Part 2 out of 3
The wind raged and the storm roared around the Black Creek Stopping-
House all that night, but inside the fire burned bright in the box-
stove, and an interested and excited group sat around the table where
Rance Belmont and John Corbett played the game! Peter Rockett, with his
eyes bulging from his head, watched his grave employer cut and deal and
gather in the stakes, with as much astonishment as if that dignified
gentleman had walked head downward on the ceiling. Yet John Corbett
proceeded with the game, as grave and solemn as when he asked a
blessing at the table. Sometimes he hummed snatches of Army tunes, and
sometimes Rance Belmont swore softly, and to the anxious ear which
listened at the stovepipe-hole above, both sounds were of surpassing
When the door closed behind Rance Belmont and Evelyn, Fred sank into a
chair with the whole room whirling dizzily around him. Why had the
world gone so suddenly wrong?
His head was quite clear now, and only the throbbing hurt on the back
of his head reminded him of Reginald's cowardly blow. But his anger
against his brothers had faded into apathy in the presence of this new
trouble which seemed to choke the very fountains of his being.
One terrible fact smote him with crushing force--Evelyn had left him
and gone with Rance Belmont. She said she hoped she would never see him
again--that she was done with him--and her eyes had blazed with anger
and hatred--and she had stepped in between him and the miserable
villain whom he would have so dearly loved to have beaten the life out
He tried to rage against her, but instead he could think of nothing but
her sweet imperiousness, her dazzling beauty, her cheerfulness under
all circumstances, and her loyalty to him.
She had given up everything for him--for his sake she had defied her
father, renounced all share in his great wealth, suffered the hardships
and loneliness of the prairie, all for him.
Her workbag lay on the table, partly open. It seemed to call and beckon
to him. He took it tenderly in his hands, and from its folds there fell
a crumpled sheet of paper. He smoothed it out, and found it partly
written on in Evelyn's clear round hand.
He held it to the light eagerly, as one might read a message from the
dead. Who was Evelyn writing to?
"_ When you ask me to leave my husband you ask me to do a dishonorable
and cowardly thing. Fred has never_"--the writing ceased abruptly. Fred
read it again aloud, then sprang to his feet with a smothered
exclamation. Only one solution presented itself to his mind. She had
been writing to Rance Belmont trying to withstand his advances, trying
to break away from his devilish influence. She had tried to be true to
herself and to him.
Fred remembered then with bitter shame the small help he had given her.
He had wronged her when he struck Rance Belmont.
One overwhelming thought rose out of the chaos of his mind--she must be
set free from the baneful influence of this man. If she were not strong
enough to resist him herself, she must be helped, and that help must
come from him--he had sworn to protect her, and he would do it.
There was just one way left to him now. Fred's face whitened at the
thought, and his eyes had an unnatural glitter, but there was a deadly
purpose in his heart.
In his trunk he found the Smith and Wesson that one of the boys in the
office had given him when he left, and which he had never thought of
since. He hastily but carefully loaded it and slipped it into his
pocket. Then reaching for his snowy overcoat, which had fallen to the
floor, and putting the lamp in the window, more from habit than with
any purpose, he went out into the night.
The storm had reached its height when Fred Brydon, pulling has cap down
over his ears, set out on his journey. It was a wild enough night to
turn any traveller aside from his purpose, but Fred Brydon, in his
rage, had ceased to be a man with a man's fears, a man's frailties, and
had become an avenging spirit, who knew neither cold nor fatigue. A
sudden stinging of his ears made him draw his cap down more closely,
but he went forward at a brisk walk, occasionally breaking into a run.
He had but one thought in his mind--he must yet save Evelyn. He had
deserted her in her hour of need, but he would yet make amends.
The wind which sang dismally around him reminded him with a sickening
blur of homesickness of the many pleasant evenings he and Evelyn had
spent in their little shack, with the same wind making eerie music in
the pipe of the stove. Yesterday and to-day were separated by a gulf as
wide as death itself.
He had gone about three miles when he heard a faint halloo come down
the wind. It sounded two or three times before the real significance of
it occurred to him, so intent was he upon his own affairs. But louder
and more insistent came the unmistakable call for help.
A fierce temptation assailed Fred Brydon. He must not delay--every
minute was precious--to save Evelyn, his wife, was surely more his duty
than to set lost travellers on their way again. Besides, he told
himself, it was not a fiercely cold night--there was no great danger of
any person freezing to death; and even so, were not some things more
vital than saving people from death, which must come sooner or later?
Then down the wind came the cry again--a frightened cry--he could hear
the words--"Help! help! for God's sake!" Something in Fred Brydon's
heart responded to that appeal. He could not hurry by unheeding.
Guided by the calls, he turned aside from his course and made his way
through the choking storm across the prairie.
The cries came nearer, and Fred shouted in reply--words of impatient
encouragement. No rescuer ever went to his work with a worse grace.
A large, dark object loomed faintly through the driving storm.
"What's the matter?" called Fred, when he was within speaking distance.
"I'm caught--tangled up in some devilish thing," came back the cry.
Fred hurried forward, and found a man, almost covered with snow,
huddled beside a haystack, his clothing securely held by the barbs of
the wire with which the stack was fenced.
"You're stuck in the barbed wire," said Fred, as he removed his mittens
and with a good deal of difficulty released the man from the close grip
of the barbs.
"I hired a livery-man at Brandon to bring me out, and his bronchos
upset us and got away from him. He walked them the whole way--the roads
were heavy--and then look at what they did! I came over here for
shelter--the driver ran after the team, and then these infernal
fishhooks got hold of me--what are they, anyway?"
"This is surely a God-forsaken country that can jerk a storm like this
on you in November," the older man declared, as Fred carefully dusted
the snow off him, wondering all the time what he was going to do with
"Where are you going?" Fred asked, abruptly.
"I want to get to the Black Creek Stopping-House. How far am I from
"About three miles," said Fred.
"Well, I guess I can walk that far if you'll show me the road."
"I am going to Brandon," he said.
"What is any sane man going to Brandon to-night for?" the stranger
cried, impatiently. "Great Scott! I thought I was the only man who was
a big enough fool to be out to-night. The driver assured me of that
several times. I guess there's a woman in the case with you, too."
"Did you meet anyone?" Fred asked, quickly. "Not a soul! I tell you
you and I are the only crazy ones to-night."
Fred considered a minute.
"I'll take you on your way," he said.
The stranger suddenly remembered something. "I'm a good bit obliged to
you, young man, whoever you are. I guess I'd have been here all night
if you hadn't come along and heard me. I was beginning to get chilly,
too. Is this a blizzard?"
"Yes, I guess it is," Fred answered, shortly, "and it's not improving
any, so I guess we had better hurry on."
It was much easier going with the wind, and at first the older man,
helped along by Fred, made good progress. Fred knew that every minute
the drifts were growing higher and the road harder to keep.
The night grew colder and darker, and the storm seemed to thicken.
"Pretty hard going for an old man of sixty," the stranger said,
stopping to get his breath. The storm seemed to choke him.
Soon he begged to be let rest, and when Fred tried to start him again
he experienced some difficulty. The cold was getting into his very
bones, and was causing a fatal drowsiness.
Fred told him this and urged him to put forth his greatest efforts.
They were now but a mile from Fred's house. Every few minutes the light
in the window glimmered through the storm, the only ray of light in the
maze of whirling snow which so often thickened and darkened and blotted
it out altogether.
When they were about half a mile from the house, the old man, without
warning, dropped into the snow and begged Fred to go on without him. He
was all right, he declared, warm and comfortable, and wanted to rest.
"You'll freeze to death!" Fred cried. "That's the beginning of it."
"Feel very comfortable," the old man mumbled.
Fred coaxed, reasoned, entreated, but all in vain. He shook the old
man, scolded, threatened, but all to no purpose.
There was only one thing to be done.
Fred threw off his own coat, which was a heavy one, and picked the old
man up, though he was no light weight, and set off with him.
But the man objected to being carried, and, squirming vigorously,
slipped out of Fred's arms, and once more declared his intention of
sleeping in the snow.
With his frozen mitten Fred dealt him a stinging blow on the cheek
which made him yell with pain and surprise.
"Do what I tell you!" cried Fred.
The blow seemed to rouse him from his stupor, and he let Fred lead him
onward through the storm.
When they arrived at Fred's house he put the old man in a rocking-
chair, first removing his snowy outer garments, and made sure that he
had no frost-bites. Then hastily lighting the fire, which had burned
itself out, he made coffee and fried bacon.
When the old man had taken a cup of the coffee he began to take an
interest in his surroundings.
"How did I get here?" he asked. "The last thing I remember I was
sitting down, feeling very drowsy, and someone was bothering me to get
up. Did I get up?"
"Not until I lifted you," said Fred.
"Did you carry me?" the other man asked in surprise.
"I did until you kicked and squirmed so I couldn't hold you."
"What did you do then?" queried his visitor, tenderly feeling his sore
"I slapped you once, but you really deserved far more," said Fred,
"What did I do then?"
"You got up and behaved yourself so nicely I was sorry that I hadn't
slapped you sooner!"
The old man laughed to himself without a sound.
"What's your name?" he asked.
While this dialogue had been in progress Fred had been studying his
companion closely, with a growing conviction that he knew him. He was
older, grayer, and of course the storm had reddened his face, but Fred
thought he could not be mistaken.
The old man repeated the question.
"Brown!" said Fred, shortly, giving the first name he could think of.
"You're a strapping fine young fellow, Brown, even if you did hit me
with your hard mitt, and I believe I should be grateful to you."
"Don't bother," said Fred shortly.
"I will bother," the old man cried, imperiously, with a gesture of his
head that Fred knew well; "I will bother, and my daughter will thank
"Your daughter!" Fred exclaimed, turning his back to pick out another
stick for the stove.
"Yes, my girl, my only girl--it's her I came to see. She's living near
here. I guess you'd know her: she's married to a no-good Englishman, a
real lizzie-boy, that wouldn't say boo to a goose!"
Fred continued to fix the fire, poking it unnecessarily. He was
confident that Evelyn's father would not recognize him with his crop of
whiskers and sunburnt face. His mind was full of conflicting emotions.
"Maybe you know him," said the old man. "His name is Brydon. They live
somewhere near the Stopping-House."
"I've not lived here long," said Fred, evasively, "but I've heard of
The comfort and security of the warm little shack, as well as the good
meal Fred had given him, had loosened the old man's tongue.
"I never liked this gent. I only saw him once, but it don't take me
long to make up my mind. He carried a cane and had his monogram on his
socks--that was enough for me--and a red tie on him, so red you'd think
his throat was cut. I says to myself, I don't want that shop window
Judy round my house,' but Evelyn thought he was the best going. Funny
thing that that girl was the very one to laugh at dudes before that,
but she stuck it out that he was a fine chap. She's game, all right, my
girl is. She stays right with the job. I wrote and told her to come on
back and I'd give her every cent I have--but she pitched right into me
about not asking Fred. Here's her letter. Oh, she's a spunky one!" He
was fumbling in his pockets as he spoke. Drawing out a long pocketbook,
he took out a letter. He deliberately opened the envelope and read.
Fred with difficulty held back his hand from seizing it.
"Listen to this how she lit into me: 'When you ask me to leave my
husband you ask me to do a dishonorable thing--'"
Fred heard no more--he hung on to the seat of his chair with both
hands, breathing hard, but the old man took no notice of him and read
"'Fred is in every way worthy of your respect, but you have been
utterly unjust to him from the first. I will enjoy poverty and
loneliness with him rather than endure every pleasure without him.'"
Fred's world had suddenly righted itself--he saw it all now--this was
the man she was writing to--this was the man who had tried to induce
her to leave him.
"I haven't really anything against this Fred chap--maybe his clothes
were all right. I was brought up in the lumber business, though, and I
don't take to flowered stockings and monograms--I kept wondering how
he'd look in overalls! What was really wrong with me--and you'll never
know how it feels until you have a girl of your own, and she leaves
you--was that I was jealous of the young gent for taking my girl when
she was all I had."
Fred suddenly understood many things; a fellow feeling for the old man
filled his heart, and in a flash he saw the past in an entirely
He broke out impetuously, "She thinks of you the same as ever, I know
she does--" then, seeing his mistake, he said, "I know them slightly,
and I've heard she was lonely for you."
"Then why didn't she tell me? She has always kept up these spunky
letters to me, and said she was happy, and all that--she liked to live
here, she said. What's this Fred fellow like?" The old man leaned
toward him confidentially.
"Oh, just so-so," Fred answered, trying to make the stove take more
wood than it was ever intended to take. "I never had much use for him,
and I know people wondered what she saw in him."
The old man was glad to have his opinion sustained, and by a local
"It wasn't because he hadn't money that I objected to him--it wasn't
that, for I have a place in my business where I need a smart, up-to-
date chap, and I'd have put him there quick, but he didn't seem to have
any snap in him--too polite, you know--the kind of a fellow that would
jump to pick up a handkerchief like as if he was shot out of a gun. I
don't care about money, but I like action. Now, if she had taken a
fancy to a brown-faced chap like you I wouldn't have cared if he hadn't
enough money to make the first payment on a postage stamp. I kinda
liked the way you let fly at me when I was acting contrary with you out
there in the storm. But, tell me, how does this Fred get on? Is he as
green as most Englishmen?"
"He's green enough," Fred agreed, "but he's not afraid of work. But
come now, don't you want to go to bed? I can put you up for the night,
what there's left of it; it's nearly morning now."
The old man yawned sleepily, and was easily persuaded to go to bed.
When the old man was safely out of the way Fred put his revolver back
where he had found it. The irony of the situation came home to him--he
had gone out to kill, but in a mysterious way it had been given to him
to save instead of take life. But what good was anything to him now?--
the old man had come one day too late.
At daylight, contrary to all expectations, the storm went down, only
the high packed drifts giving evidence of the fury of the night before.
As soon as the morning came Fred put on his father-in-law's coat,
having left his in the snow, and went over to the Black Creek Stopping-
House. Mrs. Corbett was the only person who could advise him.
He walked into the kitchen, which was never locked, just as Mrs.
Corbett, carrying her boots in her hand as if she were afraid of
disturbing someone, came softly down the stairs.
Mrs. Corbett had determined to tell Fred what a short-sighted, jealous-
minded man he was when she saw him, but one look at his haggard face--
for the events of the previous night were telling on him now--made her
forget that she had any feeling toward him but sympathy. She read the
question in his eyes which his lips were afraid to utter.
"She's here, Fred, safe and sound," she whispered.
"Oh, Mrs. Corbett," he whispered in return, "I've been an awful fool!
Did she tell you? Will she ever forgive me, do you think?"
"Ask her!" said Mrs. Corbett, pointing up the narrow stairs.
_WHEN THE DAY BROKE_.
All night long the tide of fortune ebbed and flowed around the table
where Rance Belmont and John Corbett played the game which is still
remembered and talked of by the Black Creek old settlers when their
thoughts run upon old times.
Just as the daylight began to show blue behind the frosted panes, and
the yellow lamplight grew pale and sickly, Rance Belmont rose and
stretched his stiffened limbs.
"I am sorry to bring such a pleasant gathering to an end," he said,
with his inscrutable smile, "but I believe I am done." He was searching
through his pockets as he spoke. "Yes, I believe the game is over."
"You're a mighty good loser, Rance," George Sims declared with
The other men rose, too, and went out to feed their horses, for the
storm was over and they must soon be on the road.
When John Corbett and Rance Belmont went out into the kitchen, Maggie
Corbett was chopping up potatoes in the frying-pan with a baking-powder
can, looking as fresh and rested as if she had been asleep all night,
instead of holding a lonely vigil beside a stovepipe-hole.
John Corbett advanced to the table and solemnly deposited the green box
thereon; then with painstaking deliberation he arranged the contents of
his pockets in piles. Rance Belmont's watch lay by itself; then the
bills according to denomination; last of all the silver and a slip of
brown paper with writing on it in lead-pencil.
When all was complete, he nodded to Maggie to take charge of the
Maggie hastily inspected the contents of the green box, and having
satisfied herself that it was all there, she laid it up, high and dry,
on the clock shelf.
Then she hastily looked at the piles and read the slip of brown paper,
which seemed to stand for one sorrel pacer, one cutter, one set single
harness, two goat robes.
"Rance," said Maggie, slowly, "we don't want a cent that don't belong
to us. I put Da at playing with you in the hope he would win all away
from you that you had, for we were bound to stop you from goin' away
with that dear girl if it could be done, and we knew you couldn't go
broke; but now you can't do any harm if you had all the money in the
world, for she's just gone home a few minutes ago with her man."
Rance Belmont started forward with a smothered oath, which Mrs. Corbett
"So take your money and horse and all, Rance. It ain't me and Da would
keep a cent we haven't earned. Take it, Rance"--shoving it toward him--
"there's no hard feelin's now, and good luck to you! Sure, I guess Da
enjoyed the game, and it seems he hadn't forgot the way." Maggie
Corbett could not keep a small note of triumph out of her voice.
Rance Belmont gathered up the money without a word, and, putting on his
cap and overcoat, he left the Black Creek Stopping-House. John Corbett
carried the green box upstairs and put it carefully back in its place
of safety, while Maggie Corbett carefully peppered and salted the
potatoes in the pan.
* * * * *
When Robert Grant, of the Imperial Lumber Company, of Toronto, wakened
from his slumber it was broad daylight, and the yellow winter sun
poured in through the frosted panes. The events of the previous night
came back to him by degrees; the sore place on his face reminding him
of the slight difference of opinion between himself and his new friend,
young Mr. Brown.
"Pretty nice, tasty room this young fellow has," he said to himself,
looking around at the many evidences of daintiness and good taste.
"He's a dandy fine young fellow, that Brown. I could take to him
without half trying."
Then he became conscious of low voices in the next room.
"Hello, Brown!" he called.
Fred appeared in the doorway with a smiling face.
"How do you feel this morning, Mr. Grant?" he asked.
"I feel hungry," Mr. Grant declared. "I want some more of your good
prairie cooking. If I get another meal of it I believe I'll be able to
make friends with my son-in-law. When are you going to let me get up?"
Just then there was a rustle of skirts and Evelyn came swiftly into the
"Oh, father! father!" she cried, kissing the old man over and over
again. "You will forgive me, won't you?"
The old man's voice was husky with happy tears.
"I guess we won't talk about forgiveness, dearie--we're about even, I
think--but we've had our lesson. I've got my girl back--and, Evelyn, I
want you and Fred to come home with me for Christmas and forever.
You've got the old man solid, Evelyn. I couldn't face a Christmas
Evelyn kissed him again without speaking.
"I will apologize to your man, Evelyn," the old man said, after a
pause. "I haven't treated the boy right. I hope he won't hold it
"Not a bit of it," declared Evelyn. "You don't know Fred--that's all."
"Oh, how did you get here, Evelyn? Do you live near here? I have been
so glad to see you I forgot to ask."
"Mr. Brown brought me over," said Evelyn, unblushingly. "He came over
early this morning to tell me you were here. Wasn't it nice of him?"
"He's a dandy fellow, this young Brown," said the old man, and then
Evelyn's eyes were sparkling with suppressed laughter.
"But where is Fred?" her father asked, with an effort, and Evelyn
watched him girding himself for a painful duty.
"I'll call him," she said, sweetly.
The old man's grey eyes grew dark with excitement and surprise as his
friend Brown came into the room and stood beside Evelyn and quite
brazenly put his left arm around her waist. His face was a study in
emotions as his quick brain grasped the situation. With a prolonged
whistle he dropped back on the pillow, and pulling the counterpane over
his face he shook with laughter.
"The joke is all on me," he cried. "I have been three or four different
kinds of a fool."
Then he emerged from the bed-clothes and, sitting up, grasped Fred's
"There's one thing, though, I am very proud of, Fred," he said; "I may
not be a good judge of humanity myself, but I am glad to know that my
girl had all her wits about her when she went to pick out a man for
Randolph and Reginald stayed in hiding until it was established beyond
all doubt that their brother Fred was alive and well. Then they came
back to the "Sailors' Rest," and life for them went on as before.
At Christmas time a bulky letter and a small white box came addressed
to them, bearing the postmark of Bournemouth.
The brothers seized their letter with undiluted joy; it was addressed
in a bold, masculine hand, a lawyer's undoubtedly--a striking though
perhaps not conclusive proof that Aunt Patience had winged her flight.
They were a little bit disappointed that it had not black edges--they
had always imagined that the "blow" would come with black edges.
Reginald opened it, read it, and let it fall to the floor.
Randolph opened it, read it, and let it fall to the floor.
It contained a thick announcement card, with heavy gold edge, and the
news that it carried was to the effect that on December the first Miss
Priscilla Abigail Patience Brydon had been united in marriage to Rev.
Alfred William Henry Curtis Moreland, Rector of St. Albans, Tilbury-on-
the-Stoke, and followed this with the information that Mr. and Mrs.
Alfred William Henry Curtis Moreland would be at home after January the
first in the Rectory, Appleblossom Court, Parklane Road, Tilbury-on-
The envelope also contained a sweetly happy, fluttery little note from
Aunt Patience, saying she hoped they were well, and that she would try
to be a good mother to the Rector's four little boys.
The small white box contained two squares of wedding cake!
THE RUNAWAY GRANDMOTHER
(Reprinted by permission of _The Globe_, Toronto.)
George Shaw came back to his desolate hearth, and, sitting by the
untidy table, thought bitter things of women. The stove dripped ashes;
the table overflowed with dirty dishes.
His last housekeeper had been gone a week--she had left by request.
Incidentally there disappeared at the same time towels, pillow-covers,
a few small tools, and many other articles which are of a size to go in
His former housekeeper, second to the last, had been a teary-eyed
English lady, who, as a child, had played with King George, and was
well beloved by all the Royal family. She had a soul above work, and
utterly despised Canadians. Once, when her employer remonstrated with
her for wearing his best overcoat when she went to milk, she fell
a-weeping and declared she wasn't going to be put on. Mr. Shaw said the
same thing about his coat, and it led to unpleasantness. The next day
he found her picking chips in his brown derby, and when he expressed
his disapproval she told him it was no fit hat for a young man like
him--he should have a topper. Mr. Shaw decided that he would try to do
Before that he had had a red-cheeked Irishwoman, who cooked so well,
scrubbed so industriously, that he had thought his troubles were all
over. But one day she went to Millford, and came home in a state of
wild exhilaration, with more of the same in a large black bottle. When
Mr. Shaw came to put away the horse, she struck him over the head with
her handbag, playfully blackening one of his eyes, and then begged him
to come and make up--"kiss and forgit, like the swate pet that he was."
Exit Mrs. Murphy.
George Shaw decided to do his own cooking, but in three days every dish
in the house was dirty; the teapot was full of leaves, the stove full
of ashes, and the floor was slippery.
George Shaw's farm lay parallel with the Souris River in that fertile
region which lies between the Brandon and the Tiger Hills. His fields
ran an unbroken mile, facing the Tiger Hills, blue with mist. He was a
successful young farmer, and he should have been a happy man without a
care in the world, but he did not look it as he sat wearily by his red
stove, with the deep furrows of care on his young face.
The busy time was coming on; he needed another man, and he did hate
trying to do the cooking himself.
As a last hope he decided to advertise. He hunted up his writing-pad
and wrote hastily:
"Housekeeper wanted by a farmer; must be sober and steady. Good wages
to the right person. Apply to George Shaw, Millford, Man."
He read it over reflectively. "There ought to be someone for me," he
said. "I am not hard to please. Any good, steady old lady who will give
me a bite to eat, not swear at me or wear my clothes or drink while on
duty will answer my purpose."
Two days after his advertisement had appeared in the Brandon _Times_,
Shaw saw a smart-looking woman gaily tripping along the road, and his
As she drew near, however, he was relieved to find that her hair was
"Good evening, Mr. Shaw!" she called to him as soon as she was within
"Good evening, madam," he replied, lifting his hat.
"I just asked along the road until I found you," she said, untying her
bonnet strings; "I knew this lonesome little house must be the place.
No trees, no flowers, no curtains, no washing on the line--I could tell
there was no woman around." She was fixing her hair at his little glass
as she spoke. "Now, son, run out and get a few chips for the fire, and
we'll have a bite of supper in a few minutes."
Shaw brought the chips.
"Now, what do you say to pancakes for supper?"
Shaw declared that nothing would suit him so well as pancakes.
The fire crackled merrily under the kettle, and soon the two of them
were sitting down to an appetizing meal of pancakes and syrup, boiled
eggs and tea.
"Land sakes, George, you must have had your own time with those
housekeepers of yours! Some of them drank, eh? I could tell that by the
piece you put in the paper. But never mind them now; I'll soon have you
feeling fine as silk. How's your socks? Toes out, I'll bet. Well, I'll
hunt you up a pair, if there's any to be found. If I can't find any you
can go to bed when you get your chores done, and I'll wash out them
you've on--I can't bear my men folks to have their toes out; a hole in
the heel ain't so bad, it's behind you and you can forget it, but a
hole in the toe is always in your way no matter which way you're
After supper, when Shaw was out doing his chores, he could see her
bustling in and out of the house; now she was beating his bedclothes on
the line; in another minute she was leaning far out of a bedroom window
dusting a pillow.
When he came into the house she reported that her search for stockings,
though vigorous, had been vain. He protested a little about having to
go to bed when the sun was shining, but she insisted.
"I'm sorry, George," she said, "to have to make you go to bed, but it's
the only thing we can do. You'll find your bed feels a lot better since
I took the horse collar and the pair of rubber boots out from under the
mattress. That's a poor place to keep things. Good-night now--don't
read lying down."
When he went upstairs Shaw noticed with dismay that his lamp had gone
from the box beside his bed. So he was not likely to disobey her last
injunction--at least, not for any length of time.
Just at daylight the next morning there came a knock at his door.
"Come, George--time to get up!"
When he came in from feeding his horses a splendid breakfast was on the
"Here's your basin, George; go out and have a good wash. Here's your
comb; it's been lost for quite awhile. I put a towel out there for you,
too. Hurry up now and get your vittles while they are nice!"
When Shaw came to the table she regarded him with pleasure.
"You're a fine-looking boy, George, when you're slicked up," she said.
"Now bow your head until we say grace! There, now pitch in and tell me
how you like grandma's cooking."
Shaw ate heartily and praised everything.
A few days afterwards she said, "Now, George, I guess I'll have to ask
you to go to town and get some things we need for the house."
Shaw readily agreed, and took out his paper and pencil.
"Soap, starch, ten yards of cheesecloth--that's for curtains," she
said. "I'll knit lace for them, and they'll look real dressy; toilet
soap, sponge and nailbrush--that's for your bath, George; you haven't
been taking them as often as you should, or the hoops wouldn't have
come off your tub. You can't cheat Nature, George; she always tells on
you. Ten yards flannelette--that's for night-shirts; ten yards
sheeting--that's for your bed--and your white shirts are pretty far
"How do you know?" he asked in surprise; "they are all in my trunk."
"Yes, I know, and the key is in that old cup on the stand, and I know
how to unlock a trunk, don't I?" she replied with dignity. "You need
new shirts all right, but just get one. I never could abear them
boughten shirts, they are so skimpy in the skirt; I'll make you some
lovely ones, with blue and pink flossin' down the front."
He looked up alarmed.
"Then about collars," she went on serenely. "You have three, but
they're not in very good shape, though, of course, you couldn't expect
anything better of them, kept in that box with the nails--oh, I found
them, George, you needn't look so surprised. You see I know something
about boys--I have three of my own." A shadow passed over her face and
she sighed. "Well, I guess that is all for to-day. Be sure to get your
mail and hurry home."
"Shall I tell the postmaster to put your mail in my box?" he asked.
"Oh, no, never mind--I ain't expectin' any," she said, and Shaw drove
A few nights after she said, "Well, George, I suppose you are wonderin'
now who this old lady is, though I am not to say real old either."
"Indeed you are not old," Shaw declared with considerable gallantry;
"you are just in your prime."
She regarded him gratefully. "You're a real nice boy, George," she
said, "and there ain't going to be no secrets between us. If you wet
your feet, or tear your clothes, don't try to hide it. Don't keep
nothing from me and I won't keep nothing from you. Now I'll tell you
who I am and all about it. I am Mrs. Peter Harris, of Owen Sound,
Ontario, and I have three sons here in the West. They've all done well,
fur as money goes. I came up to visit them. I came from Bert's here. I
couldn't stand the way Bert's folks live. Mind you, they burn their
lights all night, and they told me it doesn't cost a cent more. Land o'
liberty! They can't fool me. If lights burn, someone pays--and the
amount of hired help they keep is something scandalous. Et, that is
Bert's wife, is real smart, and they have two hired girls, besides
their own two girls, and they get in a woman to wash besides. I wanted
them to let the two girls go while I was there, but no, sir! Et says,
'Grandma, you didn't come here to work, you must just rest.' They
wouldn't let me do a thing, and that brazen hired girl--the housemaid,
they call her--one day even made my bed; and, mind you, George, she put
the narrow hem on the sheet to the top, and she wasn't a bit ashamed
when I told her. She said she hoped it didn't make me feel that I was
standin' on my head all night; and the way that woman hung out the
clothes was a perfect scandal!" Her voice fell to an awed whisper. "She
hangs the underwear in plain sight. I ain't never been used to the like
of that! I could not stay. Bert is kind enough, so is Et, and they have
one girl, Maud, that I really do like. She is twenty-one, but, of
course, brought up the way she has been, she is awful ignorant for that
age. Mind you, that girl had never turned the heel of a stocking until
I got her at it, but Maud can learn. I'd take that girl quick, and
bring her up like my own, if Bert would let me. Well, anyway, I could
not put up with the way they live, and I just ran away."
"You ran away!" echoed Shaw. "They'll be looking for you!"
"Let 'em look!" said the old lady, grimly. "They won't ever find me
"I'll hide you in the haymow, and if they come in here to search for
you I'll declare I never knew you--I am prepared to do desperate
things," Shaw declared.
"George, if they ever get in here--that is, Et anyway--she'll know who
did the fixin' up. There ain't many that know how to do this Rocky Road
to Dublin that is on your lounge. Et would know who'd been here."
"That settles it!" declared Shaw. "Et shall not enter. If Et gets in it
shall be over my prostrate form, but maybe it would be better for you
to take the Rocky Road with you to the hayloft!"
The old lady laughed heartily. "Ain't we happy, George, you and me?
I've tried all my own, and they won't let me have one bit of my own
way. Out at Edward's--he's a lawyer at Regina--I tried to get them all
to go to bed at half-past ten--late enough, too, for decent people--and
didn't Edward's wife get real miffed over it? And then I went to Tom's
--he's a doctor down at Winnipeg, but he's all gone to politics; he was
out night after night makin' speeches, and he had a young fellow
lookin' after his practice who wouldn't know a corn from a gumboil only
they grow in different places. Tom's pa and me spent good money on his
education, and it's hard for us to see him makin' no use of it. He was
nice enough to me, wanted me to stay and be company for Edith, but I
told him he should try to be company for Edith himself. Well, he didn't
get elected--that's one comfort. I believe it was an answer to prayer.
Maybe he'll settle down to his doctorin' now. Then I went to Bert's,
and I soon saw I could not stay there. Just as soon as I saw your
little bit in the paper, I says, 'The Lord has opened a door!' I gave
Maud a hint that I would clear out some day and go where I would be let
work, and the dear child says to me, 'Grandma, if I ever get a house of
my own you can come and live with me, and you can do every bit of the
work, and everyone will have to do just what you say; they'll have to
go to bed at sundown if you say so.' Maud's the best one I have
belongin' to me. She'll give them a hint that I'm all right."
But Shaw was apprehensive. He knew who Bert was, and he had
uncomfortable visions of Mr. Albert Harris driving up to his door some
day and demanding that Mrs. Peter Harris, his mother, immediately come
home with him; and the fear and dread of former housekeepers swept over
George Shaw's soul. No, he would not give her up! Of course, there were
times when he thought she was rather exacting, and when he felt some
sympathy for Edward's wife forgetting "miffed."
When she was with him about a week she announced that he must have a
daily bath! "It is easier to wash you than the bed-clothes, that's one
reason," she said, "and it's good for you besides. That's what's wrong
with lots of young boys; they git careless and dirty, and then they
take to smoking and drinking just natcherally. A clean hide, mind you,
is next to a clean heart. Now go along upstairs; everything is ready
Henceforth there was no danger of the hoops falling off the tub, for it
was in daily use, and, indeed, it was not many nights until George Shaw
looked forward with pleasure to his nightly wash.
The old lady's face glowed with pleasure as she went about her work, or
sat sewing in the shade of the house. At her instigation Shaw had put
up a shed for his machinery, which formerly had littered the yard, and
put his wood in even piles.
The ground fell away in a steep ravine, just in front of the house, and
pink wild roses and columbine hung in profusion over the spring which
gushed out of the bank. Away to the east were the sand-hills of the
Assiniboine--the bad lands of the prairie, their surface peopled with
stiff spruce trees that stand like sentries looking, always looking out
across the plain!
Mrs. Harris often sat with her work in the shade of the house, on
pleasant afternoons, looking at this peaceful scene, and her heart was
full of gladness and content.
The summer passed pleasantly for George Shaw and his cheery old
housekeeper. Not a word did they hear from "Bert's" folks.
"I would like to see Maud," Mrs. Harris said one night to Shaw as she
sat knitting a sock for him beside their cheerful fireside. He was
"What is Maud like?" he asked.
"Maud favors my side of the house," she answered. "She's a pretty good-
looking girl, very much the hi'th and complexion I used to be when I
was her age. You'd like Maud fine if you saw her, George."
"I don't want to see her," Shaw replied, "for I am afraid that the
coming of Maud might mean the departure of Grandma, and that would be a
bad day for me."
"I ain't goin' to leave you, George, and I believe Maud would be
reasonable if she did come! She'd see how happy we are!"
It was in the early autumn that Maud came. The grain had all been cut
and stacked, and was waiting for the thresher to come on its rounds.
Shaw was ploughing in the field in front of his house when Maud came
walking briskly up the road just as her grandmother had done four
months before! The trees in the poplar grove beside the road were
turning red and yellow with autumn, and Maud, in her red-brown suit and
hat, looked as if she belonged to the picture.
Some such thought as this struggled in Shaw's brain and shone in his
eyes as he waited for her at the headland.
He raised his hat as she drew near. Maud went right into the subject.
"Have you my grandmother?" she asked.
Shaw hesitated--the dreaded moment had come. Visions of former
housekeepers--dirty dishes, unmade bed, dust, flies, mice--rose before
him and tempted him to say "no," but something stronger and better,
perhaps it was the "clean hide" prompting the clean heart, spoke up in
"I have your grandmother," he said slowly, "and she is very well and
"Will you give her up?" was Maud's next question.
"Never!" he answered stoutly; "and she won't give me up, either. Your
grandmother and I are very fond of each other, I would like you to
know--but come in and see her."
That night after supper, which proved to be a very merry meal in spite
of the shadow which had fallen across the little home, Mrs. Harris said
almost tearfully: "I can't leave this pore lamb, Maud--there's no
knowin' what will happen to him."
"I will go straight back to the blanket and dog soup," Shaw declared
with cheerful conviction. "You can't imagine the state things were in
when your grandmother came--bed not made since Christmas, horsenails
for buttons, comb and brush lost but not missed, wash basin rusty! Your
grandmother, of course, has been severe with me--she makes me go to bed
before sundown. Yet I refuse to part with her. Who takes your
grandmother takes me; and now, Miss Maud, it is your move!"
That night when they sat in the small sitting-room with a bright fire
burning in the shining stove, Maud felt her claim on her grandmother
growing more and more shadowy. Mrs. Harris was in a radiant humor. She
was knitting lace for the curtains, and chatted gaily as she worked.
"You see, Maud, I am never lonely here; it's a real heartsome place to
live. There's the trains goin' by twice a day, and George here is a
real good hand to read out to me. We're not near done with the book
we're reading, and I am anxious to see if Adam got the girl. He was set
on havin' her, but some of her folks were in for makin' trouble."
"Folks sometimes do!" said Shaw, meaningly.
"Well, I can't go until we finish the book," the old lady declared,
"and we see how the story comes out, and I don't believe Maud is the
one to ask it."
Maud made a pretty picture as she sat with one shapely foot on the
fender of the stove, the firelight dancing on her face and hair. Shaw,
looking at her, forgot the errand on which she came--forgot everything
only that she was there.
"Light the lamp and read a bit of the book now," Mrs. Harris said.
"Maud'll like it, I know. She's the greatest girl for books!"
Shaw began to read. It was "The Kentucky Cardinal" he read, that
exquisite love-story, that makes us lovers all, even if we never have
been, or worse still, have forgotten. Shaw loved the book, and read it
tenderly, and Maud, leaning back in her chair, found her heart warmed
with a sudden great content.
A week later Shaw and Maud walked along the river bank and discussed
the situation. Autumn leaves carpeted the ground beneath their feet,
and the faint murmur of the river below as it slipped over its pebbly
bed came faintly to their ears. In the sky above them, wild geese with
flashing white wings honked away toward the south, and a meadow lark,
that jolly fellow who comes early and stays late, on a red-leafed
haw-tree poured out his little heart in melody.
"You see, Mr. Shaw," Maud was saying, "it doesn't look right for
Grandma to be living with a stranger when she has so many of her own
people. I know she is happy with you--happier than she has been with
any of us--but what will people think? It looks as if we didn't care
for her, and we do. She is the sweetest old lady in the world." Maud
was very much in earnest.
Shaw's eyes followed the wild geese until they faded into tiny specks
on the horizon. Then he turned and looked straight into her face.
"Maud," he said, with a strange vibration in his voice, "I know a way
out of the difficulty; a real good, pleasant way, and by it your
grandmother can continue to live with me, and still be with her own
folks. Maud, can you guess it?"
The blush that spread over Maud's face indicated that she was a good
Then the meadow-lark, all unnoticed, hopped a little nearer, and sang
sweeter than ever. Not that anybody was listening, either!
THE RETURN TICKET
(Reprinted by permission of _The Canadian Ladies' Home Journal_.)
In the station at Emerson, the boundary town, we were waiting for the
Soo train, which comes at an early hour in the morning. It was a
bitterly cold, dark, winter morning; the wires overhead sang dismally
in the wind, and even the cheer of the big coal fire that glowed in the
rusty stove was dampened by the incessant mourning of the storm.
Along the walls, on the benches, sat the trackmen, in their sheepskin
coats and fur caps, with earlaps tied tightly down. They were tired and
sleepy, and sat in every conceivable attitude expressive of sleepiness
and fatigue. A red lantern, like an evil eye, gleamed from one dark
corner; in the middle of the floor were several green lamps turned low,
and over against the wall hung one barred lantern whose bright little
gleam of light reminded one uncomfortably of a small, live mouse in a
cage, caught and doomed, but undaunted still. The telegraph instruments
clicked at intervals. Two men, wrapped in overcoats, stood beside the
stove and talked in low tones about the way real estate was increasing
in value in Winnipeg.
The door opened and a big fellow, another snow shoveller, came in
hurriedly, letting in a burst of flying snow that sizzled on the hot
stove. It did not rouse the sleepers from the bench; neither did the
new-comer's remark that it was a "deuce of a night" bring forth any
argument--we were one on that point.
The train was late; the night agent told us that when he came out to
shovel in more coal--"she" was delayed by the storm.
I leaned back and tried to be comfortable. After all, I thought, it
might easily be worse. I was going home after a pleasant visit. I had
many agreeable things to think of, and still I kept thinking to myself
that it was not a cheerful night. The clock, of course, indicated that
it was morning, but the deep black that looked in through the frosted
windows, the heavy shadows in the room, which the flickering lanterns
only seemed to emphasize, were all of the night, and bore no relation
to the morning.
The train came at last with a roar that drowned the voice of the storm.
The sleepers on the bench sprang up like one man, seized their
lanterns, and we all rushed out together. The long coach that I entered
was filled with tired, sleepy-looking people, who had been sitting up
all night. They were curled up uncomfortably, making a brave attempt to
rest, all except one little old lady, who sat upright, looking out into
the black night. When the official came to ask the passengers where
they were going, I heard her tell him that she was a Canadian, and she
had been "down in the States with Annie, and now she was bringing Annie
home," and as she said this she pointed significantly ahead to the
There was something about the old lady that appealed to me. I went over
to her when the official had gone out. No, she wasn't tired, she said;
she "had been up a good many nights, and been worried some, but the
night before last she had had a real good sleep."
She was quite willing to talk; the long black night had made her glad
"I took Annie to Rochester, down in Minnesota, to see the doctors
there--the Mayos--did you ever hear of the Mayos? Well, Dr. Smale, at
Rose Valley, said they were her only hope. Annie had been ailing for
years, and Dr. Smale had done all he could for her. Dr. Moore, our old
doctor, wouldn't hear of it; he said an operation would kill her, but
Annie was set on going. I heard Annie say to him that she'd rather die
than live sick, and she would go to Rochester. Dave Johnston--Annie's
man, that is--he drinks, you know--"
The old lady's voice fell and her tired old face seemed to take on
deeper lines of trouble as she sat silent with her own sad thoughts. I
expressed my sorrow.
"Yes, Annie had her own troubles, poor girl," she said at last; "and
she was a good girl, Annie was, and she deserved something better. She
was a tender-hearted girl, and gentle and quiet, and never talked back
to anyone, to Dave least of all, for she worshipped the very ground he
walked on, and married him against all our wishes. She thought she
could reform him!"
She said it sadly, but without bitterness.
"Was he good to her?" I asked. People draw near together in the stormy
dark of a winter's morning, and the thought of Annie in her narrow box
ahead robbed my question of any rudeness.
"He was good to her in his own way," Annie's mother said, trying to be
quite just, "but it was a rough way. She had a fine, big, brick house
to live in--it was a grand house, but it was a lonely house. He often
went away and stayed for weeks, and her not knowing where he was or how
he would come home. He worried her always. The doctor said that was
part of her trouble--he worried her too much."
"Did he ever try to stop drinking?" I asked. I wanted to think better
of him if I could.
"Yes, he did; he was sober once for nearly a year, and Annie's health
was better than it had been for years, but the crowd around the hotel
there in Rose Valley got after him every chance, and one Christmas Day
they got him going again. Annie never could bear to mention about him
drinkin' to anyone, not even me--it would ha' been easier on her if she
could ha' talked about it, but she wasn't one of the talkin' kind."
We sat in silence, listening to the pounding of the rails.
"Everybody was kind to her in Rochester," she said, after a while.
"When we were sitting there waitin' our turn--you know how the sick
people wait there in two long rows, waitin' to be taken in to the
consultin' room, don't you? Well, when we were sittin' there Annie was
sufferin' pretty bad, and we were still a long way from the top of the
line. Dr. Judd was takin' them off as fast as he could, and the
ambulances were drivin' off every few minutes, takin' them away to the
hospital after the doctors had decided what was wrong with them. Some
of them didn't need to go to the hospital at all--they're the best off,
I think. We got talkin' to the people around us--they are there from
all over the country, with all kinds of diseases, poor people. Well,
there was a man from Kansas City who had been waitin' a week, but had
got up now second to the end, and I noticed him lookin' at Annie. I was
fannin' her and tryin' to keep her cheered up. Her face was a bad color
from the pain she was in, and what did this man do but git up and come
down to us and tell Annie that she could have his place. He said he
wasn't in very bad pain now, and he would take her place. He made very
little of it, but it meant a lot to us, and to him, too, poor fellow.
Annie didn't want to do it, but he insisted. Sick folks know how to be
kind to sick folks, I tell you."
The dawn began to show blue behind the frost ferns on the window and
the lamps overhead looked pale and sickly in the grey light.
"Annie had her operation on Monday," she went on after a long pause.
"She was lookin' every day for a letter from Dave, and when the doctor
told her they would operate on her on Monday morning early, she asked
him if he would mind putting it off until noon. She thought there would
be a letter from Dave, for sure, on that morning's mail. The doctor was
very kind to her--they understand a lot, them Mayos--and he did put it
off. In the ward with Annie there was a little woman from Saskatchewan,
that was a very bad case. She talked to us a lot about her man and her
four children. She had a real good man by what she said. They were on a
homestead near Quill Lake, and she was so sure she'd get well. The
doctor was very hopeful of Annie, and said she had nine chances out of
ten of getting better, but this little woman's was a worse case. Dr.
Will Mayo told her she had just one chance in ten---but, dear me, she
was a brave woman; she spoke right up quick, and says she, 'That's all
I want; I'll get well if I've only half a chance. I've got to; Jim and
the children can't do without me.' Jim was her man. When they came to
take her out into the operating room they couldn't give her ether, some
way. She grabbed the doctor's hand, and says she, kind of chokin' up,
all at once, 'You'll do your best for Jim's sake, won't you?' and he
says, says he, 'My dear woman, I'll do my best for your sake.' Busy and
all as they are, they're the kindest men in the world, and just before
they began to operate the nurse brought her a letter from Jim and read
it to her, and she held it in her hand through it all, and when they
wheeled her back into the ward after the operation, it was still in her
hand, though she had fainted dead away."
"Did Annie get her letter?" I asked her.
My companion did not answer at once, but I knew very well that the
letter had not come.
"She didn't ask for it at the last; she just looked at me before they
put the gauze thing over her face. I knew what she meant. I had been
down to see if it had come, and they told me all the mails were in for
the day from the West. She just looked at me so pitiful, but it was
like Annie not to ask. A letter from Dave would have comforted her so,
but it didn't come, though I wired him two days before telling him when
the operation would be. Annie was wonderful cheerful and calm, but I
was trembling like a leaf when they were givin' her the ether, and when
they wheeled her out all so stiff and white I just seemed to feel I'd
lost my girl."
I took the old lady's hand and tried to whisper words of comfort. She
returned the pressure of my hand; her eyes were tearless, and her voice
did not even waver, but the thought of poor Annie going into the valley
unassured by any loving word gave free passage to my tears.
"Did Dave write or wire?" I asked when I could speak.
"No, not a word; he's likely off on a spree." The old lady spoke
bitterly now. "Everybody was kind to my Annie but him, and it was a
word from him that would have cheered her the most. Dr. Mayo came and
sat beside her just an hour before she died, and says he, 'You still
have a chance, Mrs. Johnston,' but Annie just thanked him again for his
kindness and sort o' shook her head.....
"The little woman from Saskatchewan didn't do well at all after the
operation, and Dr. Mayo was afraid she wouldn't pull through. She asked
him what chance she had, and he told her straight--the Mayos always
tell the truth--that she had only one chance in a hundred. She was so
weak that he had to bend down to hear her whisperin', 'I'll take that
"And did she?" I asked eagerly.
"She was still living when I left. She will get better, I think. She
has a very good man, by what she was tellin' us, and a woman can stand
a lot if she has a good man," the old lady said, with the wisdom born
of experience. "I've nursed around a lot, and I've always noticed
I have noticed it, too, though I've never "nursed around."
"Dave came with us to the station the day we left home. He was sober
that day, and gave Annie plenty of money. Annie told him to get a
return ticket for her, too. I said he'd better get just a single for
her, for she might have to stay longer than a month; but she said no,
she'd be back in a month, all right. Dave seemed pleased to hear her
talk so cheerful. When she got her ticket she sat lookin' at it a long
time. I knew what she was thinkin'. She never was a girl to talk
mournful, and when the conductor tore off the goin' down part she gave
me the return piece, and she says, 'You take this, mother.' I knew that
she was thinkin' what the return half might be used for."
We changed cars at Newton, and I stood with the old lady and watched
the trainmen unload the long box. They threw off trunks, boxes and
valises almost viciously, but when they lifted up the long box their
manner changed and they laid it down as tenderly as if they had known
something of Annie and her troubled life.
We sent another telegram to Dave, and then sat down in the waiting-room
to wait for the west train. The wind drove the snow in billows over the
prairie, and the early twilight of the morning was bitterly cold.
Her train came first, and again the long box was gently put aboard. On
the wind-swept platform Annie's mother and I shook hands without a
word, and in another minute the long train was sweeping swiftly across
the white prairie. I watched it idly, thinking of Annie and her sad
home-going. Just then the first pale beams of the morning sun glinted
on the last coach, and touched with fine gold the long white smoke
plume, which the wind carried far over the field. There is nothing so
cheerful as the sunshine, and as I sat in the little grey waiting-room,
watching the narrow golden beam that danced over the closed wicket, I
could well believe that a rest remains for Annie, and that she is sure
of a welcome at her journey's end. And as the sun's warmth began to
thaw the tracery of frost on the window, I began to hope that God's
grace may yet find out Dave, and that he too may "make good" in the
years to come. As for the little woman from Quill Lake, who was still
willing to take the one chance, I have never had the slightest doubt.
THE UNGRATEFUL PIGEONS
Philip was a little boy, with a generous growth of freckles, and a
loving heart. Most people saw only the freckles, but his mother never
lost sight of his affectionate nature. So when, one warm spring day, he
sat moodily around the house, she was ready to listen to his grievance.
"I want something for a pet," said Philip. "I have no dog or cat or
"What would you like the very best of all?" his mother asked, with the
air of a fairy godmother.
"I want pigeons! They are so pretty and white and soft, and they lay
eggs and hatch young ones."
All his gloom had vanished!
"How much a pair?" asked his mother.
"Twenty-five cents out at Crane's. They have millions of them; I can
walk out--it's only five miles."
"Where will we put them when you bring them home?" she asked.
Philip thought they could share his room, but this suggestion was
Then Philip's father was hurriedly interviewed by Philip's mother, and
he agreed to nail a box on the end of the stable, far beyond the reach
of prowling cats, and Philip, armed with twenty-five cents, set forth
gaily on his five-mile walk. It was Saturday morning, and a beautiful
day of glittering April sunshine. The sun was nearly down when Philip
returned, tired but happy. It seemed there had been some trouble in
catching them. The quoted price of twenty-five cents a pair was for
raw, uncaught pigeons, but Philip had succeeded at last and brought
back two beauties, one with blue markings, and the other one almost
The path of true love never ran smooth; difficulties were encountered
at once. Philip put a generous supply of straw in one end of the box
for a bed, but when he put them in they turned round and round as if
they were not quite satisfied with their lodgings. Then Philip had one
of those dazzling ideas which so often led to trouble with the other
members of his family. He made a hurried visit to Rose's--his sister's
--room. Rose was a grown-up lady of twelve.
When he came back, he brought with him a dove-grey chiffon auto veil,
the kind that was much favored that spring by young ladies in Rose's
set, for a head protection instead of hats.
Rose's intimate friend, Hattie Matthews, had that very day put a knot
in each side, which made it fit very artistically on Rose's head.
Philip carefully untied the knots, and draped it over the straw. The
effect was beautiful. Philip exclaimed with delight! They looked so
pretty and "woozy"!
In the innocence of his heart, he ran into the house, for Rose; he
wanted her to rejoice with him.
Rose's language was pointed, though dignified, and the pretty sight was
ruthlessly broken up. Philip's mother, however, stepped into the gap,
and produced an old, pale blue veil of her own, which was equally
It was she, too, who proposed a pigeon book, and a very pleasant time
was spent making it,--for it was not a common book, bought with money,
but one made by loving hands. Several sheets of linen notepaper were
used for the inside, with stiff yellow paper for the cover, the whole
fastened with pale blue silk. Then Philip printed on the cover:
but not in any ordinary, plain, little bits of letters! Each capital
was topped off with an arrow, and ended with a feather, and even the
small letters had a thick blanket of dots.
The first entry was as follows:
April 7th.--_I wocked out to Crane's, and got 2 fantales. they are hard
to ketch. I payed 25 scents. My father knailed a box on the stable, and
I put in a bed of straw, they are bootiful. my sister would not let me
have her vale, but I got one prettier. they look woozy_.
The next day, Sunday, Philip did not see how he could go to church or
Sunday-school--he had not time, he said, but his mother agreed to watch
the pigeons, and so his religious obligations did not need to be set
Monday afternoon the Browns' back yard was full of little boys
inspecting Philip's pigeons, not merely idle onlookers, but hard-headed
poultry fanciers, as shown by the following entry:
April 9th.--_I sold a pare of white ones to-day to Wilfred Garbett, to
be kept three weeks after birth, Eva Gayton wants a pare too any color,
in July. She paid for them_.
Under this entry, which was made laboriously in ink, there was another
one, in lead pencil, done by Philip's brother, Jack:
_This is called selling Pigeons short_.
Philip's friends recommended many and varied things for the pigeons to
eat, and he did his best to supply them all, as far as his slender
means allowed; he went to the elevator for wheat; he traded his good
jack-knife for two mouse-eaten and anaemic heads of squaw-corn, which
were highly recommended by an unscrupulous young Shylock, who had just
come to town and was short of a jack-knife. His handkerchief,
scribblers and pencils mysteriously disappeared, but other articles
came in their place: a small round mirror advertising corsets on the
back (Gordon Smith said pigeons liked a looking-glass--it made them
more contented to stay at home); a small swing out of a birdcage, which
was duly put in place (vendor Miss Edie Beal, owner unknown). Of
course, it was too small for pigeons, but there were going to be little
ones very soon, weren't there?
He also brought to them one day five sunflower seeds, recommended and
sold by a mild-eyed little Murphy girl, who had the stubby fingers of a
money-maker. Philip, being very low in funds that day, wanted her to
accept prospective eggs in payment, but the stubby-fingered Miss Murphy
preferred currency! Philip decided to make no entry of these
transactions in his Pigeon Book.
His young brother, Barrie, began to be troublesome about this time, and
to evince an unwholesome interest in the pigeons. The ladder, which was
placed against the stable under their house, at first seemed to him too
high to climb, but seeing the multitude of delighted spectators who
went up and down without accident, he resolved to try it, too, and so
successfully that he was able after a few attempts to carry a stick
with him, stand on the highest rung, and poke up the pigeons.
One day he was caught--with the goods--by Philip himself. So indignant
was Philip that for a moment he stood speechless. His young brother,
jarred by a guilty conscience and fear of Philip, came hastily down the
ladder, raising a few bruises on his anatomy as he came. Even in his
infant soul he felt he deserved all he had got, and thought best not to
mention the occurrence. Philip, too, generously kept quiet about it,
feeling that the claims of justice had been met. The only dissatisfied
parties in the transaction were the pigeons.
The next Sunday in Sabbath School there was a temperance lesson, and
Barrie Brown quoted the Golden Text with a slight variation--"At the
last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like a _ladder_!"
Philip was the only one who knew what he meant, and he said it served
him good and right.
The following entry appears in the Pigeon Book:
_My brother Barrie poks them, but he got his leson. tomoro I'll let
them out--there fond enough of home now I gess_.
The next day being Saturday, when Philip could watch them, he let them
out. All day long his heart was torn with pride and fear--they looked
so beautiful, circling and wheeling over the stable and far away across
the road, and yet his heart was chill with the fear that they would
That night the Pigeon Book received the following entry:
April 21st.--_I let them out and, they came back--they are sweet pets.
I dreem about them every night I have two dreems, my good dreem is
the've layd my bad dreem is about tomcats and two little heaps of
fethers its horrid_.
The next week another entry went into the book:
_I sold another pare to-day I've raised the price this pare is to be
delivered in Ogist. I gave them a bran mash to-day, it makes them lay
Under this Jack wrote:
_Thinking of the August delivery_.
The next entry was this:
May 1st.--_Wilfred G. is pritty meen, he thinks he knows it all. they
aint goin to lay all in a hurry._
There seemed to be no doubt about this. They certainly were not. In
spite of bran mashes, pepper, cotton batting, blue veil and tender
care, they refused to even consider the question of laying.
Philip was quite satisfied with them as they were, if they would only
stay with him, but the customers who had bought and paid for highly
recommended young fowl were inclined to be impatient and even
unpleasant when the two parent birds were to be seen gadding around the
street at all hours of the day, utterly regardless of their young
Philip learned to call them. His "cutacutacoo--cutacutacoo" could be
heard up and down the street. Sometimes they seemed to pay a little
attention to him, and then his joy was full. More often they seemed to
say, "Cutacutacoo yourself!" or some such saucy word, and fly farther
One night they did not come home. Philip's most insistent "cutacutacoo"
brought no response. He hired boys to help him to look for them,
beggaring himself of allies and marbles, even giving away his Lucky
Shooter, a mottled pee-wee, to a lynx-eyed young hunter who claimed to
be able to see in the dark. He even dared the town constable by staying
out long after the curfew had rung, looking and asking. No one had seen
Through the night it rained, a cold, cruel rain--or so it seemed to the
sad-hearted, wide-awake little boy. He stole out quietly, afraid that
he might be sent back to bed, but only his mother heard him, and she
understood. It was lonesome and dark outside, but love lighted his way.
He groped his way up the ladder, hoping to find them, but though the
straw, the cotton batting, the blue veil, the water-dish were all in
place--there were no pigeons!
Philip came back to bed, cold and wet in body, but his heart colder
still with fear, and his face wetter with tears. Under cover of the
night a boy of ten can cry all he wants to.
His mother, who heard him going out and who understood, called softly
to him to come to her room, and then sympathized. She said they were
safe enough, never fear, with some flock of pigeons; they had got
lonesome, that was all; they would come back when they got hungry, and
the rain would not hurt them, and be sure to wipe his feet!
The next day they were found across the street with Jerry Andrews'
pigeons, as unconcerned as you please. Philip parted with his Lost Heir
game--about the only thing he had left--to get Jerry to help him to
catch them when they were roosting. He shut them up for a few days and
worked harder than ever, if that were possible, to try to please them.
The Pigeon Book would have been neglected only for his mother, who said
it was only right to put in the bad as well as the good. That was the
way with all stories. Philip made this entry:
_They went away and staid and had to be brot back by force I guess they
were lonesome. I don't know why they don't like me--I like them_!
When his mother read that she said, "Poor little fellow," and made
pancakes for tea.
In a few days he let them out again, and watched them with a pale face.
They did not hesitate a minute, but flew straight away down the street
to the place they had been before, to the place where the people often
made pies of pigeons and were not ashamed to tell it!
Philip followed them silently, not having the heart to call.
"Say, Phil," the boy of the pigeon loft called--he was a stout boy who
made money out of everything--"I guess they ain't goin' to stay with
you. You might as well sell out to me. I'll give you ten cents for the
pair. I'm goin' to sell a bunch to the hotel on Saturday."
An insane desire to fight him took hold of Philip. He turned away
At school that day he approached the pigeon boy and made the
proposition that filled the boy with astonishment: "I'll give them to
you, Jerry," he said, hurriedly, "if you promise not to kill them. It's
all right! I guess I won't bother with pigeons--I think I'll get a dog
--or something," he ended lamely.
Jerry was surprised, but being a business man he closed the deal on the
spot. When Philip went home he put his pigeon book away.
There was a final entry, slightly smeared and very badly written:
_They are ungrateful broots_!
YOU NEVER CAN TELL
(Reprinted by permission of _Saturday Night_, Toronto.)
It was at exactly half-past three in the afternoon of a hot June day
that Mrs. Theodore Banks became smitten with the idea. Mrs. Banks often
said afterwards she did not know how she came to be thinking about the
Convention of the Arts and Crafts at all, although she is the
Secretary. The idea was so compelling that Mrs. Banks rushed down town
to tell Mr. Banks--she felt she could not depend on the telephone.
"Ted," she cried, when she opened the door of the office, "I have an
Theodore raised his eyelids.
Mrs. Banks was flushed and excited and looked well. Mrs. Banks was a
handsome woman any time, and to-day her vivacity was quite genuine.
"You know the Convention of the Arts and Crafts--which begins on the
"I've heard of it--somewhere."
"Well, it just came to me, Teddy, what a perfectly heavenly thing it
would be to invite that little Mrs. Dawson, who writes reviews for one
of the papers here--you remember I told you about her--she is awfully
clever and artistic and good-looking, and lives away off from every
place, and her husband is not her equal at all--perfectly illiterate,
I heard--uncultured anyway. What a perfect joy it would be to her to
have her come, and meet with people who are her equals. She's an Ottawa
girl originally, I believe, and she does write the most perfectly sweet
and darling things--you remember I've read them for you. Of course, she
is probably very shabby and out of date in her clothes by this time.
But it doesn't really matter what one wears, if one has heaps of
brains. It is only dull women, really, who have to be so terribly
careful about what they wear, and spend so much money that way!"
"Dull women!" Theodore murmured. "Oh! is that why? I never really
She laughed at his look of enlightened surprise. When Mrs. Banks
laughed there were three dimples plainly showing, which did not
entirely discourage her merriment.
"And you know, Teddy, there is such a mystery about her marriage! She
will really be quite an acquisition, and we'll have her on the
"What mystery?" Mr. Banks asked.
"Oh, well, not mystery, maybe, but we all suppose she's not happy. How
could she be with so few of the real pleasures of life, and still she
stays with it, and actually goes places with her husband, and seems to
be keeping it up, and you know, Ted, she has either three or four
"Is it as bad as that?" he asked, solemnly.
"Oh, Ted! you know well enough what I mean--don't be such an owl! Just
think of how tied down and horrible it must be for her out there in
that desolate Alberta, with no neighbors at all for miles, and then
only impossible people. I should think it would drive her mad. I must
try to get her on the programme, too. She will at least be interesting,
on account of her personality. Most of our speakers are horribly prosy,
at least to me, but of course I never listen; I just look to see what
they've on and then go straight back to my own thinking. I just thought
I'd ask your advice, Teddy dear, before I asked the Committee, and so
now I'll go to see Mrs. Trenton, the President. So glad you approve,
dear! And really there will be a touch of romance in it, Ted, for Bruce
Edwards knew her when she lived in Ottawa--it was he who told me so
much about her. He simply raved about her to me--it seems he was quite
mad about her once, and probably it was a lover's quarrel or something
that drove her away to the West to forget,--and now think of her
meeting Bruce again. Isn't that a thriller?"
"If I thought Bruce Edwards had brains enough to care for any woman I'd
say it was not right to bring her here," said Mr. Banks; "but he
"Oh, of course," Mrs. Banks agreed, "he is quite over it now, no doubt.
Things like that never last, but he'll be awfully nice to her, and give
her a good time and take her around--you know what Bruce is like--he's
so romantic and cynical, and such a perfect darling in his manners--
always ready to open a door or pick up a handkerchief!"
"I am sure he would--if he needed the handkerchief," Theodore put in,
"Oh, Ted! you're a funny bunny! You've never liked Bruce--and I know
why--and it's perfectly horrid of you, just because he has always been
particularly nice to me--he really can't help being dreamy and devoted
to any woman he is with, if she is not a positive fright."
* * * * *
Mrs. Trenton, the President of the Arts and Crafts, received Mrs.
Banks' suggestion cautiously. Mrs. Trenton always asked, Is it right?
Is it wise? Is it expedient? It was Mrs. Trenton's extreme cautiousness
that had brought her the proud distinction of being the first President
of the Arts and Crafts, where it was considered necessary to temper the
impetuosity of the younger members; and, besides, Mrs. Trenton never
carried her doubts and fears too far. She raised all possible
objections, mentioned all possible contingencies, but in the end
allowed the younger members to carry the day, which they did, with a
clear and shriven conscience, feeling that they had been very discreet
and careful and deliberate.
Mrs. Banks introduced her subject by telling Mrs. Trenton that she had
come to ask her advice, whereupon Mrs. Trenton laid aside the work she
was doing and signified her gracious willingness to be asked for
counsel. When Mrs. Banks had carefully laid the matter before Mrs.
Trenton, dwelling on the utter loneliness of the prairie woman's life,
Mrs. Trenton called the Vice-President, Miss Hastings, who was an oil
painter by profession, and a lady of large experience in matters of the
heart. Mrs. Trenton asked Mrs Banks to outline her plan again.
When she had finished, Mrs. Trenton asked: "Is it wise--is it kind? She
has chosen her life. Why bring her back? It will only fill her heart
with vain repinings. This man, illiterate though he may be, is her
lawful husband--she owes him a duty. Are we just to him?"
"Maybe she is perfectly happy," Miss Hastings said. "There is no
accounting for love and its vagaries. Perhaps to her he is clothed in
the rosy glow of romance, and all the inconveniences of her life are
forgotten. I have read of it," she added in explanation, when she
noticed Mrs. Trenton's look of incredulity.
Mrs. Trenton sighed, a long sigh that undulated the black lace on her
"It has been written--it will continue to be written, but to-day
marriage needs to be aided by modern--" she hesitated, and looked at
Mrs. Banks for the word.
"Methods," Mrs. Banks supplied, promptly, "housemaids, cooks, autos,
theatres, jewelry and chocolates."
"You put it so aptly, my dear," Mrs. Trenton smiled, as she patted her
pearl bracelet, Mr. Trenton's last offering on the hymeneal altar. "It
requires--" she paused again--Mrs. Trenton's pauses were a very
important asset in her conversation--"it requires--"
"Collateral," said Mrs. Banks.
Miss Hastings shook her head.
"I believe in marriage--all the same," she said heroically.
"Now, how shall we do it?" Mrs. Banks was anxious to get the
preliminaries over. "You have decided to invite her, of course."
Mrs. Trenton nodded.
"I feel we have no choice in the matter," she said slowly. "She is
certainly a woman of artistic temperament--she must be, or she would
succumb to the dreary prairie level. I have followed her career with
interest and predict great things for her--have I not, Miss Hastings?
We should not blame her if in a moment of girlish romance she turned
her back on the life which now is. We, as officers of the Arts and
Crafts, must extend our fellowship to all who are worthy. This joining
of our ranks may show her what she lost by her girlish folly, but it is
better for her to know life, and even feel regrets, than never to
"Better have a scarlet thread run through the dull gray pattern of
life, even if it makes the gray all the duller," said Miss Hastings,
who worked in oils.
And so it came about that an invitation was sent to Mrs. James Dawson,
Auburn, Alberta, and in due time an acceptance was received.
From the time she alighted from the Pacific Express, a slight young
woman in a very smart linen suit, she was a constant surprise to the
Arts and Crafts. The principal cause of their surprise was that she
seemed perfectly happy. There was not a shadow of regret in her clear
grey eyes, nor any trace of drooping melancholy in her quick, business-
Naturally the Arts and Crafts had made quite a feature of the Alberta
author and poet who would attend the Convention. Several of the
enthusiastic members, anxious to advertise effectively, had interviewed
the newspaper reporters on the subject, with the result that long
articles were published in the Woman's Section of the city dailies,
dealing principally with the loneliness of the life on an Alberta
ranch. Kate Dawson was credited with an heroic spirit that would have
made her blush had she seen the flattering allusions. Robinson Crusoe
on his lonely isle, before the advent of Friday, was not more isolated
than she on her lonely Alberta ranch, according to the advance notices.
Luckily she had not seen any of these, nor ever dreamed she was the
centre of so much attention, and so it was a very self-possessed and
unconscious young woman in a simple white gown who came before the Arts
It was the first open night of the Convention, and the auditorium was
crowded. The air was heavy with the perfume of many flowers, and pulsed
with dreamy music. Mrs. Trenton, in billows of black lace and glinting
jet, presided with her usual graciousness. She introduced Mrs. Dawson
Whatever the attitude of the audience was at first, they soon followed
her with eager interest as she told them, in her easy way, simple
stories of the people she knew so well and so lovingly understood.
There was no art in the telling, only a sweet naturalness and an
apparent honesty--the honesty of purpose that comes to people in lonely
places. Her stories were all of the class that magazine editors call
"homely, heart-interest stuff," not deep or clever or problematical--
the commonplace doings of common people--but it found an entrance into
the hearts of men and women.
They found themselves looking with her at broad sunlit spaces, where
struggling hearts work out noble destinies, without any thought of
heroism. They saw the moonlight and its drifting shadows on the wheat,
and smelled again the ripening grain at dawn. They heard the whirr of
prairie chickens' wings among the golden stubble on the hillside, and
the glamor of some old forgotten afternoon stole over them. Men and
women country-born who had forgotten the voices of their youth, heard
them calling across the years, and heard them, too, with opened hearts
and sudden tears. There was one pathetic story she told them, of the
lonely prairie woman--the woman who wished she was back, the woman to
whom the broad outlook and far horizon were terrible and full of fear.
She told them how, at night, this lonely woman drew down the blinds and
pinned them close to keep out the great white outside that stared at
her through every chink with wide, pitiless eyes--the mocking voices
that she heard behind her everywhere, day and night, whispering,
mocking, plotting; and the awful shadows, black and terrible, that
crouched behind her, just out of sight--never coming out in the open.
It was a weird and gloomy picture, that, but she did not leave it so.
She told of the new neighbor who came to live near the lonely woman--
the human companionship which drove the mocking voices away forever--
the coming of the spring, when the world awoke from its white sleep and
the thousand joyous living things that came into being at the touch of
the good old sun!
At the reception after the programme, many crowded around her,
expressing their sincere appreciation of her work. Bruce Edwards fully
enjoyed the distinction which his former acquaintance with her gave
him, and it was with quite an air of proprietorship that he introduced
to her his friends.
Mrs. Trenton, Mrs. Banks and other members of the Arts and Crafts, at a
distance discussed her with pride. She had made their open night a
wonderful success--the papers would be full of it to-morrow.
"You can see how fitted she is for a life of culture," said Miss
Hastings, the oil painter; "her shapely white hands were made for
silver spoons, and not for handling butter ladles. What a perfect joy
it must be for her to associate with people who are her equals!"
"I wonder," said Mrs. Banks, "what her rancher would say if he saw his
handsome wife now. So much admiration from an old lover is not good for
the peace of mind of even a serious-minded author--and such a
fascinating man as Bruce! Look how well they look together! I wonder if
she is mentally comparing her big, sunburned cattleman with Bruce, and
thinking of what a different life she would have led if she had married
"Do you suppose," said Mrs. Trenton, "that that was her own story that
she told us? I think she must have felt it herself to be able to tell
Just at that moment Bruce Edwards was asking her the same question.
"Oh, no," she answered, quickly, while an interested group drew near;
"people never write their own sorrows--the broken heart does not sing--
that's the sadness of it. If one can talk of their sorrows they soon
cease to be. It's because I have not had any sorrows of my own that I
have seen and been able to tell of the tragedies of life."
"Isn't she the jolly best bluffer you ever heard?" one of the men
remarked to another. "Just think of that beautiful creature, born for
admiration, living ten miles from anywhere, on an Albertan ranch of all
places, and saying she is happy. She could be a top-notcher in any
society in Canada--why, great Scott! any of us would have married that
girl, and been glad to do it!" And under the glow of this generous
declaration Mr. Stanley Carruthers lit his cigarette and watched her
with unconcealed admiration.
As the Arts and Crafts had predicted, the newspapers gave considerable
space to their open meeting, and the Alberta author came in for a large
share of the reporters' finest spasms. It was the chance of a lifetime
--here was local color--human interest--romance--thrills! Good old
phrases, clover-scented and rosy-hued, that had lain in cold storage
for years, were brought out and used with conscious pride.
There was one paper which boldly hinted at what it called her
"_mesalliance_," and drew a lurid picture of her domestic unhappiness,
"so bravely borne." All the gossip of the Convention was in it
intensified and exaggerated--conjectures set down as known truths--the
idle chatter of idle women crystallized in print!
And of this paper a copy was sent by some unknown person to James
Dawson, Auburn, Alberta.
* * * * *
The rain was falling at Auburn, Alberta, with the dreary insistence of
unwelcome harvest rain. Just a quiet drizzle--plenty more where this
came from--no haste, no waste. It soaked the fields, keeping green the
grain which should be ripening in a clear sun. Kate Dawson had been
gone a week, and it would still be a week before she came back. Just a
week--seven days. Jim Dawson went over them in his mind as he drove the
ten miles over the rain-soaked roads to Auburn to get his daily letter.
Every day she had written to him long letters, full of vital interest
to him. He read them over and over again.
"Nobody really knows how well Kate can write, who has not seen her
letters to me," he thought proudly. Absence had not made him fonder of
his wife, for every day he lived was lived in devotion to her. The
marvel of it all never left him, that such a woman as Kate Marks, who
had spent her life in the city, surrounded by cultured friends, should
be contented to live the lonely life of a rancher's wife.
He got his first disappointment when there was no letter for him. He
told himself it was some unavoidable delay in the mails--Kate had
written all right--there would be two letters for him to-morrow. Then
he noticed the paper addressed to him in a strange hand.
He opened it eagerly. A wavy ink-line caught his eye. "Western author
delights large audience." Jim Dawson's face glowed with pride. "My
girl!" he murmured, happily. "I knew it." He wanted to be alone when he
read it, and, folding it hastily, put it in his pocket and did not look
at it again until he was on the way home. The rain still fell drearily
and spattered the page as he read.
His heart beat fast with pride as he read the flattering words--his
girl had made good, you bet!
Suddenly he started, almost crushing the paper in his hands, and every
bit of color went from his face. "What's this? 'Unhappily married '--
'borne with heroic cheerfulness.'" He read it through to the end.
He stopped his horses and looked around--he did not know, himself, what
thought was in his mind. Jim Dawson had always been able to settle his
disputes without difficulty or delay. There was something to be done
now. The muscles swelled in his arms. Surely something could be
Then the wanton cruelty, the utter brutality of the printed page came
home to him--there was no way, no answer.
Strange to say, he felt no resentment for himself; even the paragraph
about the old lover, with its hidden and sinister meaning, angered him
only in its relation to her. Why shouldn't the man admire her if he was
an old lover?--Kate must have had dozens of men in love with her--why
shouldn't any man admire her?
So he talked and reasoned with himself, trying to keep the cruel hurt
of the words out of his heart.
Everyone in his household was asleep when he reached home. He stabled
his team with the help of his lantern, and then, going into the
comfortable kitchen, he found the lunch the housekeeper had left for
him. He thought of the many merry meals he and Kate had had on this
same kitchen table, but now it seemed a poor, cold thing to sit down
and eat alone and in silence.
With his customary thoughtfulness he cleared away the lunch before
going to his room. Then, lamp in hand, he went, as he and Kate had
always done, to the children's room, and looked long and lovingly at
his boy and girl asleep in their cots--the boy so like himself, with
his broad forehead and brown curls. He bent over him and kissed him
Then he turned to the little girl, so like her mother, with her tangle
of red curls on the pillow. Picking her up in his arms, he carried her
to his room and put her in his own bed.
"Mother isn't putting up a bluff on us, is she, dearie?" he whispered
as he kissed the soft little cheek beside his own. "Mother loves us,
surely--it is pretty rough on us if she doesn't--and it's rougher
still on mother!"
The child stirred in her sleep, and her arms tightened around his neck.
"I love my mother--and my dear daddy," she murmured drowsily.
All night long Jim Dawson lay wide-eyed, staring into the darkness with
his little sleeping girl in his arms, not doubting his wife for a
moment, but wondering--all night long--wondering!
The next evening Jim did not go for his mail, but one of the neighbors
driving by volunteered to get it for him.
It was nearly midnight when the sound of wheels roused him from his
reverie. He opened the door, and in the square of light the horses
"Hello, Jim--is that you?" called the neighbor; "I've got something for
Jim came out bareheaded. He tried to thank the neighbor for his
kindness, but his throat was dry with suppressed excitement--Kate had
The buggy was still in the shadow, and he could not see its occupant.
"I have a letter for you, Jim," said his friend, with a suspicious
twinkle in his voice, "a big one, registered and special delivery--a
right nice letter, I should say."
Then her voice rang out in the darkness.
"Come, Jim, and help me out."
Commonplace words, too, but to Jim Dawson they were sweeter than the
chiming of silver bells.....
An hour later they still sat over their late supper on the kitchen
table. She had told him many things.
"I just got lonely, Jim--plain, straight homesick for you and the
children. I couldn't stay out the week. The people were kind to me, and
said nice things about my work. I was glad to hear and see things, of
course. Bruce Edwards was there, you know--I've told you about Bruce.
He took me around quite a bit, and was nice enough, only I couldn't
lose him--you know that kind, Jim, always saying tiresome, plastery
sort of things. He thinks that women like to be fussed over all the
time. The women I met dress beautifully and all talk the same--and at
once. Everything is 'perfectly sweet' and 'darling' to them. They are
clever women all right, and were kind to me, and all that, but oh, Jim,
they are not for mine--and the men I met while I was away all looked
small and poor and trifling to me because I have been looking for the
last ten years at one who is big and brown and useful. I compared them
all with you, and they measured up badly. Jim, do you know what it
would feel like to live on popcorn and chocolates for two weeks and try
to make a meal of them--what do you think you would be hungry for?"
Jim Dawson watched his wife, his eyes aglow with love and pride. Not
until she repeated her question did he answer her.
"I think, perhaps, a slice of brown bread would be what was wanted," he
answered smiling. The glamor of her presence was upon him.
Then she came over to him and drew his face close to hers.
"Please pass the brown bread!" she said.
A SHORT TALE OF A RABBIT
(Reprinted by permission of _Canada West Monthly_.)
Johnny was the only John rabbit in the family that lived in the poplar
bluff in the pasture. He had a bold and adventurous spirit, but was
sadly hampered by his mother's watchfulness. She was as full of
warnings as the sign-board at the railway crossing. It was "Look out
for the cars!" all the time with mother. She warned him of dogs and
foxes, hawks and snakes, boys and men. It was in vain that Johnny
showed her his paces--how he could leap and jump and run. She admitted
that he was quite a smart little rabbit for his age, but--oh, well! you
know what mothers are like.
Johnny was really tired of it, and then, too, Johnny had found out that
what mother had said about dogs was very much exaggerated. Johnny had
met two dogs, so he thought he knew something about them. One was a
sleek, fat, black puppy, with a vapid smile, called Juno; and the other
was an amber-eyed spaniel with woolly, fat legs. They had run after
Johnny one day when he was out playing on the road, and he had led them
across a ploughed field. Johnny was accustomed to add, as he told the
story to the young rabbits that lived down in the pasture, that he had
to spurt around the field a few times after the race was over just to
limber up his legs--he was so cramped from sitting around waiting for
the dogs. So it came about that Johnny, in his poor, foolish little
heart, thought dogs were just a joke.
Johnny's mother told him that all men were bad, and the men who carried
guns were worst of all, for guns spit out fire and death. She said
there were men who wore coats the color of dead grass, and drove in
rigs that rattled and had dogs with them, and they killed ducks and
geese that were away up in the air. She said those men drove miles and
miles just to kill things, and they lived sometimes in a little house
away out near the lakes where the ducks stayed, and they didn't mind
getting up early in the morning or sitting up at night to get a shot at
a duck, and when they got the ducks they just gave them away. If half
what old Mrs. Rabbit said about them was true, they certainly were the
Bad Men from Bitter Creek! Johnny listened, big-eyed, to all this, and