Part 5 out of 5
gentlemanly manners. If the men in England had come before their
Parliament with the frank courtesy you have shown, they might still
have been enjoying the privilege of meeting their representatives in
this friendly way."
"But, gentlemen, you are your own answer to the question; you are the
product of an age which has not seen fit to bestow the gift you ask,
and who can say that you are not splendid specimens of mankind? No!
No! any system which can produce the virile, splendid type of men we
have before us today, is good enough for me, and," she added, drawing
up her shoulders in perfect imitation of the Premier when he was about
to be facetious, "if it is good enough for me--it is good enough for
The people gasped with the audacity of it! The impersonation was
so good--it was weird--it was uncanny. Yet there was no word of
disrespect. The Premier's nearest friends could not resent it.
Word for word, she proceeded with his speech, while the theatre rocked
with laughter. She was in the Premier's most playful, God-bless-you
mood, and simply radiated favors and goodwill. The delegation was
flattered, complimented, patted on the head, as she dilated on their
manly beauty and charm.
In the third seat from the back, Mr. Robertson Jones had removed his
dark glasses, and was breathing like a man with double pneumonia. A
dull, red rage burned in his heart, not so much at anything the girl
was saying, as the perfectly idiotic way the people laughed.
"I shouldn't laugh," a woman ahead of him said, as she wiped her
eyes, "for my husband has a Government job and he may lose it if the
Government members see me but if I don't laugh, I'll choke. Better
lose a job than choke."
"But my dear young friends," the Premier was saying, "I am convinced
you do not know what you are asking me to do;" her tone was didactic
now; she was a patient Sunday School teacher, laboring with a class of
erring boys, charitable to their many failings and frailties, hopeful
of their ultimate destiny, "you do not know what you ask. You have not
thought of it, of course, with the natural thoughtlessness of your
sex. You ask for something which may disrupt the whole course of
civilization. Man's place is to provide for his family, a hard enough
task in these strenuous days. We hear of women leaving home, and we
hear it with deepest sorrow. Do you know why women leave home? There
is a reason. Home is not made sufficiently attractive. Would letting
politics enter the home help matters. Ah no! Politics would unsettle
our men. Unsettled men mean unsettled bills--unsettled bills mean
broken homes--broken vows--and then divorce."
Her voice was heavy with sorrow, and full of apology for having
mentioned anything so unpleasant.
Many of the audience had heard the Premier's speech, and almost all
had read it, so not a point was lost.
An exalted mood was on her now--a mood that they all knew well. It
had carried elections. It was the Premier's highest card. His friends
called it his magnetic appeal.
"Man has a higher destiny than politics," she cried, with the ring in
her voice that they had heard so often, "what is home without a bank
account? The man who pays the grocer rules the world. Shall I call men
away from the useful plow and harrow, to talk loud on street corners
about things which do not concern them. Ah, no, I love the farm and
the hallowed associations--the dear old farm, with the drowsy tinkle
of cow-bells at even tide. There I see my father's kindly smile so
full of blessing, hardworking, rough-handed man he was, maybe, but
able to look the whole world in the face.... You ask me to change all
Her voice shook with emotion, and drawing a huge white linen
handkerchiefs from the folds of her gown, she cracked it by the corner
like a whip, and blew her nose like a trumpet.
The last and most dignified member of the Cabinet, caved in at this,
and the house shook with screams of laughter. They were in the mood
now to laugh at anything she said.
"I wonder will she give us one of his rages," whispered the Provincial
Secretary to the Treasurer.
"I'm glad he's not here," said the Minister of Municipalities, "I'm
afraid he would burst a blood vessel; I'm not sure but I will myself."
"I am the chosen representative of the people, elected to the highest
office this fair land has to offer. I must guard well its interests.
No upsetting influence must mar our peaceful firesides. Do you never
read, gentlemen?" she asked the delegation, with biting sarcasm, "do
you not know of the disgraceful happenings in countries cursed by
manhood suffrage? Do you not know the fearful odium into which the
polls have fallen--is it possible you do not know the origin of that
offensive word 'Poll-cat'; do you not know that men are creatures of
habit--give them an inch--and they will steal the whole sub-division,
and although it is quite true, as you say, the polls are only open
once in four years--when men once get the habit--who knows where it
will end--it is hard enough to keep them at home now! No, history is
full of unhappy examples of men in public life; Nero, Herod, King
John--you ask me to set these names before your young people. Politics
has a blighting, demoralizing influence on men. It dominates them,
hypnotizes them, pursues them even after their earthly career is over.
Time and again it has been proven that men came back and voted--even
after they were dead."
The audience gasped at that--for in the Premier's own riding, there
were names on the voters' lists, taken, it was alleged, from the
"Do you ask me to disturb the sacred calm of our cemetries?" she
asked, in an awe-striken tone--her big eyes filled with the horror of
it. "We are doing wery well just as we are, very well indeed. Women
are the best students of economy. Every woman is a student of
political economy. We look very closely at every dollar of public
money, to see if we couldn't make a better use of it ourselves, before
we spend it. We run our elections as cheaply as they are run anywhere.
We always endeavor to get the greatest number of votes for the least
possible amount of money. That is political economy."
There was an interruption then from the Opposition benches, a feeble
protest from one of the private members.
The Premier's face darkened; her eyebrows came down suddenly; the
veins in her neck swelled, and a perfect fury of words broke from her
lips. She advanced threateningly on the unhappy member.
"You think you can instruct a person older than yourself, do
you--you-with the brains of a butterfly, the acumen of a bat; the
backbone of a jelly-fish. You can tell me something, can you? I
was managing governments when you were sitting in your high chair,
drumming on a tin plate with a spoon." Her voice boomed like a gun.
"You dare to tell me how a government should be conducted."
The man in the third seat from the back held to the arm of the seat,
with hands that were clammy with sweat. He wanted to get up and
scream. The words, the voice, the gestures were as familiar as his own
face in the glass.
Walking up and down, with her hands at right angles to her body, she
stormed and blustered, turning eyes of rage on the audience, who
rolled in their seats with delight.
"Who is she, Oh Lord. Who is she?" the Cabinet ministers asked each
other for the hundredth time.
"But I must not lose my temper," she said, calming herself and letting
her voice drop, "and I never do--never--except when I feel like
it--and am pretty sure I can get away with it. I have studied
self-control, as you all know--I have had to, in order that I may be a
leader. If it were not for this fatal modesty, which on more than
one occasion has almost blighted my political career, I would say
I believe I have been a leader, a factor in building up this fair
province; I would say that I believe I have written my name large
across the face of this Province."
The government supporters applauded loudly.
"But gentlemen," turning again to the delegation, "I am still of the
opinion even after listening to your cleverly worded speeches, that
I will go on just as I have been doing, without the help you so
generously offer. My wish for this fair, flower-decked land is that I
may long be spared to guide its destiny in world affairs. I know there
is no one but me--I tremble when I think of what might happen these
leaderless lambs--but I will go forward confidently, hoping that the
good ship may come safely into port, with the same old skipper on the
bridge. We are not worrying about the coming election, as you may
think. We rest in confidence of the result, and will proudly unfurl,
as we have these many years, the same old banner of the grand old
party that had gone down many times to disgrace, but thank God, never
The curtain fell, as the last word was spoken, but rose again to show
the "House" standing, in their evening gowns. A bouquet of American
beauty roses was handed up over the foot-lights to the Premier, who
buried her face in them, with a sudden flood of loneliness. But the
crowd was applauding, and gain and again she was called forward.
The people came flocking in through the wings, pleading to be
introduced to the "Premier," but she was gone.
In the crowd that ebbed slowly from the exits, no one noticed the
stout gentleman with the dark glasses, who put his hat on before he
reached the street, and seemed to be in great haste.
The comments of the people around him, jabbed him like poisoned
arrows, and seared his heart like flame.
"I wonder was the Premier there," one man asked, wiping the traces
of merriment from his glasses, "I've laughed till I'm sore--but I'm
afraid he wouldn't see the same fun in it as I do":
"Well, if he's sport enough to laugh at this, I'll say he's some man,"
"That girl sure has her nerve--there isn't a man in this city would
dare do it."
"She'll get his goat--if he ever hears her--I'd advise the old man to
"That's holding a mirror up to public life all right."
"But who is she?"
"The government will be well advised to pension that girl and get her
out of the country--a few more sessions of the Women's Parliament, and
the government can quit."
He hurried out into the brilliantly lighted street, stung by the
laughter and idle words. His heart was bursting with rage, blind,
bitter choking. He had been laughed at, ridiculed, insulted--and the
men, whom he had made--had sat by applauding.
John Graham had, all his life, dominated his family circle, his
friends, his party, and for the last five years had ruled the
Province. Success, applause, wealth, had come easily to him, and he
had taken them as naturally as he accepted the breath of his nostrils.
They were his. But on this bright night in May, as he went angrily
down the back street, unconsciously striking the pavement with his
cane, with angry blows, the echo of the people's laughter in his ears
was bitter as the pains of death.
The next day the Premier kept to his room, and refused to look at the
papers. The cabinet ministers telephoned in vain; he was out, the
maid said. He hated them, every one--for their insane laughter their
idiotic applause--this disloyal attendance at such a place! He could
not speak to them or see them.
When his wife spoke to him, he snapped back at her like an angry
rattlesnake, and asked her why she had never tried to develop a mind
of her own. Her patience, submissiveness, the abject way she deferred
to him and tried to please him--the very qualities he had demanded of
her, now infuriated him beyond words. He began to despise her for her
Fortunately for her, the days that followed took him away from home,
and the household breathed easier each time he departed.
"This settles it," said Rosie, the housemaid, when he went out angrily
slamming the front door. "I will never marry a member of Parliament,
no, not though he goes on his bended knee to ask me. I may not have
wealth or fame--but I'll have peace."
"Don't be too sure," said the cook, who was Scotch, and a
Presbyterian. "You can't be sure of any of them--they are all queer.
You never know what a man will do till he's dead."
The Woman's Parliament held sessions for three nights in the city
before it began its tour of the country with every night an audience
that packed the theatre to the roof. Each night the woman "Premier"
took her curtain calls and received the bouquets which came showering
in, but not a word could the public find out about her. The papers
said her identity would remain a mystery until all the engagements
On the last night, when Pearl went to her room--she was staying with
the President of the Woman's Club--a box of flowers was on her table.
When she opened it, she found an armful of American Beauty roses, and
a letter. Pearl's face went suddenly aflame like the roses, and a
jagged flash of lightning tore her heart. He had not forgotten her!
Hastily locking her door, for no one must interrupt her, Pearl read
her letter. She had faced three thousand people two hours before, but
her hand trembled now as she read:
"I have been in your audience, Pearl, drinking in every word you say,
rejoicing over you, loving you--but glad every minute that I played
the game fair. You have won the election--of that I am sure--for you
have set the whole Province laughing at the old-style politician. It
is easy going for the rest of us now. Our old friend George Steadman
has had the ground torn from under his feet. They all think you left
Purple Springs to take some gentle and safe job in the Department of
Education, and are breathing curses on this mysterious stranger who
has upset the foundations of the Government. Driggs suspected as soon
as he heard about the play, and he and I came into the city to see for
ourselves--we held hands to keep from disgracing ourselves last night
when you got up to speak.
"The leader of the Opposition, who seems to be a solid sort of chap,
would like to meet you when it is all over--he is well pleased with
the women's activities, and especially your part, and wants to meet
"I do not need to tell you, dear, what I think. I believe you know.
I am in a mellow and pleasant state of being able to say 'I told you
"I am not sending you roses because I think you are short of bouquets,
but just because there are certain things a red rose can say, that I
can not. H.C."
"And why can't you say it?" Pearl whispered, "and why don't you say
it, and me hungry for it. Who is stopping you from saying it--I'm sure
it's not me."
She threw aside her pride, and going to the phone, called the hotel
where she knew he stayed.
"Is Dr. Clay of Millford there?" she asked, trembling with eagerness.
"Just a minute," said the clerk.
Pearl's heart was pounding in her throat, her ears sang, her mouth was
dry with excitement. She wanted to hear his voice--she wanted to see
It seemed a long, long time--then the clerk's voice, mechanical and
dull as the click of an adding machine:
"No, Dr. Clay checked out tonight."
Pearl hung up the receiver listlessly. The ripple of laughter and
waves of voices came from the drawing-room below. A company of people
had come over from the theatre, some one was calling to her outside
her door, asking her if she would come down.
Suddenly it had all become distasteful to her,
hollow--useless--vain--what was there in it?--a heavy sense of
disappointment was on her. After all, was life going to disappoint
her, cheat her--giving her so much, and yet withholding the greatest
joy of all?
She caught the roses in her arms, and kissed them fiercely. "I love
you--red roses," she said, "but you are not enough. You do not say
much either, but I wish you would tell me why he is so stingy with
* * * * *
In a week, the election was over, and the Government defeated. The
newspapers, in red headlines, gave the women the credit, and declared
it to be the most sensational campaign the country had ever seen. "The
barbed arrows of ridicule had pierced the strong man's armor," one
editorial said, "and accomplished something that the heaviest blows of
the Opposition had been powerless to achieve." Dr. Clay had defeated
George Steadman by a large majority, and the Millford "Mercury" was
free to express itself editorially, and did so with great vigor.
The Premier had fought valiantly to the last, but his power was
gone--the spell broken--he could no longer rouse an audience with his
old-time eloquence. His impassioned passages had lost their punch, for
the bitterness, the rage which filled his heart, showed in his words
and weakened them; and the audiences who before had been kindled with
his phrases, showed a disposition now to laugh in the wrong place.
The week of the campaign had been to him a week of agony, for he knew
he was failing as a leader, and only his stern pride kept him going.
He would let no one say he was a "welsher." The machine worked night
and day, and money was freely spent, and until the last, he hoped,
his party would be returned, and then he could resign and retire
honorably. He did not believe the machine could be defeated. They had
too many ways of controlling the vote.
When the news of the Government's defeat began to come in from the
country places--the city seats having all gone to the Opposition--the
old man went quietly home, with a set face of ashy pallor. He walked
slowly, with sagging shoulders, and the cane which he used, did not
beat the pavement in rage, but gropingly felt its way, uncertainly, as
if the hand which guided it was hesitant and weak.
In his house on Water Street, a big, square brick house, with
plain verandahs, the ex-Premier sat alone that night. A few of his
followers--the close-in favorites--had called to see him, but had been
denied. His wife, flutteringly made excuses. He sat in his big black
leather chair, looking into the fireplace, where no fire was kindled,
and when one of the maids had come in to build the fire, he had gently
told her he liked it better as it was, dull, bleak and dead, it suited
the occasion--and she had gone out hurriedly, and in the kitchen burst
"It ain't natural for him to be mild like that," she sobbed to the
cook. "I'd rather have him damn me up and down. The old man's heart is
broken, that's what it is. He's sittin' there so calm and quiet--it
would make any one cry that has known him in his good days. I don't
believe we'll ever hear him rip and tear again--the blessed old dear."
"Well indeed, I'll be glad if we don't," said the cook grimly. "He's
raised enough hell in his time for one man, if he never does another
turn at it. I've put up with him for over fifteen years. I saw him
drive out Master Jim, and Jim's poor wife, with the dearest little pet
of a grandson any man ever had. He was sorry enough after, but that
didn't bring them back. I hope he will sit still for a while and think
it all over, and give the poor missis a rest. She's been bawled at,
and sworn at enough too, and her that gentle and pleasant."
"She's cryin' in her room now," said the housemaid, dabbin' her
eyes with her handkerchief and wishin' he'd come up and rage over
"O, is she?" said the cook. "I'll bet she's not. The house is so quiet
it makes her nervous--that's all! But she'll get used to it. O no,
Rosie dear, he's got his, and it's about time. I ain't worryin' over
him, for all I like the old man--but I believe the day of judgment
begins here. He's reaping what he sowed--and all I wonder at is that
the harvest has been so late."
"That's all right for you--you're a Presbyterian," said Rosie
tearfully, "but I belong to the Army. You know God's side of it
bettern' I do, but we're all for the sinner, and I can't bear to see
him so quiet and mild. It's just like havin' a corpse in the house
to see him there in front of the dead fire; I wouldn't wonder if the
morning light will find him cold and stiff in death." Rosie's tears
gushed forth anew at this sad picture.
"No chance," said the cook, "I haven't cooked breakfast for him for
fifteen years without knowin' him better than that. He'll come back."
But the Presbyterian cook, so sure of her theology and her knowledge
of human nature, had no breakfast to cook for him the next day, for
the ex-Premier kept his bed, and declined to see any one except
his wife, whom he did not let out of his sight. His gentleness was
terrible--he was even pleasant. When Rosie brought the mail to the
door, he actually thanked her, which brought on another paroxysm of
tears, and made even the cook shake her head doubtfully.
He spoke little, and made no complaint. He was only tired, he
said--just a little weary. No, he would not see a doctor--it was not a
doctor he needed.
Beside him sat his wife, the quiet, self-effacing little woman who had
had no thought or ambition apart from him. Under half closed eyes, he
watched her, wonderingly. What were the thoughts of her heart--this
gentle-faced woman who had so tenderly cared for him, and put up with
him all these years. Many a time he had made her cry--he had driven
away her son--and her grandson--and yet she had offered no word of
remonstrance. How old and sad she looked when her face was in repose.
It was a face of deep lines and great sadness--a wistful, troubled,
hungry face, but dominated by a self-control of iron power. She sat
beside the bed, without moving; waiting, watchful.
"You've been good to me, Jessie," he said at last, as he stroked her
She started nervously.
"Better than I have been to you--but I am going to be better--it is
not too late yet."
With eyes of alarm, growing wider every moment--she watched him as he
"I guess I needed a set-back," he said, "and I got it--and I've
learned a lot in a short time. One thing was that you are more to me
than I thought. My friends--in politics--were everything to me--but
they valued me only for what I could do for them. I could harangue the
crowd--gather in the votes--keep things going. I remembered every one,
slapped every one on the back, called them by their first name--and it
went. But they laughed at me behind my back. Their only interest in me
was that I could carry elections. With you, it has been different. I
don't know why you stuck to me. Why did you, Jessie?"
Without replying, she hastily left the room--and phoned for the
The papers that night reported the ex-Premier's condition as "causing
grave apprehension to his friends."
When Pearl read it in the evening papers, she made a quick resolve. A
letter must be sent to Purple Springs.
When Annie Gray and Jim went to the post-office for the mail, two days
after the election, they were not disappointed, for Pearl had written.
"It is all over," wrote Pearl, "and the Government has gone down to
defeat. The new Government will make good its promises too. But I am
sure from what I have heard and seen of your father-in-law, you have
nothing to fear from him. He would not take little Jim away from you
even if he could. You can tell the people of Purple Springs all about
yourself now, and wouldn't I like to see Mrs. Cowan's face when she
hears who your father-in-law is?"
"Tonight's paper says he is not well, and I am wondering if you hadn't
better come in to the city, you and Jim. You will know best about
this. I feel sorry for Mr. Graham. He is a domineering old man, full
of prejudice and narrow ways. There could be no progress so long as he
was at the head of affairs--so he had to be removed. He held the
door shut just as long as he could, and when the crash came, quite
naturally he was trampled on, and that is never a pleasant experience.
But the whole thing has a pathetic side. I wish it could have been
settled without this.
"The night of the election, women paraded the streets, singing and
cheering, mad with joy, it made my eyes blur to see them. I am sorry
it had to come to a show-down, for it seems to set men and women
against each other--at least, I know some men feel that way. Of course
we had lots of men helping us--we could not have got far without them.
Peter Neelands has been one of the best. He was elected in one of the
city seats, and we are all so glad.
"Here are some stamps and two balloons for Jim. I do hope you will
come--. Lovingly, Pearl."
* * * * *
The winds of June, which whipped the dust of Water Street into
miniature whirlwinds under the noses of the horses, were heavy with
the unmistakable perfume of wild roses. The delivery man, sniffing
the air, decided he would go that night to the Beach, just to see the
fields of roses; the streetcar-conductor went suddenly homesick for a
sight of the poplar trees, with the roses on the headlands, and the
plushy touch of green grass under his feet, and the wizened little
Scotch milliner across the road took what she called a "scunner" at
the silk and muslin flowers, with their odious starchy, stuffy smell,
and wondered where the farmer was, who two years ago had asked her
to marry him. The wind--heavy with the perfume that stirred so many
hearts with longing, eddied carelessly into the garden of the big
brick house with the plain verandas, doubling round to the garden
at the back, where, in an old-fashioned rocking chair with chintz
cushions, sat the ex-Premier.
The wind, still charged with wild roses, stirred the lilac trees and
mountain ash, and circled noiselessly around the chair where he sat,
and played queer tricks with his memory, for all of us are young in
June, when the pageant of summer is passing by.
"I like to see you knitting, Jessie," he said gently "it is a peaceful
art, untouched by worldly cares. I wish I could hear hens cackling,
and the drowsy sounds of a farmyard, all set in nature's honest key.
I'm tired of people and machinery and telephones and committees, and
all these other inventions of the devil."
Rosie, scrubbing the veranda, hearing the last part of the sentence,
piously thanked God for the master's returning health of body and
mind, and flattened her head against the veranda post, to catch more.
"The things I have given my life to," he said sadly, "have fallen away
from me--I built on a foundation of sand, and when the rains descended
and the floods came, my house fell and left me by the ruins, groping
in the ashes."
"It isn't so bad as that, James," his wife said timidly. "You are a
respected man still, you know you are--you have plenty of friends, if
you would only let them come. It's no disgrace for a public man to be
"It's not that, Jessie," he said. "It doesn't matter to me now what
the world thinks, it can't think any worse of me than I think of it.
No, the bitterest part of all this to me is that I have none of my
own. I want some one of my own. I was too harsh--too hasty."
"If Jim had lived," she began, wistfully--
The front veranda bell pealed loudly, and Rosie hastily wiped her
hands on her petticoat, and went to answer it, sorry to miss any part
of the conversation.
"I won't see any one," said the ex-Premier, again. "She knows--I
won't. Go and tell her I won't."
When Rosie opened the door, a card was put in her hand, and the
visitor, a young lady, asked her if she would be good enough to give
it to the ex-Premier.
"He won't see you," said Rosie quickly. "He won't see any one. I am
turning them away by the dozens."
The visitor took the card from Rosie's hand, and hastily wrote a few
words on it. Rosie told the cook about it afterwards.
"She had eyes like a fairy princess, lips like cherries, and the
nicest clothes, but you could tell she wasn't thinkin' about them. I
just wanted her to stay and talk to me. 'Will you give this to him,'
she said to me, 'I'll wait here, and if he doesn't want to see me--it
is all right--I will go away--but I think he will want to see me,'
says she, with a smile at me that made me want him to see her too, and
she sat down on one of the veranda chairs.
"When I gave him the card, he read it out loud--ain't he the nicest
ever? Lots of people wouldn't have read it out. 'Miss Pearl Watson,'
says he, and what's this, 'teacher at Purple Springs,' and he nearly
jumped out of his chair.
"'My God!' he says, and he reached for his cane, like as if he was
going somewhere. 'Bring her here,' he said, and his voice was more
natural than it has been since--it made me all prickle," said Rosie.
When Pearl was taken around to the back garden, Rosie retired to a
point of vantage on the sleeping-porch above, and got most of the
conversation, by abandoning all scrubbing operations, and sitting very
The ex-Premier's wife arose as if to leave, but he motioned her to
"This concerns you too, Jessie," he said.
For a moment a silence fell on them, as the wind gently stirred the
lilacs in front of them and a humming bird on silken wings went
flashing past, like a flower that had come alive.
"You are a teacher, your card says, at Purple Springs. Is that in the
far North?" The ex-Premier endeavored to speak calmly.
"No," said Pearl, "it is only a hundred miles from here."
His face clouded with disappointment.
"But it was named for the valley in the far North, by a woman who came
"Where is the woman now," he asked, with a fine attempt to make his
"I came to tell you about her," said Pearl, with evasion. "That is, of
course, if you would like to hear. It is an interesting story."
He motioned to her to begin, trembling with excitement.
Pearl told the story that had been told to her the night she and Annie
Gray had sat by the dying fire, told it, with many a touch of pathos
and realism, which made it live before him. His eyes never left her
face, though he could not discover how much she knew, and yet the very
fact of her coming to him seemed to prove that she knew everything.
The old man's face twitched painfully when she spoke of the young
widow's quarrel with her husband's father.
"He was not accustomed to having his wishes thwarted," said Pearl
simply. "He was a man whose word was law in his own household and
among his friends. But she had the freedom of the wilderness in her
blood, and they quarrelled violently. He was determined to send the
boy to England for his education."
"He only said that--he wouldn't have done it--he loved the boy too
well," he burst in, impatiently.
"Well, of course, the young mother did not know that--not being a
mind-reader, she had no way of telling--and besides, he threatened to
take the child from her altogether. He was his son's heir, and he was
therefore the guardian of the child. The law was with him, I believe,
in that. That is one of the laws that have roused the women to take a
hand in public matters.
"So, to save her boy, to keep him for her very own--she allowed her
father-in-law to think she had not been legally married. She gave up
her good name, to keep her boy. She went away--with only her two hands
to make a living for them both."
"Where is she?" cried the old man, with something of his old
Pearl did not at once reply. He should hear all of the story. She did
not minimize the hard struggle that Annie Gray had had in her attempts
at self support, even when she saw the old man wince. He got it all.
"When she came to the farm on the Souris, she could not tell her
story--the fear was on her night and day that she might be discovered,
and the child taken from her."
"No judge in the country would do that," he cried stormily. "She had
nothing to fear even if--if--"
"Unfortunately," said Pearl quietly, "she did not know that. She
believed her father-in-law. She thought it was true, because he had
said so, and she knew that the illegitimate child belongs to the
mother, and to her alone, so she chose to let it stand at that.
"The people at Purple Springs adopted the name she had put upon her
gate--but ostracized her. The fact that she did not tell them anything
of her part, was proof to them she was not a good woman, and a man
from Ontario, who knew something about the case, fed the curiosity of
her neighbors with gossip which confirmed their suspicions."
"For three years she has lived alone, not a neighbor has come to her
door--and she has kept herself and little Jim; has worked the
farm, educated her boy, for the trustees would not let him come to
school--kept sweet and sane in spite of it all.
"When I went to see her, she cried with joy to see a human being of
kindly intention in her house. But the neighbors cut me dead, and kept
the children home from school because I went to live with her."
A groan broke from him. "Poor girl!" he said brokenly, "Poor girl, she
didn't deserve that."
Pearl's heart was softening, so she hurried on.
"The little fellow got into a fight at school, because a boy said
things about his mother. He is the sweetest tempered child I ever
knew, but he knew when to fight, and thrashed a boy a head taller than
himself; and the trustees turned him out."
"What kind of people are they?" he stormed. "It was a brave thing for
the boy to defend his mother--a brave thing I tell you. The other boy
should have been expelled--you are the teacher--why did you let them?"
Pearl let him rage, then very quietly she said, "It happened three
years before I knew them--but you should not blame the boy, Mr.
Graham, or even the trustees. They were under no obligation to protect
the woman or her boy. The boy's own grandfather had said much worse
things about her than the boy at the school. He not only insulted
her, but his own son as well--when the rage was on him. So why should
strangers spare her?"
"Go on," he said hoarsely, "let me hear it all."
She was standing in front of him now, and her eyes were driving the
truth deep into his soul. Something about her eyes, or her voice with
its rich mellowness, caused him to start and exclaim.
"Who are you, girl--tell me, who you are--I have heard your voice
somewhere! My God! was it you? was it you?"
"Yes," said Pearl, "it was me; and when the women of the city here,
who had come to you and tried to break down your stubborn prejudices,
tried to reason with you, but found it all in vain; when they told me
that first night to think of some sad case that I had known of women
who had suffered from the injustice of the law and men's prejudice,
and strike without mercy, I thought of your daughter-in-law and all
that she had suffered. I saw again the hungry look in her sweet face,
when I went to see her. I saw the gray hairs and the lines of sorrow;
I saw again the heroic efforts she makes to give her boy everything
that the world is bent on denying him--I thought of these things--and
the rest was easy. There was no other way, sir; you would not listen;
you would not move an inch--you had to be broken!"
Speechless, almost breathless, he looked at her--all the fight had
gone out of him.
"I am going now, sir," she said. "I have delivered her message. She
only wanted to clear your son's memory. She will tell the people now
who she is, and prove her marriage, for little Jim's sake.
"Don't go, girl," he cried, "sit down--tell me more. Tell me what the
boy is like--how big is he?" "The boy is like you," said Pearl, "a
tall lad for ten; clever far beyond his years."
"Does he know about me--does he hate me--has she told him?" His voice
was pitiful in its eagerness.
"Not a word--the boy has a heart of love, and as sunny a disposition
as any child could have. She has made his life a dream of happiness,
in spite of all."
The old man's face began to quiver, and a sob tore its way upward from
his heart. His face was hidden in his hands.
"Would she ever forgive me?" he said, at last, lifting his head.
"Would she believe me if I said I was sorry--would she have pity on a
broken old man, who sees the evil he has done--would the boy let
me love him--and try to make it up to him and his mother? You know
her--why don't you answer me girl? Is there no hope that she might
Pearl stepped back without a word, as Annie Gray came quickly across
the lawn. She had been standing in the shade of a maple tree, waiting
for Pearl's signal.
A cry broke from Mrs. Graham, Jim's mother, a welcoming cry of joy.
The old man rose to his feet, uncertainly holding out both his hands.
"My girl," he cried "I don't deserve it--but can you forgive me?"
And Annie Gray, who had suffered so bravely, so tearlessly, found her
heart swept clean of resentment or bitter memory as she looked at him,
for it was Jim's father, old, sad and broken, who called to her, and
to Jim's father's arms she went with a glad cry.
"Dad!" she said, "Oh Dad! Little Jim and I are very tired of being
And on the back veranda behind them, where she had been crouching with
her ear to the paling, Rosie came out of hiding and burst out like a
whole hallelujah chorus, and with the empty scrub pail in one hand,
and the brush in the other, beat the cymbals as she sang:
"O that will be glory for me,
Glory for you and glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory for me!"
Quit your whistlin' Jimmy, and hold your whist--all of you--don't you
know your poor sister is dead for sleep. Hasn't she been up hill and
down dale this last six weeks. I never saw the like of it, and it's a
God's mercy she ever lived through it--and then last night when she
drove over from her school nothing would do your pa but she must talk
half the night, when she should have been in bed. So now clear out you
lads, and let's keep the house quiet, for Pearl is a light sleeper and
"And a light stepper too, ma, for here I am--up and dressed, and
hungry as a bear." It was Pearl herself who opened the stairs' door.
A shout of joy arose from the assembly in the kitchen, dearer to Pearl
than any burst of hand-clapping she had ever heard in a theatre, and
there was a rush for the first kiss, which Danny landed neatly, though
we must admit it was done by racing over his brother Patsey, who sat
on the floor tying his boot, and Patsey's ruffled feelings did not
subside until Pearl opened her valise, which stood inside the "room"
door, and brought out jack-knives for the youngest four boys. Patsey
declared, still smarting over the indignity of being run over, and
stood upon, that Danny should not get a knife at all, but Mrs. Watson
interposed for her latest born by saying:
"O Patsey, dear, don't be hard on him. He was just that overjoyed at
seein' Pearl, he never noticed what he was standin' on; anything would
ha' done him just as well as you."
"I'll overjoy him, you bet," grumbled Patsey--tenderly feeling the
back of his neck, "when I get him outside. I'll show him what it feels
like to have some one stand on your neck, with heavy boots."
Danny made no defence, but gazed rapturously on his sister, and
expectantly at the valise, whose bulging sides gave forth promise of
greater treasures yet to come.
"I have some things here for broken hearts and rainy days," said
Pearl, "that Ma and Mary will be placed in charge of. I believe a
skinned neck should qualify, so if Patsey Watson will dry his tears
and iron out his face and step back against the wall, close his
eyes--and smile--he will get a pleasant surprise."
Patsey complied with all the conditions. Indeed, he not only smiled,
he grinned, showing a gaping expanse in the front of his mouth from
which the middle tooth had gone, like a missing gate in a neat white
When Pearl placed a box in his hands, which contained the makings and
full directions for setting up a red and black box-kite, a picture of
which in full flight adorned the cover, a war-whoop of joy rent the
"Ain't you the luckiest kid!" cried Tommy enviously, as he crowded to
get another look. "If there's anything goin', you get it."
"Now clear out, all you boys, and let Pearl get her breakfast," said
Mary. "I haven't had a chance to speak to her yet, and I want to know
how the girls are wearing their hair and how long a girl of sixteen
should wear her skirts, and lots of things."
The boys departed to make whistles with the new knives, Pearl offering
a prize for the shrillest and fartherest reaching; to be tried at
twelve o'clock noon, and silence settled once more on the kitchen.
"It's sort of too bad you came home on Saturday, Pearl," said her
mother anxiously, as she toasted a slice of bread over the
glowing wood coals. "The boys will pester you to death today and
tomorrow--though of course I know you have no other time."
"I like to be pestered, ma," said Pearl, as she began on a generous
helping of bacon and eggs. "Home is the best place, ma, and I never
knew just how good it was to have home and folks of my own, as the day
I went to school and found no children there. Isn't it queer, ma,
how hard people can be on each other. It makes me afraid God must be
disappointed lots of times, and feel like pulling down another flood
and getting away to a fresh start again.
"But I am not going to talk about anything--until I get back to
feeling the way I did when I went away. I want to see the hens and
the cows and the new pigs. I want to get out in the honest, freckly
sunshine. Do the potatoes need hoeing, ma? All right, pa and I will
go at them. I like people, and all that, but I have to mix in lots of
blue sky and plants, and a few good, honest horses, cows, dogs and
cats--who have no underlying motives and are never suspicious or
jealous, and have no regrets over anything they've done."
"But don't you like the city, Pearl?" Mary asked. "Don't you wish we
all lived there? I do, you bet."
"I am glad my people live right here, Mary, out in the open, where
there's room to breathe and time to think. O, I like the city, with
its street cars weaving the streets together like shuttles; I love
their flashing blue and red and green lights, as they slide past the
streets, clanging their bells, and with faces looking out of the
windows, and every one of the people knowing where they are going. I
like the crowds that surge along the streets at night, and the good
times they are having. I like it--for a visit. It's a great place to
go to--if you have your own folks with you--I think I'd like it--on a
wedding trip--or the like of that.
"But I want to see everything 'round home," said Pearl quickly. "Is
the garden all up, and what did you sow, and where are the hens set,
and did the cabbage plants catch?"
"You bet they did," said Mary proudly. "I transplanted them, and I put
them in close. Pa said I would need to take out every second one, but
I said we'd try them this way for once. You know the way cabbages
sprawl and straggle all over the place--all gone to leaves. Well, mine
won't, you bet, they'll heart up, because there's nothing else for
them to do. Pa admits now its the best way. They've got no room to
grow spraddly and they're just a fine sight already. Cabbages are just
like any one else; it doesn't do to give them too much of their own
way, and let them think they own the earth."
When breakfast was over, Pearl, Mary and Mrs. Watson went out into
the hazy blue sunshine. The ravine below the house was musical with
thrushes and meadow-larks. The blossoms had gone, and already the wild
cherries and plums were forming their fruit. Cattle fed peacefully on
the river banks, and some were cropping the volunteer growth of oats
that had come on the summer fallow. The grain was just high enough to
run ripples of light, as the gentlest of breezes lazily passed.
Pearl remembered the hopes and visions that had come to her the first
day she and her father had come to the farm, and through all its
dilapidation and neglect, she had seen that it could be made into a
home of comfort and prosperity, and now the dream had come true. The
Watson family were thriving; their farm had not failed them; comforts,
and even a few luxuries were theirs, and Pearl's heart grew very soft
and tender with a sense of gratitude.
It was not too good to be true, she thought, as she looked at the
comfortable home, the new barn and the populous farmyard spread out
under the quivering sunshine.
"It was not too good to be true," thought Pearl. "I can't complain,
even if some of my dreams have failed me--and maybe--who knows?"
"It's got to come right," she thought it so hard, she looked up to see
if Mary or her mother noticed. But they were busy with a hidden-away
nest, just found in the willow windbreak.
The news of the neighborhood was given to her by Mary.
"The Paines are putting up a new house, Pearl, and Mrs. Paine has some
real nice clothes, and they seem to be getting on far better."
"That's good," said Pearl, and then added, with such deep conviction,
as if she were trying to convince some one, she said:
"There's nothing too good to be true."
At noon, when all the family had been fed, and the horses were resting
in the well-bedded stalls--John Watson gave himself and his horses a
two hours' rest in the heat of the day--when every one was present,
Pearl told them something of her adventures on the six weeks of her
absence. Especially did she tell the young brothers of the lonesome
little boy who had no playmates, but who loved his mother so much he
would not let her know that he was lonely.
Patsey had a solution of the difficulty:
"Take me back, when you go, Pearl, and I'll play with him, and let him
fly my kite n' everything."
"O, he isn't lonely now," Pearl said, "thank you all the same--but I'm
going to bring him over in the holidays, for he needs to play with
boys of his own age."
"Danny better not run over him, and stand on his neck, though--he
ain't used to it--the way we are," Patsy said, but was promptly
advised to forget it, and let Pearl go on with the story, by Danny
himself, to whom the subject was growing painful.
"His grandfather and grandmother came out when we did," Pearl said,
"and they're staying at Purple Springs, and Jim and his grandfather
are together all the time. Mrs. Gray--her real name is Mrs. Graham
now--doesn't want her boy brought up in the city, and his grandfather
is tired of the city too, so they're all living in the brown house,
and every day's a picnic day."
"But oh! say we did have one of the grandest picnics a week after we
got home from the city. On Mrs. Graham's farm there's a little stream
which runs down to the river, and we got it cleaned out, and a big,
long table made, and seats and all. Jim and his grandfather did the
work--he was brought up on a farm, and can do anything. And the two
women cooked for days, and I went round and asked every one to come to
the picnic--and I told them who Mrs. Gray was, and all about it."
"Told each one in a secret, I suppose, and told them not to tell,"
said her father, smiling.
"I hope you rubbed it in, good and plenty," said Mary, "about them
bein' so mean and full of bad thoughts."
"I did my best," said Pearl, "especially with some of them who had had
so much to say, and they were keen to come, I tell you, to meet the
Premier. That's what he'll always be called, too, and he sure looked
that day when he sat at the head of the table, with the sunshine
dappling the long table, with its salads and jellies and plates of
sliced ham, and all the people sitting around kind of humble and
sheepish. He wore his Prince Albert coat and his silk hat. He didn't
want to--he thought it wasn't the thing for a picnic, but I held him
up to it, for I didn't want the people to see him in his corduroy
hunting suit. I know how impressed they would be with the fine
clothes, and I was determined they should have every thrill.
"So he put on all his good clothes, even to his gray spats. I had to
argue a long time to get them on him. He said they looked foppish, but
I just got the button-hook and put them on him while he was arguing,
and asked him who thought of this picnic anyway! and he just laughed
and said he guessed he had to pass under the rod.
"And after all the people had been introduced, and the men were
standing back, pretty hot and uncomfortable in their white shirts, he
got up and asked every one to have a seat at the table, for he wanted
to say a few words before we began to eat.
"You could have heard a leaf fall, it was so still, and then he told
them all about his son, and how he didn't understand him, and never
made a chum of him, and how he was so taken up with politics he forgot
to be a father to his own boy. And he told about his son's marriage,
and the whole story, right up to the time I went to see him in the
"'It's not easy telling this,' he said, 'but I put my daughter-in-law
in wrong in this neighborhood, and I am going to make it right if I
can. She is a noble, brave woman,' he said, 'and I am proud of her. I
lost the election,' he continued, 'but I am glad of it, for in losing
it, I found a daughter and a grandson,' and then he put his hand on my
shoulder and said, 'and here's the deepest conspirator in the country,
who managed the whole thing. This is the girl who made fun of me, and
lambasted me, but who brought my daughter-in-law and me together,
and when she runs for the Legislature, I promise I will get out and
campaign for her.'
"Every one laughed then, and the people crowded up around him, and
Annie, and you never saw so many people laughing and crying at the one
time in your life.
"We had a big boiler of coffee on the little tin stove in the trees,
and I grabbed off the white pitchers, and the biggest girls from the
school helped serve, and we got the people all started in to eat, for
it doesn't do to let people's feelings go too far.
"When they had quieted down a little, and were nearly through eating,
the minister, who was at the other end of the table, got up and said
he had an idea he wanted to pass on.
"'I'm ashamed,' he said--and I know he was--'of the way this community
has treated Mrs. Gray and Jimmy,'--he didn't seem able to call her
anything else either. 'On behalf of the district of Purple Springs, I
apologize. We'll show our apology in something better than words, too,
I hope,' he said, kind of swallowing his Adam's apple. 'We denied her
child the right to play with our children, through our stupid and
cruel thoughtlessness, now let us apologize by doing something for all
the children of this neighborhood. This is a beautiful spot, a natural
park; let us make it the Jim Gray Playgrounds, with swings, and
sand-pile and acting bars and swimming pool, with a baseball ground up
on the hill; where all our children, young people and old people too,
can gather and be young and human and sociable together.'
"The people broke out into cheers and cries of 'We'll do it!' It
seemed to relieve them.
"'And let us hold our church service here on Sundays, too, when the
weather is fine. Our religion has been too stuffy, too mouldy, too
damp, too narrow. It needs the sunshine and the clear air of heaven to
sweeten it and revive it. I feel it today, that God is in the sunshine
more than in the narrow limits we have tried to set upon Him.'
"'We sometimes deplore the tendency of our young people to go to the
city,' he continued, 'but I don't know as I blame them. We've been
living dull, drab lives for sure. Let us liven things up a bit, and
give our people something to look forward to during the week, and
something pleasant to remember. It's the utter dreariness of life that
kills people--not hard work.'
"And then," said Pearl, "I could see the people wanted to sing or cry,
or dance, or something, to work off their emotions; so I signalled to
Bessie Cowan, who is one of our best singers, to start a hymn that the
children sing every morning. They knew it well, and the people had
learned it from them. I never heard anything like it. It flashed up
through the highest branches of the trees, into the blue air. I am
sure God heard it, and was pleased:
"God is in His temple
Let the earth keep silent."
"Little Jim knew it too, and his voice was sweeter than all the rest.
It seemed easy for every one to talk or sing or laugh--or do whatever
they wanted to do. It was wonderful to see people come out of their
hard brown husks and be natural and neighborly."
"Sure, and it was more like a revival meetin' than a picnic, Pearlie,"
said her father, laughing.
"It was that, pa," she answered, "and like a term in a reform school
for some of them. There had been a big quarrel among them about a
road-scraper, and the next day every one was offering to wait, instead
of grabbing at it the way they had been; and the women who had fallen
out over a sleeve pattern and fought rings round, and called each
other everything they could name, made it up right there.
"Before they parted, they agreed to have the services there on
Sunday--that's tomorrow, and the ex-Premier is going to speak after
the service on 'How to Build a Community.' All the women are baking,
and everybody will bring their visitors, instead of staying home from
church the way they've been doing, and the children can play in the
sand-pile, and sail their boats on the little creek, and it looks as
if Purple Springs has experienced a change of heart."
"Don't you think there's a danger of leadin' them to thinkin' too
light of the Lord's day, Pearlie, picknicking that way," asked her
mother anxiously, "and maybe makin' them lose their religion?"
"O, I'm not worried about that neighborhood losing its religion, ma,"
said Pearl. "Any neighborhood that could treat a stranger the way
they did! But I do believe the sunshine and blue sky, the flowers and
birds, and the getting together, along with the words of the sermon
and the hymns they'll sing, will make them a lot more human. I never
can think it would hurt God's feelings a bit to see children playing,
and neighbors happy together on His day.
"They want us all to come; if you don't think it's too far to drive
with the whole family, and I've been training the children all week to
sing--it looks like a good time."
"We'll go!" cried Danny and Patsey, with one voice, and with brotherly
unity prevailing--for once.
"THERE IS NOTHING TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE"
"O don't touch it--it hurts," Danny wailed, when Pearl examined his
grimy little foot, from which a trickle of blood was showing through
the murk of prairie soil.
"Just let me wash it, dear," said Pearl soothingly. "We cannot tell
how badly you are hurt until we get the dirt off. It may not be so bad
This was the afternoon of the same day.
Danny's tears came in torrents. "It is bad," he sobbed. "It's the
worst sliver there's ever been in this family--or maybe in these
"Well now, maybe it is. I wouldn't wonder if we'll have to send for
the doctor," said Pearl, "and that will be one on Patsey--he never
had a doctor in his life--and maybe never will. Just let me see how
serious it is--and I'll promise you if I can't pull it out with my
fingers--the doctor will be phoned for at once, and told to hurry."
With this promise to sustain him, Danny bravely submitted to a
thoroughly good washing of the afflicted member, and even the
cleansing of the other, for Pearl explained to him that feet came in
pairs, and had to be treated alike in matters of washing.
But the sliver refused to move, though Pearl appeared to try to pull
"Send for the doctor, Pearl," Danny gasped. "I'm getting weaker
every minute, and everything is goin' from me--and now its gettin'
dark--can't some of yez light a lamp?"
Danny had heard his mother tell so many times the story of his
grandfather's last moments--it came easily to him now, and he revelled
in the sensation he was making.
"Rouse yourself, Danny dear," his mother cried tearfully, "speak to
us, darlin' and don't let yourself go to sleep--I'm feart it's gone to
"It couldn't, ma," said Pearl, "it's only a sliver--it's not a
telephone pole--a dash of cold water in the face will bring him back."
Danny suddenly returned to the earth, that his young soul seemed about
to spurn, and the look he gave his sister was at once an appeal and a
"Haven't you anything in your rainy-day box that's good for slivers?"
"Sure there is," said Pearl, "I think in a case of this kind, an
accident that calls for medical treatment entitles its owner to a very
substantial donation from the emergency chest. Mary, will you please
make a selection, while I go and phone, and remember, your youngest
brother is grievously wounded; do your best for him."
Pearl went to the phone, with a curiously lightened heart. At least
she would hear him speak--she would see him. Not once had she seen him
since the day she had been in his office. Not once--and that was three
months ago. Three months, which seemed like three years!
"Give me twenty-one, please Central," she said steadily.
She knew the way he took off the receiver.
"Dr. Clay, this is Pearl speaking," she hurried on, without giving him
time for reply. "Danny has a sliver in his foot, and we want you to
come out. Can you come?"
"Right away," he answered. "I'll be there in twenty minutes. Is it
very bad, Pearl?"
"No, not very--I nearly got it out myself."
"Well, I'm glad you didn't,"--his voice was eager.
"But he wanted you--"
"Good for Danny--he was always a wise child."
When the patient was made comfortable in a rocking-chair, with a
package of Japanese water "Flowers" and a cup of water in which to
expand them, as a means of keeping his mind from despair, Pearl made
a hurried survey of herself in the mirror, and pulled her brown hair
into curls over her ears.
"Ears are not good this year, Mary," she laughed. "They must not be
A roar of pain from Danny brought her flying back to him.
"Stay with me Pearl," he shouted, "I'm a sick man, and tell the kids
to keep quiet--it jars me--I can't stand it--it makes me all go cold!"
Pearl sat down beside him, making a rather unsuccessful effort to be
becomingly solemn. Mary hushed the shouts of the others, who
were quite ready to be thrilled by their brother's precarious
condition--and when the doctor came in, the Watson brothers assembled
to hear the verdict.
"He will recover," said the doctor. "Not only recover, but regain the
full use of the injured member. But it's a bad, bad sliver just the
same, and some boys would cry if they had it."
Danny set his lips tightly together, as one who was determined to
endure to the end.
Very tenderly the doctor took him on his knee, and examined the little
foot. "I'll have a basin of water, Pearl, please," he said.
"It has been washed," Danny cried, with indignation. "Pearl washed
both of them."
"Sure enough," the doctor said, "but you just watch and see what I am
going to do."
The doctor opened his black bag to get out a lance, the sight of which
was too much for Danny's reserve of courage, and in spite of his brave
efforts, the tears burst forth.
The doctor laid the lance back in the bag, and said, "Now Danny, I am
going to tell you a real true story, and we won't touch your foot at
all, unless you ask me to.
"There's a bad, bold sliver about this long, that ran into Danny
Watson's foot. No one asked the sliver to go in--no one wanted it--but
it went. Danny's foot does not like it--and every nerve is crying
'Pull it out--pull it out,' and the blood has gathered round to see
what's wrong, just like a crowd of people on the street, growing
bigger every minute, so Danny's foot is beginning to swell and get red
"Now, if we leave the sliver alone, the foot will get it out its own
way, but it will take a long time. The foot will get redder, hotter,
sorer. It will be very stiff, and Danny will not be able to walk on
it. And even after the sliver works out, it will take quite a while
to heal, and there may be an ugly mark here for a long time. Still,
that's one way to get rid of slivers.
"There's another way. It is to let me cut the skin with this sharp
knife--sharp like a razor-blade--and then take these little tweezers,
catch the end of the sliver, and give one quick jerk. Then we'll
put your foot in the warm water and let all the blood that has been
gathering to see what was wrong, run away, and then we'll put on
something nice and soft, and some absorbent cotton, and make a fine
bandage, and about tomorrow it will be as good as the other one.
"Which way will we do it, Danny?"
Danny had followed every word of the story, his eyes meeting the
"Which way, Danny?" the doctor repeated.
Danny buried his head in the doctor's shoulder, and said one word:
In a few minutes it was all over, and Danny, looking a little pale,
with his foot resting on a pillow, was taken for a ride in the new
wheelbarrow, well padded with fresh hay by his thoroughly concerned
and solicitous young brothers. Danny, knowing the transitory nature of
his popularity, was not too overcome by his recent operation to accept
promptly the presents his brothers offered, and did so with a sweetly
wan and patient smile which kindled a noble rivalry in the matter of
gifts. Patsey, now very repentant, brought his catapult, Bugsey his
alleys, his loveliest "pure," and the recumbent lamb set in a ball of
clear glass; Tommy surrendered his pair of knobbies. Their mother,
watching the procession leaving the gate, was moved almost to tears by
these expressions of brotherly love.
"They fight and squabble and jander at each other, but when trouble
comes, they cling together. That's what the psalmist means when he
says 'A brother is born for adversity.' It's the day of trouble that
proves what your own mean to you."
Mary and her mother were at the kitchen door, having come out to get
the patient properly started for his ride.
"I never knew it meant that, ma," said Mary, "but that's a nice
She looked into the living-room, where Pearl and the doctor sat
without speaking, and just as her mother was about to go to join them,
"I believe there's cream for a churnin', ma, it will be too sour
before Monday. If you come out and stay with me, I'll do it, but I
hate to work alone."
As she flung the cream from end to end of the barrel-churn, while her
mother sat beside her mending the boys' shirts for the Sabbath, Mary
said to herself:
"A sister is born for adversity, too--you bet." Meanwhile, the doctor
and Pearl, left alone, had broken the silence which fell upon them at
"Come out for a ride, Pearl," he said at last. "Saturday is the
teacher's happy day, and I haven't seen you for months--not to speak
to you--and I want to hear all about what you've been doing. You
haven't told me yet that you are glad I was elected."
"But I wrote you a note, didn't I?"
"Oh yes indeed, you did," he agreed, "but you know even the best notes
in the world lack color--or something."
"Even roses," said Pearl, "lack something too, though it isn't color."
"You will come, won't you, Pearl?" he urged.
Pearl sat on the flowered lounge, looking at him intently.
"Just wait a minute, doctor," she said, "your explanation of slivers
and their treatment interests me very much. I think I had better
consult you now as my physician. I have never had a physician, but it
would no doubt be you if I should need one."
"Thank you, Miss Watson," he said, quite gravely, "I appreciate the
compliment," and waited for her to speak.
"I have a sliver, too," she said at last. "No, not in my foot. It is
in my heart, and I am afraid I have been trying the foolish way of
letting it work out. You are quite right in saying it is slow, and
painful--and attracts attention to itself. It does. Now that day, the
second day of March, you and I had some serious conversation. I didn't
understand why you said what you did. I don't yet. I am sure you
said what you thought you should say. You may have been telling the
truth--or if not, something you considered better than the truth,
easier, more comfortable, less painful."
"Sometimes a very bitter thought comes to me--a sore thought--it is
the sliver. I am not trying to be tactful now, just truthful. Tact and
truth do not always combine naturally. This is one of the times. I am
going to ask you something--but, don't speak until I am all done."
Here Pearl straightened her fine young shoulders, and her eyes grew
very dark and luminous.
"Was it really because you think I am too young to know my own mind,
that you spoke as you did, or is there another reason?"
She was looking into his eyes with such intensity, with such
directness, that he knew he was going to tell her everything. It
seemed as if she must read whatever was in his heart.
"My people are common, working people," she went on--and her head was
held very high now, and her voice, all silver as it was, had an inner
foundation of steel, like the famous silverware. "My people have
always worked for a living. They are honest, kindly, honorable people,
but they are what the vulgar would call--and do call--people who have
no 'class.' My father eats with his knife; my mother does not know
anything about having her subject and predicate agree in certain fine
points in which subjects and predicates are supposed to agree. She
knows how to work in harmony with her family and her neighbors, but
her adjectives, verbs and nouns do sometimes tangle. I don't mind.
These are small matters to me. I love my own people--admire and honor
Pearl's cheeks were flaming now.
"If you care greatly for these things--I know many do--and feel they
are too serious, I want you to do something for me as my physician.
You can do it with one word. It will hurt, but not for long. It will
heal quickly. I will wash out the place with pride, and put on a
bandage of the love I bear my own people. It will just be the first
shock--there will be no after effects. Tell me the one word. Was it
because--my father eats with his knife? Danny buried his face in your
shoulder so he could not see. I will use a pillow--it is--more seemly.
All right! Ready! Jerk!"
The pillow was thrown across the room, and Pearl found herself looking
into his eyes, as he held her close.
"No, Pearl," he cried, "it is not that. I love you--more than all the
world. I would marry you--if every relative you ever had had been
hanged on the highest hill. There are no two people I know, to whom I
would rather be related, than your father and mother. But there is a
gap between us. I did not tell you the truth that day, because I felt
it was more honorable to hide it. But I will tell you everything now."
When he was done, Pearl's eyes were soft and tender, and her arms
tightened around him.
"Is that all?" she said happily. "Is that all?"
"You don't understand, dear, how serious it is," he said, "I couldn't
ask you to marry a sick man."
"But you love me?" she said, "You want me--you have been miserable
trying to give me up."
"It has been a bitter fight," he said, "a miserable, lonesome fight."
Pearl stood up suddenly, and he thought he had never seen her so
beautiful, so queenly or so compelling. He knew he was going to do
whatever she said. The weight of responsibility seemed to be lifted.
"Come out," she said quickly, "we are too happy to stay inside. I must
breathe the sunshine and look up at the sky. My heart is too full for
They drove to the river bank, a mile away, and sat on a fallen log at
the head of a ravine, which fell sharply to the river below. Through
the opening in the trees, they would see the slow running Souris, on
which the sunshine glinted, making its easy way to join its elder
brother, the Assiniboine, on the long, long march to the sea. Across
the river plumy willows, pale green and tremulous, grew paler still as
a wind passed over them.
The afternoon sun was sinking in a sea of wine-red mist, throwing
streamers of light into the upper sky, like a giant's fan.
"I know now," said Pearl, "why I was led to Purple Springs, and why I
felt when I met Annie Gray that my life would be knit with hers;"
and then as they sat, hand-in-hand, with the glory of the sunset
transfiguring the every-day world, she told him of the wonder valley
of hot springs in the far North, whose streams have magical powers of
healing. The valley of Purple Springs--away beyond the sunset.
"We'll go over tomorrow," said Pearl, "and Annie will tell you all
about it, with its arch of mountains, its tropical flowers, the size
of the vegetables and grains which grow there, and the delight of the
Indians when they find their sick people growing well again. Annie has
been longing to go, and I told her yesterday I would go with her, and
we can still get there before the cold weather."
The doctor made one last effort to hold to his original intention:
"Pearl, I cannot let you bind yourself to me until I am well again.
I am holding my own, Dr. Brander says. He thought the election would
pull me down, but it didn't. My case is a hopeful one. It's too much
like taking advantage of your romantic way of looking at this. To
marry a sick man is a serious affair, and I cannot ask a girl like
you, so full of promise, so splendid in every way, to do it."
"You won't need to," she laughed, slipping her arm through his. "It's
all settled--I'll just marry you without being asked. The covenant
between you and me was made before the foundations of the world.
You're my man. I knew you the moment I saw you. So when I say, 'I,
Pearl, take you, Horace,' it's not a new contract--it's just a
ratification of the old. It's just the way we have of letting the
world know. You see dear, you just can't help it--it's settled."
"But are you sure, Pearl; you are so young in years; I mean--are you
sure you will not be sorry? I love you Pearl--I want you, but I desire
still more to see you get the most out of life."
"I'm sure," she said steadily. "If I can't have you, life has fooled
me--cheated me--and I do not believe God ever intended that. Peter
Neelands said I was in love with life, with romance; that because you
were the nearest hero I had selected you and hung a halo around you,
and that maybe I was mistaken."
"What does he know about it?" asked the doctor sharply.
"I told him," said Pearl. "He was the only person I could talk to, and
when there came not a word from you--and Mrs. Crocks told me you went
quite often to the city to see Miss Keith, I began to wonder if I
could be mistaken--so I tried to forget you."
"Yes. I worked two weeks on it, when I was in the city."
"How did you go about it?" he asked, after a pause.
"Peter said most girls were so romantic and ready to fall in love,
they often loved a man who cared nothing for them, but who married
them rather than break their hearts, and that's what causes so many
unhappy homes. Of course, it works the other way too, and he said
the way to tell if it were a real true, undying love, was to try the
'expulsive power of a new love.' That's a fine phrase, isn't it?"
"Well, Peter was willing to be experimented on. He said if he had come
to Millford about the same time you did, I might have selected him
instead of you, and made a hero of him."
"He has his nerve," exclaimed the doctor.
"O, I don't know," she said. "I mean I didn't know. I was willing to
see. So Peter stuck around all the time, and he drove me everywhere,
and always saw me home. I like him--all right--but you see I couldn't
make my heart beat when he came into the room, and there was no
rainbow in the sky, or music in the air, when he came to see me, and
every day I got more lonesome for you, until it just seemed as if I
couldn't go on. The three years when I thought you loved me, I saved
up a lot of happiness--sort of money in the bank--and I used it every
day and told myself you would tell me everything some day--and it
would all come right. I got that mixed in with my prayers every night.
But when you didn't come--and didn't come--my balance in the bank grew
less and less--and I got panicky, and afraid I had been mistaken. So
just to be sure, I did try to like Peter--not because I wanted to,
but just to see if it could be done--in the interest of scientific
research, Peter said it was."
"But I couldn't get accustomed to having him with me--he tired me
sometimes--he talked too much, and I never could let him pay for my
lunch, when we had lunch together. I could not let him spend a cent on
me--not even the price of a movie."
"I'm glad you didn't, Pearl," the doctor said quickly. "You were quite
right about that, but you won't feel that way about me, will you dear?
These new women can get to be so independent--they are uncomfortable
to live with."
Pearl rubbed her cheek against his shoulder, like a well-pleased
"No chance!" she said. "I'll let you pay every time--I'll just love
spending your money--I won't ever know it from mine."
"O won't you?" laughed the doctor. "Well now, I am glad to be warned,
and I am glad there are some laws to protect poor simple-minded men
like me. I'll speak to Driggs about it as soon as I go back, and you
may expect to see on the front page of the 'Mercury' something like
this: 'I, Horace Clay, physician of the village of Millford, hereby
warn the public I will not be responsible for my wife's debts.'"
At that, they laughed so much that the woodpecker in the tree above
them stopped drumming, to listen, and when he found out how matters
stood, he turned the whole story into telegraphic code and sent it up
and down the valley; and a brown squirrel looked at them through
a tangle of cranberry leaves, and when he got the drift of
their conversation, he raced to the top of the highest tree and
chee--chee--chee-d the news to all the other squirrels in the woods;
and old silver-spot, the crow, scenting a piece of gossip, came
circling over the trees and made a landing on a stump quite near them,
and with his head on one side, listened for a few minutes, and then,
with an insufferable smirk, rose cautiously and, circling high over
the trees, made a rapid flight up the river, without uttering a sound.
The doctor watched him as he disappeared around the bend. "Do you know
where he's off to, Pearl?" he said. "He's going to tell Mrs. Crocks.
She understands Crow, of course--it's left over from her last
re-incarnation. This will save an announcement!"
All afternoon, a black cloud, thick and thunderous, had huddled over
the hills to the north, but before the sun went down, there came
across its shoulder, a shining ribbon of rainbow.