Part 3 out of 4
his office, and he carried a black leather-covered book, which, in
all the years I have known him, I have never seen him without.
The trappers explained to my father who he was, the Great Teacher,
the heart's Medicine Man, the "Blackcoat" we had heard of, who
brought peace where there was war, and the magic of whose black book
brought greater things than all the Happy Hunting Grounds of our
He told us many things that day, for he could speak the Cree tongue,
and my father listened, and listened, and when at last they left us,
my father said for him to come and sit within the tepee again.
He came, all the time he came, and my father welcomed him, but my
mother always sat in silence at work with the quills; my mother
never liked the Great "Blackcoat."
His stories fascinated me. I used to listen intently to the tale of
the strange new place he called "heaven," of the gold crown, of the
white dress, of the great music; and then he would tell of that
other strange place--hell. My father and I hated it; we feared it,
we dreamt of it, we trembled at it. Oh, if the "Blackcoat" would
only cease to talk of it! Now I know he saw its effect upon us, and
he used it as a whip to lash us into his new religion, but even then
my mother must have known, for each time he left the tepee she would
watch him going slowly away across the prairie; then when he was
disappearing into the far horizon she would laugh scornfully, and
"If the white man made this Blackcoat's hell, let him go to it. It
is for the man who found it first. No hell for Indians, just Happy
Hunting Grounds. Blackcoat can't scare me."
And then, after weeks had passed, one day as he stood at the tepee
door he laid his white, old hand on my head and said to my father:
"Give me this little girl, chief. Let me take her to the mission
school; let me keep her, and teach her of the great God and His
eternal heaven. She will grow to be a noble woman, and return
perhaps to bring her people to the Christ."
My mother's eyes snapped. "No," she said. It was the first word she
ever spoke to the "Blackcoat." My father sat and smoked. At the end
of a half-hour he said:
"I am an old man, Blackcoat. I shall not leave the God of my fathers.
I like not your strange God's ways--all of them. I like not His two
new places for me when I am dead. Take the child, Blackcoat, and
save her from hell."
* * * * *
The first grief of my life was when we reached the mission. They
took my buckskin dress off, saying I was now a little Christian girl
and must dress like all the white people at the mission. Oh, how I
hated that stiff new calico dress and those leather shoes. But,
little as I was, I said nothing, only thought of the time when I
should be grown, and do as my mother did, and wear the buckskins
and the blanket.
My next serious grief was when I began to speak the English, that
they forbade me to use any Cree words whatever. The rule of the
school was that any child heard using its native tongue must get
a slight punishment. I never understood it, I cannot understand
it now, why the use of my dear Cree tongue could be a matter for
correction or an action deserving punishment.
She was strict, the matron of the school, but only justly so, for
she had a heart and a face like her brother's, the "Blackcoat."
I had long since ceased to call him that. The trappers at the
post called him "St. Paul," because, they told me, of his
self-sacrificing life, his kindly deeds, his rarely beautiful old
face; so I, too, called him "St. Paul," thought oftener "Father
Paul," though he never liked the latter title, for he was a
Protestant. But as I was his pet, his darling of the whole school,
he let me speak of him as I would, knowing it was but my heart
speaking in love. His sister was a widow, and mother to a laughing
yellow-haired boy of about my own age, who was my constant playmate
and who taught me much of English in his own childish way. I used
to be fond of this child, just as I was fond of his mother and of
his uncle, my "Father Paul," but as my girlhood passed away, as
womanhood came upon me, I got strangely wearied of them all; I
longed, oh, God, how I longed for the old wild life! It came with
my womanhood, with my years.
What mattered it to me now that they had taught me all their
ways?--their tricks of dress, their reading, their writing, their
books. What mattered it that "Father Paul" loved me, that the
traders at the post called me pretty, that I was a pet of all, from
the factor to the poorest trapper in the service? I wanted my own
people, my own old life, my blood called out for it, but they always
said I must not return to my father's tepee. I heard them talk
amongst themselves of keeping me away from pagan influences; they
told each other that if I returned to the prairies, the tepees, I
would degenerate, slip back to paganism, as other girls had done;
marry, perhaps, with a pagan--and all their years of labor and
teaching would be lost.
I said nothing, but I waited. And then one night the feeling
overcame me. I was in the Hudson's Bay store when an Indian came
in from the north with a large pack of buckskin. As they unrolled
it a dash of its insinuating odor filled the store. I went over
and leaned above the skins a second, then buried my face in them,
swallowing, drinking the fragrance of them, that went to my head
like wine. Oh, the wild wonder of that wood-smoked tan, the
subtilty of it, the untamed smell of it! I drank it into my lungs,
my innermost being was saturated with it, till my mind reeled
and my heart seemed twisted with a physical agony. My childhood
recollections rushed upon me, devoured me. I left the store in a
strange, calm frenzy, and going rapidly to the mission house I
confronted my Father Paul and demanded to be allowed to go "home,"
if only for a day. He received the request with the same refusal and
the same gentle sigh that I had so often been greeted with, but this
time the desire, the smoke-tan, the heart-ache, never lessened.
Night after night I would steal away by myself and go to the border
of the village to watch the sun set in the foothills, to gaze at the
far line of sky and prairie, to long and long for my father's lodge.
And Laurence--always Laurence--my fair-haired, laughing, child
playmate, would come calling and calling for me: "Esther, where are
you? We miss you; come in, Esther, come in with me." And if I did
not turn at once to him and follow, he would come and place his
strong hands on my shoulders and laugh into my eyes and say,
"Truant, truant, Esther; can't _we_ make you happy?"
My old childhood playmate had vanished years ago. He was a tall,
slender young man now, handsome as a young chief, but with laughing
blue eyes, and always those yellow curls about his temples. He was
my solace in my half-exile, my comrade, my brother, until one night
it was, "Esther, Esther, can't _I_ make you happy?"
I did not answer him; only looked out across the plains and thought
of the tepees. He came close, close. He locked his arms about me,
and with my face pressed up to his throat he stood silent. I felt
the blood from my heart sweep to my very finger-tips. I loved him.
O God, how I loved him! In a wild, blind instant it all came, just
because he held me so and was whispering brokenly, "Don't leave me,
don't leave me, Esther; _my_ Esther, my child-love, my playmate, my
girl-comrade, my little Cree sweetheart, will you go away to your
people, or stay, stay for me, for my arms, as I have you now?"
No more, no more the tepees; no more the wild stretch of prairie,
the intoxicating fragrance of the smoke-tanned buckskin; no more the
bed of buffalo hide, the soft, silent moccasin; no more the dark
faces of my people, the dulcet cadence of the sweet Cree tongue--only
this man, this fair, proud, tender man who held me in his arms, in
his heart. My soul prayed his great white God, in that moment, that
He would let me have only this. It was twilight when we re-entered
the mission gate. We were both excited, feverish. Father Paul was
reading evening prayers in the large room beyond the hallway; his
soft, saint-like voice stole beyond the doors, like a benediction
upon us. I went noiselessly upstairs to my own room and sat there
undisturbed for hours.
The clock downstairs struck one, startling me from my dreams of
happiness, and at the same moment a flash of light attracted me. My
room was in an angle of the building, and my window looked almost
directly down into those of Father Paul's study, into which at that
instant he was entering, carrying a lamp. "Why, Laurence," I heard
him exclaim, "what are you doing here? I thought, my boy, you were
in bed hours ago."
"No, uncle, not in bed, but in dreamland," replied Laurence, arising
from the window, where evidently he, too, had spent the night hours
as I had done.
Father Paul fumbled about a moment, found his large black book,
which for once he seemed to have got separated from, and was turning
to leave, when the curious circumstance of Laurence being there at
so unusual an hour seemed to strike him anew. "Better go to sleep,
my son," he said simply, then added curiously, "Has anything
occurred to keep you up?"
Then Laurence spoke: "No, uncle, only--only, I'm happy, that's all."
Father Paul stood irresolute. Then: "It is--?"
"Esther," said Laurence quietly, but he was at the old man's side,
his hand was on the bent old shoulder, his eyes proud and appealing.
Father Paul set the lamp on the table, but, as usual, one hand held
that black book, the great text of his life. His face was paler than
I had ever seen it--graver.
"Tell me of it," he requested.
I leaned far out of my window and watched them both. I listened with
my very heart, for Laurence was telling him of me, of his love, of
the new-found joy of that night.
"You have said nothing of marriage to her?" asked Father Paul.
"Well--no; but she surely understands that--"
"Did you speak of _marriage_?" repeated Father Paul, with a harsh
ring in his voice that was new to me.
"No, uncle, but--"
"Very well, then, very well."
There was a brief silence. Laurence stood staring at the old man as
though he were a stranger; he watched him push a large chair up to
the table, slowly seat himself; then mechanically following his
movements, he dropped on to a lounge. The old man's head bent low,
but his eyes were bright and strangely fascinating. He began:
"Laurence, my boy, your future is the dearest thing to me of all
earthly interests. Why you _can't_ marry this girl--no, no, sit, sit
until I have finished," he added, with raised voice, as Laurence
sprang up, remonstrating. "I have long since decided that you marry
well; for instance, the Hudson's Bay factor's daughter."
Laurence broke into a fresh, rollicking laugh. "What, uncle," he
said, "little Ida McIntosh? Marry that little yellow-haired fluff
ball, that kitten, that pretty little dolly?"
"Stop," said Father Paul. Then with a low, soft persuasiveness, "She
is _white_, Laurence."
My lover started. "Why, uncle, what do you mean?" he faltered.
"Only this, my son: poor Esther comes of uncertain blood; would it
do for you--the missionary's nephew, and adopted son, you might
say--to marry the daughter of a pagan Indian? Her mother is
hopelessly uncivilized; her father has a dash of French
somewhere--half-breed, you know, my boy, half-breed." Then, with
still lower tone and half-shut, crafty eyes, he added: "The blood is
a bad, bad mixture, _you_ know that; you know, too, that I am very
fond of the girl, poor dear Esther. I have tried to separate her
from evil pagan influences; she is the daughter of the Church; I
want her to have no other parent; but you never can tell what lurks
in a caged animal that has once been wild. My whole heart is with
the Indian people, my son; my whole heart, my whole life, has been
devoted to bringing them to Christ, _but it is a different thing to
marry with one of them_."
His small old eyes were riveted on Laurence like a hawk's on a rat.
My heart lay like ice in my bosom.
Laurence, speechless and white, stared at him breathlessly.
"Go away somewhere," the old man was urging; "to Winnipeg, Toronto,
Montreal; forget her, then come back to Ida McIntosh. A union of the
Church and Hudson's Bay will mean great things, and may ultimately
result in my life's ambition, the civilization of this entire tribe,
that we have worked so long to bring to God."
I listened, sitting like one frozen. Could those words have been
uttered by my venerable teacher, by him whom I revered as I would
one of the saints in his own black book? Ah, there was no mistaking
it. My white father, my life-long friend who pretended to love me,
to care for my happiness, was urging the man I worshipped to forget
me, to marry with the factor's daughter--because of what? Of my red
skin; my good, old, honest pagan mother; my confiding French-Indian
father. In a second all the care, the hollow love he had given me
since my childhood, were as things that never existed. I hated that
old mission priest as I hated his white man's hell. I hated his
long, white hair; I hated his thin, white hands; I hated his body,
his soul, his voice, his black book--oh, how I hated the very
atmosphere of him.
Laurence sat motionless, his face buried in his hands, but the old
man continued, "No, no; not the child of that pagan mother; you
can't trust her, my son. What would you do with a wife who might any
day break from you to return to her prairies and her buckskins? _You
can't trust her_." His eyes grew smaller, more glittering, more
fascinating then, and leaning with an odd, secret sort of movement
towards Laurence, he almost whispered, "Think of her silent ways,
her noiseless step; the girl glides about like an apparition; her
quick fingers, her wild longings--I don't know why, but with all my
fondness for her, she reminds me sometimes of a strange--_snake_."
Laurence shuddered, lifted his face, and said hoarsely: "You're
right, uncle; perhaps I'd better not; I'll go away, I'll forget her,
and then--well, then--yes, you are right, it _is_ a different thing
to marry one of them." The old man arose. His feeble fingers still
clasped his black book; his soft white hair clung about his forehead
like that of an Apostle; his eyes lost their peering, crafty
expression; his bent shoulders resumed the dignity of a minister
of the living God; he was the picture of what the trader called
"Good-night, son," he said.
"Good-night, uncle, and thank you for bringing me to myself."
They were the last words I ever heard uttered by either that old
arch-fiend or his weak, miserable kinsman. Father Paul turned and
left the room. I watched his withered hand--the hand I had so often
felt resting on my head in holy benedictions--clasp the door-knob,
turn it slowly, then, with bowed head and his pale face wrapped in
thought, he left the room--left it with the mad venom of my hate
pursuing him like the very Evil One he taught me of.
What were his years of kindness and care now? What did I care for
his God, his heaven, his hell? He had robbed me of my native faith,
of my parents, of my people, of this last, this life of love that
would have made a great, good woman of me. God! how I hated him!
I crept to the closet in my dark little room. I felt for the bundle
I had not looked at for years--yes, it was there, the buckskin dress
I had worn as a little child when they brought me to the mission. I
tucked it under my arm and descended the stairs noiselessly. I would
look into the study and speak good-bye to Laurence; then I would--
I pushed open the door. He was lying on the couch where a short time
previously he had sat, white and speechless, listening to Father
Paul. I moved towards him softly. God in heaven, he was already
asleep. As I bent over him the fullness of his perfect beauty
impressed me for the first time; his slender form, his curving mouth
that almost laughed even in sleep, his fair, tossed hair, his
smooth, strong-pulsing throat. God! how I loved him!
Then there arose the picture of the factor's daughter. I hated her.
I hated her baby face, her yellow hair, her whitish skin. "She shall
not marry him," my soul said. "I will kill him first--kill his
beautiful body, his lying, false heart." Something in my heart
seemed to speak; it said over and over again, "Kill him, kill him;
she will never have him then. Kill him. It will break Father Paul's
heart and blight his life. He has killed the best of you, of your
womanhood; kill _his_ best, his pride, his hope--his sister's son,
his nephew Laurence." But how? how?
What had that terrible old man said I was like? A _strange snake_.
A snake? The idea wound itself about me like the very coils of a
serpent. What was this in the beaded bag of my buckskin dress? This
little thing rolled in tan that my mother had given me at parting
with the words, "Don't touch much, but some time maybe you want it!"
Oh! I knew well enough what it was--a small flint arrow-head dipped
in the venom of some _strange snake_.
I knelt beside him and laid my hot lips on his hand. I worshipped
him, oh, how, how I worshipped him! Then again the vision of _her_
baby face, _her_ yellow-hair--I scratched his wrist twice with the
arrow-tip. A single drop of red blood oozed up; he stirred. I turned
the lamp down and slipped out of the room--out of the house.
* * * * *
I dream nightly of the horrors of the white man's hell. Why did they
teach me of it, only to fling me into it?
Last night as I crouched beside my mother on the buffalo-hide, Dan
Henderson, the trapper, came in to smoke with my father. He said old
Father Paul was bowed with grief, that with my disappearance I was
suspected, but that there was no proof. Was it not merely a snake
They account for it by the fact that I am a Redskin.
They seem to have forgotten I am a woman.
The Legend of Lillooet Falls
No one could possibly mistake the quiet little tap at the door. It
could be given by no other hand west of the Rockies save that of my
old friend The Klootchman. I dropped a lap full of work and sprang
to open the door; for the slanting rains were chill outside, albeit
the December grass was green and the great masses of English ivy
clung wet and fresh as in summer about the low stone wall that ran
between my verandah and the street.
"Kla-how-ya, Tillicum," I greeted, dragging her into the warmth and
comfort of my "den," and relieving her of her inseparable basket,
and removing her rain-soaked shawl. Before she spoke she gave that
peculiar gesture common to the Indian woman from the Atlantic
to the Pacific. She lifted both hands and with each forefinger
smoothed gently along her forehead from the parting of her hair to
the temples. It is the universal habit of the red woman, and simply
means a desire for neatness in her front locks.
I busied myself immediately with the teakettle, for, like all her
kind, The Klootchman dearly loves her tea.
The old woman's eyes sparkled as she watched the welcome brewing,
while she chatted away in half English, half Chinook, telling me
of her doings in all these weeks that I had not seen her. But it
was when I handed her a huge old-fashioned breakfast cup fairly
brimming with tea as strong as lye that she really described her
She had been north to the Skeena River, south to the great "Fair"
at Seattle, but, best of all seemingly to her, was her trip into
the interior. She had been up the trail to Lillooet in the great
"Cariboo" country. It was my turn then to have sparkling eyes, for
I traversed that inexpressibly beautiful trail five years ago, and
the delight of that journey will remain with me for all time.
"And, oh! Tillicum," I cried, "have your good brown ears actually
listened to the call of the falls across the canyon--the Falls of
"My ears have heard them whisper, laugh, weep," she replied in
"Yes," I answered, "they do all those things. They have magic
voices--those dear, far-off falls!"
At the word "magic" her keen eyes snapped, she set her empty cup
aside and looked at me solemnly.
"Then you know the story--the strange tale?" she asked almost
I shook my head. This was always the crucial moment with my
Klootchman, when her voice lowers, and she asks if you know things.
You must be diplomatic, and never question her in turn. If you do
her lips will close in unbreakable silence.
"I have heard no story, but I have heard the Falls 'whisper, laugh
and weep.' That is enough for me," I said, with seeming
"What do you see when you look at them from across the canyon?" she
asked. "Do they look to you like anything else but falling water?"
I thought for a moment before replying. Memory seemed to hold up
against an indistinct photograph of towering fir-crested heights,
where through a broken ridge of rock a shower of silvery threads
cascaded musically down, down, down, until they lost themselves in
the mighty Fraser, that hurled itself through the yawning canyon
stretched at my feet. I have never seen such slender threads of
glowing tissue save on early morning cobwebs at sun-up.
"The Falls look like cobwebs," I said, as the memory touched me.
"Millions of fine misty cobwebs woven together."
"Then the legend must be true," she uttered, half to herself. I
slipped down on my treasured wolf-skin rug near her chair, and with
hands locked about my knees, sat in silence, knowing it was the one
and only way to lure her to speech. She arose, helped herself to
more tea, and with the toe of her beaded moccasin idly stroked one
of the wolf-skin paws. "Yes," she said, with some decision, "the
Indian men of magic say that the falls are cobwebs twisted and
I nodded, but made no comment; then her voice droned into the
broken English, that, much as I love it, I must leave to the
reader's imagination. "Indian mothers are strange," she began.
I nodded again.
"Yes, they are strange, and there is a strange tie between them
and their children. The men of magic say they can _see_ that tie,
though you and I cannot. It is thin, fine silvery as a cobweb, but
strong as the ropes of wild vine that swing down the great canyons.
No storm ever breaks those vines; the tempests that drag the giant
firs and cedars up by their roots, snap their branches and break
their boles, never break the creeping vines. They may be torn from
their strongholds, but in the young months of the summer the vine
will climb up, and cling again. _Nothing_ breaks it. So is the
cobweb tie the Men of Magic see between the Indian mother and her
"There was a time when no falls leapt and sang down the heights at
Lillooet, and in those days our men were very wild and warlike; but
the women were gentle and very beautiful, and they loved and lived
and bore children as women have done before, and since.
"But there was one, more gentle, more beautiful than all others of
the tribe. 'Be-be,' our people call her; it is the Chinook word for
'a kiss.' None of our people knew her real name; but it was a kiss
of hers that made this legend, so as 'Be-be' we speak of her.
"She was a mother-woman, but save for one beautiful girl-child, her
family of six were all boys, splendid, brave boys, too, but this
one treasured girl-child they called 'Morning-mist.' She was little
and frail and beautiful, like the clouds one sees at daybreak
circling about the mountain peaks. Her father and her brothers
loved her, but the heart of Be-be, her mother, seemed wrapped round
and about that misty-eyed child.
"'I love you,' the mother would say many times a day, as she caught
the girl-child in her arms. 'And I love you,' the girl-child would
answer, resting for a moment against the warm shoulder. 'Little
Flower,' the woman would murmur, 'thou art morning to me, thou art
golden mid-day, thou art slumbrous nightfall to my heart.'
"So these two loved and lived, mother and daughter, made for each
other, shaped into each other's lives as the moccasin is shaped to
"Then came that long, shadowed, sunless day, when Be-be, returning
from many hours of ollallie picking, her basket filled to the brim
with rich fruit, her heart reaching forth to her home even before
her swift feet could traverse the trail, found her husband and
her boys stunned with a dreadful fear, searching with wild eyes,
hurrying feet, and grief-wrung hearts for her little 'Morning-child,'
who had wandered into the forest while her brothers played--the
forest which was deep and dark and dangerous,--and had not returned."
The Klootchman's voice ceased. For a long moment she gazed straight
before her, then looking at me said:
"You have heard the Falls of Lillooet weep?" I nodded.
"It is the weeping of that Indian mother, sobbing through the
centuries, that you hear." She uttered the words with a cadence
of grief in her voice.
"Hours, nights, days, they searched for the morning-child," she
continued. "And each moment of that unending agony to the
mother-woman is repeated to-day in the call, the wail, the
everlasting sobbing of the falls. At night the wolves howled up
the canyon. 'God of my fathers, keep safe my Morning-child' the
mother would implore. In the glare of day eagles poised, and
vultures wheeled above the forest, their hungry claws, their
unblinking eyes, their beaks of greed shining in the sunlight.
'God of my fathers, keep safe my Morning-child' was again wrung
from the mother's lips. For one long moon, that dawned, and
shone and darkened, that mother's heart lived out its torture.
Then one pale daybreak a great fleet of canoes came down the
Frazer River. Those that paddled were of a strange tribe, they
spoke in a strange tongue, but their hearts were human, and their
skins were of the rich copper-color of the Upper Lillooet country.
As they steered downstream, running the rapids, braving the
whirlpools, they chanted, in monotone:
"'We have a lost child
A beautiful lost child.
We love this lost child,
But the heart of the child
Calls the mother of the child.
Come and claim this lost child.'
"The music of the chant was most beautiful, but no music in the
world of the white man's Tyee could equal that which rang through
the heart of Be-be, the Indian mother-woman.
"Heart upon heart, lips upon lips, the Morning-child and the
mother caught each other in embrace. The strange tribe told of how
they had found the girl-child wandering fearfully in the forest,
crouching from the claws of eagles, shrinking from the horror of
wolves, but the mother with her regained treasure in her arms
begged them to cease their tales. 'I have gone through agonies
enough, oh, my friends,' she cried aloud. 'Let me rest from torture
now.' Then her people came and made a great feast and potlatch for
this strange Upper Lillooet tribe, and at the feast Be-be arose,
and, lifting the girl-child to her shoulder, she commanded silence
"'O Sagalie Tyee (God of all the earth), You have given back to me
my treasure; take my tears, my sobs, my happy laughter, my joy--take
the cobweb chains that bind my Morning-child and me--make them
sing to others, that they may know my gratitude. O Sagalie Tyee,
make them sing.' As she spoke, she kissed the child. At that moment
the Falls of Lillooet came like a million strands, dashing and
gleaming down the canyon, sobbing, laughing, weeping, calling,
singing. You have listened to them."
The Klootchman's voice was still. Outside, the rains still slanted
gently, like a whispering echo of the far-away falls. "Thank you,
Tillicum of mine; it is a beautiful legend," I said. She did not
reply until, wrapped about in her shawl, she had clasped my hand
in good-bye. At the door she paused. "Yes," she said--"and it is
true." I smiled to myself. I love my Klootchman. She is so _very_
Her Majesty's Guest
[Author's Note.--The "Onondaga Jam" occurred late in the seventies,
and this tale is founded upon actual incidents in the life of the
author's father, who was Forest Warden on the Indian Reserve.]
I have never been a good man, but then I have never pretended to be
one, and perhaps that at least will count in my favor in the day
when the great dividends are declared.
I have been what is called "well brought up" and I would give some
years of my life to possess now the money spent on my education;
how I came to drop from what I should have been to what I am would
scarcely interest anyone--if indeed I were capable of detailing the
process, which I am not. I suppose I just rolled leisurely down
hill like many another fellow.
My friends, however, still credit me with one virtue; that is an
absolute respect for my neighbor's wife, a feeling which, however,
does not extend to his dollars. His money is mine if I can get it,
and to do myself justice I prefer getting it from him honestly, at
least without sufficient dishonesty to place me behind prison bars.
Some experience has taught me that when a man is reduced to getting
his living, as I do, by side issues and small deals, there is no
better locality for him to operate than around the borders of some
The pagan Indian is an unsuspicious fool. You can do him up right
and left. The Christian Indian is as sharp as a fox, and with a
little gloved handling he will always go in with you on a few lumber
and illicit whiskey deals, which means that you have the confidence
of his brethren and their dollars at the same time.
I had outwitted the law for six years. I had smuggled more liquor
into the Indian Bush on the Grand River Reserve and drawn more
timber out of it to the Hamilton and Brantford markets than any
forty dealers put together. Gradually, the law thinned the whole
lot out--all but me; but I was slippery as an eel and my bottles of
whiskey went on, and my loads of ties and timber came off, until
every officer and preacher in the place got up and demanded an
The Government at Ottawa awoke, stretched, yawned, then printed
some flaring posters and stuck them around the border villages. The
posters were headed by a big print of the British Coat of Arms,
and some large type beneath announced terrible fines and heavy
imprisonments for anyone caught hauling Indian timber off the
Reserve, or hauling whiskey on to it. Then the Government rubbed
its fat palms together, settled itself in its easy chair, and
I? Oh, I went on with my operations.
And at Christmas time Tom Barrett arrived on the scene. Not much of
an event, you'd say if you saw him, still less if you heard him.
According to himself, he knew everything and could do everything in
the known world; he was just twenty-two and as obnoxiously fresh a
thing as ever boasted itself before older men.
He was the old missionary's son and had come up from college at
Montreal to help his father preach salvation to the Indians on
Sundays, and to swagger around week-days in his brand new
clerical-cut coat and white tie.
He enjoyed what is called, I believe, "deacon's orders." They tell
me he was recently "priested," to use their straight English Church
term, and is now parson of a swell city church. Well! they can have
him. I'll never split on him, but I could tell them some things
about Tom Barrett that would soil his surplice--at least in my
opinion, but you never can be sure when even religious people will
make a hero out of a rogue.
The first time I ever saw him he came into "Jake's" one night,
quite late. We were knocked clean dumb. "Jake's" isn't the place
you would count on seeing a clerical-cut coat in.
It's not a thoroughly disreputable place, for Jake has a decent
enough Indian wife; but he happens also to have a cellar which has
a hard name for illicit-whiskey supplies, though never once has the
law, in its numerous and unannounced visits to the shanty, ever
succeeded in discovering barrel or bottle. I consider myself a
pretty smart man, but Jake is cleverer than I am.
When young Barrett came in that night, there was a clatter of hiding
cups. "Hello, boys," he said, and sat down wearily opposite me,
leaning his arms on the table between us like one utterly done out.
Jake, it seemed, had the distinction of knowing him; so he said
kind of friendly-like,
"Sick? Sick nothing," said Barrett, "except sick to death of this
place. And don't 'parson' me! I'm 'parson' on Sundays; the rest of
the six days I'm Tom Barrett--Tom, if you like."
We were dead silent. For myself, I thought the fellow clean
crazy; but the next moment he had turned half around, and with a
quick, soft, coaxing movement, for all the world like a woman, he
slipped his arm around Jake's shoulders, and said, "Say, Jake,
don't let the fellows mind me," Then in a lower tone--"What have
you got to drink?"
Jake went white-looking and began to talk of some cider he'd got in
the cellar; but Barrett interrupted with, "Look here, Jake, just
drop that rot; I know all about _you_." He tipped a half wink at
the rest of us, but laid his fingers across his lips. "Come, old
man," he wheedled like a girl, "you don't know what it is to be
dragged away from college and buried alive in this Indian bush. The
governor's good enough, you know--treats me white and all that--but
you know what he is on whiskey. I tell you I've got a throat as
long and dry as a fence rail--"
No one spoke.
"You'll save my life if you do," he added, crushing a bank note
into Jake's hand.
Jake looked at me. The same thought flashed on us both; if we could
get this church student on our side--Well! Things would be easy
enough and public suspicion never touch us. Jake turned,
resurrected the hidden cups, and went down cellar.
"You're Dan McLeod, aren't you?" suggested Barrett, leaning across
the table and looking sharply at me.
"That's me," I said in turn, and sized him up. I didn't like his
face; it was the undeniable face of a liar--small, uncertain eyes,
set together close like those of a fox, a thin nose, a narrow,
womanish chin that accorded with his girlish actions of coaxing,
and a mouth I didn't quite understand.
Jake had come up with the bottle, but before he could put it on the
table Barrett snatched it like a starving dog would a hunk of meat.
He peered at the label, squinting his foxy eyes, then laughed up at
"I hope you don't sell the Indians _this_," he said, tapping the
No, Jake never sold a drop of whiskey to Indians,--the law, you
know, was very strict and--
"Oh, I don't care whatever else you sell them," said Barrett, "but
their red throats would never appreciate fine twelve-year-old like
this. Come, boys."
"So you're Dan McLeod," he continued after the first long pull,
"I've heard about you, too. You've got a deck of cards in your
pocket--haven't you? Let's have a game."
I looked at him, and though, as I said in the beginning, I'm not a
good man, I felt honestly sorry for the old missionary and his wife
at that moment.
"It's no use," said the boy, reading my hesitation. "I've broken
loose. I must have a slice of the old college life, just for
I decided the half-cut of Indian blood on his mother's side was
showing itself; it was just enough to give Tom a good red flavoring
and a rare taste for gaming and liquor.
We played until daylight, when Barrett said he must make his sneak
home, and reaching for his wide-brimmed, soft felt preacher's hat,
left--having pocketed twenty-six of our good dollars, swallowed
unnumbered cups of twelve-year-old and won the combined respect of
everyone at Jake's.
The next Sunday Jake went to church out of curiosity. He said Tom
Barrett "officiated" in a surplice as white as snow and with a face
as sinless as your mother's. He preached most eloquently against
the terrible evil of the illicit liquor trade, and implored his
Indian flock to resist this greatest of all pitfalls. Jake even
seemed impressed as he told us.
But Tom Barrett's "breaking loose for once" was like any other
man's. Night after night saw him at Jake's, though he never
played to win after that first game. As the weeks went on, he got
anxious-looking; his clerical coat began to grow seedy, his white
ties uncared for; he lost his fresh, cheeky talk, and the climax
came late in March when one night I found him at Jake's sitting
alone, his face bowed down on the table above his folded arms, and
something so disheartened in his attitude that I felt sorry for
the boy. Perhaps it was that I was in trouble myself that day; my
biggest "deal" of the season had been scented by the officers and
the chances were they would come on and seize the five barrels
of whiskey I had been as many weeks smuggling into the Reserve.
However it was, I put my hand on his shoulder, and told him to
brace up, asking at the same time what was wrong.
"Money," he answered, looking up with kind of haggard eyes. "Dan, I
must have money. City bills, college debts--everything has rolled
up against me. I daren't tell the governor, and he couldn't help me
anyway, and I can't go back for another term owing every man in my
class." He looked suicidal. And then I made the plunge I'd been
thinking on all day.
"Would a hundred dollars be any good to you?" I eyed him hard as I
said it, and sat down in my usual place, opposite him.
"Good?" he exclaimed, half rising. "It would be an eternal
godsend." His foxy eyes glittered. I thought I detected greed in
them; perhaps it was only relief.
I told him it was his if he would only help me, and making sure we
were quite alone, I ran off a hurried account of my "deal," then
proposed that he should "accidentally" meet the officers near the
border, ring in with them as a parson would be likely to do, tell
them he suspicioned the whiskey was directly at the opposite side
of the Reserve to where I really had stored it, get them wild-goose
chasing miles away, and give me a chance to clear the stuff and
myself as well; in addition to the hundred I would give him twenty
per cent. on the entire deal. He changed color and the sweat stood
out on his forehead.
"One hundred dollars this time to-morrow night," I said. He didn't
move. "And twenty per cent. One hundred dollars this time to-morrow
night," I repeated.
He began to weaken. I lit my pipe and looked indifferent, though
I knew I was a lost man if he refused--and informed. Suddenly he
stretched his hand across the table, impulsively, and closed it
over mine. I knew I had him solid then.
"Dan," he choked up, "it's a terrible thing for a divinity student
to do; but--" his fingers tightened nervously. "I'm with you!" Then
in a moment, "Find some whiskey, Dan. I'm done up."
He soon got braced enough to ask me who was in the deal, and what
timber we expected to trade for. When I told him Lige Smith and
Jack Jackson were going to help me, he looked scared and asked me
if I thought they would split on him. He was so excited I thought
him cowardly, but the poor devil had reason enough, I supposed, to
want to keep the transaction from the ears of his father, or worse
still--the bishop. He seemed easier when I assured him the boys
were square, and immensely gratified at the news that I had already
traded six quarts of the stuff for over a hundred dollars' worth of
"We'll never get it across the river to the markets," he said
dolefully. "I came over this morning in a canoe. Ice is all out."
"What about the Onondaga Jam?" I said. He winked.
"That'll do. I'd forgotten it," he answered, and chirped up right
away like a kid.
But I hadn't forgotten the Jam. It had been a regular gold-mine to
me all that open winter, when the ice froze and thawed every week
and finally jammed itself clean to the river bottom in the throat
of the bend up at Onondaga, and the next day the thermometer fell
to eleven degrees below zero, freezing it into a solid block that
bridged the river for traffic, and saved my falling fortunes.
"And where's the whiskey hidden?" he asked after awhile.
"No you don't," I laughed. "Parson or pal, no man living knows or
will know where it is till he helps me haul it away. I'll trust
none of you."
"I'm not a thief," he pouted.
"No," I said, "but you're blasted hard up, and I don't intend to
place temptation in your way."
He laughed good-naturedly and turned the subject aside just as Lige
Smith and Jack Jackson came in with an unusual companion that put
a stop to all further talk. Women were never seen at night time
around Jake's; even his wife was invisible, and I got a sort of
shock when I saw old Cayuga Joe's girl, Elizabeth, following at the
boys' heels. It had been raining and the girl, a full blood Cayuga,
shivered in the damp and crouched beside the stove.
Tom Barrett started when he saw her. His color rose and he began to
mark up the table with his thumb nail. I could see he felt his fix.
The girl--Indian right through--showed no surprise at seeing him
there, but that did not mean she would keep her mouth shut about it
next day, Tom was undoubtedly _discovered_.
Notwithstanding her unwelcome presence, however, Jackson managed to
whisper to me that the Forest Warden and his officers were alive
and bound for the Reserve the following day. But it didn't worry me
worth a cent; I knew we were safe as a church with Tom Barrett's
clerical coat in our midst. He was coming over to our corner now.
"That hundred's right on the dead square, Dan?" he asked anxiously,
taking my arm and moving to the window.
I took a roll of bank notes from my trousers' pocket and with my
back to the gang counted out ten tens. I always carry a good wad
with me with a view to convenience if I have to make a hurried exit
from the scene of my operations.
He shook his head and stood away. "Not till I've earned it, McLeod."
What fools very young men make of themselves sometimes. The girl
arose, folding her damp shawl over her head, and made towards the
door; but he intercepted her, saying it was late and as their ways
lay in the same direction, he would take her home. She shot a quick
glance at him and went out. Some little uneasy action of his caught
my notice. In a second my suspicions were aroused; the meeting had
been arranged, and I knew from what I had seen him to be that the
girl was doomed.
It was all very well for me to do up Cayuga Joe--he was the Indian
whose hundred dollars' worth of cordwood I owned in lieu of
six quarts of bad whiskey--but his women-folks were entitled to be
respected at least while I was around. I looked at my watch; it was
past midnight. I suddenly got boiling hot clean through.
"Look here, Tom Barrett," I said, "I ain't a saint, as everybody
knows; but if you don't treat that girl right, you'll have to
square it up with me, d'you understand?"
He threw me a nasty look. "Keep your gallantry for some occasion
when it's needed, Dan McLeod," he sneered, and with a laugh I
didn't like, he followed the girl out into the rain.
I walked some distance behind them for two miles. When they reached
her father's house and went in, I watched her through the small
uncurtained window put something on the fire to cook, then arouse
her mother, who even at that late hour sat beside the stove smoking
a clay pipe. The old woman had apparently met with some accident;
her head and shoulders were bound up, and she seemed in pain.
Barrett talked with her considerably and once when I caught sight
of his face, it was devilish with some black passion I did not
recognize. Although I felt sure the girl was now all right for the
night, there was something about this meeting I didn't like; so I
lay around until just daylight when Jackson and Lige Smith came
through the bush as pre-arranged should I not return to Jake's.
It was not long before Elizabeth and Tom came out again and entered
a thick little bush behind the shanty. Lige lifted the axe off the
woodpile with a knowing look, and we all three followed silently.
I was surprised to find it a well beaten and equally well concealed
trail. All my suspicions returned. I knew now that Barrett was a
bad lot all round, and as soon as I had quit using him and his
coat, I made up my mind to rid my quarters of him; fortunately I
knew enough about him to use that knowledge as a whip-lash.
We followed them for something over a mile, when--heaven and hell!
The trail opened abruptly on the clearing where lay my recently
acquired cordwood with my five barrels of whiskey concealed in its
The girl strode forward, and with the strength of a man, pitched
down a dozen sticks with lightning speed.
"There!" she cried, turning to Tom. "There you find him--you find
him whiskey. You say you spill. No more my father he's drunk all
day, he beat my mother."
I stepped out.
"So, Tom Barrett," I said, "you've played the d----d sneak and
hunted it out!"
He fairly jumped at the sound of my voice; then he got white as
paper, and then--something came into his face that I never saw
before. It was a look like his father's, the old missionary.
"Yes, McLeod," he answered. "And I've hunted _you_ out. It's cost
me the loss of a whole term at college and a considerable amount of
self-respect, but I've got my finger on you now!"
The whole infernal trick burst right in on my intelligence. If I
had had a revolver, he would have been a dead man; but border
traders nowadays are not desperadoes with bowie knives and hip
"You surely don't mean to split on me?" I asked.
"I surely don't mean to do anything else," he cheeked back.
"Then, Tom Barrett," I sputtered, raging, "you're the dirtiest cad
and the foulest liar that ever drew the breath of life."
"I dare say I am," he said smoothly. Then with rising anger he
advanced, peering into my face with his foxy eyes. "And I'll tell
you right here, Dan McLeod, I'd be a hundred times a cad, and a
thousand times a liar to save the souls and bodies of our Indians
from going to hell, through your cursed whiskey."
I have always been a brave man, but I confess I felt childishly
scared before the wild, mesmeric power of his eyes. I was unable to
move a finger, but I blurted out boastfully: "If it wasn't for your
preacher's hat and coat I'd send your sneaking soul to Kingdom
Come, right here!"
Instantly he hauled off his coat and tie and stood with clenched
fists while his strange eyes fairly spat green fire.
"Now," he fumed, "I've discarded my cloth, Dan McLeod. You've got
to deal with a man now, not with a minister."
To save my immortal soul I can't tell why I couldn't stir. I only
know that everything seemed to drop out of sight except his two
little blazing eyes. I stood like a fool, queered, dead queered
He turned politely to the girl. "You may go, Elizabeth," he said,
"and thank you for your assistance." The girl turned and went up
the trail without a word.
With the agility of a cat he sprang on to the wood-pile, pitched
off enough cordwood to expose my entire "cellar;" then going across
to Lige, he coolly took the axe out of his hand. His face was
white and set, but his voice was natural enough as he said:
"Now, gentlemen, whoever cares to interrupt me will get the blade
of this axe buried in his brain, as heaven is my witness."
I didn't even curse as he split the five barrels into slivers and
my well-fought-for whiskey soaked into the slush. Once he lifted
his head and looked at me, and the mouth I didn't understand
revealed itself; there was something about it like a young
I never hated a man in my life as I hated Tom Barrett then. That
I daren't resist him made it worse. I watched him finish his caddish
job, throw down the axe, take his coat over his arm, and leave the
clearing without a word.
But no sooner was he out of sight than my devilish temper broke
out, and I cursed and blasphemed for half an hour. I'd have his
blood if it cost my neck a rope, and that too before he could inform
on us. The boys were with me, of course, poor sort of dogs with no
grit of their own, and with the axe as my only weapon we left the
bush and ran towards the river.
I fairly yelled at my good luck as I reached the high bank. There,
a few rods down shore, beside the open water sat Tom Barrett,
calling something out to his folks across the river, and from
upstream came the deafening thunder of the Onondaga Jam that,
loosened by the rain, was shouldering its terrific force downwards
with the strength of a million drunken demons.
We had him like a rat in a trap, but his foxy eyes had seen us. He
sprang to his feet, hesitated for a fraction of a moment, saw the
murder in our faces, then did what any man but a fool would have
We were hot on his heels. Fifty yards distant an old dug-out lay
hauled up. He ran it down into the water, stared wildly at the
oncoming jam, then at us, sprang into the canoe and grabbed the
I was murderously mad. I wheeled the axe above my shoulder and let
fly at him. It missed his head by three inches.
He was paddling for dear life now, and, our last chance gone, we
stood riveted to the spot, watching him. On the bluff across the
river stood his half-blood mother, the raw March wind whipping her
skirts about her knees; but her strained, ashen face showed she
never felt its chill. Below with his feet almost in the rapidly
rising water, stood the old missionary, his scant grey hair blowing
across his eyes that seemed to look out into eternity--amid stream
Tom, paddling with the desperation of death, his head turning every
second with the alertness of an animal to gauge the approaching
Even I wished him life then. Twice I thought him caught in the
crush, but he was out of it like an arrow, and in another moment he
had leapt ashore while above the roar of the grinding jam I heard
him cry out with a strange exultation:
"Father, I've succeeded. I have had to be a scoundrel and a cad,
but I've trapped them at last!"
He staggered forward then, sobbing like a child, and the old man's
arms closed round him, just as two heavy jaws of ice snatched the
dug-out, hurled it off shore and splintered it to atoms.
Well! I had made a bad blunder, which I attempted to rectify by
reaching Buffalo that night; but Tom Barrett had won the game. I
was arrested at Fort Erie, handcuffed, jailed, tried, convicted
of attempted assault and illicit whiskey-trading on the Grand
River Indian Reserve--and spent the next five years in Kingston
Penitentiary, the guest of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen
Mother o' the Men
A Story of the Canadian North-West Mounted Police
The commander's wife stood on the deck of the "North Star" looking
at the receding city of Vancouver as if to photograph within her
eyes and heart every detail of its wonderful beauty--its
clustering, sisterly houses, its holly hedges, its ivied walls, its
emerald lawns, its teeming streets and towering spires. She seemed
to realize that this was the end of the civilized trail; that
henceforth, for many years, her sight would know only the unbroken
line of icy ridge and sky of the northernmost outposts of the great
Dominion. To her hand clung a little boy of ten, and about her
hovered some twenty young fellows, gay in the scarlet tunics, the
flashing buffalo-head buttons, that bespoke the soldierly uniform
of the Canadian North-West Mounted Police. They were the first
detachment bound for the Yukon, and were under her husband's
She was the only woman in the "company." The major had purposely
selected unmarried men for his staff, for in the early nineties the
Arctic was no place for a woman. But when the Government at Ottawa
saw fit to commission Major Lysle to face the frozen North, and
with a handful of men build and garrison a fort at the rim of the
Polar Seas, Mrs. Lysle quietly remarked, "I shall accompany you, so
shall the boy," and the major blessed her in his heart, for had she
not so decided, it would mean absolute separation from wife and
child for from three to five years, as in those days no railways,
no telegraph lines, stretched their pulsing fingers into the
Klondyke. One mail went in, one mail came out, each year--that was
"It's good-bye, Graham lad," said one of the scarlet-coated
soldiers, tossing the little boy to his back. "Look your longest
at those paved streets, and the green, green things. There'll be
months of just snow away up there," and he nodded towards the
"Oh, but father says it won't be lonely at all up there," asserted
the child. "He says I'll grow _terribly_ big in a few years; that
people always grow in the North, and maybe I'll soon be able to
wear buffalo buttons and have stripes on my sleeve like you;" and
the childish fingers traced the outline of the sergeant's chevrons.
"I hope, dear, that you shall do all that, soon," said Mrs. Lysle;
"but first you must _win_ those stripes, my boy, and if you win them
as the sergeant did, mother shall be very proud of you."
At which, the said sergeant hastily set the boy down, and, with
confusion written all over his strong young face, made some excuse
to disappear, for no man in the world is as shy or modest about his
deeds of valor as is a North-West "Mounted."
"Won't you tell me, mother, how Sergeant Black got those stripes on
his sleeve?" begged the boy.
"Perhaps to-night, son, when you are in bed--just before mother
says good-night--we'll see. But look! there is the city, fading,
fading." Then after a short silence: "There, Graham, it has gone."
"But isn't that it 'way over there, mother?" persisted the boy. "I
see the sun shining on the roofs."
Mrs. Lysle shook her head. "No, dearie; that is the snow on the
mountain peaks. The city has--gone."
But far into the twilight she yet stood watching the purple sea,
the dove-gray coast. Her world was with her--the man she had chosen
for her life partner, and the little boy that belonged to them
both--but there are times even in the life of a wife and mother
when her soul rebels at cutting herself off from her womenkind, and
all that environment of social life among women means, even if the
act itself is voluntary on her part. It was a relief, then, from
her rather sombre musing at the ship's rail, when the major lightly
placed both hands on her shoulders and said, "Grahamie has toddled
off to the stateroom. The sea air is weighting down his eyelids."
"Sea air?" laughed Mrs. Lysle. "Don't you believe it, Horace. The
young monkey had been just scampering about the deck with the men
until his little legs are tired out. I'm half afraid our 'Mounted'
boys bid fair to spoil him. I'll go to him, for I promised him a
"Which you would rather perish than not tell him, if you promised,"
smiled the major. "You govern that boy the same way I do my men,
"It's the only way to govern boys or soldiers," she laughed back
from the head of the companionway. "Then both boy and soldier will
keep their promises to you."
The Major watched her go below, then said to himself, "She's
right--she's always right. She was right to come north, and bring
him, too. But I am a coward, for I daren't tell her she'll have to
part from him, or from me, some day. He will have to be sent to the
front again; he can't grow up unlearned, untaught, and there are no
schools in our Arctic world, and she must go with him, or stay with
me; but I can't tell her. Yes, I'm a coward." But Major Lysle was
the only person in all the world who would have thought or said so.
"And will you tell me how Sergeant Black won his stripes, mother,
before I go to sleep?" begged Graham.
"Yes, little 'North-West,'" she replied, using the pet name the men
in barracks frequently called the child. "It's just a wee story of
one man fighting it out alone--just alone, single-handed--with no
reinforcements but his own courage, his own self-reliance."
"That's just what father says, isn't it, mother, to just do things
yourself?" asked the boy.
"That's it, dear, and that is what Sergeant Black did. He was only
corporal then, and he was dispatched from headquarters to arrest
some desperate horse thieves who were trying to drive a magnificent
bunch of animals across the boundary line into the United States,
and then sell them. These men were breaking two laws. They had not
only stolen the horses, but were trying to evade the American
Customs. Your father always called them 'The Rapparees,' for they
were Irish, and fighters, and known from the Red River to the
Rockies as plunderers and desperadoes. There was some trouble to
the north at the same time; barracks was pretty well thinned; not
a man could be spared to help him. But when Corporal Black got his
instructions and listened to the commanding officer say, 'If that
detachment returns from the Qu'Appelle Valley within twenty-four
hours, I'll order them out to assist you, corporal,' the plucky
little soldier just stood erect, clicked his heels together,
saluted, and replied, 'I can do it alone, sir.'
"'I notice you don't say you _think_ you can do it alone,' remarked
the officer dryly. He was a lenient man and often conversed with
"'It is not my place to _think_, sir. I've just got to _do_,'
replied the corporal, and saluting again he was gone.
"All that night he galloped up the prairie trail on the track of
the thieves, and just before daybreak he sighted them, entrenched
in a coulee, where their campfires made no glow, and the neighing
horses could not be heard. There were six men all told, busying
themselves getting breakfast and staking the animals preparatory to
hiding through the day hours, and getting across the boundary line
the next night. Both men and beasts were wearied with the long
journey, but Corporal Black is the sort of man that _never_ wearies
in either brain or body. He never hesitated a second. Jerking his
rat-skin cap down, covering his face as much as possible, he rode
silently around to the south of the encampment, clutched a revolver
in each hand, and rode within earshot, then said four words:
"'Stand, or I fire!' If a cyclone had swooped down on them, the
thieves could not have been more astounded. But they stood, and
stood yards away from their own guns. Then they demanded to know
who he was, for of course they thought him a thief like themselves,
probably following them to capture their spoil. Then Corporal Black
unbuttoned his great-coat and flung it wide open, displaying the
brilliant scarlet tunic of our own dear Mounted Police. They needed
no other reply. At the point of his revolver he ordered them to
unstake the horses. Then not one man was allowed to mount, but,
breakfastless and frenzied, they were compelled to walk before him,
driving the stolen animals ahead, mile upon mile, league after
"Father says it was a strange-looking procession that trudged into
barracks. Twenty beautiful, spirited horses, six hangdog-looking
thieves, with a single exhausted horse in the rear, on which was
mounted an alert, keen-eyed and very hungry young soldier who wore
a scarlet tunic and buffalo-head buttons. The next day Corporal
Black had another stripe on his sleeve." [The foregoing story is an
actual occurrence. The author had the honor of knowing personally
the North-West Mounted Policeman who achieved his rank through this
Her voice ceased, and she looked down at her son. The child lay for
a moment, wide-eyed and tense. Then some indescribable quality
seemed to make him momentarily too large, too tall, for the narrow
ship's berth. Then:
"And he fought it out _alone_, mother, just alone--single-handed?"
"Yes, Grahamie," she said, softly.
"Fought alone!" he said almost to himself. Then aloud: "Thank you,
mother, for telling me that story. Perhaps some day I'll have to
fight it out alone, and when I do, I'll try to remember Sergeant
Black. Good-night, mother."
"Good-night, my boy."
* * * * *
The long, long winter was doing its worst, and that was unspeakable
in its dreariness and its misery. The "Fort" was just about
completed before things froze up--narrow, small quarters
constructed of rough logs, surrounded by a stockade--but above its
roof the Union Jack floated, and beneath it flashed the scarlet
tunics, the buffalo-head buttons, the clanking spurs of as brave
a band of men, "queened over" by as courageous a woman, as ever
Gibraltar or the Throne Room knew.
As time went on the major's wife began to find herself "Mother o'
the Men" (as an old Klondyker named her), as well as of her own
boy. Those blizzard-blown, snow-hardened, ice-toughened soldiers
went to her for everything--sympathy, assistance, advice--for in
that lonely outpost military lines were less strictly drawn, and
she could oftentimes do for the men what would be considered
amazingly unofficial, were those little humane kindnesses done in
barracks at Regina or Macleod or Calgary. She nursed the men
through every illness, preparing the food herself for the invalids.
She attended to many a frozen face and foot and finger. She
smoothed out their differences, inspirited them when they grew
discouraged, talked to them of their own people, so that their
home ties should not be entirely severed because they could write
letters or receive them but once a year. But there were days when
the sight of a woman's face would have been a glimpse of paradise
to her, days when she almost wildly regretted her boy had not been
a girl--just a little sweet-voiced girl, a thing of her own sex and
kind. But it always seemed at these moments that Grahamie would
providentially rush in to her with some glad story of sport or
adventure, and she would snatch him tightly in her arms and say,
"No, no, boy of mine, I don't want even a girlie, if I may only
keep you." And once when her thoughts had been more than usually
traitorous in wishing he had been a girl, the child seemed to
divine some idea of her struggle; for a moment his firm little
fingers caught her hand encouragingly, and he said in a whisper,
"Are you fighting it out alone, mother--just single-handed?"
"Just single-handed, dearest," she replied.
Then he scampered away, but paused to call back gravely, "Remember
Sergeant Black, mother."
"Yes, Grahamie, I'll try to," she replied brightly. At that moment
he was the lesser child of the two.
And so the winter crept slowly on, and the brief, brilliant summer
flitted in, then out, like a golden dream. The second snows were
upon the little fort, the second Christmas, the second long, long
weeks and months of the new year. An unspoken horror was staring
them all in the face: navigation did not open when expected, and
supplies were running low, pitifully low. The smoked and dried
meats, the canned things, flour, sealed lard, oatmeal, hard-tack,
dried fruits--_everything_ was slowly but inevitably giving out day
upon day. Before and behind them stretched hummocks of trailless
snow. Not an Indian, not a dog train, not even a wild animal, had
set foot in that waste for weeks. In early March the major's wife
had hidden a single package of gelatine, a single tin of dried
beef, and a single half pound of cornstarch. "If sickness comes
to my boys" (she did not say boy), "I shall at least have saved
these," she told herself, in justification of her act. "A sick man
cannot live on beans." But now they were down to beans--just beans
and lard boiled together. Then a day dawned when there was not even
a spoonful of lard left. "Beans straight!"--it was the death knell,
for beans straight--beans without grease--kill the strongest man in
a brief span of days. Oh, that the ice bridges would melt, the seas
open, the ships come!
But that night the men at mess had beans with unlimited grease, its
peculiar flavor peppered and spiced out of it. Life, life was to be
theirs even yet! What had renewed it?
But one of the men had caught something on his fork and extracted
it from the food on his plate. It was an overlooked _wick_. The
major's wife had begun to boil up the tallow candles. [Fact.] But
the cheer that shook that rough log roof came right from hearts
that blessed her, and brought her to the door of the men's
mess-room. The men were on their feet instantly. "A light has
broken upon us, or rather _within_ us, Mrs. Lysle!" cried a
"Illuminating, isn't it, boys?" She laughed, then turned away, for
the cheers and tears were very close together.
Then one day when even starving stomachs almost revolted at the
continued coarse mixture, a ribbon of blue proclaimed the open sea,
and into those waters swept the longed-for ship. Yet, strangely
enough, that night the "Mother o' the Men" wept a storm of tears,
the only tears she had yielded to in those long five years. For
with its blessing of food the ship had her hold bursting with
liquors and wines, the hideous commerce that invades the pioneer
places of the earth. Should the already weakened, ill-fed and
scurvy-threatened garrison break into those supplies, all the labor
and patience and mothering of this courageous woman would be
useless, for after a bean diet in the Northern latitudes, whiskey
is deadly to brain and body, and the victim maddens or dies.
"You are crying, mother, and the ship here at last!" said Grahamie's
voice at her shoulder. "Crying when we are all so happy."
"Mother is a little upset, dear. You must try to forget you ever
saw her eyes wet."
"I'll forget," said the boy with a finality she could not question.
"The ship is so full of good things, mother. We'll think of that,
and--forget, won't we?" he added.
"_All_ the things in the ship are not good, Grahamie, boy. If they
were, mother would not cry," she said.
"I see," he said, but stole from her side with a strained, puzzled
look in his young eyes.
Outside he was met by a laughing, joyous dozen of men. One swung
the child to his shoulder, shouting, "Hurrah, little 'North-West'!
Hurrah! we are all coming to pay tribute to your mother. Look at
the dainties we have got for her from the ship!"
"I'm afraid you can't see mother just now," said the boy. "Mother
is a little upset. You see, the ship is so full of good things--but
then, _all_ the things in the ship are not good. If they were,
mother would not cry." In the last words he unconsciously imitated
his mother's voice.
A profound silence enveloped the men. Then one spoke. "She'll never
have cause to cry about anything _I_ do, boys."
"Nor I!" "Nor I!" "Nor I!" rang out voice after voice.
"Run back, you blessed little 'North-West,' and tell mother not to
be scared for the boys. We'll stand by her to a man. She'll never
regret that ship's coming in," said the gallant soldier, slipping
the boy to the ground. And to the credit of the men who wore
buffalo-head buttons, she never did.
And in all her Yukon years the major's wife had but one more
heartache. That agonizing winter had taught her many things, but
the bitterest knowledge to come to her was the fact that her boy
must be sent "to the front." To be sure, he was growing up the pet
of all the police; he was becoming manlier, sturdier, more
self-reliant every day. But education he _must_ have, and another
winter of such deprivation and horror he was too young, too tender,
to endure. It was then that the battle arose in her heart. The boy
was to be sent to college. Was it her place to accompany him to the
distant South-east, to live by herself alone in the college town,
just to be near him and watch over his young life, or was it here
with her pioneer soldier husband, and his little isolated garrison
of "boys" whom she had mothered for two years?
The inevitable day came when she had to shut her teeth and watch
Grahamie go aboard the southward-bound vessel alone, in the care of
a policeman who was returning on sick leave--to watch him stand at
the rail, his little face growing dimmer and more shadowy as the
sea widened between them--watch him through tearless, courageous
eyes, then turn away with the hopelessness of knowing that for one
entire endless year she must wait for word of his arrival. [Fact.]
But his last brave good-bye words rang through her ears every day
of that eternal year: "We'll remember Sergeant Black, won't we,
mother? And we'll each fight it out alone, single-handed, and maybe
they'll give us a chevron for our sleeves when it's over."
But that night when the barracks was wrapped in gloom over the
loss of its boy chum, the surgeon appeared in the men's quarters.
"Hello, boys!" he said, none too cheerfully. "Dull doings, I say.
I'm busy enough, though, keeping an eye on Madam, the major's lady.
She's so deadly quiet, so self-controlled, I'm just a little afraid.
I wish something would happen to--well, make her less calm."
"_I'll_ 'happen,' doctor," chirped up a genial-looking young chap
named O'Keefe. "I'll get sick and threaten to die. You say it's
serious; she'll be all interest and medicine spoons, and making me
jelly inside an hour."
The surgeon eyed him sternly, then: "O'Keefe," he said, "you're the
cleverest man I ever came across in the force, and I've been in it
eleven years. But, man alive! what have you been doing to yourself?
Overwork, no food--why, man, you're sick; look as if you had fever
and a touch of pneumonia. You're a very sick man. Go to bed at
once--at once, I say!"
O'Keefe looked the surgeon in the eye, winked meaningly, and
O'Keefe turned in, although it was but early afternoon. At six
o'clock an orderly stood at the door of the major's quarters. Mrs.
Lysle was standing on the steps, her eyes fixed on the far horizon
across which a ship had melted away.
"Beg pardon, madam," said the orderly, saluting, "but young O'Keefe
is very ill. We have had the surgeon, but the--the--pain's getting
worse. He's just yelling with agony."
"I'll go at once, orderly. I should have been told before," she
replied; and burying her own heartache, she hurried to the men's
quarters. Her anxious eyes sought the surgeon's. "Oh, doctor!" she
said, "this poor fellow must be looked after. What can I do to
"Everything, Mrs. Lysle," gruffed the surgeon with a professional
air. "He is very ill. He must be kept wrapped in hot linseed
"Oh, I say, doctor," remonstrated poor O'Keefe, "I'm not that bad."
"You're a very sick man," scowled the surgeon. "Now, Mrs. Lysle has
graciously offered to help nurse you. She'll see that you have hot
fomentations every half hour. I'll drop in twice a day to see how
you are getting along." And with that miserable prospect before
him, poor O'Keefe watched the surgeon disappear.
"I simply _had_ to order those half-hour fomentations, old man,"
apologized the surgeon that night. "You see, she must be kept
busy--just kept at it every minute we can make her do so. Do you
think you can stand it?"
"Of course I can," fumed the victim. "But for goodness' sake, don't
put me on sick rations! I'll die, sure, if you do."
"I've ordered you the best the commissariat boasts--heaps of meat,
butter, even eggs, my boy. Think of it--_eggs_--you lucky young
Turk!" laughed the surgeon.
Then followed nights and days of torture. The "boys" would line up
to the "sick-room" four times daily, and blandly ask how he was.
"How _am_ I?" young O'Keefe would bellow. "How _am_ I? I'm well and
strong enough to brain every one of you fellows, surgeon included,
when I get out of this!"
"But when _are_ you going to get out? When will you be out danger?"
they would chuckle.
"Just when I see that haunted look go out of her eyes, and not till
then!" he would roar.
And he kept his word. He was really weak when he got up, and
pretended to be weaker, but the lines of acute self-control had
left Mrs. Lysle's face, the suffering had gone from her eyes, the
day the noble O'Keefe took his first solid meal in her presence.
Even the major never discovered that worthy bit of deception. But
a year later, when the mail went out, the surgeon sent the entire
story to Graham, who, in writing to his mother the following year,
perplexed her by saying:
"....But there are three men in the force I love better than
anyone in the world except you, mother. The first, of course, is
father, the others, Sergeant Black and Private O'Keefe."
"Why O'Keefe?" she asked herself.
But loyal little "North-West" never told her.
The Nest Builder
"Well! if some women aren't born just to laugh!" remarked the
station agent's wife. "Have you seen that round-faced woman in the
"No," replied the agent. "I've been too busy; I've had to help
unload freight. I heard some children in there, though; they were
playing and laughing to beat the band."
"_Nine_ of them, John! _Nine_ of them, and the oldest just twelve!"
gasped his wife. "Why, I'd be crazy if I were in her place.
She's come all the way from Grey or Bruce in Ontario--I forget
which--with not a soul to help her with that flock. Three of them
are almost babies. The smallest one is a darling--just sits on the
bench in there and dimples and gurgles and grins all the time."
"Hasn't she got a husband?" asked John.
"Of course," asserted his wife. "But that's just the problem now,
or rather he's the problem. He came to Manitoba a year ago, and
was working right here in this town. He doesn't seem to have had
much luck, and left last week for some ranch away back of Brandon,
she now finds out; she must have crossed his letter as she came
out. She expected to find him here, and now she is in that
waiting-room with nine children, no money to go further, or to
go to a hotel even, and she's--well, she's just good-natured and
smiling, and not a bit worried. As I say, some women are born just
"Have they anything to eat?" asked the agent, anxiously.
"Stacks of it--a huge hamper. But I took the children what milk we
had, and made her take a cup of good hot tea. She _would_ pay me,
however, I couldn't stop her. But I noticed she has mighty little
change in her purse, and she said she had no money, and said it
with a round, untroubled, smiling face." The agent's wife spoke
the last words almost with envy.
"I'll try and locate the husband," said the agent.
"Yes, she'll get his address to-night, she says," explained the
wife; "but no one knows when he will get here. Most likely he's
twenty miles away from Brandon, and they will have to send out
Which eventually proved to be the case; and three days elapsed
before the husband and father was able to reach the little border
town where his wife and ample family had been installed as
residents of the general waiting-room of a small, scantily-equipped
station. No beds, no washing conveniences, no table, no chairs;
just the wall seats, with a roof above them and the pump water
at the end of the platform to drink from and dabble in. The
distressed man arrived, harrassed and anxious, only to be met by a
round-faced, laughing wife and nine round-faced, laughing children,
who all made sport of their "camping" experience, and assured him
they could have "stood it" a little longer, if need be.
But they slept in beds that night--glorious, feathery beds,
that were in reality but solid hemp mattresses--in the cheapest
lodging-house in town.
Then began the home-building. Henderson had secured a quarter
section of land and made two payments on it when his wife and
children arrived, with all their "settlers' effects" in a freight
car, which, truth to tell, were meagre enough. They had never
really owned a home in the East, and when, with saving and selling,
she managed to follow her husband into the promising world of
Manitoba, she determined to possess a home, no matter how crude,
how small, how remote. So Henderson hired horses and "teamed" out
sufficient lumber and tar-paper to erect a shack which measured
exactly eighteen by twelve feet, then sodded the roof in true
Manitoba style, and into this cramped abode Mrs. Henderson stowed
her household goods and nine small children. With the stove, table,
chairs, tubs and trunks, there was room for but one bed to be
put up. Poor, unresourceful Henderson surveyed the crowded shack
helplessly, but that round-faced, smiling wife of his was not a
particle discouraged. "We'll just build in two sets of bunks, on
each end of the house," she laughed. "The children won't mind
sleeping on 'shelves,' for the bread-winners must have the bed."
So they economized space with a dozen such little plans, and all
through the unpacking and settling and arranging, she would say
every hour or two, "Oh, it's a little crowded and stuffy, but it's
_ours_--it's _home_," until Henderson and the children caught
something of her inspiration, and the sod-roof shack became "home"
in the sweetest sense of the word.
There are some people who "make" time for everything, and this
remarkable mother was one. That winter she baked bread for every
English bachelor ranchman within ten miles. She did their washing
and ironing, and never neglected her own, either. She knitted socks
for them, and made and sold quantities of Saskatoon berry jam. When
spring came she had over fifty dollars of her own, with which she
promptly bought a cow. Then late in March they made a small first
payment of a team of horses, and "broke land" for the first time,
plowing and seeding a few acres of virgin prairie and getting a
But her quaintest invention to utilize every resource possible was
a novel scheme for chicken-raising. One morning the children came
in greatly excited over finding a wild duck's nest in the nearby
"slough." Mrs. Henderson told them to be very careful not to
frighten the bird, but to go back and search every foot of the
grassy edges and try to discover other nests. They succeeded in
finding three. That day a neighboring English rancher, driving past
on his way to Brandon, twenty miles distant, called out, "Want
anything from town, Mrs. Henderson?"
"Eggs, just eggs, if you will bring them, like a good boy," she
answered, running out to the trail to meet him.
"Why, you _are_ luxurious to-day, and eggs at fifty cents a dozen,"
"Never mind," she replied, "they're not nearly so luxurious as
chickens. You just bring me a dozen and a half. Pay _any_ price,
but be sure they are fresh, new laid, right off the nest. Now just
insist on that, or we shall quarrel." And with a menacing shake of
a forefinger and a customary laugh, she handed him a precious bank
note to pay for the treasures.
The next day Mrs. Henderson adroitly substituted hen's eggs for the
wild ducks' own, and the shy, pretty water fowls, returning from
their morning's swim, never discovered the fraud. [Fact.]
"Six eggs under three sitters--eighteen chicks, if we're lucky
enough to have secured fertile eggs," mused Mrs. Henderson. "Oh,
well, we'll see." And they _did_ see. They saw exactly eighteen
fluffy, peeping chicks, whose timid little mothers could not
understand why their broods disappeared one by one from the long,
wet grasses surrounding the nest. But in a warm canton flannel
lined basket near the Henderson's stove the young arrivals chirped
and picked at warm meal as sturdily as if hatched in a coop by a
commonplace barnyard "Biddy." And every one of those chicks lived
and grew and fattened into a splendid flock, and the following
spring they began sitting on their own eggs. But the good-hearted
woman, in relating the story, would always say that she felt like
a thief and a robber whenever she thought of that shy, harmless
little wild duck who never had the satisfaction of seeing her brood
swim in the "slough."
All this happened more than twenty years ago, yet when I met Mrs.
Henderson last autumn, as she was journeying to Prince Albert to
visit a married daughter, her wonderfully youthful face was as
round and smiling as if she had never battled through the years
in a hand-to-hand fight to secure a home in the pioneer days
of Manitoba. She is well off now, and lives no more in the
twelve-by-eighteen-foot bunk-house, but when I asked her how she
accomplished so much, she replied, "I just jollied things along,
and laughed over the hard places. It makes them easier then."
So perhaps the station agent's wife was really right, after all,
when she remarked that "some women were just born to laugh."
The Tenas Klootchman
[In Chinook language "Tenas Klootchman" means "girl baby."]
This story came to me from the lips of Maarda herself. It was hard
to realize, while looking at her placid and happy face, that Maarda
had ever been a mother of sorrows, but the healing of a wounded
heart oftentimes leaves a light like that of a benediction on a
receptive face, and Maarda's countenance held something greater
than beauty, something more like lovableness, than any other
We sat together on the deck of the little steamer throughout the
long violet twilight, that seems loath to leave the channels and
rocky of the Upper Pacific in June time. We had dropped easily
into conversation, for nothing so readily helps one to an
introduction as does the friendly atmosphere of the extreme West,
and I had paved the way by greeting her in the Chinook, to which
she responded with a sincere and friendly handclasp.
Dinner on the small coast-wise steamers is almost a function. It is
the turning-point of the day, and is served English fashion, in
the evening. The passengers "dress" a little for it, eat the meal
leisurely and with relish. People who perhaps have exchanged no
conversation during the day, now relax, and fraternize with their
fellow men and women.
I purposely secured a seat at the dining-table beside Maarda.
Even she had gone through a simple "dressing" for dinner, having
smoothed her satiny black hair, knotted a brilliant silk
handkerchief about her throat, and laid aside her large, heavy
plaid shawl, revealing a fine delaine gown of green, bordered with
two flat rows of black silk velvet ribbon. That silk velvet ribbon,
and the fashion in which it was applied, would have bespoken her
nationality, even had her dark copper-colored face failed to do so.
The average Indian woman adores silk and velvet, and will have none
of cotton, and these decorations must be in symmetrical rows, not
designs. She holds that the fabric is in itself excellent enough.
Why twist it and cut it into figures that would only make it less
We chatted a little during dinner. Maarda told me that she and her
husband lived at the Squamish River, some thirty-five miles north
of Vancouver City, but when I asked if they had any children, she
did not reply, but almost instantly called my attention to a
passing vessel seen through the porthole. I took the hint, and
said no more of family matters, but talked of the fishing and the
prospects of a good sockeye run this season.
Afterwards, however, while I stood alone on deck watching the sun
set over the rim of the Pacific, I felt a feathery touch on my arm.
I turned to see Maarda, once more enveloped in her shawl, and
holding two deck stools. She beckoned with a quick uplift of her
chin, and said, "We'll sit together here, with no one about us, and
I'll tell you of the child." And this was her story:
She was the most beautiful little Tenas Klootchman a mother could
wish for, bright, laughing, pretty as a spring flower, but--just as
frail. Such tiny hands, such buds of feet! One felt that they must
never take her out of her cradle basket for fear that, like a
flower stem, she would snap asunder and her little head droop like
But Maarda's skilful fingers had woven and plaited and colored the
daintiest cradle basket in the entire river district for his little
woodland daughter. She had fished long and late with her husband,
so that the canner's money would purchase silk "blankets" to enwrap
her treasure; she had beaded cradle bands to strap the wee body
securely in its cosy resting-nest. Ah, it was such a basket, fit
for an English princess to sleep in! Everything about it was fine,
soft, delicate, and everything born of her mother-love.
So, for weeks, for even months, the little Tenas Klootchman laughed
and smiled, waked and slept, dreamed and dimpled in her pretty
playhouse. Then one day, in the hot, dry summer, there was no
smile. The dimples did not play. The little flower paled, the small
face grew smaller, the tiny hands tinier; and one morning, when the
birds awoke in the forests of the Squamish, the eyes of the little
Tenas Klootchman remained closed.
They put her to sleep under the giant cedars, the lulling, singing
firs, the whispering pines that must now be her lullaby, instead of
her mother's voice crooning the child-songs of the Pacific, that
tell of baby foxes and gamboling baby wolves and bright-eyed baby
birds. Nothing remained to Maarda but an empty little cradle
basket, but smoothly-folded silken "blankets," but disused beaded
bands. Often at nightfall she would stand alone, and watch the sun
dip into the far waters, leaving the world as gray and colorless
as her own life; she would outstretch her arms--pitifully empty
arms--towards the west, and beneath her voice again croon the
lullabies of the Pacific, telling of the baby foxes, the soft,
furry baby wolves, and the little downy fledglings in the nests.
Once in an agony of loneliness she sang these things aloud, but her
husband heard her, and his face turned gray and drawn, and her soul
told her she must not be heard again singing these things aloud.
And one evening a little steamer came into harbor. Many Indians
came ashore from it, as the fishing season had begun. Among others
was a young woman over whose face the finger of illness had traced
shadows and lines of suffering. In her arms she held a baby, a
beautiful, chubby, round-faced, healthy child that seemed too heavy
for her wasted form to support. She looked about her wistfully,
evidently seeking a face that was not there, and as the steamer
pulled out of the harbor, she sat down weakly on the wharf, laid
the child across her lap, and buried her face in her hands. Maarda
touched her shoulder.
"Who do you look for?" she asked.
"For my brother Luke 'Alaska,'" replied the woman. "I am ill, my
husband is dead, my brother will take care of me; he's a good man."
"Luke 'Alaska,'" said Maarda. What had she heard of Luke "Alaska?"
Why, of course, he was one of the men her own husband had taken a
hundred miles up the coast as axeman on a surveying party, but she
dared not tell this sick woman. She only said: "You had better come
with me. My husband is away, but in a day of two he will be able to
get news to your brother. I'll take care of you till they come."
The woman arose gratefully, then swayed unsteadily under the weight
of the child. Maarda's arms were flung out, yearningly, longingly,
towards the baby.
"Where is your cradle basket to carry him in?" she asked, looking
about among the boxes and bales of merchandise the steamer had left
on the wharf.
"I have no cradle basket. I was too weak to make one, too poor to
buy one. I have _nothing_," said the woman.
"Then let me carry him," said Maarda. "It's quite a walk to my
place; he's too heavy for you."
The woman yielded the child gratefully, saying, "It's not a boy,
but a Tenas Klootchman."
Maarda could hardly believe her senses. That splendid, sturdy,
plump, big baby a Tenas Klootchman! For a moment her heart surged
with bitterness. Why had her own little girl been so frail, so
flower-like? But with the touch of that warm baby body, the
bitterness faded. She walked slowly, fitting her steps to those of
the sick woman, and jealously lengthening the time wherein she
could hold and hug the baby in her yearning arms.
The woman was almost exhausted when they reached Maarda's home, but
strong tea and hot, wholesome food revived her; but fever burned
brightly in her cheeks and eyes. The woman was very ill, extremely
ill. Maarda said, "You must go to bed, and as soon as you are
there, I will take the canoe and go for a doctor. It is two or
three miles, but you stay resting, and I'll bring him. We will put
the Tenas Klootchman beside you in--" she hesitated. Her glance
travelled up to the wall above, where a beautiful empty cradle
basket hung, with folded silken "blankets" and disused beaded
The woman's gaze followed hers, a light of beautiful understanding
pierced the fever glare of her eyes, she stretched out her hot hand
protestingly, and said, "Don't put her in--that. Keep that, it is
yours. She is used to being rolled only in my shawl."
But Maarda had already lifted the basket down, and was tenderly
arranging the wrappings. Suddenly her hands halted, she seemed to
see a wee flower face looking up to her like the blossom of a
russet-brown pansy. She turned abruptly, and, going to the door,
looked out speechlessly on the stretch of sea and sky glimmering
through the tree trunks.
For a time she stood. Then across the silence broke the little
murmuring sound of the baby half crooning, half crying, indoors,
the little cradleless baby that, homeless, had entered her home.
Maarda returned, and, lifting the basket, again arranged the
wrappings. "The Tenas Klootchman shall have this cradle," she said,
gently. The sick woman turned her face to the wall and sobbed.
It was growing dark when Maarda left her guests, and entered her
canoe on the quest for a doctor. The clouds hung low, and a fine,
slanting rain fell, from which she protected herself as best she
could with a shawl about her shoulders, crossed in front, with each
end tucked into her belt beneath her arms--Indian-fashion. Around
rocks and boulders, headlands and crags, she paddled, her little
craft riding the waves like a cork, but pitching and plunging with
every stroke. By and by the wind veered, and blew head on, and now
and again she shipped water; her skirts began dragging heavily
about her wet ankles, and her moccasins were drenched. The wind
increased, and she discarded her shawl to afford greater freedom to
her arm-play. The rain drove and slanted across her shoulders and
head, and her thick hair was dripping with sea moisture and the
Sometimes she thought of beaching the canoe and seeking shelter
until daylight. Then she again saw those fever-haunted eyes of the
stranger who was within her gates, again heard the half wail of the
Tenas Klootchman in her own baby's cradle basket, and at the sound
she turned her back on the possible safety of shelter, and forged
It was a wearied woman who finally knocked at the doctor's door and
bade him hasten. But his strong man's arm found the return journey
comparatively easy paddling. The wind helped him, and Maarda also
plied her bow paddle, frequently urging him to hasten.
It was dawn when they entered her home. The sick woman moaned, and
the child fretted for food. The doctor bent above his patient,
shaking his head ruefully as Maarda built the fire, and attended to
the child's needs before she gave thought to changing her drenched
garments. All day she attended her charges, cooked, toiled,
watched, forgetting her night of storm and sleeplessness in the
greater anxieties of ministering to others. The doctor came and
went between her home and the village, but always with that solemn
headshake, that spoke so much more forcibly than words.
"She shall not die!" declared Maarda. "The Tenas Klootchman needs
her, she shall not die!" But the woman grew feebler daily, her eyes
grew brighter, her cheeks burned with deeper scarlet.
"We must fight for it now," said the doctor. And Maarda and he
fought the dread enemy hour after hour, day after day.
Bereft of its mother's care, the Tenas Klootchman turned to Maarda,
laughed to her, crowed to her, until her lonely heart embraced the
child as a still evening embraces a tempestuous day. Once she had a
long, terrible fight with herself. She had begun to feel her
ownership in the little thing, had begun to regard it as her right
to tend and pet it. Her heart called out for it; and she wanted it
for her very own. She began to feel a savage, tigerish joy in
thinking--aye, _knowing_ that it really would belong to her and to
her alone soon--very soon.
When this sensation first revealed itself to her, the doctor was
there--had even told her the woman could not recover. Maarda's
gloriously womanly soul was horrified at itself. She left the
doctor in charge, and went to the shore, fighting out this
outrageous gladness, strangling it--killing it.
She returned, a sanctified being, with every faculty in her body,
every sympathy of her heart, every energy of her mind devoted to
bringing this woman back from the jaws of death. She greeted the
end of it all with a sorrowing, half-breaking heart, for she had
learned to love the woman she had envied, and to weep for the
little child who lay so helplessly against her unselfish heart.
A beautifully lucid half-hour came to the fever-stricken one just
before the Call to the Great Beyond!
"Maarda," she said, "you have been a good Tillicum to me, and I
can give you nothing for all your care, your kindness--unless--"
Her eyes wandered to her child peacefully sleeping in the
delicately-woven basket. Maarda saw the look, her heart leaped with
a great joy. Did the woman wish to give the child to her? She dared
not ask for it. Suppose Luke "Alaska" wanted it. His wife loved
children, though she had four of her own in their home far inland.
Then the sick woman spoke:
"Your cradle basket and your heart were empty before I came. Will
you keep my Tenas Klootchman as your own?--to fill them both
Maarda promised. "Mine was a Tenas Klootchman, too," she said.
"Then I will go to her, and be her mother, wherever she is, in the
Spirit Islands they tell us of," said the woman. "We will be but
exchanging our babies, after all."
When morning dawned, the woman did not awake.
* * * * *
Maarda had finished her story, but the recollections had saddened
her eyes, and for a time we both sat on the deck in the violet
twilight without exchanging a word.
"Then the little Tenas Klootchman is yours now?" I asked.
A sudden radiance suffused her face, all trace of melancholy
vanished. She fairly scintillated happiness.
"Mine!" she said. "All mine! Luke 'Alaska' and his wife said she
was more mine than theirs, that I must keep her as my own. My
husband rejoiced to see the cradle basket filled, and to hear me
laugh as I used to."
"How I should like to see the baby!" I began.
"You shall," she interrupted. Then with a proud, half-roguish
expression, she added:
"She is so strong, so well, so heavy; she sleeps a great deal, and
wakes laughing and hungry."
As night fell, an ancient Indian woman came up the companion-way.
In her arms she carried a beautifully-woven basket cradle, within
which nestled a round-cheeked, smiling-eyes baby. Across its little
forehead hung locks of black, straight hair, and its sturdy limbs
were vainly endeavoring to free themselves from the lacing of the
"blankets." Maarda took the basket, with an expression on her face
that was transfiguring.
"Yes, this is my little Tenas Klootchman," she said, as she unlaced
the bands, then lifted the plump little creature out on to her lap.
Soon afterwards the steamer touched an obscure little harbor, and
Maarda, who was to join her husband there, left me, with a happy
good-night. As she was going below, she faltered, and turned back
to me. "I think sometimes," she said, quietly, "the Great Spirit
thought my baby would feel motherless in the far Spirit Islands, so
He gave her the woman I nursed for a mother; and He knew I was
childless, and He gave me this child for my daughter. Do you think
I am right? Do you understand?"
"Yes," I said, "I think you are right, and I understand."
Once more she smiled radiantly, and turning, descended the
companionway. I caught a last glimpse of her on the wharf. She was
greeting her husband, her face a mirror of happiness. About the
delicately-woven basket cradle she had half pulled her heavy plaid
shawl, beneath which the two rows of black velvet ribbon bordering
her skirt proclaimed once more her nationality.
Cragstone had committed what his world called a crime--an
inexcusable offence that caused him to be shunned by society and
estranged from his father's house. He had proved a failure.
Not one of his whole family connections could say unto the others,
"I told you so," when he turned out badly.
They had all predicted that he was born for great things, then to
discover that they had over-estimated him was irritating, it told
against their discernment, it was unflattering, and they thought
So, in addition to his failure, Cragstone had to face the fact that
he had made himself unpopular among his kin.
As a boy he had been the pride of his family, as a youth, its hope
of fame and fortune; he was clever, handsome, inventive, original,
everything that society and his kind admired, but he criminally
fooled them and their expectation, and they never forgave him for
He had dabbled in music, literature, law, everything--always with
semi-success and brilliant promise; he had even tried the stage,
playing the Provinces for an entire season; then, ultimately
sinking into mediocrity in all these occupations, he returned to