Part 4 out of 5
way of leaving the key in the door, that cut off the last hope. So she
went home in great heaviness of spirit.
P.J. Neelands presented his card, and was given a leather chair
beside the fire. He asked the doctor if he might smoke, and was given
"I am going to talk to you in confidence, Doctor Clay," he said,
nervously. "I guess you're used to that."
The doctor nodded encouragingly: "That's what doctors are for. Go
right on, Mr. Neelands."
"The fact of the matter is--I'm in love," said Peter, taking the head
"O that's nothing," said the doctor. "I mean--that's nothing to worry
"But she does not care a hang for me. In fact, she laughs at me."
Peter's face was clouded in perplexity.
"But I'll begin at the beginning: I belong to the Young Men's
Political Club in the city, and I was sent out here--at least, I
mean I asked to come on a delicate mission. I'm speaking to you
confidentially, of course."
"Of course," said the doctor, "have no fears."
"Well, perhaps you saw this." He produced the article that had caused
the fluttering in the Governmental nest.
The doctor suddenly came to attention.
"Do you know who wrote it? No! Well anyway, I came out to see about
it--to investigate--look over the ground. But, doctor, I got the
surprise of my life. This girl is a wonder."
"Well," the doctor's sympathetic manner had gone. He was sitting
up very straight in his chair now, and his eyes were snapping with
suppressed excitement. "What did you think you could do about it? Did
you think you could stop her--hush her up--or scare her--or bribe
"I did not know," said Peter honestly. "But I want to tell you what
happened. I was three days at Paine's--caught by the storm--do you
know them? Well, it's a good place to go to see what women are up
against. I was mad enough to throw old Paine out of his own house, and
I found out he was going to sell the farm over her head, and By Jove!
I see why the women want to vote, don't you?"
"I've always seen why," replied the doctor. "I thought every one with
any intelligence could see the justice of it." The doctor's manner was
losing its friendliness, but Peter, intent on his own problems, did
not resent it.
"Well, just when this man Gilchrist came to sign the papers, the
morning I left, she came in--Pearl Watson, I mean--and Doctor, I
never heard anything like it. Talk about pleading a case! She did not
plead--she just reviewed the case--she put it up to Gilchrist--it was
marvellous! If she had asked me to shoot the two of them, I would
have done it. She had me--she has me yet--she's the most charming,
sweet-souled and wonderful girl I ever saw."
The doctor endeavored to speak calmly:
"Well, what about it?" he said. "I agree with you--she is all of
"I am going back to resign from the party. I am going to throw my
weight on the other side," Peter spoke with all the seriousness
of youth. "The girl has shown me what a beastly, selfish lot the
politicians are, and I am going back to denounce them, if they won't
change. But I want to ask you something, Doctor--you won't think I am
cheeky, will you? She gave me absolutely no hope--but girl's sometimes
change their minds. I would wait for years for her. I simply can't
live without her. I thought from the way she spoke there was some
one else--if there is--I will just crawl away and die--I can't live
"O shut up," said the doctor impatiently. "Better men than you have to
live without--the women they love--that's foolish talk."
"Well, tell me, doctor," cried Peter desperately, "I just have to
know. Is there any reason why I can't hope to win her? Do you know of
any reason--you know Pearl well. Is there any reason that you know of?
Has any one any right--to stop me from trying?"
The doctor considered. Here was just the situation he had told Pearl
he hoped would arise. This young fellow was clean, honest, and there
was no doubt of his deep sincerity. He had told Pearl she must forget
him. He had tried to mean it, and here it was--here was the very
situation he said he hoped for. He would play up--he could make
himself do what was right, no matter how he felt.
He heard himself say mechanically:
"There is no reason, Mr. Neelands; Pearl is free to decide. No one has
the smallest claim on her."
Peter sprang up and caught his hand, wondering why it should be so
cold. He also wondered at the flush which burned on the doctor's
"Thanks, old man," he cried impulsively, "I cannot tell you how I
thank you. You have rolled a house off me--and now, tell me you wish
me well--I want your good word."
The doctor took his outstretched hand, with an effort.
"I wish you well," he said slowly, in a voice that was like a shadow
of his own.
When Peter had gone, the doctor rose and paced the floor.
"I'm a liar and a hypocrite," he said bitterly. "I don't wish him
well. I said what was not so when I said I hoped to see her married
to some one else--I don't--I want her myself. I can't give her up! I
won't give her up!"
The next morning, before the doctor started to make his calls, Robert
Gilchrist, President of the Political Club, came to see him, again.
"I am not satisfied with that interview we had with you, doctor," he
said, "the day the organizer was here. That fellow made a mess of
everything, and I don't blame you for turning it down. But I tell you,
there's more in it than this fellow thinks. There is a real moral
issue to be decided, and I am here to admit I've had a new look at
things in the last few days. I am going into the city to see our
leader, and I want to see how he feels. But, doctor, some of our laws
are simply disgraceful; they've got to be changed."
He went on to tell the doctor of the day he went to buy Sylvester
"I never felt any meaner than when Pearl told me what it meant, and
what I was doing. Doctor, if you had seen the look in Mrs. Paine's
face when Pearl was putting it up to me; Lord, it was tragic. It was
as if her hope of Heaven was in dispute, and didn't Pearl put it to
me? Say, doctor, that girl can swing an election. No one can resist
her arguments--she's so fair about everything--no one can get away
from her arguments. The reason these laws have been left the way they
are, is that no one knows about them. Did you know that a man can sell
everything, and do what he likes with the money, no matter what his
wife says--and did you know a man can take his children away from the
mother--Did you know about these?"
"I did," said the doctor, "in a vague way. Fortunately they do not
often come up--men are better than the laws--and they would need to
"Well, doctor, I'll tell you what I want to say. I believe it is your
duty to run. The women need a few members there to stick up for them.
Pearl thinks our party is all right too--she says they'll grant the
vote--if they get in--and she was at the big meeting where the women
asked them to make it a plank in their platform. She says some of
the old hide-bound politicians gagged a little, but they swallowed
it--they had to." "I wish you could hear Pearl talk, doctor. She
seemed disappointed when I told her you weren't going to run."
"You haven't thought of any one else, Bob?" the doctor asked, after a
pause. "You wouldn't consider it yourself?"
"Any one else but you will surely lose his deposit. The bridge at
Purple Springs will hold them over there, and they have taken off a
slice on the east of the riding and put it in Victoria--where it is
sure to go against the Government anyway. No, this will go to Steadman
by acclamation, unless you let us nominate you."
"Well, I'll reconsider," said the doctor, "and phone you inside of
When Mr. Gilchrist had gone, the doctor sat with his hands behind his
head. His eyes were very bright, and a flush mantled his cheek. His
heart thumped so hard, he could hear it.
"Keep away from excitement, Clay," he could hear the old doctor
saying, "excitement eats up your energy and does not give the builders
a chance. With care, and patience, you may win--but if you will not
save yourself, and nurse yourself, and go slow--you are a dead man!"
He pressed his hands tightly to his head.
"Pearl had been disappointed," Bob had said. It would be a disgrace to
let this riding go by default. There was the liquor question which had
hung fire for fourteen years, while the Government had simply played
with it, and laughed at the temperance people. If women had the vote,
what a power Pearl would be!
Still, one vote in Parliament was nothing--one man could do but
little--and besides, the old doctor had found him improved--he might
be able to beat out the disease yet--by being careful. A campaign
would mean late hours, long drives, meeting people--making
speeches--which he hated--the worst kind of excitement--to move a vote
of thanks tired him more than a week's work.
Still, Pearl would be pleased--he hadn't done much for Pearl. He had
won her love--and then had to turn it away--and had seen those eyes of
her's cloud in disappointment. It had been a raw deal.
Looking through the window, he saw Bertie, with his team, waiting
outside the door. He was letting Bertie take full care of his horses
now, and saving himself in that way.
The sorrel horse on the side next him tossed his head, and chewed the
bit, with a defiant air that set waves of memory in motion. He had
bought this fine four-year-old, because he had reminded him of old
Prince--the same color--the same markings, and the same hard mouth and
defiant red eye.
Usually, he did not keep Bertie waiting--but this morning it did not
matter--there were other things to be decided. The sorrel horse seemed
to be looking at him through the office window.
"There was another sorrel horse to take your place, Prince," said the
doctor, looking at the big sorrel, but thinking of his predecessor;
"although that did not influence you in any way--you left that to me
to find out--you considered that my business. I believe I will be safe
in leaving it to some one higher up to get another doctor to take my
place--doctors--and sorrel horses--there are plenty of them. You had
the right philosophy, Prince. No one else could have saved the woman's
life--so you did that--and let me rustle for another horse. I'll do
the same--after all--it is not individuals who count--it is the race.
We do our bit--and pass on. Straight ahead of me seems to be a piece
of work I can do--and if I have to pay for the privilege of doing
it--I'll pay--without regrets."
He reached for the telephone, and called Mr. Gilchrist.
"Hello Bob," he said steadily, "I've reached a decision. No, it didn't
take me long. Yes, I will. I'll accept the nomination. All right
Bob--I hope so. Thank you for your good opinion--All right."
When Peter J. Neelands returned to the city, he sought an interview
with his Chief. It was a bold stroke, Mr. Neelands knew, but the
circumstances warranted it. He must lay the matter before his superior
officer; as a loyal member of the party, he must bring in a warning.
He must make the Government understand.
The old leader was one of the most approachable of men, genial,
kindly, friendly. The interview was arranged without difficulty, and
Peter, with his heart beating uncomfortably, was shown by the old
retainer who kept guard in the outside office through the blue velvet
hangings into the Chief's private office.
At a long oaken table, on which were scattered a few trade journals
and newspapers, he found the great man. An unlighted cigar was in his
mouth, and he sat leaning back in a revolving chair.
"Well, Peter, my son--how are you?" he said gaily, extending his hand.
"And so you feel you must see the old man on business of importance,
vital importance to our country's welfare. That's good; glad to see
you, take a chair beside me and tell uncle who hit you."
The Chief was a man of perhaps sixty years of age, of florid
countenance, red mustache, turning gray, splendidly developed
forehead, dark gray eyes with wire-like wrinkles radiating from them,
which seemed to have been caused more by laughter than worry; a big,
friendly voice of great carrying power, and a certain bluff, good
fellowship about him which marked him as a man who was born to rule
his fellowmen, but to do it very pleasantly.
Peter was complimented to be received so cordially. He was sure he
could make this genial, courteous, kindly old gentleman see certain
questions from a new view-point. He must see it.
"Perhaps you have heard of a girl at Millford who is making somewhat
of a stir along the lines of the Woman Suffrage question," Peter
The great man nodded, and having begun to nod, absent-mindedly
continued, much to Peter's discomfiture. Peter hastily reviewed the
case, though he could see his listener was bored exceedingly.
"Now, what I want you to do, sir," he said earnestly, "is this. Let
this girl come and address the members of the Government and the
Legislature--I mean our members--privately, of course. Let her show
you the woman's side of the question. I know, sir, you turned them
down when the delegation came, but a man can always change his mind.
The thing is inevitable; the vote is coming. If this Government does
not give it--the Government will go down to defeat."
The Chief stopped nodding, and the amiability of his face began to
cloud over. He sat up very suddenly and spread his plump hands on the
"The Opposition have endorsed Woman Suffrage, sir," said Peter
earnestly. "They are making it a plank in their platform."
"Sure they have," cried the Premier, with a laugh, "sure they have.
They are big enough fools to endorse anything! What do we care what
"But I want to get this over to you, Mr. Graham, that we are losing
our opportunity to do a big thing, something that will live in
history, if we fail to give women the vote. Women are human, they have
a right to a voice in their own government, and if you would just let
this girl come out and talk to you--and the members."
"Look here, Peter," said the great man tolerantly, "I like
enthusiasm--the world is built on it. But I'm an old man now, and have
been a long time dealing with the public and with politics. Politics
is a dirty mess--it's no place for women, and I certainly do not
need to be instructed by any eighteen-year-old girl, pleasant as the
process might be. I believe all you say about her--and her charm. You
had better go and marry her--if you want to."
Peter's face colored. "I would be very happy to do so, but she turned
me down, sir."
"Don't be discouraged, lad; a woman's 'no' generally means 'yes',"
said his Chief. "Now, even if she could talk like the Angel Gabriel, I
won't let her at the members of this Government--I'll tell you why.
I have these fellows trotting easy. They're good boys--they do as
they're told. Now what's the use of getting them excited and confused.
Peter, you know how it is with the Indians--in their wild state,
eating rabbits and digging roots--they're happy, aren't they? Sure
they are. If you bring them into town, show them street-cars and shop
windows and take them to theatres, you excite them and upset them,
that's all. O no, Peter, I'll take no chances on spoiling my
simple-hearted country members by turning loose this orb-eyed young
charmer who has thrown you clean off your trolley."
"But, sir, consider the case yourself; won't you admit, sir, that the
laws are fearfully unjust to women?" Peter began to explain, but the
"Peter, the world is very old; certain things are established by
usage, and the very fact that this is so argues that it should be so.
Women are weaker than men--I did not make them so--God made them so.
He intended them to be subject to men. Don't get excited over it. It
sounds well to talk about equality--but there's no such thing. It did
not exist in God's mind, so why should we try to bring it about? No,
no, Peter, women are subject to men, and always will be. It would
not do to make them independent in the eyes of the law, independent
economically. If they were they would not marry. Look at the women
in the States--where in some places they vote--look at the type that
develops. What does it bring?--race-suicide, divorce--free love. I'm
an old-fashioned man, Peter, I believe in the home."
"So do I," said Peter, "with all my heart."
The great man began to show signs of impatience.
"Before I go," said Peter earnestly, "let me make one more appeal to
you. This is a live issue. It cannot be dismissed by a wave of the
hand. Will you listen to a debate on it--will you let it be discussed
in your hearing?"
The old man considered a moment--then he said:
"This will wear off you, Peter. I, too, have been young. I understand.
Forget it, boy, and get back to normal. No, I will not hear it
discussed. I know all about it--all I want to know. I don't know why
I am wasting so much time on you and your particular type of
foolishness, Peter. I have people like you seeing me every day.
Usually they are dealt with by Mr. Price, in the outer office. He has
orders to put the can on them and open the door. O no, Peter, there
will be no radical measures while I sit at the helm--I am too old to
change my mind."
Peter began to put on his gloves. The older man held out his hand.
"Well, good-bye, Peter," he said kindly, "come again--come any
time--always glad to see you."
"I will not be back," said Peter quietly, "this is good-bye. If I
cannot show you that you are wrong, I will go out and help the women
to show the people that you are wrong. Pearl says if the Premier is
too old to change his mind we will do the next best thing."
"And what is that?"
"Change the Premier," Peter replied, steadily.
The old man laughed, with uproarious mirth.
"Peter, you're funny, all right; you're rich; I always did enjoy the
prattle of children, but I can't fool away any more time on you--so
run along and sell your papers."
Peter went through the blue velvet hangings, past the worthy henchman,
who sat dozing in his chair, and made his way to the front door. The
mural decorations in the corridor caught his eye--the covered wagon,
drawn by oxen plodding patiently into the sunset--the incoming
settlers of the pioneer days.
"I wonder if the women did not do their full share of that," he
thought. "They worked, suffered, hoped, endured--and made the country
what it is. I wonder how any man has the nerve to deny them a voice in
their own affairs."
While Peter was taking his departure, and before he had reached the
front gate, one of the many bells which flanked the Premier's table
was wildly rung.
"Send Banks to me," he said crisply, to the lackey who appeared.
The genial mood had gone; his brows were clamped low over his eyes. He
had chewed the end off his cigar.
"Every time the women raise ructions it sets me thinking of her. I
wonder what became of her," he murmured. "The ground seems to have
swallowed her. She might have known I did not mean it; but women don't
reason--they just feel."
The news of P.J. Neelands' resignation from the Young Men's Political
Club made a ripple of excitement in Government circles, and brought
forth diverse comments.
"There's a girl in it, I hear," said one of the loungers at the Maple
Leaf Club; "some pretty little suffragette has won over our Peter."
"He does not deny it," said another, "he'll tell you the whole
story--and believe me, Peter is an enthusiastic supporter of the
women's cause now. I see in this morning's paper he made a speech for
them last night called 'The Chivalry of the Law.' Peter has the blood
of the martyrs in him for sure--for he was in a straight line for the
nomination here in 'Centre.'"
"Peter Neelands makes me tired," said a third gloomily. "Why does he
need to get all fussed up over the laws relating to women--they have
too much liberty now--they can swear away a man's character--that's
one thing I'd like to see changed. It's dangerous, I tell you."
The first man finished the discussion:
"I always liked Peter, and am sorry he's quit us. He'll have a
following, too, just because he does believe in himself."
Though the loungers at the Maple Leaf Club took the news of Peter
Neeland's secession with composure, mingled with amusement, the chief
organizer, Mr. Banks, viewed it with alarm, and voiced his fears to
the head of his department, who sat in his accustomed chair, with a
bottle of the best beside him. The Honorable member listened, but
refused to be alarmed. It was past the third hour of the afternoon,
and the rainbow haze was over everything.
"I tell you," said Mr. Banks, "something is going to break if we
can't get this thing stopped. The women are gaining every day. Their
meetings are getting bigger, and now look at Peter Neelands. This
Watson girl has got to be canned--got rid of--if we have to send her
to do immigration work in London, England."
The honorable member did his best to hold his head steady.
"Do what you like, Banks," he said thickly, "only save the country.
My country if she's right; my country if she's wrong; but always my
country! 'Lives there a man with soul so dead,' eh, Banks? That's the
dope--what? Damn the women--but save the home--we gotta' save the
Oliver Banks looked at him in deep contempt, and shook his head.
"These birds make things hard for us," he murmured. "He looks like a
Minister of the Crown now, doesn't he? Lord! wouldn't he make a sight
for the women! I'd like to hear their description of him just as he
The minister sat with his pudgy hands spread out on the arms of his
chair. His head rolled uncertainly, like a wilting sunflower on a
broken stalk. His under lip was too full to fit his face. If he had
been a teething infant one would have been justified in saying he was
The organizer called a waiter and instructed him to phone to the
gentleman's house and speak to his chauffeur.
"Tell him to take the old man home," he said briefly, "he seems to
"Very good, sir," said the waiter, without a flicker of an eyelash.
Then the organizer went to a telephone booth and called George
Steadman, of Millford, requesting him to come at once to the city on
THE WOMAN OF PURPLE SPRINGS
None of us has lived long without discovering that everything he
has he pays for; that every gain has a corresponding loss; that a
development even of one of our own faculties, is at the expense of
the others. The wild wheat is small and dwarfed in size in its native
state, but very hardy. Under persistent cultivation it grows bigger
and more productive, but, unfortunately, susceptible to the frost. The
wild rabbit when domesticated grows bigger and more beautiful, but
loses his speed and cleverness. So it is all through life--it all
comes in the bill--we cannot escape the day of reckoning.
If Pearl Watson had not had a taste for political speeches and
debates; if she had read the crochet patterns in the paper instead of
the editorials, and had spent her leisure moments making butterfly
medallions for her camisoles, or in some other ladylike pursuit,
instead of leaning over the well-worn railing around the gallery of
the Legislative Assembly, in between classes at the Normal, she would
have missed much; but she would have gained something too.
For one thing, she would have had an easier time getting a
boarding-house in the Purple Springs District, and would not be
standing looking disconsolately out at the Spring sunshine, one day at
the end of April, wondering, with a very sore heart, why nobody wanted
to give her board and shelter. It was a new and painful sensation for
Pearl, and it cut deeply.
Mrs. Zinc could not keep her beyond May the first, for relatives were
coming from the East. Mrs. Cowan could not take her, for she had too
much to do as it was--and could not get help that wasn't more trouble
than it was worth. They would waste more than their wages, and what
they did not waste they would steal. Mrs. Cowan's tongue was unloosed
by the memory of her wrongs, and it was half an hour before Pearl
could get away. Mrs. Cowan had surely suffered many things at the
hands of help of all nationalities. She had got them from employment
bureaus, government and private; from the Salvation Army and from
private friends in the old country. Her help had come from everywhere
except from the Lord! No indeed, she couldn't take any one to board.
A careful canvass of the neighborhood had resulted in disappointment;
not one home was available. Embarrassment had sat on the faces of many
of the women when they talked with her about it, and Pearl was quick
to see that there was something back of it all, and the antagonism of
the unknown lay heavily on her heart.
The yellow Spring sun, like liquid honey, fell in benediction on the
leafless trees, big with buds, and on the tawny mat of grass through
which the blue noses of anemones were sticking. Cattle eagerly cropped
the dead grass and found it good, and men were at work in the fields.
They all had homes and beds, Pearl thought, with a fresh burst of
She had prepared her blackboards for the next day, and made her desk
tidy, and was just about to leave for the day and walk the mile to
Mrs. Howser's to see if she could make it her abiding place, when
Bessie Cowan came running with a letter.
"Please, teacher," said Bessie, out of breath from running, "Ma
thought this might be an important letter, and you should have it
right away. It came in our mail."
Pearl took it, wonderingly. It bore the official seal of the
Department of Education. Only once had she received such a letter, and
that was when she received permission to attend the Normal. When she
opened it, she read:
"Dear Madam:--You have been recommended to us by the Principal of the
Normal School for special work required by this Department, and we
will be pleased to have you come to our office inside of the next week
for instructions. We will pay you a salary of one hundred dollars a
month, and travelling expenses, and we believe you will find the work
congenial. Kindly reply as soon as possible."
Pearl's heart was throbbing with excitement. Here was a way of escape
from surroundings which, for some unknown reason, were uncomfortable
Bessie Cowan watched her closely, but said not a word. Bessie was a
fair-skinned little girl, with eyes far apart, and a development of
forehead which made her profile resemble a rabbit's.
"Thank you, Bessie" said Pearl, "I am glad to have this." She sat
at her desk and began to write. Bessie ran home eagerly to tell her
mother how the letter had been received.
Pearl decided to write an acceptance, and to 'phone home to her mother
before sending it.
When the letter was written she sat in a pleasant dream, thinking of
the new world that had opened before her. "Travelling expenses," had a
sweet sound in her young ears--she would go from place to place,
meet new people, and all the time be learning something--learning
Pearl winced a little when she recalled Mrs. Crock's words when she
came through Millford on her way to Purple Springs:
"The doctor should be the candidate, but I guess Miss Keith won't let
him. They say he's holdin' off to run for the Dominion House next
Fall. You maybe could coax him to run, Pearl. Have you seen him
lately? Miss Keith was down twice last week, and he went up for
Sunday. It looks as if they were keepin' close company--oh well, he's
old enough to know his own mind, and it will be nice to have the
Senator's daughter livin' here. It would give a little style to the
place, and that's what we're short of. But it's nothing to me--I don't
care who he marries!"
Pearl had hurried away without answering. Mrs. Crocks' words seemed
to darken the sun, and put the bite of sharp ice in the gentle spring
breeze. Instead of forgetting him, every day of silence seemed to lie
heavier on her heart; but one thing Pearl had promised herself--she
would not mope--she would never cry over it!
She read the letter over and tried to picture what it would mean. A
glow of gratitude warmed her heart when she thought of the Normal
School Principal and his kindness in recommending her. She would
fulfil his hopes of her, too. She would do her work well. She would
lose herself in her work, and forget all that had made her lonely and
miserable. It was a way of escape--the Lord was going to let her down
over the wall in a basket.
There was a very small noise behind her, a faint movement as if a
mouse had crossed the threshold.
She turned quickly, and gave a cry of surprise and delight.
At the door, shyly looking in at her, was a little boy of perhaps ten
years of age, with starry eyes of such brilliance and beauty she could
see no other feature. He looked like a little furry squirrel, who
would be frightened by the slightest sound.
For a moment they looked at each other; then from the boy, in a
trembling voice, clear and high pitched, came the words:
The tremble in his voice went straight to Pearl's heart.
"Yes, dear," she said, "come right in--I want you--I'm lonesome--and I
like little boys like you."
His eyes seemed to grow more luminous and wistful.
"I can't come in," he said. "I can't come into the school at all--not
the least little bit--I have an ungovernable temper."
"I'm not afraid," said Pearl gravely, "I am very brave that way, and
don't mind at all. Who says you have?"
"The trustees," he said and his voice began to quiver. "They sent
mother a letter about me."
"O, I know you now, James," said Pearl, "come in--I want to talk to
you. I was going to see you just as soon as I got settled."
Cautiously he entered; the out-door wildness was in his graceful
movements. He stooped a few feet away from her and said again:
Pearl smiled back, reassuringly, and his eyes responded.
"Did you get a place yet?" he asked eagerly.
"No, I didn't," she answered. She was going to tell him that she would
not need a place, for she was going away, but something stopped her.
Somehow she could not dim the radiance of those eager eyes.
"Teacher!" he cried coming nearer, "would you come and live with us?
My mother is just sweet, and she would like to have you. She is away
today, to Millford, and won't be home till eight o'clock. I stayed at
home because I wanted to see you. My mother watched you going to the
houses--we can see all of them from our house--and every time you
came away from them--she was glad. We have a spy-glass, and we could
see--that's how we knew how nice you were, teacher"--he was almost
near enough to touch her now. "You can have my bed if you will come."
Pearl wanted to draw him to her and kiss the fear forever from his
face, but she was still afraid he might vanish if she touched him.
"My mother thinks you are nice," he said softly. "We saw you patting
Cowan's dog and walking home with the children. One day we saw you
walking home with Edgar Zinc. He held your hand--and my mother got to
thinking that it might have been me that you had by the hand, and
she cried that day, and couldn't tell why. It wasn't because she was
lonely--because she never is lonely. How could she be when she has me?
She tells me every day she is not lonely. But we'd like fine to have
you live with us, teacher, because you're nice."
Pearl's arm was around him now, and he let her draw him over to her.
"Tell me all about yourself," she said, with a curious tugging at her
"We're orphans," he said simply, "mother and I--that means our people
are dead. We had no people, only just our daddy. We didn't need any
people only him, and he's dead. And then we had Mr. Bowen--and he's
dead. Don't it beat all how people die? Are you an orphan?"
Pearl shook her head.
James continued: "We're waiting here until I get bigger and mother
gets enough money--and then we're going back. It's lovely to be going
back. This isn't the real Purple Springs--we just called it that for
fun, and because we love the name. It makes us happier when we say it.
It reminds us. Mother will tell you if you live with us."
"At night we light the fire and watch it crackling, and I sit on
mother's knee. Ain't I a big boy to sit on a lady's knee?--and she
tells me. At Purple Springs there's pansies as big as plates--mother
will draw them for you--and the rocks are always warm, and the streams
are boiling hot, and nobody is ever sick there or tired. Daddy
wouldn't have died if we'd stayed there. But there's things in life no
one understands. We'll never leave when we go back."
The boy rambled on, his eyes shining with a great excitement. Pearl
thought she was listening to the fanciful tales with which a lonely
woman beguiled the weary hours for her little son It was a weirdly
extravagant fairy story, and yet it fascinated Pearl in spite of it's
unlikeness to truth. It had all the phantasy of a midsummer night's
The boy seemed to answer her thoughts.
"Ain't it great to have something lovely to dream over, teacher? I bet
you've got sweet dreams, too. Mother says that what kills people's
souls is when they have no purple springs in their lives. She says
she's sorry for lots of people They live and walk around, but their
souls are dead, because their springs have dried up."
Pearl drew him closer to her. He was so young--and yet so old--so
happy, and yet so lonely. She wanted to give him back a careless,
happy, irresponsible childhood, full of frolicking fun and mischief,
without care or serious thought. She longed to see him grubby-fisted
bare-footed, tousle-haired, shouting and wrestling with her young
tykes of brothers. It was not natural or happy to see a child so
elfin, so remote, so conscious of the world's sorrows.
"Will you come with me now, teacher?" he asked eagerly.
Pearl could not resist the appeal. The sun hung low in an amber haze
as they left the school and took the unfrequented road to the brown
house on the hill--the house of mystery.
The air was full of the drowsy sounds of evening; cattle returning
after their day's freedom in the fields, cow-bells tinkling
contentedly. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked; and on the gentle
breeze came the song of a hermit thrush, with an undertone of cooing
pigeons. The acrid smell of burning leaves was in the air.
The river valley ran into the sunset with its bold scrub-covered
banks, on the high shoulder of which the railway cut made a deep welt,
purple now with evening. Every day the westbound train, with its gray
smoke spume laid back on its neck like a mane, slid swiftly around the
base of the hill until the turn in the river made it appear to go into
a tunnel, for the opposite bank obscured it from view. It re-appeared
again, a mile farther west, and its smoke could be followed by the eye
for many miles as it made its way to the city. This year it was the
Government's promise that the river would be bridged at Purple Springs
and the road made more direct.
"Mother says no one could be lonely when they can see the trains,"
said James Gray. "Mother just loves the trains--they whistle to us
every day. They would stop and talk to us only they're in such a
When her young escort led Pearl Watson into the living-room she gave
an exclamation of delight. A low ceiling, with weathered beams; a
floor covered with bright-colored, hand-made rugs, bookcases
filled with books, a few pictures on the wall, and many pieces of
artistically constructed furniture.
"Mother makes these in the winter, she and I. We work all evening,
and then we make toast at the fireplace and play the phonograph and
pretend we have visitors. Ever since we knew you were coming you've
been our visitor, and now tonight I'll hide you, and mother will think
I'm just pretending, and then you'll come out, and mother will think
she's dreaming again."
Pearl helped her young friend to milk the two fine cows that came up
to the bars expectantly, after which the evening meal was prepared,
and Pearl was amazed at the deft manner in which the boy set about his
work. He told her more about calories and food values and balanced
meals than the Domestic Science Department at the Normal School had
"How do you know all this?" she asked him in surprise.
"Mother reads it in books and tells me. Mother learns everything
first, and tells me--she is determined," said the boy gravely, "that
I will have just as good a chance as other children. She says if
she ever did anything that wasn't right, and which made it hard for
me--she'll make it up. Mother says God is often up against it with
people, too. He has to let things happen to them--bad things--but He
can always make it up to them--and He will! Do you think that too,
"I am sure of it," said Pearl, with a catch in her throat and a sudden
chill of doubt. Were there some things which even God could not make
up to us?
The fireplace was laid with red willow wood, and when everything was
ready, and the hour had come when Mrs. Gray was expected home, Pearl
and James waited in the big chair before the fire, which darted
tongues of purple flame and gave a grateful heat, for the evening was
chilly. They did not light the lamp at all, for the light from the
fire threw a warm glow over the room.
A great peace seemed to have come to Pearl's heart. The neighbors of
Purple Springs, with their inhospitable hearts, seemed far away and
unreal. That thought in some occult way came to her with comforting
power from the spirit which dwelt in this home.
For three years no friendly foot had come to this threshold, no one
had directed a friendly thought to the woman who lived here, nor to
the child; yet woman and child had lived on happily in spite of this,
and now to Pearl, on whom the taboo of the neighborhood had also
fallen, there came the peace of mind which could set quietly at
defiance the opinion of the little world which surrounded her.
So intent were Pearl and James on the story that Pearl was telling
they did not hear the buggy, which drove up to the house. Mrs. Gray
got out and took out her parcels at the front door. The leaping flames
from the fire-place in the pretty room, made a picture she loved well.
It was so significant of home--and it is those who have not always had
a home who love it best. She stopped to watch the light as it danced
on the shelves of books and the brightly colored hangings and rugs.
Seeing Pearl in the big chair, with her arm around the boy, Annie
Gray's heart gave a leap of rapture. Her boy had a companion--a human
comrade other than herself. It had come at last! The dream had come
true! She watched Pearl, fascinated, fearful. Was it a dream, or was
there really a human being, and such a lovely one, a guest at her
With a quick movement she flung open the door James ran to his mother
with a welcoming shout. Then Pearl stood up, and the two women shook
hands without a word. They looked long into each other's eyes; then
with a quick impulse, and a sudden illumination, Pearl put her arms
around the older woman and kissed her.
Annie Gray held her away from her, so she could look at her again.
Then with a laugh that was half a sob, she said:
"Prayers--are--sometimes--answered," and without any warning,
surprising herself even more than she did the others--she began to
cry. Three years is a long time.
THE END OF A LONELY ROAD
When Pearl opened her eyes the next morning it was with a delicious
sense of well-being, which increased as she looked about her. It may
have been the satiny smoothness of the sheets, the silk eiderdown
quilt, with its plumy yellow chrysanthemums, the pale yellow scrim
curtains, across whose lower borders young brown ducks followed each
other in stately procession; the home-made table with its gray linen
runner, across which a few larger ducks paraded, and which held a
large lamp, with a well-flounced shade; the soft buff walls, with
their border of yellow autumn woods, sun-sweet and cool, with
leaf-strewn paths that would be springy to walk on. It may have been
these, for Pearl's heart could easily be set tingling by a flash of
color that pleased her. But there is no doubt the room had a presence,
a strong, buoyant, cheerful presence. It had been furnished to defy
loneliness. Who could be lonely looking down at a thick plushy rug of
woolly white sheep, shading into yellow, lying on the very greenest of
grass, beside a whimsical little twisting stream that you were just
sure had speckled trout in it, darting over its gravelly bottom, if
your eyes were only quick enough to catch the flash of them; and who
wouldn't be glad to wash in a basin that was just lined with yellow
roses, with a few of them falling out over the sides; and who wouldn't
accept the gift of a towel from a hospitable oak hand, which held out
a whole bouquet of them--one on each finger; towels with all sorts of
edgings and insertions and baskets of flowers and monograms on them
just begging you to take your choice. And if anything else were needed
to keep the heart from dull gray loneliness, or ugly black fear, on
the wall over the bed was a big gilt-framed picture of an amber-eyed,
white-collared, blessed collie dog, with the faintest showing of his
red tongue, big and strong and faithful, just to remind you that
though changes befall and friends betray and hopes grow cold,
faithfulness and affection have not entirely vanished from the earth.
Pearl's sense of freedom, of power, of comfort, seemed to increase as
she lay watching the spot of sunshine which fell on the rug with its
flock of sheep and seemed to bring them alive. The whole room seemed
to fit around her, the ceiling bent over her like a kind face,
the walls, pictures, and furniture were like a group of friends
encouraging her, inspiring her, soothing her.
Pearl searched her mind for a word to describe it. "It feels
like--Saturday--" she said at last, "--freedom, rest, plans,
ambitions--it has them all, and it has something deeper still in
it--it is like a section of a tree, in which history can be read,
storms and winds and sunshine," for Pearl knew instinctively that it
was a tower-room that Annie Gray had made for an armor for her soul,
so it would not be pierced by the injustice and unkindness of the
"They do not understand," Pearl said again, "that's all--they do not
mean to be so horrid to her--it's queer how badly people can treat
each other and their conscience let them get away with it. Even if
Mrs. Gray had been all they said, she had not done any wrong to
them--why should they feel called upon to punish her? Well, I can tell
them a few things now."
A fire burned in the fireplace, and the breakfast-table was set in
front of it. Mrs. Gray, in an attractive mauve house-gown, came in
from the kitchen. She was a tall woman, with steel gray eyes, with
pebblings of green--the eyes of courage and high resolve. Her features
were classical in their regularity, and reminded Pearl of the faces in
her history reproduced from the Greek coins, lacking only the laurel
wreath. Her hair was beginning to turn gray, and showed a streak at
each side, over her temples. A big black braid was rolled around her
perfectly round head; a large green jade brooch, with a braided silver
edge, fastened her dress. Her hands were brown and hard, but long,
shapely and capable looking.
The boy was sleeping late, so Pearl and her hostess ate their
"Will you let me stay with you, Mrs. Gray," Pearl asked, when
breakfast was over. "I will make my own bed, keep my things tidy, try
not to spill my tea. I will wipe my feet, close the screen door, and
get up for breakfast."
Mrs. Gray looked across the table, with her dear eyes fastened on her
guest. Suddenly they began to grow dim with tears.
"Pearl," she said, laughing, "I don't know what there is about you
that makes me want to cry. I've gone through some rough places in life
without a tear, but you seem to have a way all your own to start me
"But I don't hurt you, do I?" Pearl asked, in distress. "Surely I
don't--I wouldn't do that for the world."
"Not a bit of it," laughed her hostess, as she wiped her eyes, and
then, blinking hard to clear away the last traces of grief, she said:
"Pearl, before you come to board with me you should know something
about me; you have no doubt heard some strange things."
Pearl did not deny it.
"And you should know the whole story, and then judge for yourself
whether you consider I am a fit person to live with."
"But I do already," said Pearl. "I consider you a very proper and
delightful person to live with. I don't want to know a thing about
you unless you care to tell me. You don't know anything about me
either--we both have to take a chance--and I am willing if you are."
"But there will be an insurrection in the neighborhood. They won't let
you, Pearl. They can't forgive me for coming here without reference or
character, and with a child, too."
"Well, he's a pretty fine child," said Pearl, "and, I should say, a
sort of certificate for his mother."
"Well, no matter how fine a child he is--no matter what care a mother
has taken in his training--nothing can atone, in the eyes of society
for the failure of conforming to some of their laws. Society's laws,
not God's laws. Society is no friend to women, Pearl."
"But it is just because people do not think," said Pearl, "They have
made certain laws--and women have not made any protest, so the men
think they are all right."
"And do you know why, Pearl?" she asked. "Women who are caught in the
tangle of these laws, as I was, cannot say a word--their lips
are dumb. The others won't say a word for fear of spoiling their
matrimonial market. The worst thing that can be said of a woman is
that she's queer and strong-minded--and defies custom. If you want to
be happy, Pearl, be self-centered, virtuous, obey the law, and care
nothing for others."
"You don't mean that," said Pearl. "You've been hard hit some way I
do not want to know until you want to tell me. But I am going to stay
with you if you will keep me. I am determined to stay."
Annie Gray's steely eyes clouded over again, like a sun-kissed lake
when a cloud passes over it. They grew deeper, grayer, and of misty
"You are doing something for me, Pearl, that I thought could never be
done; you are restoring my faith. Remember, I have not been as unhappy
as you may think. I had my happiness--that's more than some women can
say. I have had the rapture, the blessedness of love--I've had
it all--the rapture of holding and the agony of loss--I'm only
thirty-one, but I've lived a thousand years. But, Pearl, you've done
something for me already; you have set my feet again on something
solid, and I am a different woman from yesterday. Some day I'll tell
you a strange story until then, you'll trust me?"
"Until then--and far beyond it--forever," said Pearl. "I'll trust
you--I have an idea you and I are going to stick together for a long
Pearl went back to the school and found her letter of acceptance in
the desk. She tore it up and wrote another, thanking the department
for their kindness in offering her such a splendid position, but
explaining that she had decided to stay at the school at Purple
Springs. She made her decision without any difficulty. There was a
deep conviction that the threads of destiny were weaving together her
life and Annie Gray's, and she knew, from some hidden source in
her soul, that she must stand by. What she could do, was vague and
unformed in her mind, but she knew it would be revealed to her.
Pearl, child of the prairie, never could think as clearly when her
vision was bounded by walls. She had to have blue distance--the great,
long look that swept away the little petty, trifling, hampering
things, which so slavishly dominate our lives, if we will let them. So
she took her way to a little lake behind the school, where with the
school axe she had already made a seat for herself under two big
poplar trees, and cut the lower branches of some of the smaller ones,
giving them a neat and tidy appearance, like well-gartered children
dressed for a picnic.
There were a few white birches mixed with the poplars, so delicately
formed and dainty in their slender branches and lacy leaves, they
looked like nice little girls with flowing hair, coming down to bathe
in the blue lake, timidly trying out the water with their white feet.
The trees formed a semi-circle around the east side of the lake,
leaving one side open to view, and she could see the prairie falling
away to the river, which made a wide detour at this point.
Pearl settled herself in her rustic seat, putting the newspaper, which
she had left for the purpose, behind her back as she leaned against
the tree, to keep the powdery bark from marking her blue coat, and
leaning back contentedly, she drank in the spring sounds.
The sun, which stood almost at noon, seemed to draw the leaves out
like a magnet; she could almost believe she saw them unfolding; above
her head there was a perfect riot of bird's song, and a blue-bird,
like a burst of music, went flashing across the water. A gray squirrel
chattered as he ran up a tree behind her, and a rabbit, padding over
the dead leaves on his way to the lake, made a sound like a bear.
Up through the tree tops there had climbed a few blue rags of smoke,
for behind her a sleepy prairie fire was eating backward toward a
ploughed fire-guard, and the delightful acrid smell brought back the
memory of past prairie fires, pleasant enough to think of, as life's
battles are, if they end victoriously. Not a breath stirred in the
trees, and the prairie fire that smouldered so indolently was surely
the gentlest of its race.
Suddenly there came a gust of wind through the trees, which set them
creaking and crackling with vague apprehension, for the wind is
always the mischief maker--the tattler--the brawler who starts the
trouble--and the peaceful, slumbering absent-minded prairie fire,
nibbling away at a few dead roots and grass, had been too much for it.
Here was a perfectly good chance to make trouble which no wind could
A big black cloud went over the sun, and all in a minute the placid
waters of the lake were rasped into a pattern like the soles of new
rubbers--the trees were bending--crows cawing excitedly, and the fire,
spurred by the wind, went racing through the lake bottom and on its
way up the bank toward the open country. The cattle, which had
been feeding at the east side of the lake, sniffing danger, turned
galloping home to furnish an alibi in case of trouble.
But the excitement was short-lived owing to a circumstance which the
wind had overlooked. The wind had made a mistake in its direction, and
so the fire had one wild, glorious race up the bank only to find its
nose run right into a freshly ploughed fire-guard, steaming damp and
richly brown. The fire sputtered, choked and died down, black and
disappointed, leaving only a few smoking clumps of willows.
Then the wind, seeing no further chance of trouble, went crackling
away over the tree tops, and the sun came back, brilliant and warm
as ever, and there was nothing to show that there had been any
excitement, save only the waves on the lake. The wind was gone,
laughing and unrepentant, over the tree-tops; the sun had come back as
genially as if it had never been away--but the lake could not forget,
and it fretted and complained, in a perfectly human way, pounding the
bank in a futile attempt to get back at some one. The bank had not
been to blame, but it had to take the lake's repinings, while the real
culprit went free and unreproached.
Pearl could tell what the lake was saying, as it lashed itself foaming
and pounding just below her feet. It called to the world to listen.
"Look how I'm used," it sobbed, "and abused--and confused."
Pearl put her hands in the silk-lined pockets of her coat, and thought
about what she had just seen.
"Life is like this," she said at last, "human nature is full of
mischief. It loves to start trouble and fan a fire into a destructive
mood; and there's only one way to stop it--plough a fire-guard. I wish
there had been some one here to plough a fire-guard when the fires of
gossip began to run here three years ago."
"I'll go now and dress up, and break the news to the neighborhood that
I am going to the house at Purple Springs to board. There will be
a row--there will be a large row--unless I can make the people
understand, and in a row there is nothing so sustaining as good
clothes--next to the consciousness of being right, of course," she
added after a pause. An hour later, Pearl Watson, in her best dress
of brown silk, with her high brown boots well polished, and her small
brown hat, made by herself, with a band of crushed burnt orange
poppies around the crown, safely anchored and softened by a messaline
drape; with her hair drawn over the tops of her ears, and a smart
fawn summer coat, with buttons which showed a spot of red like a
pigeon-blood ruby. Pearl looked at herself critically in the glass:
"These things should not count," she said, as she fastened a thin veil
over her face and made it very neat at the back with a hairpin, "but
ANNIE GRAY'S STORY
The Purple Springs district was going through a period of intense
excitement. Housework languished, dough ran over, dish-water cooled.
The news which paralyzed household operations came shortly after one
o'clock, when Mrs. Cowan phoned to Mrs. Brownless that the teacher had
just been in, and said she was going to board with the woman who lived
alone. The teacher had said it, according to Mrs. Cowan, in the "most
off-hand manner, just as if she said she had found her jackknife or
her other rubber--just as easy as that, she said she had found a
boarding house. Mrs. Howser could not take her, but Mrs. Gray could,
and she was moving over right away."
Mrs. Cowan, according to her own testimony, nearly dropped. She did
not really drop, but any one could easily have knocked her down;
she could have been knocked down with a pin feather. She could not
speak--she just stared. She went all "through other," and felt queer.
"Do you know that woman has a child?" she managed to say at last, and
the teacher said, "Sure--one of the nicest I've ever seen--a perfect
Mrs. Cowan admitted to Mrs. Brownlees, who sympathized with her, that
she did not know what to say then.
At last she said, "But she has no right to have a child," and the
"Why not if she wants to. She's good to him, dresses him well and
trains him well. My mother had nine--and got away with it--and likes
them all. Having a child is nothing against her." Now, wasn't that an
awful way for her to talk?
Mrs. Brownlees said it certainly was fierce! and the other listeners
on the phone, for the audience had been augmented as the conversation
proceeded, politely said nothing, but hung up their receivers with
haste, and acquainted the members of their household with the
Mrs. Switzer threw her apron over her head and ran out to the pump,
where Bill was watering his three-horse team. Bill received the news
in that exasperating silence which is so hard to bear. When urged for
an opinion, he said crustily: "Well, what's the girl goin' to do? None
of you women would take her--she can't starve--and she can't sleep in
the school woodpile. Mrs. Gray won't bite--she's a fine lookin' woman,
drives a binder like a man, pays her debts, minds her own business. I
don't see why it wouldn't be a good boardin' place."
In telling about it afterwards to Mrs. Howser, Mrs. Switzer said, "You
know what men are like; in some ways they are hardly human--they take
things so easy."
Pearl was surprised at the storm that burst, but soon realized the
futility of further speech. They would not listen--they were so intent
on proving the woman's guilt, they would hear no defence. From what
they said, Pearl gathered that they knew nothing about Mrs. Gray
except what the sewing-machine agent had told them, and even he had
not claimed that he had any definite knowledge. The worst count
against her was that she would not tell anything about herself.
That she would not tell anything about herself, could only have one
explanation! There must be nothing good to tell!
On Sunday, at the little stone church in the valley of the river Pearl
took her place among the worshippers. The attendance was unusually
large. A new bond of interest was binding the neighborhood together,
and they spoke of it as they congregated in the church-yard before the
service. Pearl sat inside and watched them as they talked together
excitedly. Snatches of their conversation came to her. "Well-behaved
people should stay with well-behaved people, I say"--this was from
The men did not join in the conversation, but stood around, ill at
ease in their stiff collars, and made an attempt to talk about summer
fallowing and other harmless topics. Their attitude to the whole
affair was one of aloofness. Let the women settle it among themselves.
From the window where she sat Pearl could see far down the valley. The
river pursued its way, happily, unperturbed by the wrongs or sorrows
of the people who lived beside it. Sometimes it had reached out and
drowned a couple of them as it had done last year--but no one held it
against the river at all.
The rejuvenation of nature was to be seen everywhere, in springing
grass and leafing tree. Everything could begin life over again. Why
were the people so hard on Annie Gray, even if all they believed about
her were true? Pearl wondered about the religion of people like the
group who were so busily talking just outside the window. Did it not
teach them to be charitable? The Good Shepherd, in the picture above
the altar, had gone out to find the wandering sheep, even leaving
all the others, to bring back the lost one, sorry that it had been
wayward, not angry--but only sorry--Pearl hoped that they would look
at it when they came in. She hoped too, that they would look at the
few scattered tombstones in the churchyard, over which the birds were
darting and skimming, and be reminded of the shortness of life, and
their own need of mercy--and she hoped that some of the dead, who lay
there so peacefully now, might have been sinners who redeemed the past
and died respected, and that they might plead now with these just
persons who needed no repentance.
But when the service was over, and a brief sermon on Amos and his good
deeds, the congregation separated, and Pearl went back to the brown
house with a heavy heart, and the cry of her soul was that God would
show her a way of making the people understand. "Plough a fire-guard,
O Lord," she prayed, as she walked, "and let these deadly fires of
gossip run their noses square into it and be smothered. Use me if you
can--I am here--ready to help--but the big thing is to get it done."
Around the open grate-fire that night, after James had gone to bed,
Pearl and Mrs. Gray sat long before the pleasant wood fire For the
first time Annie Gray felt she had found some one to whom she could
talk and tell what was in her heart, and the story of the last eleven
years was revealed, from the time that pretty Annie Simmons, fresh
from Scotland, arrived at the Hudson's Bay post at Fort Resolution,
coming by dog-train the last two hundred miles to her cousin, the
factor's wife--the thin-lipped daughter of the Covenanters--who kept
the pretty young cousin closely at work in the kitchen with her pots
and pans when the traders came in, for Mrs. McPherson had no intention
of losing Annie and her capable help after bringing her all the way
from the Isle of Skye.
After a year of hard work, and some lonesome times, too, in the long,
dark winter, there came to the Post a young trapper and prospector,
"When I saw him," said the woman, with the silver bands of gray
encircling her shapely head, "I knew him for my own man. He was tall
and dark, with a boyish laugh that I loved, and a way of suddenly
becoming very serious in the middle of his fun--a sort of clouding
over of his face as if the sun had gone under for a minute."
She spoke haltingly, but Pearl knew what was in her heart, and her
quick imagination painted in the details of each picture. She could
see the homesick Scotch girl, in the far Northern post, hungry for
admiration and love, and trying to make herself as comely as she
could. She could sense all the dreams and longings, the hopes and
"Tell me more about him," Pearl urged.
"He had the out-of-doors look," said Mrs. Gray, "big, gentle,
fearless. I knew as soon as I looked in his eyes that I would go with
him if he asked me--anywhere. I would dare anything, suffer anything
for him. Nothing mattered; you will know it some time, Pearl, I hope.
It brings sorrow, maybe, but it is the greatest thing in life. Even
now, looking back down these black years, I would do the same--I would
go with my man.
"My cousin and her husband, the factor, forbade him the house when they
saw what was happening. They had nothing against him. Every trapper
said Jim Gray was straight as a gun-barrel. It was just that they
would not let me go--they wanted my work, but I had already worked out
my passage money, and considered myself free. They locked me in my
room at night, and treated me like a prisoner. They said abominable
"One night a tapping came at the little square window It was a heavy,
dark night in July, with thunder rolling in great shaking billows. It
was Jim, and he asked me if I would come with him. He had spoken to
the missionary at the post, who would marry us. Would I come? I did
not know whether he had a house, or even a blanket. I only knew I
"Under cover of the storm Jim took out the window-frame, lifted me
out, and we were off through the rain and the storm. But when we got
to the missionary's he would not marry us--the factor had forbidden
him. Jim would have taken me back but I was afraid. The factor had
said he would shoot him if he ever came for me. He was a high-tempered
man and ruled the post and every one in it with his terrible rages.
What would you have done, Pearl?"
"Was there no one else?" said Pearl, "no magistrate--no other
missionary or priest?"
"There was a missionary at the next post, sixty miles away. We could
reach him in two days. What would you have done, Pearl?"
Pearl was living with her every detail, every sensation, every thrill.
"What would I have done?" she said, trembling with the excitement of a
great decision. "I would have gone!"
Annie Gray's hand tightened on hers.
"I went," she said, "and I was never sorry. Jim was a man of the big
woods; he loved me. The rain, which fell in torrents, did not seem to
wet us--we were so happy."
"At the missionary's house at Hay River we were married, and the wife
of the missionary gave me her clothes until mine dried. We stayed
there three days and then we went on. Jim had a cabin in a wonderful
hot springs valley, and it was there we were going. It would take us
a month, but the weather was at its best, hazy blue days, continuous
daylight, only a little dimming of the sun's light when it disappeared
behind the mountains. We had pack-dogs from the post--Jim had left
them there--and lots of provisions. I dream of those campfires and the
frying bacon, and the blue smoke lifting itself up to the tree-tops."
She sat a long time silent, in a happy maze of memory.
"I had as much happiness as most women, but mine came all at once--and
left me all at once. We reached the valley in September. I was wild
with the beauty of it! Set in the mountains, which arched around it,
was this wonderful square of fertile land, about six miles one way and
seven the other. The foliage is like the tropics, for the hot springs
keep off frost. The creeks which run through it come out of the rocks
boiling hot--but cool enough to bathe in as they run on through the
meadows. Their waters have a peculiar purplish tinge, which passes
away after it stands a while, and a delicate aroma like a fragrant
toilet water. I called it the Valley of purple springs'."
"Our house was of logs, and built on a rock floor, which was always
warm. There were skins on the floor worth fortunes, for the animals
came to the valley in winter by the hundreds, black foxes and silver,
martins and bear. They came in, stayed a few days and passed out
again. The ferns in the valley stood seven feet high, and the stalks
were delicious when boiled and salted.
"Jim had planted a garden before he left, and we had everything,
cabbages, cauliflower, beets, mushrooms. Jim got the skins he
wanted--he didn't kill many--and we tanned them in the Indian way.
"At first the Indians had been afraid to come. They called it 'The
Devil's Valley,' and though the young bucks might come in and spend a
night, just as a bit of bravado, they were frightened of it; but after
I came they took courage and came in.
"We found out that the water in the streams had healing power, and
made one's skin feel soft as velvet, especially one stream which had
the deepest color. One old squaw, whose eyes had been sore for years,
was healed in three weeks and went back to her people with her
wonderful tales of the valley. After that we had Indians with us all
the time. They brought their sick children and their old people, and
the results were marvelous. I never knew the stream to fail. Even the
tubercular people soon began to grow rosy and well. The food seemed to
have healing power, too, and some who came hollow-cheeked, feverish,
choking with their cruel paroxysms of coughing, soon began to grow fat
and healthy. At first the sick people just slept and slept on the warm
rocks, and then came the desire to bathe in the stream, and after that
they went searching for the herbs they needed.
"We lived there three years. At the end of the first year little Jim
was born--my precious Jim, with his wonderful eyes, reflecting the
beauty of the valley. The Indian women tanned the softest buckskin for
his little things, and he had the most elaborately beaded garments.
No little prince was ever more richly dressed. He grew lovlier every
Pearl could refrain no longer: "Why did you ever leave?" she asked
"Conscience," said Annie Gray, after a pause. "We couldn't keep it all
to ourselves and be happy over it. We couldn't forget all the sick
people to whom our purple springs would bring healing. Mind you, we
tried to deaden our consciences; tried to make ourselves believe it
was not our duty to give it to the world. We fought off these spells
of conscience--we tried to forget that there was a world outside. But
we couldn't--we owed a duty, which we had to pay.
"One day, with our winter catch of furs packed on the dogs, we came
out. The Indians could not understand why we were leaving, and stood
sorrowfully watching us as far as we could see them--there was a
heaviness on our spirits that day, as if we knew what was coming.
"On the Judah Hill, at Peace River, came the accident. The train went
over the bank. When I came to I was in the Irene Hospital there, with
little Jim beside me quite unhurt. But I knew--I knew. I saw in the
nurses' face--my Jim had been killed."
All the color had gone from her voice, and she spoke as mechanically
as a deaf person.
"He was instantly killed--they did not let me see him.
"I went on. I knew what I should do. I would carry out as far as
possible what Jim and I had started out to do. We had filed on the
land, and I had the papers--I have them still. In Peace River we had
sold the furs, and I had quite a lot of money, for furs were high that
"Jim had told me a lot about his father, a domineering but kindly old
fellow, the local member of Parliament in a little Eastern town--a man
who had had his own way all his life. Jim had not got along well with
him, and had left home at eighteen.
"I remembered Jim had said that he wouldn't tell his father about the
valley until he had talked it over with a lawyer and got everything
settled, for the old man would run the whole thing. So when I went to
his home I said little about our valley, except to tell them of the
beauty of it.
"I was very unhappy. He raged about Jim and his wild ways. I could
not bear it. He knew nothing of the real Jim that I knew, the tender,
loving, sweet-souled Jim. I could see how he had raised the devil in
the boy with his high-handed ways.
"He was passionately fond of the little Jim, and foolishly indulgent.
He would give the child a dollar for a kiss, but if he did not come
running to him the very moment he called he would be angry. Yet I
could see that he adored the little fellow, and was very proud of his
"One day he told me he was going to send Jim to a boy's school in
England as soon as he was nine. I told him it could not be. Jim had
said to me that we would bring up our boy in the wild, new country,
where men are honorable and life is simple. I would follow Jim's
wishes--our boy would not go to England. I defied him. I saw his
temper then. He told me I had nothing to say about it, he was his
grandson's guardian. Jim had made a will before he left home, making
his father executor of his estate. He told me the father was the only
parent the child had in the eyes of the law, and I had no claim on my
"I had no one to turn to. Jim's mother was one of those sweet,
yielding women, who said 'Yes, dear,' to everything he said. She
followed him around, picking up the things he scattered and the chairs
he kicked over in his fits of temper. Sometimes when he swore she
dabbed her eyes with a daintily trimmed handkerchief. That was her
only protest. She advised me to say nothing, but just do whatever
'father' told me, and I said I would see him in hell first, and at
that she ran out with her fingers in her ears.
"Then a strange thing happened. McPherson, my cousin's husband, the
factor from Fort Resolution, met Jim's father at a lodge meeting, and
told him Jim and I had gone away without being married--the missionary
had refused to marry us--and we had gone away. I think he knew better,
for in the north country every one knows everyone else, and it was
well known that Jim and I were married at Hay River. He came home
raging and called me names. I'll never forget how they went crashing
through my brain. He was a proud man, and this 'disgrace' of Jim's,
as he said, was the finishing touch. But when he began to abuse Jim
I raged too. I said things to him which perhaps had better been left
unsaid. I was sorry afterwards, for Jim was fond of his father for all
his blustering ways. I did not tell him that Jim and I were legally
married, for the fear was on me that he could take little Jim from
me, and it did not matter to me what they thought of me. I had one
thought--and that was to keep my boy and bring him up myself--bring
him up to be a man like his father.
"That night I left. I was proud, too, and I left money to pay for
the time I had been with them. I had a few hundred dollars left, not
enough to take me back to Purple Springs. My first plan was to get a
housekeeper's position, but I soon found I could not do that--the
work was hard, and Jim was not wanted. I worked as waitress in a
restaurant, and as saleslady in a country store, but Jim was not
getting the care he should have.
"One day I saw an advertisement in a paper. A prospector, crippled
with rheumatism, wanted a housekeeper. It said 'a woman with sense and
understanding,' and I liked the tone of it. It was blunt and honest.
"When I went to see him I found a grizzled old fellow of about sixty,
who had been most of his life in the north, and when I found he had
known Jim, and had trapped with him on the Liard River, and knew what
a splendid fellow he was, I just begged him to let us stay. He was as
glad to get me, as I was to find a home.
"I cared for him until he died. He was a good man, a man of the big
woods, whose life was simple, honest and kindly.
"In the little town where we lived the people gossiped when I came to
him. They wanted to know where I had come from, and all about me. I
told them nothing. I was afraid. I had changed my name, but still I
was afraid Jim's father might find me. Mr. Bowen thought it would be
better if we were married, just to stop their tongues, but I couldn't
marry him. Jim has always been just as real to me as when he was with
me. Mr. Bowen was kind and gentlemanly always, and many a happy hour
we spent talking of the big country with its untold riches. If I could
have taken him to Purple Springs he could have been cured, but we knew
he could not stand the journey, for his heart was weak.
"I went to night school while I was with him, and learned all I could
for Jim's sake. But he died at last, and left me very lonely, for I
had grown fond of him.
"By his will he left me all he had, and the deed of this farm was part
of his estate. So, after his death, Jim and I came here. Mr. Bowen had
advised me to stay on this farm--he had taken it because there were
indications of oil, and he believed there would be a big strike here
some day. He also left me four thousand dollars, and I have added to
it every year. Sometimes I've been tempted to sell out and get back
north, but Jim is too young yet, I think, I should go somewhere and
let him go to school. I thought when I came he could go here. I have
only one thought, one care, one ambition--I've lived my life--I've had
my one good, glorious day, and now I want to see that Jim gets his.
"It's a queer story, isn't it, Pearl? I ran away and got married,
and then I ran away from marriage to keep my boy. I could prove in a
moment that my marriage was legal, of course, the certificate is here,
and the marriage was registered by the missionary, who has come back
now and lives in the city. But I dare not tell who I am--Jim does not
know who his grandfather is."
"He surely couldn't take your boy," cried Pearl. "There is no justice
"Only the unmarried mother has the absolute right to her child," said
Annie Gray, as one who quotes from a legal document. "I talked to a
lawyer whom Mr. Bowen sent for. He showed it to me in the law."
"Peter Neelands was right," said Pearl after a while, "it is exactly
the sort of a law he said the other one was."
The two women sat by the fire, which by this time was reduced to one
tiny red coal. There was not a sound in the house except the regular
breathing of little Jim from the adjoining room. A night wind stirred
the big tree in front of the house, and its branches touched the
shingles softly, like a kind hand.
"I'll tell you the rest of it, Pearl, and why I am so frightened.
Perhaps I grow fearful, living here alone, and my mind conjures up
dreadful things. Jim's grandfather has moved to this Province from the
East. I read about him in the papers. He is a powerful man--who
gets his own way. He might be able to get doctors to pronounce me
insane--we read such things. He has such influence."
"Who is he?" asked Pearl wonderingly.
"He is the Premier of this Province," said Annie Gray. "Now do you
wonder at my fear?"
Pearl sat a long time silent. "A way will be found," she said.
THE OPENING OF THE WAY
"I wonder where they are," Pearl said to herself, as she looked
anxiously out of the window of the school on Monday morning. The roads
leading from the Purple Springs school lay like twisted brown ribbons
on the tender green fields, but not a child, not a straw hat, red
sweater, sun-bonnet; not a glint of a dinner-pail broke the monotony
of the bright spring morning.
The farm-houses seemed to be enjoying their usual activity. The
spielers among the hens were announcing that the day's business was
off to a good start, with prospects never brighter, dogs barked,
calves bawled, cow-bells jangled--there was even a murmur of talking.
"They are not dead," said Pearl, as she listened, bareheaded, at the
gate, "not dead, except to me--but they are not going to let the
"They have turned me down!"
At nine o'clock, a flash of hope lighted up the gloom that had settled
on her heart. The Snider twins, two tiny black dots, side by side like
quotation marks, appeared distinctly against the vivid green of their
father's wheat field and continued to advance upon the school-house,
until they were but half a mile away. Then, noticing that no one else
was abroad, they turned about and retraced their steps in haste,
believing it must be Sunday, or a holiday--or something.
They were quite right on the last guess. It was something. But not
even the teacher knew just what. The school room was clammily,
reproachfully silent, every tick of the elm clock which told off
the time without prejudice, seemed to pile up evidence of a hostile
Pearl's brows were knitted in deep thought, as she looked in vain down
the sparkling roads. What was back of it all? What had she done, or
failed to do? Why did no one want to give her board and shelter? This
latest development--the boycott of the school--was of course a protest
against her association with the woman of Purple Springs.
Pearl squared her shoulders and threw back her head. She remembered
the advice she had given her young brothers, "Don't pick a fight.
Don't hit harder than you need to--but when trouble comes, be facing
the right way." She would try to keep her face in the right direction.
Here was prejudice, narrowness, suspicion, downright injustice and
cruelty--of this she was sure--there were other elements, other
complications of which she had no knowledge. Peter Neelands had
told her the Government was watching her, but she had not taken it
She began to wonder if the invitation to work in the Educational
Department might not be a plan to get her safely out of the way until
after the election. It seemed too absurd.
Life was not so simple and easy as she had thought, or was it true
that the element of trouble was in her own mind. Did she attract
trouble by some quality of heart or brain. But what else could she
have done? Hadn't she told the truth and done what seemed right all
the way? But to be turned down in her school--left alone--boycotted.
Pearl's depression, poignant and deep though it was, did not last
long. There would be a way out--there was always a way out! She would
be shown the way!
"They that are with us," said Pearl solemnly, struggling with a wave
of self pity, "are greater than they that are against us. I wish I
could get them all lined up and talk to them. There is no use in
talking to them one by one--they won't listen--they're too busy trying
to think of something to say back. But if I had them all together,
I could make them see things--they would have to see it. They are
positively cruel to Mrs. Gray, and the dear little Jim--and without
cause--and they should be told. Nobody would be so mean--if they
knew--even the old grandfather would feel sorry."
When ten o'clock came, and not one pupil had arrived, Pearl decided
she would go over to the post-office for her mail. There would be a
letter from home, and never before had she so much needed the loving
assurance that she had a home where a welcome awaited her, even if the
world had gone wrong. The Watson family would stand by her, no matter
what the verdict of Purple Springs.
In addition to the home letter, with its reassuring news that four
hens were set and the red cow had come in, and the boys had earned
three dollars and fifteen cents on their gopher tails, and the
twenty-fourth being a holiday. Jimmy would come over for her--in
addition to this, there was a large square envelope from the city. The
letter was from the Woman's Club, telling her that they were preparing
a political play and wanted her to come at once to the city to take an
important part. They had heard of her ability from Mr. Neelands. Would
she please let them know at once?
A smile scattered the gloom on Pearl's face. Here was a way out. Would
she go? To play an important part in a play? Would she go?
Pearl went down the road on light feet, to where Mr. Cowan, the
Secretary, was ploughing stubble. Mr. Cowan was expecting a call, and
dreading it, for in spite of careful rehearsing, he had been unable
to make out a good case. He was an awkward conspirator, without
enthusiasm, and his plain country conscience reminded him that it was
a mean way to treat a teacher whom he--himself--had selected. But why
hadn't she accepted the offer to go to the city, and get away from a
neighborhood where she could not be comfortable. Naturally, he could
not urge it--that would give away the whole game. But he could hardly
keep from asking her.
He resolved to say as little as possible, when he saw her coming.
There was no trace of either gloom or resentment in her face when she
greeted him. Mr. Cowan was equally friendly.
"I want to ask you something, Mr. Cowan," said Pearl. "What is wrong
with me? Why don't the people like me? What have I done?"
Mr. Cowan had stopped his team, and lifting the lines from behind his
back, he wound them deliberately around the handles of the plow before
speaking. His manner indicated that it was a long story.
"Well, you know what women are like. No one can reason with women,
and they won't stand for you boarding with Mrs. Gray. They're sore on
her--and don't think she's just what she should be--and--"
Pearl interrupted him:
"But, Mr. Cowan, even before I went there, there was something wrong.
Why wouldn't they give me a boarding place? You thought that I could
get a boarding place when you hired me. Come on, Mr. Cowan, you may
just as well tell me--it's the easiest way in the end--just to speak
out--it saves time. If you ask me not to tell--I won't."
George Cowan did not expect to be cornered up so closely, and in
desperation he said what was uppermost in his mind:
"Why don't you take the offer to go to the city, that's a great
He had forgotten to be discreet.
"I am going to," said Pearl quickly, "that's what I came over to tell
you--I want to go. I wanted to ask you if it would be all right."
"Now you're talking," cried her trustee gladly--a great burden had
been lifted from his heart. "Sure you can go--it would be a, shame for
you to miss a chance like this."
In his excitement he hardly knew what he was saying. This was just
what he had been hoping would happen. Wouldn't George Steadman be
pleased! He had given out a delicate piece of work to be done, and it
had been successfully managed.
"You were just fooling us by pretending you were going to board at
Mrs. Gray's--weren't you? You knew all the time you were going to the
city; You were just playing a joke on us--I know. Well the joke's on
us all right, as the cowboys said when they hanged the wrong man."
George Cowan rubbed his hands; the whole world had grown brighter. The
political machine was the thing--real team-play--that's what it was.
It's hard to beat the machine--and the best of it all was, there was
no harm done, and nobody hurt. She would be as safe as a church when
she was in the employ of the Government--and in a good job too--away
ahead of teaching. No government employee could mention politics.
Some people thought women were hard to manage! but it just required a
little brains--that was all. Diplomacy was the thing.
"You are sure you don't mind my going," said Pearl, "without notice?"
"Not a bit--and we'll be glad to have you back, say for the Fall term.
I'll fix the salary too and make out your cheque for the full month.
It wouldn't be right for us to stand in your way--of course you may
not want to come back--but if you do just drop me a line. I suppose
you will want to go home before you go into the city. I can take you
over this afternoon in the car."
"Thank you, Mr. Cowan," Pearl said, "you are very kind. I'll be ready
at one o'clock. But tell me--how did you know I had an invitation to
the city? That was pretty clever of you."
Mr. Cowan was untwisting the lines from the plow handles preparatory
to making another round. He suddenly remembered to be discreet, and
winked one eye with indescribable slyness.
"A little bird whispered to me," he laughed.
At noon, when he told Mrs. Cowan about it, he said it was queer how
that answer of his seemed to hit the teacher. She went away laughing,
and he could hear her for fully a quarter of a mile kind of chuckling
"Sorry, sir," said the man in the box-office of the Grand, "but the
house has been sold out for two days now. The standing room has gone
"Can you tell me what this is all about, that every one is so crazy to
see it?" the man at the wicket asked, with studied carelessness. He
was a thick-set man, with dark glasses, and wore a battered hat, and a
much bedraggled waterproof.
"The women here have got up a Parliament, and are showing tonight,"
said the ticket-seller. "They pretend that only women vote, and women
only sit in Parliament. The men will come, asking for the vote, and
they'll get turned down good and plenty, just like the old man turned
"Did the Premier turn them down?" asked the stranger. "I didn't hear
"Did he? I guess, yes--he ripped into them in his own sweet way. Did
you ever hear the old man rage? Boy! Well, the women have a girl
here who is going to do his speech. She's the woman Premier, you
understand, and she can talk just like him. She does everything except
chew the dead cigar. The fellows in behind say it's the richest thing
they ever heard. The old boy will have her shot at sunrise, for sure.
"He won't hear her," said the man in the waterproof, with sudden
energy. "He won't know anything about it."
"Sure he will. The old man is an old blunderbuss, but he's too good
a sport to stay away. They're decorating a box for him, and have his
name on it. He can't stay away."
"He can if he wants to," snapped the other man. "What does he care
about this tommyrot--he'll take no notice of it."
"Well," said the man behind the wicket, "I believe he'll come. But
say, he sure started something when he got these women after him.
They're the sharpest-tongued things you ever listened to, and they
have their speeches all ready. The big show opens tonight, and every
seat is sold. You may get a ticket though at the last minute, from
some one who cannot come. There are always some who fail to show up at
the last. I can save you a ticket if this happens. What name?"
"Jones," said the gentleman in the waterproof. No doubt the irritation
in his voice was caused by having to confess to such a common name.
"Robertson Jones. Be sure you have it right," and he passed along the
rail to make room for two women who also asked for tickets.
The directors of the Woman's Parliament knew the advertising value of
a mystery, being students of humanity, and its odd little ways. They
knew that people are attracted by the unknown; so in their advance
notices they gave the names of all the women taking part in the play,
but one. The part of the Premier--the star part--would be taken by a
woman whose identity they were "not at liberty to reveal." Well-known
press women were taking the other parts, and their pictures appeared
on the posters, but no clue was given out as to the identity of the
Long before sundown, the people gathered at the theatre door, for
the top gallery would open for rush seats at seven. Even the ticket
holders had been warned that no seat would be held after eight
Through the crowd came the burly and aggressive form of Robertson
Jones, still wearing his dark glasses, and with a disfiguring strip of
court plaster across his cheek. At the wicket he made inquiry for his
ticket, and was told to stand back and wait. Tickets were held until
In the lobby, flattening himself against the marble wall, he waited,
with his hat well down over his face. Crowds of people, mostly women,
surged past him, laughing, chattering, feeling in their ridiculous
bags for their tickets, or the price of a box of chocolates at the
counter, where two red-gold blondes presided.
Inside, as the doors swung open, he saw a young fellow in evening
dress, giving out handbills, and an exclamation almost escaped him. He
had forgotten all about Peter Neelands!
Robertson Jones, caught in the eddies of women, buffeted by them, his
toes stepped upon, elbowed, crowded, grew more and more scornful of
their intelligence, and would probably have worked his way out--if he
could, but the impact of the crowd worked him forward.
"A silly, cackling hen-party," he muttered to himself. "I'll get out
of this--it's no place for a man--Lord deliver me from a mob like
this, with their crazy tittering. There ought to be a way to stop
these things. It's demoralizing--it's unseemly."
It was impossible to turn back, however, and he found himself swept
inside. He thought of the side door as a way of escape, but to his
surprise, he saw the whole Cabinet arriving there and filing into the
boxes over which the colors of the Province were draped; every last
one of them, in evening dress.
That was the first blow of the evening! Every one of them had said
they would not go--quite scornfully--and spoke of it as "The Old
Maid's Convention"--Yet they came!
He wedged his way back to the box office, only to find that there was
no ticket for him. Every one had been lifted. But he determined to
Getting in again, he approached a man in a shabby suit, sitting in the
"I'll give you five dollars for your seat," he whispered.
"Holy smoke!" broke from the astonished seat-holder, and then,
recovering from his surprise, he said, "Make it ten."
"Shut up then, and get out--here's your money," said Mr. Jones
harshly, and in the hurriedly vacated seat, he sat down heavily.
Behind the scenes, the leader of the Woman's Party gave Pearl her
"Don't spare him, Pearl," she said, with her hand around the girl's
shoulder, "it is the only way. We have coaxed, argued, reasoned, we
have shown him actual cases where the laws have worked great injustice
to women. He is blind in his own conceit, and cannot be moved. This
is the only way--we can break his power by ridicule--you can do it,
Pearl. You can break down a wall of prejudice tonight that would take
long years to wear away. Think of cases you know, Pearl, and strike
hard. Better to hurt one, and save many! This is a play--but a deadly
serious one! I must go now and make the curtain speech."
"This is not the sort of Parliament we think should exist," she said,
before the curtain, "this is the sort of Parliament we have at the
present time--one sex making all the laws. We have a Parliament of
women tonight, instead of men, just to show you how it looks from the
other side. People seem to see a joke better sometimes when it is
Robertson Jones shrugged his shoulders in disgust. What did they hope
to gain, these freaks of women, with their little plays and set little
speeches. Who listened or noticed? No one, positively no one.
Then the lights went out in the house, and the asbestos curtain came
slowly down and slowly crept into the ceiling again, to reassure the
timorous, and the beautiful French garden, with its white statuary,
and fountain, against the green trees, followed its plain asbestos
sister, and the Woman's Parliament was revealed in session.
The Speaker, in purple velvet, with a sweeping plume in her
three-cornered hat, sat on the throne; pages in uniform answered the
many calls of the members, who, on the Government side were showing
every sign of being bored, for the Opposition had the floor, and the
honorable member from Mountain was again introducing her bill to give
the father equal guardianship rights with the mother. She pleaded
eloquently that two parents were not any too many for children to
have. She readily granted that if there were to be but one patent, it
would of course be the mother, but why skimp the child on parents?
Let him have both. It was nature's way. She cited instances of grave
injustice done to fathers from having no claim on their offspring.
The Government members gave her little attention. They read their
papers, one of the Cabinet Ministers tatted, some of the younger
members powdered their noses, many ate chocolates. Those who listened,
did so to sneer at the honorable member from Mountain, insinuating she
took this stand so she might stand well with the men. This brought a
hearty laugh, and a great pounding of the desks.
When the vote was taken, the House divided along party lines.
Yawningly the Government members cried "No!"
Robertson Jones sniffed contemptuously; evidently this was a sort
of Friday afternoon dialogue, popular at Snookum's Corners, but not
likely to cause much of a flutter in the city.
There was a bill read to give dower rights to men, and the leader of
the Opposition made a heated defence of the working man who devotes
his life to his wife and family, and yet has no voice in the
disposition of his property. His wife can sell it over his head, or
will it away, as had sometimes been done.
The Attorney General, in a deeply sarcastic vein, asked the honorable
lady if she thought the wife and mother would not deal fairly--even
generously with her husband. Would she have the iron hand of the law
intrude itself into the sacred precincts of the home, where little
cherub faces gather round the hearth, under the glow of the
glass-fringed hanging lamp. Would she dare to insinuate that love had
to be buttressed by the law? Did not a man at the altar, in the
sight of God and witnesses, endow his wife with all his goods? Well
then--were those sacred words to be blasphemed by an unholy law which
compelled her to give back what he had so lovingly given? When a man
marries, cried the honorable Attorney General, he gives his wife his
name--and his heart--and he gives them unconditionally. Are not these
infinitely more than his property? The greater includes the less--the
tail goes with the hide! The honorable leader of the Opposition was
guilty of a gross offense against good taste, in opening this question
again. Last session, the session before, and now this session, she has
harped on this disagreeable theme. It has become positively indecent.
The honorable leader of the Opposition begged leave to withdraw her
motion, which was reluctantly granted, and the business of the House
A page brought in the word that a delegation of men were waiting to be
Even the Opposition laughed. A delegation of men, seemed to be an old
and never-failing joke.
Some one moved that the delegation be heard, and the House was
resolved into a committee of the whole, with the First Minister in the
The first minister rose to take the chair, and was greeted with a
round of applause. Opera glasses came suddenly to many eyes, but the
face they saw was not familiar. It was a young face, under iron gray
hair, large dark eyes, and a genial and pleasant countenance.
For the first time in the evening, Mr. Robertson Jones experienced a
thrill of pleasure. At least the woman Premier was reasonably good
looking. He looked harder at her. He decided she was certainly
handsome, and evidently the youngest of the company.
The delegation of men was introduced and received--the House settled
down to be courteous, and listen. Listening to delegations was part of
the day's work, and had to be patiently borne.
The delegation presented its case through the leader, who urged that
men be given the right to vote and sit in Parliament. The members of
the Government smiled tolerantly. The First Minister shook her head
slowly and absent-mindedly forgot to stop. But the leader of the
delegation went on.
The man who sat in the third seat from the back found the phrasing
strangely familiar. He seemed to know what was coming. Sure enough, it
was almost word for word the arguments the women had used when they
came before the House. The audience was in a pleasant mood, and
laughed at every point. It really did not seem to take much to amuse
When the delegation leader had finished, and the applause was over,
there was a moment of intense silence. Every one leaned forward,
edging over in their seats to get the best possible look.
The Woman Premier had risen. So intent was the audience in their study
of her face, they forgot to applaud. What they saw was a tall, slight
girl whose naturally brilliant coloring needed no make-up; brilliant
dark eyes, set in a face whose coloring was vivid as a rose, a
straight mouth with a whimsical smile. She gave the audience one
friendly smile, and then turned to address the delegation.
She put her hands in front of her, locking her fingers with the thumbs
straight up, gently moving them up and down, before she spoke.
The gesture was familiar. It was the Premier's own, and a howl
of recognition came from the audience, beginning in the Cabinet
She tenderly teetered on her heels, waiting for them to quiet down,
but that was the occasion for another outburst.
"Gentlemen of the Delegation," she said, when she could be heard, "I
am glad to see you!"
The voice, a throaty contralto, had in it a cordial paternalism that
was as familiar as the Premier's face.
"Glad to see you--come any time, and ask for anything you like. You
are just as welcome this time as you were the last time! We like
delegations--and I congratulate this delegation on their splendid,