How We Went to the Wedding by Lucy Maud
"If it were to clear up I wouldn't know how to behave, it would seem
so unnatural," said Kate. "Do you, by any chance, remember what the
sun looks like, Phil?"
"Does the sun ever shine in Saskatchewan anyhow?" I asked with assumed
sarcasm, just to make Kate's big, bonny black eyes flash.
They did flash; but Kate laughed immediately after, as she sat down on
a chair in front of me and cradled her long, thin, spirited dark face
in her palms.
"We have more sunny weather in Saskatchewan than in all the rest of
Canada put together, in an average year," she said, clicking her
strong, white teeth and snapping her eyes at me. "But I can't blame
you for feeling sceptical about it, Phil. If I went to a new country
and it rained every day—all day—all night—after I got there for
three whole weeks I'd think things not lawful to be uttered about the
climate too. So, little cousin, I forgive you. Remember that 'into
each life some rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary.' Oh,
if you'd only come to visit me last fall. We had such a bee-yew-tiful
September last year. We were drowned in sunshine. This fall we're
drowned in water. Old settlers tell of a similar visitation in '72,
though they claim even that wasn't quite as bad as this."
I was sitting rather disconsolately by an upper window of Uncle
Kenneth Morrison's log house at Arrow Creek. Below was what in dry
weather—so, at least, I was told—was merely a pretty, grassy little
valley, but which was now a considerable creek of muddy yellow water,
rising daily. Beyond was a cheerless prospect of sodden prairie and
"It would be a golden, mellow land, with purple hazes over the bluffs,
in a normal fall," assured Kate. "Even now if the sun were just to
shine out for a day and a good 'chinook' blow you'd see a surprising
change. I feel like chanting continually that old rhyme I learned in
the first primer,
'Rain, rain, go away,
Come again some other day:
—some other day next summer—
Phil and Katie want to play.'
Philippa, dear girl, don't look so dismal. It's bound to clear up
"I wish the 'sometime' would come soon, then," I said, rather
"You know it hasn't really rained for three days," protested Kate.
"It's been damp and horrid and threatening, but it hasn't rained. I
defy you to say that it has actually rained."
"When it's so wet underfoot that you can't stir out without rubber
boots it might as well be wet overhead too," I said, still grumpily.
"I believe you're homesick, girl," said Kate anxiously.
"No, I'm not," I answered, laughing, and feeling ashamed of my
ungraciousness. "Nobody could be homesick with such a jolly good
fellow as you around, Kate. It's only that this weather is getting on
my nerves a bit. I'm fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils. If your
chinook doesn't come soon, Kitty, I'll do something quite desperate."
"I feel that way myself," admitted Kate. "Real reckless, Phil. Anyhow,
let's put on our despised rubber boots and sally out for a wade."
"Here's Jim Nash coming on horseback down the trail," I said. "Let's
wait and see if he's got the mail."
We hurried down, Kate humming, "Somewhere the sun is shining," solely,
I believe, because she knew it aggravated me. At any other time I
should probably have thrown a pillow at her, but just now I was too
eager to see if Jim Nash had brought any mail.
I had come from Ontario, the first of September, to visit Uncle
Kenneth Morrison's family. I had been looking forward to the trip for
several years. My cousin Kate and I had always corresponded since they
had "gone west" ten years before; and Kate, who revelled in the
western life, had sung the praises of her adopted land rapturously and
constantly. It was quite a joke on her that, when I did finally come
to visit her, I should have struck the wettest autumn ever recorded in
the history of the west. A wet September in Saskatchewan is no joke,
however. The country was almost "flooded out." The trails soon became
nearly impassable. All our plans for drives and picnics and
inter-neighbour visiting—at that time a neighbour meant a man who
lived at least six miles away—had to be given up. Yet I was not
lonesome, and I enjoyed my visit in spite of everything. Kate was a
host in herself. She was twenty-eight years old—eight years my
senior—but the difference in our ages had never been any barrier to
our friendship. She was a jolly, companionable, philosophical soul,
with a jest for every situation, and a merry solution for every
perplexity. The only fault I had to find with her was her tendency to
make parodies. Kate's parodies were perfectly awful and always got on
She was dreadfully ashamed of the way the Saskatchewan weather was
behaving after all her boasting. She was thin at the best of times,
but now she grew positively scraggy with the worry of it. I am afraid
I took an unholy delight in teasing her, and abused the western
weather even more than was necessary.
Jim Nash—the lank youth who was hired to look after the place during
Uncle Kenneth's absence on a prolonged threshing expedition—had
brought some mail. Kate's share was a letter, postmarked Bothwell, a
rising little town about one hundred and twenty miles from Arrow
Creek. Kate had several friends there, and one of our plans had been
to visit Bothwell and spend a week with them. We had meant to drive,
of course, since there was no other way of getting there, and equally
of course the plan had been abandoned because of the wet weather.
"Mother," exclaimed Kate, "Mary Taylor is going to be married in a
fortnight's time! She wants Phil and me to go up to Bothwell for the
"What a pity you can't go," remarked Aunt Jennie placidly. Aunt Jennie
was always a placid little soul, with a most enviable knack of taking
everything easy. Nothing ever worried her greatly, and when she had
decided that a thing was inevitable it did not worry her at all.
"But I am going," cried Kate. "I will go—I must go. I positively
cannot let Mary Taylor—my own beloved Molly—go and perpetrate
matrimony without my being on hand to see it. Yes, I'm going—and if
Phil has a spark of the old Blair pioneer spirit in her, she'll go
"Of course I'll go if you go," I said.
Aunt Jennie did not think we were in earnest, so she merely laughed at
first, and said, "How do you propose to go? Fly—or swim?"
"We'll drive, as usual," said Kate calmly. "I'd feel more at home in
that way of locomotion. We'll borrow Jim Nash's father's democrat, and
take the ponies. We'll put on old clothes, raincoats, rubber caps and
boots, and we'll start tomorrow. In an ordinary time we could easily
do it in six days or less, but this fall we'll probably need ten or
"You don't really mean to go, Kate!" said Aunt Jennie, beginning to
perceive that Kate did mean it.
"I do," said Kate, in a convincing tone.
Aunt Jennie felt a little worried—as much as she could feel worried
over anything—and she tried her best to dissuade Kate, although she
plainly did not have much hope of doing so, having had enough
experience with her determined daughter to realize that when Kate said
she was going to do a thing she did it. It was rather funny to listen
to the ensuing dialogue.
"Kate, you can't do it. It's a crazy idea! The road is one hundred and
twenty miles long."
"I've driven it twice, Mother."
"Yes, but not in such a wet year. The trail is impassable in places."
"Oh, there are always plenty of dry spots to be found if you only look
hard for them."
"But you don't know where to look for them, and goodness knows what
you'll get into while you are looking."
"We'll call at the M.P. barracks and get an Indian to guide us.
Indians always know the dry spots."
"The stage driver has decided not to make another trip till the
October frosts set in."
"But he always has such a heavy load. It will be quite different with
us, you must remember. We'll travel light—just our provisions and a
valise containing our wedding garments."
"What will you do if you get mired twenty miles from a human being?"
"But we won't. I'm a good driver and I haven't nerves—but I have
nerve. Besides, you forget that we'll have an Indian guide with us."
"There was a company of Hudson Bay freighters ambushed and killed
along that very trail by Blackfoot Indians in 1839," said Aunt Jennie
"Fifty years ago! Their ghosts must have ceased to haunt it by this
time," said Kate flippantly.
"Well, you'll get wet through and catch your deaths of cold,"
protested Aunt Jennie.
"No fear of it. We'll be cased in rubber. And we'll borrow a good
tight tent from the M.P.s. Besides, I'm sure it's not going to rain
much more. I know the signs."
"At least wait for a day or two until you're sure that it has cleared
up," implored Aunt Jennie.
"Which being interpreted means, 'Wait for a day or two, because then
your father may be home and he'll squelch your mad expedition,'" said
Kate, with a sly glance at me. "No, no, my mother, your wiles are in
vain. We'll hit the trail tomorrow at sunrise. So just be good,
darling, and help us pack up some provisions. I'll send Jim for his
Aunt Jennie resigned herself to the inevitable and betook herself to
the pantry with the air of a woman who washes her hands of the
consequences. I flew upstairs to pack some finery. I was wild with
delight over the proposed outing. I did not realize what it actually
meant, and I had perfect confidence in Kate, who was an expert driver,
an experienced camper out, and an excellent manager. If I could have
seen what was ahead of us I would certainly not have been quite so
jubilant and reckless, but I would have gone all the same. I would not
miss the laughter-provoking memories of that trip out of my life for
anything. I have always been glad I went.
We left at sunrise the next morning; there was a sunrise that morning,
for a wonder. The sun came up in a pinky-saffron sky and promised us a
fine day. Aunt Jennie bade us goodbye and, estimable woman that she
was, did not trouble us with advice or forebodings.
Mr. Nash had sent over his "democrat," a light wagon with springs; and
Kate's "shaganappies," Tom and Jerry—native ponies, the toughest
horse flesh to be found in the world—were hitched to it. Kate and I
were properly accoutred for our trip and looked—but I try to forget
how we looked! The memory is not flattering.
We drove off in the gayest of spirits. Our difficulties began at the
start, for we had to drive a mile before we could find a place to ford
the creek. Beyond that, however, we had a passable trail for three
miles to the little outpost of the Mounted Police, where five or six
men were stationed on detachment duty.
"Sergeant Baker is a friend of mine," said Kate. "He'll be only too
glad to lend me all we require."
The sergeant was a friend of Kate's, but he looked at her as if he
thought she was crazy when she told him where we were going.
"You'd better take a canoe instead of a team," he said sarcastically.
"I've a good notion to arrest you both as horse thieves and prevent
you from going on such a mad expedition."
"You know nothing short of arrest would stop me," said Kate, nodding
at him with laughing eyes, "and you really won't go to such an
extreme, I know. So please be nice, even if it comes hard, and lend us
some things. I've come a-borrying."
"I won't lend you a thing," declared the sergeant. "I won't aid and
abet you in any such freak as this. Go home now, like a good girl."
"I'm not going home," said Kate. "I'm not a 'good girl'—I'm a wicked
old maid, and I'm going to Bothwell. If you won't lend us a tent we'll
go without—and sleep in the open—and our deaths will lie forever at
your door. I'll come back and haunt you, if you don't lend me a tent.
I'll camp on your very threshold and you won't be able to go out of
your door without falling over my spook."
"I've more fear of being accountable for your death if I do let you
go," said Sergeant Baker dubiously. "However, I see that nothing but
physical force will prevent you. What do you want?"
"I want," said Kate, "a cavalry tent, a sheet-iron camp stove, and a
good Indian guide—old Peter Crow for choice. He's such a
respectable-looking old fellow, and his wife often works for us."
The sergeant gave us the tent and stove, and sent a man down to the
Reserve for Peter Crow. Moreover, he vindicated his title of friend by
making us take a dozen prairie chickens and a large ham—besides any
quantity of advice. We didn't want the advice but we hugely welcomed
the ham. Presently our guide appeared—quite a spruce old Indian, as
Indians go. I had never been able to shake off my childhood conviction
that an Indian was a fearsome creature, hopelessly addicted to
scalping knives and tomahawks, and I secretly felt quite horrified at
the idea of two defenceless females starting out on a lonely prairie
trail with an Indian for guide. Even old Peter Crow's meek appearance
did not quite reassure me; but I kept my qualms to myself, for I knew
Kate would only laugh at me.
It was ten when we finally got away from the M.P. outpost. Sergeant
Baker bade us goodbye in a tone which seemed to intimate that he never
expected to see either of us again. What with his dismal predictions
and my secret horror of Indians, I was beginning to feel anything but
jubilant over our expedition. Kate, however, was as blithe and buoyant
as usual. She knew no fear, being one of those enviable folk who can
because they think they can. One hundred and twenty miles of
half-flooded prairie trail—camping out at night in the solitude of
the Great Lone Land—rain—muskegs—Indian guides—nothing had any
terror for my dauntless cousin.
For the next three hours, however, we got on beautifully. The trail
was fair, though somewhat greasy; the sun shone, though with a
somewhat watery gleam, through the mists; and Peter Crow, coiled up on
the folded tent behind the seat, slept soundly and snored
mellifluously. That snore reassured me greatly. I had never thought of
Indians as snoring. Surely one who did couldn't be dreaded greatly.
We stopped at one o'clock and had a cold lunch, sitting in our wagon,
while Peter Crow wakened up and watered the ponies. We did not get on
so well in the afternoon. The trail descended into low-lying ground
where travelling was very difficult. I had to admit old Peter Crow
was quite invaluable. He knew, as Kate had foretold, "all the dry
spots"—that is to say, spots less wet than others. But, even so, we
had to make so many detours that by sunset we were little more than
six miles distant from our noon halting place.
"We'd better set camp now, before it gets any darker," said Kate.
"There's a capital spot over there, by that bluff of dead poplar. The
ground seems pretty dry too. Peter, cut us a set of tent poles and
kindle a fire."
"Want my dollar first," said old Peter stolidly.
We had agreed to pay him a dollar a day for the trip, but none of the
money was to be paid until we got to Bothwell. Kate told him this. But
all the reply she got was a stolid, "Want dollar. No make fire without
We were getting cold and it was getting dark, so finally Kate, under
the law of necessity, paid him his dollar. Then he carried out our
orders at his own sweet leisure. In course of time he got a fire
lighted, and while we cooked supper he set up the tent and prepared
our beds, by cutting piles of brush and covering them with rugs.
Kate and I had a hilarious time cooking that supper. It was my first
experience of camping out and, as I had become pretty well convinced
that Peter Crow was not the typical Indian of old romance, I enjoyed
it all hugely. But we were both very tired, and as soon as we had
finished eating we betook ourselves to our tent and found our brush
beds much more comfortable than I had expected. Old Peter coiled up on
his blanket outside by the fire, and the great silence of a windless
prairie enwrapped us. In a few minutes we were sound asleep and never
wakened until seven o'clock.
When we arose and lifted the flap of the tent we saw a peculiar sight.
The little elevation on which we had pitched our camp seemed to be an
island in a vast sea of white mist, dotted here and there with other
islands. On every hand to the far horizon stretched that strange,
phantasmal ocean, and a hazy sun looked over the shifting billows. I
had never seen a western mist before and I thought it extremely
beautiful; but Kate, to whom it was no novelty, was more cumbered with
"I'm ravenous," she said, as she bustled about among our stores.
"Camping out always does give one such an appetite. Aren't you hungry,
"Comfortably so," I admitted. "But where are our ponies? And where is
"Probably the ponies have strayed away looking for pea vines. They
love and adore pea vines," said Kate, stirring up the fire from under
its blanket of grey ashes. "And Peter Crow has gone to look for them,
good old fellow. When you do get a conscientious Indian there is no
better guide in the world, but they are rare. Now, Philippa-girl, just
pry out the sergeant's ham and shave a few slices off it for our
breakfast. Some savoury fried ham always goes well on the prairie."
I went for the ham but could not find it. A thorough search among our
effects revealed it not.
"Kate, I can't find the ham," I called out. "It must have fallen out
somewhere on the trail."
Kate ceased wrestling with the fire and came to help in the search for
the missing delicacy.
"It couldn't have fallen out," she said incredulously. "That is
impossible. The tent was fastened securely over everything. Nothing
could have jolted out."
"Well, then, where is the ham?" I said.
That question was unanswerable, as Kate discovered after another
thorough search. The ham was gone—that much was certain.
"I believe Peter Crow has levanted with the ham," I said decidedly.
"I don't believe Peter Crow could be so dishonest," said Kate rather
shortly. "His wife has worked for us for years, and she's as honest as
"Honesty isn't catching," I remarked, but I said nothing more just
then, for Kate's black eyes were snapping.
"Anyway, we can't have ham for breakfast," she said, twitching out the
frying pan rather viciously. "We'll have to put up with canned
chicken—if the cans haven't disappeared too."
They hadn't, and we soon produced a very tolerable breakfast. But
neither of us had much appetite.
"Do you suppose Peter Crow has taken the horses as well as the ham?" I
"No," gloomily responded Kate, who had evidently been compelled by the
logic of hard facts to believe in Peter's guilt, "he would hardly dare
to do that, because he couldn't dispose of them without being found
out. They've probably strayed away on their own account when Peter
decamped. As soon as this mist lifts I'll have a look for them. They
can't have gone far."
We were spared this trouble, however, for when we were washing up the
dishes the ponies returned of their own accord. Kate caught them and
"Are we going on?" I asked mildly.
"Of course we're going on," said Kate, her good humour entirely
restored. "Do you suppose I'm going to be turned from my purpose by
the defection of a miserable old Indian? Oh, wait till he comes round
in the winter, begging."
"Will he come?" I asked.
"Will he? Yes, my dear, he will—with a smooth, plausible story to
account for his desertion and a bland denial of ever having seen our
ham. I shall know how to deal with him then, the old scamp."
"When you do get a conscientious Indian there's no better guide in the
world, but they are rare," I remarked with a far-away look.
"Don't rub it in, Phil. Come, help me to break camp. We'll have to
work harder and hustle for ourselves, that's all."
"But is it safe to go on without a guide?" I inquired dubiously. I
hadn't felt very safe with Peter Crow, but I felt still more unsafe
"Safe! Of course, it's safe—perfectly safe. I know the trail, and
we'll just have to drive around the wet places. It would have been
easier with Peter, and we'd have had less work to do, but we'll get
along well enough without him. I don't think I'd have bothered with
him at all, only I wanted to set Mother's mind at rest. She'll never
know he isn't with us till the trip is over, so that is all right.
We're going to have a glorious day. But, oh, for our lost ham! 'The
Ham That Was Never Eaten.' There's a subject for a poem, Phil. You
write one when we get back to civilization. Methinks I can sniff the
savoury odour of that lost ham on all the prairie breezes."
"Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these—it might have been,"
I quoted, beginning to wash the dishes.
"Saw ye my wee ham, saw ye my ain ham,
Saw ye my pork ham down on yon lea?
Crossed it the prairie last night in the darkness
Borne by an old and unprincipled Cree?"
sang Kate, loosening the tent ropes. Altogether, we got a great deal
more fun out of that ham than if we had eaten it.
As Kate had predicted, the day was glorious. The mists rolled away and
the sun shone brightly. We drove all day without stopping, save for
dinner—when the lost ham figured largely in our conversation—of
course. We said so many witty things about it—at least, we thought
them witty—that we laughed continuously through the whole meal,
which we ate with prodigious appetite.
But with all our driving we were not getting on very fast. The country
was exceedingly swampy and we had to make innumerable detours.
"'The longest way round is the shortest way to Bothwell,'" said Kate,
when we drove five miles out of our way to avoid a muskeg. By evening
we had driven fully twenty-five miles, but we were only ten miles
nearer Bothwell than when we had broken camp in the morning.
"We'll have to camp soon," sighed Kate. "I believe around this bluff
will be a good place. Oh, Phil, I'm tired—dead tired! My very
thoughts are tired. I can't even think anything funny about the ham.
And yet we've got to set up the tent ourselves, and attend to the
horses; and we'll have to scrape some of the mud off this beautiful
"We can leave that till the morning," I suggested.
"No, it will be too hard and dry then. Here we are—and here are two
tepees of Indians also!"
There they were, right around the bluff. The inmates were standing in
a group before them, looking at us as composedly as if we were not at
all an unusual sight.
"I'm going to stay here anyhow," said Kate doggedly.
"Oh, don't," I said in alarm. "They're such a villainous-looking
lot—so dirty—and they've got so little clothing on. I wouldn't sleep
a wink near them. Look at that awful old squaw with only one eye.
They'd steal everything we've got left, Kate. Remember the ham—oh,
pray remember the fate of our beautiful ham."
"I shall never forget that ham," said Kate wearily, "but, Phil, we
can't drive far enough to be out of their reach if they really want to
steal our provisions. But I don't believe they will. I believe they
have plenty of food—Indians in tepees mostly have. The men hunt, you
know. Their looks are probably the worst of them. Anyhow, you can't
judge Indians by appearances. Peter Crow looked respectable—and he
was a whited sepulchre. Now, these Indians look as bad as Indians can
look—so they may turn out to be angels in disguise."
"Very much disguised, certainly," I acquiesced satirically. "They seem
to me to belong to the class of a neighbour of ours down east. Her
family is always in rags, because she says, 'a hole is an accident, a
patch is a disgrace,' Set camp here if you like, Kate. But I'll not
sleep a wink with such neighbours."
I cheerfully ate my words later on. Never were appearances more
deceptive than in the case of those Stoneys. There is an old saying
that many a kind heart beats behind a ragged coat. The Indians had no
coats for their hearts to beat behind—nothing but shirts—some of
them hadn't even shirts! But the shirts were certainly ragged enough,
and their hearts were kind.
Those Indians were gentlemen. They came forward and unhitched our
horses, fed, and watered them; they pitched our tent, and built us a
fire, and cut brush for our beds. Kate and I had simply nothing to do
except sit on our rugs and tell them what we wanted done. They would
have cooked our supper for us if we had allowed it. But, tired as we
were, we drew the line at that. Their hearts were pure gold, but their
hands! No, Kate and I dragged ourselves up and cooked our own suppers.
And while we ate it, those Indians fell to and cleaned all the mud off
our democrat for us. To crown all—it is almost unbelievable but it is
true, I solemnly avow—they wouldn't take a cent of payment for it
all, urge them as we might and did.
"Well," said Kate, as we curled up on our brush beds that night,
"there certainly is a special Providence for unprotected females. I'd
forgive Peter Crow for deserting us for the sake of those Indians, if
he hadn't stolen our lovely ham into the bargain. That was altogether
In the morning the Indians broke camp for us and harnessed our
shaganappies. We drove off, waving our hands to them, the delightful
creatures. We never saw any of them again. I fear their kind is
scarce, but as long as I live I shall remember those Stoneys with
We got on fairly well that third day, and made about fifteen miles
before dinner time. We ate three of the sergeant's prairie chickens
for dinner, and enjoyed them.
"But only think how delicious the ham would have been," said Kate.
Our real troubles began that afternoon. We had not been driving long
when the trail swooped down suddenly into a broad depression—a swamp,
so full of mud-holes that there didn't seem to be anything but
mud-holes. We pulled through six of them—but in the seventh we stuck,
hard and fast. Pull as our ponies could and did, they could not pull
"What are we to do?" I said, becoming horribly frightened all at once.
It seemed to me that our predicament was a dreadful one.
"Keep cool," said Kate. She calmly took off her shoes and stockings,
tucked up her skirt, and waded to the horses' heads.
"Can't I do anything?" I implored.
"Yes, take the whip and spare it not," said Kate. "I'll encourage them
here with sundry tugs and inspiriting words. You urge them behind with
a good lambasting."
Accordingly we encouraged and urged, tugged and lambasted, with a
right good will, but all to no effect. Our ponies did their best, but
they could not pull the democrat out of that slough.
"Oh, what—" I began, and then I stopped. I resolved that I would not
ask that question again in that tone in that scrape. I would be
cheerful and courageous like Kate—splendid Kate!
"I shall have to unhitch them, tie one of them to that stump, and ride
off on the other for help," said Kate.
"Where to?" I asked.
"Till I find it," grinned Kate, who seemed to think the whole
disaster a capital joke. "I may have to go clean back to the
tepees—and further. For that matter, I don't believe there were any
tepees. Those Indians were too good to be true—they were phantoms of
delight—such stuff as dreams are made of. But even if they were real
they won't be there now—they'll have folded their tents like the
Arabs and as silently stolen away. But I'll find help somewhere."
"I can't stay here alone. You may be gone for hours," I cried,
forgetting all my resolutions of courage and cheerfulness in an access
"Then ride the other pony and come with me," suggested Kate.
"I can't ride bareback," I moaned.
"Then you'll have to stay here," said Kate decidedly. "There's nothing
to hurt you, Phil. Sit in the wagon and keep dry. Eat something if you
get hungry. I may not be very long."
I realized that there was nothing else to do; and, rather ashamed of
my panic, I resigned myself to the inevitable and saw Kate off with
a smile of encouragement. Then I waited. I was tired and
frightened—horribly frightened. I sat there and imagined scores of
gruesome possibilities. It was no use telling myself to be brave. I
couldn't be brave. I never was in such a blue funk before or since.
Suppose Kate got lost—suppose she couldn't find me again—suppose
something happened to her—suppose she couldn't get help—suppose it
came on night and I there all alone—suppose Indians—not gentlemanly
Stoneys or even Peter Crows, but genuine, old-fashioned
Indians—should come along—suppose it began to pour rain!
It did begin to rain, the only one of my suppositions which came true.
I hoisted an umbrella and sat there grimly, in that horseless wagon in
Many a time since have I laughed over the memory of the appearance I
must have presented sitting in that mud-hole, but there was nothing in
the least funny about it at the time. The worst feature of it all was
the uncertainty. I could have waited patiently enough and conquered my
fears if I had known that Kate would find help and return within a
reasonable time—at least before dark. But everything was doubtful. I
was not composed of the stuff out of which heroines are fashioned and
I devoutly wished we had never left Arrow Creek.
Shouts—calls—laughter—Kate's dear voice in an encouraging cry from
the hill behind me!
"Halloo, honey! Hold the fort a few minutes longer. Here we are. Bless
her, hasn't she been a brick to stay here all alone like this—and a
tenderfoot at that?"
I could have cried with joy. But I saw that there were men with
Kate—two men—white men—and I laughed instead. I had not been
brave—I had been an arrant little coward, but I vowed that nobody,
not even Kate, should suspect it. Later on Kate told me how she had
fared in her search for assistance.
"When I left you, Phil, I felt much more anxious than I wanted to let
you see. I had no idea where to go. I knew there were no houses along
our trail and I might have to go clean back to the tepees—fifteen
miles bareback. I didn't dare try any other trail, for I knew nothing
of them and wasn't sure that there were even tepees on them. But when
I had gone about six miles I saw a welcome sight—nothing less than a
spiral of blue, homely-looking smoke curling up from the prairie far
off to my right. I decided to turn off and investigate. I rode two
miles and finally I came to a little log shack. There was a
bee-yew-tiful big horse in a corral close by. My heart jumped with
joy. But suppose the inmates of the shack were half-breeds! You can't
realize how relieved I felt when the door opened and two white men
came out. In a few minutes everything was explained. They knew who I
was and what I wanted, and I knew that they were Mr. Lonsdale and Mr.
Hopkins, owners of a big ranch over by Deer Run. They were 'shacking
out' to put up some hay and Mrs. Hopkins was keeping house for them.
She wanted me to stop and have a cup of tea right off, but I thought
of you, Phil, and declined. As soon as they heard of our predicament
those lovely men got their two biggest horses and came right with me."
It was not long before our democrat was on solid ground once more, and
then our rescuers insisted that we go back to the shack with them for
the night. Accordingly we drove back to the shack, attended by our two
gallant deliverers on white horses. Mrs. Hopkins was waiting for us, a
trim, dark-haired little lady in a very pretty gown, which she had
donned in our honour. Kate and I felt like perfect tramps beside her
in our muddy old raiment, with our hair dressed by dead reckoning—for
we had not included a mirror in our baggage. There was a mirror in the
shack, however—small but good—and we quickly made ourselves tidy at
least, and Kate even went to the length of curling her bangs—bangs
were in style then and Kate had long, thick ones—using the stem of a
broken pipe of Mr. Hopkins's for a curler. I was so tired that my
vanity was completely crushed out—for the time being—and I simply
pinned my bangs back. Later on, when I discovered that Mr. Lonsdale
was really the younger son of an English earl, I wished I had curled
them, but it was too late then.
He didn't look in the least like a scion of aristocracy. He wore a
cowboy rig and had a scrubby beard of a week's growth. But he was very
jolly and played the violin beautifully. After tea—and a lovely tea
it was, although, as Kate remarked to me later, there was no ham—we
had an impromptu concert. Mr. Lonsdale played the violin; Mrs.
Hopkins, who sang, was a graduate of a musical conservatory; Mr.
Hopkins gave a comic recitation and did a Cree war-dance; Kate gave a
spirited account of our adventures since leaving home and mother; and
I described—with trimmings—how I felt sitting alone in the democrat
in a mud-hole, in a pouring rain on a vast prairie.
Mrs. Hopkins, Kate, and I slept in the one bed the shack boasted,
screened off from public view by a calico curtain. Mr. Lonsdale
reposed in his accustomed bunk by the stove, but poor Mr. Hopkins had
to sleep on the floor. He must have been glad Kate and I stayed only
The fourth morning found us blithely hitting the trail in renewed
confidence and spirits. We parted from our kind friends in the shack
with mutual regret. Mr. Hopkins gave us a haunch of jumping deer and
Mrs. Hopkins gave us a box of home-made cookies. Mr. Lonsdale at first
thought he couldn't give us anything, for he said all he had with him
was his pipe and his fiddle; but later on he said he felt so badly to
see us go without any token of his good will that he felt constrained
to ask us to accept a piece of rope that he had tied his outfit
The fourth day we got on so nicely that it was quite monotonous. The
sun shone, the chinook blew, our ponies trotted over the trail
gallantly. Kate and I sang, told stories, and laughed immoderately
over everything. Even a poor joke seems to have a subtle flavour on
the prairie. For the first time I began to think Saskatchewan
beautiful, with those far-reaching parklike meadows dotted with the
white-stemmed poplars, the distant bluffs bannered with the airiest of
purple hazes, and the little blue lakes that sparkled and shimmered in
the sunlight on every hand.
The only thing approaching an adventure that day happened in the
afternoon when we reached a creek which had to be crossed.
"We must investigate," said Kate decidedly. "It would never do to risk
getting mired here, for this country is unsettled and we must be
twenty miles from another human being."
Kate again removed her shoes and stockings and puddled about that
creek until she found a safe fording place. I am afraid I must admit
that I laughed most heartlessly at the spectacle she presented while
"Oh, for a camera, Kate!" I said, between spasms.
Kate grinned. "I don't care what I look like," she said, "but I feel
wretchedly unpleasant. This water is simply swarming with wigglers."
"Goodness, what are they?" I exclaimed.
"Oh, they're tiny little things like leeches," responded Kate. "I
believe they develop into mosquitoes later on, bad 'cess to them. What
Mr. Nash would call my pedal extremities are simply being devoured by
the brutes. Ugh! I believe the bottom of this creek is all soft mud.
We may have to drive—no, as I'm a living, wiggler-haunted human
being, here's firm bottom. Hurrah, Phil, we're all right!"
In a few minutes we were past the creek and bowling merrily on our
way. We had a beautiful camping ground that night—a fairylike little
slope of white poplars with a blue lake at its foot. When the sun went
down a milk-white mist hung over the prairie, with a young moon
kissing it. We boiled some slices of our jumping deer and ate them in
the open around a cheery camp-fire. Then we sought our humble couches,
where we slept the sleep of just people who had been driving over the
prairie all day. Once in the night I wakened. It was very dark. The
unearthly stillness of a great prairie was all around me. In that vast
silence Kate's soft breathing at my side seemed an intrusion of sound
where no sound should be.
"Philippa Blair, can you believe it's yourself?" I said mentally.
"Here you are, lying on a brush bed on a western prairie in the middle
of the night, at least twenty miles from any human being except
another frail creature of your own sex. Yet you're not even
frightened. You are very comfy and composed, and you're going right to
And right to sleep again I went.
Our fifth day began ominously. We had made an early start and had
driven about six miles when the calamity occurred. Kate turned a
corner too sharply, to avoid a big boulder; there was a heart-breaking
"The tongue of the wagon is broken," cried Kate in dismay. All too
surely it was. We looked at each other blankly.
"What can we do?" I said.
"I'm sure I don't know," said Kate helplessly. When Kate felt helpless
I thought things must be desperate indeed. We got out and investigated
"It's not a clean break," said Kate. "It's a long, slanting break. If
we had a piece of rope I believe I could fix it."
"Mr. Lonsdale's piece of rope!" I cried.
"The very thing," said Kate, brightening up.
The rope was found and we set to work. With the aid of some willow
withes and that providential rope we contrived to splice the tongue
together in some shape.
Although the trail was good we made only twelve miles the rest of the
day, so slowly did we have to drive. Besides, we were continually
expecting that tongue to give way again, and the strain was bad for
our nerves. When we came at sunset to the junction of the Black River
trail with ours, Kate resolutely turned the shaganappies down it.
"We'll go and spend the night with the Brewsters," she said. "They
live only ten miles down this trail. I went to school in Regina with
Hannah Brewster, and though I haven't seen her for ten years I know
she'll be glad to see us. She's a lovely person, and her husband is a
very nice man. I visited them once after they were married."
We soon arrived at the Brewster place. It was a trim, white-washed
little log house in a grove of poplars. But all the blinds were down
and we discovered the door was locked. Evidently the Brewsters were
not at home.
"Never mind," said Kate cheerfully, "we'll light a fire outside and
cook our supper and then we'll spend the night in the barn. A bed of
prairie hay will be just the thing."
But the barn was locked too. It was now dark and our plight was rather
"I'm going to get into the house if I have to break a window," said
Kate resolutely. "Hannah would want us to do that. She'd never get
over it, if she heard we came to her house and couldn't get in."
Fortunately we did not have to go to the length of breaking into
Hannah's house. The kitchen window went up quite easily. We turned the
shaganappies loose to forage for themselves, grass and water being
abundant. Then we climbed in at the window, lighted our lantern, and
found ourselves in a very snug little kitchen. Opening off it on one
side was a trim, nicely furnished parlour and on the other a
"We'll light the fire in the stove in a jiffy and have a real good
supper," said Kate exultantly. "Here's cold roast beef—and preserves
and cookies and cheese and butter."
Before long we had supper ready and we did full justice to the absent
Hannah's excellent cheer. After all, it was quite nice to sit down
once more to a well-appointed table and eat in civilized fashion.
Then we washed up all the dishes and made everything snug and tidy. I
shall never be sufficiently thankful that we did so.
Kate piloted me upstairs to the spare room.
"This is fixed up much nicer than it was when I was here before," she
said, looking around. "Of course, Hannah and Ted were just starting
out then and they had to be economical. They must have prospered, to
be able to afford such furniture as this. Well, turn in, Phil. Won't
it be rather jolly to sleep between sheets once more?"
We slept long and soundly until half-past eight the next morning; and
dear knows if we would have wakened then of our own accord. But I
heard somebody saying in a very harsh, gruff voice, "Here, you two,
wake up! I want to know what this means."
We two did wake up, promptly and effectually. I never wakened up so
thoroughly in my life before. Standing in our room were three people,
one of them a man. He was a big, grey-haired man with a bushy black
beard and an angry scowl. Beside him was a woman—a tall, thin,
angular personage with red hair and an indescribable bonnet. She
looked even crosser and more amazed than the man, if that were
possible. In the background was another woman—a tiny old lady who
must have been at least eighty. She was, in spite of her tininess, a
very striking-looking personage; she was dressed all in black, and had
snow-white hair, a dead-white face, and snapping, vivid, coal-black
eyes. She looked as amazed as the other two, but she didn't look
I knew something must be wrong—fearfully wrong—but I didn't know
what. Even in my confusion, I found time to think that if that
disagreeable-looking red-haired woman was Hannah Brewster, Kate must
have had a queer taste in school friends. Then the man said, more
gruffly than ever, "Come now. Who are you and what business have you
Kate raised herself on one elbow. She looked very wild. I heard the
old black-and-white lady in the background chuckle to herself.
"Isn't this Theodore Brewster's place?" gasped Kate.
"No," said the big woman, speaking for the first time. "This place
belongs to us. We bought it from the Brewsters in the spring. They
moved over to Black River Forks. Our name is Chapman."
Poor Kate fell back on the pillow, quite overcome. "I—I beg your
pardon," she said. "I—I thought the Brewsters lived here. Mrs.
Brewster is a friend of mine. My cousin and I are on our way to
Bothwell and we called here to spend the night with Hannah. When we
found everyone away we just came in and made ourselves at home."
"A likely story," said the red woman.
"We weren't born yesterday," said the man.
Madam Black-and-White didn't say anything, but when the other two had
made their pretty speeches she doubled up in a silent convulsion of
mirth, shaking her head from side to side and beating the air with her
If they had been nice to us, Kate would probably have gone on feeling
confused and ashamed. But when they were so disagreeable she quickly
regained her self-possession. She sat up again and said in her
haughtiest voice, "I do not know when you were born, or where, but it
must have been somewhere where very peculiar manners were taught. If
you will have the decency to leave our room—this room—until we can
get up and dress we will not transgress upon your hospitality" (Kate
put a most satirical emphasis on that word) "any longer. And we shall
pay you amply for the food we have eaten and the night's lodging we
The black-and-white apparition went through the motion of clapping her
hands, but not a sound did she make. Whether he was cowed by Kate's
tone, or appeased by the prospect of payment, I know not, but Mr.
Chapman spoke more civilly. "Well, that's fair. If you pay up it's all
"They shall do no such thing as pay you," said Madam Black-and-White
in a surprisingly clear, resolute, authoritative voice. "If you
haven't any shame for yourself, Robert Chapman, you've got a
mother-in-law who can be ashamed for you. No strangers shall be
charged for food or lodging in any house where Mrs. Matilda Pitman
lives. Remember that I've come down in the world, but I haven't forgot
all decency for all that. I knew you was a skinflint when Amelia
married you and you've made her as bad as yourself. But I'm boss here
yet. Here, you, Robert Chapman, take yourself out of here and let
those girls get dressed. And you, Amelia, go downstairs and cook a
breakfast for them."
I never, in all my life, saw anything like the abject meekness with
which those two big people obeyed that mite. They went, and stood not
upon the order of their going. As the door closed behind them, Mrs.
Matilda Pitman laughed silently, and rocked from side to side in her
"Ain't it funny?" she said. "I mostly lets them run the length of
their tether but sometimes I has to pull them up, and then I does it
with a jerk. Now, you can take your time about dressing, my dears, and
I'll go down and keep them in order, the mean scalawags."
When we descended the stairs we found a smoking-hot breakfast on the
table. Mr. Chapman was nowhere to be seen, and Mrs. Chapman was
cutting bread with a sulky air. Mrs. Matilda Pitman was sitting in an
armchair, knitting. She still wore her bonnet and her triumphant
expression. "Set right in, dears, and make a good breakfast," she
"We are not hungry," said Kate, almost pleadingly. "I don't think we
can eat anything. And it's time we were on the trail. Please excuse us
and let us go on."
Mrs. Matilda Pitman shook a knitting needle playfully at Kate. "Sit
down and take your breakfast," she commanded. "Mrs. Matilda Pitman
commands you. Everybody obeys Mrs. Matilda Pitman—even Robert and
Amelia. You must obey her too."
We did obey her. We sat down and, such was the influence of her
mesmeric eyes, we ate a tolerable breakfast. The obedient Amelia never
spoke; Mrs. Matilda Pitman did not speak either, but she knitted
furiously and chuckled. When we had finished Mrs. Matilda Pitman
rolled up her knitting. "Now, you can go if you want to," she said,
"but you don't have to go. You can stay here as long as you like, and
I'll make them cook your meals for you."
I never saw Kate so thoroughly cowed.
"Thank you," she said faintly. "You are very kind, but we must go."
"Well, then," said Mrs. Matilda Pitman, throwing open the door, "your
team is ready for you. I made Robert catch your ponies and harness
them. And I made him fix that broken tongue properly. I enjoy making
Robert do things. It's almost the only sport I have left. I'm eighty
and most things have lost their flavour, except bossing Robert."
Our democrat and ponies were outside the door, but Robert was nowhere
to be seen; in fact, we never saw him again.
"I do wish," said Kate, plucking up what little spirit she had left,
"that you would let us—ah—uh"—Kate quailed before Mrs. Matilda
Pitman's eye—"recompense you for our entertainment."
"Mrs. Matilda Pitman said before—and meant it—that she doesn't take
pay for entertaining strangers, nor let other people where she lives
do it, much as their meanness would like to do it."
We got away. The sulky Amelia had vanished, and there was nobody to
see us off except Mrs. Matilda Pitman.
"Don't forget to call the next time you come this way," she said
cheerfully, waving her knitting at us. "I hope you'll get safe to
Bothwell. If I was ten years younger I vow I'd pack a grip and go
along with you. I like your spunk. Most of the girls nowadays is such
timid, skeery critters. When I was a girl I wasn't afraid of nothing
We said and did nothing until we had driven out of sight and earshot.
Then Kate laid down the reins and laughed until the tears came.
"Oh, Phil, Phil, will you ever forget this adventure?" she gasped.
"I shall never forget Mrs. Matilda Pitman," I said emphatically.
We had no further adventures that day. Robert Chapman had fixed the
tongue so well—probably under Mrs. Matilda Pitman's watchful
eyes—that we could drive as fast as we liked; and we made good
progress. But when we pitched camp that night Kate scanned the sky
with an anxious expression. "I don't like the look of it," she said.
"I'm afraid we're going to have a bad day tomorrow."
We had. When we awakened in the morning rain was pouring down. This in
itself might not have prevented us from travelling, but the state of
the trail did. It had been raining the greater part of the night and
the trail was little more than a ditch of slimy, greasy, sticky mud.
If we could have stayed in the tent the whole time it would not have
been quite so bad. But we had to go out twice to take the ponies to
the nearest pond and water them; moreover, we had to collect pea vines
for them, which was not an agreeable occupation in a pouring rain. The
day was very cold too, but fortunately there was plenty of dead poplar
right by our camp. We kept a good fire on in the camp stove and were
quite dry and comfortable as long as we stayed inside. Even when we
had to go out we did not get very wet, as we were well protected. But
it was a long dreary day. Finally when the dark came down and supper
was over Kate grew quite desperate. "Let's have a game of checkers,"
"Where is your checkerboard?" I asked.
"Oh, I'll soon furnish that," said Kate.
She cut out a square of brown paper, in which a biscuit box had been
wrapped, and marked squares off on it with a pencil. Then she produced
some red and white high-bush cranberries for men. A cranberry split in
two was a king.
We played nine games of checkers by the light of our smoky lantern.
Our enjoyment of the game was heightened by the fact that it had
ceased raining. Nevertheless, when morning came the trail was so
drenched that it was impossible to travel on it.
"We must wait till noon," said Kate.
"That trail won't be dry enough to travel on for a week," I said
"My dear; the chinook is blowing up," said Kate. "You don't know how
quickly a trail dries in a chinook. It's like magic."
I did not believe a chinook or anything else could dry up that trail
by noon sufficiently for us to travel on. But it did. As Kate said, it
seemed like magic. By one o'clock we were on our way again, the
chinook blowing merrily against our faces. It was a wind that blew
straight from the heart of the wilderness and had in it all the potent
lure of the wild. The yellow prairie laughed and glistened in the sun.
We made twenty-five miles that afternoon and, as we were again
fortunate enough to find a bluff of dead poplar near which to camp, we
built a royal camp-fire which sent its flaming light far and wide over
the dark prairie.
We were in jubilant spirits. If the next day were fine and nothing
dreadful happened to us, we would reach Bothwell before night.
But our ill luck was not yet at an end. The next morning was
beautiful. The sun shone warm and bright; the chinook blew balmily and
alluringly; the trail stretched before us dry and level. But we sat
moodily before our tent, not even having sufficient heart to play
checkers. Tom had gone lame—so lame that there was no use in thinking
of trying to travel with him. Kate could not tell what was the matter.
"There is no injury that I can see," she said. "He must have sprained
his foot somehow."
Wait we did, with all the patience we could command. But the day was
long and wearisome, and at night Tom's foot did not seem a bit better.
We went to bed gloomily, but joy came with the morning. Tom's foot was
so much improved that Kate decided we could go on, though we would
have to drive slowly.
"There's no chance of making Bothwell today," she said, "but at least
we shall be getting a little nearer to it."
"I don't believe there is such a place as Bothwell, or any other
town," I said pessimistically. "There's nothing in the world but
prairie, and we'll go on driving over it forever, like a couple of
female Wandering Jews. It seems years since we left Arrow Creek."
"Well, we've had lots of fun out of it all, you know," said Kate.
"Mrs. Matilda Pitman alone was worth it. She will be an amusing memory
all our lives. Are you sorry you came?"
"No, I'm not," I concluded, after honest, soul-searching reflection.
"No, I'm glad, Kate. But I think we were crazy to attempt it, as
Sergeant Baker said. Think of all the might-have-beens."
"Nothing else will happen," said Kate. "I feel in my bones that our
troubles are over."
Kate's bones proved true prophets. Nevertheless, that day was a weary
one. There was no scenery. We had got into a barren, lakeless,
treeless district where the world was one monotonous expanse of
grey-brown prairie. We just crawled along. Kate had her hands full
driving those ponies. Jerry was in capital fettle and couldn't
understand why he mightn't tear ahead at full speed. He was so much
disgusted over being compelled to walk that he was very fractious.
Poor Tom limped patiently along. But by night his lameness had quite
disappeared, and although we were still a good twenty-five miles from
Bothwell we could see it quite distinctly far ahead on the level
"'Tis a sight for sore eyes, isn't it?" said Kate, as we pitched camp.
There is little more to be told. Next day at noon we rattled through
the main and only street of Bothwell. Curious sights are frequent in
prairie towns, so we did not attract much attention. When we drew up
before Mr. Taylor's house Mary Taylor flew out and embraced Kate
"You darling! I knew you'd get here if anyone could. They telegraphed
us you were on the way. You're a brick—two bricks."
"No, I'm not a brick at all, Miss Taylor," I confessed frankly. "I've
been an arrant coward and a doubting Thomas and a wet blanket all
through the expedition. But Kate is a brick and a genius and an
all-round, jolly good fellow."
"Mary," said Kate in a tragic whisper,