Part 4 out of 6
"Well, youngster," said French, noticing his glum face, "you did me
a good turn that time. That beggar had me foul then, sure enough,
and I won't forget it."
Kalman brightened up under his words, and without further speech,
each busy with himself, they sped along the trail till the day
faded toward the evening.
But the Edmonton trail that day set its mark on the lives of boy
and man,--a mark that was never obliterated. To Kalman the day
brought a new image of manhood. Of all the men whom he knew there
was none who could command his loyalty and enthral his imagination.
It is true, his father had been such a man, but now his father
moved in dim shadow across the horizon of his memory. Here was
a man within touch of his hand who illustrated in himself those
qualities that to a boy's heart and mind combine to make a hero.
With what ease and courage and patience and perfect self-command
he had handled those plunging bronchos! The same qualities too,
in a higher degree, had marked his interview with the wrathful and
murderous Galician, and, in addition, all that day Kalman had been
conscious of a consideration and a quickness of sympathy in his
moods that revealed in this man of rugged strength and forceful
courage a subtle something that marks the finer temper and nobler
spirit, the temper and the spirit of the gentleman. Not that Kalman
could name this thing, but to his sensitive soul it was this in the
man that made appeal and that called forth his loyal homage.
To French, too, the day had brought thoughts and emotions that had
not stirred within him since those days of younger manhood twenty
years ago when the world was still a place of dreams and life a
tourney where glory might be won. The boy's face, still with its
spiritual remembrances in spite of all the sordidness of his past,
the utter and obvious surrender of soul that shone from his eyes,
made the man almost shudder with a new horror of the foulness that
twenty years of wild license upon the plains had flung upon him.
A fierce hate of what he had become, an appalling vision of what
he was expected to be, grew upon him as the day drew to a close.
Gladly would he have refused the awful charge of this young soul
as yet unruined that so plainly exalted him to a place among the
gods, but for a vision that he carried ever in his heart of a face
sad and sweet and eloquent with trustful love.
"No, by Jove!" he said to himself between his shut teeth,
"I can't funk it. I'd be a cad if I did."
And with these visions and these resolvings they, boy and man,
swung off from the Edmonton trail black and well worn, and
into the half-beaten track that led to Wakota, the centre of
the Galician colony.
THE MAKING OF A MAN
Wakota, consisting of the mud-house of a Galician homesteader who
owned a forge and did blacksmithing for the colony in a primitive
way, they left behind half an hour before nightfall, with ten miles
of bad going still before them. The trail wound through bluffs and
around sleughs, dived into coulees and across black creeks, and only
the most skilful handling could have piloted the bronchos through.
It was long after dark when they reached the ravine of the Night Hawk
Creek, through which they must pass before arriving at the Lake. Down
the sides of this ravine they zigzagged, dodging trees and boulders
till they came to the last sharp pitch, at the foot of which ran the
Creek. During this whole descent Kalman sat clinging to the back and
side of the seat, expecting every moment to have the buckboard turn
turtle over him, but when they reached the edge of the final pitch,
were it not for sheer shame, he would have begged permission to
scramble down on hands and knees rather than trust himself to the
swaying, pitching vehicle. A moment French held his bronchos steady,
poised on the brink of this rocky steep, and then reaching back, he
seized the hind wheel and, holding it fast, used it as a drag, while
the bronchos slid down on their haunches over the mass of gravel and
rolling stones till they reached the bed of the Creek in safety. A
splash through the water, a scramble up the other bank, a long climb,
and they were out again on the prairie. A mile of good trail and they
were at home, welcomed by the baying of two huge Russian wolf hounds.
Through the dim light Kalman could discover the outlines of what
seemed a long heap of logs, but what he afterwards discovered to
be a series of low log structures which did for house, stable and
sheds of various kinds.
"Down! Bismark. Down! Blucher. Hello there, Mac! Where in the world
After some time Mackenzie appeared with a lantern, a short,
grizzled, thick-set man, rubbing his eyes and yawning prodigiously.
"I nefer thought you would be coming home to-night," he said.
"What brought ye at this time?"
"Never mind, Mac," said French. "Get the horses out, and Kalman
and I will unload this stuff."
In what seemed to be an outer shed, they deposited the pork, flour,
and other articles that composed the load. As Kalman seized the
straw-packed case to carry it in, French interfered.
"Here, boy, I'll take that," he said quickly.
"I'll not break them," said Kalman, lifting the case with great care.
"You won't, eh?" replied French in rather a shamed tone. "Do you know
what it is?"
"Why, sure," said Kalman. "Lots of that stuff used to come into our
home in Winnipeg."
"Well, let me have the case," said French. "And you needn't say
anything to Mac about it. Mac is all right, but a case of liquor
in the house makes him unhappy."
"Unhappy? Doesn't he drink any?"
"That's just it, my boy. He is unhappy while it's outside of him.
He's got Indian blood in him, you see, and he'd die for whiskey."
So saying, French took up the case and carried it to the inner
room and stowed it away under his bed.
But as he rose up from making this disposition of the dangerous stuff
Mac himself appeared in the room.
"What are you standing there looking at?" said French with unusual
"Oh, nothing at all," said Mackenzie, whose strong Highland accent
went strangely with his soft Indian voice and his dark Indian face.
"It iss a good place for it, whatefer."
French stood for a moment in disgusted silence, and then breaking into
a laugh he said: "All right, Mac. There's no use trying to keep it
from you. But, mind you, it's fair play in this thing. Last time, you
remember, you got into trouble. I won't stand that sort of thing again."
"Oh, well, well," said Mackenzie cheerfully, "it will not be for long
anyway, more's the peety."
"Now then, get us a bite of supper, Mackenzie," said French sharply,
"and let us to bed."
Some wild duck and some bannock with black molasses, together with
strong black tea, made a palatable supper after a long day on the
breezy prairie. After supper the men sat smoking.
"The oats in, Mac?"
"They are sowed, but not harrowed yet. I will be doing that to-morrow
in the morning."
"Potato ground ready?"
"Yes, the ground is ready, and the seed is over at Garneau's."
"What in thunder were you waiting for? Those potatoes should have been
in ten days ago. It's hardly worth while putting them in now."
"Garneau promised to bring them ofer," said Mackenzie, "but you cannot
tell anything at all about that man."
"Well, we must get them in at once. We must not lose another day.
And now let's get to bed. The boy here will sleep in the bunk,"
pointing to a large-sized box which did for a couch. "Get some
blankets for him, Mac."
The top of the box folded back, revealing a bed inside.
"There, Kalman," said French, while Mackenzie arranged the blankets,
"will that do?"
"Fine," said the boy, who could hardly keep his eyes open and who
in five minutes after he had tumbled in was sound asleep.
It seemed as if he had been asleep but a few moments when he was
wakened by a rude shock. He started up to find Mackenzie fallen
drunk and helpless across his bunk.
"Here, you pig!" French was saying in a stern undertone,
"can't you tell when you have had enough? Come out of that!"
With an oath he dragged Mackenzie to his feet.
"Come, get to your bed!"
"Oh, yes, yes," grumbled Mackenzie, "and I know well what you will
be doing after I am in bed, and never a drop will you be leaving
in that bottle." Mackenzie was on the verge of tears.
"Get on, you beast!" said French in tones of disgusted dignity,
pushing the man before him into the next room.
Kalman was wide awake, but, feigning sleep, watched French as he
sat with gloomy face, drinking steadily till even his hard head
could stand no more, and he swayed into the inner room and fell
heavily on the bed. Kalman waited till French was fast asleep, then
rising quietly, pulled off his boots, threw a blanket over him, put
out the lamp and went back to the bunk. The spectre of the previous
night which had been laid by the events of the day came back to
haunt his broken slumber. For hours he tossed, and not till morning
began to dawn did he quite lose consciousness.
Broad morning wakened him to unpleasant memories, and more
unpleasant realities. French was still sleeping heavily. Mackenzie
was eating breakfast, with a bottle beside him on the table.
"You will find a basin on the bench outside," observed Mackenzie,
pointing to the open door.
When Kalman returned from his ablutions, the bottle had vanished,
and Mackenzie, with breath redolent of its contents, had ready for
him a plate of porridge, to which he added black molasses. This,
with toasted bannock, the remains of the cold duck of the night
before, and strong black tea, constituted his breakfast.
Kalman hurried through his meal, for he hated to meet French as
he woke from his sleep.
"Will he not take breakfast?" said the boy as he rose from the table.
"No, not him, nor denner either, like as not. It iss a good thing
he has a man to look after the place," said Mackenzie with the
pride of conscious fidelity. "We will just be going on with the
oats and the pitaties. You will be taking the harrows."
"The what?" said Kalman.
Kalman looked blank.
"Can you not harrow?"
"I don't know," said Kalman. "What is that?"
"Can you drop pitaties, then?"
"I don't know," repeated Kalman, shrinking very considerably in his
"Man," said Mackenzie pityingly, "where did ye come from anyway?"
"Winnipeg? I know it well. I used to. But that was long ago. But
did ye nefer drive a team?"
"Never," said Kalman. "But I want to learn."
"Och! then, and what will he be wanting with you here?"
"I don't know," said Kalman.
"Well, well," said Mackenzie. "He iss a quare man at times, and
does quare things."
"He is not," said Kalman hotly. "He is just a splendid man."
Mackenzie gazed in mild surprise at the angry face.
"Hoot! toot!" he said. "Who was denyin' ye? He iss all that,
but he iss mighty quare, as you will find out. But come away and
we will get the horses. It iss a peety you cannot do nothing."
"You show me what to do," said Kalman confidently, "and I'll do it."
The stable was a tumble-down affair, and sorely needing attention,
as, indeed, was the case with the ranch and all its belongings.
A team of horses showing signs of hard work and poor care, with
harness patched with rope and rawhide thongs, were waiting in the
stable. Even to Kalman's inexperienced eyes it was a deplorable
There was little done in the way of cultivation of the soil upon
the Night Hawk Ranch. The market was far away, and it was almost
impossible to secure farm labour. The wants of French and his
household were few. A couple of fields of oats and barley for his
horses and pigs and poultry, another for potatoes, for which he
found ready market at the Crossing and in the lumber camps up among
the hills, exhausted the agricultural pursuits of the ranch.
Kalman concentrated his attention upon the process of hitching the
team to the harrows, and then followed Mackenzie up and down the
field as he harrowed in the oats. It seemed a simple enough matter
to guide the team across the ploughed furrows, and Kalman, as he
observed, grew ambitious.
"Let me drive," he said at length.
"Hoot! toot! boy, you would be letting them run away with you."
"Aw, cut it out!" said Kalman scornfully.
"What are you saying? Cut what?"
"Oh, give us a rest!"
"A rest, iss it? You will be getting tired early. And who is
keeping you from a rest?" said Mackenzie, whose knowledge of
contemporary slang was decidedly meagre.
"Let me drive once," pleaded the boy.
"Well, try it, and I will walk along side of you," said Mackenzie,
with apparent reluctance.
The attempt was eminently successful, but Kalman was quick both
with hands and head. After the second round Mackenzie allowed the
boy to go alone, remaining in the shade and calling out directions
across the field. The result was to both a matter of unmixed
delight. With Kalman there was the gratification of the boy's
passion for the handling of horses, and as for Mackenzie, while on
the trail or on the river, he was indefatigable, in the field he
had the Indian hatred of steady work. To lie and smoke on the grass
in the shade of a poplar bluff on this warm shiny spring day was to
him sheer bliss.
But after a time Mackenzie grew restless. His cup of bliss still
lacked a drop to fill it.
"Just keep them moving," he cried to Kalman. "I will need to go to
the house a meenit."
"All right. Don't hurry for me," said Kalman, proud of his new
responsibility and delighted with his new achievement.
"Keep them straight, mind. And watch your turning," warned
Mackenzie. "I will be coming back soon."
In less than half an hour he returned in a most gracious frame
"Man, but you are the smart lad," he said as Kalman swung his team
around. "You will be making a great rancher, Tommy."
"My name is Kalman."
"Well, well, Callum. It iss a fery good name, whatefer."
"Kalman!" shouted the boy.
Mackenzie nodded grave rebuke.
"There is no occasion for shouting. I am not deef, Callum, my boy.
Go on. Go on with your harrows," he continued as Kalman began to
Kalman drew near and regarded him narrowly. The truth was clear to
his experienced eyes.
"You're drunk," he exclaimed disgustedly.
"Hoot, toot! Callum man," said Mackenzie in tones of grieved
remonstrance, "how would you be saying that now? Come away,
or I will be taking the team myself."
"Aw, go on!" replied Kalman contemptuously. "Let me alone!"
"Good boy," said Mackenzie with a paternal smile, waving the boy on
his way while he betook himself to the bluff side and there supine,
continued at intervals to direct the operation of harrowing.
The sun grew hot. The cool morning breeze dropped flat, and as the
hours passed the boy grew weary and footsore, travelling the soft
furrows. Mackenzie had long ceased issuing his directions, and had
subsided into smiling silence, contenting himself with a friendly
wave of the hand as Kalman made the turn. The poor spiritless
horses moved more and more slowly, and at length, coming to the
end of the field, refused to move farther.
"Let them stand a bit, Callum boy," said Mackenzie kindly.
"Come and have a rest. You are the fine driver. Come and sit down."
"Will the horses stand here?" asked Kalman, whose sense of
responsibility deepened as he became aware of Mackenzie's
Mackenzie laughed pleasantly. "Will they stand? Yes, and that
they will, unless they will lie down."
Kalman approached and regarded him with the eye of an expert.
"Look here, where's your stuff?" said the boy at length.
Mackenzie gazed at him with the innocence of childhood.
"What iss it?"
"Oh, come off your perch! you blamed old rooster! Where's your
"What iss this?" said Mackenzie, much affronted. "You will be
calling me names?"
As he rose in his indignation a bottle fell from his pocket. Kalman
made a dash toward it, but Mackenzie was too quick for him. With a
savage curse he snatched up the bottle, and at the same time made a
fierce but unsuccessful lunge at the boy.
"You little deevil!" he said fiercely, "I will be knocking your
Kalman jibed at him. "You are a nice sort of fellow to be on a job.
What will your boss say?"
Mackenzie's face changed instantly.
"The boss?" he said, glancing in the direction of the house.
"The boss? What iss the harm of a drop when you are not well?"
"You not well!" exclaimed Kalman scornfully.
Mackenzie shook his head sadly, sinking back upon the grass. "It iss
many years now since I have suffered with an indisposeetion of the
bowels. It iss a coalic, I am thinking, and it iss hard on me. But,
Callum, man, it will soon be denner time. Just put your horses in
and I will be following you."
But Kalman knew better than that.
"I don't know how to put in your horses. Come and put them in
yourself, or show me how to do it." He was indignant with the man
on his master's behalf.
Mackenzie struggled to his feet, holding the bottle carefully in his
outside coat pocket. Kalman made up his mind to possess himself of that
bottle at all costs. The opportunity occurred when Mackenzie, stooping
to unhitch the last trace, allowed the bottle to slip from his pocket.
Like a cat on a mouse, Kalman pounced on the bottle and fled.
The change in Mackenzie was immediate and appalling. His smiling
face became transformed with fury, his black eyes gleamed with the
cunning malignity of the savage, he shed his soft Scotch voice with
his genial manner, the very movements of his body became those of
his Cree progenitors. Uttering hoarse guttural cries, with the quick
crouching run of the Indian on the trail of his foe, he chased Kalman
through the bluffs. There was something so fiendishly terrifying in
the glimpses that Kalman caught of his face now and then that the
boy was seized with an overpowering dread, and ceasing to tantalize
his pursuing enemy, he left the bluffs and fled toward the house,
with Mackenzie hard upon his track. Through the shed the boy flew
and into the outer room, banging the door hard after him. But
there was no lock upon the door, and he could not hope to hold
it shut against his pursuer. He glanced wildly into the inner room.
French was nowhere to be seen. As he stood in unspeakable terror,
the door opened slowly and stealthily, showing Mackenzie's face,
distorted with rage and cunning hate. With a silent swift movement
he glided into the room, and without a sound rushed at the boy.
Once, twice around the table they circled, Kalman having the
advantage in quickness of foot. Suddenly, with a grunt of
satisfaction, Mackenzie's eye fell upon a gun hanging upon the
wall. In a moment he had it in his hand. As he reached for it,
however, Kalman, with a loud cry, plunged headlong through the open
window and fled again toward the bluffs. Mackenzie followed swiftly
through the door, gun in hand. He ran a few short steps after the
flying boy, and was about to throw his gun to his shoulder when
a voice arrested him.
"Here, Mackenzie, what are you doing with that gun?"
It was French, standing between the stable and the house,
dishevelled, bloated, but master of himself. Mackenzie stopped
as if gripped by an unseen arm.
"What are you doing with that gun?" repeated French sternly.
"Bring it to me."
Mackenzie stood in sullen, defiant silence, his gun thrown into
the hollow of his arm. French walked deliberately toward him.
"Give me that gun, you dog!" he said with an oath, "or I'll kill
you where you stand."
Mackenzie hesitated but only for a moment, and without a word
surrendered the gun, the fiendish rage fading out of his face, the
aboriginal blood lust dying in his eyes like the snuffing out of a
candle. In a few brief moments he became once more a civilized man,
subject to the restraint of a thousand years of life ordered by law.
"Kalman, come here," French called to the boy, who stood far off.
"Mackenzie," said French with great dignity as Kalman drew near,
"I want you to know that this boy is a ward of a dear friend, and is
to me like my own son. Remember that. Kalman, Mackenzie is my friend,
and you are to treat him as such. Where did you get that?" he
continued, pointing to the bottle which Kalman had kept clutched
in his hand through all the exciting pursuit.
The boy stood silent, looking at Mackenzie.
"Speak, boy," said French sharply.
Kalman remained still silent, his eyes on Mackenzie.
"It iss a bottle myself had," said Mackenzie.
"Ah, I understand. All right, Kalman, it's none of your business
what Mackenzie drinks. Now, Mackenzie, get dinner, and no more of
Without a word of parley or remonstrance Mackenzie shuffled off
toward the field to bring in the team. French turned to the boy
and, taking the bottle in his hand, said, "This is dangerous stuff,
my boy. A man like Mackenzie is not to be trusted with it, and of
course it is not for boys."
Kalman made no reply. His mind was in a whirl of perplexed
remembrances of the sickening scenes of the past three days.
"Go now," said French, "and help Mackenzie. He won't hurt you any
more. He never keeps a grudge. That is the Christian in him."
During the early part of the afternoon Mackenzie drove the harrows
while French moved about the ranch doing up odds and ends. But
neither of the men was quite at ease. At length French disappeared
into the house, and almost immediately afterwards Mackenzie left
his team in Kalman's hands and followed his boss. Hour after hour
passed. The sun sank in the western sky, but neither master nor man
appeared, while Kalman kept the team steadily on the move, till at
length the field was finished. Weary and filled with foreboding,
the boy drove the horses to the stable, pulled off the harness as
best he could, gave the horses food and drink and went into the
house. There a ghastly scene met his eye. On the floor hard by the
table lay Mackenzie on his face, snoring heavily in a drunken sleep,
and at the table, with three empty bottles beside him and a fourth
in his hand, sat French, staring hard before him with eyes bloodshot
and sunken, and face of a livid hue. He neither moved nor spoke when
Kalman entered, but continued staring steadily before him.
The boy was faint with hunger. He was too heartsick to attempt to
prepare food. He found a piece of bannock and, washing this down
with a mug of water, he crept into his bunk, and there, utterly
miserable, waited till his master should sink into sleep. Slowly
the light faded from the room and the shadows crept longer and
deeper over the floor till all was dark. But still the boy could
see the outline of the silent man, who sat without sound or motion
except for the filling and emptying of his glass from time to time.
At length the shadowy figure bowed slowly toward the table and
Sick with grief and fear, the boy sprang from his bunk and sought
to rouse the man from his stupor, but without avail, till at last,
wearied with his ineffectual attempts and sobbing in the bitterness
of his grief, he threw a blanket over the bowed form and retreated
to his bunk again. But sleep to him was impossible, for often
throughout the night he was brought to his feet with horrid dreams,
to be driven shivering again to his bunk with the more horrid
realities of his surroundings.
At length as day began to dawn he fell into a dead, dreamless
slumber, waking, when it was broad day, to find Mackenzie sitting
at the table eating breakfast, and with a bottle beside him. French
was not to be seen, but Kalman could hear his heavy breathing from
the inner room. To Kalman it seemed as if he were still in the grip
of some ghastly nightmare. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at
Mackenzie in stupid amazement.
"What are you glowering at yonder, Callum, man?" said Mackenzie,
pleasantly ignoring the events of the previous day. "Your breakfast
iss ready for you. You will be hungry after your day's work. Oh,
yes, I haf been seeing it, and it iss well done, Callum, mannie."
Somehow his smiling face and his kindly tone filled Kalman with
rage. He sprang out of his bunk and ran out of the house. He hated
the sight of the smiling, pleasant-voiced Mackenzie. But his boy's
hunger drove him in to breakfast.
"Well, Callum, man," began Mackenzie in pleasant salutation.
"My name is Kalman," snapped the boy.
"Never mind, it iss a good name, whatefer. But I am saying we will
be getting into the pitaties after breakfast. Can ye drop pitaties?"
"Show me how," said Kalman shortly.
"And that I will," said Mackenzie affably, helping himself to the bottle.
"How many bottles of that stuff are there left?" asked Kalman
"And why would you be wanting to know?" enquired Mackenzie
cautiously. "You would not be taking any of the whiskey yourself?"
he added in grave reproof.
"Oh, go on! you old fool!" replied the boy angrily. "You will never
be any good till it is all done, I know."
Kalman spoke out of full and varied experience of the ways of men
with the lust of drink in them.
"Well, well, maybe so. But the more there iss for me, the less
there iss for him," said Mackenzie, jerking his head toward the
"Why not empty it out?" said Kalman in an eager undertone.
"Hoot! toot! man, and would you be guilty of sinful waste like yon?
No, no, never with Malcolm Mackenzie's consent. And you would not
be doing such a deed yourself?" Mackenzie enquired somewhat anxiously.
Kalman shook his head.
"No," he said, "he might be angry. But," continued the boy, "those
potatoes must be finished to-day. I heard him speaking about them
"And that iss true enough. They are two weeks late now."
"Come on, then," cried Kalman, as Mackenzie reached for the bottle.
"Come and show me how."
"There iss no hurry," said the deliberate Mackenzie, drinking his
glass with slow relish. "But first the pitaties are to be got over
Again and again, and with increasing rage, Kalman sought to drag
Mackenzie away from his bottle and to his work. By the time the
bottle was done Mackenzie was once more helpless.
Three days later French came forth from his room, haggard and
trembling, to find every bottle empty, Mackenzie making ineffective
attempts to prepare a meal, and Kalman nowhere to be seen.
"Where is the boy?" he enquired of Mackenzie in an uncertain voice.
"I know not," said Mackenzie.
"Go and look for him, then, you idiot!"
In a short time French was summoned by Mackenzie's voice.
"Come here, will you?" he was crying. "Come here and see this thing."
With a dread of some nameless horror in his heart, French hurried
toward the little knoll upon which Mackenzie stood. From this
vantage ground could be seen far off in the potato field the
figure of the boy with two or three women, all busy with the
"What do you make that out to be?" enquired French.
"Who in the mischief are they? Go and see."
It was not long before Mackenzie stood before his master with
Kalman by his side.
"As sure as death," said Mackenzie, "he has a tribe of Galician
women yonder, and the pitaties iss all in."
"What do you say?" stammered French.
"It iss what I am telling you. The pitaties iss all in, and this
lad iss bossing the job, and the Galician women working like naygurs."
"What does this mean?" said French, turning his eyes slowly upon
Kalman. The boy looked older by years. He was worn and haggard.
"I saw a woman passing, she was a Galician, she brought the others,
and the potatoes are done. They have come here two days. But," said
the boy slowly, "there is nothing to eat."
With a mighty oath French sprang to his feet.
"Do you tell me you are hungry, boy?" he roared.
"I could not find much," said Kalman, his lip trembling in spite
"What are you standing there for, Mackenzie?" roared French.
"Confound you for a drunken dog! Confound us both for two drunken
fools! Get something to eat!"
There was something so terrible in his look and in his voice that
Mackenzie fairly ran to obey his order. Kalman stood before his
master pale and shaking. He was weak from lack of food, but more
from anxiety and grief.
"I did the best I could," he said, struggling manfully to keep his
voice steady, "and--I am--awful glad--you're--better." His command
was all gone. He threw himself upon the grass while sobs shook his
French stood a moment looking down upon him, his face revealing
thoughts and feelings none too pleasant.
"Kalman, you're a good sort," he said in a hoarse voice. "You're a
man, by Jove! and," in an undertone, "I'm hanged, if I don't think
you'll make a man of me yet." Then kneeling by his side, he raised
him in his arms. "Kalman," he said, "you are a brick and a
gentleman. I have been a brute and a cad."
"Oh, no, no, no!" sobbed the boy. "You are a good man. But I
"In God's name," said French bitterly, "I wish it too."
Two weeks of life in the open, roaming the prairie alone with the
wolf hounds, or with French after the cattle, did much to obliterate
the mark which those five days left upon Kalman's body and soul.
From the very first the boy had no difficulty in mastering the art
of sticking on a broncho's back, partly because he was entirely
without fear, but largely because he had an ear and an eye for
rhythm in sound and in motion. He conceived clearly the idea by
watching French as he loped along on his big iron grey, and after
that it was merely a matter of translating the idea into action.
Every successful rider must first conceive himself as a rider.
In two weeks' time Kalman could sit the buckskin and send him
across the prairie, swinging him by the neck guide around badger
holes and gopher holes, up and down the steep sides of the Night
Hawk ravine, without ever touching leather. The fearless ease he
displayed in mastering the equestrian art did more than anything
else to win him his place in the old half-breed Mackenzie's affection.
The pride of the ranch was Black Joe, a Percheron stallion that
French a year before had purchased, with the idea of improving his
horse stock to anticipate the market for heavy horses, which he
foresaw the building of railroads would be sure to provide. Black
Joe was kept in a small field that took in a bit of the bluff and
ran down to the lake, affording shelter, drink, and good feeding.
Dismay, therefore, smote the ranch, when Mackenzie announced one
morning that Black Joe had broken out and was gone.
"He can't be far away," said French; "take a circle round towards
the east. He has likely gone off with Garneau's bunch."
But at noon Mackenzie rode back to report that nowhere could the
stallion be seen, that he had rounded up Garneau's ponies without
coming across any sign of the stallion.
"I am afraid he has got across the Eagle," said French, "and if
he has once got on to those plains, there will be the very deuce
to pay. Well, get a move on, and try the country across the creek
first. No, hold on. I'll go myself. Throw the saddle on Roanoke;
I'll put some grub together, for there's no time to be lost."
Kalman started up and stood eagerly expectant. French glanced at him.
"It will be a hard ride, Kalman; I am a little afraid."
"Try me, sir," said the boy, who had unconsciously in conversation
with French dropped much of his street vernacular, and had adopted
to a large extent his master's forms of speech.
"All right, boy. Get ready and come along."
While the horses were being saddled, French rolled up into two
neat packs a couple of double blankets, grub consisting of Hudson's
Bay biscuits, pork, tea and sugar, a camp outfit comprising a pan,
a tea-pail, and two cups.
"So long, Mackenzie," said French, as they rode away. "Hold down
the ranch till we get back. We'll strike out north from here, then
swing round across the Night Hawk toward the hills and back by the
Eagle and Wakota, and come up the creek."
To hunt up a stray beast on the wide open prairie seems to the
uninitiated a hopeless business, but it is a simple matter, after
all. One has to know the favourite feeding-grounds, the trails
that run to these grounds, and have an idea of the limits within
which cattle and horses will range. As a rule, each band has its
own feeding-grounds and its own spots for taking shelter. The
difficulties of search are enormously increased by the broken
character of a rolling bluffy prairie. The bluffs intercept the
view, and the rolls on the prairie can hide successfully a large
bunch of cattle or horses, and it may take a week to beat up a
country thickly strewn with bluffs, and diversified with coulees
that might easily be searched in a single afternoon.
The close of the third day found the travellers on Wakota trail.
"We'll camp right here, Kalman," said French, as they reached a
level tongue of open prairie, around three sides of which flowed
the Eagle River.
Of all their camps during the three days' search none was so
beautiful, and none lived so long in Kalman's memory, as the camp
by the Eagle River near Wakota. The firm green sward, cropped short
by a succession of campers' horses,--for this was a choice spot for
travellers,--the flowing river with its soft gurgling undertone,
the upstanding walls of the poplar bluffs in all the fresh and
ample beauty of the early summer drapery, the over-arching sky,
deep and blue, through which peeped the shy stars, and the air,
so sweet and kindly, breathing about them. It was all so clean,
so fresh, so unspoiled to the boy that it seemed as if he had
dropped into a new world, remote from and unrelated to any other
world he had hitherto known.
They picketed their horses, and with supper over, they sat down
before their fire, for the evening air was chill, in weary, dreamy
delight. They spoke few words. Like all men who have lived close
to Nature, whether in woods or in plains, French had developed a
habit of silence, and this habit, as all others, Kalman was rapidly
As they reclined thus dreamily watching the leaping fire, a canoe
came down the river, in the stern of which sat a man whose easy
grace proclaimed long practice in the canoeman's art. As his eyes
fell upon the fire, he paused in his paddling, and with two or
three swift flips he turned his canoe toward the bank, and landing,
pulled it up on the shore.
He was a young man of middle height, stoutly built, and with
a strong, good-natured face.
"Good evening," he said in a cheery voice, "camped for the night?"
"Yes, camped for the night," replied French.
"I have a tent up stream a little way. I should be glad to have
you camp with me. It is going to be a little chilly."
"Oh, we're all right, aren't we, Kalman?" said French.
The boy turned and gave him a quick look of perfect satisfaction.
"First rate! You bet!"
"The dew is going to be heavy, though," said the stranger,
"and it will be cold before the night is over. I have not much
to offer you, only shelter, but I'd like awfully to have you come.
A visitor is a rare thing here."
"Well," said French, "since you put it that way we'll go,
and I am sure it is very decent of you."
"Not at all. The favour will be to me. My name is Brown."
"And mine is French, Jack French throughout this country,
as perhaps you have heard."
"I have been here only a few days, and have heard very little,"
"And this," continued French, "is Kalman Kalmar, a friend of
mine from Winnipeg, and more remotely from Russia, but now a
Brown gave each a strong cordial grasp of his hand.
"You can't think," he said, "how glad I am to see you."
"Is there a trail?" asked French.
"Yes, a trail of a sort. Follow the winding of the river and you
will come to my camp at the next bend. You can't miss it. I'll go
up in the canoe and come down to meet you."
"Don't trouble," said French; "we know our way about this country."
Following a faint trail for a quarter of a mile through the bluffs,
they came upon an open space on the river bank similar to the one
they had left, in the midst of which stood Brown's tent. That tent
was a wonder to behold, not only to Kalman, but also to French, who
had a large experience in tents of various kinds. Ten by twelve,
and with a four-foot wall, every inch was in use. The ground which
made the floor was covered with fresh, sweet-smelling swamp hay;
in one corner was a bed, neat as a soldier's; in the opposite corner
a series of cupboards made out of packing cases, filled, one with
books, one with drugs and surgical instruments, another with
provisions. Hanging from the ridge-pole was a double shelf, and
attached to the back upright were a series of pigeon-hole
receptacles. It was a wonder of convenience and comfort, and
albeit it was so packed with various impedimenta, such was the
orderly neatness of it that there seemed to be abundance of room.
At the edge of the clearing Brown met them.
"Here you are," he cried. "Come along and make yourselves at home."
His every movement was full of brisk energy, and his voice carried
with it a note of cheery frankness that bespoke the simplicity and
kindliness of the good and honest heart.
In a few moments Brown had a fire blazing in front of the tent,
for the night air was chill, and a heavy dew was falling.
"Here you are," he cried, throwing down a couple of rugs before
the fire. "Make yourselves comfortable. I believe in comfort myself."
"Well," said French, glancing into the tent, throwing himself down
before the fire, "you apparently do, and you have attained an
unqualified success in exemplifying your belief. You certainly
do yourself well."
"Oh, I am a lazy dog," said Brown cheerfully, "and can't do without
my comforts. But you don't know how glad I am to see you. I can't
stand being alone. I get most awfully blue and funky, naturally
nervous and timid, you know."
"You do, eh?" said French, pleasantly. "Well, if you ask me,
I believe you're lying, or your face is."
"Not a bit, not a bit. Good thing a fellow has a skin to draw over
his insides. I'd hate the world to see all the funk that there is
in my heart."
French pulled out his pipe, stirred up its contents with his knife,
struck a match, and proceeded to draw what comfort he could from the
remnants of his last smoke. The result was evidently not entirely
satisfactory. He began searching his pockets with elaborate care,
but all in vain, and with a sigh of disappointment he sank back
on the rug.
"Hello!" said Brown, whose eyes nothing seemed to escape, "I know
what you're after. You have left your pouch. Well, let that be a
lesson to you. You ought not to indulge habits that are liable any
moment to involve you in such distress. Now look at you, a big,
healthy, able-bodied man, on a night like this too, with all the
splendour and glory of sky and woods and river about you, with
decent company too, and a good fire, and yet you are incapable of
enjoyment. You are an abnormality, and you have made yourself so.
You need treatment; I am going to administer it forthwith."
He disappeared into his tent, leaving Kalman in a fury of rage,
and French with an amused smile upon his face. After a few moments'
rummaging Brown appeared with a package in his hand.
"In cases like yours," he said gravely, "I prescribe _vapores
nicotinenses_. I hope you have forgotten your Latin. Here is a brand,
a very special brand, which I keep for decoy purposes. Having once
used this, you will be sure to come back again. Try that," he cried
in a threatening tone, "and look me in the eye."
The anger fled from Kalman's face, and he began to understand that
their new friend had been simply jollying them, and he sincerely
hoped that neither he nor French had noticed his recent rage.
French filled his pipe with the mixture, lit it, and took one or
two experimental draws, then with a great sigh he threw himself
back upon the rug, his arms under his head, and puffed away with
every symptom of delight.
"See here, Brown," he said, sitting up again after a few moments
of blissful silence, "this is 'Old London,' isn't it?"
"See here, French, don't you get off any of your high British nonsense.
'Old London,' indeed! No, sir, that is 'Young Canada'; that is, I have
a friend in Cuba who sends me the Prince of Wales brand."
French smoked on for some moments.
"Without being rude, how much of this have you in stock?"
"How much? Enough to fill your pipe whenever you come round."
"My word!" exclaimed French. "You don't dispense this to the
general public, do you?"
"Not much, I don't," said Brown. "I select my patients."
"Thank you," said French. "I take this as a mark of extreme
hospitality. By the way, where is your own pipe?"
"I have abjured."
"And yet you have many of the marks of sanity."
"Sanity! You just note it, and the most striking is that I don't
have a pipe."
"Expound me the riddle, please."
"The exposition is simple enough. I am constitutionally lazy
and self-indulgent, and almost destitute of self-control--"
"And permit me to interject without offence, an awful liar,"
said French pleasantly. "Go on."
"I came out here to work. With a pipe and a few pounds of
"Pounds! Ah!" ejaculated French.
"I would find myself immersed in dreamy seas of vaporous and idle
bliss--do you catch that combination?--and fancy myself, mark you,
busy all the time. It is the smoker's dementia accentuated by such
a mixture as this, that while he is blowing rings he imagines he
is doing something--"
"The deuce he does! And he is jolly well right."
"So, having something other to do than blow rings, I have abjured
the pipe. There are other reasons, but that will suffice."
"Abundantly," said French with emphasis, "and permit me to remark
that you have been talking rot."
Brown shook his head with a smile.
"Now tell me," continued French, "what is your idea? What have
you in view in planting yourself down here? In short, to put it
bluntly, what are you doing?"
"Doing nothing, as yet," said Brown cheerfully, "but I want to
do a lot. I have got this Galician colony in my eye."
"I beg your pardon," said French, "are you by any chance a preacher?"
"Well, I may be, though I can't preach much. But my main line is
the kiddies. I can teach them English, and then I am going to
doctor them, and, if they'll let me, teach them some of the
elements of domestic science; in short, do anything to make them
good Christians and good Canadians, which is the same thing."
"That is a pretty large order. Look here, now," said French,
sitting up, "you look like a sensible fellow, and open to advice.
Don't be an ass and throw yourself away. I know these people well.
In a generation or two something may be done with them. You can't
make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, you know. Give it up. Take
up a ranch and go cattle raising. That is my advice. I know them.
You can't undo in your lifetime the results of three centuries.
It's a hopeless business. I tried myself to give them some pointers
when they came in first, and worried a good deal about it. I got
myself disliked for my pains and suffered considerable annoyance.
Now I leave them beautifully alone. Their suspicions have vanished
and they no longer look at me as if I were a thief."
Brown's face grew serious. "It's a fact, they are suspicious,
frightfully. I have been talking school to them, but they won't
have a school as a gift. My Church, the Presbyterian, you know,
offers to put up a school for them, since the Government won't do
anything, but they are mightily afraid that this is some subtle
scheme for extracting money from them. But what can you expect?
The only church they know has bled them dry, and they fear and
hate the very name of church."
"By Jove! I don't wonder," said French.
"Nor do I."
"But look here, Brown," said French, "you don't mean to tell me,--I
assure you I don't wish to be rude,--but you don't mean to tell me
that you have come here, a man of your education and snap--"
"Thank you," said Brown.
"To teach a lot of Galician children."
"Well," said Brown, "I admit I have come partially for my health.
You see, I am constitutionally inclined--"
"Oh, come now," said French, "as my friend Kalman would remark,
cut it out."
"Partially for my health, and partially for the good of the
country. These people here exist as an undigested foreign mass.
They must be digested and absorbed into the body politic. They
must be taught our ways of thinking and living, or it will be a
mighty bad thing for us in Western Canada. Do you know, there
are over twenty-five thousand of them already in this country?"
"Oh, that's all right," said French, "but they'll learn our ways
fast enough. And as for teaching their children, pardon me, but it
seems to me you are too good a man to waste in that sort of thing.
Why, bless my soul, you can get a girl for fifty dollars a month
who would teach them fast enough. But you--now you could do big
things in this country, and there are going to be big things doing
here in a year or two."
"What things?" said Brown with evident interest.
"Oh, well, ranching, farming on a big scale, building railroads,
lumber up on the hills, then, later, public life. We will be a
province, you know, one of these days, and the men who are in at
the foundation making will stand at the top later on."
"You're all right," cried Brown, his eyes alight with enthusiasm.
"There will be big things doing, and, believe me, this is one of them."
"What? Teaching a score of dirty little Galicians? The chances are
you'll spoil them. They are good workers as they are. None better.
They are easy to handle. You go in and give them some of our
Canadian ideas of living and all that, and before you know they are
striking for higher wages and giving no end of trouble."
"You would suppress the school, then, in Western Canada?" said Brown.
"No, not exactly. But if you educate these fellows, you hear me,
they'll run your country, by Jove! in half a dozen years, and you
wouldn't like that much."
"That's exactly it," replied Brown; "they'll run your country anyhow
you put it, school or no school, and, therefore, you had better fit
them for the job. You have got to make them Canadian."
"A big business that," said French.
"Yes," replied Brown, "there are two agencies that will do it."
"The school and the Church."
"Oh, yes, that's all right, I guess," losing interest in the
"That's my game too," said Brown with increasing eagerness.
"That's my idea,--the school and the Church. You say the big
things are ranches, railroads, and mills. So they are. But the
really big things are the things that give us our ideas and our
ideals, and those are the school and the Church. But, I say,
you will be wanting to turn in. You wait a minute and I'll
make your bed."
"Bed? Nonsense!" said French. "Your tent floor is all right.
I've been twenty years in this country, and Kalman is already
an old timer, so don't you start anything."
"Might as well be comfortable," said Brown cheerfully. "I have
a great weakness for comfort. In fact, I can't bear to be
uncomfortable. I live luxuriously. I'll be back in a few minutes."
He disappeared behind a bluff and came back in a short time with
a large bundle of swamp-grass, which he speedily made into a very
"Now then," he said cheerfully, "there you are. Have you any
objection to prayers? It is a rule of this camp to have prayers
night and morning, especially if any strangers happen along.
I like to practise on them, you know."
French nodded gravely. "Good idea. I can't say it is common in
Brown brought out two hymn books and passed one to French, stirred
up the fire to a bright blaze, and proceeded to select a hymn.
Suddenly he turned to Kalman. "I say, my boy, do you read?"
"Sure thing! You bet!" said Kalman indignantly.
"Educated, you see," said French apologetically. "Street
"That's all right, boy. I'll get you a book for yourself. We have
lots of them. Now, French, you select."
"Oh, me? You better go on. I don't know your book."
"No, sir," said Brown emphatically. "You have got to select, and
you have got to read too. Rule of the camp. True, I didn't feed
you, but then--I hesitate to speak of it--perhaps you remember
"Do I? Oh, well, certainly, if you put it that way," said French.
"Let's see, all the old ones are here. Suppose we make it a good
old-fashioned one. How will this do?" He passed the book to Brown.
"Just the thing," said Brown. "'Nearer, my God, to Thee.'
Can you find it, Kalman?"
"Why, cert," said Kalman.
French glanced apologetically at Brown.
"Recently caught," he explained, "but means no harm."
"Proceed with the reading," he said.
French laid down his pipe, took off his hat, Kalman following his
example, and began to read. Instinctively, as he read, his voice took
a softer modulation than in ordinary speech. His manner, too, became
touched with reverent dignity. His very face seemed to grow finer.
Brown sat listening, with his face glowing with pleasure and surprise.
"Fine old hymn that! Great hymn! And finely read, if I might say
so. Now we'll sing."
His voice was strong, true, and not unmusical, and what he lacked
of finer qualities he made up in volume and force. His visitors
joined in the singing, Kalman following the air in a low sweet
tone, French singing bass.
"Can't you sing any louder?" said Brown to Kalman. "There's nobody
to disturb but the fish and the Galicians up yonder. Pipe up, my
boy, if you can. I couldn't sing softly if I tried. Can he sing?"
he enquired of French.
"Don't know. Sing up, Kalman, if you can," said French.
Then Kalman sat up and sang. Strong, pure, clear, his voice rose
upon the night until it seemed to fill the whole space of clearing
and to soar away off into the sky. As the boy sang, French laid
down the book and in silence gazed upon the singer's face. Through
verse after verse the others sang to the end.
"I say, boy," said Brown, "you're great! I'd like to hear you sing
that last verse alone. Get up and try it. What do you say?"
Without hesitation the boy rose up. His spirit had caught the
inspiration of the hymn and began,
"Or if on joyful wing
Cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot,
Upward I fly,
Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!"
The warm soft light from the glow still left in the western sky
fell on his face and touched his yellow hair with glory. A silence
followed, so deep and full that it seemed to overflow the space so
recently filled with song, and to hold and prolong the melody of
that exquisite voice. Brown reached across and put his hand on the
"Boy, boy," he said solemnly, "keep that voice for God. It surely
belongs to Him."
French neither spoke nor moved. He could not. Deep floods were
surging through him. For one brief moment he saw in vision a
little ivy-coloured church in its environment of quiet country
lanes in far-away England, and in the church, the family pew,
where sat a man stern and strong, a woman beside him and two
little boys, one, the younger, holding her hand as they sat.
Then with swift change of scene he saw a queer, rude, wooden
church in the raw frontier town in the new land, and in the
church himself, his brother, and between them, a fair, slim girl,
whose face and voice as she sang made him forget all else in
heaven and on earth. The tides of memory rolled in upon his soul,
and with them strangely mingled the swelling springs rising from
this scene before him, with its marvellous setting of sky and woods
and river. No wonder he sat voiceless and without power to move.
All this Brown could not know, but he had that instinct born of
keen sympathy that is so much better than knowing. He sat silent
and waited. French turned to the index, found a hymn, and passed
it over to Brown.
"Know that?" he asked, clearing his throat.
"'For all thy saints'? Well, rather," said Brown. "Here, Kalman,"
passing it to the boy, "can you sing this?"
"I have heard it," said Kalman.
"This is a favourite of yours, French?" enquired Brown.
"Yes--but--it was my brother's hymn. Fifteen years ago I heard
him sing it."
Brown waited, evidently wishing but unwilling to ask a question.
"He died," said French softly, "fifteen years ago."
"Try it, Kalman," said French.
"Let me hear it," said the boy.
"Oh, never mind," said French hastily. "I don't care about having
it rehearsed now."
"Sing it to me," said Kalman.
Brown sang the first verse. The boy listened intently. "Yes, I can
sing it," he said eagerly. In the second verse he joined, and with
more confidence in the third.
"There now," said Brown, "I only spoil it. You sing the rest. Can you?"
Without pause or faltering Kalman sang the next two verses.
But there was not the same subtle spiritual interpretation.
He was occupied with the music. French was evidently disappointed.
"Thank you, Kalman," he said; "let it go at that."
"No," said Brown, "let me read it to you, Kalman. You are not
singing the words, you are singing the notes. Now listen,
'The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon, to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of Paradise the blest.
There it is. Do you see it?"
The boy nodded.
"Now then, sing," said Brown.
With face aglow and uplifted to the western sky the boy sang,
gaining confidence with every word, till he himself caught and
pictured to the others the vision of that "golden evening."
When he came to the last verse, Brown stopped him.
"Wait, Kalman," he said. "Let me read that for you. Or better,
you read it," he said, passing French the book.
French took the book, paused, made as if to give it back, then,
as if ashamed of his hesitation, began to read in a voice quiet
and thrilling the words of immortal vision.
"From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host."
But before the close his voice shook, and ended in a husky whisper.
Touched by the strong man's emotion, the boy began the verse in
tones that faltered. But as he went on his voice came to him again,
and with a deeper, fuller note he sang the great words,
"Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
With the spell of the song still upon them Brown prayed in words
simple, reverent, and honest, with a child's confidence, as if
speaking to one he knew well. Around the open glade with its three
worshippers breathed the silent night, above it shone the stars,
the mysterious stars, but nearer than night, and nearer than the
stars, seemed God, listening and aware.
Through all his after years Kalman would look back to that night
as the night on which God first became to him something other
than a name. And to French that evening song and prayer were an
echo from those dim and sacred shrines of memory where dwelt
his holiest and tenderest thoughts.
Next day, Black Joe, tired of freedom, wandered home, to the
great joy of the household.
"Open your letter, Irma. From the postmark, it is surely from Kalman.
And what good writing it is! I have just had one from Jack."
Mrs. French was standing in the cosy kitchen of Simon Ketzel's
house, where, ever since the tragic night when Kalman had been so
nearly done to death, Irma, with Paulina and her child, had found a
refuge and a home. Simon had not forgotten his oath to his brother,
Irma stood, letter in hand, her heart in a tumult of joy, not
because it was the first letter she had ever received in her life,
but because the letter was from Kalman. She had one passion, love
for her brother. For him she held a strangely mingled affection
of mother, sister, lover, all in one. By day she thought of him,
at night he filled her dreams. She had learned to pray by praying
"Aren't you going to open your letter?" said her friend, rejoicing
in her joy.
"Yes," cried the girl, and ran into the little room which she
shared with Paulina and her child.
Once in that retreat, she threw herself on her knees by the bed,
put the letter before her, and pressed her lips hard upon it, her
tears wetting it as she prayed in sheer joy. It was just sixteen
months, one week, three days, and nine hours since she had watched,
through a mist of tears, the train carrying him away to join the
Macmillan outfit at Portage la Prairie. Through Jack French's
letters to his sister she had been kept in close touch with her
brother, but this was his first letter to herself.
How she laughed and wept at the rude construction and the quaint
spelling, for the letter was written in her native tongue.
"My sister, my Irma, my beloved," the letter ran. Irma kissed the
words as she read them. "How shall I ever write this letter, for it
must be in our own beloved tongue? I could have written long ago in
English, but with you I must write as I speak, only in our dear
mother's and father's tongue. It is so hard to remember it, for
everything and every one about me is English, English, English.
The hounds, the horses, the cattle call in English, the very wind
sounds English, and I am beginning not only to speak, but to think
and feel in English, except when I think of you and of our dear
mother and father, and when I speak with old Portnoff, an old
Russian nihilist, in the colony near here, and when I hear him
tell of the bad old days, then I feel and breathe Russian again.
But Russia and all that old Portnoff talks about is far away and
seems like a dream of a year ago. It is old Portnoff who taught
me how to write in Russian.
"I like this place, and oh! I like Jack, that is, Mr. French,
my master. He told me to call him Jack. He is so big and strong,
so kind too, never loses his temper, that is, never loses hold
of himself like me, but even when he is angry, speaks quietly and
always smiles. One day Elluck, the Galician man that works here
sometimes, struck Blucher with a heavy stick and made him howl.
Jack heard him. 'Bring me that stick, Elluck,' he said quietly.
'Now, Elluck, who strikes my dog, strikes me.' He caught him by
the collar and beat him until Elluck howled louder than the dog,
and all the while Jack never stopped smiling. He is teaching me
to box, as he says that no gentleman ever uses a knife or a club,
as the Galicians do, in fighting; and you know that when they get
beer they are sure to fight, and if they use a knife they will
kill some one, and then they are sorry.
"You know about my school. Jack has told Mrs. French. I like Mr.
Brown, well, next to Jack. He is a good man. I wish I could just tell
you how good and how clever he is. He makes people to work for him in
a wonderful way. He got the Galicians to build his house for him, and
his school and his store. He got Jack to help him too. He got me to
help with the singing in the school every day, and in the afternoon on
Sundays when we go down to meeting. He is a Protestant, but, although
he can marry the people and baptise and say prayers when they desire
it, I do not think he is a priest, for he will take no money for what
he does. Some of the Galicians say he will make them all pay some day,
but Jack just laughs at this and says they are a suspicious lot of
fools. Mr. Brown is going to build a mill to grind flour and meal.
He brought the stones from an old Hudson's Bay Company mill up the
river, and he is fixing up an old engine from a sawmill in the hills.
I think he wants to keep the people from going to the Crossing, where
they get beer and whiskey and get drunk. He is teaching me everything
that they learn in the English schools, and he gives me books to read.
One book he gave me, I read all night. I could not stop. It is called
'Ivanhoe.' It is a splendid book. Perhaps Mrs. French may get it for
you. But I like it best on Sunday afternoons, for then we sing, Brown
and Jack and the Galician children, and then Brown reads the Bible and
prays. It is not like church at all. There is no crucifix, no candles,
no pictures. It is too much like every day to be like church, but Brown
says that is the best kind, a religion for every day; and Jack, too,
says that Brown is right, but he won't talk much about it.
"I am going to be a rancher. Jack says I am a good cattle man
already. He gave me a pony and saddle and a couple of heifers for
myself, that I saved last winter out of a snow-drift, and he says
that when I grow a little bigger, he will take me for his partner.
Of course, he smiles when he says this, but I think he means it.
Would not that be splendid? I do not care to be a partner, but just
to live with Jack always. He makes every one do what he likes
because they love him and they are afraid of him too. Old Mackenzie
would let him walk over his body. There is only one thing, and I
don't like to speak of it, and I would not to any one else, but it
makes me sore in my heart. When Jack and Old Mackenzie go to the
Crossing, they bring back whiskey, and until it is done they have
a terrible time. You know, I don't mind seeing the Galicians drink
whiskey and beer. I drink it myself now and then. But Jack and old
Mackenzie just sit down and drink and drink, and afterwards I know
Jack feels very bad. Once we went here to a Galician wedding, and
you know what that means. They all got drinking whiskey and beer,
and then we had a terrible time. The whole roomful got fighting.
They were all against Jack and Mackenzie. The Galicians had clubs
and knives, but Jack just had his hands. It was fine to see him
stand up and knock those Galicians back, and smiling all the time.
Mackenzie had a hand-spike. Of course, I helped a little with a
club. I thought they were going to kill Jack. We got away alive,
but Jack was badly hurt, and for a week afterwards he did not
look at me. Mackenzie said he was ashamed, but I don't know why.
He made a big fight. Mackenzie says he did not like to fight with
'them dogs.' Brown heard all about it and came to see Jack, and
he too looked ashamed and sorry. But Brown never fights; no matter
what they do to him, he won't fight; and he is a strong man, too,
and does not look afraid.
"Have you heard any word at all of father? I sometimes get so
lonely for him and you. I used to dream I was back with you again,
and then I would wake up and find myself alone and far away. It
will not be so long now till I'm a man, and then you will come and
live with me. Oh! I cannot write fast enough to put down the words
to say how glad I am to think of that. But some day that will be.
"I send my love to Simon Ketzel and Lena and Margaret, and you tell
Mrs. French I do not forget that I owe all I have here to her. Tell
her I wish I could do something for her. Nothing would be too hard.
"I kiss this paper for you, my dear sister, my beloved Irma.
"Your loving and faithful brother,
Proud of her brother, Irma read parts of her letter to her friend,
leaving out, with a quick sense of what was fitting, every unhappy
reference to Jack French; but the little lady was keen of ear and
quick of instinct where Jack French was concerned, and Irma's
pauses left a deepening shadow upon her face. When the letter was
done, she said: "Is it not good to hear of Kalman doing so well?
Tell him he can do something for me. He can grow up a good man, and
he can help Jack to be--" But here her loyal soul held her back.
"No, don't say that," she said; "just tell him I am glad to know he
is going to be a good man. There is nothing I want more for those
I love than that. Tell him too," she added, "that I would like him
and Jack to help Mr. Brown all they can," and this message Irma
wrote to Kalman with religious care, telling him too how sad the
dear sweet face had grown in sending the message.
But when Mrs. French reached her home, she read again parts out of
the letter which the same mail had brought her from the Night Hawk
Ranch, read them in the light of Kalman's letter, while the shadows
deepened on her face.
"He is a strange little beggar," she read, "though, by Jove, he
is little no longer. He is somewhere about sixteen, is away past
my shoulder, and nearly as strong as I am, rides like a cowboy,
and is as good after the cattle as I am, is afraid of nothing,
and dearly loves a fight, and, I regret to say, he gets lots of it,
for the Galicians are always after him for their feasts. He is a
great singer, you know, and dances much too well; and at the feasts,
as I suppose you know quite well, there are always fights. And here
I want to consult you. I very nearly sent him back to you a little
while ago, not for his fault, but, I regret to say, for mine. We went
to a fool show among the Galicians, and, I am ashamed to say, played
the fool. There was the deuce of a row, and Mackenzie and I were
in a tight box, for a dozen or so of our Galician friends were
determined upon blood. They got some of mine too, for they were
using their knives, and, I am bound to say, it looked rather serious.
At this juncture that young beggar, forgetting all my good training
in the manly art, and reverting to his Slavic barbaric methods of
defence, went in with a hand-spike, yelling, and, I regret to say,
cursing, till I thought he had gone drunk or mad. Drunk, he was not,
but mad,--well, he was possessed of some kind of demon none too
gentle that night. I must acknowledge it was a good thing for us,
and though I hate to think of the whole ghastly business, it was
something fine, though, to see him raging up and down that room,
taunting them for cowards, hurling defiance, and, by Jove, looking
all the while like some Greek god in cowboy outfit, if your
imagination can get that. I am telling you the whole sickening story,
because I must treat you with perfect sincerity. I assure you next
morning I was sick enough of myself and my useless life, sick enough
to have done with the unhappy and disgraceful farce of living,
but for your sake and for the boy's too, I couldn't play the cad,
and so I continue to live.
"But I have come to the opinion that he ought not to stay with me.
As I said before, he is a splendid chap in many ways, but I am
afraid in these surroundings he will go bad. He is clean as yet,
I firmly believe, thank God, but with this Colony near us with
their low standard of morality, and to be quite sincere, in the
care of such a man as I am, the boy stands a poor chance. I know
this will grieve you, but it is best to be honest. I think he ought
to go to you. I must refuse responsibility for his remaining here.
I feel like a beast in saying this, but whatever shred of honour
is left me forces me to say it."
In the postscript there was a word that brought not a little hope and
comfort. "One thing in addition. No more Galician festivals for me."
It was a miserably cruel letter, and it did its miserably cruel work
on the heart of the little white-faced lady. She laid the letter down,
drew from a box upon her table a photo, and laid it before her.
It was of two young men in football garb, in all the glorious pride
of their young manhood. Long she gazed upon it till she could see
no more, and then went to pray.
It took Irma some days of thought and effort to prepare the answer
to her letter, for to her, as to Kalman, English had become easier
than her native Russian. To Jack French a reply went by return
mail. It was not long, but, as Jack French read, the easy smile
vanished, and for days he carried in his face the signs of the
remorse and grief that gnawed at his heart. Then he rode alone
to Wakota to take counsel with his friend Brown.
As he read, one phrase kept repeating itself in his mind: "The
responsibility of leaving Kalman with you, I must take. What else
can I do? I have no other to help me. But the responsibility for
what you make him, you must take. God puts it on you, not I."
"The responsibility for making him is not mine," he said to himself
impatiently. "I can teach him a lot of things, but I can't teach
him morals. That is Brown's business. He is a preacher. If he can't
do this, what's he good for?"
And so he argued the matter with himself with great diligence,
and even with considerable heat of mind. He made no pretence to
goodness. He was no saint, nor would he set up for one. All who
knew him knew this, and none better than Kalman.
"I may not be a saint, but I am no hypocrite, neither will I play
the part for any one." In this thought his mind took eager refuge,
and he turned it over in various phrases with increasing satisfaction.
He remembered with some anxiety that Brown's mental processes were
to a degree lacking in subtlety. Brown had a disconcertingly simple
and direct method of dealing with the most complex problems. If a
thing was right, it was right; if wrong, it was wrong, and that
settled the matter with Brown. There was little room for argument,
and none for compromise. "He has a deucedly awkward conscience too,"
said Jack French, "and it is apt to get working long shifts." Would
he show his sister-in-law's letter? It might be good tactics, but
that last page would not help him much, and besides he shrank from
introducing her name into the argument.
As he approached Wakota, he was impatient with himself that he was
so keenly conscious of the need of arguments to support his appeal.
He rode straight to the school, and was surprised to find Brown
sitting there alone, with a shadow on his usually cheery face.
"Hello, Brown!" he cried, as he entered the building, "another
holiday, eh! Seems to me you get more than your share."
"No," said Brown, "it is not holidays at all. It is a breaking up."
"What's the row, epidemic of measles or something?"
"I only wish it were," said Brown; "small-pox would not be too
bad." Brown's good-natured face was smiling, but his tone told
of gloom in his heart.
"What's up, Brown?" asked French.
"I'm blue, I'm depressed, I'm in a funk. It is my constitutional
weakness that I cannot stand--"
"Oh, let it go at that, Brown, and get on with the facts. But
come out into the light. That's the thing that makes me fear that
something has really happened that you are moping here inside.
Nothing wrong in the home I hope, Brown; wife and baby well?"
said French, his tone becoming more kind and gentle.
"No, not a thing, thank God! both fine and fit," said Brown, as
they walked out of the school and down the river path. "My school
has folded itself up, and, like the Arab, has stolen away."
"Go on with your yarn. What has struck your school?"
"A Polish priest, small and dark and dirty; he can't help the first
two, but with the Eagle River running through the country, he might
avoid the last."
"What is he up to?"
"I wish I knew. He introduced himself by ordering, upon pain of
hell fire, that no child attend my school; consequently, not a
Galician child has shown up."
"What are you going to do--quit?"
"Quit?" shouted Brown, springing to his feet.
"I apologize," said French hastily; "I ought to have known better."
"No, I am not going to quit," said Brown, recovering his quiet
manner. "If he wants the school, and will undertake to run it,
why, I'll give him the building and the outfit."
"But," said French, "isn't that rather funking it?"
"Not a bit" said Brown emphatically. "I am not sent here to
proselytize. My church is not in that business. We are doing
business, but we are in the business of making good citizens.
We tried to get the Government to establish schools among the
Galicians. The Government declined. We took it up, and hence this
school. We tried to get Greek Catholic priests from Europe to look
after the religion and morals of these people. We absolutely failed
to get a decent man to offer. Remember, I say decent man. We had
offers, plenty of them, but we could not lay our hands on a single,
clean, honest-minded man with the fear of God in his heart, and the
desire to help these people. So, as I say, we will give this man
a fair chance, and if he makes good, I will back him up and say,
'God bless you.' But he won't make good," added Brown gloomily,
"from the way he starts out."
French waited, and Brown went on. "He was called to marry a couple
the other day, got hopelessly drunk, charged them ten dollars, and
they are not sure whether they are married or not. Last Sunday he
drummed the people up to confession. It was a long time since they
had had a chance, and they were glad to come. He charged them two
dollars apiece, tried to make it five, but failed, and now he
introduces himself to me by closing my school. He may mean well,
but his methods would bear improvement. However, as I have said,
we will give him a chance."
"And meantime?" enquired French.
"Meantime? Oh! I shall stick to my pills and plasters,--we have ten
patients in the hospital now,--run the store and the mill, and try
to help generally. If this priest gets at his work and makes good,
I promise you I'll not bother him."
"And if not?" enquired French.
"If not? Well, then," said Brown, sinking back into his easy,
good-natured manner, "you see, I am constitutionally indolent.
I would rather he'd move out than I, and so while the colony
stays here, it will be much easier for me to stay than to go.
And," he added, "I shall get back my school, too."
French looked at him admiringly. Brown's lips had come together
in a straight line.
"By George! I believe you," exclaimed French, "and I think I see
the finish of the Polish gentleman. Can I help you out?"
"I do not know," said Brown, "but Kalman can. I want him to do
some interpreting for me some of these days. By the way, where
is he to-day? He is not with you."
French's face changed. "That reminds me," he said, "but I hate
to unload my burden on you to-day when you have got your own."
"Do not hesitate," said Brown, with a return of his cheery manner;
"another fellow's burden helps to balance one's own. You know I am
constitutionally selfish and get thinking far too much of myself,
--habit of mine, bad habit."
"You go to thunder, Brown, with your various and many
constitutional weaknesses. When I look at you and your work for
this thankless horde I feel something of a useless brute."
"Hold up there, now, don't you abuse my parishioners. They are a
perfectly good lot if left alone. They are awfully grateful, and,
yes, in many ways they are a good lot."
"Yes, a jolly lot of quitters they are. They have quit you dead."
Brown winced. "Let us up on that spot, French," he said. "It is
a little raw yet. What's your trouble?"
"Well," said French, "I hardly know how to begin. It is Kalman."
At once Brown was alert.
"Oh! no, not he. Fit as a fiddle; but the fact is he is not doing
just as well as he ought."
"How do you mean?" said Brown anxiously.
"Well, he is growing up into a big chap, you know, getting towards
sixteen, and pretty much of a man in many ways, and while he is a fine,
clean, straight boy and all that, he is not just what I would like."
"None of us are," said Brown quietly.
"True, as far as I am concerned," replied French. "I do not know
about you. But to go on. The boy has got a fiendish temper and,
on slight provocation, he is into a fight like a demon."
"With you?" said Brown.
"Oh, come," said French, "you know better than that. No, he gets
with those Galicians, and then there is a row. The other week,
now--well--" French was finding it difficult to get on.
"I heard about it," said Brown; "they told me the boy was half
drunk, and you more." Brown's tone was not encouraging.
"You've hit it, Brown, and that's the sort of thing that makes
me anxious. The boy is getting into bad ways, and I thought you
might take him in hand. I cannot help him much in these matters,
and you can."
French's arguments had all deserted him.
"Look here," he said at length desperately, "here is a letter
which I got a few days ago. I want you to read that last page.
It will show you my difficulty. It is from my sister-in-law,
and, of course, her position is quite preposterous; but you
know a woman finds it difficult to understand some things in
a man's life. You know what I mean, but read. I think you know
who she is. It was she who sent Kalman out here to save him
from going wrong. God save the mark!"
Brown took the letter and read it carefully, read it a second time,
and then said simply:
"That seems straight enough. That woman sees her way through things.
But what's the trouble?"
"Well, of course, it is quite absurd."
"What's absurd?" asked Brown shortly. "Your responsibility?"
"Hold on, now, Brown," he said. "I do not want you to miss my point
"All right, let's have it," said Brown; and French plunged at once
at his main argument, adopting with great effort the judicial tone
of a man determined to examine dispassionately on the data at command.
"You see, she does not know me, has not seen me for fifteen years,
and I am afraid she thinks I am a kind of saint. Now, you know
better," Brown nodded his assent with his eyes steadily on the
other's face, "and I know better, and I am not going to play the
hypocrite for any man."
"Quite right," said Brown; "she does not ask you to."
"So it is there I want you to help me out."
"Certainly," said Brown, "count on me for all I can do. But that
does not touch the question so far as I can see it, even remotely."
"What do you mean?"
"It is not a question of what I am to do in the matter."
"What can I do?" cried French, losing his judicial tone. "Do you
think I am going to accept the role of moral preceptor to that
youth and play the hypocrite?"
"Who asks you to?" said Brown, with a touch of scorn. "Be honest in
"Oh, come now, Brown, let us not chop words. Look at the thing
reasonably. I came for help and not--"
"Count on me for all the help I can give," said Brown promptly,
"but let's look at your part."
"Well," said French, "we will divide up on this thing. I will
undertake to look after the boy's physical and--well--secular
interests, if you like. I will teach him to ride, shoot, box,
and handle the work on the ranch, in short, educate him in
things practical, while you take charge of his moral training."
"In other words, when it comes to morals, you want to shirk."
French flushed quickly, but controlled himself.
"Excuse me, Brown," he said, in a quiet tone. "I came to talk this
over with you as a friend, but if you do not want to--"
"Old man, I apologize for the tone I used just now, but I foresee
that this is going to be serious. I can see as clearly as light
what I ought to say to you now. There is something in my heart
that I have been wanting to say for months, but I hate to say it,
and I won't say it now unless you tell me to."
The two men were standing face to face as if measuring each other's
"Go on," said French at length; "what are you afraid of?" His tone
"Afraid," said Brown quickly, "not of you, but of myself."
He paused a few moments, as if taking counsel with himself, then,
with a sudden resolve, he spoke in tones quiet, deliberate, and
almost stern. "First, be clear about this," he said; "I stand
ready to help you with Kalman to the limit of my power, and to
assure you to the full my share of responsibility for his moral
training. Now then, what of your part in this?"
"But wait, hear me out. For good or for evil, you have that boy's
life in your hands. Did you ever notice how he rides,--his style,
I mean? It is yours. How he walks? Like you. His very tricks of
speech are yours. And how else could it be? He adores you, you know
that. He models himself after you. And so, mark me, without either
of you knowing it, _you will make him in spite of yourself and in
spite of him_. And it is your fate to make him after your own type.
Wait, French, let me finish." Brown's easy good nature was gone,
his face was set and stern. "You ask me to teach him morals. The
fact is, we are both teaching him. From whom, do you think, will he
take his lesson? What a ghastly farce the thing is! Listen, while
the teaching goes on. 'Kalman,' I say, 'don't drink whiskey; it is
a beastly and degrading habit.' 'Fudge!' he says, 'Jack drinks
whiskey, and so will I.' 'Kalman,' I urge, 'don't swear.' 'Rot,'
says he, 'Jack swears.' 'Kalman, be a man, straight, self-controlled,
honourable, unselfish.' The answer is,--but no! the answer never
will be,--'Jack is a drunken, swearing, selfish, reckless man!'
No, for he loves you. But like you he will be, in spite of all
I can say or do. That is your curse for the life you are leading.
Responsibility? God help you. Read your letter again. That woman
sees clearly. It is God's truth. Listen, 'The responsibility for
what you make him you must take. God puts it there, not I.'
You may refuse this responsibility, you may be too weak, too wilful,
too selfish to set upon your own wicked indulgence of a foolish
appetite, but the responsibility is there, and no living man or
woman can take it from you."
French stood silent for some moments. "Thank you," he said,
"you have set my sins before me, and I will not try to hide them;
but by the Eternal, not for you or for any man, will I be anything
"What kind of self?" enquired Brown. "Beast or man?"
"That is not the question," said French hotly. "I will be no
hypocrite, as you would have me be."
"Jack French," said Brown, "you know you are speaking a lie before
God and man."
French stepped quickly towards him.
"Brown, you will have to apologize," he said in a low, tense voice,
"French, I will apologize if what I have said is not true."
"I cannot discuss it with you, Brown," said French, his voice thick
with rage. "I allow no man to call me a liar; put up your hands."
"If you are a man, French," said Brown with equal calm, "give me a minute.
Read your letter again. Does she ask you to be a hypocrite? Does she not,
do I not, only ask you to be a man, and to act like a man?"
"It won't do, Brown. It is past argument. You gave me the lie."
"French, I wish to apologize for what I said just now," said Brown.
"I said you knew you were speaking a lie. I take that back, and
apologize. I cannot believe you knew. All the same, what you said
was not the truth. No one asks you, nor does that letter ask you,
to be a hypocrite. You said I did. That was not true. Now, if you
wish to slap my face, go on."
French stood motionless. His rage well-nigh overpowered him, but he
knew this man was speaking the truth. For some moments they stood
face to face. Then, impulsively offering his hand, and with a quick
change of voice, Brown said, "I am awfully sorry, French; let's
But ignoring the outstretched hand, French turned from him without
a word, mounted his horse, and rode away.
Brown stood watching him until he was out of sight. "My God,
forgive me," he cried, "what a mess I made of that! I have lost
him and the boy too;" and with that he passed into the woods,
coming home to his wife and baby late at night, weary, spent,
and too sad for speech or sleep.
THE MAIDEN OF THE BROWN HAIR
Rumours of the westward march of civilization had floated from time
to time up the country from the main line as far as the Crossing,
and had penetrated even to the Night Hawk ranch, only to be allayed
by succeeding rumours of postponement of the advance for another year.
It was Mackenzie who brought word of the appearance of the first
bona fide scout of the advancing host.
"There was a man with a big flag over the Creek yonder," he announced
one spring evening, while the snow was still lying in the hollows,
"and another man with a stick or something, and two or three behind him."
"Ah, ha!" exclaimed French, "surveyors, no doubt; they have come
"And what will that be?" said Mackenzie anxiously.
"The men who lay out the route for the railroad," replied French.
Mackenzie looked glum. "And will they be putting a railroad across
our ranch?" he asked indignantly.
"Right across," said French, "and just where it suits them."
"Indeed, and it wouldn't be my land they would be putting that
railroad over, I'll warrant ye."
"You could not stop them, Mack," said French; "they have got the
whole Government behind them."
"I would be putting some slugs into them, whateffer," said Mackenzie.
"There will be no room in the country any more, and no sleeping at
night for the noise of them injins."
Mackenzie was right. That surveyor's flag was the signal that waved
out the old order and waved in the new. The old free life, the only
life Mackenzie knew, where each man's will was his law, and where law
was enforced by the strength of a man's right hand, was gone forever
from the plains. Those great empty spaces of rolling prairie, swept
by viewless winds, were to be filled up now with the abodes of men.
Mackenzie and his world must now disappear in the wake of the red man
and the buffalo before the railroad and the settler. To Jack French
the invasion brought mingled feelings. He hated to surrender the
untrammelled, unconventional mode of life, for which twenty years ago
he had left an ancient and, as it seemed to his adventurous spirit,
a worn-out civilization, but he was quick to recognize, and in his
heart was glad to welcome, a change that would mean new life and
assured prosperity to Kalman, whom he had come to love as a son.
To Kalman that surveyor's flag meant the opening up of a new world,
a new life, rich in promise of adventure and achievement. French
noticed his glowing face and eyes.
"Yes, Kalman, boy," he said, "it will be a great thing for you, great
for the country. It means towns and settlements, markets and money,
and all the rest."
"We will have no trouble selling our potatoes and our oats now,"