Part 3 out of 5
"The women will tell you more about her--that's sure. They gabble a
lot among themselves about her--I don't know--we think it best to
leave her alone. No woman has any right to live alone the way she
does--it don't look well."
"Well, anyway," Mr. Cowan spoke hurriedly, as one who has been
betrayed into trifling feminine matters, and is anxious to get back to
man's domain, "we'll take you--at seventy-five dollars a month, and
I guess you can get board at Mrs. Zinc's here at about fifteen. That
ain't bad wages for a girl your age. You can stay at Mrs. Zinc's
anyway till you look around--Mrs. Zinc don't want a boarder. Girls can
fit in any place--that's one reason in our neighborhood we like a girl
better--there's no trouble about boardin' them. They can always manage
somehow. Even if things ain't very good--it don't seem to phaze
them--same as a man. We had a man once, and we had to pay him
twenty-five dollars a month extra, and gosh--the airs of him--wanted
a bed to himself and a hot dinner sent to the school. By Gum! and got
it! We'll be lookin' for you at the middle of the month, and you can
stay at Mrs. Zinc's and look around."
When the delegation had departed, Pearl acquainted her mother with the
result of their visit. Mrs. Watson had retired to the kitchen, all of
a flutter, as soon as the visitors came.
"I'm going to Purple Springs, Ma," she said, "to take the school, and
they'll give me seventy-five dollars a month."
Mrs. Watson sat down, dramatically, and applied her print apron to her
eyes--an occasion had come, and Mrs. Watson, true to tradition, would
make the most of it. Her mother had cried when she left home--it was a
girl's birthright to be well cried over--Pearlie Watson would not go
"Cheer up, Ma," said Pearl kindly, "I'm not going to jail, and I'm not
taking the veil or going across the sea. I can call you up for fifteen
cents, and I'll be bringing you home my washing every two weeks--so I
will not be lost entirely."
Mrs. Watson rocked herself disconsolately back and forth in her chair,
and the sound of her sobs filled the kitchen. Mrs. Watson was having a
good time, although appearances would not bear out the statement.
"It's the first break, Pearlie, that's what I'm thinkin'--and every
night when I lock the door, I'll be lockin' you out--not knowin' where
ye are. When a family once breaks you never can tell if they'll ever
all be together again--that's what frightens me. It was bad enough
when you went to the city--and I never slept a wink for two nights
after you'd gone. But this is worse, for now you're doin' for yourself
and away from us that way."
"Gosh, Ma," spoke up Mary, "you sure cry easy; and for queer things. I
think it's grand that Pearl can get out and earn money, and then when
I get my entrance, I'll go to the city and be a teacher too. You're
going to get back what you've spent on us, ma, and you ought to be in
great humor. I'm just as proud of Pearl as I can hold, and I'll be
tellin' the kids at school about my sister who is Principal of the
Purple Springs School."
"Principal, Assistant and Janitor," laughed Pearl, "that gives a
person some scope--to be sure."
Mrs. Watson hurriedly put up the ironing-board, and set to work. She
would get Pearl ready, though she did it with a heavy heart.
Pearl finished her sewing and then went upstairs to make her small
wardrobe ready for her departure, and although she stepped quickly and
in a determined fashion, there was a pain, a lonely ache in her heart
which would not cease, a crying out for the love which she had hoped
would be hers.
"I wonder if I will ever get to be like ma," she thought, as she lined
the bottom of her little trunk with brown paper, and stuffed tissue
paper into the sleeves of her "good dress," "I wonder! Well, I hope I
will be like her in some ways, but not in this mournful stuff--I won't
either. I'll sing when I feel it coming on me--I will not go mourning
all my days--not for any one!"
She began to sing:--
"Forgotten you? Yes, if forgetting
Is thinking all the day
How the long days pass without you.
Days seem years with you away!"
Pearl's voice had a reedy mellowness, and an appeal which sent the
words straight into Mary's practical heart. Mary, washing
dishes below, stopped, with a saucer in her hand, and listened
"If the warm wish to see you and hear you,
And hold you in my arms again,
If that be forgetting--you're right, dear,
And I have forgotten you then!"
Her voice trailed away on the last line into a sob, and Mary,
listening below, dropped a tear into the dish-water. Then racing up
the stairs, she burst into Pearl's room and said admiringly:
"Pearl, you're a wonder. It's an actress you ought to be. You got me
blubbering, mind you. It's so sad about you and your beau that's had a
row, and both of you actin' so pale and proud, you made me see it
all. Sing it again! Well, for the love of Pete--if you ain't ready to
blubber too. That's good actin', Pearl--let me tell you--how can you
Pearl brushed away the tears, and laughed: "I just hit on the wrong
song--that one always makes me cry, I can see them, too, going their
own ways and feeling so bad, and moping around instead of cutting out
the whole thing the way they should. People are foolish to mope!"
Pearl spoke sternly.
"I think you sing just lovely," said Mary, "now go on, and I'll get
back to the dishes. Sing 'Casey Jones'--that's the best one to wash
dishes to. It's sad, too, but it's funny."
Mrs. Watson held the iron to her cheek to test its heat, and
listened--too--as Pearl sang:--
"Casey Jones--mounted to the cabin,
Casey Jones--with the orders in his hand,
Casey Jones--mounted to the cabin
And took his farewell tri-ip--to the promised land!"
"It's well for them that can be so light-hearted," she said, "and
leave all belonging to them--as easy as Pearl. Children do not know,
and never will know what it means, until one of their own ups and
leaves them! It's the way of the world, one day they're babies, and
the next thing you know they're gone! It's the way of the world, but
it's hard on the mother."
Pearl came down the stairs, stepping in time with Casey Jones's
"The caller called Casey, at--a half-past-four,
He kissed his wife at the station door."
"How goes the ironing, honest woman," she said, as she lovingly patted
her mother's shoulder. "It's a proud old bird you ought to be getting
one of your young robins pushed out of the nest--instead of standing
here with a sadness on your face."
The mother tried to smile through her tears.
"Pearlie, my dear, you're a queer girl--you never seem to think of
what might happen. It may be six weeks before you can get home--with
the roads breaking up--and a lot can happen in that time. Sure--I
might not be here myself," she said, with a fresh burst of tears.
"Ma, you're funny," laughed Pearl, "I wish you could see how funny
you are. Every Christmas ever since I can remember, that's what you
said--you might never live to see another, and it used to nearly break
my heart when I was little, and until I made up my mind that you were
a poor guesser. You said it last Christmas just the same, and here
you are with your ears back and your neck bowed, heading up well for
another year. You're quite right in saying you may not be here, but if
you are not you'll be in a better place. Sure, things may happen, but
it's better to have things happen than to be scared all the time that
they may happen. The young lads may take the measles and then the
mumps, and the whooping-cough to finish up on--and the rosey-posey is
going around too. But even if they do--it's most likely they will get
over it--they always have. Up to the present, the past has taken care
of the future. Maybe it always will."
"O yes, I know there's always a chance things will go wrong--I know
it, Ma--" Pearl's eyes dimmed a little, and she held her lips tighter;
"there's always a chance. The cows may all choke to death seeing
which of them can swallow the biggest turnip--the cats may all have
fits--the chickens may break into the hen-house and steal a bag of
salt, eat it and die. But I don't believe they will. You just have to
trust them--and you'll have to trust me the same way. Just look, Ma--"
She took a five-dollar bill from her purse and spread it on the
ironing-board before her mother. "Fifteen o' them every month! See
the pictures that's on it, of the two grand old men. See the fine
chin-whiskers on His Nibs here! Ain't it a pity he can't write his
name, Ma, and him President of the Bank, and just has to make a bluff
at it like this. Sure, and isn't that enough to drive any girl out to
teach school, to see to it that bank presidents get a chance to learn
to write. Bank presidents always come from the country; I'll be having
a row of them at Purple Springs--I'm sure. They will be able to tell
in after years at Rotary Club luncheons how they ran barefooted in
November, and made wheat gum--and chewed strings together. They just
like to tell about their chilblains and their stone-bruises."
Her mother looked at her wonderingly: "You think of queer things,
Pearl--I don't know where you get it--I can't make you out--and
there's another thing troubling me, Pearl. You are goin' away--I don't
suppose you will be livin' much at home now. You'll be makin' your own
She paused, and Pearl knew her mother was laboring under heavy
emotion. She knew she was struggling to say what was difficult for her
to get into words.
"When you've been away for a while and then come back to us, maybe
you'll find our ways strange to you, for you're quick in the pick-up,
Pearl, and we're only plain workin' people, and never had a chance at
learnin'. There may come a time when you're far above us, Pearl, and
our ways will seem strange to you. I get worried about it, Pearl, for
I know if that time ever comes, it will worry you too, for you're not
the kind that can hurt your own and not feel it."
Pearl looked at her mother almost with alarm in her face, and the
fears that had been assailing her that her family were beyond the
social pale came back for a moment. But with the fear came a
fierce tenderness for all of them. She saw in a flash of her quick
imagination the tragedy of it from her mother's side, and in her heart
there was just one big, burning, resolute desire, that pain from this
source might never smite her mother's loving heart. The hard hands,
the sunburnt face, the thin hair that she had not taken time to care
for; the hard-working shoulders, slightly stooped; the scrawny neck,
with its tell-tale lines of age; were eloquent in their appeal. Pearl
saw the contrast of her mother's life and what her own promised to
be, and her tender heart responded, and when she spoke, it was in
an altered tone. All the fun had gone from it now, and it was not a
child's voice, nor a girl's voice, but a woman's, with all a woman's
gentleness and understanding that spoke.
"Mother," she said, "I know what is in your heart, and I will tell you
how I feel about it. You're afraid your ways may seem strange to me.
Some of them are strange to me now. I often wonder how any one can be
as unselfish as you are and keep it up day in and day out, working for
other people. Most of us can make a good stab at it, and keep it up
for a day or so, but to hit the steady pace, never looking back and
never being cross or ugly about it--that's great!"
"And about the other ... If ever there comes a time when an honest
heart and a brave spirit in a woman seems strange to me, and I get
feeling myself above them--if I ever get thinking light of honesty and
kindness and patience and hard work, and get thinking myself above
them--then your ways will be strange to me, but not until then!"
Mrs. Watson's face cleared, and a look of pride shone in her eyes.
Her face seemed to lose some of its lines, and to reflect some of the
lavish beauty of her daughter.
"You've comforted me, Pearl," she said simply, "and it's not the first
time. Whatever comes or goes, Pearl, you'll know we are proud of you,
and will stand back of you. Your outspoken ways may get you into
trouble, but we'll always believe you were right. We haven't much to
give you--only this."
"Sure and what more would any one want, leavin' home," Pearl was back
to the speech of her childhood now. "That's better than a fur coat to
keep out the cold, and the thought of my own folks makes me strong to
face the world, knowin' I can always come home even if everything else
is closed. That's good enough!"
Pearl kissed her mother affectionately, and went back to her work
upstairs, and soon Mary and her mother heard her singing. Mary stopped
scrubbing the kitchen floor, and Mrs. Watson left the iron so long on
Teddy's shirt that it left a mark:
"Say Au Revoir," sang Pearl, "but not goodbye,
The past is dead--love cannot die,
T'were better far--had we not met,
I loved you then--I love you yet."
There was something in her voice that made her mother say, "Poor
child, I wonder what's ahead of her."
Seated in one of the billowy tapestry chairs of the Maple Leaf Club,
with a mahogany ash-stand at his elbow and the morning paper in his
hand, the Cabinet Minister gave an exclamation which began far down in
the throat, tore upward past his immaculate collar, and came forth as
a full-sized round word of great emphasis and carrying power.
It brought to him at once Peter Neelands, one of the ambitious young
lawyers of the city, who was just coming into prominence in political
"What did you say, sir?" Peter asked politely.
The Cabinet Minister controlled his indignation admirably, and with
his pudgy knuckles rapped the offending newspaper, with the motion
used by a carpenter when trying to locate the joist in a plastered
wall, as he said:--
"Here is absolutely the most damnably mischievous thing I have seen
for years, and this abominable sheet is featuring it on the Women's
Page. They will all read it--and be infected. Women are such utterly
unreasonable creatures. This is criminal."
"What is it, sir?" Peter asked deferentially.
The older man handed him the paper, and sat back in his chair, with
his fat hands clasped over his rotund person, and an expression of
deep disgust in his heavy gray eyes.
"Anything!--anything!--" he cried, "to gain a political advantage.
They will even play up this poor little uneducated, and no doubt,
mentally unfit country girl, and put in her picture and quotations
from her hysterical speeches. They never think--or care--for the
effect this will have on her, filling her head with all sorts of
notions. This paper is absolutely without a soul, and seems determined
to corrupt the country. And on the Women's Page, too, where they will
all read it!"
"By Jove! that was good"--exclaimed the young man, as he read.
"What was good--are you reading what I gave you to read?" came from
the older man.
"Yes, about this girl at Millford, it says: 'In the discussion that
followed, the local member heatedly opposed the speaker's arguments
favoring the sending of women to Parliament, and said when women sat
in Parliament, he would retire--to which the speaker replied that this
was just another proof of the purifying effect women would have on
politics. This retort naturally brought down the house, and the local
member was not heard from again'--terribly cheeky, of course, but
rather neat, sir, don't you think?"
The Cabinet Minister took a thick cigar from his vest pocket, without
"Who is the member from Millford," he demanded.
"George Steadman, sir, a big, heavy-set chap--very faithful in his
attendance, sir, absolutely reliable--never talks, but votes right."
"I don't recall him," said the great man, after a pause, "but your
description shows he's the sort we must retain."
He lit his cigar, and when it was drawing nicely, removed it from his
mouth, and looked carefully at it, as if he expected to find authentic
information in it regarding private members. Failing this, he put it
back in his mouth, and between puffs went on:--
"Let me see--they are wanting a bridge near there, aren't they? on the
"Yes sir, at Purple Springs."
"All right--we ought to be able to hold the fort there with the
bridge--but the trouble is, this thing will spread, and when the
campaign warms up, this girl will be in demand."
He lapsed into silence again.
Peter, still holding the paper, volunteered:--
"She seems to be one of those infant prodigies who could sing 'The
Dying Nun,' and recite 'Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight,' before she
could talk plainly."
The Cabinet Minister gave no sign that he was listening--mental
agitation was written on his face.
"But we must head her off some way, I'll admit--I don't mind saying
it--though of course it must not be repeated--these damnable women are
making me nervous. I know how to fight men--I've been fighting them
all my life--with some success."
"With wonderful success, sir!" burst in Peter.
The older man threw out his hands in a way that registered modesty.
It had in it the whole scriptural injunction of "Let another praise
thee--and not thine own mouth."
"With some success," he repeated sternly, "but I cannot fight women.
You cannot tell what they will do; they are absolutely unreliable;
they are ungrateful, too. Many of these women who form the cursed
Women's Club, are women I have been on friendly terms with; so has
the Chief. We have granted them interviews; we have listened to their
suggestions; always with courtesy, always with patience. We have
asked them to come back. In certain matters we have acceded to their
requests--in some unimportant matters--" he added quickly. "But what
is the result? Is there any gratitude? Absolutely none. Give them
an inch--they will take a mile. Women are good servants, but bad
"Don't you think, sir," said Peter, much flattered by being talked to
in this friendly way by the great man, "don't you think it is these
militant suffragettes in England who are causing the trouble? Before
they began their depredations, women did not think of the vote. It is
the power of suggestion, don't you think, and all that sort of thing?"
They were interrupted just then by the arrival of Mr. Banks, one of
the Government organizers, who, ignoring Peter's presence, addressed
himself to the Cabinet Minister. His manner was full of importance.
Mr. Banks had a position in the Public Works Department, and
occasionally might be found there. Sometimes he went in for his mail,
and stayed perhaps half an hour.
He addressed the Cabinet Minister boldly:--
"Did you see this? Looks like trouble, don't it? What do you suggest?"
Mr. Banks did not remove either his hat or his cigar. Cabinet
Ministers had no terror for him--he had made cabinet ministers. If Mr.
Banks had lived in the time of Warwick that gentleman might not have
had the title of "King-Maker."
"What do you think yourself," asked the Cabinet Minister
deferentially, "you know the temper of the country perhaps better than
any of us; shall we notice this girl or just let her go?"
Mr. Banks laughed harshly.
"We can't stop her, as a matter of fact--she isn't the kind that can
be shut up. There's nothing to her--I've made inquiries. The people
have known her since she was born, and ran the country barefooted--so
we can't send her a 'Fly--all is discovered' postcard. It won't work.
People all honest--can't get any of them into trouble--and then let
them off--and win her gratitude. This is a difficult case, and the
other side will play it up, you bet. The girl has both looks and
brains, and a certain style. She went to the Normal with my girl. My
kid's crazy about her."
"Do her people need money?" asked Peter; he was learning the inner
side of politics.
His suggestion was ignored until the pause became painful--then the
organizer said severely:--
"Nobody needs money, but every one can use it. But money is of no
use in this case. This has to be arranged by tact. Tact is what few
members of the party have; their methods are raw."
"But there is no harm done yet," said Peter hopefully, "a few country
people in a bally little school-house, and the girl gets up and
harangues. She's been to the city, and knows a few catch phrases.
There's nothing to it. We wouldn't have known of it--only for the
enthusiastic friend who pours his drivel into this paper."
Mr. Banks looked at Peter in deep contempt.
"Whoever wrote this does not write drivel, Peter," he said, with a
note of fatigue in his voice. "He has made out a good case for this
girl. Every one who reads this wants to see her. I want to see her,
you want to see her--that's the deuce of it."
"Well, why don't you go," said Peter, "or send me? I'd like to go.
Perhaps it would be better to send a young man. I often think--"
Mr. Banks looked at him with so much surprise in his usually heavy
countenance that Peter paused in confusion.
"I often think," he braved the disgust he had evoked, and spoke
hurriedly to get it said before the other man had withered him with
his eyes; "I often think a young man can get along sometimes--girls
will tell him more, feeling more companionable as it were--" He
paused, feeling for a convincing climax.
But in spite of Mr. Banks' scorn of Peter Neelands' efforts at solving
their new difficulty, he soon began to think of it more favorably,
coming to this by a process known as elimination. No one else wanted
to go; he could not think of anything else. Peter would not do any
harm--he was as guileless as a blue-eyed Angora kitten, and above all,
he was willing and anxious to get into the game. This would give him
an opportunity. So Mr. Banks suddenly made up his mind that he would
authorize a cheque to be drawn on the "Funds." It could easily be
entered under "Inspection of Public Bridges," or any old thing--that
was a mere detail.
The Cabinet Minister, who was later acquainted with the plan, and had
by that time recovered his mental composure, almost spoiled everything
by declaring it was a most unwise move, and absolutely unnecessary.
"Leave her alone," he declared, as he sipped his whiskey and
soda--"people like that hang themselves if they get enough rope. What
is she anyway--but an unlearned, ignorant country girl, who has been
in the city and gathered a few silly notions, and when she goes home
she shows off before her rustic friends. My dear boy," he addressed
Peter now, from an immeasurable distance, "the secret of England's
greatness consists of letting every damn fool say what he likes,
they feel better, and it does no harm. We must expect criticism and
censure--we are well able to bear it, and with our men in every
district, there is little to fear. We'll offset any effect there may
be from this girl's ravings by sending the Chief out for one speech."
The Minister of Public Works lapsed into meditation and drummed
pleasantly with his plump, shining hand on the table beside him. The
sweet mellowness which had been Mr. Walker's aim for years, lay on his
soul. The world grew more misty and golden every moment, and in this
sunkissed, nebulous haze, his fancy roamed free, released from sordid
cares--by Mr. Walker's potent spell. It was a good world--a good world
of true friends, no enemies, no contradiction of sinners or other
disagreeable people, nothing but ease, praise, power, success,
glorious old world, without any hereafter, or any day of accounting.
Tears of enthusiasm made dewy his eyes--he loved everybody.
"The old Chief has a hold on the people that cannot be equalled. I
thought it was wonderful last night at the banquet, the tribute be
paid to his mother. It reveals such a tender side of him, even though
he has received the highest honor the people can give him, yet the
remembers so tenderly the old home and its associations. That's his
great secret of success--he's so human--with faults like other men,
but they only make him all the more beloved. He is so tolerant of all.
When that poor simpleton stuffed the ballot-box--out somewhere in the
Blue Mountains, a really clever piece of work too, wonderfully well
done--with the false bottom--I don't see how they ever discovered
it--but it is hard to deceive the enemy--there's no piece of crooked
work they are not familiar with. He was nearly crazy when they caught
him at it--thought he could be put in jail--he forgot, the poor boob
... who he was working for.... I'll never forget how fine the old
Chief allayed his fears--'All for a good cause, my boy,' he said, in
that jovial way of his, 'I have no fear--the Lord will look after His
own.' No wonder he can get people to work for him. It is that hearty
good nature of his, and he never preaches to any one, or scolds. He
was just as kindly to the poor fellow as if he had succeeded. It was
"Great old boy, all right," Peter agreed heartily.
That afternoon Mr. Banks arranged with one of the partners of the law
firm to which Peter was attached to release him for an indefinite
period, and his salary could be charged to the Government under
"Professional Services, Mr. P.J. Neelands," and being a fair-minded
man, and persuaded that a laborer was worthy of his hire, he suggested
a substantial increase in salary for Mr. Neelands, considering the
delicate nature of the task he was undertaking, and who was paying for
The spring, notwithstanding its early March smiles, delayed its coming
that year, and the grim facts of the scarcity of feed faced the
thriftiest farmers. The hungry cattle grew hungrier than ever, and
with threatening bellows and eyes of flame pushed and crowded around
the diminishing stacks. The cattle market went so low that it did not
pay to ship them to the city, though humane instincts prompted many
a farmer to do this to save their stock from a lingering death, and
their own eyes from the agony of seeing them suffer.
On April the first came the big storm, which settled forever the feed
problem for so many hungry animals. It was a deliberate storm, a
carefully planned storm, beginning the day before with a warm, soft
air, languorous, spring-like, with a pale yellow sun, with a cap of
silver haze around its head, which seemed to smile upon the earth with
fairest promises of an early spring. The cattle wandered far from
home, lured by the gentle air and the mellow sunshine.
It was on this fair day that Mr. P.J. Neelands took his journey to
the country to do it a service, and it is but fair to say that Mr.
Neelands had undertaken his new work with something related to
enthusiasm. It savored of mystery, diplomacy, intrigue, and there was
a thrill in his heart as he sat in the green plush-covered seat,
and leaning back, with his daintily shod feet on the opposite seat,
surveyed himself in the long mirror which filled the door of the
stateroom at the end. It was a very smartly dressed young man he saw,
smiling back engagingly, and the picture pleased him. Expenses and
salary paid, with a very delightful piece of work before him, which,
if handled tactfully and successfully, would bring him what he
craved--political promotion in the Young Men's Club. The fact in the
glass smiled again. "Diplomacy is the thing," said Peter to himself.
"It carries a man farther than anything--and I'm glad my first case
has a woman in it."
He buffed his nails on the palm of his other hand, and, looking at
them critically, decided to go over them again.
"There's nothing like personal neatness to impress a girl; and this
one, from her picture, will see everything at a glance."
Crossing the river at Poplar Ridge, he looked out of the window at the
pleasant farmyard of one of the old settlers on the Assiniboine; a
fine brick house, with wide verandahs, an automobile before the door,
a barnyard full of cackling hens, with a company of fine fat steers
in an enclosure--a pleasing picture of farm life, which filled his
"What a country of opportunity," thought Peter, "a chance for every
one, and for women especially. Everything in life is done for them.
This house was built for some woman, no doubt. I hope she appreciates
it, and is contented and happy in it. Women were made to charm
us--inspire us--cheer us, but certainly not to rival us!"
Peter, with his hands on the knees of his well-creased trousers,
hitched them slightly, just enough to reveal a glimpse of his lavender
"Perhaps this girl needs only an interest--a love interest--" Peter
blushed as he thought it--"to quiet her. If her affection were
captured, localized, centralized, she would not be clamoring to take a
man's place. She might be quite willing to enter politics, indirectly,
and be the power behind a man of power."
He looked again at the newspaper picture of Pearl Watson, and again at
his own reflection in the long glass.
"And a girl like this," Peter meditated, "would be a help, too. She is
evidently magnetic and convincing." His mind drifted pleasantly into
the purple hills and valleys of the future, and in a delightfully
vague way plans began to form for future campaigns, where a brilliant
young lawyer became at once the delight of his friends and the despair
of his enemies, by his scathing sarcasm, his quick repartee, and still
more by his piercing and inescapable logic. Never had the Conservative
banner been more proudly borne to victory. Older men wept tears of joy
as they listened and murmured, "The country is safe--thank God!"
Ably assisting him, though she deferred charmingly to him, in all
things, was his charming young wife, herself an able speaker and
debater who had once considered herself a suffragette, but who was now
entirely absorbed in her beautiful home and her brilliant husband.
Peter flicked the dust from his tan shoes with a polka-dotted
handkerchief, while rosy dreams, full of ambition and success filled
his impressionable mind.
Through the snowy hills the train made its way cautiously, making long
and apparently purposeless stops between stations, as if haunted by
the fear of arriving too early. At such times Peter had leisure to
carefully study the monotonous landscape, and he could not help but
notice that the disparity in the size of the barn and that of the
house in many cases was very great. A huge red barn, with white
trimmings, surmounted by windmills, often stood towering over a tiny
little weather-beaten, miserable house, which across a mile or two of
snow, looked about the size of a child's block.
But small houses can be made very cosy, thought Peter complacently,
for the glamor of adventure was on him, and no shade of sadness could
assail his high spirits.
Some of the women who came to the train were disappointing in
appearance. They were both shabby and sad, he thought, and he wondered
why but looking closely at them he thought, with the fallacy of youth,
that they must be very old.
Peter tried to outline his course of action. He would take a room
at the hotel, making that his headquarters, and go out into the
country--and stop at the Watson home, to ask directions or on some
trivial errand, and meet her that way. But the thought would come back
with tiresome regularity--suppose the first person who came to the
door, gave him the directions he wanted--and shut the door. Well, of
course he could ask for a drink,... but even that might fail. Perhaps
he should have brought an egg-beater--or a self-wringing mop to
demonstrate, or some of the other things his friends had suggested.
However, that did not need to be decided at once. Peter prided himself
on his ability to leave tomorrow alone! So he made his way to the
hotel on the corner, facing the station, untroubled by what the morrow
might bring forth, and registered his name in the large book which the
clerk swung around in front of him, and quietly asked for a room with
The clerk bit through the toothpick he had in his mouth, so great was
his surprise, but he answered steadily:
"All rooms with bath are taken--only rooms with bed left."
"Room with bed, then," said Peter, and he was given the key of No. 17,
and pointed to the black and red carpeted stairway.
It was a morning of ominous calm, with an hour of bright sun,
gradually softening into a white shadow, as a fleecy cloud of fairy
whiteness rolled over the sun's face, giving a light on the earth like
the garish light in a tent at high noon, a light of blinding whiteness
that hurts the eyes, although the sun is hidden. It was as innocent
a looking morning as any one would wish to see, still, warm, bright,
with a heavy brooding air which deadens sound and makes sleighs draw
hard and horses come out in foam.
James Crocks, of the Horse Repository, sniffed the air apprehensively,
bit a semi-circle out of a plug of tobacco, and gave orders that no
horse was to leave the barn that day, for "he might be mistaken, and
he might not," but he thought "we were in for it."
Other people seemed to think the same, for no teams could be seen on
any of the roads leading to the village. It was the kind of morning
on which the old timers say, "Stay where you are, wherever it is--if
there's a roof over you!"
Wakening from a troubled dream of fighting gophers that turned to
wild-cats, Mr. Neelands, in No. 17, made a hurried toilet, on account
of the temperature of the room, for although the morning was warm,
No. 17 still retained some of last week's temperature, and to Mr.
Neelands, accustomed to the steam heat of Mrs. Marlowe's "Select
Boarding House--young men a specialty"--it felt very chilly, indeed.
But Mr. Neelands had his mind made up to be unmoved by trifles.
After a good breakfast in the dining room, Mr. Neelands walked out to
see the little town--and to see what information he could gather. The
well-dressed young man, with the pale gray spats, who carried a cane
on his arm and wore a belted coat, attracted many eyes as he swung out
gaily across the street toward the livery stable.
His plans were still indefinite. Bertie, who was in charge of the
stable, gazed spell-bound on the vision of fashion which stood at the
door, asking about a team. Bertie, for once, was speechless--he seemed
to be gazing on his own better self--the vision he would like to see
when he sought his mirror.
"I would like to get a team for a short run," said Mr. Neelands
"Where you goin'," asked Bertie.
Mr. Neelands hesitated, and became tactful.
"I am calling on teachers," he said, on a matter of business,
"introducing a new set of books for school libraries."
It was the first thing Mr. Neelands could think of, and he was quite
pleased with it when he said it. It had a professional, business-like
ring, which pleased him.
"A very excellent set of books, which the Department of Education
desire to see in every school," Mr. Neelands elaborated.
Then Bertie, always anxious to be helpful and to do a good deed, leapt
to the door, almost upsetting Mr. Neelands in his haste. Bertie had
an idea! Mr. Neelands did not connect his sudden departure with his
recent scheme of enriching the life of the country districts with the
set of books just mentioned, and therefore waited rather impatiently
for the stableboy's return.
Bertie burst in, with the same enthusiasm.
"See, Mister, here's the teacher you want; I got her for you--she was
just going to school."
Bertie's face bore the same glad rapture that veils the countenance of
a cat when she throws a mouse at your feet with a casual "How's that."
Mr. Neelands found himself facing a brown-eyed, well-dressed young
lady, with big question marks in both eyes, question marks which in a
very dignified way demanded to know what it was all about.
In his confusion, Mr. Neelands, new in the art of diplomacy,
"Is this Miss Watson?" he stammered.
The reply was definite.
"It is not, and why did you call me."
Icicles began to hang from the roof. Mr. Neelands would have been
well pleased if they had fallen on him, or a horse had kicked him--or
He blushed a ripe tomato red. Bertie, deeply grieved, reviewed the
"He said he wanted to see the teachers, and I just went and got
you--that's all--you were the nearest teacher."
"Awfully sorry," began Mr. Neelands, "I did not know anything about
it. I'm am just a stranger, you see."
There was something in Miss Morrison's eye which simply froze the
library proposition. He could not frame the words.
"If you have any business with me you may make an appointment at the
school. People who have business with the teachers generally do come
to the school--not to the livery stable," she added, in exactly the
tone in which she would have said "All who have failed to get fifty
per cent. in arithmetic will remain after four," a tone which would be
described as stern, but just.
Mr. Neelands leaned against a box-stall as Miss Morrison passed out.
He wiped his face with the polka-dot handkerchief, and the word which
the Cabinet Minister had used came easily to his lips.
"Why didn't you speak to her when you got a chance?" asked Bertie,
anxious to divert the blame and meet railing with railing. He was
always getting in wrong just trying to help people. Darn it all! Mr.
Neelands could still think of no word but the one.
"I wish it had been Pearl," said Bertie, "Gee! she wouldn't ha' been
so sore; she'd just laughed and jollied about it."
"So you know Pearl, do you?" Mr. Neelands could feel a revival of
interest in life; also the stiffness began to leave his lips, and his
tongue felt less like tissue paper.
"I guess everyone knows Pearl," said Bertie, with a consciousness of
superiority on at least one point. Whereupon he again fulfilled the
promises of youth, the leadings of his birth star and the promptings
of his spirit guides, and told all he knew about the whole Watson
family, not forgetting the roses he had taken to her, and Mrs. Crock's
diagnosis of it all.
He had an interested listener to it all, and under the inspiration
which a sympathetic hearing gives he grew eloquent, and touched with
his fine fancy the romantic part of it.
"Mrs. Crocks says she believes Pearl is pretty sweet on the Doctor.
Pearl is one swell girl, and all that, but Mrs. Crocks says the Doctor
will likely marry the Senator's daughter. Gee! I wouldn't if I was
him. She hasn't got the style that Pearl has--she rides a lot and has
nerve--and all that, but she's bow-legged!" His tone was indescribably
Mr. Neelands gasped.
"Yep," went on Bertie complacently, "we see a lot here at the stable
and get to know a lot--one way'n another--we can't help it. They come
and go, you know."
"The doctor won't run for Parliament--he turned it down. Mrs. Crocks
thinks the Senator maybe persuaded him not to--the Senator is for the
Government, of course, and it is the other side wanted the doctor;
anyway, that suits old Steadman; he'll likely go in again on account
of the bridge at Purple Springs. Every one wants to get work on it
with the Spring hangin' back the way it is." "How about a horse? I
want to take a drive into the country," said Mr. Neelands.
"No horse can go out of here today," answered Bertie. "Mr. Crocks says
there'll be storm, and he won't take no chances on his horses. He says
people can judge for themselves and run risks if they want to, he'll
decide for the horses--and they can't go."
"O, all right," said Mr. Neelands. "How far is it to the Watson farm?"
"Are you going out?" asked Bertie. "Better phone and see if she's at
home. Here's the phone--I'll get her."
Mr. Neelands laid a restraining hand on Bertie's arm. "Easy there,
my friend," he said, his tone resembling Miss Morrison's in its
commanding chilliness, "How far is it to the Watson farm?"
"Five miles in summer, four in winter," Bertie answered a little
"You would call this winter, I suppose," said the traveller, looking
out at the darkening street.
"I'd call it--oh, well, never mind what I'd call it--I'm always
talking too much--call it anything you like." Bertie grew dignified
and reserved. "Call it the first of July if you like! I don't care."
That is how it came that Mr. Neelands took the out-trail when all the
signs were against travelling, but to his unaccustomed eye there
was nothing to fear in the woolly grayness of the sky, nor in the
occasional snowflake that came riding on the wind. The roads were
hard-packed and swept clean by the wind, and the sensation of space
and freedom most enjoyable.
Mr. Neelands as he walked filed away tidily in his mind the
information received. There were valuable clues contained in the
stable-boy's chatter, Which he would tabulate, regarding the lady
of his quest. She was popular, approachable, gifted with a sense of
humor, and perhaps disappointed in love. No clue was too small to be
overlooked--and so, feeling himself one of the most deadly of sleuths,
Mr. Neelands walked joyously on, while behind him there gathered one
of the worst blizzards that the Souris Valley has known.
The storm began with great blobbery flakes of snow, which came
elbowing each other down the wind, crossing and re-crossing, circling,
drifting, whirling, fluttering, so dense and thick that the whole air
darkened ominously, and the sun seemed to withdraw from the world,
leaving the wind and the storm to their own evil ways.
The wind at once began its circling motions, whipping the snow
into the traveller's face, blinding and choking him, lashing him
mercilessly and with a sudden impish delight, as if all the evil
spirits of the air had declared war upon him.
He turned to look back, but the storm had closed behind him, having
come down from the northwest and overtaken him as he walked. His only
hope was to go with it, for to face it was impossible, and yet it
seemed to have no direction, for it blew up in his face; it fell on
him; it slapped him, jostled him, pushed him, roared in his ears,
smothering him, drowning his cries with malicious joy. No cat ever
worried or harrassed a mouse with greater glee than the storm fiends
that frolicked through the valley that day, took their revenge on the
city man, with his pointed boots, his silk-lined gloves, his belted
coat and gray fedora, as he struggled on, slipping, choking, falling
and rising. It seemed to him like a terrible nightmare, in its sudden,
It pounded on his eyeballs until he was not sure but his eyes were
gone; it filled his mouth and ears, and cold water trickled down his
back. His gloves were wet through, and freezing, for the air grew
colder every minute, and the terror of the drowning man came to him.
He struggled on madly, like a steer that feels the muskeg closing
around him. He did not think; he fought, with the same instinct that
drives the cattle blindly, madly on towards shelter and food, when the
storm lashes them and the hunger rage drives them on.
Sylvester Paine, shaking the snow from his clothes like a water
spaniel, and stamping all over the kitchen, was followed by his wife,
who vainly tried to sweep it up as fast as it fell. She made no
remonstrance, but merely swept, having long since earned that her
liege lord was never turned aside from his purpose by any word of
When he was quite done, and the snow was melting in pools on the
floor, he delivered his opinion of the country and the weather: "This
is sure a hell of a country," he said, "that can throw a storm like
this at the end of March."
She made no reply--she had not made either the country or the weather,
and would not take responsibility for them. She went on wiping up the
water from the floor, with rebellion, slumbering, hidden rebellion
in every movement, and the look in her eyes when she turned to the
window, was a strange blending of rage and fear.
"Why don't you answer me," he said, turning around quickly, "Darn you,
why can't you speak when your spoken to?"
"You did not speak to me," she said. "There was nothing for me to
He looked at her for a moment--her silence exasperated him. She seemed
to be keeping something back--something sinister and unknown.
"Well, I can tell you one thing," he went on, in a voice that seemed
to be made of iron filings, "you may not answer when I speak to
you--you'll do what you're told. I'm not going to slave my life out
on this farm when there's easier money to be made. Why should you set
yourself above me, and say you won't go into a hotel? I have the right
to decide, anyway. Better people than you have kept hotels, for all
your airs. Are you any better than I am?"
"I hope so," she said, without raising her eyes from the floor. She
rose quietly and washed out her floorcloth, and stood drying her hands
on the roller towel which hung on the kitchen door. There was an air
of composure about her that enraged him. He could not make it out. The
quality which made the women call her proud kindled his anger now.
The storm tore past the house, shaking it in its grip like a terrier
shaking a rat. It seemed to mock at their trivial disputes, and seek
to settle them by drowning the sound of them.
His voice rang above the storm:--
"I'll sell the farm," he shouted. "I'll sell every cow and horse on
it. I'll sell the bed from under you--I'll break you and your stuck-up
ways, and you'll not get a cent of money from me--not if your tongue
was hanging out."
The children shrank into corners and pitifully tried to efface
themselves. The dog, with drooping tail, sought shelter under the
Sylvester Paine thought he saw a shrinking in her face, and followed
up his advantage with a fresh outpouring of abuse.
"There's no one to help you--or be sorry for you--you haven't a friend
in this neighborhood, with your stuck-up way. The women are sore on
you--none of them ever come to see you or even phone you. Don't you
think I see it! You've no one to turn to, so you might as well know
it--I've got you!"
His last words were almost screamed at her, as he strove to make his
voice sound above the storm, and in a sudden lull of the storm, they
rang through the house.
At the same moment there was a sound of something falling against
the door and the dog, with bristling hair, ran out from his place of
Mrs. Paine turned quickly to the door and opened it, letting in a
gust of blinding snow, which eddied in the room and melted on the hot
A man, covered with snow, lay where he had fallen, exhausted on the
"What's this," cried Paine, in a loud voice, as he ran forward; "where
did this fellow come from?"
In his excitement he asked it over and over again, as if Mrs. Paine
should know. She ventured no opinion, but busied herself in getting
the snow from the clothes of her visitor and placing him in the
rocking chair beside the fire. He soon recovered the power of speech,
and thanked her gaspingly, but with deep sincerity.
"This is a deuce of a day for any one to be out," began the man of the
house. "Any fool could have told it was going to storm; what drove you
out? Where did you come from, anyway?"
Mrs. Paine looked appealingly at him:--
"Let him get his breath, can't you, see, he is all in," she said
quietly, "he'll tell you, when he can speak."
In a couple of hours, Peter Neelands, draped in a gray blanket, sat
beside the fire, while his clothes were being dried, and rejoiced
over the fact that he was alive. The near tragedy of the bright young
lawyer found dead in the snow still thrilled him. It had been a close
squeak, he told himself, and a drowsy sense of physical well-being
made him almost unconscious of his surroundings. It was enough for him
to be alive and warm.
Mrs. Paine moved about the house quietly, and did all she could with
her crude means to make her guest comfortable, and to assure him of
her hospitality. She pressed his clothes into shape again, and gave
him a well-cooked dinner, as well served as her scanty supplies would
allow, asking no questions, but with a quiet dignity making him feel
that she was glad to serve him. There was something in her manner
which made a strong appeal to the chivalrous heart of the young man.
He wanted to help her--do something for her--make things easier for
The afternoon wore on, with no loosening of the grip of the storm,
and Peter began to realize that he was a prisoner. He could have been
quite happy with Mrs. Paine and the children, even though the floor
of the kitchen was draughty and cold, the walls smoked, the place
desolate and poor; but the presence of his host, with his insulting
manners, soon grew unbearable. Mr. Paine sat in front of the
stove, smoking and spitting, abusing the country, the weather, the
Government, the church. Nothing escaped him, and everything was wrong.
A certain form of conceit shone through his words too, which increased
his listener's contempt. He had made many sharp deals in his time, of
which he was inordinately proud. Now he gloated over them. Fifteen
thousand dollars of horse notes were safely discounted in the bank,
so he did not care, he said, whether spring came or not. He had his
money. The bank could collect the notes.
Peter looked at him to see if he were joking. Surely no man with so
much money would live so poorly and have his wife and children so
shabbily dressed. Something of this must have shown in his face.
"I've made money," cried Sylvester Paine, spitting at the leg of the
stove; "and I've kept it--or spent it, just as I saw fit, and I did
not waste is on a fancy house. What's a house, anyway, but a place to
eat and sleep. I ain't goin' to put notions into my woman's head, with
any big house--she knows better than to ask it now. If she don't like
the house--the door is open--let her get out--I say. She can't take
the kids--and she won't go far without them."
He laughed unpleasantly: "That's the way to have them, and by gosh!
there's one place I admired the old Premier--in the way he roasted
those freaks of women who came askin' for the vote. I don't think much
of the Government, but I'm with them on that--in keepin' the women
where they belong."
"But why," interrupted Peter, with a very uneasy mind, "why shouldn't
women have something to say?"
"Are you married?" demanded his host.
"No, not yet," said Peter blushing.
"Well, when you're married--will you let your wife decide where you
will live? How you earn your living--and all that? No sir, I'll bet
you won't--you'll be boss, won't you? I guess so. Well, every man has
that right, absolutely. Here am I--I'm goin' to sell out here and buy
a hotel--there's good money in it, easy livin'. She--" there was an
unutterable scorn in his voice, "says she won't go--says it ain't
right to sell liquor. I say she'll come with me or get out. She might
be able to earn her own livin', but she can't take the kids. Accordin'
to law, children belong to the father--ain't that right? There's a man
comin' to buy the farm--I guess he would have been out today, only for
the storm. We have the bargain made--all but the signin' up."
Mrs. Paine stood still in the middle of the floor, and listened in
terror. "A man coming to buy the farm!" Every trace of color left her
face! Maybe it was not true.
He saw the terror in her face, and followed up his advantage.
"People have to learn to do as they're told when I'm round. No one can
defy me--I'll tell you that. Every one knows me--I can be led, but I
cant be driven."
Peter Neelands had the most uncomfortable feeling he had ever known.
He was not sure whether it was his utter aversion to the man who sat
in front of the stove, boasting of his sharp dealing, or a physical
illness which affected him, but a horrible nausea came over him. His
head swam--his eardrums seemed like to burst--every bone began to
The three days that followed were like a nightmare, which even time
could never efface or rob of its horror. The fight with the storm
had proven such a shock to him that for three days a burning fever,
alternating with chills, held him in its clutches, and even when the
storm subsided kept him a prisoner sorely against his will.
In these three days, at close range, he saw something of a phase of
life he had never even guessed at. He did not know that human beings
could live in such crude conditions, without comforts, without
even necessities. It was like a bad dream--confused, humiliating,
horrible--and when on the third day he was able to get into his
clothes his one desire was to get away--and yet, to leave his kind
hostess who had so gently nursed him and cared for him, seemed like an
act of desertion.
However, when he was on his feet, though feeling much shaken, and
still a bit weak, his courage came back. Something surely could be
done to relieve conditions like this.
The snow was piled fantastically in huge mounds over the fields, and
the railway cuts would be drifted full, so no train would run for
days. But Peter felt that he could walk the distance back to town.
His host made no objection, and no offer to drive him.
In the tiny bedroom off the kitchen, which Mrs. Paine had given him,
as he shiveringly made his preparations for leaving, he heard a
strange voice in the other room, a girl's voice, cheery, pleasant.
"I just came in to see how you are, Mrs. Paine. No thank you, I won't
put the team in the stable--I ran them into the shed. I am on my way
home from driving the children to school. Some storm, wasn't it? The
snow is ribbed like a washboard, but it is hard enough to carry the
Peter came out, with his coat and his hat in his hand, and was
introduced. His first thought was one of extreme mortification--three
days' beard was on his face. His toilet activities had been limited
in number. He knew he felt wretched, seedy, groggy--and looked it.
Something in Pearl's manner re-assured him.
"Going to town?" said she kindly, "rather too far for you to walk when
you are feeling tough. Come home with me if you are not in a hurry,
and I will drive you in this afternoon."
Peter accepted gladly.
He hardly looked at her, holding to some faint hope that if he did
not look at her she would not be able to see him either, and at this
moment Peter's one desire was not to be seen, at least by this girl.
In a man's coonskin coat she stood at the door, with her face rosy
with the cold. She brought an element of hope and youth, a new
spirit of adventure into the drab room, with its sodden, commonplace
dreariness. Peter's spirits began to rise.
Outside the dogs began to bark, and a cutter went quickly past the
Mrs. Paine, looking out, gave a cry of alarm.
"Wait, Pearl! Oh, don't go!" she cried, "stay with me. It's the man
who is going to buy the farm. He said he was coming, but I didn't
believe him;" her hands were locking and unlocking.
Without a word, Pearl slipped off her coat and waited. She seemed
to know the whole situation, and instinctively Peter began to feel
easier. There was something about this handsome girl, with the
firmly-set and dimpled chin, which gave him confidence.
In a few moments Sylvester Paine and his caller came in from the
barn. Pearl stood beside Mrs. Paine, protectingly. Her face had grown
serious; she knew the fight was on.
Sylvester Paine nodded to her curtly, and introduced his guest to
every one at once.
"This is Mr. Gilchrist," he said, "and now we'll get to business. Get
the deeds." he said, to his wife shortly.
Mrs. Paine went upstairs.
"Who did you say the young lady is," asked Mr. Gilchrist, who thought
he recognized Pearl, but not expecting to see her here, wished to be
sure. Mr. Gilchrist, as President of the Political Association, had
heard about Pearl, and hoped she might be an able ally in the coming
"This is Pearl Watson," said Mr. Paine, rather grudgingly. "This is
the girl that's working up the women to thinking that they ought to
vote. Her father and mother are good neighbors of mine, and Pearl was
a nice kid, too, until she went to the city and got a lot of fool
"I'm a nice kid yet," said Pearl, smiling at him, and compelling him
to meet her eye, "and I am a good neighbor of yours too, Mr. Paine,
for I am going to do something for you today that no one has ever
done. I'm going to tell you something."
She walked over to the table and motioned to the two men to sit
down, though she remained standing. Sylvester Paine stared at her
uncomprehendingly. The girl's composure was disconcerting. Her voice
had a vibrant passion in it that made Peter's heart begin to beat. It
was like watching a play that approaches its climax.
"Mr. Gilchrist probably does not understand that there is a small
tragedy going on here today. Maybe he does not know the part he is
playing in it. It is often so in life, that people do not know the
part they played until it is too late to change. You've come here
today to buy the farm."
Mr. Gilchrist nodded.
"Ten years ago this farm was idle land. Mr. and Mrs. Paine homesteaded
it, and have made it one of the best in the country. It has been hard
work, but they have succeeded. For the last five years Mr. Paine has
not been much at home--he has bought cattle and horses and shipped
them to the city, and has done very well, and now has nearly fifteen
thousand dollars in the bank. There is no cleverer man in the country
than Mr. Paine in making a bargain, and he is considered one of the
best horsemen in the Province. He pays his debts, keeps his word, and
there is no better neighbor in this district."
Sylvester Paine watched her open-mouthed--amazed. How did she know
all this? It made strange music in his ears, for, in spite of all his
bluster, he hungered for praise; for applause. Pearl's words fell like
a shower on a thirsty field.
"Meanwhile," Pearl went on, "Mrs. Paine runs the farm, and makes it
pay, too. Although Mrs. Paine works the hardest of the two, Mr. Paine
handles all the money, and everything is in his name. He has not
noticed just how old and worn her clothes are. Being away so much, the
manner of living does not mean so much to him as to her, for she is
always here. Mrs. Paine is not the sort of woman who talks. She never
complains to the other women, and they call her proud. I think Mrs.
Paine has been to blame in not telling Mr. Paine just how badly she
needs new clothes. He always looks very well himself, and I am sure he
would like to see her well dressed, and the children too. But she will
not ask him for money, and just grubs along on what she can get with
the butter money. She is too proud to go out poorly dressed, and so
does not leave home for months at a time, and of course, that's bad
for her spirits, and Mr. Paine gets many a cross look from her when he
comes home. It makes him very angry when she will not speak--he does
"Mr. Paine's intention now is to sell the farm and buy the hotel in
Millford. He will still go on buying cattle, and his wife will run the
hotel. She does not want to do this. She says she will not do it--it
is not a proper place in which to raise her children. She hates the
liquor business. This is her home, for which she has worked."
"It is not much of a home; it's cold in winter and hot in summer. You
would never think a man with fifteen thousand dollars in the bank
would let his wife and children live like this, without even the
common decencies of life. That's why Mrs. Paine has never had any of
her own people come to visit her, she is ashamed for them to see how
badly off she is. No, it is not much of a home, but she clings to it.
It is strange how women and animals cling to their homes. You remember
the old home on the road to Hampton your people had, Mr. Gilchrist,
the fine old house with the white veranda and the big red barn? It was
the best house on the road. It burned afterwards--about three years
Mr. Gilchrist nodded.
"Well, we bought, when we came to our farm here, one of your father's
horses, the old Polly mare--do you remember Polly?"
"I broke her in," he said, "when she was three."
"Well, Polly had been away a long time from her old home, but last
summer when we drove to Hampton Polly turned in to the old place and
went straight to the place where the stable had stood. There was
nothing there--even the ruins are overgrown with lamb's quarters--but
Polly went straight to the spot. It had been home to her."
A silence fell on the room.
"There is no law to protect Mrs. Paine," Pearl went on, after a long
pause. "The law is on your side, Mr. Gilchrist. If you want the place
there is no law to save Mrs. Paine. Mr. Paine is quite right in saying
he can take the children, so she will have to follow. Mrs. Paine is
not the sort of woman to desert her children. She would live even in
a hotel rather than desert her children. The law is on your side,
gentlemen--you have the legal right to go on with the transaction."
"What law is this?" said Mr. Gilchrist.
"The law of this Province," said Pearl.
"Do you mean to say," said Mr. Gilchrist hotly, "that Mrs. Paine
cannot claim any part of the price of this farm as her own--or does
not need to sign the agreement of sale. Has she no claim at all?"
"She has none," said Pearl, "she has no more claim on this farm than
the dog has!"
"By Gosh! I never knew that," he cried. "We'll see a lawyer in town
before we do anything. That's news to me."
"Are you sure of it, Pearl?" Mrs. Paine whispered. "Maybe there's
something I can do. This young man is a lawyer--maybe he could tell
Sylvester Paine was trying to recover his point of view.
"Can you tell us," Pearl asked Peter, who sat in a corner, intensely
listening, "what the law says."
"The law," said Peter miserably--as one who hates the word he is about
to utter--"gives a married woman no rights. She has no claim on her
home, nor on her children. A man can sell or will away his property
from his wife. A man can will away his unborn child--and it's a hell
of a law," he added fiercely.
Pearl turned to Robert Gilchrist, saying, "Mr. Gilchrist, the law is
with you. The woman and the three children have no protection. Mr.
Paine is willing that they should be turned out. It is up to you."
Mrs. Paine, who had come down the stairs with the deed in her hand,
laid it on the table and waited. For some time no one spoke.
Sylvester Paine looked at the floor. He was a heavy-set man, with a
huge head, bare-faced and rather a high forehead. He did not seem to
be able to lift his eyes.
"I suppose," continued Pearl, "the people who made the laws did not
think it would ever come to a show-down like this. They thought that
when a man promised to love and cherish a woman--he would look after
her and make her happy, and see to it that she had clothes to wear and
a decent way of living--if he could. Of course, there are plenty of
men who would gladly give their wives everything in life, but they
can't, poor fellows--for they are poor; but Mr. Paine is one of the
best off men in the district. He could have a beautiful home if he
liked, and his wife could be the handsomest woman in the neighborhood.
She is the sort of woman who would show off good clothes too. I
suppose her love of pretty things has made her all the sorer, because
she has not had them. I just wanted to tell you, Mr. Gilchrist, before
you closed the deal. Mrs. Paine would never tell you, and naturally
enough Mr. Paine wouldn't. In fact he does not know just how things
stand. But I feel that you should know just what you are doing if you
take this farm. Of course, it is hardly fair to expect you to protect
this woman's home and her children, and save her from being turned
out, if her husband won't--you are under no obligation to protect her.
She made her choice years ago--with her eyes open--when she married
Sylvester Paine. It seems ... she guessed wrong ... and now ... she
Mrs. Paine sank into a chair with a sob that seemed to tear her heart
out. The auburn hair fell across her face, her lovely curly hair, from
which in her excitement she had pulled the pins. It lay on the table
in ringlets of gold, which seemed to writhe, as if they too were
suffering. Her breath came sobbing, like a dog's dream.
Sylvester Paine was the first to speak.
"Pearl, you're wrong in one place," he said, "just one--you had
everything else straight. But you were wrong in one place."
He went around the table and laid his hand on his wife's head.
"Millie," he said, gently.
She looked up at him tearfully.
He stood awkwardly beside her, struggling to control himself. All the
swagger had gone from him, all the bluster. When he spoke his voice
"Pearl has got it all straight, except in one place." he said. "She's
wrong in one place. She says you guessed wrong when you married me,
His voice was thick, and the words came with difficulty.
"Pearl has done fine, and sized the case up well ... but she's wrong
there. It looks bad just now, Millie--but you didn't make such a
rotten guess, after all. I'm not just sayin' what I'll do, but--"
"The deal is off, Bob," he said to Mr. Gilchrist, "until Mrs. Paine
and I talk things over."
And then Pearl quietly slipped into her coat and, motioning to Peter,
who gladly followed her, went out.
THE SEVENTH WAVE
The big storm had demoralized the long-distance telephone service, so,
that it was by night lettergram that George Steadman was commissioned
by the official organizer of the Government to find P.J. Neelands, who
had not been heard of since the morning of the storm. Mr. Steadman was
somewhat at a loss to know how to proceed.
He was very sorry about Mr. Neelands and his reported disappearance.
Mr. Neelands was one of the friendliest and most approachable of
the young political set, and Mr. Steadman had often listened to his
speeches, and always with appreciation. He wondered why Mr. Neelands
had come to Millford now without telling him.
At the hotel, nothing was known of the young man, only that he had
taken a room, registered, slept one night, and gone, leaving all his
things. Mr. Steadman was conducted to Number 17, and shown the meagre
details of the young man's brief stay. His toilet articles, of
sterling silver with his monogram, lay on the turkish towel, which at
once concealed and protected the elm top of the bureau; his two bags,
open and partly unpacked, took up most of the floor space in the room.
His dressing-gown was hung on one of the two hooks on the back of the
door, suspended by one shoulder, which gave it a weary, drunken look.
There was something melancholy and tragic about it all.
"In the midst of life we are in death," said George Steadman to
himself piously, and shuddered. "It looks bad. Poor young fellow--cut
off in his prime--he did not even have a fur coat! and went out never
He examined the telegram again--"On business for the Government," it
said, "of a private nature. See 'Evening Echo' March 21st, Page 23."
What could that mean?
George Steadman did not take the "Evening Echo." He hated the very
sight of it. The "Morning Sun" was good enough for him. He remembered
the thrill of pride he had felt when his Chief had said one day in
debate, that he wanted nothing better than the "Sun" and the Bible.
It was an able utterance, he thought, reminding one of the good old
Queen's reply to the Ethiopian Prince, and should have made its appeal
even to the Opposition; but the leader had said, in commenting on it,
that he was glad to know his honorable friend was broad-minded enough
to read both sides!
And now he was told to look up the Opposition paper, and the very page
was given. His first thought was that it was a personal attack upon
himself. But how could that be? He never opened his mouth in the
house--he never even expressed an opinion, and as the campaign had not
yet begun--he had not done anything.
He read the telegram again. In desperation he went back to the long
distance booth, but found the line still out of order, and a wire had
come giving the details of the damage done by the storm. It would be
several days before communication could be established. There was no
help coming from headquarters, and from the wording of the telegram
there seemed to be a reason for their not giving clear details. He
must get a copy of the paper.
Reluctantly he went to the printing office and made known his errand.
Mr. Driggs was delighted to give him the paper--he had it some place,
though he very seldom opened any of his exchanges. He evidently bore
Mr. Steadman no ill-will for his plain talk two weeks ago. With some
difficulty he found it, with its wrapper still intact. It was a loose
wrapper, which slipped off and on easily. Mr. Steadman remarked
carelessly that there was an editorial in it to which his attention
had been drawn, on hearing which Mr. Driggs turned his head and winked
at an imaginary accomplice.
Mr. Steadman went over to the livery stable to find a quiet,
clover-scented corner in which he might peruse his paper. An intuitive
feeling cautioned him to be alone when he read it.
In the office, Mr. Steadman found a chair, and opened his paper.
Bertie, ever on the alert for human interest stories, watched from a
point of vantage. He told Mrs. Crocks afterwards about it.
"The paper seemed to tangle up at first and stick to his fingers. He
wrastled it round and round and blew on it, and turned over pages and
folded it back--Gee, there was a lot of it. It filled the whole table,
and pieces dropped on the floor. He put his foot on them, like as if
he was afraid they'd get away. At last he found something, and he just
snorted--I got as close as I could, but I couldn't see what it was.
There was a picture of a girl--and he read on and on, and snorted out
three times, and the sweat stood out on his face. Twice he cleared up
his throat like your clock does when it gets ready to strike, and
then he tore out a page of the paper and put it in his pocket, and he
gathered up the rest of it and burned it, all but one sheet that was
under the table, and I got it here."
Bertie brought home the news at six o'clock. Mrs. Crocks had a copy of
the paper in her hands at six-fifteen.
Meanwhile, George Steadman, was feeling the need of counsel. His head
swam, and a cruel sense of injustice ate into his heart. He was a
quiet man--he did not deserve this. All his life he had sidestepped
trouble--and here it was staring him in the face. In desperation he
went to Driggs, the editor. He was a shrewd fellow--he would know what
was best to be done.
He found Mr. Driggs still in a sympathetic mood. He threw back his
long black hair and read the article, with many exclamations of
surprise. In places he smiled--once he laughed.
"How can any one answer this, Driggs?" asked Mr. Steadman in alarm.
"What can be done about it? I wish you would write something about it.
I can't think who would do this. There were no strangers that day at
the school--not that I noticed. None of our people would do it. What
do you think about it, Driggs? Would the girl write it herself?"
"No," replied the editor honestly, "I am quite sure Pearl did not do
Suddenly Mr. Steadman thought of the telegram and the missing man. He
resolved to take Driggs into his confidence.
Driggs was as quick to see the import of it as King James was to smell
gunpowder on that fateful November day when the warning letter was
read in Parliament.
"The Government have sent him out to investigate this in your behalf,"
"But where is he?" asked Mr. Steadman.
Mr. Driggs' bushy brows drew down over his eyes.
"There's one person can help us," he said. He threw on his
jute-colored waterproof and his faded felt hat. Mr. Steadman followed
him as he went quickly to the Horse Repository.
Bertie was hastily consulted, and Bertie as usual ran true.
"Sure I saw him," said Bertie. "Ain't he back yet? Gee! I'll bet he's
froze! He'll be dead by now for sure. He had on awful nice clothes,
but thin toes on his boots, sharp as needles, and gray socks with dots
on them, and a waist on his coat like as if he wore corsets, and gray
gloves--and a cane, Swell! He was some fine looker, you bet, but he
wouldn't last long in that storm."
"Where did he go, Bertie," asked Mr. Steadman, trying to hold his
voice to a tone of unconcern.
"He asked about teachers, and about how far it was to Watsons."
Mr. Driggs and Mr. Steadman's eyes met.
"If he's any place," said Bertie cheerfully, "he'll be there."
To the Watson's Mr. Steadman and Mr. Driggs determined to go,
although, by this time the evening was well advanced.
The storm had piled the snow into huge drifts which completely filled
the railway cuts, but fortunately for those who travelled the sleigh
roads, the snow was packed so hard that horses could walk safely over
it. Bridges over ravines were completely covered, people made tunnels
to the doors of their stables, and in some cases had to dig the snow
away from their windows to let the light in. But the sun had come
out warm, and the weather prophets said it was the last storm of the
When Mr. Steadman and Mr. Driggs approached the Watson home, they
found every window lighted and several sleighs in the yard. From the
house came sounds of laughter and many voices.
"There is no funeral here," said Mr. Driggs lightly.
George Steadman shuddered, "he may never have reached here," he said
in a voice of awe.
They knocked at the woodshed door, but no one heard them. Then they
went quietly in, and finding the kitchen door open, went in.
Mr. Watson, who stood at the door of the "room," shook hands with them
quietly, and said in a whisper:--
"They're acting tableaux now, just step up to the door and see them.
The children are having a party. Pearl will explain it in a minute.
Just step in and watch; you're just in time--they're just goin' to do
The two men looked in. About a dozen young people were in the room,
which was well lighted by a gasoline hanging-lamp. The furniture
was pushed into a corner to leave a good floor space. A curtain was
suspended from one of the beams, and behind it there seemed to be
great activity and whispered directions. Every one was so intently
waiting, they did not notice that the audience had been augmented by
the two men at the door.
In front of the curtain came Pearl to announce the next tableaux:--
"Ladies and gentlemen," she said solemnly, although her audience
began to laugh expectantly, "we will now present to you a historical
tableaux, a living picture of a foolish old king, who thought he could
command the waves to stand still. Seated in his arm-chair on the shore
you will see King Canute. Behind him are the rugged hills of the Saxon
coast. Before him the sea tosses angrily. The tide is rolling in. Each
wave is a little bigger than the last, the seventh wave being the
largest of all. This tableaux, ladies and gentlemen, in the production
of which we have spared no trouble and expense, teaches the vanity of
human greatness. Careful attention has been given to detail, as you
She disappeared behind the curtain for a moment, and when it was
pulled back by invisible hands--(broom wire handled by Mary) she was
discovered sitting robed in purple (one of the girls had brought her
mother's Japanese dressing-gown) with a homemade but very effective
crown on her head. Her throne was an arm-chair, raised on blocks of
wood. As King Canute, Pearl's eyes were eagle-like and keen, her whole
bearing full of arrogance and pride. Dramatically she waved her right
arm towards the sea, and in bitter words chided it for its restless
tossing, and commanded it to hear the words of the ALL HIGH, Great and
Powerful King, and stay--just--where--it--was!
But even as she spoke, a small wave came rolling in, gently lapping
the shore. It was Danny Watson, with a small white apron tied around
his person, which at each revolution, made a white crest of breaking
The King re-doubled his imprecations, and commands, tearing his
hair and threatening to rend his garments, but wave after wave came
rhythmically to shore, growing in size and speed, until the seventh
wave, crested with foam--a pillow-case torn across and fastened with
safety-pins--came crashing to her feet, amid thunderous applause.
When the company, with the king at one end and the first and smallest
wave at the other, stood up to take their applause, and respond to
curtain calls, next to Pearl stood the seventh wave--crested with
foam, dishevelled of hair--a four days' growth of whiskers on his
face--but a happy-looking wave--nevertheless.
Mr. Steadman grabbed hold of his friend hysterically. He could not
"Well, thank God, he's not dead anyway," he gasped at last.
"But I fancy," murmured Mr. Driggs, "that he is dead--to the cause!"
"Make a speech, Pearl," cried one of the company. "Mr. Neelands would
like to hear you do that one of the Premier's, when he laid the
cornerstone, about 'the generations yet unborn.' Go on, Pearl, that's
a good one!"
"Don't forget 'the waves of emigration breaking at our feet'!" said
Mary, handing Pearl one of Teddy's coats.
Pearl slipped on the coat, carefully adjusting the collar. Then
fingering an imaginary watch-chain, she began. Her face grew
grave--her neck seemed to thicken. Her voice was a throaty contralto.
"We are gathered here today." she declaimed, "to take part in a
ceremonial, whose import we cannot even remotely guess! Whose full
significance will be revealed, not in your time or mine, but to the
generations yet unborn!"
Peter Neelands gave a shout of recognition! Mr. Driggs felt a strong
hand on his arm. George Steadman whispered hoarsely. "Come away,
Driggs. That girl frightens me. This is no place for us!"
THE COMING OF SPRING
The Spring was late, cruelly late, so late indeed that if it had been
anything else but a season, it would have found itself in serious
trouble--with the door locked and a note pinned on the outside telling
it if it could not come in time it need not come at all. But the
Spring has to be taken in, whenever it comes--and be forgiven too, and
even if there were no note on the door, there were other intimations
of like effect, which no intelligent young Spring could fail to
understand. Dead cattle lay on the river bank, looking sightlessly up
to the sky. They had waited, and waited, and hung on to life just as
long as they could, but they had to give in at last.
Spring came at last, brimful of excitement and apologies. It was a
full-hearted, impulsive and repentant young Spring, and lavished all
its gifts with a prodigal hand; its breezes were as coaxing as June;
its head burned like the first of July; its sunshine was as rich and
mellow as the sunshine of August. Spring had acknowledged its debt
and the overdue interest, and hoped to prevent any unpleasantness by
paying all arrears and a lump sum in advance; and doing it all with
such a flourish of good fellowship that the memory of its past
delinquency would be entirely swept away!
The old Earth, frozen-hearted and bleached by wind and cold, and
saddened by many a blighted hope, lay still and unresponsive under the
coaxing breezes and the sunshine's many promises. The Earth knew what
it knew, and if it were likely to forget, the red and white cattle
on the hillside would remind it. The Earth knew that these same warm
breezes had coaxed it into life many times before, and it had burst
into bud and flowers and fruit, forgetting and forgiving the past with
its cold and darkness, and the earth remembered that the flowers had
withered and the fruit had fallen, and dark days had come when it had
no pleasure in them, and so although the sun was shining and the warm
winds blowing--the earth lay as unresponsive as the pulseless cattle
on its cold flat breast.
But the sun poured down its heat, and the warm breezes frolicked into
the out-of-the-way places, where old snowdrifts were hiding their
black faces, and gradually their hard hearts broke and ran away in
creeping streams, and the earth returned to the earth that gave it; a
mist too, arose from the earth, and softened its bare outlines, and
soon the first anemone pushed its furry nose through the mat of gray
grass, and scored another victory on the robin; the white poplar
blushed green at its roots; the willows at the edge of the river
reddened higher and higher, as the sap mounted; headings of mouse-ears
soon began to show on their branches--a green, glow came over the
prairie, and in the ponds, It millions of frogs, at the signal from an
unknown conductor, burst into song.
Then it was that the tired old Earth stopped thinking and began to
feel--a thrill--a throb--a pulsing of new life--the stirring of new
hopes which mocked its fears of cold or frost or sorrow or death.
The Souris Valley opened forgiving arms to the repentant young Spring,
and put forth leaves in gayest fashion. The white bones, fantastically
sticking through faded red hides, were charitably hidden by the grass,
so that the awakened conscience of the tender young Spring might not
be unduly reminded of its cruelty and neglect.
The woman who lived alone at Purple Springs always expected great
things of the Spring. She could not grow accustomed to the coldness of
her neighbors, or believe that they had really cut her off from any
communication, and all through the winter which had just gone she had
kept on telling herself that everything would be different in the
Spring. Looking day after day into the white valley, piled high with
snow, she had said to herself over and over again: "There shall be no
more snow--there shall be no more snow"--until the words began to mock
her and taunt her, and at last lost their meaning altogether like an
elastic band that has stretched too far. If she had been as close a
student of the Bible as her mother, back in Argylshire, she would have
known that her impatience with the snow, which all winter long had
threatened and menaced her, and peered at her with its thousand eyes,
was just the same feeling that prompted John on the Isle of Patmos,
wearied by the eternal breaking of the waves on his island prison, to
set down as the first condition in the heavenly city: "There shall be
Three years before, Mrs. Gray had come to the Souris Valley, and
settled on the hill farm. It had been owned by a prospector, who once
in a while lived on it, but went away for long periods, when it was
believed he had gone north into that great unknown land of fabled
riches. He had not been heard from for several years, and the people
of the neighborhood had often wondered what would be done with the
quarter-section, which was one of the best in the district, in case he
never came back. The Cowan's, who lives nearest, had planted one of
the fields, and used the land for the last two seasons. The Zinc's had
run their cattle in the pasture, and two of the other neighbors were
preparing to use the remaining portions of the farm, when there
arrived Mrs. Gray and her seven-year-old son to take possession.
It was Mr. Cowan who demanded to know by what right she came, and when
she had convinced him by showing him the deed of the farm, she came
back at him by demanding that he pay her the rent for the acres he had
used, which he did with a bad grace.
She had not been long in the neighborhood when there came to
demonstrate a new sewing machine a drooping-eyed, be-whiskered man,
in a slim buggy, drawn by a team of sorrel ponies. He claimed to have
known Mrs. Gray in that delightfully vague spot known as "down East,"
and when he found how eagerly any information regarding her was
received, he grew eloquent.
Mrs. Cowan departed from her hard and fast rule, and the rule of her
mother before her, and asked him to stay for dinner, and being an
honest man, in small matters at least, the agent did his best to pay
for his victuals. He told her all he knew--and then some, prefacing
and footnoting his story with the saving clause "Now this may be only
talk--but, anyway, it is what they said about her." He was not a
malicious man--he bore the woman, who was a stranger to him, no
grudge; but that day as he sat at dinner in the Cowan's big, bare
kitchen, he sent out the words which made life hard for the woman at
So much for the chivalry of the world and the kindly protection it
extends to women.
Vague rumors were circulated about her, veiled, indefinite
insinuations. The Ladies' Aid decided they would not ask her to join,
at least not until they saw how things were going. She might be all
right, but they said a church society must be careful.
The women watched each other to see who would go to see her first. She
came to church with her boy, to the little church on the river flat,
and the minister shook hands with her and told her he was glad to
see her. But the next week his wife, spending the afternoon at Mrs.
Cowan's, "heard something," and the next Sunday, although he shook
hands with her and began to say he was glad to see her, catching Mrs.
Cowan's eye on him, he changed his sentence and said he was glad to
see so many out.
All summer long the women at Purple Springs held to the hope that
someone would come to see her. At first she could not believe they
were wilfully slighting her. It was just their way, she thought. They
were busy women; she often saw them out in their gardens, and at such
times it was hard for her to keep from waving to them.
The woman who lived the nearest to her, geographically, was Mrs.
Cowan, and one day--the first summer--she saw Mrs. Cowan beating rugs
on the line, and as the day was breezy, it seemed as if she waved her
apron. Mrs. Gray waved back, in an ecstacy of joy and expectation--but
there came no response from her neighbor--no answering signal, and as
the lonely woman watched, hoping, looking, praying--there rolled
over her with crushing sadness the conviction that all her hopes of
friendliness were in vain. The neighborhood would not receive her--she
was an outcast. They were condemning her without a hearing--they were
hurling against her the thunders of silence! The injustice of it ate
deeply into her soul.
Then it was that she began to make the name "Purple Springs" out of
the willow withes which grew below the house. She made the letters
large, and with a flourish, and dyed them the most brilliant purple
they would take, and set them on a wire foundation above her gate. The
work of doing it gave solace to her heart, and when the words were set
in place--it seemed to her that she had declared her independence,
and besides, they reminded her of something very sweet and
reassuring--something which helped her to hold her head up against the
current of ill thoughts her neighbors were directing toward her.
That was the year the school was built, and no other name for it but
"Purple Springs" was even mentioned, and when the track was extended
from Millford west, and a mahogany-red station built, with a tiny
freight shed of the same color, the name of Purple Springs in white
letters was put on each end of the station. So, although the neighbors
would not receive the woman, they took the name she brought.
Her son Jim, a handsome lad of seven, went to school the first day it
was opened. Her mother heart was fearful for the reception he might
get, and yet she tried to tell herself that children were more just
than their elders. They would surely be fair to Jim, and when she
had him ready, with his leather book-bag, his neat blue serge
knickerbocker suit, his white collar and well-polished boots, she
thought, with a swelling of pride, that there would not be a handsomer
child in the school, nor one that was better cared for.
Down the hill went Jim Gray, without a shadow on his young heart. So
long as he had his mother, and his mother smiled at him, life was all
He gave his name to the teacher, and answered all her questions
readily, and was duly enrolled as a pupil in Grade I, along with
Bennie Cowan, Edgar Zinc and Bessie Brownlees, and set at work to make
figures. He wondered what the teacher wanted with so many figures, but
decided he would humor her, and made page after page of them for her.
By noon the teacher decided, on further investigation, to put Master
James Gray in Grade II, and by four o'clock he was a member in good
standing of Grade III.
That night there was much talk of James Gray, his good clothes, and
his general proficiency, around the firesides of the Purple Springs
The next day Bennie Cowan, who was left behind in Grade I, although a
year older than Jim Gray, made the startling announcement:
"Jim Gray has no father."
He sang the words, gently intoning, as if he took no responsibility of
them any more than if they were the words of a song, for Bennie was a
cautious child, and while he did not see that the absence of a father
was anything to worry over, still, from the general context of the
conversation he had heard, he believed it was something of a handicap.
The person concerned in his announcement, being busy with a game of
marbles, did not notice. So quite emboldened, Bennie sang again, "Jim
Gray has no father--and never had one."
The marble game came to an end.
"Do you mean me?" asked Jim, with a puzzled look.
The others stopped playing, too. It was a fearsome moment. Jim Gray
was the most unconcerned of the group.
"That's all you know about it," he said carelessly, as he shut one eye
and took steady aim at the "dib" in the ring, "I've had two."
"Nobody can have two fathers--on earth," said Bessie Brownlees
piously--"we have one father on earth and one in heaven."
"Mine ain't on earth," said Jimmy, "mine are both in heaven."
That was a poser.
"I'll bet they're not," said Bennie, feeling emboldened by Jim's
admission of a slight irregularity in his paternal arrangements.
"How do you know?" asked Jim, still puzzled. It did not occur to him
that there was anything unfriendly in the conversation--"You never saw
"Well," said Bennie, crowded now to play his highest card, "anyway,
your mother is a bad woman."
Jim looked at him in blank astonishment. His mother a bad woman, his
dear mother! The whole world turned suddenly red to Jim Gray--he did
not need any one to tell him that the time had come to fight.
The cries of Bennie Cowan brought the teacher flying. Bennie, with
bleeding lip and blackened eyes, was rescued, and a tribunal sat
forthwith on the case.
James Gray refused to tell what Bennie Cowan had said. His tongue
could not form the words of blasphemy. The other children, all of whom
had heard his history unfavorably discussed at home, did not help him,
and the case went against the boy who had no friends. Exaggerated
tales were told of his violence. By the end of the week he had struck
Bennie Cowan with a knife. A few days later it was told that he had
kicked the teacher. Nervous mothers were afraid to have their children
exposed to the danger of playing with such a vicious child.
One day a note was given to him to take home. It was from the
trustees, asking Mrs. Gray if she would kindly keep her son James at
home, for his ungovernable temper made it unsafe for other children to
play with him.
That was three years ago. Annie Gray and her son were as much a
mystery as ever. She looked well, dressed well, rode astride, wore
bloomers, and used a rifle, and seemed able to live without either the
consent or good-will of the neighborhood.
In harvest time she still further outraged public opinion by keeping
a hired man, who, being a virtuous man, who had respect for public
opinion, even if she hadn't, claimed fifteen dollars a month extra for
a sort of moral insurance against loss of reputation. She paid the
money so cheerfully that the virtuous man was sorry he had not made it
It was to this district, with its under-current of human passions,
mystery and misunderstanding, that Pearl Watson came. The miracle of
Spring was going on--bare trees budding, dead flowers springing; the
river which had been a prisoner all winter, running brimming full,
its ice all gone, and only little white cakes of foam riding on its
current. Over all was the pervading Spring smell of fresh earth, and
the distant smoulder of prairie fires.
PRINCE OF THE HOUSE OF CLAY
When the train came in from the west, Dr. Clay stepped off and walked
quickly to his office. He called at the drug store before going to his
private office, and inquired of the clerk:
"Any one wanting me, Tommy?"
"Sure--two or three--but nothing serious. Bill Snedden wanted you to
come out and see his horse."
"See his horse!" exclaimed the doctor in surprise.
"Yes, Democracy hasn't been feeling well. Just sort of mopin' around
the stall. Not sick--just out of sorts, you know, down-hearted like."
"Well, why doesn't he get Dr. Moody? Horses are not my line."
"O but he says this is different. Democracy is more like a human being
than a horse, and Dr. Moody don't know much about a horse's higher
nature. He says he's scared to have Dr. Moody come out anyway--every
time he comes, a horse dies, and he's gettin' superstitious about it.
T'aint that he has anything against Dr. Moody. He spoke well of him
and said he was nice to have around in time of trouble, he's so
sympathetic and all that, but he don't want to take any chances with
Democracy. He would have liked awful well to see you, doctor. I told
him you'd be home tonight, and he'll give you a ring. No, there was
nothing serious. There was a young fellow here from the city came out
to see Pearl Watson, they said, about some set of books or something.
He got lost in the storm, and frozen pretty badly. He's out at Watsons
yet, I think. But they didn't phone, or anything--at least, I didn't
get it. I just heard about it."
"All right, Tommy," said the doctor, and went on.
In his own apartment he found everything in order. Telephone messages
were laid beside his mail. His slippers and house-coat were laid out.
The coal fire gleamed its welcome.
The doctor's heart was lighter than it had been. His interview with
the old doctor had been very encouraging.
"You are looking better, Clay," the old man had said. "Have you gained
in weight? I thought so. You are going a little easier, and sleeping
out--that's right. And you see you can save yourself in lots of
ways--don't you? Good! I'm pleased with you. I hear they are after you
to run against the Government. You won't touch it, of course. No good
for a man in your condition. Anyway, a doctor has his own work--and if
you keep your head down, and get away every winter, you'll live to be
an old man yet."
The doctor sat down to read his mail. There were the usual letters
from old patients, prospective patients, people who had wonderful
remedies and had been cruelly snubbed by the medical profession. He
glanced through them casually, but with an absentmindedness which did
not escape his housekeeper when she came in.
Mrs. Burns was determined to tell him something, so determined, that
as soon as she entered, he felt it coming. He knew that was why she
came. The bluff of asking him if he got his telephone messages was too
Mrs. Burns was a sad looking woman, with a tired voice. It was not
that Mrs. Burns was tired or sad, but in that part of the East from
which she had come, all the better people spoke in weary voices of
"Well, Mrs. Burns," the doctor said, "what has happened today?" He
knew he was going to get it anyway--so he might as well ask for it.
"George Steadman was in an awful state about the young fellow who came
out from the city to see Pearl Watson. He got lost in the storm, and
stayed three days at Paines, and then Pearl came over and took him
home with her. Some say the Government sent him about the piece in the
paper, and some say he's her beau. I don't know. Mrs. Crocks saw Pearl
when she brought him in, and she could get nothing out of her. He's at
the hotel still, though nobody seems to know what his business is."
"O well," laughed the doctor, "we'll just have to watch him. Don't
leave washings on the line, and lock our doors--he can't scare us."
Mrs. Burns afterwards told Mrs. Crocks that "Doctor Clay can be
very light at times, and it seems hardly the thing, considering his
Mrs. Burns could never quite forgive herself for leaving so early that
night, and almost lost her religion, because no still small voice
prompted her to stay. Just as she left the office, the young man, the
mysterious stranger, came to the door, and Mrs. Burns knew there was
no use going back through the drug store and listening at the door.
The doctor had heavy curtains at each door in his office, and had a