Part 2 out of 7
describing the Superintendent's address at the College and thrilling
his listeners with his own enthusiasm, when Brown entered.
"Hello! At it again?" cried Brown. "If he doesn't avoid that fiery
cross fellow, The Don will be off for the West first thing you
"Tell us," cried Betty, "was he as great as all that? Mr. Balfour
here would have us believe that this Western man is really something
"Well, I don't know," said Brown. "You never think of whether he is
wonderful or not, but one thing I know, he makes you see things--the
mountains and that foot-hill country, the mining camps and all that
saloon and gambling-hell business, till you can smell the brimstone
and you want to be in it."
"What? Into the brimstone?" laughed Lloyd.
"I am rather incoherent, I confess. But that old chap suits me. If I
were a Theologue, and unattached, I'd be there."
"There's no doubt it is a great country, with vast opportunities,"
said The Don, glancing at Betty.
"Yes," said Mrs. Fairbanks, frowning as she noted the glance, "and
doubtless any young man who has the necessary enterprise and courage
will make his fortune with the growth of that country."
"But why unattached? What do you mean by that?" enquired Betty.
"Unattached? Why, you know, just like me--a man with no family ties
to speak of. Did you tell them that yarn, Lloyd? Well, I'll tell
you. You know the Superintendent was telling the fellows of the
difficulty he had in securing men. Well, he managed to get a man
from an Eastern College whom he appointed to the Cariboo--right sort
of chap, too, apparently--accepted the appointment--everything was
arranged--happened, however, he was engaged to a young lady brought
up in the lap of luxury, and that sort of thing. When she heard of
her young man being appointed to this outlandish place, she promptly
collapsed into a faint, sister went into hysterics, mother into a
blind rage, result--young man resigned. 'So you see, gentlemen,'
said the old chap dryly, 'when you have to consider the tastes and
temperament, not only of the young man, but of his young lady and of
all her near family relatives, the difficulty of securing men for
the West is sensibly increased."
"I think that is just horrid of him," exclaimed Betty indignantly.
"The young lady ought to be consulted. Don't you think so?" turning
"Why certainly, and yet--"
"Most assuredly," said Mrs. Fairbanks. "Would you ask a young lady
to go out and bury herself alive in such a country as that, or ask
her to wait an indefinite number of years till the young man should
return? Why it is simply monstrous." And Mrs. Fairbanks fixed her
glasses firmly on her nose and gazed at Brown as if she would
"Why certainly I would," replied Brown, quite unabashed; "and if she
loved me," placing his hand over his heart, "she would be glad to do
either. I would simply remark, 'My love, I'm off for Greenland.'
'Wait, my dear,' she would promptly reply, 'till I get my furs.'"
"All the same," said Lloyd seriously, "it would be a terrible life
for any woman, and a man should hesitate before asking her to share
"No society, nothing congenial in environment! Quite impossible!"
exclaimed Mrs. Fairbanks with great emphasis. "And quite absurd to
dream of it."
"Then," replied Brown warmly to Lloyd, "the only available men for
your Chief, apparently, are hopeless old bachelors or young men,
however worthy like myself, who are still unappropriated."
"Exactly," said Mrs. Fairbanks with an air of finality.
"But, Mrs. Fairbanks," exclaimed The Don, "what of our soldiers and
officers who go to India and other outlandish places? They take
their wives along with them, I understand?"
"That's quite a different thing, Mr. Balfour," said Mrs. Fairbanks.
"These men go out to serve their Queen and country, and it is
recognised as the proper thing, and--well, you see, it is quite
"I must say," exclaimed Helen, fastening to forestall the hot answer
she knew to be at The Don's lips, "I agree with Mr. Brown. If a
man's work calls him to Greenland, his wife ought to go with him or
she ought to be willing to wait his return."
"Helen, you speak like a sentimental school-girl," replied Mrs.
Fairbanks with a touch of haughty scorn. "Of course if a man is
married and duty calls him to a foreign land, he must go. But why
should a girl throw away her prospects and condemn herself to a life
of obscurity and isolation by attaching herself to a man who chooses
to take up some fantastic mission in some outlandish place or
"Why? Because she loves a man whose duty calls him there," exclaimed
Helen, her grey eyes glowing.
"Bravo!" replied Brown. "If I see a Western missionary wanting a
helpmeet--that's the proper word, I believe--I shall know where to
"Nonsense," cried Mrs. Fairbanks quite crossly, "but surely we need
not discuss the question any further."
"Well, if I may offer an opinion," said The Don in a deliberate,
strained voice, "that country is the place for men with enterprise
who believe in themselves, and I think no man is throwing his
prospects away who identifies himself with it--nor woman either, for
that matter. And what is true of other professions ought to be true
of the ministry."
"I agree," cried Brown, adding wickedly, "just the spot for you,
"Why, I should like nothing better," said Lloyd, "if circumstances
indicated that my work lay there."
"Well, well, what's come to you all?" cried Mrs. Fairbanks, holding
up her jewelled hands in despair.
"The Occidental microbe," suggested Brown.
"And the monumental nonsense it is," said Mrs. Fairbanks, "for men
of high culture and special training to lose themselves in such a
country as that."
"But," persisted Brown, "they say that that's the very place for
such men. Why, that country is full of high-class chaps--University
grads, Lords, Dukes, and such, as well as the professional gambler,
and other highly technical experts. The Superintendent declared to-
night he wouldn't have any but high-class men hence, Lloyd!" and
Brown waved his hand toward that gentleman.
"I have no doubt," said Mrs. Fairbanks with severe deliberation,
"that Mr. Lloyd has the good sense to perceive that his special
training fits him for something quite different, and I think he will
not be mad enough to throw away his brilliant prospects in any such
silly manner. But come, let us have some music. Mr. Lloyd, you and
Betty sing something for us."
As they moved to the piano, Brown looked up at The Don. His
handsome, haughty face was set hard and in his eyes burned a light
that Brown had often seen there on the football field.
"He's going to tackle and tackle hard, too, poor old chap. Not much
chance, though, against that combination of Church and State."
"Oh, that we two were Maying," sang Lloyd in his fine tenor voice,
with Betty responding in like sentiment.
"Well, I rather hope not," muttered Brown to himself as he crossed
the room to where Helen was seated. Pausing a moment beside her he
said in a low tone, "The Don has had an offer on the new railway
construction in the West--two years' appointment. Go and talk to him
about it. Looks fierce, doesn't he?" And Helen, nodding
intelligently, lingered a moment and then moved to where The Don
sat, while Brown went toward the piano. "Must get these youngsters
inoculated with the Occidental microbe," he muttered as he took his
place beside Mrs. Fairbanks, who was listening with pleased approval
to the "Maying" duet, the pauses of which Brown industriously
employed in soothing her ruffled feelings. So well did he succeed
that when he proffered the humble request that the young ladies
should be allowed to accompany him to Shock's church in the morning,
Mrs. Fairbanks gave a reluctant assent.
"Undoubtedly, I am a great strategist," said Brown to himself next
morning as he sat watching with surreptitious glances the faces of
the young ladies beside him. The preacher was at his best. The great
land where his life mission lay, with its prairies, foot-hills
mountains, and valleys, and all their marvellous resources, was
spread out before the eyes of the congregation with all the
passionate pride of the patriot. The life of the lonely rancher and
of his more lonely wife, the desperate struggle for manhood by the
mean of the mine and the railroad and the lumber camp, the magnitude
of the issues at stake; the pathos of defeat, the glory of triumph,
were all portrayed with a power that compelled the sympathy of his
hearers, while the shrewd common-sense vein that ran through all
convinced their intellects and won their confidence. Perplexity,
wonder, horror, compassion, filled their hearts and were reflected
with rapid succession on their faces, as he told his stories of the
wreck of human lives and consequent agony of human hearts.
"By Jove! they've got it," exclaimed Brown to himself. "The dear
Mrs. Fairbanks has no anti-toxine for this microbe." His eyes turned
to Shock and there were held fast. "He's got it, too, confound him,"
he grumbled. "Surely, he wouldn't be beast enough to leave his old
mother alone." The mother's face was a strange sight. On it the
anguish of her heart was plainly to be seen, but with the anguish
the rapt glory of those who triumph by sacrifice.
As the congregation broke up the young ladies hurried to greet Mrs.
Macgregor. From the day of the football match they had carefully and
persistently nursed the acquaintance then begun till they had come
to feel at home in the Macgregor cottage. Hence, when Betty fell
into severe illness and they were at their wits' end for a nurse,
they gladly accepted Mrs. Macgregor's proffered help, and during the
long anxious weeks that followed, the whole family came to regard
with respect, confidence, and finally warm affection, the dignified
old lady who, with such kindly, shrewd, and tender care, nursed the
sick girl back to strength. Helen especially, who had shared the
long watch with her, had made for herself a large place in her
heart. To-day, after an exchange of greetings, Helen drew Mrs.
Macgregor back and allowed the others to go on. For some time they
walked in silence, Helen holding the old lady tight by the arm.
"Well, what do you think of that?" she said finally. "Wasn't it
wonderful? It makes one proud to be a Canadian. What a country that
must be! If I were only a man! It's too bad that men have all the
good things. Wouldn't you like to go yourself?"
"That I would," said the old lady eagerly, "that I would. But I
doubt it's not for me. But yon's a man."
"Yes," cried Helen enthusiastically, "he is a man to follow. Of
course, it was a strange sermon for a church--those stories of his,
I mean, and all those figures about coal beds and gold and cattle.
I'm not used to that sort of thing and I don't like to see the
"Ay, he's wise," replied the old lady shrewdly. "When a man laughs
he's nearer to letting his money go. Ay, he's wise, yon man."
"Of course, I think he's extreme," said Helen. "You would think to
hear him there was no place but the West and that every young
minister must go out there and give up everything."
"There's few to go, I doubt," said the old lady in a musing tone,
"and yon are terrible-like places for those lads to live."
"Yes, but everyone can't go."
"No, no. That's it. That's just it. Not many can go and not many are
fit to go. But those that can--" the old lady paused, drawing her
breath in sharply.
"But surely a man may do his work without giving up everything he
holds dear," persisted Helen.
"'Forsaketh not all that he hath,'" quoted the old lady softly.
"Yes, but that's not for everybody," insisted Helen.
"'Whosoever,'" quoted Mrs. Macgregor again, with a stern
relentlessness in her tone. "Ay, there will be no slipping out from
"But surely," argued Helen, "it is not reasonable to think that
every young minister is bound to forsake home and friends, and all
that, and go out to these wild places."
"Not every one will be called. The application will not be easy for
any of us, I doubt. Oh, no! it will not be easy."
"But surely, Mrs. Macgregor, there are other claims upon men."
"There iss only one claim, lassie, only one claim. His claim is the
first. All other claims will just be working out that first one. Ay,
that's it," she said, as if arriving at decision, "only one claim.
God peety us! One claim," she added with a sudden break in her
At that break Helen glanced at the old lady. The strong face was
working strangely. The tears were slowly making their way down the
"Oh, Mrs. Macgregor!" exclaimed Helen, "that seems an awfully hard
doctrine. Do you think God ever wants a man to leave father, mother,
wife, helpless behind?"
"No, no, lassie, not helpless. But--," she could go no further.
"But," she continued after a moment or two, clutching Helen by the
arm, "he--will--be--going--away, lassie, he will be going away. He
will be leaving me and--it iss the will of the Lord. Oh! lassie,
lassie, heed me not. He must never see the tears on my face."
"Don't! don't!" cried Helen in a sudden anguish. She had no need of
further words to tell her what the old lady meant. "He would never
do such a thing! He could not do it!"
"Could not?" answered Mrs. Macgregor. "Ay, he could," she said
proudly. "Thank God he could. He will not be shaming his blood. But
oh! it iss himself will carry a sore heart away with him and leave a
sore heart behind."
"Oh, Mrs. Macgregor!" cried Helen, while her breath came fast and
her hand went to her own heart, "perhaps he will not think it to be
his duty. Perhaps he will not--"
"Indeed, indeed, and I saw it in hiss face last night, and clearer
than ever to-day. He hass heard the voice and it iss for him to
obey--and for us."
They were near Mrs. Macgregor's home, where the others stood waiting
for them at the gate.
"May I come to see you?" said Helen hurriedly.
"Ay, come," said Mrs. Macgregor with a keen look at her, "you will
be needing--I will be needing help."
The others they found eagerly discussing the sermon, but there was
little criticism. The Superintendent had won his volunteers. On
Shock's face sat the serenity of a great decision, in his deep blue
eyes the light of a great enterprise. As he said good-bye to Helen,
she became aware that his usual hesitating, nervous awkwardness had
given place to quiet, thoughtful dignity. A great resolve and a
great sacrifice had lifted him far above things small and common.
"YEA, AND HIS OWN LIFE ALSO"
When Helen entered her own room she had leisure to analyse the
tumult of emotion filling her heart. Amazement, shame, anger,
dismay, grief, were surging across her soul.
"How can he think of leaving his mother? It is a shame!" she cried
indignantly to herself. But why this hot sense of shame? "Nonsense!"
she protested vehemently to herself, "it is that poor, dear old lady
I am thinking of." She remembered that sudden stab at her heart at
the old lady's broken words, "He will be going away, lassie," and
her cheek flamed hot again. "It is all nonsense," she repeated
angrily, and there being no one to contradict her, she said it again
with even greater emphasis. But suddenly she sat down, and before
long she found herself smiling at the memory of the old lady's proud
cry, "Could not? Ay, he could." And now she knew why her heart was
so full of happy pride. It was for Shock. He was a man strong enough
to see his duty and brave enough to face what to him was the
bitterness of death, for well she knew what his mother was to him.
"He will go," she whispered to her looking-glass, "and I'd go with
him to-morrow. But"--and her race flamed hot--"he must never know."
But he did come to know, to his own great amazement and
overwhelming, humbling gladness.
Shock's determination to offer himself to the far West awakened in
his friends various emotions.
"It is just another instance of how religious fanaticism will lead
men to the most fantastic and selfish acts," was Mrs. Fairbanks'
verdict, which effected in Brown a swift conversion. Hitherto he had
striven with might and main to turn Shock from his purpose, using
any and every argument, fair or unfair, to persuade him that his
work lay where it had been begun, in the city wards. He was the more
urged to this course that he had shrewdly guessed Helen's secret, so
sacredly guarded. But on hearing Mrs. Fairbanks' exclamation, he at
once plunged into a warm defence of his friend's course.
"The finest thing I ever heard of," he declared. "No one knows what
these two are to each other, and yet there they are, both of them,
arriving at the opinion that Shock's work lies in the West."
"But to leave his mother alone!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairbanks
"She is not to be alone," said Brown, making there and then a sudden
resolve. "By the greatest of luck for me I am turned out of my
quarters, and she is to take me in, and while I can't fill Shock's
place, still I am somebody," added Brown, fervently hoping the old
lady would not refuse him shelter.
"I am not sure that a man is ever called to leave his mother to the
care of strangers," said Lloyd, who, after long indecision and much
consultation with various friends, had determined that his
particular gifts and training fitted him for Park Church.
"Oh! blank it all!" said Brown to Helen, "I can't stand that rot!"
"I beg your pardon," said Mrs. Fairbanks, looking haughtily at Brown
through her glasses.
"I was about to say," replied Brown, in the sweetest of tones, "that
if these two who are most interested, and who are extremely sane and
reasonable persons, have come to an agreement upon a question, I'd
bank on that decision as being about the thing." At which Helen gave
his arm a quick squeeze.
"Well, mother," said Betty, "I think he's fine, and I never admired
him so much as now. You know he may never see her again, and she has
the whole of his heart."
"Not quite, I guess," said Brown in a low tone to Helen, who,
blushing vividly, replied in like tone, "You seem to be remarkably
"I know," said Brown confidently. "But he is a mine of blind
stupidity! If some one would dig him up, explore him--blast him, in
short! Confound him!"
But when the Superintendent learned of all that Shock's decision
involved, he made a point to insert among his multitudinous
engagements a visit to the Macgregor cottage.
"It was a great scene, I assure you," said Brown, who was describing
it afterwards to the young ladies.
"Those two old Spartans, all ice and granite outside, all molten
lava within, stood up looking at each other a minute or two without
the quiver of an eyelid and then the old chief burred out:"
"'You are to be congratulated upon your son, Mrs. Macgregor.'"
"'Ay,' said she in a matter of fact tone, 'he will be doing his
duty, I warrant.'"
"'And, believe me, your mutual sacrifice has not been unnoticed.'"
"'It is not great beside His own, but it iss all we could. It iss
"The old chap bowed like a prince and then his voice burred like a
buzz saw as he answered, 'Remember I did not ask you for him!'"
"'No, it wass not you.'"
"'But I want to tell you,' said the chief, 'I am proud to get a son
who for the Cause can forsake such a mother, and I thank God for the
mother that can give up such a son.'"
"And then he gripped her hand with that downward pull of his,--he
gave it to me once when he heard I was Shock's friend, and nearly
jerked me off my feet,--and without more words he was gone, while I
stood behind them like a blubbering idiot."
"Oh, isn't she a dear!" exclaimed Betty, "poor thing."
"Poor thing!" echoed Helen warmly, "indeed she doesn't think so.
She's as proud of him as she can be, and feels herself rich in his
love; and so she is."
Her tone and manner struck Brown with sudden pity.
"Hang his stupidity!" he said to himself, "can't the old bloke see.
But he has not such a blamed low opinion of himself that he can't
imagine any girl, much less a girl like that, looking at him, and
even if he did come to see it he would not think of asking her to
share the life he's going to out there; and, by Jove! it would be
hard enough for her. I guess I won't take the responsibility of
interfering in this business."
But Brown had no need to interfere. Mrs. Fairbanks, of all people,
did what was necessary. On the morning of Shock's departure it was
she who declared that someone should take pity on "that dear old
lady," and should stand by her in her hour of "desertion."
"So I think I shall drive over this afternoon; and, Helen, perhaps
you had better come with me. You seem to have great influence with
But Helen was of quite another mind. She shrank from intruding upon
what she knew would be a sacred hour to mother and son. But when
Mrs. Fairbanks expressed her determination to go Helen finally
agreed to accompany her.
"Oh, let's all go, mother," said Betty.
"I do not think they will want you, Betty, but you may go along,"
and so the three ladies proceeded in the afternoon to the Macgregor
But at the parting of Shock and his mother there were no tears or
lamentations, or at least none that any could witness. Through the
long night before, they each knew the other to be keeping the watch
of love and agony; yet, each alone, they drank the cup of sacrifice.
It was only when the morning was nearing that Shock could bear it no
longer, and hastily dressing he came into his mother's room and
kneeling by her bedside put his arms about her.
"Mother, mother, why have you not been sleeping?" he whispered.
His mother turned to him and took his head to her bosom in a close
embrace, but no words came from her.
"But, mother, don't be grieving like this," sobbed Shock, "or how
can I leave you at all."
"Laddie, laddie, why did you come in to me? I had minded to give you
up without tears, and this iss my hour of weakness. There now, let
your head lie there. Whist! lad, och-hone. It iss twenty-four years
since first you lay there, lad, and though grief hass come to me
many's the day, yet never through you, never once through you, and
you will be remembering that, lad. It will comfort you after--after-
-after I'm gone."
"Gone, mother!" cried Shock in surprise.
"Yess, for this iss the word given to me this night, that you will
see my face no more."
"Oh, mother! mother! don't say that word, for I cannot bear it," and
poor Shock buried his face in the pillow, while his great frame
shook with sobs.
"Whist now, laddie! There now. It iss the Lord."
Her voice grew steady and grave. "It iss the Lord, and He gave you
to me for these few happy years, and, Shock, man, you will be
Shock turned his face toward her again and laid his face close to
"Remember, I gave you to Himself in convenant that day, and that
covenant you will keep now and--afterwards, and I must be keeping it
"Yes, mother," said Shock brokenly, while he held her tight. "But it
is only for two years, and then I will be coming home, or you to me,
and before that, perhaps."
"Yes, yes, laddie, it may be--it may be," said his mother
soothingly, "but whether or no, we will not be taking back with the
one hand what we give with the other. I had minded to give you
without tears, but--but oh, lad, you are all--all--all--I have.
There is no one left to me."
There was a long silence between them. Under cover of darkness they
let their tears freely mingle. In all his life Shock had never seen
his mother sob, and now he was heart--stricken with grief and
"Whist now, mother, you must not cry like that. Surely God will be
good to us, and before long I will get a little place for you
yonder. Why should you not come to me? There are missionaries' wives
out there," he said.
"No, lad," his mother replied quietly, "I will not be deceiving
myself, nor you. And yet it may be the Lord's will. But go away now
and lie you down. You will need to sleep a bit, to-morrow will be a
hard day to you."
For twenty years and more she had thought first of her boy, and now,
even in the midst of her own great sorrow, she thought mostly of him
and his grief.
"Let me stay here, mother," whispered Shock. And so in each other's
arms they lay, and from sheer exhaustion both soon fell asleep.
The morning's sun was shining through the chink by the curtain when
Mrs. Macgregor awoke. Gently she slipped out of the bed and before
dressing lighted the kitchen fire, put on the kettle for the tea and
the pot for the porridge. Then she dressed herself and stepping
about on tiptoe prepared breakfast, peering in now and then at her
It was with a face calm and strong, and even bright, that she went
in at last to waken him.
"Now, mother," exclaimed Shock, springing off the bed, "this is
really too bad, and I meant to give you your breakfast in bed to-
"Ay, it's myself knew that much," she cried with a little laugh of
"Oh, but you're hard to manage," said Shock severely, "but wait
until I get you out yonder in my own house."
"Ay, lad," answered his mother brightly, "it will be your turn
They were determined, these two, to look only at the bright side to-
day. No sun should shine upon their tears. The parting would be sore
enough with all the help that hope could bring. And so the morning
passed in last preparations for Shock's going, and the last counsels
and promises, and in planning for the new home that was to be made
in the shadow of the Rockies in the far West.
"And the time will soon pass, mother," said Shock cheerfully, "and
it will be good for you to have Brown with you. He will need your
care, you know," he hastened to add, knowing well that not for her
own sake could she have been persuaded to receive even Brown into
her little home.
"Ay, I will do for him what I can," she replied, "and indeed," she
added warmly, "he's a kind lad, poor fellow."
"And the young ladies will be looking in on you now and then, so
they said," and Shock bent low over his trunk working with the
roping of it.
"Yes, indeed," replied his mother heartily, "never you fear."
And so with united and determined purpose they kept at arm's length
the heart's sorrow they knew would fall upon each when alone.
To go to the ends of the earth in these globe-trotting days is
attended with little anxiety, much less heart-break, but in those
days when Canada was cut off at the Lakes, the land beyond was a
wilderness, untravelled for the most part but by the Indian or
trapper, and considered a fit dwelling place only for the Hudson Bay
officer kept there by his loyalty to "the Company," or the half-
breed runner to whom it was native land, or the more adventurous
land-hungry settler, or the reckless gold-fevered miner. Only under
some great passion did men leave home and those dearer than life,
and casting aside dreams of social, commercial, or other greatness,
devote themselves to life on that rude frontier. But such a passion
had seized upon Shock, and in it his mother shared. Together these
two simple souls, who were all in all to each other, made their
offering for the great cause, bringing each their all without stint,
without measure, without grudging, though not without heart-break,
and gaining that full exquisite joy, to so many unknown, of love's
To none but themselves, however, was the greatness of the sacrifice
apparent. For when the carriage arrived with Mrs. Fairbanks and her
daughters there was no sign of tears or heart-break in the quiet
faces that welcomed them. And Mrs. Fairbanks, who had come prepared
to offer overflowing sympathy to the old lady "deserted" by her
"fanatical" son, was somewhat taken aback by the quiet dignity and
perfect control that distinguished the lady's voice and manner.
After the first effusive kiss, which Mrs. Fairbanks hurried to
bestow and which Mrs. Macgregor suffered with calm surprise, it
became difficult to go on with the programme of tearful consolation
which had been prepared. There seemed hardly a place for sympathy,
much less for tearful consolation, in this well-ordered home, and
with these self-sufficient folk.
"We thought we would like to come over and--and--help, perhaps drive
you to the station to see your son off," said Mrs. Fairbanks, who
was readjusting her scenery and changing her role with all speed.
"That was kind, indeed," said Mrs. Macgregor, "but Hamish will be
walking, I doubt, and I will just be waiting at home."
She had the instinct of the wounded to hide in some sheltered and
"I shall be glad to remain with you, Mrs. Macgregor, if I can be of
any service," repeated Mrs. Fairbanks.
"It will not be necessary; everything is done, and there is nothing
The voice was more than quiet, as if it came from a heart whose
passion had been spent.
"It is very kind, indeed, and we are grateful," said Shock, feeling
that his mother's manner might be misunderstood.
"Yess, yess," said the old lady hastily, "it iss very good of you
and of the young ladies," turning to look at Helen with kindly eyes.
"You will not be thinking me ungrateful," she added with a suspicion
of tears in her voice. "I have been spoiled by Hamish yonder,"
turning her face toward her son.
"Whist now, mother," said Hamish to her in a low tone, in which
depreciation and warning were mingled. He knew how hard the next
hour would be for himself and for his mother, and he knew, too, that
they could not indulge themselves in the luxury of uttered grief and
love. At this moment, to the relief of all, Brown entered with an
exaggerated air of carelessness.
"Here's a man for your 'settler's effect,'" he cried cheerily.
"Lucky dog, aint he," he cried, turning to Helen, "and don't I wish
I was in his place. Think of the times he will have riding over the
claims with those jolly cowboys, not to speak of the claims he will
be staking, and the gold he will be washing out of those parish
streams of his. Don't I wish I were going! I am, too, when I can
persuade those old iron-livered professors to let me through.
However, next year I'm to pass. Mrs. Macgregor is to see to that."
"Indeed, I hope so," cried Betty, "an hour's study at least, before
breakfast and no gallivanting at night. I will help you, Mrs.
Macgregor. We will get him through this time."
"Ay, I doubt I will not be much the better of your help," replied
Mrs. Macgregor, with a shrewd kindly smile.
"There now, take that," said Brown to Betty, adding ruefully to
Shock, "You see what I'm in for."
"You'll survive," said Shock.
Then he rose and lifted his coat from the peg behind the door. At
the same instant Helen rose hurriedly and with paling face said to
her mother: "Let us go now."
"Well, Mrs. Macgregor, if we cannot serve you we will be going,"
said Mrs. Fairbanks; "but we would be glad to drive Mr. Macgregor to
She was anxious to justify her visit to herself and her friends.
"That's a first-rate idea," cried Brown, "that is, if you can give
me a lift, too."
"Of course," cried Betty.
"Thank you, I shall be very glad," said Shock, seeing it would
please Mrs. Fairbanks.
"Come along, then," said Betty. "I suppose we have not too much
"Good-bye, for the present," said Mrs. Fairbanks, offering her hand
to the old lady, who was standing erect, white but calm, facing the
hour whose bitterness she had already tasted.
"Good-bye," said Betty softly, kissing the white cheek, and trying
to hurry her mother towards the door.
At this, Helen, who had been standing with face growing whiter and
whiter, went to Mrs. Macgregor and put her arms around her and
kissed her good-bye. When she was nearing the door she came
hurriedly back. "Oh, let me stay with you. I cannot bear to go," she
The old lady turned and scrutinised steadily the young face turned
so pleadingly toward her. Slowly under that steady gaze the red
crept up into the white cheek, like the first dawning of day, till
the whole face and neck were in a hot flame of colour. Yet the grey,
lustrous eyes never wavered, but, unshrinking, answered the old
lady's searching look. At that revealing wave of colour Shock's
mother made as if to push the girl away from her, but, with a quick
change of mood, she took her in her arms instead.
"Ay, poor lassie, you too! Yes, yes, you may stay with me now."
The motherly touch and tone and the knowledge that her secret had
been read were more than Helen could bear. She clung to Mrs.
Macgregor, sobbing passionate sobs.
At this extraordinary outburst Mrs. Fairbanks came back into the
room and stood with Shock and the others gazing in utter amazement
upon this scene.
"Whist now, lassie, whist now," Mrs. Macgregor was saying, "never
you fear, he'll come back again."
"What on earth is this nonsense, Helen?" Mrs. Fairbanks' voice was
haughty and suspicious. "What does this mean?"
"It means," said Mrs. Macgregor with quiet dignity, "what neither
you nor I can help or harm."
"Helen, speak to me."
At the stern command Helen lifted her face, still hot with blushes,
and stood looking straight into her mother's eyes. Her mother turned
from her impatiently.
"Do you know what this means?" she said to Shock.
"What? I don't understand," replied Shock, gazing helplessly at the
haughty, angry face turned toward him.
"Have you dared to speak to my daughter?"
"Oh, mamma," cried Helen, in an agony of mortification, "how can
"You may well be ashamed," said Mrs. Fairbanks, who had quite lost
control of herself, "throwing yourself at the head of a man so far
beneath you, with no prospects, and who does not even want you."
"So far beneath, did you say?" cried Mrs. Macgregor quickly. "Woman,
say no more. You shame yourself, let alone your child. Whist,"--
checking the other's speech--"the blood in the veins of Hector
Macgregor yonder" (pointing to the portrait of the Highland soldier
on the wall) "was as proud as that in any Lowland trader of you."
"What sort of conduct, then, is this?" answered Mrs. Fairbanks
angrily. "Have you encouraged your son?"
"Hush, mother," said Shock, suddenly awakening to an understanding
of what was happening, "let me speak."
The stern voice compelled silence. Shock was a new man to them all.
He was thinking quickly now for his mother, for himself, but most of
all for the girl he loved, who stood with face turned away and eyes
cast down in intolerable humiliation.
"Mrs. Fairbanks," said Shock, speaking slowly and with quiet
dignity, "if I have not spoken of love to your daughter, it is not
because I have not loved her well and for long, but because I could
not feel myself worthy of her. Hush, mother; I am not worthy of her,
nor shall I ever be, not by reason of any difference in blood,--for
there is no difference,--but because of what she is herself, so far
above me. I have never spoken with my lips of love, and yet for many
and many a day I have feared that my eyes, and all else that could
speak, must have told her I loved her. And if it should be--for I
will not pretend to misunderstand you--if it should be that it is
possible she should ever love me, then there has come to me a joy
greater than I could have hoped, and whatever may, come of it, this
day is the happiest of my life."
As Shock began to speak, Helen lifted her face, and as she listened
her look of grief and shame fled, and in her eyes a light of joy
began to dawn, then grew till it seemed to overflow in waves across
her beautiful face. And as Shock continued his calm, manly words
pride mingled in her joy, and her head lifted itself with a grace
and dignity that matched that of the old lady standing by her side.
Mrs. Fairbanks stood fairly speechless at Shock's words and at the
look of joy and pride she saw upon her daughter's face.
"This is absurd!" she cried at length. "It's preposterous, and it
must end now and forever. I forbid absolutely anything in the way
of--of engagement or understanding. I will not have my daughter tie
herself to a man with such prospects."
"Wait, mother," said Shock, putting his hand out toward the old
lady, who was about to speak. "Mrs. Fairbanks," he continued
quietly, "far be it from me to take advantage of your daughter in
any way, and I say to you here that she is as free now as when she
came into this room. I shall not ask her to bind herself to me, but
I will be false to myself, and false to her, if I do not say that I
love her as dearly as man ever loved woman, and come what may, I
shall love her till I die."
The ring in Shock's voice as he spoke the last words thrilled
everyone in the room.
"Ay, lad that you will," said his mother proudly.
"Oh, aint he great," whispered Brown to Betty, who in her excitement
had drawn close to him. Betty responded with a look, but could not
trust herself to speak.
The moment was pregnant with possibilities.
As Shock finished speaking, Helen, with an indescribable mingling of
shy grace and calm strength, came and stood by his side. For the
first time Shock lost control of himself. He flushed hotly, then
grew pale, then with a slightly defiant look in his face, he put his
arm lightly about her.
"Time for that train," said Brown, who had slipped to the outer
door. "That is," he continued in his briskest manner, "if you're
With a quick gasp Helen turned towards Shock. He tightened his arm
about the girl, and putting his hand upon her shoulder, turned her
face toward him and looked down into her face.
"Good-bye," he said gently. "Remember you are free, free as ever you
were. I have no claim upon you, but don't forget that I will always
love you. I will never forget you."
"Good-bye, Shock," she replied in a low, sweet tone, lifting her
face to him. "I will not forget. You know I will not forget."
She slipped her arm around his neck, and while his great frame
trembled with emotion she held him fast.
"I'll not forget," she said again, the light in her great grey eyes
quenched in a quick rush of tears. "You know, Shock, I will not
forget." Her lips quivered piteously.
Then Shock cast restraint to the winds. "No," he cried aloud, "you
will not forget, thank God, you will not forget, and you are mine!"
He drew her close to him, held her a moment or two, looking into her
eyes, and as she lay limp and clinging in his arms he kissed her on
the brow, and then on the lips, and gave her to his mother.
"Here, mother," he said, "take her, be good to her, love her for my
He put his arms around his mother, kissed her twice, and was gone.
"He'll never get that train," cried Betty.
"Take the carriage," said Mrs. Fairbanks shortly, "and follow him."
"Come along! hurry!" said Betty, catching Brown's arm.
"The station, John!"
"Oh, I say," gasped Brown, seizing Betty's hand and crushing it
ecstatically, "may I embrace you? It's either you or John there."
"Do be quiet. It seems to me we have had as much of that sort of
thing as I can stand. Wasn't it awful?"
"Awful? Awfully jolly!" gasped Brown, hugging himself. "Haven't had
a thrill approaching that since the McGill match, and even that was
only a pale adumbration of what I've just been through."
"I'm sure I don't know what to think. It's so dreadfully startling."
"Startling!" cried Brown. "Come now, Miss Betty, you don't mean to
say you haven't seen this growing for the past six months!"
"No, truly I haven't."
"Well, that's only because you have been so occupied with your own
"Nonsense," cried Betty indignantly, with a sudden flame of colour
in her cheeks. "You're quite rude."
"I don't care for anything now," cried Brown recklessly. "My
prayers, tears, and alms-giving haven't been without avail. The
terrors and agonies I've endured this last few days lest that old
blockhead should take himself off without saying or doing anything,
no man will ever know. And he would have gone off, too, had it not
been for that lucky fluke of your mother's. Do you mind if I yell?"
"Hush! Here, let my hand go, it's quite useless," said Betty,
looking at that member which Brown had just relinquished.
"John," gravely enquired Brown, "are you using both your hands?"
"I beg pardon, sir," enquired the astonished coachman, half turning
"Here, do stop your nonsense," cried Betty in a shocked voice.
"Oh, all right, John, this will do," said Brown, seizing Betty's
hand again, as John gave his attention to the horses.
"I say, pull up beside Mr. Macgregor there, will you? Here, Shock,
get in. You'll miss your train. Here, you old bloke, come along,
don't gape like a sick duck. Get in here. You have got to get that
"Mr. Brown," said Betty in a severe whisper, "mind, don't say a word
to him about this business. I can't stand it."
"Certainly not," said Brown, in a matter of fact tone. "There's
nothing to be said."
But there was one last word to be said, and that was Betty's.
"Good-bye, Shock," she whispered to him, as he stepped upon his
train. "I think--I know--I'm very glad."
Poor Shock could only grasp her hand in mute farewell. It was just
dawning upon him that he had some further offering to bring to make
his sacrifice complete.
ON THE TRAIL
"That's the trail. Loon Lake lies yonder."
Shock's Convener, who had charge for his Church of this district,
stood by the buck-board wheel pointing southwest. He was a man about
middle life, rather short but well set up, with a strong, honest
face, tanned and bearded, redeemed abundantly from commonness by the
eye, deep blue and fearless, that spoke of the genius in the soul.
It was a kindly face withal, and with humour lurking about the eyes
and mouth. During the day and night spent with him Shock had come to
feel that in this man there was anchorage for any who might feel
themselves adrift, and somehow the great West, with its long leagues
of empty prairie through which he had passed, travelling by the slow
progress of construction trains, would now seem a little less empty
because of this man. Between the new field toward which this trail
led and the home and folk in the far East there would always be this
man who would know him, and would sometimes be thinking of him. The
thought heartened Shock more than a little.
"That's the trail," repeated the Convener; "follow that; it will
lead you to your home."
"Home!" thought Shock with a tug at his heart and a queer little
smile on his face.
"Yes, a man's home is where his heart is, and his heart is where his
Shock glanced quickly at the man's tanned face. Did he suspect,
Shock wondered, the homesickness and the longing in his heart?
Last night, as they had sat together in late talk, he had drawn from
Shock with cunning skill (those who knew him would recognise the
trick) the picture of his new missionary's home, and had interpreted
aright the thrill in the voice that told of the old lady left
behind. But now, as Shock glanced at his Convener's face, there was
nothing to indicate any hidden meaning in his words. The speaker's
eyes were far down the trail that wound like a wavering white ribbon
over the yellow-green billows of prairie that reached to the horizon
before and up to the great mountains on the right.
"Twenty miles will bring you to Spruce Creek stopping-place; twenty
miles more and you are at Big River--not so very big either. You
will see there a little school and beside it, on the left, a little
house--you might call it a shack, but we make the most of things out
here. That's Mr. McIntyre's manse, and proud of it they all are, I
can tell you. You will stay with him over night--a fine fellow you
will find him, a Nova Scotian, very silent; and better than himself
is the little brave woman he has for a wife; a really superior
woman. I sometimes wonder--but never mind, for people doubtless
wonder at our wives: one can never get at the bottom of the mystery
of why some women do it. They will see you on your way. Up to this
time he was the last man we had in that direction. Now you are our
outpost--a distinction I envy you."
The Convener's blue eye was alight with enthusiasm. The call of the
new land was ever ringing in his heart, and the sound of the strife
at the front in his ear.
Unconsciously Shock drew in a long breath, the homesickness and
heart-longing gave back before the spirit of high courage and
enterprise which breathed through the words of the little man beside
him, whose fame was in all the Western Church.
"Up these valleys somewhere," continued the Convener, waving his
hands towards the southern sky-line, "are the men--the ranchers and
cowboys I told you of last night. Some good men, and some of them
devils--men good by nature, devils by circumstance, poor fellows.
They won't want you, perhaps, but they need you badly. And the
Church wants them, and"--after a little pause--"God wants them."
The Convener paused, still looking at the distant flowing hills.
Then he turned to Shock and said solemnly, "We look to you to get
Shock gasped. "To me! to get them!"
"Yes, that's what we expect. Why! do you remember the old chap I
told you about--that old prospector who lives at Loon Lake?--you
will come across him, unless he has gone to the mountains. For
thirteen years that man has hunted the gulches for mines. There are
your mines," waving his hand again, "and you are our prospector. Dig
them up. Good-bye. God bless you. Report to me in six months."
The Convener looked at his fingers after Shock had left, spreading
them apart. "Well, what that chap grips he'll hold until he wants to
let it go," he said to himself, wrinkling his face into a curious
Now and then as he walked along the trail he turned and looked after
the buckboard heading toward the southern horizon, but never once
did his missionary look back.
"I think he will do. He made a mess of my service last night, but I
suppose he was rattled, and then no one could be more disgusted than
he, which is not a bad sign. His heart's all right, and he will
work, but he's slow. He's undoubtedly slow. Those fellows will give
him a time, I fear," and again the Convener smiled to himself. As he
came to the brow of the hill, where the trail dipped into the river
bottom in which the little town lay that constituted the nucleus of
his parish, he paused and, once more turning, looked after the
diminishing buckboard. "He won't look back, eh! All right, my man. I
like you better for it. It must have been a hard pull to leave that
dear old lady behind. He might bring her out. There are just the two
of them. Well, we will see. It's pretty close shaving."
He was thinking of the threatened cut in the already meagre salaries
of his missionaries, rendered necessary by the disproportion between
the growth of the funds and the expansion of the work.
"It's a shame, too," he said, turning and looking once more after
Shock in case there should be a final signal of farewell, which he
would be sorry to miss.
"They're evidently everything to each other." But it was an old
problem with the Convener, whose solution lay not with him, but with
the church that sent him out to do this work.
Meantime Shock's eyes were upon the trail, and his heart was ringing
with that last word of his Convener. "We expect you to get them. You
are our prospector, dig them up." As he thought of the work that lay
before him, and of all he was expected to achieve, his heart sank.
These wild, independent men of the West were not at all like the
degraded men of the ward, fawning or sullen, who had been his former
and only parishioners. A horrible fear had been growing upon him
ever since his failure, as he considered it, with the Convener's
congregation the night before. It helped him not at all to remember
the kindly words of encouragement spoken by the Convener, nor the
sympathy that showed in his wife's voice and manner. "They felt
sorry for me," he groaned aloud. He set his jaws hard, as men had
seen him when going into a scrim on the football field. "I'll do my
best whatever," he said aloud, looking before him at the waving
horizon; "a man can only fail. But surely I can help some poor chap
out yonder." His eyes followed the waving foot-hill line till they
rested on the mighty masses of the Rockies. "Ay," he said with a
start, dropping into his mother's speech, "there they are, 'the
hills from whence cometh my help.' Surely, I do not think He would
send me out here to fail."
There they lay, that mighty wrinkling of Mother Earth's old face,
huge, jagged masses of bare grey rock, patched here and there, and
finally capped with white where they pierced the blue. Up to their
base ran the lumbering foot-hills, and still further up the grey
sides, like attacking columns, the dark daring pines swarmed in
massed battalions; then, where ravines gave them footing, in
regiments, then in outpost pickets, and last of all in lonely rigid
sentinels. But far above the loneliest sentinel pine, cold, white,
serene, shone the peaks. The Highland blood in Shock's veins stirred
to the call of the hills. Glancing around to make sure he was quite
alone--he had almost never been where he could be quite sure that he
would not be heard--Shock raised his voice in a shout, again, and,
expanding his lungs to the full, once again. How small his voice
seemed, how puny his strength, how brief his life, in the presence
of those silent, mighty, ancient ranges with their hoary faces and
snowy heads. Awed by their solemn silence, and by the thought of
their ancient, eternal, unchanging endurance, he repeated to himself
in a low tone the words of the ancient Psalm:
"Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling-place,
In generations all,
Before Thou ever hadst brought forth
The mountains, great or small!"
How exalting are the mountains and how humbling! How lonely and how
comforting! How awesome and how kindly! How relentless and how
sympathetic! Reflecting every mood of man, they add somewhat to his
nobler stature and diminish somewhat his ignobler self. To all true
appeal they give back answer, but to the heart regarding iniquity,
like God, they make no response. They never obtrude themselves, but
they smile upon his joys, and in his sorrow offer silent sympathy,
and ever as God's messengers they bid him remember that with all
their mass man is mightier than they, that when the slow march of
the pines shall have trod down their might's dust, still with the
dew of eternal youth fresh upon his brow will he be with God.
Then and there in Shock's heart there sprang up a kindly feeling for
the mountains that through all his varying experiences never left
him. They were always there, steadfastly watchful by day like the
eye of God, and at night while he slept keeping unslumbering guard
like Jehovah himself. All day as he drove up the interminable slopes
and down again, the mountains kept company with him, as friends
might. So much so that he caught himself, more than once after
moments of absorption, glancing up at them with hasty penitence. He
had forgotten them, but unoffended they had been watching and
waiting for him.
A little after noon Shock found the trail turn in toward a long,
log, low-roofed building, which seemed to have been erected in
sections, with an irregular group of sod-roofed out-houses
An old man lounged against the jamb of the open door.
"Good day," said Shock politely.
The old man looked him over for a moment or two and then answered as
if making a concession of some importance, "Good day, good day! From
town? Want to eat?"
A glance through the door, showing the remains of dinner on a table,
determined Shock. "No, I guess I'll push on."
"All right," said the old man, his tone suggesting that while it was
a matter of supreme indifference to him, to Shock it might be a
somewhat serious concern to neglect to eat in his house.
"This is Spruce Creek?" enquired Shock.
"Yes, I believe that's what they call it," said the old man with
slow deliberation, adding after a few moments silence "because there
ain't no spruces here."
Shock gave the expected laugh with such heartiness that the old man
deigned to take some little interest in him.
"Cattle?" he enquired.
"Well, a little, perhaps."
"Oh! Pospectin', eh? Well, land's pretty well taken up in this
vicinity, I guess."
To this old man there were no other interests in life beyond cattle,
sport, and prospcting that could account for the stranger's presence
in this region.
"Yes," laughed Shock, "prospecting in a ways too."
The old man was obviously puzzled.
"Well," he ventured, "come inside, anyway. Pretty chilly wind that
for April. Come right in!"
Shock stepped in. The old man drew nearer to him.
"Pain-killer or lime-juice?" he enquired in an insinuating voice.
"What?" said Shock.
"Pain-killer or lime-juice," winking and lowering his voice to a
"Well, as I haven't got any pain I guess I'll take a little lime-
juice," replied Shock.
The old man gave him another wink, long and slow, went to the corner
of the room, pushed back a table, pulled up a board from the floor,
and extracted a bottle.
"You's got to be mighty careful," he said. "Them blank police
fellers, instead of attending to their business, nose round till a
feller can't take no rest at night."
He went to a shelf that stood behind the plank that did for a
counter, took down two glasses, and filled them up.
"There," he said with great satisfaction, "you'll find that's no
Shock slowly lifted the glass and smelt it. "Why, it's whisky!" he
said in a surprised tone.
"Ha! ha!" burst out the old man. "You're a dandy; that's what it is
He was delighted with his guest's fine touch of humour. Shock
hesitated a moment or two, looking down at the whisky in the glass
"How much?" he said at length.
"Oh, we'll make that fifty cents to you," said the old man
Shock put down the money, lifted his glass slowly, carried it to the
door and threw the contents outside.
"Hold on there! What the blank, blank do you mean?" The old man was
over the counter with a bound.
"It was mine," said Shock quietly.
"Yours," shouted the old man, beside himself with rage; "I aint
goin' to stand no such insult as that."
"What's the matter with that whisky?"
"All right as far as I know, but I wanted lime-juice."
"Lime-juice!" The old man's amazement somewhat subdued his anger.
"Lime-juice! Well, I'll be blanked!"
"That's what I asked for," replied Shock good-naturedly.
"Lime-juice!" repeated the old man. "But what in blank, blank did
you throw it out for?"
"Why, what else could I do with it?"
"What else? See here, stranger, the hull population of this entire
vicinity isn't more than twenty-five persons, but every last one of
'em twenty-five 'ud told you what to do with it. Why didn't you give
it to me?"
"Why," said Shock in a surprised tone, "I don't know the ways of
your country, but where I come from we don't take any man's
This was new light upon the subject for the old man.
"Well, now, see here, young man, if ever you're in doubt again about
a glass of whisky like that one there, you just remark to yourself
that while there may be a few things you might do with it, there's
just one you can't. There's only one spot for whisky, and that's
inside some fellow that knows something. Heavens and earth! Didn't
know what to do with it, eh?"
He peered curiously into Shock's face as if he found him an
"No," said Shock seriously, "you see, I couldn't drink it--never did
in my life."
The old man drew nearer to him. "Say," touching him with his
forefinger on the chest, "if I could only be sure you'd keep fresh
I'd put you in a case. They'd come a mighty long way in this country
to see you, you bet."
Bill Lee's anger and disgust were giving place to curiosity.
"What are you, anyway?" he enquired.
"Well, my boss told me to-day I was a prospector." Shock's mind
reverted, as he spoke, to that last conversation with his Convener.
"Prospector," echoed the old man. "What for, land, coal?"
"What?" The old man looked as if he could not have heard aright.
"Men," said Shock again simply and earnestly.
Bill was hopelessly puzzled. He tried to get at it another way.
"What's your Company?" he enquired. "I mean who are you working
Before answering Shock paused, looking far past Bill down the trail
and then said solemnly, "God."
Bill started back from his companion with a gasp of surprise. Was
the man mad? Putting the incident of the whisky and this answer of
his together, he might well be.
"Yes," said Shock, withdrawing his eyes from the trail and facing
Bill squarely. "That's my business. I am after men." He drew from
his pocket a small Bible and read, "Follow me and I will make you
fishers of men."
When Bill saw the Bible he looked relieved, but rather disgusted.
"Oh, I git you now! You're a preacher, eh?"
"Well," said Shock in a tone almost confidential, "I'll tell you I'm
not much of a preacher. I don't think I'm cut out for that,
somehow." Here Bill brightened slightly. "I tried last night in
town," continued Shock, "and it was pretty bad. I don't know who had
the worst of it, the congregation or myself. But it was bad."
"Thinkin' of quittin'?" Bill asked almost eagerly, "Because if you
are, I know a good job for a fellow of your build and make."
"No, I can't quit. I have got to go on." Bill's face fell. "And
perhaps I can make up in some other ways. I may be able to help some
fellows a bit." The sincerity and humble earnestness of Shock's tone
quite softened Bill's heart.
"Well, there's lots of 'em need it," he said in his gruff voice.
"There's the blankest lot of fools on these ranches you ever seen."
Shock became alert. He was on the track of business.
"What's wrong with them?" he enquired.
"Wrong? Why, they aint got no sense. They stock up with cattle,
horses, and outfit to beat creation, and then let the whole thing go
"What's the matter with them?" persisted Shock, "Are they lazy?"
"Lazy! not a hair. But when they get together over a barrel of beer
or a keg of whisky they are like a lot of hogs in a swill trough,
and they won't quit while they kin stand. That's no way for a man to
drink!" continued Bill in deep disgust.
"Why, is not this a Prohibition country?"
"Oh! Prohibition be blanked! When any man kin get a permit for all
he wants to use, besides all that the whisky men bring in, what's
the good of Prohibition?"
"I see," said Shock. "Poor chaps. It must be pretty slow for them
"Slow!" exclaimed Bill. "That aint no reason for a man's bein' a
fool. I aint no saint, but I know when to quit."
"Well, you're lucky," said Shock. "Because I have seen lots of men
that don't, and they're the fellows that need a little help, don't
you think so?"
Bill squirmed a little uneasily.
"You can't keep an eye on all the fools unless you round 'em up in
corral," he grunted.
"No. But a man can keep from thinking more of a little tickling in
his stomach than he does of the life of his fellowman."
"Well, what I say is," replied Bill, "every fellow's got to look
"Yes," agreed Shock, "and a little after the other fellows, too. If
a man is sick--"
"Oh! now you're speakin'," interrupted Bill eagerly. "Why,
"Or if he is not very strong."
"Why, of course."
"Now, don't you think," said Shock very earnestly, "that kicking a
man along that is already sliding toward a precipice is pretty mean
business, but snatching him back and bracing him up is worth a man's
"Well, I guess," said Bill quietly.
"That's the business I'm trying to do," said Shock. "I'd hate to
help a man down who is already on the incline. I think I'd feel
mean, and if I can help one man back to where it's safe, I think
it's worth while, don't you?"
Bill appeared uncomfortable. He could not get angry, Shock's manner
was so earnest, frank, respectful, and sincere, and at the same time
he was sharp enough to see the bearing of Shock's remarks upon what
was at least a part of his business in life.
"Yes," repeated Shock with enthusiasm, "that's worth while. Now,
look here, if you saw a man sliding down one of those rocks there,"
pointing to the great mountains in the distance, "to sure death,
would you let him slide, or would you put your hand out to help
"Well, I believe I'd try," said Bill slowly.
"But if there was good money in it for you," continued Shock, "you
would send him along, eh?"
"Say, stranger," cried Bill indignantly, "what do you think I am?"
"Well," said Shock, "there's a lot of men sliding down fast about
here, you say. What are you doing about it?" Shock's voice was
quiet, solemn, almost stern.
"I say," said Bill, "you'd best put up your horse and feed. Yes,
you've got to feed, both of you, and this is the best place you'll
find for twenty miles round, so come right on. You're line aint
mine, but you're white. I say, though," continued Bill, unhitching
the cayuse, "it's a pity you've taken up that preachin' business.
I've not much use for that. Now, with that there build of yours"--
Bill was evidently impressed with Shock's form--" you'd be fit for
Shock smiled and then grew serious.
"No," he said, "I've got to live only once, and nothing else seemed
good enough for a fellow's life."
"No. Stopping men from sliding over the precipice and helping them
back. The fact is," and, Shock looked over the cayuse's back into
Bill's eyes, "every man should take a hand at that. There's a lot of
satisfaction in it."
"Well, stranger," replied Bill, leading the way to the stable, "I
guess you're pretty near right, though it's queer to hear me say it.
There aint much in anything, anyway. When your horse is away at the
front leadin' the bunch and everybody yellin' for you, you're happy,
but when some other fellow's horse makes the runnin' and the crowd
gets a-yellin' for him, then you're sick. Pretty soon you git so you
"'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,'" quoted Shock. "Solomon says
"Solomon, eh? Well, by all accounts he hit quite a gait, too. Had
them all lookin' dizzy, I reckon. Come on in. I'll have dinner in a
Fried pork and flapjacks, done brown in the gravy, with black
molasses poured over all, and black tea strong enough to float a
man-of-war, all this with a condiment of twenty miles of foot-hill
breezes, makes a dinner such as no king ever enjoyed. Shock's
delight in his eating was so obvious that Bill's heart warmed
towards him. No finer compliment can be paid a cook than to eat
freely and with relish of his cooking. Before the meal was over the
men had so far broken through the barriers of reserve as to venture
mutual confidences about the past. After Shock had told the
uneventful story of his life, in which his mother, of course, was
the central figure, Bill sat a few moments in silence, and then
began: "Well, I never knew my mother. My father was a devil, so I
guess I came naturally by all the devilment in me, and that's a few.
But"--and here Bill paused for some little time--"but I had a
sweetheart once, over forty years ago now, down in Kansas, and she
was all right, you bet. Why, sir, she was--oh! well, 'taint no use
talkin', but I went to church for the year I knowed her more'n all
the rest of my life put together, and was shapin' out for a
different line of conduct until--" Shock waited in silence. "After
she died I didn't seem to care. I went out to California, knocked
about, and then to the devil generally." Shock's eyes began to
"I know," he said, "you had no one else to look after--to think of."
"None that I cared a blank for. Beg pardon. So I drifted round, dug
for gold a little, ranched a little, Just like now, gambled a
little, sold whisky a little, nothing very much. Didn't seem to care
much, and don't yet."
Shock sat waiting for him to continue, but hardly knew what to say.
His heart was overflowing with pity for this lonely old man whose
life lay in the past, grey and colourless, except for that single
bright spot where love had made its mark. Suddenly he stretched out
his hand toward the old man, and said: "What you want is a friend, a
real good friend."
The old man took his hand in a quick, fierce grip, his hard,
withered face lit up with a soft, warm light.
"Stranger," he said, trying hard to keep his voice steady, "I'd give
all I have for one."
"Let me tell you about mine," said Shock quickly.
Half an hour later, as Bill stood looking after Shock and rubbing
his fingers, he said in soliloquy: "Well, I guess I'm gittin' old.
What in thunder has got into me, anyway? How'd he git me on to that
line? Say, what a bunco steerer he'd make! And with that face and
them eyes of his! No, 'taint that. It's his blank honest talk. Hang
if I know what it is, but he's got it! He's white, I swear! But
blank him! he makes a fellow feel like a thief."
Bill went back to his lonely ranch with his lonely miserable life,
unconsciously trying to analyse his new emotions, some of which he
would be glad to escape, and some he would be loath to lose. He
stood at his door a moment, looking in upon the cheerless jumble of
boxes and furniture, and then turning, he gazed across the sunny
slopes to where he could see his bunch of cattle feeding, and with a
sigh that came from the deepest spot in his heart, he said: "Yes, I
guess he's right. It's a friend I need. That's what."
Upon a slight swell of prairie stood the Outpost manse of Big River,
the sole and only building in the country representative of the
great Church which lay behind it, and which, under able
statesmanship, was seeking to hold the new West for things high and
good. The Big River people were proud of their manse. The minister
was proud of it, and with reason. It stood for courage, faith, and
self-denial. To the Convener and Superintendent, in their hours of
discouragement, this little building brought cheer and hope. For,
while it stood there it kept touch between that new country and what
was best and most charteristic in Canadian civilisation, and it was
for this that they wrought and prayed. But, though to people and
minister, Convener and Superintendent, the little manse meant so
much, the bareness, the unloveliness, and, more than all, the utter
loneliness of it smote Shock with a sense of depression. At first he
could not explain to himself this feeling. It was only after he had
consciously recognised the picture which had risen in contrast
before his mind as the home of the Fairbanks, that he understood.
"I could never bring her to such a house as this," was his thought.
"A woman would die here."
And, indeed, there was much to depress in the first look at the
little board building that made a home for the McIntyres, set down
on the treeless prairie with only a little wooden paling to defend
it from the waste that gaped at it from every side. The contrast
between this bare speck of human habitation and the cosy homes of
his native Province, set each within its sheltering nest of orchard
and garden, could hardly, have been more complete. But as his eyes
ran down the slope of the prairie and up over the hills to the
jagged line of peaks at the horizon, he was conscious of a swift
change of feeling. The mighty hills spoke to his heart.
"Yes, even here one might live contented," he said aloud, and he
found himself picturing how the light from those great peaks would
illumine the face that had grown so dear within the last few months.
"And my mother would like it too," he said, speaking once more
aloud. So with better heart he turned from the trail to the little
manse door. The moment he passed within the door all sense of
depression was gone. Out of their bare little wooden house the
McIntyres had made a home, a place of comfort and of rest. True, the
walls were without plaster, brown paper with factory cotton tacked
over it taking its place, but they were wind-proof, and besides were
most convenient for hanging things on. The furniture though chiefly
interesting as an illustration of the evolution of the packing box,
was none the less serviceable and comfortable. The floors were as
yet uncarpeted, but now that April was come the carpets were hardly
missed. Then, too, the few choice pictures upon the walls, the
ingenious bookcase and the more ingenious plate and cup-rack
displaying honest delf and some bits of choice china, the draping
curtains of muslin and cretonne, all spoke of cultivated minds and
refined tastes. Staring wants there were, and many discrepancies and
incongruities, but no vulgarities nor coarseness nor tawdriness.
What they had was fitting. What was fitting but beyond their means
these brave home-makers did without, and all things unfitting,
however cheap, they scorned. And Shock, though he knew nothing of
the genesis and evolution of this home and its furnishings, was
sensible of its atmosphere of quiet comfort and refinement. The
welcome of the McIntyres was radiant with good cheer and hearty
It was partly the sea-rover in his blood, making impossible the
familiar paths trodden bare of any experience that could stir the
heart or thrill the imagination, but more that high ambition that
dwells in noble youth, making it responsive to the call of duty
where duty is difficult and dangerous, that sent David McIntyre out
from his quiet country home in Nova Scotia to the far West. A
brilliant course in Pictou Academy, that nursing mother of genius
for that Province by the sea, a still more brilliant course in
Dalhousie, and afterwards in Pine Hill, promised young McIntyre
anything he might desire in the way of scholastic distinction. The
remonstrance of one of his professors, when he learned of the
intention of his brilliant and most promising student to give his
life to Western mission work, was characteristic of the attitude of
almost the whole Canadian Church of that day.
"Oh, Mr. McIntyre!" said the Professor, "there is no need for such a
man as you to go to the West."
Equally characteristic of the man was McIntyre's reply.
"But, Professor, someone must go; and besides that seems to me great
work, and I'd like to have a hand in it."
It was the necessity, the difficulty, and the promise of the work
that summoned young McIntyre from all the openings, vacancies,
positions, and appointments his friends were so eagerly waving
before his eyes and set him among the foot-hills in the far front as
the first settled minister of Big River, the pride of his Convener's
heart, the friend and shepherd of the scattered farmers and ranchers
of the district. Once only did he come near to regretting his
choice, and then not for his own sake, but for the sake of the young
girl whom he had learned to love and whose love he had gained during
his student days. Would she leave home and friends and the social
circle of which she was the brightest ornament for all that he could
offer? He had often written to her, picturing in the radiant colours
of his own Western sky the glory of prairie, foot-hill, and
mountain, the greatness and promise of the new land, and the worth
of the work he was trying to do. But his two years of missionary
experience had made him feel the hardship, the isolation, the
meagreness, of the life which she would have to share with him. The
sunset colours were still there, but they were laid upon ragged
rock, lonely hill, and wind-swept, empty prairie. It took him days
of hard riding and harder thinking to give final form to the last
paragraph of his letter:
"I have tried faithfully to picture my life and work. Can you brave
all this? Should I ask you to do it? My work, I feel, lies here, and
it's worth a man's life. But whether you will share it, it is for
you to decide. If you feel you cannot, believe me, I shall not blame
you, but shall love and honour you as before. But though it break my
heart I cannot go back from what I see to be my work. I belong to
you, but first I belong to Him who is both your Master and mine."
In due time her answer came. He carried her letter out to a
favourite haunt of his in a sunny coolie where an old creek-bed was
marked by straggling willows, and there, throwing himself down upon
the sloping grass, he read her message.
"I know, dear, how much that last sentence of yours cost you, and my
answer is that were your duty less to you, you would be less to me.
How could I honour and love a man who, for the sake of a girl or for
any sake, would turn back from his work? Besides, you have taught me
too well to love your glorious West, and you cannot daunt me now by
any such sombre picture as you drew for me in your last letter. No
sir. The West for me! And you should be ashamed--and this I shall
make you properly repent--ashamed to force me to the unmaidenly
course of insisting upon going out to you, 'rounding you up into a
corral'--that is the correct phrase, is it not?--and noosing, no,
roping you there."
When he looked up from the letter the landscape was blurred for a
time. But soon he wondered at the new splendour of the day, the
sweetness of the air, the mellow music of the meadow-lark. A new
glory was upon sky and earth and a new rapture in his heart.
"Wonderful!" he exclaimed. "Dear little soul! She doesn't know, and
yet, even if she did, I believe it would make no difference."
Experience proved that he had rightly estimated her. For a year and
a half she had stood by her husband's side, making sunshine for him
that no clouds could dim nor blizzards blow out. It was this that
threw into her husband's tone as he said, "My wife, Mr. Macgregor,"
the tenderness and pride. It made Shock's heart quiver, for there
came to him the picture of a tall girl with wonderful dark grey eyes
that looked straight into his while she said, "You know I will not
forget." It was this that made him hold the little woman's hand till
she wondered at him, but with a woman's divining she read his story
in the deep blue eyes, alight now with the memory of love.
"That light is not for me," she said to herself, and welcomed him
with a welcome of one who had been so recently and, indeed, was
still a lover.
The interval between supper and bed-time was spent in eager talk
over Shock's field. A rough map, showing trails, streams, sloughs,
coolies, and some of the larger ranches lay before them on the
"This is The Fort," said McIntyre, putting his finger upon a dot on
the left side of the map. "Twenty-five miles west and south is Loon
Lake, the centre of your field, where it is best that you should
live, if you can; and then further away up toward the Pass they tell
me there is a queer kind of ungodly settlement--ranchers,
freighters, whisky-runners, cattle thieves, miners, almost anything
you can name. You'll have to do some exploration work there."
"Prospecting, eh?" said Shock.
"Exactly. Prospecting is the word," said McIntyre. "The Fort end of
your field won't be bad in one way. You'll find the people quite
civilised. Indeed, The Fort is quite the social centre for the whole
district. Afternoon teas, hunts, tennis, card-parties, and dancing
parties make life one gay whirl for them. Mind you, I'm not saying a
word against them. In this country anything clean in the way of
sport ought to be encouraged, but unfortunately there is a broad,
bad streak running through that crowd, and what with poker,
gambling, bad whisky, and that sort of thing, the place is at times
a perfect hell."
"Whisky? What about the Police? I have heard them well spoken of,"
"And rightly so. They are a fine body of men with exceptions. But
this infernal permit system makes it almost impossible to enforce
the law, and where the Inspector is a soak, you can easily
understand that the whole business of law enforcement is a farce.
Almost all the Police, however, in this country are straight
fellows. There's Sergeant Crisp, now--there is not money enough in
the Territories to buy him. Why, he was offered six hundred dollars
not long ago to be busy at the other end of the town when the
freighters came in one night. But not he. He was on duty, with the
result that some half dozen kegs of whisky failed to reach their
intended destination. But there's a bad streak in the crowd, and the
mischief of it is that the Inspector and his wife set the pace for
all the young fellows of the ranches about. And when whisky gets a-
flowing there are things done that it is a shame to speak of. But
they won't bother you much. They belong mostly to Father Mike."
"Father Mike, a Roman Catholic?"
"No, Anglican. A very decent fellow. Have not seen much of him. His
people doubtless regard me as a blooming dissenter, dontcherknow.
But he is no such snob. He goes in for all their fun--hunts, teas,
dances, card-parties, and all the rest of it."
"What, gambling?" asked Shock, aghast.
"No, no. I understand he rakes them fore and aft for their gambling
and that sort of thing. But they don't mind it much. They swear by
him, for he is really a fine fellow. In sickness or in trouble
Father Mike is on the spot. But as to influencing their lives, I
fear Father Mike is no great force."
"Why do you have a mission there at all?" enquired Shock.
"Simply because the Superintendent considers The Fort a strong
strategic point, and there are a lot of young fellows and a few
families there who are not of Father Mike's flock and who could
never be persuaded to attend his church. It doesn't take much you
know, to keep a man from going to church in this country, so the
Superintendent's policy is to remove all possible excuses and
barriers and to make it easy for men to give themselves a chance.
Our principal man at The Fort is Macfarren, a kind of lawyer, land-
agent, registrar, or something of that sort. Has cattle too, on a
ranch. A very clever fellow, but the old story--whisky. Too bad.
He's a brother of Rev. Dr. Macfarren."
"What? Dr. Macfarren of Toronto?"
"Yes. And he might be almost anything in this country. I'll give you
a letter to him. He will show you about and give you all
"And is he in the Church?" Shock's face was a study. McIntyre
laughed long and loud.
"Why, my dear fellow, we're glad to get hold of any kind of half-
decent chap that is willing to help in any way. We use him as usher,
manager, choir-master, sexton. In short, we put him any place where
he will stick."
Shock drew a long breath. The situation was becoming complicated to
"About Loon Lake," continued McIntyre, "I can't tell you much. By
all odds the most interesting figure there is the old Prospector, as
he is called. You have heard about him?"
"No one knows him, though he has been there for many years. His
daughter, I understand, has just come out from England to him. Then,
there's Andy Hepburn, who runs a store, a shrewd, canny little Scot.
I have no doubt he will help you. But you'll know more about the
place in a week than I could tell you if I talked all night, and
that I must not do, for you must be tired."
When he finished Shock sat silent with his eyes upon the map. He was
once more conscious of a kind of terror of these unknown places and
people. How could he get at them? What place was there for him and
his mission in that wild, reckless life of theirs? What had he to
bring them. Only a Tale? In the face of that vigorous, strenuous
life it seemed at that moment to Shock almost ridiculous in its
inadequacy. Against him and his Story were arraigned the great human
passions--greed of gold, lust of pleasure in its most sensuous
forms, and that wild spirit of independence of all restraint by law
of Good or man. He was still looking at the map when Mr. McIntyre
"We will take the books, as they say in my country."
"Ay, and in mine," said Shock, coming out of his dream with a start.
Mrs. McIntyre laid the Bible on the table. Her husband opened the
Book and read that great Psalm of the wilderness, "Lord, thou hast
been our dwelling place," and so on to the last cry of frail and
fading humanity after the enduring and imperishable, "Let the beauty
of the Lord our God be upon us; and establish thou the work of our
hands upon us: yea, the work of our hands establish thou it."
As he listened to the vivid words that carried with them the very
scent and silence of the hungry wilderness, there fell upon Shock's
ears the long howl and staccato bark of the prairie wolf. That
lonely voice of the wild West round them struck Shock's heart with a
chill of fear, but following hard upon the fear came the memory of
the abiding dwelling place for all desert pilgrims, and in place of
his terror a great quietness fell upon his spirit. The gaunt spectre
of the hungry wilderness vanished before the kindly presence of a
great Companionship that made even the unknown West seem safe and
familiar as one's own home. The quick change of feeling filled
Shock's heart to overflowing, so that when Mr. McIntyre, closing the
Book, said, "You will lead us in prayer, Mr. Macgregor," Shock could
only shake his head in voiceless refusal.
"You go on, David," said his wife, who had been watching Shock's
As Shock lay that night upon his bed of buffalo skins in the corner,
listening to the weird sounds of the night without, he knew that for
the present at least that haunting terror of the unknown and that
disturbing sense of his own insufficiency would not trouble him.
That dwelling place, quiet and secure, of the McIntyres' home in the
midst of the wide waste about was to him for many a day a symbol of
that other safe dwelling place for all pilgrims through earth's
"Poor chap," said McIntyre to his wife when they had retired for the
night, "I'm afraid he'll find it hard work, especially at The Fort.
He is rather in the rough, you know."
"He has beautiful honest eyes," said his wife, "and I like him."
"Yes, I do," she replied emphatically.
"Then," said her husband, "in spite of all appearances he's all
THE OLD PROSPECTOR
Loon Lake lay in the afternoon sunlight, shimmering in its glory of
prismatic colours, on one side reflecting the rocks and the pines
that lined the shore and the great peaks that stood further back,
and the other lapping the grasses and reeds that edged its waters
and joined it to the prairie. A gentle breeze now and then breathed
across the lake, breaking into myriad fragments the glassy surface
that lay like sheets of polished multi-coloured metal of gold and
bronze and silver, purple and green and blue.
A young girl of about sixteen years, riding a cayuse along the lake
shore, suddenly reined in her pony and sat gazing upon the scene.
"After all," she said aloud, "it is a lovely spot, and if only
father could have stayed, I wouldn't mind."
Her tone was one of discontent. Her face was not beautiful, and its
plainness was increased by a kind of sullen gloom that had become
its habit. After gazing across the lake for some minutes she turned
her horse and cantered toward a little cluster of buildings of all
sizes and shapes that huddled about the end of the lake and
constituted Loon Lake village. As she drew near the largest of the
houses, which was dignified by the name of Loon Lake Stopping Place,
she came upon a group of children gathered about a little cripple of
about seven or eight years of age, but so puny and poorly developed
that he appeared much younger. The little lad was sobbing bitterly,
shrieking oaths and striking savagely with his crutch at the
children that hemmed him in. The girl sprang off her pony.
"Oh, shame on you!" she exclaimed, rushing at them. "You bad
children, to tease poor Patsy so. Be off with you. Come, Patsy,
never mind them. I am going to tell you a story."
"He was throwin' stones at us, so he was," said his brother, a
sturdy little red-headed lad of six. "And he hit Batcheese right on
the leg, too."
"He pu--pu--pulled down my mountain right to the ground," sobbed
Patsy, lifting a pale, tear-stained face distorted with passion.
"Never mind, Patsy," she said soothingly, "I'll help you to build it
"And they all laughed at me," continued Patsy, still sobbing
stormily. "And I'll knock their blank, blank heads off, so I will!"
And Patsy lifted his crutch and shook it at them in impotent wrath.
"Hush, hush, Patsy! you must not say those awful words," said the
girl, laying her hand over his mouth and lifting him onto her knee.
"Yes, I will. And I just wish God would send them to hell-fire!"
"Oh, Patsy, hush!" said the girl. "That's awful. Never, never say
such a thing again."
"I will!" cried Patsy, "and I'll ask God to-night, and mother said
He would if they didn't leave me alone."
"But, Patsy, you must not say nor think those awful things. Come now
and I'll tell you a story."
"I don't want a story," he sobbed. "Sing."
"Oh, I'll tell you a story, Patsy. I'll come into the house to-night
and sing for you."
"No, sing," said the little lad imperiously, and so the girl began
to sing the thrilling love story of The Frog and The Mouse, till not
only was Patsy's pale face wreathed in smiles, but the other
children were drawn in an enchanted circle about the singer. So
entranced were the children and so interested the singer that they
failed to notice the door of the Stopping Place open. A slovenly
woman showed a hard face and dishevelled hair for a moment at the
door, and then stole quietly away. In a few moments she returned,
bringing her husband, a huge man with a shaggy, black head and
"Jist be afther lookin' at that now, will ye, Carroll!" she said.
As the man looked his face changed as the sun breaks through a
"Did ye iver see the loikes av that?" she said in a low voice.
"She'd draw the badgers out av their holes with thim songs av hers.
And thim little divils have been all the mornin' a-fightin' and a-
scrappin' loike Kilkenny cats."
"An' look at Patsy," said her husband, with wonder and pity in his
"Yis, ye may say that, for it's the cantankerous little curmudgeon
he is, poor little manny."
"Cantankerous!" echoed her husband. "It's that blank pain av his."
"Whist now, Tim. There's Thim that'll be hearin' ye, an' it'll be
the worse f'r him an' f'r you, beloike."
"Divil a fear have Oi av Thim," said her sceptical husband
"Aw, now, do be quiet, now," said his wife, crossing herself. "Sure,
prayin' is jist as aisy as cursin', and no harrum done, at all." She
shut the door.
"Aw, it's the beautiful singer she is," as the girl struck up a new
song. "Listen to that now."
Full, clear, soft, like the warbling of the thrush at evening, came
the voice through the closed door. The man and his wife stood
listening with a rapt look on their faces.
"Phat in Hivin's name is she singin', at all?" said Mrs. Carroll.
"Whisht!" said her husband, holding up his hand. "It's like a wild
burrd," he added, after listening a few moments.
"The pore thing. An' it's loike a wild burrd she is," said Mrs.
Carroll pityingly. "Left alone so soon afther comin' to this
sthrange counthry. It's a useless man altogether, is that ould
Carroll's face darkened.
"Useless!" he exclaimed wrathfully, "he's a blank ould fool, crazy
as a jack rabbit! An' Oi'm another blank fool to put any money into
"Did ye put much in, Tim?" ventured Mrs. Carroll.
"Too much to be thrown away, anyhow."
"Thin, why does ye do it, Tim?"
"Blanked if Oi know. It's the smooth, slippin' tongue av 'im. He'd
talk the tale aff a monkey, so he would."
At this moment a loud cry, followed by a stream of oaths in a shrill
childish voice, pierced through the singing.
"Phat's that in all the worrld?" exclaimed Mrs. Carroll. "Hivin