Part 2 out of 5
friends--it does not seem as if education has improved you. Can't you
stay and talk a minute?"
"I could stay," said Pearl, "and I can still talk, but I have not been
able to talk to you. You see I do not like to interrupt any one so
much older than myself!"
When Pearl walked away, Mrs. Crocks looked after her with a look of
uncertainty on her face. Pearl's words rang in her ears!
"She's smart, that kid--she's smart--I'll say that for her. There is
not a man in town who dare look me in the eye and take a rise like
that out of me, but she did it without a flicker. So I know I had her
mad or she wouldn't have said it, but wasn't she smooth about it?"
Then her professional pride asserted itself, reminding her that a
slight had been put upon her, and her mood changed.
"Of all the saucy little jades," she said to herself--"with the air of
a duchess, and the fine clothes of her! And to think that her mother
washed for me not so long ago, and that girl came for the clothes and
brought them back again! And now listen to her! You put your foot in
it, Pearl my young lady, when you rubbed Jane Crocks the wrong way,
for people cannot do that and get away with it! And remember I am
When Pearl left Mrs. Crocks standing on the street she walked quickly
to the station, but arriving there with the yellow blank in her hand,
she found her intention of accepting a school in the North had grown
weak and pale. She did not want to go to North, or any place. She
suddenly wanted to stay. She would take a school some place near--and
see what was going to happen; and besides--she suddenly thought of
this--she must not decide on anything until she saw Mr. Donald, her
old teacher, and got his advice. It would not be courteous to do
anything until she saw him, and tomorrow was the day he wanted her to
go to the school to speak to the children. Why, of course, she could
not go---and so Pearl reasoned in that well-known human way of backing
herself up in the thing she wanted to do! So she tore off a couple of
blank forms and put them in her purse, and asked the agent if he knew
how the train from the East was, and he gave her the assurance that it
had left the city on time and was whoopin' it along through the hills
at Cardinal when last heard from--and stood a good chance of getting
in before night.
All the way home, Pearl tried to solve the tangle of thoughts that
presented themselves to her, but the unknown quantity, the "X" in this
human equation, had given her so little to work on, that it seemed
as though she must mark it "insufficient data" and let it go! But
unfortunately for Pearl's peace of mind it could not be dismissed in
One thing was evident--it was some sudden happening or suggestion that
had changed his attitude towards her, for there was no mistaking the
tenderness in his messages over the phone the day before--and why did
he remember the day at all, if it were only to tell her that she
was too young to really know her own mind. The change--whatever it
was--had taken place in the interval of his phoning, and her visit,
and Mrs. Crocks had said that a committee had gone to see him and
offer him the nomination! What difference would that make? The subtle
suggestion of the senator's daughter came back to her mind! Was it
possible--that the Watson family were--what she had once read of in an
English story--'socially impossible.' Pearl remembered the phrase. The
thought struck her with such an impact that she pulled her horse up
with a jerk, and stood on the road in deep abstraction.
She remembered the quarrel she had once had with a girl at school. It
all came back in a flash of rage that lit up this forgotten corner of
her memory! The cause of the quarrel did not appear in the record, but
that the girl had flung it at her that her people were nothing and
nobody--her mother a washerwoman and her father a section hand--now
stood out in letters of flame! Pearl had not been angry at the
time--and she remembered that her only reason for taking out the
miserable little shrimp and washing her face in the snow was that
she knew the girl had said this to be very mean, and with the pretty
certain hope that it would cut deep! She was a sorrel-topped, anaemic,
scrawny little thing, who ate slate-pencils and chewed paper, and she
had gone crying to the teacher with the story of Pearl's violence
Mr. Donald had found out the cause, and had spoken so nicely to Pearl
about it, that her heart was greatly lifted as a result, and the
incident became a pleasant recollection, with only the delightful
part remaining, until this moment. Mr. Donald had said that Pearl was
surely a lucky girl, when the worst thing that could be said to her
was that her two parents had been engaged in useful and honorable
work--and he had made this the topic for a lesson that afternoon in
showing how all work is necessary and all honorable. Out of the lesson
had grown a game which they often played on Friday afternoons, when a
familiar object was selected and all the pupils required to write
down the names of all the workers who had been needed to bring it to
And the next day when lunch time came, Mr. Donald told them he had
been thinking about the incident, and how all that we enjoy in life
comes to us from our fellow-workers, and he was going to have a new
grace, giving the thanks to where it belonged. He said God was not the
kind of a Creator who wanted all the glory of the whole world--for he
knew that every man and woman or boy or girl that worked, was entitled
to praise, and he liked to see them thanked as they deserved.
A new grace was written on the board, and each day it was repeated by
all the pupils. Pearl remembered that to her it had seemed very grand
and stately and majestic, with the dignity and thrill of a pipe-organ:
"Give us to know, O God, that the blessings we are about to enjoy
have come to us through the labors of others. Strengthen the ties of
brotherhood and grant that each of us may do our share of the world's
But the aesthetic emotions which it sent through her young soul the
first time she said it, did not in any way interfere with the sweet
satisfaction she had in leaning across the aisle and wrinkling up her
nose at her former adversary!
She began to wonder now if Mr. Donald had been right in his idealistic
way of looking at life and labor. She had always thought so until this
minute, and many a thrill of pride had she experienced in thinking of
her parents and their days of struggling. They had been and were, the
real Empire-builders who subdued the soil and made it serve
human needs, enduring hardships and hunger and cold and bitter
discouragements, always with heroism and patience. The farm on which
they now lived, had been abandoned, deserted, given up for a bad job,
and her people had redeemed it, and were making it one of the best
in the country! Every farm in the community was made more valuable
because of their efforts. It had seemed to Pearl a real source of
proper pride--that her people had begun with nothing, and were now
making a comfortable living, educating their children and making
improvements each year in their way of living and in the farm itself!
It seemed that she ought to be proud of them, and she was!
But since she had been away, she learned to her surprise that the
world does not give its crowns to those who serve it best--but to
those who can make the most people serve them, and she found that
many people think of work as a disagreeable thing, which if patiently
endured for a while may be evaded ever afterwards, and indeed her
mother had often said that she was determined to give her children an
education, so they would not need to work as hard as she and their
father had. Education then seemed to be a way of escape.
Senator Keith, of Hampton, with his forty sections all rented out, did
not work. Miss Keith, his daughter, did not work. They did not need to
work--they had escaped!
It was quite a new thought to Pearl, and she pondered it deeply. The
charge against her family--the slur which could be thrown on them was
not that of dishonor, dishonesty, immorality or intemperance--none of
these--but that they had worked at poorly paid, hard jobs, thereby
giving evidence that they were not capable of getting easier
ones. Hard work might not be in itself dishonorable--but it was a
Something in Pearl's heart cried out at the injustice of this. It was
not fair! All at once she wanted to talk about it to--some one, to
everybody. It was a mistaken way of looking at life, she thought; the
world, as God made it, was a great, beautiful place, with enough of
everything to go around. There is enough land--enough coal--enough
oil. Enough pleasure and beauty, enough music and fun and good times!
What had happened was that some had taken more than their share, and
that was why others had to go short, and the strange part of it all
was that the hoggish ones were the exalted ones, to whom many bowed,
and they--some of them--were scornful of the people who were still
working--though if every one stopped working, the world would soon be
"It is a good world--just the same," said Pearl, as she looked away to
her left, where the Hampton Hills shoved one big blue shoulder into
the sky-line. "People do not mean to be hard and cruel to each
other--they do not understand, that's all--they have not thought--they
do not see."
From the farm-houses set back in the snowy fields, came the cheerful
Spring sounds of scolding hens and gabbling ducks, with the occasional
bark of a dog. The sunshine had in it now no tang of cold or
bitterness, for in Pearl's heart there had come a new sense of
power--an exaltation of spirit that almost choked her with happiness.
Her eyes flashed--her hands tingled--her feet were light as air. Out
of the crushing of her hopes, the falling of her house of dreams, had
come this inexplicable intoxication, which swept her heart with its
baptism of joy.
She threw back her head and looked with rapture into the limitless
blue above her, with something of the vision which came to Elisha's
servant at Dothan when he saw the mountains were filled with the
horses and the chariots of the Lord!
"It is a good world," she whispered, "God made it, Christ lived in
it--and when He went away, He left His Spirit. It can't go wrong
and stay wrong. The only thing that is wrong with it is in people's
hearts, and hearts can be changed by the Grace of God."
A sudden feeling of haste came over her--a new sense of
responsibility--there were so many things to be done. She roused the
fat pony from his pleasant dream, to a quicker gait, and drove home
with the strange glamour on her soul.
When Pearl rode in to the farmyard, she saw her brother Tommy coming
in great haste across the fields, waving his arms to her with every
evidence of strong excitement. The other children were on their way
home, too, but it was evident that Thomas had far outrun them. Tommy
had a tale to tell.
"There is going to be real 'doin's' at the school on Friday," he
cried, as soon as he was within calling distance of her. "Mr. Donald
has asked all the big people, too, and the people from Purple Springs,
and the women are going to bring pies and things, and there will be
eats, and you are to make the speech, and then maybe there will be a
football match, and you can talk as long as you like, and we are all
to clap our hands when your name is mentioned and then again when you
get up to speak--and it's to be Friday."
Tommy told his story all in one breath, and without waiting to get
a reply, he made his way hurriedly to the barn where his father and
Teddy were working. There he again told it, with a few trifling
variations. "You are all to come, and there will be a letter tomorrow
telling you all about it, but it is a real big day that is going to be
at school, and all the big people, too, and it is to hear Pearl talk
about what she saw and heard in the city, and there will be cakes and
stuff to eat and the Tuckers said they would not come and Jimmy said
'Dare you to stay away' and they did not take his dare."
Teddy, in true brotherly fashion, professed some doubts of the success
of the undertaking.
"Pearl is all right to talk around home, but gee whiz, I don't believe
she can stand right up and talk like a preacher, she'll forget what
she was goin' to say, I couldn't say two words before all those
John Watson went on with the fanning of the wheat. He had stopped the
mill only long enough to hear Tommy's message, and Teddy's brotherly
apprehensions, he made no comment. But a close observer would have
noticed that he worked a little faster, and perhaps held his shoulders
a little straighter--they had grown stooped in the long days when he
worked on the section. Although his shoulders had sagged in the long
hard struggle, there had always burned in his heart the hope that
better days would come--and now the better days were here. The farm
was doing well--every year they were able to see that they were making
progress. The children were all at school, and today--today Pearlie
was asked to speak to all the people in the neighborhood. Pearlie had
made a name for herself when she got the chance to get out with other
boys and girls. It was a proud day for John Watson, and his honest
heart did not dissemble the pride he felt in his girl.
Pearl herself had a momentary feeling of fear when she heard the plans
that were being made. The people she knew would be harder to speak
to than strangers. But the exaltation that had come to her heart was
still with her, and impelled her to speak. There were things which
should be said--great matters were before the country. Pearl had
attended many political meetings in the city, and also as many
sessions of the Legislature as she could, and so she knew the
Provincial political situation, and it was one of great interest.
The government had been in power for many years and had built up a
political machine which they believed to be invincible. They had the
country by the throat, and ruled autocratically, scorning the feeble
protests of the Opposition, who were few in number and weak in debate.
Many a time as Pearl sat in the Ladies' Gallery and listened to the
flood of invective with which the cabinet ministers smothered any
attempt at criticism which the Opposition might make, she had longed
for a chance to reply. They were so boastful, so overbearing, so
childishly important, it seemed to her that it would be easy to make
them look ridiculous, and she often found herself framing replies
for the Opposition. But of course there was a wide gulf between the
pompous gentlemen who lolled and smoked their black cigars in the
mahogany chairs on the redcarpeted floor of the House, and the
bright-eyed little girl who sat on the edge of her seat in the gallery
and looked down upon them.
She had been in the gallery the day that a great temperance delegation
had come and asked that the bar might be abolished, and she had
listened to every word that had been said. The case against the bar
had been so well argued, that it seemed to Pearl that the law-makers
must be moved to put it away forever. She did not know, of course,
that the liquor interests of the province were the strong supporters
of the Government, and the source of the major portion of their
campaign funds; that the bars were the rallying places for the
political activities of the party, and that to do away with the bars
would be a blow to the Government, and, as the Premier himself had
once said, "No Government is going to commit suicide," the chances for
the success of the delegation were very remote. Pearl did not know
this, and so she was not prepared for it when the Premier and one of
his Ministers stoutly defended the bar-room as a social gathering
place where men might meet and enjoy an innocent and profitable hour.
"It is one of our social institutions that you are asking us to
destroy," cried the Minister of Education, "and I tell you frankly
that we will not do it. The social instincts distinguish man from the
brute, and they must be cherished and encouraged. Your request is
not in the best interests of our people, and as their faithful
representatives who seek to safeguard their interests and their
highest welfare, we must refuse."
And the Government desks were pounded in wild enthusiasm! And Pearl
had come away with a rage in her heart, the wordless rage of the
helpless. After that she attended every meeting of the Suffrage
Society, and her deep interest and devotion to the cause won for her
many friends among the suffrage women.
The news of the proposed meeting in the school brought out many and
varied comments, when it was received in the homes of the district.
Mr. Donald sent to each home a letter in which he invited all the
members of each family to be present to "do honor to one who has
brought honor to our school and district."
Mrs. Eben Snider, sister of Mrs. Crocks, a wizened little pod of a
woman with a face like parchment, dismally prophesied that Pearl
Watson would be clean spoiled with so much notice being taken of her.
"Put a beggar on horseback," she cried, when she read the invitation,
"and you know where he will ride to! The Watsons are doing too
well--everything John Watson touches turns to money since he went on
that farm, and this last splurge for Pearl is just too much. I won't
be a party to it! It is too much like makin' flesh of one and fowl of
the other. Mr. Donald always did make too much of a pet of that girl,
and then all those pieces in the paper, they will spoil her, no girl
of her age can stand it--it is only puttin' notions in her head, and
from what I can hear, there's too much of that now among women. I
never had no time to be goin' round makin' speeches and winnin'
debates, and neither has any other decent woman. It would suit Pearl
better to stay at home and help her mother; they say she goes around
town with her head dressed up like a queen, and Jane says she's as
stiff as pork when a person speaks to her. I'll tell Mr. Donald what I
think of it."
At the Steadman home, the news of the meeting had a happier reception,
for Mr. Steadman, who was the local member of Parliament, was asked
to preside, and as the elections were likely to take place before the
year was out, he was glad of this chance to address a few remarks to
the electors. He had been seriously upset ever since he heard that the
young doctor was to be offered the nomination for the Liberals. That
would complicate matters for him, and make it imperative that he
should lose no opportunity of making himself agreeable to his
Before the news of the meeting was an hour old, Mr. Steadman had begun
to arrange his speech, and determined that he would merely make a few
happy random extempore remarks, dashed off in that light, easy way
which careful preparation can alone insure; and Mrs. Steadman had
decided that she would wear her purple silk with the gold embroidery,
and make a Prince of Wales cake and a batch of lemon cookies--some of
them put together with a date paste, and the rest of them just loose,
with maybe a date or a raisin in the middle.
Mrs. Watson was in a state of nerves bordering on stage fright, from
the time that Tommy brought home the news, a condition which Pearl did
her best to relieve by assuming a nonchalance which she did not feel,
regarding the proposed speech.
"What ever will you talk about, Pearlie, dear," her mother cried in
vague alarm; "and to all them people. I don't think the teacher should
have asked ye, you could do all right with just the scholars, for any
bit of nonsense would ha' done for them, but you will have to mind
what you are sayin' before all the grown people!"
Pearl soaked the beans for tomorrow's cooking, with an air of
"Making a speech is nothing, Ma," she said, "when a person knows how.
I have listened to the cabinet ministers lots of times, and there's
nothing to it. It is just having a good beginning and a fine flourish
at the end, with a verse of poetry and the like of that--it does not
matter what you say in between. I have heard the Premier speak lots of
times, and they go crazy over him and think he is a wonderful speaker.
He tells how he was once a farmer's boy and wandered happily over the
pasture fields in his bare feet, and then how he climbed the ladder
of fame, rung by rung--that is fine stuff, every one likes that; and
whenever he got stuck he told about the flag of empire that waves
proudly in the breeze and has never known defeat, and the destiny of
this Canada of ours, and the strangers within our gates who have come
here to carve out their destiny in this limitless land, and when he
thought it best to make them sniffle a little he told about the sacred
name of mother, and how the tear-drop starts at mention of that dear
name, and that always went big, and when he began to run down a
little, he just spoke all the louder, and waved his arms around, and
the people did not notice there was nothing coming; we used to go over
and listen to the speeches and then make them when the teachers were
not in the room--it was lots of fun. I know lots of the Premier's
speeches right off. There is nothing to it, Ma, so don't you be
"Pearl, you take things too light," said her mother severely, "a
person never knows when you are in earnest, and I am frightened about
you. You should not feel so careless about makin' speeches, it is
nothing to joke about. I wish you would be for writin' out what you
are goin' to say, and then we could hear you go over it, and some one
could hold the paper for you and give you the word if you forget--it
would be the safest way!"
"All right, Ma," said Pearl, "I'll be making it up now while I peel
While they were talking there came a knock at the door, and when it
was opened, there stood Bertie from the livery stable, with a
long green-wrapped box in his hand, which he gave to Mrs. Watson,
volunteering without delay, all the information he had regarding it.
Bertie never failed to reveal all the truth as he knew it--so, keeping
nothing back, he gave the history of the box so far as he had been
able to gather it.
"It's for Pearl--and the doctor sent it out. I don't know why he
didn't give it to her when she was in, for she was in his office--it's
flowers, for it is marked on it--and they came from Hampton."
Bertie would have stayed to see the flowers opened, for he knew that
Mrs. Crocks would be much interested to know just what they were, and
what Pearl said, and what her mother said--and if there was a note
inside--and all the other good stuff he would be able to gather, but
Pearl took them, with an air of unconcern, and thanking Bertie, said
"Don't wait for an answer, Bertie, I can phone if there is any need,
and I know you are in a hurry--we must not keep you."
And before Bertie knew what had happened, he found himself walking
away from the door.
When the roses had been put in water, and each of the children had
been given a smell and a feel of the velvety petals, and Mrs. Watson
had partially recovered from the shock that the sight of flowers in
the winter, always gave her for they reminded her so of her father's
funeral, and the broken pillar which the Oddfellows sent; Pearl read
Hoping that the years will bring her nothing
It was written on one of the doctor's professional cards, and that was
all. But looking again into the envelope there was a folded note which
she did not read to the assembled and greatly interested group. When
she was alone in the little beamed room upstairs, she read it:
"Dear Pearl:--I forgot to give you the roses when you were in this
afternoon. Accept them now with my deep affection. You have been a
bright spot in my life, and you will always be that--like a red rose
in a dull room. Your success will always be very dear to me, and my
prophecy is that you will go far. I will always think of you with
deepest admiration and pride. Ever yours,
Pearl read it twice; then impulsively pressed it to her cheek.
"It sounds like good-bye," she said, with her lips trembling, "it
sounds like the last of something. Why won't he tell me? It is not
A wither of loneliness went over her face as she clasped the note
between her hands.
"I don't believe it is that," she said fiercely. "I won't believe it!"
Mrs. Crocks' words were taunting her; "the doctor thinks more of blue
blood than he does of money, and if he goes into politics it will mean
a lot to him to be related to the senator."
An overwhelming rage was in Pearl's heart, in spite of her
determination not to believe the suggestion; a blind, choking rage--it
was all so unfair.
"My dad is more of a man than Senator Keith," she said to herself,
"for all his fine clothes and his big house. He was nothing but a
heeler for the party, and was made Senator because there was no dirty
job that he would not do to get votes for them. I know how he bought
liquor for the Galicians and brought them in by the car-load to vote,
like cattle, and that's blue blood, is it? Sure it is--you can see it
in his shot-silk face and his two bad old eyes swollen like oysters!
If the doctor wants him he can have him, and it's blamed little
frettin' I'll do!... My dad eats with his knife, does he? All right,
he bought the knife with honest money, and he earned what's on it too.
All the dirty money they have would not buy him, or make him do a mean
trick to any one. I am not ashamed of him--he suits me, and he can go
on eating with his knife and wearing his overalls and doing anything
he wants to do. He suits me!"
When Pearl went back to the kitchen, her father was taking off his
smock. Supper was ready, and he and Teddy had just come in. The dust
of the fanning-mill was on his face and his clothes. His unmittened
hands were red and rough, and bore traces of the work he had been
doing. In his hair were some of the seeds and straws blown out by the
mill. There was nothing very attractive about John Watson, unless it
was his kindly blue eye and the humorous twist of his mouth, but
in Pearl's heart there was a fierce tenderness for her father, a
protective love which glorified him in her eyes.
"Did you hear the news, pa," she cried, as she impulsively threw her
arms around his neck. "Did you know that I am going to speak in the
school, and they are all coming out to hear me. Are you glad, Pa, and
do you think I can do it?"
Her burning cheek was laid close to his, and he patted her shoulder
"Do I think you can do it, Pearlie, that I do--you can do whatever you
go at--I always knew that."
"Pearl, child," cried her mother, "don't be hugging your Pa like that,
and you with your good dress on; don't you see the dust and dirt on
him--you will ruin your clothes child."
Pearl kissed him again, and gave him one more hug, before she said,
"It is clean dirt, Ma, and it will brush off, and I just couldn't
wait; but sure and it's clean dirt anyway."
"It is gettin' colder," said John Watson, as he hung up his smock
behind the door, "our Spring is over for awhile, I think. I saw two
geese leggin' it back as fast as they could go, and each one scoldin'
the other one--we'll have a good spell or winter yet, I am afraid, in
spite of our two warm days and all the signs of Spring."
"Weather like you is too good to last," said Mrs. Watson complacently,
"I knew it wasn't the Spring, it was too good to last."
Pearl went to the window and looked out--already there was a threat of
snow in the whining wind, and as she watched, a stray flake struck the
window in front of her.
"It was too good to last," she said with a sigh which broke into a sob
in the middle, "It was too good to be true!"
THE INNOCENT DISTURBER
If there was any lack of enthusiasm among the parents it had no
reflection in the children's minds, for the Chicken Hill School, after
the great announcement, simply pulsated with excitement. Country
children have capabilities for enjoyment that the city child knows
nothing about, and to the boys and girls at Chicken Hill the prospect
of a program, a speech from Pearl Watson, and a supper--was most
alluring. Preparations were carried on with vigor. Seats were scrubbed
by owners, and many an ancient landmark of ink was lost forever.
Frayed window blinds that had sagged and dropped, and refused to go up
or down, were taken down and rolled and put back neat and even, and
the scholars warned not to touch them; the stove got a rubbing
with old newspapers; mousy corners of desks were cleaned out--and
objectionable slate rags discarded. Blackboards were cleaned and
decorated with an elaborate maple leaf stencil in green and brown, and
a heroic battle cry of "O Canada, we stand on guard for thee" executed
in flowing letters, in the middle. Mary Watson was the artist, and
spared no chalk in her undertaking, for each capital ended in
an arrow, and had a blanket of dots which in some cases nearly
obliterated its identity. But the general effect was powerful.
The day before, every little girl had her hair in tight braids
securely knotted with woollen yarn. Boudoir caps were unknown in the
Chicken Hill School, so the bare truth of these preparations were to
be seen and known of all. Maudie Steadman had her four curls set in
long rags, fastened up with pins, Mrs. Steadman having devised a new,
original way of making Maudie's hair into large, loose "natural"
curls, which were very handsome, and not until this day did Mrs.
Steadman show to the public the method of "setting."
Mr. Donald had placed all details of the entertainment in the hands
of Mary Watson and Maudie Steadman, and no two members of a
House-Committee ever worked harder, or took more pleasure in making
"Let's not ask the Pipers--they're dirt poor," said Maudie, when they
sat down at noon to make out the list of providers.
"Indeed, we will," said Mary, whose knowledge of the human heart was
most profound. "If people are poor, that's all the more reason why
they would be easily hurt, and it's not nice for us to even know that
they are poor. We'll ask them, you bet--and Mrs. Piper will bring
something. Besides--if we didn't ask them to bake, they wouldn't
come--and that's the way rows start in a neighborhood. We'll manage it
all right--and if there are any sandwiches left over--we'll send them
to the smaller children, and the Pipers will come in on that. It ain't
so bad to be poor," concluded Mary, out of her large experience, "but
it hurts to have people know it!"
When Pearl, with her father and mother arrived at the school on the
afternoon of the meeting, it came to her with a shock, how small the
school was, and how dreary. Surely it had not been so mouse-gray and
shabby as this when she had been there. The paint was worn from the
floor, the ceiling was smoked and dirty, the desks were rickety and
uneven--the blackboards gray. The same old map of North America hung
tipsily between the blackboards. It had been crooked so long, that it
seemed to be the correct position, and so had escaped the eye of the
House-Committee, who had made many improvements for this occasion.
In the tiny porch, there were many mysterious baskets and boxes and
tin pails of varying sizes, and within doors a long table at the back
of the room had on it many cups and saucers, with a pile of tissue
paper napkins. A delightful smell of coffee hung on the air.
Pearl wore her best brown silk dress, with a lace collar and cuff set
contributed the Christmas before by her Aunt Kate from Ontario, and at
her waist, one of the doctor's roses. The others had been brought
over by Mary, and were in a glass jar on the tidy desk, where they
attracted much attention and speculation as to where they had
come from. They seemed to redeem the bare school-room from utter
dreariness, and Pearl found herself repeating the phrase in the
doctor's letter, "Like a rose in a dark room."
The children were hilariously glad to see Pearl, and her lightness of
heart came back to her, when a group of them gathered around her to
receive her admiration and praise for their beautifully curled hair,
good clothes and hair ribbons. Bits of family history were freely
given to her too, such as Betty Freeman's confidential report on her
mother's absence, that she dyed her silk waist, and it streaked, and
she dyed it again--and just as soon as she could get it dry, she would
come--streaks or no streaks--and would Pearl please not be in a hurry
Then the meeting was called to order, and the smaller children were
set like a row of gaily colored birds around the edge of the platform,
so their elders could sit on their little desks in front, and the
schoolroom was filled to its last foot of space. There were about a
dozen chairs for the older people.
Pearl had gone to the back of the room to speak to the old gardener
from Steadman's farm, a shy old man, who just naturally sought the
most remote corner for his own. Her affectionate greeting brought a
glow into his face, that set Pearl's heart throbbing with joy:
"It's good to see you, Pearl," he said, "you look like a rose to me,
and you don't forget an old friend."
Pearl held the hard old gnarled hand in her own, and her heart was
full of joy. The exaltation of the day she rode home was coming
to her. Love was the power that could transform the world. People
everywhere, all sorts of people, craved love and would respond to it.
"If I can cheer up poor old Bill Murray, and make him look like this,
with a glisten in his eyes, I'm satisfied," she thought.
To Mr. Donald Pearl looked like a rose, too, a rose of his own
growing, and his voice trembled a little when he called the meeting to
order and in his stately way bade everyone welcome.
"I am going to hand over the meeting to Mr. Steadman in a moment," he
said, "but before I do I wish to say that the Chicken Hill School
is very proud today to welcome one of its former pupils, Miss Pearl
At this the gaily colored company who bordered the platform, burst
into ecstatic hand clapping, in which the older members joined rather
shamefacedly. Demonstrations come hard to prairie people.
"The years she spent in this school were delightful years to me," went
on Mr. Donald. "She helped me with the younger children--she helped
me to keep up enthusiasm for the work--she helped me to make life
pleasant for all of us--she did more--she helped me to believe that
life is worth the struggle--she helped me to believe in myself. I was
not surprised that Pearl made a record in her work in the city; she
could not fail to do that. She is in love with life--to me, she is the
embodiment of youth, with all its charms and all its promise."
"I have wanted to hear her impressions of the city. Nothing, to her,
is common-place--she sees life through a golden mist that softens its
sharp outlines. I am glad that every one could come today and give a
welcome home to our first graduate from Chicken Hill School!"
This threatened to dislodge the seating arrangement on the platform,
for in their enthusiastic applause, the Blackburn twins on account
of the shortness of their legs and the vigor of their applause, lost
their balance and fell. But they bore it well, and were restored
without tears! The excitement was so great that no one of the young
row would have known it if they had broken a bone!
"And now I will ask our local member, Mr. Steadman, to take charge
of the meeting, and give the neighborhood's welcome to our first
Then Mr. Steadman arose! He was a stout man, with a square face, and
small, beady black eyes and an aggressive manner; a man who felt sure
of himself; who knew he was the centre of his own circle. There was a
well-fed, complacent look about him too which left no doubt that he
was satisfied with things as they were--and would be deeply resentful
of change. There was still in his countenance some trace of his
ancestor's belief in the Divine right of kings! It showed in his
narrow, thought-proof forehead, and a certain indescribable attitude
which he held toward others, and which separated him from his
neighbors. Instinctively, the people who met him, knew he lacked human
sympathy and understanding, but he had a hold on the people of his
constituency, for through his hands went all the Government favors and
patronage. Anyone who wanted a telephone, had to "see Mr. Steadman."
The young people who went to the city to find employment, were wise to
see Mr. Steadman before they went. So although he was not liked, he
had a prestige which was undeniable.
Mr. Steadman began his remarks by saying how glad he was to be offered
the chair on this glad occasion. He always liked to encourage the
young, and he believed it our duty to be very tolerant and encouraging
The boundaries of the platform began to wriggle. They had heard Mr.
Steadman before--he often came in and made speeches--but he never
brought any oranges--or peanuts or even "Farmers' Mixed."
"Youth is a time of deep impressions," went on the chairman; "wax to
receive--granite to retain. Youth was the time of learning, and he
hoped every boy and girl in his presence would earnestly apply himself
and herself to their books, for only through much study could success
be attained. That is what put him where he was today."
More wriggles, and some discussion at his feet!
He was glad to know that one of Mr. Donald's pupils had been able to
do so well in the city. Three cheers for the country! He had always
believed it was the best place to be brought up--and was glad to say
that he too, had spent his youth on a farm. Most of the successful men
of the world came from the farms.
He believed absolutely in education for women, education of a suitable
kind, and believed there was a definite place for women in the
world--a place which only women could fill. That place was
the home--the quiet precincts of home--not the hurly-burly of
politics--that was man's sphere--and a hard sphere it was, as he knew
well. He didn't wish to see any woman in such a hard life, with its
bitter criticism and abuse. He was sorry to notice that there was a
new agitation among women in the city--it had come up in the session
just closed--that women wanted to vote.
Mr. Steadman threw out his hands with a gesture of unconcern:
"Well," I say, "let them vote--if they want to--let them run the whole
country; we'll stay at home. It's time we had a rest, anyway!"
A little dry cackle of laughter went over the room at this, in which
Mr. Donald did not join--so it got no support from the pupils of
Chicken Hill, who faithfully followed their teacher's lead.
Mr. Steadman went on blithely:
"I am old fashioned enough to want my wife to stay at home. I like
to find her there when I come home. I don't want her to sit in
Parliament; she hasn't time--for one thing."
Mrs. Steadman sat in front, with the purple plume in her hat nodding
"And I say it in all kindness to all women--they havn't the ability.
They have ability of their own, but not that kind. Parliaments are
concerned with serious, big things. This year, the program before
our Provincial Parliament, is Good Roads. We want every part of this
Province to enjoy the blessing of of good roads, over which they can
bring their produce to market, binding neighborhoods together in the
ties of friendship. Good roads for everyone is our policy."
"Now what do women know about making roads? They are all right to go
visiting over the roads after they are built, but how much good would
they be in building them?"
This was greeted with another scattered rattle of laughter, followed
by a silence, which indicated intense listening. Even the restless
edging of the platform knew something was happening, and listened.
"Our Opposition is coming forward with a foolish program of fads and
fancies. They want the women to have the vote; they want to banish the
bar! They want direct legislation. These are all radical measures,
new, untried and dangerous. With women voting, I have no sympathy,
as I said. They are not fitted for it. It is not that I do not love
women--I do--I love them too well--most of them."
He paused a moment here--but no one laughed. The audience did not
"There are some women in the city whom I would gladly send to jail.
They are upsetting women's minds, and hurting the homes. Don't let us
take any chances on destroying the home, which is the bulwark of the
nation. What sight is more beautiful then to see a mother, queen of
the home, gathering her children around her. She can influence
her husband's vote--her son's vote.--she has a wider and stronger
influence than if she had the vote to herself. Her very helplessness
is her strength. And besides, I know that the best women, the very
best women do not want to sit in Parliament. My wife does not want
to--neither did my mother--no true woman wants to, only a few
rattle-brained, mentally unbalanced freaks--who do not know what they
Pearl smiled at this. She had heard this many times.
"Now, as to banishing the bar, you all know I am not a drinker. I can
take it--or leave it--but I am broad minded enough to let other people
have the same privilege that I ask for myself. Men like to gather in
a friendly way, chat over old times or discuss politics, and have a
glass, for the sake of good fellowship, and there's no harm done.
There are some, of course, who go too far--I am not denying that. But
why do they do it? They did not get the right home training--that
is why. In the sacred precincts of home, the child can be taught
anything--that's the mother's part, and it is a more honorable part
than trying to ape men--and wear the pants."
This brought a decided laugh--though if Mr. Steadman had been sensible
to thought currents, he would have felt twinges in his joints,
indicating that a storm was brewing. But he was having what the
preachers call a "good time," and went merrily on.
"Direct legislation is a dangerous thing, which would upset
representative government. It is nothing less than rabble rule,
letting the ignorant rabble say what we are to do. Our vote is too
wide now, as you know, when every Tom, Dick and Harry has a vote,
whether they own an inch of ground or not. Your hired man can kill
your vote, though you own a township of land. Do you want to give him
more power? I think not! Well if the opposition ever get in power, the
women and the hired men, and even the foreigners will run the country,
and it will not be fit to live in. We're doing all right now, our
public buildings, our institutions are the best in Canada. We have
put the flag on every schoolhouse in the country--we have good,
sane, steady government, let us stick to it. I believe that the next
election will see the good ship come safely into port with the same
old skipper on the bridge, and the flag of empire proudly furling its
folds in the breeze. We have no fears of the fads and fancies put
forward by short-haired women and long-haired men."
That being the end of his speech, the place where his superior always
sat down, amidst thunderous applause. Mr. Steadman sat down, too,
forgetting that he had been asked to be the Chairman, and introduce
The applause which followed his remarks, was not so vociferous as he
had expected, partly because there were no "Especially instructed
clappers." No one was very enthusiastic, except Mrs. Steadman, who
apparently agreed with all he said.
Rising to his feet again he said: "The good ladies have bountifully
provided for our needs today--what would we do without the ladies? but
before we come to that very interesting item on our program, we are
going to hear from Pearl Watson. Pearl Watson is one of the girls who
has taken full advantage of our splendid educational system, than
which there is none better in Canada--or in the world. As a member of
the Legislature, I am justly proud of our Department of Education, and
today we will be entertained by one of our own products, Pearl Watson,
on whom we might well hang the label 'Made in Canada.' I do not know
whether she intends to say a piece--or what, but bespeak for her a
respectful and courteous hearing."
Mr. Steadman sat down, adjusting his gold and blue tie, and removed
his glasses, which he put away in a large leather case that closed
with a snap. His attitude indicated that the real business of the day
was over, now that he had spoken.
Pearl came forward and stepped to the platform, displacing temporarily
one of the twins, to make a space where she might step. Having
restored him safely, she turned to the people. There was a smile in
her eyes that was contagious. The whole roomful of people smiled back
at her, and in that moment she established friendly relations with her
"It has been a real surprise to me," she began, in a conversational
tone, "to hear Mr. Steadman make a speech. I am sure his colleagues in
the House would have been surprised to have heard him today. He is a
very quiet man there--he never speaks. The first night I went to the
House with a crowd of Normalites, I pointed out our member, to let
those city girls see what we could raise in the country--but it seems
the speeches are all made by half a dozen, the others just say 'Aye'
when they're told. All on one side of the House say 'Aye'; the other
side say 'No.' I have heard Mr. Steadman say 'Aye,' lots of times--but
nothing more. The Premier, or one of the Cabinet Ministers tells them
when to say it--it all looks very easy to me. I would have thought
even a woman could do it. The girls used to tease me about how quiet
my representative was. He sat so still that it just seemed as if he
might be asleep, and one girl said she believed he was dead. But one
day, a window was left open behind him--and he sneezed, and then he
got right up and shut it--Do you remember that day, Mr. Steadman?"
He shook his head impatiently, and the expression of his face was not
pleasant. Still, no one would attribute anything but the friendliest
motive to Pearl's innocent words.
"My! I was glad that day," she said, "when you sneezed, it was a quick
stop to the rumor--I tell you--and I never heard any more about it.
I am sorry Mr. Steadman is not in favor of women voting, or going to
Parliament, and thinks it too hard for them. It does not look hard to
me. Most of the members just sit and smoke all the time, and read the
papers, and call the pages. I have seen women do far harder work than
this. But of course what Mr. Steadman says about building roads all
over the country, is a new one on me. I did not know that the members
were thinking of doing the work! But I guess they would be glad to get
out and do something after sitting there all cramped up with their
feet asleep for the whole winter."
"Still, I remember when Mr. Steadman was Councillor here, and there
was a bridge built over Pine Creek--he only let the contract--he did
not build it--it was his brother who built it!"
There was a queer thrill in the audience at this, for Bill Steadman
had got the contract, in spite of the fact that he was the poorest
builder in the country--and the bridge had collapsed inside of two
years. George Steadman winced at her words.
But Pearl, apparently innocent of all this, went on in her guileless
"I think Mr. Steadman is mistaken about women not wanting to sit in
Parliament. He perhaps does not know what it feels like to stand over
a wash-tub--or an ironing board--or cook over a hot stove. Women who
have been doing these things long would be glad to sit anywhere!"
There was a laugh at this, in which Mr. Steadman made a heroic attempt
to join, shaking his head as he did so, to counteract any evil effect
which the laugh might cause.
"But I did not intend to speak of politics," said Pearl, "I intended
to tell you how glad I am to be back to Chicken Hill School, and how
good home looks to me. No one knows how to appreciate their home until
they have left it--and gone away where no one cares particularly
whether you are sick or well--happy or miserable. Do you boys find it
pretty hard to wash your necks--and you wish your mother hadn't such a
sharp eye on you--be glad you have some one who thinks enough of you
to want your neck to be clean. You hate to fill the wood-box, do you?
O, I know what a bottomless pit it is--and how the old stove just
loves to burn wood to spite you. But listen! By having to do what you
do not want to do, you are strengthening the muscles of your soul--and
getting ready for a big job.
"Having to do things is what makes us able to do more. Did you ever
wonder why you cannot walk on water. It is because water is so
agreeable--it won't resist you. It lets you have your own way.
"The teachers at the Normal talked to us every Friday afternoon, about
our social duties, and rural leadership and community spirit and lots
of things. They told us not to spend our time out of school tatting
and making eyelet embroidery, when there were neighborhoods to be
awakened and citizens to be made. That suits me fine, for I can't tat
anyway. One of the girls tried to show me, but gave it up after three
or four tries. She said some could learn, and some couldn't. It was
"Anyway, Dr. McLean said teachers were people who got special training
for their work, and it was up to them to work at it, in school and
out. He said that when we went out to teach, we could be a sort of
social cement, binding together all the different units into one
coherent community, for that's what was needed in Canada, with its
varied population. One third of the people in Canada do not speak
English, and that's a bad barrier--and can only be overcome by
kindness. We must make our foreign people want to learn our language,
and they won't want to, unless they like us.
"He said Canada was like a great sand-pile, each little grain of sand,
beautiful in its own way, but needing cement to bind it to other
grains and it was for us to say whether we would be content to be only
a sand pile, or would we make ourselves a beautiful temple.
"I wish I could give it all to you--it was great to hear him. He said
no matter how fine we were as individuals, or how well we did our
work, unless we had it in our hearts to work with others, and for
others--it was no good. If we lacked social consciousness, our work
would not amount to much. I thought of our old crumply horn cow. She
always gave a big pail of milk--but if she was in bad humor, she would
quite likely kick it over, just as the pail was full. I used to think
maybe a fly had stung her, but I guess what was really wrong was
that she lacked social consciousness. She did not see that we were
depending on her.
"That's why the liquor traffic is such a bad thing, and should be
outlawed. Individuals may be able to drink, and get away with it, but
some go under, some homes are made very unhappy over it. If we have
this social consciousness, we will see very clearly that the liquor
traffic must go! No matter how much some people will miss it. If it
isn't safe for everybody, it isn't safe for anybody. I used to wish
Dr. McLean could talk to the members of Parliament.
"He told us one of the reasons that the world had so many sore spots in
it was because women had kept too close at home, they were beginning
to see that in order to keep their houses clean, they would have to
clean up the streets, and it was this social consciousness working in
them, that made them ask for the vote. They want to do their share,
outside as well as in.
"There was a woman who came and talked to us one day at the Normal. She
is the editor of the Women's section of one of the papers, and she put
it up to us strong, that there was work for each of us. We had to make
a report of her address, and so I remember most of it.
"She said that Canada is like a great big, beautiful house that has
been given to us to finish. It is just far enough on so that you can
see how fine it is going to be--but the windows are not in--the
doors are not hung--the cornices are not put on. It needs polishing,
scraping, finishing. That is our work. Every tree we plant, every
flower we grow, every clean field we cultivate, every good cow or hog
we raise, we are helping to finish and furnish the house and make it
fit to live in. Every kind word we say or even think, every gracious
deed, if it is only thinking to bring out the neighbor's mail from
town, helps to add those little touches which distinguish a house from
"We have many foreign people in this country, lonesome, homesick
people--sometimes we complain that they are not loyal to us--and that
is true. It is also true that they have no great reason to be loyal
to us. We are not even polite to them, to say nothing of being kind.
Loyalty cannot be rammed down any ones' throat with a flag-pole."
Mr. Steadman cleared his throat at this--and seemed about to
speak--but she went on without noticing:
"Loyalty is a gentle growth, which springs in the heart. The seeds
are in your hands and mine; the heart of our foreign people is the
soil--the time of planting is now--and the man or woman who by
their kindness, their hospitality, their fair dealing, honesty,
neighborliness, makes one of the least of these think well of Canada,
is a Master Builder in this Empire.
"If we do not set ourselves to finish the house, you know what will
happen to it. I remembered this part of her speech because it made me
think about our school-house the year before Mr. Donald came--when
we could not get a teacher. Do you remember? Windows were broken
mysteriously--the rain beat in and warped and drenched and spoiled the
floors. The chimney fell. Destruction always comes to the empty house,
she said--the unfinished house is a mark for the wantonly mischievous.
To keep what we have, we must improve it from year to year. And to
that end we must work together--fighting not with each other--but with
conditions, discouragements, ignorance, prejudice, narrowness--we must
be ready to serve, not thinking of what we can get from our country,
but what we can give to it."
In the silence that fell, the people sat motionless. They did not
notice that Pearl was done speaking--for their thoughts went on--she
had given them a new view of the service they might give.
Mrs. Piper, on whose heart, Pearl's words had fallen like a
benediction, saw that in making her rag-carpet, over which she had
worked so hard--she was helping to furnish one little corner of her
country, for it would make her front room a brighter place, and there
her children, and the boys and girls of the neighborhood would have
good times and pleasant memories. She had thought of it in a vague way
before, but Pearl had put it into words for her--and her heart was
filled with a new rapture. It was worth while to work and struggle and
try her best to make a pleasant home. There was a purpose in it all--a
Even Mrs. Thompson had a glimmering of a thought regarding her
precious flowers, the slips of which she never gave away. With them
she could gladden the hearts of some of her neighbors, and Noah
Thompson, her husband, who made it his boast that he never borrowed or
lent, became suddenly sorry he had refused a neck yoke to his Russian
George Steadman, too, found his soul adrift on a wide sea, torn
away from the harbor that had seemed so safe and land-locked, so
unassailable; and on that wider sea there came the glimpses of a
sunrise, of a new day. It puzzled him, frightened him, angered him.
In the newness of it all, he detected danger. It blew across his
sheltered soul like a draught, an uncomfortable, cold-producing
draught--and when he found himself applauding with the others, he
knew that something dangerous, radical, subtle and evil had been let
loose--the girl would have to be watched. She was a fire-brand, an
incendiary--she would put notions in peoples' heads. It was well he
had heard her and could sound the warning. But he must be politic--he
would not show his hand. The children were singing, and every one had
risen. Never before had he heard the Chicken Hill people sing like
"O Canada, our home, our native land,
True, patriot love, in all our sons command;
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
Thou true land, strong and free,
And stand on guard, O Canada
We stand on guard for thee."
The children began the second verse, the people following lamely, for
they did not know the words; but the children, proud of their superior
knowledge, and with a glow in their impressionable little hearts, sang
exultantly--this song of home and country.
THE POWER OF INK
The Chicken Hill correspondent of the Millford "Mercury" described the
meeting in the school as follows:
"The Chicken Hill School was the scene of a happy gathering on Friday
afternoon last, when the neighbors and friends gathered to welcome
home Pearl Watson, who has just completed a successful First Class
Teacher's Normal course in Winnipeg. Pearl is a great favorite, and
certainly disappointed no one, for she gave an address on present day
questions which will not soon be forgotten. Pearl is an out and out
believer in temperance and woman suffrage, and before she was through,
she had every one with her--as one man put it, he'd like to see
the woman vote, if for nothing else than to get Pearl Watson into
parliament, for there would sure be hides on the barn door if she ever
got there, and a rustling of dry bones."
"After Pearl's address, the ladies of the district served
refreshments, and a good time was spent. Pearl's arm must have ached,
shaking hands, and if she could be spoiled with praise, she would be
spoiled for sure, but Pearl is not that kind. It is rumored that she
will be offered the Purple Springs school, and if she accepts, we
congratulate Purple Springs."
When George Steadman read the Chicken Hills news, his face became a
yellowish gray color--much like the hue of badly laundried clothes.
His skin prickled, as if with an electric current, for hot rage ate
into his soul. His name was not even mentioned. He wasn't there at
all--and he was the member for Millford. Of all the silly rot--well,
he'd see about it.
On Monday morning, with the offending sheet in his hand, Mr. Steadman
made his way to the "Mercury" office, a dingy, little flat-roofed
building, plastered with old circus posters outside, and filled with
every sort of junk inside. At an unpainted desk piled high with
papers, sat the editor. His hair stood up like a freshly laundried,
dustless mop; his shirt was dirty; his pipe hung listlessly in his
mouth--upside down, and a three days' crop of black beard peppered his
face. He looked like a man who in early youth had slept on newspapers
and drank ink, and who now would put his feet on the table if there
had been room, but there was scarcely room for them on the floor, for
it was under the table that he kept his exchanges. There were shelves
around the walls, but they were filled with rubber boots, guns,
baskets of letters, a few books, miscellaneous articles of clothing
and some empty tobacco jars.
So on account of the congested condition on and under the table, Mr.
Driggs was forced to sit in an uncomfortable position, with his legs
and those of the table artistically entwined.
Mr. Steadman began, without replying to the editor's friendly
"Who writes this balderdash from our district," he asked harshly.
"Professional secret," replied Mr. Driggs, speaking through his shut
teeth, for he did not wish to dislodge his pipe; the last time he let
it out of his mouth he had had no end of a time finding it. "Never
give away names of contributors, not etiquette."
"I don't care a hang for your etiquette--I want to know. The member
for Millford was not in a trifling mood.
"Sorry," said Mr. Driggs, holding his pipe still closer.
"See here, Driggs," said Mr. Steadman haughtily, "do you know who
you're talking to--I have it in my power to throw you a good deal of
business one way'n another--I've thrown you a good deal of business.
There's an election coming on--there will be bills, cards, streamers,
what not; good money in printing for the Government--do you savvy?"
"I savvy," said Mr. Driggs cheerfully.
"Well then"--George Steadman was sure now he was going to get the
information--"who writes this this stuff from Chicken Hill?"
"I don't know," said the editor calmly, "honest, I don't. This was a
new one--strange writing--and all that. I called up Pearl Watson to
see if there had been a meeting, and she verified it, but didn't tell
me anything. She said you presided. Then I ran the item--I thought it
was very good--what's wrong with it? It seemed like real good country
correspondence to me--with that bucolic freshness which we expect to
find in country contributors, perhaps not the literary polish found in
Stoddarts' lectures, but rattling good stuff just the same."
"See here Driggs," the other man interrupted, "listen to me. There's
an election coming on--you've always been with us--I don't know what
you think--and it don't matter. This girl Watson is against us--and
she's as smart as they make them, and has plenty of nerve. Now I don't
want to see that girl's name in the paper again. A few more spreads
like this--and every district in the country will want her. She don't
know her place--she's got nerve enough to speak anywhere. She spits
out things, hardly knowing what she means--she's dangerous, I tell
you. If the other side got hold of her and primed her what to say, she
could do us a lot of harm--here, for mind you, she's got a way with
her. We don't want any trouble. There's a little talk of runnin' Doc.
Clay, but I believe he's got more sense than to try it. The last man
that ran against me lost his deposit. But, understand, Driggs, no
mention of this girl, cut out her name."
Then Mr. Driggs slowly took his pipe from his mouth, and laid it
carefully on the lowest pile of papers. It's position did not entirely
suit him, and he moved it to another resting place. But the effect was
not pleasing even then--so he placed it in his pocket, taking a red
handkerchief from his other pocket, and laying it carefully over the
elusive pipe, to anchor it--if that were possible.
"Mr. Steadman," he said, in his gentlest manner, "sit down."
Removing an armful of sale bills from the other chair, he shoved it
over to his visitor, who ignored the invitation.
"You must not attempt to muzzel the press, or take away our
blood-bought liberties. Blood-bought liberties is good! It's a serious
matter to come to a natural born, heaven inspired Editor, and tell
him to curb his news instinct. Pearl Watson is a particular friend of
mine. Pearl's sayings and doings are of interest to me as a citizen,
therefore, I reason they are of interest to all citizens. She is a
young lady of great charm, who does honor to our little town. I stand
absolutely for home boosting. Shop at home--shop early--sell your
hammer and buy a horn--my motto! Pearl Watson--one of the best ads we
have--I'm for her."
"All right," said Mr. Steadman harshly, "you defy me then, and when
you defy me, you defy the Government of the Province, the arm of the
Government reaches far--Driggs, and you know that before you are done,
I'll put you out of business before two weeks have gone by. You owe
every one--you owe the paper people--you owe on your printing press.
Your creditors are all friends of the Government. All I have to do is
to say the word and they'll close you out. The Government will put a
man in here who has sense enough to do as he is told."
Mr. Driggs' faced showed more concern than he had exhibited before.
There were certain bills he owed--forgotten to be sure in normal
times--but now they came up blinking to the light, rudely disinterred
by Mr. Steadman's hard words. They had grown, too, since their last
appearance, both in size and numbers--and for a moment a shade of
annoyance went over his face. Details of business always did annoy
But an inner voice cautioned him to be discreet. There was always a
way around a difficulty. Mr. Driggs believed in the switch system
which prevails in our railroading. When two trains run towards each
other on a track one must go off on a switch, to avoid a collision. It
does not take long and when the other train has gone roaring past, the
switched train can back up and get on the track and go serenely on--he
resolved to be tactful.
"Mr. Steadman," he said, "I am surprised at all this. Pearl is only a
slip of a girl. What harm can she do you? You are absolutely solid in
this neighborhood. The government has this country by the throat--the
old machine works perfectly. What are you afraid of?"
"We're not afraid--what have we to be afraid of? We have only sixteen
opposition members in the House--and they're poor fish. We're solid
enough--only we don't want trouble. The women are getting all stirred
up and full of big notions. We can hold them down all right--for they
can't get the vote until we give it to them--that's the beauty of it.
The Old Man certainly talked plain when they came there askin' for the
vote. He just laid them out. But I can see this girl has been at their
meetings--and women are queer. My women, even, thought there was a lot
of truth in what the Watson girl said. So there was--but we're not
dealing with truth just now--politics is not a matter of truth. We
want to get this election over without trouble. We want no grief over
this, mind you--everything quiet--and sure. So you got your orders
right now. Take them or leave them. But you know where your bread is
buttered, I guess."
Mr. Steadman went out of the office, shutting the door with a strong
hand. The editor buried his face in his hands and gently massaged his
temples with his long-ink-stained fingers, and to all appearance, his
soul was grieved within him. It seemed as though his proud spirit was
chafing at the bonds which the iniquitous patronage system had laid on
For brief period he sat thus, but when he raised his head, which he
did suddenly, there was a gleam in his eye and a smile on his face
which spread and widened until it burst into a laugh which threatened
to dislodge the contents of the table. He threw himself back in his
swing chair and piled both feet on the table, even if there was no
room for them--if ever there had come a time in his history when he
was in the mood to put his feet on the table, that time was now.
He addressed his remarks to his late guests:
"You fragrant old he-goat, you will give orders to me, will you--you
are sure some diplomat--you poor old moth-eaten gander, with your
Mr. Driggs could not find the figure of speech which just suited the
case, but he was still trying.
"You poor old wall-eyed ostrich, with your head in the sand, thinking
no one can see you, you forget that there is a portion of your anatomy
admirably placed--indeed in my mind's eye I can see the sign upon it.
It reads 'Kick me.' It is an invitation I will not decline. He thinks
he can wipe our good friend Pearlie off the map by having her name
dropped from the Millford 'Mercury,' forgetting that there are other
ways of reaching the public eye. There are other publications, perhaps
not in the class with the Millford 'Mercury,' but worthy little sheets
"There is the 'Evening Echo,' struggling along with a circulation of
a quarter of a million--it will answer our purpose admirably. I will
write the lead today while the lamp of inspiration burns, and I will
hear Pearl speak, and then oh, beloved, I will roll up my sleeves
and spit on my hands and do a sketch of the New Woman--Pearlie, my
child--this way lies fame."
THE DOCTOR'S DECISION
When Pearl left him so abruptly, Dr. Clay found himself battling
with many emotions. His first impulse was to call her back--tell her
everything. Pearl was not a child--she would know what was best. It
was not fair to deceive her, and that was just what he had done, with
the best intentions.
But something held him back. The very heart of him was sick and full
of bitterness at the sudden slap which fate had given him. His soul
was still stinging with the pain of it. Everything was distorted and
queer, and in the confusion of sensations the outstanding one was the
instinct to hide all knowledge of his condition. No one must know. He
would go to see the old doctor and swear him to secrecy. After all,
his life was his own--he was under obligation to no one to stretch it
out miserably and uselessly.
He would go on as long as he could, and live it out triumphantly.
He would go out like Old Prince. He thought of the hymn which gives
thanks to God, "Who kindly lengthens out our days," and the thought
of it was mingled with something like scorn. He did not want any
lengthening out of his time if there could not be real power, real
service in each day. He would live while he lived, and die when he
had to, and with that resolution he tried to get back his calmness of
Looking at himself in the glass, he had to admit his face was haggard,
and thinner than it had been, and he knew he had lost weight. Still,
that could be recovered--he was not going to worry or think about
himself. He had always contended that disease was ninety per cent.
imagination and ten per cent. reality, and now he was going to see.
Every one is under the death sentence; the day is set for each man. "I
am no worse off," he thought, "than I was before--if I could only see
it that way--and I will--I am going to be the Captain of my soul--even
though it may be for a very short cruise--no disease or whimpering
weakness will usurp my place--'Gladly I lived--gladly I died. And I
laid me down with a will,'" he quoted, but his mouth twisted a little
on the words. Life was too sweet. He loved it too well to lay it down
gladly. O no, there could be no pretence of gladness.
He found himself thinking of Pearl, and the tender, loving, caressing
light in her eyes, her impulsive kiss--her honest words of heavenly
sweetness; what a girl she was! He had watched her grow from a little
bright-eyed thing, who always interested him with her wisdom, her
cheerfulness, her devotion to her family, until now, when she had
grown to be a serious-minded, beautiful girl, with a manner full of
repose, dignity, grace--a wonderfully attractive girl--who looked
honestly into his eyes and told him she loved him, and he had had to
turn away from his happiness and tell her it could not be. And he had
seen the dimming of those shining eyes and the tightening of her lips.
He had had to hurt Pearl, and that was the bitterest thought of all.
Again the temptation came to tell her! But the stern voice of
conscience cried out to him that if she knew she would consider
herself bound to him, and would not take her liberty, and the finest
years of her young life would be spent in anxiety and care.
"I might live to be an old man," he said bitterly. "If I were sure I
could drop out soon, it would not matter so much. Pearl would still
have her life ahead of her, and I would come to be but a memory, but
as it is--there's but one straight and honorable course--and I will
Then he thought of the roses, and wrote a card and a note, and called
Bertie at the Livery Stable to come to the office. When Bertie
arrived, much out of breath, the doctor charged him to be quick in his
errand of delivering them. Bertie was anxious to talk, and volunteered
the information that Pearl Watson was an awful pretty girl, but Mrs.
Crocks had just met her on the street and been talkin' to her a little
while, and she thought Pearl was gettin' pretty stuck up.
"Bertie, dear," the doctor said, not unkindly, "did any one ever tell
you that you talk too easy?"
"Sure they did," said Bertie honestly, "but Mrs. Crocks likes me to
"O well," the doctor smiled, "you and Mrs. Crocks are not really
dangerous--but Bertie, remember this, silence does not often get any
one into trouble, and if you are ever in doubt about whether to tell
things or not--don't tell them! It's the best way--now, will you try
"Yes, sir," said Bertie pleasantly.
All of which Bertie carefully hid in his heart, but his object in so
doing was not to attain the scriptural sequence--"that he sin not
with his mouth," It was that he might rehearse it accurately to Mrs.
The doctor had forgotten all about the committee who were going to
wait on him that evening to receive his decision regarding the coming
election. His mind had been too full of his own affairs. But promptly
at eight o'clock, his office bell rang, and the gentlemen came in.
It seemed years to the doctor since he had seen them. Life had so
changed for him in the interval. The committee had come back with
greater enthusiasm than ever. Corroborative evidence had been pouring
in; the doctor was the only man who could defeat the present member.
"Doctor, it is sure up to you," said the President, a stocky man,
whose face had a patchy beard resembling a buffalo-robe on which the
moths had played their funny tricks, "and I'll tell you why. The women
are beginning to raise hell all over the country. They have societies
now, and they're holding debates, and getting up plays--and all that.
They have the Government scared. My stars, I remember the time women
didn't bother no more about politics than a yellow dog does about
religion. But that good day is gone. They're up and comin' now, and
comin' with a whoop. Now, that's why we want you,--at least it's one
reason--the women like you--you have a way with them--you listen to
them--and feel sorry over their aches and pains--cure them--if you
can--but the big thing is--you feel sorry. Now, if you will run, the
women will try to make their men vote for you--I don't think any one
of the women will go against you. The men here are mostly for the
Government, and this year they have the bridge at Purple Springs for
a bait. It's goin' on for sure--work for every one--that votes right.
The Government has been in so long, you've just had to be on their
side to hold your job--they have their fingers on everything. You know
our candidate has lost his deposit for three elections--but there's a
chance this year--if you'll run."
Then the field organizer took up the argument. He was a young man sent
out from the city office to rally the faithful and if possible see
that the best candidates were selected. He was a shop-worn young man,
without illusions. He knew life from every angle, and it was a dull
affair in his eyes.
"Politics is a game of wits," he said; "the smartest one wins, and
gets in and divides the slush money. The other side howl--because they
didn't get any. We're sore now because we haven't had a look-in
for fourteen years--we're thirsty and dry--and we long for the
water-brooks--which is, government jobs. There's just one distinction
between the parties," he said, "one is in and one is out! That's all.
Both parties have the same platform too, there is only one principle
involved, that is the principle of re-election. But it really seems as
if our time is coming."
Young Mr. Summersad lighted a cigarette and blew billows of smoke at
the ceiling. His whole bearing was that of a man who had drunk the cup
of life to the very dregs and found even the dregs tasteless and pale.
"You are pessimistic," said the doctor, "you surely take a
materialistic view of the case. Is it really only a matter of getting
in to the public treasury? That hardly seems worth a man's effort; it
looks more like a burglar's job."
"I mean, Clay," said the organizer, with slightly more animation, "the
political game is not a game of sentiment or of high resolves. One man
cannot do much to change the sentiment of a whole province; we must
take things as we find them. People get as good government as they
deserve--always. This year the advantage comes to us. 'It is time for
a change' is always a good rallying cry, and will help us more than
"What is the opposition platform this year," said the doctor, "what
would I have to believe? Haven't you decided on a program, some sort
of course of action?"
"O sure," replied the other, "we have a great platform--woman
suffrage--banish the bar--direct legislation--we have a radical
platform--just the very thing to catch the people. I tell you
everything is in our favor, and with your popularity here, it should
be a cinch."
The doctor looked at him, without enthusiasm.
"But the platform needn't worry you," he hastened to explain, "it's
not necessarily important--it's a darn good thing to get in on--but
"It can be laid away," said the doctor, "for another election. Well
now, as I understand it, the case against the present Government is
just that. They promised prohibition years ago, and got in on that
promise--but broke it joyously, and canned the one man who wanted to
stand for it--that's why they deserve defeat and have deserved it all
these years. But if the Opposition have the same ethics, what's the
use of changing. Better keep the robbers in we know, than fly to
others that we know not of."
While the organizer had been speaking, the remainder of the committee
were vaguely uncomfortable. He was not getting anywhere; he was
spoiling everything. They knew the doctor better than he did.
The doctor stood up, and there was something about the action which
announced the adjournment of the meeting.
"It does not appeal to me," he said, "not as outlined by you. It's
too sodden, too deeply selfish. I see no reason for any man who has a
fairly decent, self-respecting job, to give it up and devote his time
to politics, if you have given me a correct picture of it."
The organizer became deeply in earnest:--
"Look here, Clay," he said, "don't be hasty. I'm telling you the truth
about things, that's all. You can be as full of moral passion as
you like--the fuller the better. The Opposition can always be the
Simon-pure reformers. I'm not discouraging you--in fact, we want you
to be that."
The doctor interrupted him, impatiently:--
"But I must not expect anything to come of it. Moral reform--and all
that--is fine for election dope, but governments have no concern with
it, these promises would not be carried out."
"I am not saying what we mean," said Mr. Summersad, with abundant
caution; "I say we want to defeat the Government--that's our business.
We want to get in--further than that we have no concern. The new
Premier will set our policy. But if you ask me my opinion, I do not
mind telling you that I don't think any government of men are very
keen on letting the women vote--why should they be? But there's always
a way out. What will happen is this--if our fellows get in, they will
grant a plebiscite, men only voting of course, and it will go strong
against the women--but that will let us out."
The doctor's eyes snapped:--
"That's surely a coward's way out," he said, "and why should any woman
have to ask for what is her right. Women, although they are not so
strong as men, do more than half the work, and bear children besides,
and yet men have been mean enough to snatch the power away from them
and keep it. Well, you have certainly been frank, Mr. Summersad, I
must thank you for that. I will be equally frank. I do not see
that there is anything to choose between the two parties. If your
presentation of the case is correct, the country is in a bad way, and
the political life is a re-incarnation of that fine old game of 'pussy
wants a corner!' I never did see much in it, so I will decline
the nomination. I am sorry, Mr. Gilchrist," he said to the local
President. His words had a ring of finality.
When the committee were leaving they met Miss Keith, of Hampton, on
the street. Miss Keith was worth looking at, with her white fox furs,
high-heeled shoes and long black ear-rings. Miss Keith carried a muff
as big as a sheaf of wheat, and a sparkling bead-bag dangled from her
wrist. Miss Keith's complexion left nothing to be desired. When she
passed the committee there came to them the odor of wood violets. The
committee were sufficiently interested to break into a group on the
corner and so be able to turn around and watch her, without appearing
to stop for that purpose.
She went into the doctor's office.
"By gum," said the President, looking at the door through which she
had disappeared, "don't these women beat all? They go where they
like--they do as they like--they wear what they like--they don't care
what men think, any more. They're bold--that's what they are! and I
don't know as I believe in lettin' them vote--By Gosh!"
The organizer raised his hand in warning, and spoke sternly.
"Hold your tongue," he said, "they're a long way from votin'. Believe
what you like--no one cares what you believe--but sit tight on it! I
talked too much just now. Let's learn our lesson."
Bertie, whose other name was now lost in oblivion, and who was known
as "Bertie Crocks" for purposes of identification, standing at the
corner of the "Horse Repository," saw Miss Keith entering the doctor's
office, and wondered again how any one ever thought a small town dull.
THE WOMAN WITH A SORE THOUGHT
The turning of a key; the opening of a door, are commonplace sounds to
most of us; but to a prisoner, weary of his cell, they are sounds of
unspeakable rapture. The dripping of a tap, may have in it the element
of annoyance--if we have to get up and shut it off before we can get
to sleep, but a thirsty traveller on the burning sands of the desert,
would be wild with joy to hear it. All which is another way of saying
that everything in life is relative.
On the day that Pearl spoke in the school-house, there sat in one of
the seats listening to her, a sombre-faced woman, who rarely came to
any of the neighborhood gatherings. The women of the neighborhood,
having only the primary hypothesis of human conduct, said she was
"proud." She did not join heartily in their conversations when they
met her, and had an aloofness about her which could only be explained
that way. She had a certain daintiness about her, too, in her way of
dressing--even in the way she did her hair--and in her walk, which
made the women say with certain resentment, that Mrs. Paine would like
to be "dressy."
But if Mrs. Paine had any such ambitions, they were not likely to be
achieved, for although she and her husband had lived for years in this
favored district, and had had good crops, Sylvester Paine was known
all over the country as a hard man. The women would have liked Mrs.
Paine much better if she had talked more, and complained about
him--she was too close-mouthed they said. They freely told each other,
and told her, of their hopes, fears, trials and triumphs--but Mrs.
Paine's communications were yea and nay when the conversation was on
personal matters, and she had a way of closing her lips which somehow
But on the day when Pearl spoke in the school Mrs. Paine's face
underwent a change which would have interested a student of human
nature. Something which had been long dead, came to life again that
day; fluttering, trembling, shrinking. In her eyes there came again
the dead hopes of the years, and it made her face almost pitiful in
its trembling eagerness. There was a dull red rage in her eyes too
that day, that was not good to see, and she was determined that it
should not be seen, and for that reason, she slipped away when Pearl
was through, leaving some excuse about having the chores to do. She
could not bear to speak to the women and have them read her face; she
knew it would tell too much. But she must talk to Pearl. There were
things that Pearl could tell her.
That night she called Pearl on the phone. The other receivers came
down quickly, and various homely household sounds mingled in her
ears--a sewing-machine's soft purring in one house--a child's cry in
another--the musical whine of a cream separator in a third. She knew
they were all listening, but she did not care. Even if she could not
control her face, she could control her voice.
When Pearl came to the phone, Mrs. Paine invited her to come over for
supper the next night, to which Pearl gave ready acceptance--and that
was all. The interested listeners were disappointed with the brevity
of the conversation, and spoke guardedly and in cipher to each other
after Pearl and Mrs. Paine had gone: "Somebody is away, see! That's
why! Gee! some life--never any one asked over only at such times--Gee!
How'd you like to be bossed around like that?"
"She did not begin right--too mealy-mouthed. Did you hear what he's
going to buy? No! I'll tell you when I see you--we've too big an
audience right now. Don't it beat all, the time some people have to
"O well, I don't care! Anything I say I'm ready to back up. I don't
pretend I forget or try to twist out of things."
One receiver went up here, and the sound of the sewing-machine went
Then the conversation drifted pleasantly to a new and quicker way of
making bread that had just come out in the "Western Home Monthly."
The next evening Pearl walked over the Plover Slough to see Mrs.
Paine. She noticed the quantity of machinery which stood in the yard,
some under cover of the big shingled shed, and some of it sitting out
in the snow, gray and weather-beaten. The yard was littered, untidy,
prodigal, wasteful--every sort of machine had evidently been bought
and used for a while, then discarded. But within doors there was a
bareness that struck Pearl's heart with pity. The entrance at the
front of the house was banked high with snow, and evidently had not
been used all winter, and indeed there seemed no good reason for its
ever being used, for the front part of the house, consisting of hall,
front room opening into a bed-room, were unfurnished and unheated.
Mrs. Paine was genuinely, eagerly glad to see Pearl, and there was a
tense look in her eyes, an underglow of excitement, a trembling of her
hands, as she set the table, that did not escape Pearl.
But nothing was said until the children had gone to bed, and then Mrs.
Paine departed from her life-long habit of silence, and revealed to
Pearl the burdens that were crushing her.
She was a thin woman, with a transparency about her that gave her the
appearance of being brittle. Her auburn hair curled over her white
forehead, and snakily twisted around her ivory white ears. Her eyes
were amber-brown, with queer yellow lights that rose and fell as
she talked, and in some strange way reminded Pearl of a piece of
bird's-eye maple. She was dressed in the style of twenty years before,
with her linen collar inside the high collar of her dress, which was
fastened with a bar pin, straight and plain like herself. In the
centre of the pin was a cairn-gorm, which reflected the slumbering
yellow light in her eyes. The color of her face was creamy white, like
"I thought all my hopes were dead, Pearl," she said with dry lips,
"until you spoke, and then I saw myself years ago, when I came out of
school. Life was as rosy and promising, and the future as bright to me
then as it is to you now. But I got married young--we were brought up
to think if we did not get married--we were rather disgraced, and in
our little town in Ontario, men were scarce--they had all come West.
So when I got a chance, I took it."
Pearl could see what a beautiful young girl she must have been, when
the fires of youth burned in her eye--with her brilliant coloring
and her graceful ways. But now her face had something dead about
it, something missing--like a beautifully-tiled fireplace with its
polished brass fittings, on whose grate lie only the embers of a fire
Pearl thought of this as she watched her. Mrs. Paine, in her
agitation, pleated her muslin apron into a fan.
The tea-kettle on the stove bubbled drowsily, and there was no sound
in the house but the purring of the big cat that lay on Pearl's knee.
"Life is a funny proposition, Pearl," continued Mrs. Paine, "I often
think it is a conspiracy against women. We are weaker, smaller than
men--we have all the weaknesses and diseases they have--and then some
of our own. Marriage is a form of bondage--long-term slavery--for
Pearl regarded her hostess with astonished eyes. She had always known
that Mrs. Paine did not look happy; but such words as these came as a
shock to her romantic young heart.
"It isn't the hard work--or the pain--it isn't that--it's the
uselessness of it all. Nature is so cruel, and careless. See how many
seeds die--nature does not care--some will grow--the others do not
"O you're wrong, Mrs. Paine," Pearl cried eagerly; "it is not true
that even a sparrow can fall to the ground and God not know it."
Mrs. Paine seemed about to speak, but checked her words. Pearl's
bright face, her hopefulness, her youth, her unshaken faith in God and
the world, restrained her. Let the child keep her faith!
"There is something I want to ask you, Pearl," she said, after a long
pause. "You know the laws of this Province are different from what
they are in Ontario."
Her voice fell, and the light in her eyes seemed to burn low, like
night-light, turned down.
"He says," she did not call her husband by name, but Pearl knew who
was meant, "he says that a man can sell all his property here without
his wife's signature, and do what he likes with the money. He wants to
sell the farm and buy the hotel at Millford. I won't consent, but he
tells me he can take the children away from me, and I would have to go
with him then. He says this is a man's country, and men can do as they
like. I wonder if you know what the law is?"
"I'm not sure," said Pearl. "I've heard the women talking about it,
but I will find out. I will write to them. If that is the law it will
be changed--any one could see that it is not fair. Lots of these old
laws get written down and no one bothers about them--and they just
stay there, forgotten--but any one would see that was not fair, 'Men
would not be as unjust as that'!"
"You don't know them", said Mrs. Paine; "I have no faith in men.
They've made the world, and they've made it to suit themselves. My
husband takes his family cares as lightly as a tomcat. The children
She spoke in jerky sentences, often moistening her dry lips, and there
was something in her eyes which made Pearl afraid--the very air of the
room seemed charged with discords. Pearl struggled to free her heart
from the depressing influence.
"All men are not selfish," she said, "and I guess God has done the
best He could to be fair to every one. It's some job to make millions
of people and satisfy them all."
"Well, the Creator should take some responsibility," Mrs. Paine
interrupted, "none of us asked to be born--I'm not God, but I take
responsibility for my children. I did not want them, but now they are
here I'll stand by them. That's why I've stayed as long as this. But
God does not stand by me."
Her voice was colorless and limp like a washed ribbon. It had in it no
anger, just a settled conviction.
"See here, Mrs. Paine," began Pearl, "you've been too long alone in
the house. You begin to imagine things. You work too hard, and never
go out, and that would make an archangel cross. You've just got to mix
up more with the rest of us. Things are not half so black as they look
"I could stand it all--until he said he could take away my home," the
words seemed to come painfully. "I worked for this," she said, "and
though it's small and mean--it's home. Every bit of furniture in this
house I bought with my butter money. The only trees we have I planted.
I sowed the flowers and dug the place to put them. While he is away
buying cattle and shipping them, and making plenty of money--all for
himself--I stay here and run the farm. I milk, and churn, and cook for
hired men, and manage the whole place, and I've made it pay too, but
he has everything in his own name. Now he says he can sell it and take
the money.... Even a cat will fight and scratch for its hay-loft."
"Oh well," said Pearl, "I hope you won't have to fight. Fighting is
bad work. It's a last resort when everything else fails. Mr. Paine can
be persuaded out of the hotel business if you go at it right. He does
not understand, that's all. That's what causes all the misery and
trouble in life--it is lack of understanding."
Mrs. Paine smiled grimly: "It's good to be young, Pearl," she said.
After a while she spoke again: "I did not ask you over entirely for
selfish reasons. I wanted to talk to you about yourself; I wanted to
warn you, Pearl."
"What about!" Pearl exclaimed.
"Don't get married," she said; "Oh don't, Pearl, I can't bear to think
of you being tied down with children and hard work. It's too big a
risk, Pearl, don't do it. We need you to help the rest of us. When I
listened to you the other day I came nearer praying than I have for
many years. I said, 'Oh, Lord, save Pearl,' and what I meant was that
He should save you from marriage. You'll have lots of offers."
"None so far," laughed Pearl, "not a sign of one."
"Well, you'll get plenty--but don't do it, Pearl. We need you to talk
"Well, couldn't I talk if I were married?" asked Pearl, "I have heard
married women talk."
"Not the same; they haven't the heart. People cannot talk if their
own hearts are sore. That's why we want to keep you light-hearted and
carefree. I wish you would promise me, Pearl, that you won't marry."
Pearl hesitated, hardly knowing how to meet this.
"That's asking a lot, Mrs. Paine. Every girl hopes to marry some
time," she said, at last, and if the light had been better Mrs. Paine
would have seen the color rising in Pearl's cheeks; "And you are wrong
in thinking that all men are mean and selfish. My father is not. We've
been poor and all that, but we're happy. My father has never shirked
his share of the work, and he has only one thought now, and that is to
do well for us. There are plenty of happy marriages. I--can't promise
not to but there's no danger yet--I have no notion of it."
"All right, Pearl," said Mrs. Paine, "keep away from it. Some way I
can't bear to think of you tied down with a bunch of kids, and all
your bright ways dulled with hard work and worry. Well, anyway, you'll
talk about it--about the vote I mean."
"All the time," Pearl laughingly responded. "Wherever two or three
gather Pearl Watson will rise and make a few remarks unless some one
forcibly restrains her. I will promise that--that's easy."
When Pearl walked home that night the moon was trying to shine through
a gray rag of a cloud that was wrapped around its face. The snow on
the road caught the muffled rays of light, and she could see her way
quite well after her eyes grew accustomed to the darkness. There was
a close, protecting feeling about the gray darkness that suited her
mood. It was a comfortable, companionable night, with a soft air full
of pleasant sounds of dogs barking, and sleigh-bells, and with the
lights in the neighbors' houses for company. Pearl was not conscious
of fear. All her life she had gone about in the night as fearlessly as
Mrs. Paine's words troubled her. Was it possible life could be as dull
and drab a thing as it seemed to her. Perhaps, though, she had never
been in love! She had married because she did not want to be an old
maid. Only love can redeem life from its common-place monotony. Maybe
that was why things had gone wrong.
She thought about Mrs. Paine's words about being tied down with
children and hard work, and how she had pleaded with her to be warned!
Pearl tried to make the warning real and effective--tried to harden
her heart and fill it with ambitions, in which love and marriage had
no place. She tried to tell herself it was her duty to never marry;
she would be free to work for other women. She tried to think of a
future apart from marriage, apart from the hopes and dreams that had
been so dear and sweet. Could it be that she was being called of God
to be a leader in a new crusade against injustice? Was it her part to
speak for other women? Since the day she spoke in the school there
had been a glowing wonder in her heart which told her she could move
people to higher thinking and nobler action. She had seen it in their
eyes that day. She had seen the high resolve in their faces, seen it,
and been glad and fearful too. Was it possible that God was calling
her to declare a message to the people, and could it be that it was
for this reason her sweet dreams had been so suddenly broken?
Pearl stopped in the road in her agitation of spirit, as the
possibility of this surged over her. Every sound seemed to have died
away, not a dog barked or a tree creaked in the gray darkness which
shrouded the world. Even the lights in the houses seemed to hold a
steady gleam, without as much as winking an eye--waiting for her
The whole world seemed to be holding its breath expectantly, in a
waiting, quivering silence. It was as if her name had been called; the
curtain had rolled up, and a great audience waited.
A sudden, helpless feeling set her heart beating painfully into her
throat, a smothering sense of fear, quite new to her, who had never
"I can't do it!" broke from her, in a cry; "Don't ask me, Lord, I
can't! I can't do it alone--but give me the desire of my heart, oh,
Lord, and I will never tremble or turn back or be afraid. I will
declare the truth before kings!"
The trustees of Purple Springs School had reached the climax of their
professional duties. They were about to appoint a teacher, and being
conscientious men, anxious to drive a good bargain for the people,
they were proceeding with deep caution to "look around."
Looking at the modest equipment of Purple Springs School, the observer
would wonder why such stress was laid on the teacher's qualifications.
The schoolhouse was a bleak little structure of wood, from whose walls
the winds and rain had taken the paint. It was set in an arid field,
that knew no tree or flower. Its three uncurtained windows threw a
merciless light on the gray floor and smoked walls.
Former teachers had tried to stir the community to beautify the
grounds and make the inside more homelike, but their efforts had been
fitful and without result. Trees died, seeds remained in the ground,
and gray monotony reigned at Purple Springs. Still, the three trustees
believed it was an enviable position they had in their hands to
bestow, and were determined that it should not be given lightly.
Just at the time that they were hard engaged in "lookin' 'round," the
secretary's wife came back from a visit to Chicken Hill, and told
about Pearl Watson, who had been to the city and come back "quite a
girl," able to talk, and just as nice and friendly as ever. Mrs. Cowan
was not well read in the political situation of the day, and so did
not know that Pearl had been guilty of heretical utterances against
If this had been known to the trustees her candidature would not have
been considered, for all of the trustees were supporters and believers
in the Government--and with reason. Mr. Cowan had a telephone line
built expressly for him; Mr. Brownlees had been given a ditch--just
where he wanted it, digging it himself, and been paid for it by the
Government; the third trustee had been made game warden, at a monthly
salary and no duties; so naturally they would like not to hear their
friends criticized. Mrs. Cowan only read newspapers to see the
bargains, crotchet patterns, and murders, and after that, she believed
their only use was to be put on pantry shelves. So her account of
Pearl's address was entirely without political bias.
"She's a fine looking girl," said Mrs. Cowan, "and it's nice to hear
her talk, even if she isn't saying anything. She's brown-eyed, tall,
and speaks out plain so every one can hear, and what she says is not
too deep--and you'd never know she was educated, to hear her talk."
The three trustees resolved to look into the case. Being masters of
duplicity, they decided to call on Miss Watson at her home, and to go
in the early morning hours, believing that the misty light of 8 a.m.
will reveal many things which the glare of high noon might hide. They
would see first would she be up? They had once had a teacher who lay
in bed the whole day on Saturday. Would she have her hair combed? They
were not keen on artistic effects in the school buildings, but were a
unit on wanting a tastefully dressed teacher. It was decided that the
call would be early and unannounced.
They found Pearl in a pink and white checked gingham house dress, with
her brown hair done up in the style known as a French roll, sewing
at a machine in the front room, and at once Mr. Cowan, who was the
dominant spirit of the party signalled to the others--"So far so
good." Miss Watson, even though the hour was early, was up, dressed
neatly--and at work. All of this was in the glance which Mr. Cowan
shot over to his colleagues.
Investigating still further, for Mr. Cowan knew the value of detail in
estimating human character; the general arrangement of the room won
his approval. It was comfortable, settled, serene--it looked like
home--it invited the visitor to come in and be at rest. A fire burned
in the heater, a bird sang in the kitchen, a cat lay on the lounge and
did not move when he sat down beside it, showing that its right of way
had not been disputed. Mr. Cowan saw it all.
After the introductions were over, Mr. Cowan put forth some questions
about her qualifications, and at each answer, his colleagues were
given to understand by a faint twitter of his eyes that Miss Watson
was still doing well.
"You're young of course," said Mr. Cowan, with the air of a man who
faces facts--but his natural generosity of spirit prompted him to add
"but you'll get over that, and anyway a girl is older in her ways than
"We measure time by heart-beats," said Pearl, as she handed him a
flowered cushion to put behind his head, "not by figures on a dial."
She tossed it off easily, as if poetry were the language of every day
life to her.
Mr. Cowan shut one eye for the briefest space of time, and across the
room his two friends knew Miss Watson's chances were growing brighter
every minute. "My wife happened to be down at Chicken Hill the day you
spoke, and she said you sure did speak well, for a girl, and she
was hopin' you'd speak at our school some night--and we could get a
phonograph to liven things up a bit--I guess we're broad-minded enough
to listen to a woman."
Mr. Cowan's confidence in his companions was amply justified. They
nodded their heads approvingly, like men who are willing to try
"Well, you see," Mr. Cowan went on, "we have a nice district, Miss
Watson. We're farmer people, of course, with the exception of the few
who live at the station; we're farmers but we're decent people--and
we're pretty well-to-do farmers--we have only one woman in the
district--that we sort of wish wasn't there."
"Why," asked Pearl quickly.
"Well you see, she got in first, so to speak. She bought the farm
beside the river, and it was her that called the place 'Purple
Springs.' It's an outlandish name, but it seems to kind a' stick.
There's no springs at all, and they are certainly not purple. But she
made the words out of peeled poplar poles, with her axe, and put them
up at the front of her house, facin' the track, and the blamed words
stick. Mind you, she must have spent months twistin' and turnin' them
poles to suit her and get the letters right, and she made a rustic
fence to put them on. They're so foolish you can't forget them. She's
queer, that's all--and she won't tell who she is, nor where she came
from--and she seems to have money."
Pearl looked at him inquiringly. There must be more than that to the
story, she thought.