
idle chatter of idle women crystallized in print!
And of this paper a copy was sent by some unknown person to James
Dawson, Auburn, Alberta.
* * * * *
The rain was falling at Auburn, Alberta, with the dreary insistence of
unwelcome harvest rain. Just a quiet drizzle—plenty more where this
came from—no haste, no waste. It soaked the fields, keeping green the
grain which should be ripening in a clear sun. Kate Dawson had been
gone a week, and it would still be a week before she came back. Just a
week—seven days. Jim Dawson went over them in his mind as he drove the
ten miles over the rain-soaked roads to Auburn to get his daily letter.
Every day she had written to him long letters, full of vital interest
to him. He read them over and over again.
"Nobody really knows how well Kate can write, who has not seen her
letters to me," he thought proudly. Absence had not made him fonder of
his wife, for every day he lived was lived in devotion to her. The
marvel of it all never left him, that such a woman as Kate Marks, who
had spent her life in the city, surrounded by cultured friends, should
be contented to live the lonely life of a rancher's wife.
He got his first disappointment when there was no letter for him. He
told himself it was some unavoidable delay in the mails—Kate had
written all right—there would be two letters for him to-morrow. Then
he noticed the paper addressed to him in a strange hand.
He opened it eagerly. A wavy ink-line caught his eye. "Western author
delights large audience." Jim Dawson's face glowed with pride. "My
girl!" he murmured, happily. "I knew it." He wanted to be alone when he
read it, and, folding it hastily, put it in his pocket and did not look
at it again until he was on the way home. The rain still fell drearily
and spattered the page as he read.
His heart beat fast with pride as he read the flattering words—his
girl had made good, you bet!
Suddenly he started, almost crushing the paper in his hands, and every
bit of color went from his face. "What's this? 'Unhappily married '—
'borne with heroic cheerfulness.'" He read it through to the end.
He stopped his horses and looked around—he did not know, himself, what
thought was in his mind. Jim Dawson had always been able to settle his
disputes without difficulty or delay. There was something to be done
now. The muscles swelled in his arms. Surely something could be
Then the wanton cruelty, the utter brutality of the printed page came
home to him—there was no way, no answer.
Strange to say, he felt no resentment for himself; even the paragraph
about the old lover, with its hidden and sinister meaning, angered him
only in its relation to her. Why shouldn't the man admire her if he was
an old lover?—Kate must have had dozens of men in love with her—why
shouldn't any man admire her?
So he talked and reasoned with himself, trying to keep the cruel hurt
of the words out of his heart.
Everyone in his household was asleep when he reached home. He stabled
his team with the help of his lantern, and then, going into the
comfortable kitchen, he found the lunch the housekeeper had left for
him. He thought of the many merry meals he and Kate had had on this
same kitchen table, but now it seemed a poor, cold thing to sit down
and eat alone and in silence.
With his customary thoughtfulness he cleared away the lunch before
going to his room. Then, lamp in hand, he went, as he and Kate had
always done, to the children's room, and looked long and lovingly at
his boy and girl asleep in their cots—the boy so like himself, with
his broad forehead and brown curls. He bent over him and kissed him
Then he turned to the little girl, so like her mother, with her tangle
of red curls on the pillow. Picking her up in his arms, he carried her
to his room and put her in his own bed.
"Mother isn't putting up a bluff on us, is she, dearie?" he whispered
as he kissed the soft little cheek beside his own. "Mother loves us,
surely—it is pretty rough on us if she doesn't—and it's rougher
still on mother!"
The child stirred in her sleep, and her arms tightened around his neck.
"I love my mother—and my dear daddy," she murmured drowsily.
All night long Jim Dawson lay wide-eyed, staring into the darkness with
his little sleeping girl in his arms, not doubting his wife for a
moment, but wondering—all night long—wondering!
The next evening Jim did not go for his mail, but one of the neighbors
driving by volunteered to get it for him.
It was nearly midnight when the sound of wheels roused him from his
reverie. He opened the door, and in the square of light the horses
"Hello, Jim—is that you?" called the neighbor; "I've got something for
Jim came out bareheaded. He tried to thank the neighbor for his
kindness, but his throat was dry with suppressed excitement—Kate had
The buggy was still in the shadow, and he could not see its occupant.
"I have a letter for you, Jim," said his friend, with a suspicious
twinkle in his voice, "a big one, registered and special delivery—a
right nice letter, I should say."
Then her voice rang out in the darkness.
"Come, Jim, and help me out."
Commonplace words, too, but to Jim Dawson they were sweeter than the
chiming of silver bells…..
An hour later they still sat over their late supper on the kitchen
table. She had told him many things.
"I just got lonely, Jim—plain, straight homesick for you and the
children. I couldn't stay out the week. The people were kind to me, and
said nice things about my work. I was glad to hear and see things, of
course. Bruce Edwards was there, you know—I've told you about Bruce.
He took me around quite a bit, and was nice enough, only I couldn't
lose him—you know that kind, Jim, always saying tiresome, plastery
sort of things. He thinks that women like to be fussed over all the
time. The women I met dress beautifully and all talk the same—and at
once. Everything is 'perfectly sweet' and 'darling' to them. They are
clever women all right, and were kind to me, and all that, but oh, Jim,
they are not for mine—and the men I met while I was away all looked
small and poor and trifling to me because I have been looking for the
last ten years at one who is big and brown and useful. I compared them
all with you, and they measured up badly. Jim, do you know what it
would feel like to live on popcorn and chocolates for two weeks and try
to make a meal of them—what do you think you would be hungry for?"
Jim Dawson watched his wife, his eyes aglow with love and pride. Not
until she repeated her question did he answer her.
"I think, perhaps, a slice of brown bread would be what was wanted," he
answered smiling. The glamor of her presence was upon him.
Then she came over to him and drew his face close to hers.
"Please pass the brown bread!" she said.
A SHORT TALE OF A RABBIT
(Reprinted by permission of Canada West Monthly.)
Johnny was the only John rabbit in the family that lived in the poplar
bluff in the pasture. He had a bold and adventurous spirit, but was
sadly hampered by his mother's watchfulness. She was as full of
warnings as the sign-board at the railway crossing. It was "Look out
for the cars!" all the time with mother. She warned him of dogs and
foxes, hawks and snakes, boys and men. It was in vain that Johnny
showed her his paces—how he could leap and jump and run. She admitted
that he was quite a smart little rabbit for his age, but—oh, well! you
know what mothers are like.
Johnny was really tired of it, and then, too, Johnny had found out that
what mother had said about dogs was very much exaggerated. Johnny had
met two dogs, so he thought he knew something about them. One was a
sleek, fat, black puppy, with a vapid smile, called Juno; and the other
was an amber-eyed spaniel with woolly, fat legs. They had run after
Johnny one day when he was out playing on the road, and he had led them
across a ploughed field. Johnny was accustomed to add, as he told the
story to the young rabbits that lived down in the pasture, that he had
to spurt around the field a few times after the race was over just to
limber up his legs—he was so cramped from sitting around waiting for
the dogs. So it came about that Johnny, in his poor, foolish little
heart, thought dogs were just a joke.
Johnny's mother told him that all men were bad, and the men who carried
guns were worst of all, for guns spit out fire and death. She said
there were men who wore coats the color of dead grass, and drove in
rigs that rattled and had dogs with them, and they killed ducks and
geese that were away up in the air. She said those men drove miles and
miles just to kill things, and they lived sometimes in a little house
away out near the lakes where the ducks stayed, and they didn't mind
getting up early in the morning or sitting up at night to get a shot at
a duck, and when they got the ducks they just gave them away. If half
what old Mrs. Rabbit said about them was true, they certainly were the
Bad Men from Bitter Creek! Johnny listened, big-eyed, to all this, and
there were times when he was almost afraid to go to bed. Still, when he
found out that dogs were not so dangerous, he began to think his mother
might have overstated the man question, too.
One day Johnny got away from his mother, when she was busy training the
other little rabbits in the old trick of dodging under the wire fence
just when the dog is going to grab you. Johnny knew how it was done—it
was as easy as rolling off a log for him, and so he ran away. He came
up at the Agricultural Grounds. He had often been close to the fence
before, but his mother had said decidedly he must never go in.
Just beside the gate he found a bread crust which was lovely, and there
might be more, mightn't there? There wasn't a person in sight, or a
dog. Johnny went a little farther in and found a pile of cabbage
leaves—a pile of them, mind you—he really didn't know what to think
of his mother—she certainly was the limit! Johnny grew bolder; a
little farther on he found more bread crumbs and some stray lettuce
leaves—he began to feel a little sorry for his mother—lettuce
leaves, cabbage leaves and bread crumbs—and she had said, "Don't go
in there, Johnny, whatever you do!"
The band was playing, and there were flags in the air, but Johnny
didn't notice it. He didn't know, of course, that the final lacrosse
match of the season was going to be played that afternoon. Johnny had
just gone into one of the cattle sheds to see what was there, when a
little boy, with flopped-out ears and a Cow Brand Soda cap on,
stealthily closed the gate. Johnny didn't know he had on a Cow Brand
Soda cap, and he didn't know that the gate was shut, but he did know
that that kind of a yell meant business. He wasn't afraid. Pshaw! He'd
give young Mr. Flop-Ears a run for his money. Come on, kid—r-r-r-r-r!
Johnny ran straight to the gate with a rabbit's unerring instinct, and
hurled himself against it in vain. The flop-eared boy screamed with
laughter. Then there were more Boys. And Dogs. All screaming. The
primitive savage in them was awake now. Here was a wild thing who
defied them, with all his speed. Johnny was running now with his ears
laid back, mad with terror, dogs barking, boys screaming, even men
joining in the chase, for the lust for blood was on them. Again Johnny
made the circuit of the field—the noise grew—a hundred voices, it
seemed, not one that was friendly. It was one little throbbing rabbit
against the field, with all the odds against him, running for his life,
and losing! "Sic him, Togo! Sic him, Collie! Gee! Can't he run? But
we've got him this time. He'll soon slow up." A dog snapped at him and
his hind leg grew heavy. Some one struck at him with a lacrosse stick,
He found himself running alone. Behind him a dog yelped with pain, and
above the noise someone shouted: "Here, you kids, let up on that! Shame
on you! Let him alone! Call off your dogs, there! Poor little duffer,
let him go. Get back there, Twin!"
Johnny ran dazed and dizzy, and once more made the circuit and dashed
again for the gate. But this time the gate was open, and Johnny was
free! Saved, and by whom?
Well, of course, old Mrs. Rabbit didn't believe a word of it when
Johnny went home and told her who called off the dogs and opened the
gate for him. She said,—well, she talked very plainly to Johnny, but
he stuck to it, that he owed his life to one of the Bad Men who wear
clothes the color of grass, and whose gun spits fire and death. For old
Mrs. Rabbit made just the same mistake that many people make of
thinking that a man that hunts must be cruel, forgetting that the true
sportsman loves the wild things he makes war on, and though he kills
them, he does it fairly and openly.
THE ELUSIVE VOTE
AN UNVARNISHED TALE OF SEPTEMBER 21st, 1911
John Thomas Green did not look like a man on whom great issues might
turn. His was a gentle soul encased in ill-fitting armour. Heavy blue
eyes, teary and sad, gave a wintry droop to his countenance; his nose
showed evidence of much wiping, and the need of more. When he spoke,
which was infrequent, he stammered; when he walked he toed in.
He was a great and glorious argument in favor of woman suffrage; he was
the last word, the piéce de résistance; he was a living, walking,
yellow banner, which shouted "Votes for Women," for in spite of his
many limitations there was one day when he towered high above the
mightiest woman in the land; one day that the plain John Thomas was
clothed with majesty and power; one day when he emerged from obscurity
and placed an impress on the annals of our country. Once every four
years John Thomas Green came forth (at the earnest solicitation of
friends) and stood before kings.
The Reciprocity fight was on, and nowhere did it rage more hotly than
in Morton, where Tom Brown, the well-beloved and much-hated
Conservative member, fought for his seat with all the intensity of his
Irish blood. Politics were an incident to Tom—the real thing was the
fight! and so fearlessly did he go after his assailants—and they were
many—that every day greater enthusiasm prevailed among his followers,
who felt it a privilege to fight for a man who fought so well for
The night before the election the Committee sat in the Committee Rooms
and went carefully over the lists. They were hopeful but not hilarious
—there had been disappointments, desertions, lapses!
Billy Weaver, loyal to the cause, but of pessimistic nature, testified
that Sam Cowery had been "talkin' pretty shrewd about reciprocity," by
which Billy did not mean "shrewd" at all, but rather crooked and
adverse. However, there was no mistaking Billy's meaning of the word
when one heard him say it with his inimitable "down-the-Ottaway"
accent. It is only the feeble written word which requires explanation.
George Burns was reported to have said he did not care whether he voted
or not; if it were a wet day he might, but if it were weather for
stacking he'd stack, you bet! This was a gross insult to the President
of the Conservative Association, whose farm he had rented and lived on
for the last five years, during which time there had been two
elections, at both of which he had voted "right." The President had not
thought it necessary to interview him at all this time, feeling sure
that he was within the pale. But now it seemed that some trifler had
told him that he would get more for his barley and not have to pay so
much for his tobacco if Reciprocity carried, and it was reported that
he had been heard to say, with picturesque eloquence, that you could
hardly expect a man to cut his throat both ways by voting against it!
These and other kindred reports filled the Committee with apprehension.
The most unmoved member of the company was the redoubtable Tom himself,
who, stretched upon the slippery black leather lounge, hoarse as a frog
from much addressing of obdurate electors, was endeavoring to sing
"Just Before the Battle, Mother," hitting the tune only in the most
The Secretary, with the list in his hand, went over the names:
"Jim Stewart—Jim's solid; he doesn't want Reciprocity, because he sent
to the States once for a washing-machine for his wife, and smuggled it
through from St. Vincent, and when he got it here his wife wouldn't use
"Abe Collins—Abe's not right and never will be—he saw Sir Wilfrid
"John Thomas Green—say, how about Jack? Surely we can corral Jack.
He's working for you, Milt, isn't he?" addressing one of the
"Leave him to me," said Milt, with an air of mystery; "there's no one
has more influence with Jack than me. No, he isn't with me just now,
he's over with my brother Angus; but when he comes in to vote I'll be
there, and all I'll have to do is to lift my eyes like this" (he showed
them the way it would be done) "and he'll vote—right."
"How do you know he will come, though?" asked the Secretary, who had
learned by much experience that many and devious are the bypaths which
lead away from the polls!
"Yer brother Angus will be sure to bring him in, won't he, Milt?" asked
John Gray, the trusting one, who believed all men to be brothers.
There was a tense silence.
Milt took his pipe from his mouth. "My brother Angus," he began,
dramatically, girding himself for the effort—for Milt was an orator of
Twelfth of July fame—"Angus Kennedy, my brother, bred and reared, and
reared and bred, in the principles of Conservatism, as my poor old
father often says, has gone over—has deserted our banners, has steeped
himself in the false teachings of the Grits. Angus, my brother," he
concluded, impressively, "is—not right!"
"What's wrong with him?" asked Jim Grover, who was of an analytical
turn of mind.
"Too late to discuss that now!" broke in the Secretary; "we cannot
trace Angus's downfall, but we can send out and get in John Thomas. We
need his vote—it's just as good as anybody's."
Jimmy Rice volunteered to go out and get him. Jimmy did not believe in
leaving anything to chance. He had been running an auto all week and
would just as soon work at night as any other time. Big Jack Moore,
another enthusiastic Conservative, agreed to go with him.
When they made the ten-mile run to the home of the apostate Angus, they
met him coming down the path with a lantern in his hand on the way to
feed his horses.
They, being plain, blunt men, unaccustomed to the amenities of election
time, and not knowing how to skilfully approach a subject of this kind,
simply announced that they had come for John Thomas.
"He's not here," said Angus, looking around the circle of light that
the lantern threw.
"Are you sure?" asked James Rice, after a painful pause.
"Yes," said Angus, with exaggerated ease, affecting not to notice the
significance of the question. "Jack went to Nelson to-day, and he ain't
back yet. He went about three o'clock," went on Angus, endeavoring to
patch up a shaky story with a little interesting detail. "He took over
a bunch of pigs for me that I am shippin' into Winnipeg, and he was
goin' to bring back some lumber."
"I was in Nelson to-day, Angus," said John Moore, sternly; "just came
from there, and I did not see John Thomas."
Angus, though fallen and misguided, was not entirely unregenerate; a
lie sat awkwardly on his honest lips, and now that his feeble effort at
deception had miscarried, he felt himself adrift on a boundless sea. He
wildly felt around for a reply, and was greatly relieved by the arrival
of his father on the scene, who, seeing the lights of the auto in the
yard, had come out hurriedly to see what was the matter. Grandpa
Kennedy, although nearing his ninetieth birthday, was still a man of
affairs, and what was still more important on this occasion, a lifelong
Conservative. Grandpa knew it was the night before the election; he
also had seen what he had seen. Grandpa might be getting on, but he
could see as far through a cellar door as the next one. Angus, glad of
a chance to escape, went on to the stable, leaving the visiting
gentlemen to be entertained by Grandpa.
Grandpa was a diplomat; he wanted to have no hard feelings with anyone.
"Good-night, boys," he cried, in his shrill voice; he recognized the
occupants of the auto and his quick brain took in the situation. "Don't
it beat all how the frost keeps off? This reminds me of the fall,
'leven years ago—we had no frost till the end of the month. I ripened
three bushels of Golden Queen tomatoes!" All this was delivered in a
very high voice for Angus's benefit—to show him, if he were listening,
how perfectly innocent the conversation was.
Then as Angus's lantern disappeared behind the stable, the old man's
voice was lowered, and he gave forth this cryptic utterance:
"John Thomas is in the cellar."
Then he gaily resumed his chatter, although Angus was safe in the
stable; but Grandpa knew what he knew, and Angus's woman might be
listening at the back door. "Much election talk in town, boys?" he
asked, breezily. They answered him at random. Then his voice fell
again. "Angle's dead against Brown—won't let you have John Thomas—put
him down cellar soon as he saw yer lights; Angie's woman is sittin on
the door knittin'—she's wors'n him—don't let on I give it away—I
don't want no words with her!—Yes, it's grand weather for threshin';
won't you come on away in? I guess yer horse will stand." The old man
roared with laughter at his own joke.
John Moore and James Rice went back to headquarters for further advice.
Angus's woman sitting on the cellar door knitting was a contingency
that required to be met with guile.
Consternation sat on the face of the Committee when they told their
story. They had not counted on this. The wildest plans were discussed.
Tom Stubbins began a lengthy story of an elopement that happened down
at the "Carp," where the bride made a rope of the sheets and came down
from an upstairs window. Tom was not allowed to finish his narrative,
though, for it was felt that the cases were not similar.
No one seemed to be particularly anxious to go back and interrupt Mrs.
Then there came into the assembly one of the latest additions to the
Conservative ranks, William Batters, a converted and reformed Liberal.
He had been an active member of the Liberal party for many years, but
at the last election he had been entirely convinced of their
unworthiness by the close-fisted and niggardly way in which they
dispensed the election money.
He heard the situation discussed in all its aspects. Milton Kennedy,
with inflamed oratory, bitterly bewailed his brother's defection—"not
only wrong himself, but leadin' others, and them innocent lambs!"—but
he did not offer to go out and see his brother. The lady who sat
knitting on the cellar door seemed to be the difficulty with all of
The reformed Liberal had a plan.
"I will go for him," said he. "Angus will trust me—he doesn't know I
have turned. I'll go for John Thomas, and Angus will give him to me
without a word, thinkin' I'm a friend," he concluded, brazenly.
"Look at that now!" exclaimed the member elect. "Say, boys, you'd know
he had been a Grit—no honest, open-faced Conservative would ever think
of a trick like that!"
"There is nothing like experience to make a man able to see every
side," said the reformed one, with becoming modesty.
An hour later Angus was roused from his bed by a loud knock on the
door. Angus had gone to bed with his clothes on, knowing that these
were troublesome times.
"What's the row?" he asked, when he had cautiously opened the door.
"Row!" exclaimed the friend who was no longer a friend, "You're the man
that's makin' the row. The Conservatives have 'phoned in to the
Attorney-General's Department to-night to see what's to be done with
you for standin' between a man and his heaven-born birthright, keepin'
and confinin' of a man in a cellar, owned by and closed by you!"
This had something the air of a summons, and Angus was duly impressed.
"I don't want to see you get into trouble. Angus," Mr. Batters went on;
"and the only way to keep out of it is to give him to me, and then when
they come out here with a search-warrant they won't find nothin'."
Angus thanked him warmly, and, going upstairs, roused the innocent John
from his virtuous slumbers. He had some trouble persuading John, who
was a profound sleeper, that he must arise and go hence; but many
things were strange to him, and he rose and dressed without very much
Angus was distinctly relieved when he got John Thomas off his hands—he
felt he had had a merciful deliverance.
On the way to town, roused by the night air, John Thomas became
"Them lads in the automobile, they wanted me pretty bad, you bet," he
chuckled, with the conscious pride of the much-sought-after; "but gosh,
Angus fixed them. He just slammed down the cellar door on me, and says
he, 'Not a word out of you, Jack; you've as good a right to vote the
way you want to as anybody, and you'll get it, too, you bet.'"
The reformed Liberal knitted his brows. What was this simple child of
nature driving at?
John Thomas rambled on: "Tom Brown can't fool people with brains, you
bet you—Angus's woman explained it all to me. She says to me, 'Don't
let nobody run you, Jack—and vote for Hastings. You're all right,
Jack—and remember Hastings is the man. Never mind why—don't bother
your head—you don't have to—but vote for Hastings.' Says she, 'Don't
let on to Milt, or any of his folks, or Grandpa, but vote the way you
want to, and that's for Hastings!'"
When they arrived in town the reformed Liberal took John Thomas at once
to the Conservative Hotel, and put him in a room, and told him to go to
bed, which John cheerfully did. Then he went for the Secretary, who was
also in bed. "I've got John Thomas," he announced, "but he says he's a
Grit and is going to vote for Hastings. I can't put a dint in him—he
thinks I'm a Grit, too. He's only got one idea, but it's a solid one,
and that is 'Vote for Hastings.'"
The Secretary yawned sleepily. "I'll not go near him. It's me for
sleep. You can go and see if any of the other fellows want a job.
They're all down at a ball at the station. Get one of those wakeful
spirits to reason with John."
The conspirator made his way stealthily to the station, from whence
there issued the sound of music and dancing. Not wishing to alarm the
Grits, many of whom were joining in the festivities, and who would have
been quick to suspect that something was on foot, if they saw him
prowling around, he crept up to the window and waited until one of the
faithful came near. Gently tapping on the glass, he got the attention
of the editor, the very man he wanted, and, in pantomime, gave him to
understand that his presence was requested. The editor, pleading a
terrific headache, said good-night, or rather good-morning, to his
hostess, and withdrew. From his fellow-worker who waited in the shadow
of the trees outside, he learned that John Thomas had been secured in
the body but not in spirit.
The newspaper man readily agreed to labor with the erring brother and
hoped to be able to deliver his soul alive.
Once again was John Thomas roused from his slumbers, and not by a
familiar voice this time, but by an unknown vision in evening dress.
The editor was a convincing man in his way, whether upon the subject of
reciprocity or apostolic succession, but John was plainly bored from
the beginning, and though he offered no resistance, his repeated "I
know that!" "That's what I said!" were more disconcerting than the most
vigorous opposition. At daylight the editor left John, and he really
had the headache that he had feigned a few hours before.
Then John Thomas tried to get a few winks of unmolested repose, but it
was election day, and the house was early astir. Loud voices sounded
through the hall. Innumerable people, it seemed, mistook his room for
their own. Jack rose at last, thoroughly indignant and disposed to
quarrel. He had a blame good notion to vote for Brown after all, after
the way he had been treated.
When he had hastily dressed himself, discussing his grievances in a
loud voice, he endeavored to leave the room, but found the door
securely locked. Then his anger knew no bounds. He lustily kicked on
the lower panel of the door and fairly shrieked his indignation and
The chambermaid, passing, remonstrated with him by beating on the other
side of the door. She was a pert young woman with a squeaky voice, and
she thought she knew what was wrong with the occupant of 17. She had
heard kicks on doors before.
"Quiet down, you, mister, or you'll get yourself put in the cooler—
that's the best place for noisy drunks."
This, of course, annoyed the innocent man beyond measure, but she was
gone far down the hall before he could think of the retort suitable.
When she finished her upstairs work and came downstairs to peel the
potatoes, she mentioned casually to the bartender that whoever he had
in number 17 was "smashin' things up pretty lively!"
The bartender went up and liberated the indignant voter, who by this
time had his mind made up to vote against both Brown and Hastings, and
furthermore to renounce politics in all its aspects for evermore.
However, a good breakfast and the sincere apologies of the hotel people
did much to restore his good humor. But a certain haziness grew in his
mind as to who was who, and at times the disquieting thought skidded
through his murky brain that he might be in the enemy's camp for all he
knew. Angus and Mrs. Angus had said, "Do what you think is right and
vote for Hastings," and that was plain and simple and easily
understood. But now things seemed to be all mixed up.
The committee were ill at ease about him. The way he wagged his head
and declared he knew what was what, you bet, was very disquieting, and
the horrible fear haunted them that they were perchance cherishing a
serpent in their bosom.
The Secretary had a proposal: "Take him out to Milt Kennedy's. Milt
said he could work him. Take him out there! Milt said all he had to do
was to raise his eyes and John Thomas would vote right."
The erstwhile Liberal again went on the road with John Thomas, to
deliver him over to the authority of Milt Kennedy. If Milt could get
results by simply elevating his eyebrows, Milt was the man who was
Arriving at Milt's, he left the voter sitting in the buggy, while he
went in search of the one who could control John's erring judgment.
While sitting there alone, another wandering thought zig-zagged through
John's brain. They were making a fool of him, some way! Well, he'd let
them see, b'gosh!
He jumped out of the buggy, and hastily climbed into the hay-mow. It
was a safe and quiet spot, and was possessed of several convenient
eye-holes through which he could watch with interest the search which
He saw the two men coming up to the barn, and as they passed almost
below him, he heard Milt say, "Oh, sure, John Thomas will vote right—I
can run him all right!—he'll do as I say. Hello, John! Where is he?"
They went into the house—they searched the barn—they called, coaxed,
entreated. They ran down to the road to see if he had started back to
town; he was as much gone as if he had never been!
"Are you dead sure you brought him?" Milt asked at last in desperation,
as he turned over a pile of sacks in the granary.
"Gosh! ain't they lookin' some!" chuckled the elusive voter, as he
watched with delight their unsuccessful endeavors to locate him. "But
there's lots of places yet that they hain't thought of; they hain't
half looked for me yet. I may be in the well for all they know." Then
he began to sing to himself, "I know something I won't tell!"
It was not every day that John Thomas Green found himself the centre of
attraction, and he enjoyed the sensation.
Having lost so much sleep the night before, a great drowsiness fell on
John Thomas, and curling himself up in the hay, he sank into a sweet,
While he lay there, safe from alarms, the neighborhood was shaken with
a profound sensation. John Thomas was lost. Lost, and his vote lost
Milton Kennedy, who had to act as scrutineer at the poll in town, was
forced to leave home with the mystery unsolved. Before going, he
'phoned to Billy Adams, one of the faithful, and in guarded speech,
knowing that he was surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, broke the news!
Billy Adams immediately left his stacking, and set off to find his lost
Mrs. Alex Porter lived on the next farm to Billy Adams, and being a
lady of some leisure, she usually managed to get in on most of the
'phone conversations. Billy Adams' calls were very seldom overlooked by
her, for she was on the other side of politics, and it was always well
to know what was going on. Although she did not know all that was said
by the two men, she heard enough to assure her that crooked work was
going on. Mrs. Alex Porter declared she was not surprised. She threw
her apron over her head and went to the field and told Alex. Alex was
not surprised. In fact, it seems Alex had expected it!
They 'phoned in cipher to Angus, Mrs. Angus being a sister of Mrs. Alex
Porter. Mrs. Angus told them to speak out plain, and say what they
wanted to, even if all the Conservatives on the line were listening.
Then Mrs. Porter said that John Thomas was lost over at Milt Kennedy's.
They had probably drugged him or something.
Then Angus's wife said he was safe enough. Billy Batters had come and
got him the night before. At the mention of Billy Batters there was a
sound of suppressed mirth all along the line. Mrs. Angus's sister
fairly shrieked. "Billy Batters! Don't you know he has turned
Conservative!—he's working tooth and nail for Brown." Mrs. Angus
called Angus excitedly. Everybody talked at once; somebody laughed; one
or two swore. Mrs. Porter told Milt Kennedy's wife she'd caught her
eavesdropping this time sure. She'd know her cackle any place, and
Milt's wife told Mrs. Porter to shut up—she needn't talk about
eavesdroppers,—good land! and Mrs. Porter told Mrs. Milt she should
try something for that voice of hers, and recommended machine oil, and
Central rang in and told them they'd all have their 'phones taken out
if they didn't stop quarreling; and John Thomas, in the hay-mow, slept
on, as peacefully as an innocent babe!
In the committee rooms, Jack's disappearance was excitedly discussed.
The Conservatives were not sure that Bill Batters was not giving them
the double cross—once a Grit, always a Grit! Angus was threatening to
have him arrested for abduction—he had beguiled John Thomas from the
home of his friends, and then carelessly lost him.
William Batters realized that he had lost favor in both places, and
anxiously longed for a sight of John Thomas's red face, vote or no
At four o'clock John Thomas awoke much refreshed, but very hungry. He
went into the house in search of something to eat. Milton and his wife
had gone into town many hours before, but he found what he wanted, and
was going back to the hay-mow to finish his sleep, just as Billy Adams
was going home after having cast his vote.
Billy Adams seized him eagerly, and rapidly drove back to town. Jack's
vote would yet be saved to the party!
It was with pardonable pride that Billy Adams reined in his foaming
team, and rushed John Thomas into the polling booth, where he was
greeted with loud cheers. Nobody dare ask him where he had been—time
was too precious. Milton Kennedy, scrutineer, lifted his eyebrows as
per agreement. Jack replied with a petulant shrug of his good shoulder
and passed in to the inner chamber.
The Conservatives were sure they had him. The Liberals were sure, too.
Mrs. Angus was sure Jack would vote right after the way she had
reasoned with him and showed him!
When the ballots were counted, there were several spoiled ones, of
course. But there was one that was rather unique. After the name of
Thomas Brown, there was written in lead pencil, "None of yer
business!" which might have indicated a preference for the other name
of John Hastings, only for the fact that opposite his name was the curt
remark, "None of yer business, either!"
Some thought the ballot was John Thomas Green's.
THE WAY OF THE WEST
(Reprinted by permission of The Globe, Toronto.)
Thomas Shouldice was displeased, sorely, bitterly displeased: in fact,
he was downright mad, and being an Irish Orangeman, this means that he
was ready to fight. You can imagine just how bitterly Mr. Shouldice was
incensed when you hear that the Fourth of July had been celebrated with
flourish of flags and blare of trumpets right under his very nose—in
Canada—in British dominions!
The First of July, the day that should have been given up to "doin's,"
including the race for the greased pig, the three-legged race, and a
ploughing match, had passed into obscurity, without so much as a
pie-social; and it had rained that day, too, in torrents, just as if
Nature herself did not care enough about the First to try to keep it dry.
The Fourth came in a glorious day, all sunshine and blue sky, with
birds singing in every poplar bluff, and it was given such a
celebration as Thomas had never seen since the "Twelfth" had been held
in Souris. The American settlers who had been pouring into the Souris
valley had—without so much as asking leave from the Government at
Ottawa, the school trustees, or the oldest settler, who was Thomas
himself—gone ahead and celebrated. Every American family had brought
their own flagpole, in "joints," with them, and on the Fourth immense
banners of stars and stripes spread their folds in triumph on the
The celebration was held in a large grove just across the road from
Thomas Shouldice's little house; and to his inflamed patriotism, every
firecracker that split the air, every cheer that rent the heavens,
every blare of their smashing band music, seemed a direct challenge to
King Edward himself, God bless him!
Mr. Shouldice worked all day at his hay-meadow, just to show them! He
worked hard, too, never deigning a glance at their "carryin's on," just
to let them know that he did not care two cents for their Fourth of
His first thought was to feign indifference, but when he saw the
Wilsons, the Wrays, the Henrys, Canadian-bred and born, driving over to
the enemy's camp, with their Sunday clothes on and big boxes of
provisions on the "doggery" of their buckboards, his indifference fled
and was replaced by profanity. It comforted him a little when he
reflected that not an Orangeman had gone. They were loyal sons and
true, every one of them. These other ignorant Canadians might forget
what they owed to the old flag, but the Orangemen—never.
Thomas's rage against the Yankees was intensified when he saw Father
O'Flynn walking across the plover slough. Then he was sure that the
Americans and Catholics were in league against the British.
A mighty thought was conceived that day in the brain of Thomas
Shouldice, late Worshipful Master of the Carleton Place Loyal Orange
Lodge No. 23. They would celebrate the Twelfth, so they would; he'd
like to see who would stop them. Someone would stand up for the flag
that had braved a thousand years of battle and the breeze. He blew his
nose noisily on his red handkerchief when he thought of this.
They would celebrate the Twelfth! They would "walk." He would gather up
"the boys" and get someone to make a speech. They would get a fifer
from Brandon. It was the fife that could stir the heart in you! And the
fifer would play "The Protestant Boys" and "Rise, Sons of William,
Rise!" Anyone that tried to stop him would get a shirt full of sore
Thomas went home full of the plan to get back at the invaders!
Rummaging through his trunk, he found, carefully wrapped with chewing
tobacco and ground cedar, to keep the moths away, the regalia that he
had worn, proudly and defiantly, once in Montreal, when the crowd that
obstructed the triumphal march of the Orange Young Britons had to be
dispersed by the "melitia." It was a glorious day, and one to be
remembered with pride, for there had been shots fired and heads
His man, a guileless young Englishman, came in from mowing, gaily
whistling the refrain the Yankee band had been playing at intervals all
afternoon. It was "Dixie Land," and at first Thomas did not notice it.
Rousing at last to the sinister significance of the tune, he ordered
its cessation, in rosy-hued terms, and commended all such Yankee tunes
and those that whistled them to that region where popular rumor has it
that pots boil with or without watching.
Thomas Shouldice had lived by himself for a number of years. It was
supposed that he had a wife living somewhere in "the States," which
term to many Canadians indicates a shadowy region where bad boys,
unfaithful wives and absconding embezzlers find refuge and dwell in dim
Thomas's devotion to the Orange Order was nothing short of a passion.
He believed that but for its institution and perpetuation Protestant
blood would flow like water. He always spoke of the "Stuarts" in an
undertone, as if he were afraid they might even yet come back and make
"rough house" for King Edward.
There were only two Catholic families in the neighborhood, and
peaceable, friendly people they were, too; but Thomas believed they
should be intimidated to prevent trouble. "The old spite is in them,"
he told himself, "and nothing will show them where they stand like a
The next day Thomas left his haying and rounded up the faithful. There
were seven members of the order in the community, all of whom were
willing to stand for their country's honor. There was James Shewfelt,
who was a drummer, and could play the tunes without the fife at all.
There was John Barker, who did a musical turn in the form of a twenty-
three verse ballad beginning:
"When Popery did flourish in
Dear Ireland o'er the sea,
There came a man from Amsterdam
To set ould Ireland free!
To set ould Ireland free, boys,
To set ould Ireland free,—
There came a man from Amsterdam
To set ould Ireland free!"
There was William Breeze, who was a little hard of hearing, but loyal
to the core. He had seven boys in his family, so there was still hope
for the nation. There was Patrick Mooney, who should have been wearing
the other color if there is anything in a name. But there isn't. There
was John Burns, who had been an engineer, but, having lost a foot, had
taken to farming. He was the farthest advanced in the order next to
Thomas Shouldice, having served a term as District Grand Master, and
was well up in the Grand Black Chapter. These would form the nucleus of
the procession. The seven little Breezes would be admitted to the ranks
if their mother could find suitable decoration for them. Of course, the
weather was warm and the subject of clothing was not so serious as it
might have been.
Thomas drove nineteen miles to the nearest town to get a speaker and a
fifer. The fifer was found, and, quite fortunately, was open for
engagement. The speaker was not so easily secured. Thomas went to the
Methodist missionary. The missionary was quite a young man and had the
reputation of being an orator. He listened gravely while his visitor
unfolded his plan.
"I'll tell you what to do, Mr. Shouldice," he said, smiling, when the
other had finished the recital of his country's wrongs. "Get Father
O'Flynn; he'll make you a speech that will do you all good."
Thomas was too astonished for words. "But he's a Papist!" he sputtered
"Oh, pshaw! Oh, pshaw! Mr. Shouldice," the young man exclaimed;
"there's no division of creed west of Winnipeg. The little priest does
all my sick visiting north of the river, and I do his on the south.
He's a good preacher, and the finest man at a deathbed I ever saw."
"This is not a deathbed, though, as it happens," Thomas replied, with
The young minister threw back his head and laughed uproariously. "Can't
tell that until it is over—I've been at a few Orange walks down East,
you know—took part in one myself once."
"Did you walk?" Thomas asked, brightening.
"No, I ran," the minister said, smiling.
"I thought you said you took part," Thomas snorted, with displeasure.
"So I did, but mine was a minor part. I stood behind the fence and
helped the Brennan boys and Patrick Costigan to peg at them!"
"Are ye a Protestant at all?" Thomas roared at him, now thoroughly
"Yes, I am," the minister said, slowly, "and I am something better
still; I am a Christian and a Canadian. Are you?"
Thomas beat a hasty retreat.
The Presbyterian minister was away from home, and the English Church
minister—who was also a young man lately arrived—said he would go
The Twelfth of July was a beautiful day, clear, sparkling and
cloudless. Little wayward breezes frolicked up and down the banks of
Moose Creek and rasped the surface of its placid pools, swollen still
from the heavy rains of the "First." In the glittering sunshine the
prairie lay a riot of color; the first wild roses now had faded to a
pastel pink, but on every bush there were plenty of new ones, deeply
crimson and odorous. Across the creek from Thomas Shouldice's little
house, Indian pipes and columbine reddened the edge of the poplar
grove, from the lowest branches of which morning-glories, white and
pink and purple, hung in graceful profusion.
Before noon a wagon filled with people came thundering down the trail.
As they came nearer Thomas was astonished to see that it was an
American family from the Chippen Hill district.
"Picnic in these parts, ain't there?" the driver asked.
Thomas was in a genial mood, occasioned by the day and the weather.
"Orange walk and picnic!" he replied, waving his hand toward the bluff,
where a few of the faithful were constructing a triumphal arch.
"Something like a cake-walk, is it?" the man asked, looking puzzled.
Mr. Shouldice stared at him incredulously.
"Did ye never hear of Orangemen down yer way?" he said.
"Never did, pard," the man answered. "We've peanut men, and apple
women, and banana men, but we've never heard much about orange men. But
we're right glad to come over and help the show along. Do you want any
money for the races?"
"We didn't count on havin' races; we're havin' speeches and some
The Yankee laughed good-humoredly.
"Well, friend, I pass there; but mother here is a W.C.T.U.-er from away
back. She'll knock the spots off the liquor business in fifteen
minutes, if you'd like anything in that line."
His wife interposed in her easy, drawling tones: "Now, Abe, you best
shet up and drive along. The kids are all hungry and want their
"We'll see you later, partner," said the man as they drove away.
Thomas Shouldice was mystified. "These Americans are a queer bunch," he
thought; "they're ignorant as all get out, but, gosh! they're
Over the hill to the south came other wagons filled with jolly
picnickers, who soon had their pots boiling over quickly-constructed
Thomas, who went over to welcome them, found that nearly all of them
were the very Americans whose unholy zeal for their own national
holiday had so embittered his heart eight days before.
They were full of enquiries as to the meaning of an Orange walk. Thomas
tried to explain, but, having only inflamed Twelfth of July oratory for
the source of his information, he found himself rather at a loss. But
the Americans gathered that it was something he used to do "down East,"
and they were sympathetic at once.
"That's right, you bet," one gray-haired man with a young face
exclaimed, getting rid of a bulky chew of tobacco that had slightly
impeded his utterance. "There's nothin' like keepin' up old
By two o'clock fully one hundred people had gathered.
Thomas was radiant. "Every wan is here now except that old Papist,
O'Flynn," he whispered to the drummer. "I hope he'll come, too, so I
do. It'll be a bitter pill for him to swallow."
The drummer did not share the wish. He was thinking, uneasily, of the
time two years ago—the winter of the deep snow—when he and his family
had been quarantined with smallpox, and of how Father O'Flynn had come
miles out of his way every week on his snowshoes to hand in a roll of
newspapers he had gathered up, no one knows where, and a bag of candies
for the little ones. He was thinking of how welcome the priest's little
round face had been to them all those long, tedious six weeks, and how
cheery his voice sounded as he shouted, "Are ye needin' anything,
Jimmy, avick? All right, I'll be back on Thursda', God willin'. Don't
be frettin', now, man alive! Everybody has to have the smallpox. Sure,
yer shaming the Catholics this year, Jimmy, keeping Lent so well." The
drummer was decidedly uneasy.
There is an old saying about speaking of angels in which some people
still believe. Just at this moment Father O'Flynn came slowly over the
Father O'Flynn was a typical little Irish priest, good-natured, witty,
emotional. Nearly every family north of the river had some cause for
loving the little man. He was a tireless walker, making the round of
his parish every week, no matter what the weather. He had a little
house built for him the year before at the Forks of the Assiniboine,
where he had planted a garden, set out plants and flowers, and made it
a little bower of beauty; but he had lived in it only one summer, for
an impecunious English couple, who needed a roof to cover them rather
urgently, had taken possession of it during his absence, and the kind-
hearted little father could not bring himself to ask them to vacate.
When his friends remonstrated with him, he turned the conversation by
telling them of another and a better Man of whom it was written that He
"had not where to lay His head."
Father O'Flynn was greeted with delight, by the younger ones
especially. The seven little Breezes were very demonstrative, and
Thomas Shouldice resolved to warn their father against the priest's
malign influence. He recalled a sentence or two from "Maria Monk,"
which said something like this: "Give us a child until he is ten years
old, and let us teach him our doctrine, and he's ours for evermore."
"Oh, they're deep ones, them Jesuits!"
Father O'Flynn was just in time for the "walk."
"Do you know what an Orange walk is, father?" one of the American women
asked, really looking for information.
"Yes, daughter, yes," the little priest answered, a shadow coming into
his merry grey eyes. He gave her an evasive reply, and then murmured to
himself, as he picked a handful of orange lilies: "It is an institution
of the Evil One to sow discord among brothers."
The walk began.
First came the fife and drum, skirling out an Orange tune, at which the
little priest winced visibly. Then followed Thomas Shouldice, in the
guise of King William. He was mounted on his own old, spavined grey
mare, that had performed this honorable office many times in her youth.
But now she seemed lacking in the pride that befits the part. Thomas
himself was gay with ribbons and a short red coat, whose gilt braid was
sadly tarnished. One of the Yankees had kindly loaned a mottled buggy-
robe for the saddle-cloth.
Behind Thomas marched the twenty-three-verse soloist and the other
faithful few, followed by the seven Breeze boys, gay with yellow
streamers made from the wrapping of a ham.
The Yankees grouped about were sorry to see so few in the procession.
They had brought along three or four of their band instruments to
furnish music if it were needed. As the end of the procession passed
them, two of the smaller boys swung in behind the last two Breezes.
It was an inspiration. Instantly the whole company stepped into line—
two by two, men, women, and children, waving their bunches of lilies!
Thomas, from his point of vantage, could see the whole company
following his lead, and his heart swelled with pride. Under the arch
the procession swept, stepping to the music, the significance of which
most of the company did not even guess at—good-natured, neighborly,
filled with the spirit of the West, that ever seeks to help along.
Everyone, even Father O'Flynn, was happier than James Shewfelt, the
The fifer paused, preparatory to changing the tune. It was the
drummer's opportunity. "Onward, Christian Soldiers," he sang, tapping
the rhythm on the drum. The fifer caught the strain. Not a voice was
silent, and unconsciously hand clasped hand, and the soft afternoon air
reverberated with the swelling cadence:
"We are not divided,
All one body we."
When the verse was done the fifer led off into another and another. The
little priest's face glowed with pleasure. "It is the Spirit of the
Lord," he whispered to himself, as he marched to the rhythm, his hand
closely held by the smallest Breeze boy, whose yellow streamers and
profuse decoration of orange lilies were at strange variance with his
companion's priestly robes. But on this day nothing was at variance.
The spirit of the West was upon them, unifying, mellowing, harmonizing
all conflicting emotions—the spirit of the West that calls on men
everywhere to be brothers and lend a hand.
The Church of England minister did make a speech, but not the one he
had intended. Instead of denominationalism, he spoke of brotherhood;
instead of religious intolerance, he spoke of religious liberty;
instead of the Prince of Orange, who crossed the Boyne to give
religious freedom to Ireland, he told of the Prince of Peace, who died
on the cross to save the souls of men of every nation and kindred and
In the hush that followed Father O'Flynn stepped forward and said he
thanked the brother who had planned this meeting; he was glad, he said,
for such an opportunity for friends and neighbors to meet; he spoke of
the glorious heritage that all had in this great new country, and how
all must stand together as brothers. All prejudices of race and creed
and doctrine die before the wonderful power of loving service. "The
West," he said, "is the home of loving hearts and neighborly kindness,
where all men's good is each man's care. For myself," he went on, "I
have but one wish, and that is to be the servant of all, to be the
ambassador of Him who went about doing good, and to teach the people to
love honor and virtue, and each other." Then, raising his hands, he led
the company in that prayer that comes ever to the lips of man when all
other prayers seem vain—that prayer that we can all fall back on in
our sore need:
"Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come."
Two hours later a tired but happy and united company sat down to supper
on the grass. At the head of the table sat Thomas Shouldice, radiating
good-will. A huge white pitcher of steaming golden coffee was in his
hand. He poured a cup of it brimming full, and handed it to the little
priest, who sat near him. "Have some coffee, father?" he said.
Where could such a scene as this be enacted—a Twelfth of July
celebration where a Roman Catholic priest was the principal speaker,
where the company dispersed with the singing of "God Save the King,"
led by an American band?
Nowhere, but in the Northwest of Canada, that illimitable land, with
its great sunlit spaces, where the west wind, bearing on its bosom the
spices of a million flowers, woos the heart of man with a magic spell
and makes him kind and neighborly and brotherly!