The Second Chance
by Nellie L. McClung
THE SECOND CHANCE
NELLIE L. McCLUNG
Frontispiece by Wladyslaw T. Benda
Then I went down to the potter's house and behold
he wrought a work on the wheels.
And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in
the hand of the potter; so he made it again another vessel
as seemed good to the potter to make it.
Jeremiah xviii, 3-4.
TORONTO WILLIAM BRIGGS PUBLISHER Copyright, Canada, 1910. by WILLIAM
TO MY MOTHER MRS. LETITIA McCURDY MOONEY
CHAPTER II. THE
CHAPTER V. AT
THE CHICKEN HILL
CHAPTER VII. THE
CHAPTER VIII. A
CHAPTER IX. MRS.
CHAPTER X. THE
CHAPTER XI. THE
HOUSE OF TROUBLE
PEARL VISITS THE
THE LADIES' AID
CHAPTER XIV. “IN
CHAPTER XV. THE
CHAPTER XIX. THE
END OF THE GAME
CHAPTER XX. ON
CHAPTER XXV. THE
COMING OF THURSA
CHAPTER XXVI. IN
A SAIL! A SAIL!
THE LURE OF LOVE
AND THE WEST
CHAPTER I. MARTHA
In the long run all love is paid by love,
Tho' undervalued by the hosts of earth.
The great eternal government above
Keeps strict account, and will redeem its worth.
Give thy love freely; do not count the cost;
So beautiful a thing was never lost
In the long run.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
THOMAS PERKINS was astonished beyond words. Martha had asked for
money! The steady, reliable, early-to-bed, early-to-rise Marthathe
only one of his family that was really like his own people. If he could
believe his senses, Martha had asked for two dollars in cash, and had
distinctly said that due bills on the store would not do!
If Martha had risen from her cradle twenty-five years ago and banged
her estimable parent in the eye with her small pink fist, he could not
have been more surprised than he was now! He stared at her with all
this in his face, and Martha felt the ground slipping away from her.
Maybe she shouldn't have asked for it!
She went over the argument again. It's for a magazine Mrs. Cavers
lent me. I would like to get it every monthit'sit's got lots of
nice things in it. She did not look at her father as she said this.
Thomas Perkins moistened his lips.
By George! he said. You youngsters never think how the money
comes. You seem to think it grows on bushes!
Martha might have said that spring frost must have nipped the buds
for the last twenty-five years, but she did not. Ready speech was not
one of Martha's accomplishments, so she continued to pleat her apron
into a fan and said nothing.
Here the other day didn't I send thirty-nine dollars into Winnipeg
to get things for the house, and didn't I get you an eighteen-dollar
wallaby coat last year, and let you wear it week days and all, and
never said a word?
Martha might have reminded him that she was watering and feeding the
stock, and saving the wages of a hired man, while she was wearing the
wallaby coat, but she said not a word.
You get a queer old lot more than I got when I was a young shaver,
let me tell you. I've often told you young ones how I left home, when I
was nine years old, with the wind in my backthat's all I got from
homeand with about enough clothes on me to flag a train with. There
wasn't any of these magazines then, and I don't know as they do any
good, anyway. Poor old Ann Winters sent away her good, hard-earned
dollar to some place in the States, where they said: 'Send us a dollar,
and we'll show you how to make fifty; light employment; will not have
to leave home; either ladies or gentlemen can do it.' She saw this in a
magazine and sent her dollar, and what she got was a pretty straight
insult, I think. They wrote back, 'put an advertisement like ours in
some paper, and get fifty people like yourself to answer it.' There's a
magazine for you!
Martha looked at him helplessly. I promised Mrs. Cavers I'd take
it. She's making a little money that way, to get a trip home this
Christmas, she said, locking and unlocking her fingers, the rough,
toil-worn joints of which spoke eloquently in her favour, if the old
man had had eyes to see them.
You women are too easy, he said. You'll promise anything. Yer
poor grandmother let a man put a piano in the shed once when it was
raining, and he asked her to sign a paper sayin' it was there, and he
could 'come any time he liked to get it; and, by Jinks! didn't a fellow
come along in a few days wantin' her to pay for it, and showing her her
own name to a note. She wasn't so slow either, for she purtended she
doubted her own writin', and got near enough to make a grab for it, and
tore her name off; but it gave me father such a turn he advertised her
in the paper that he would not be responsible for her debts, and he
never put his name to paper of any kind afterward. There was a fellow
in the old Farmers' Home in Brandon that asked me father to sign his
name in a big book that he showed up in front of him, and I tell you it
was all we could do to keep the old man from hittin' him. Of course,
Martha, if ye didn't put it down in writin' she can't hold ye; but
puttin' it down is the deuce altogether.
But I want to give it, Martha said slowly. I want the magazine,
and I want to help Mrs. Cavers.
Now, Martha, look a here, the old man said, you're a real good
girl, and very like my own folksin the way you handle a hoe yer just
like my poor sister Lizzie that married a peddler against all our
wishes. I mind well, the night before she ran away, how she kissed me
and says she: 'Good-bye, Tommy, don't forgit to shut the henhouse
door,' and in the mornin' she was gone.
Lizzie's bereaved brother wiped his eyes with a red handkerchief,
and looked dreamily into the fire.
Martha, still pleating her apron, stood awkwardly by the table, but
instinctively she felt that the meeting had closed, and the two-dollar
bill was still inside.
She went upstairs to her own room. It was a neat and pretty little
room, and the pride of Martha's heart, but to-night Martha's heart had
nothing in it but a great loneliness, vague and indefinite, a longing
for something she had never known.
A rag carpet in well-harmonized stripes was on the floor; a blue and
white log-cabin quilt was on the bed; over the lace-edged pillow covers
there hung embroidered pillow shams. One had on it a wreath of wild
roses encircling the words I slept and dreamed that life was Beauty,
while its companion, with a similar profusion of roses, made the
correction: I woke and knew that, life was Duty. Martha had not
chosen the words, for she had never even dreamed that life was beauty.
A peddler (not the one that had beguiled her Aunt Lizzie) had been
storm-stayed with them the winter before and he had given her these in
payment for his lodging.
She sat now on a little stool that she had made for herself of empty
tomato cans, covered with gaily flowered cretonne, and drawing back the
muslin frilled curtains, looked wearily over the fields. It was a
pleasant scene that lay before Martha's windowa long reach of stubble
field, stretching away to the bank of the Souris, flanked by poplar
bluffs. It was just a mile long, that field, a wonderful stretch of
wheat-producing soil; but to Martha it was all a weariness of the
flesh, for it meant the getting of innumerable meals for the men who
ploughed and sowed and reaped thereon.
To-night, looking at the tall elms that fringed the river bank, she
tried to think of the things that had made her happy. They were getting
along well, there had been many improvements in the house and out of
it. She had better clothes than ever she had; the trees had been lovely
this last summer, and the garden never better; the lilacs had bloomed
last spring. Everything was improving except herself, she thought
sadly; the years that had been kind to everything else were cruel to
With a sudden impulse, she went to the mirror on her dressing table,
and looked long and earnestly at her image there. Martha was
twenty-five years old, and looked older. Her shoulders were slightly
bent, and would suggest to an accurate observer that they had become so
by carrying heavy burdens. Her hair was hay-coloured and broken. Her
forehead and her eyes were her best features, and her mouth, too, was
well formed and firm, giving her the look of a person who could endure.
To-night, as she sat leaning her head on the window-sill, Martha's
thoughts were as near to bitterness as they had ever been. This, then,
was all it came to, all her early rising and hard work, all her small
economies. She had not been able to get even two dollars when she
wanted it. She sat up straight and looked sadly out into the velvet
dusk, and the tears that had been long gathering in her heart came
slowly to her eyes; not the quick, glittering tears of childhood that
can be soon chased away by smilesnot that kind, no, no; but the slow
tears that scald and wither, the tears that make one old.
It was dark when Martha lifted her head. She hastily drew down the
blind, lit the lamp, and washed away, all traces of her tears. Going to
a cupboard that stood behind the door, she took out a piece of fine
embroidery and was soon at work upon it.
Hidden away in her heart, so well hidden that no one could have
suspected its presence, Martha cherished a sweet dream. To her stern
sense of right and wrong it would have seemed improper to think the
thoughts she was thinking, but for the fact that they were so idle, so
vain, so false, so hopeless. It had all begun the fall before, when, at
a party at one of the neighbours', Arthur Wemyss, the young Englishman,
had asked her to dance. He had been so different from the young men she
had known, so courteous and gentle, and had spoken to her with such
respect, that her heart was swept with a strange, new feeling that
perhaps, after all there might be for her the homage and admiration she
had seen paid to other girls. In her innocence of the worlds ways, good
and bad, she did not know that young men like Arthur were taught to
reverence all women, and that the deference of his manner was nothing
more than that.
Martha fed her heart with no false hope-she never forgot to remind
herself that she was a dull, plain girland even when she sat at her
embroidery and let the imagination of her heart weave for her a golden
dream, it was only a dream to her, nothing more!
When Arthur bought Jim Russell's quarter-section and began farming
independently, the Perkinses were his nearest neighbours. Martha baked
his bread for him, and seldom gave him his basket of newly made loaves
that it did not contain a pie, a loaf of cake, or some other expression
of her good-will, all of which Arthur received very gratefully.
He never knew what pleasure it gave her to do this for him, and
although she knew he was engaged to be married to a young lady in
England, it was the one bright evening of the week for her when he came
over, to get his weekly allowance.
Martha had never heard of unrequited love. The only books she had
read were the Manitoba Readers as far as Book IV, and they are
noticeably silent on the affairs of the heart. In the gossip of the
neighbourhood she had heard of girls making a dead set for fellows who
did not care a row of pins for them, and she knew it was not
considered a nice thing for any girl to do; but it came to her now
clearly that it was not a subject for mirth, and she wondered why any
person found it so.
As for Martha herself, the tricks of coquetry were foreign to her,
unless flaky biscuits and snowy bread may be so called; and so, day by
day, she went on baking, scrubbing, and sewing, taking what happiness
she could out of dreams, sweet, vanishing dreams.
CHAPTER II. THE RISING WATSONS
There is ever a song somewhere, my dear,
There is ever a something sings alway:
There's a song of the lark when the skies are clear
And the song of the thrush when the skies are gray.
James Whitcomb Riley.
WHILE Martha Perkins was weaving sweet fancies to beguile the tedium
of her uneventful life, a very different scene was being enacted, a few
miles away, in the humble home of John Watson, C. P. R. section-man, in
the little town of Millford, where he and his wife and family of nine
were working out their own destiny. Mrs. Watson up to this time had
spent very few of the daylight hours at home, having a regular
itinerary among some of the better homes of the town, where she did
half-day stands at the washtub, with, a large grain sack draped around
her portly person, while the family at home brought themselves up in
whatever way seemed best to them.
One day the fortunes of the Watson family suddenly changed, and in
such a remarkable way it would convince the most sceptical of the
existence of good working fairies. A letter came to Pearl, the eldest
girl, from the Old Country, and the letter contained money!
When it became known in the community that Pearl Watson had received
a magnificent gift of money from the parents of the young Englishman
she had nursed while she was working for Mrs. Sam Motherwell, it
created no small stir in the hearts of those who had to do with other
young Englishmen. Parents across the sea, rolling in ancestral gold and
Bank of England notes, acquired a reality they had never enjoyed
before. The young chore boy who was working for five dollars a month at
George Steadman's never knew why Mrs. Steadman suddenly let him have
the second helping of butter and also sugar in his tea. Neither did he
understand why she gave him an onion poultice for his aching ear, and
lard to rub into his chapped hands. Therefore, when she asked him out
straight about his folks in the Old Country, and how they were fixed,
he, being a dull lad, and not quick to see an advantage, foolishly
explained that he didn't 'ave nobody belongink to himwhereupon the
old rule regarding second helpings was as suddenly restored.
On the Monday morning after Pearl's return home she was the first
person up in the house. She made the porridge and set the table for
breakfast, and then roused all the family except Danny, who was still
allowed the privilege of sleeping as long as he wished and even
encouraged in this.
After the family had eaten their breakfast Pearl explained her plans
to them. Ma, she said, you are not to wash any, more, and isn't it
lucky there's a new Englishwoman across the track there in 'Little
England,' that'll be glad to get it to do, and no one'll be
disappointed, and we'll go to the store to-day and get Sunday suits all
round for the wee lads and all, and get them fixed up to go to
Sunday-school and church twice a day. Ye'll have to learn what ye can
while the clothes last. Mary'll have a new fur collar, and Ma'll have
the fur-lined cape; and yer old coat, Ma, can be cut down for me.
Camilla'll help us to buy what we need, and now, Ma, let's get them
ready for school. Money's no good to us if we haven't education, and
it's education we'll have now, every last wan of us. Times has changed
for the Watsons! It seems as if the Lord sent us the money Himself, for
He can't bear to have people ignorant if there's any way out of it at
all, at all, and there's nearly always a way if people'll only take it.
So, Ma, get out a new bar of soap and let's get at them!
But in spite of all Pearl and her mother could'do, there was only
enough clothing for two little boys, and Patsey had to stay at home;
but Pearlie beguiled him into good-humour by telling him that when he
grew to be a man he would keep a big jewellery store, and in
preparation therefor she set him at work, draped, in a nightdress of
his mother's, to cut watches and brooches from an old Christmas
Now, Mary, alanna, Pearl continued, you're to go to school, too,
and make every day count, There's lots to learn, and it's all good. Get
as much as ye can every day. I'm goin' myself, you bet, when I get
things fixed up, and Teddy and all of us. We've got the money to git
the clothes, and we'll go as far with it as the clothes'll last.
When Pearl, Mrs. Watson, and Camilla went that day to purchase
clothes for the family, they received the best of attention from the
obliging clerks. Mr. Mason, the proprietor, examined the cheque, and
even went with Pearl to the bank to deposit it.
Then came the joyous work of picking out clothes for the whole
family. A neat blue and white hairline stripe was selected for Jimmy,
in preference to a pepper-and-salt suit, which Pearl admitted was nice
enough, but would not do for Jimmy, for it seemed to be making fun of
his freckles. A soft brown serge with a white belt with two gold bears
on it was chosen for Danny, and gray Norfolk jacket suits for Tommy and
Patseyjust alike, because Pearl said everybody knew they were twins,
and there was no use denying it now. A green and black plaid was bought
to make Mary a new Sunday dress, and a red and black plaid for days.
Pearl knew that when Mary was telling a story to the boys she always
clothed her leading lady in plaid, and from this she inferred how
Mary's tastes ran! Stockings and shoes were selected, and an assortment
of underclothes, towels, toques, scarfs, and overshoes assembled.
It was like a dream to Pearl, the wildest, sweetest dream, the kind
you lie down and try to coax back again after you wake from it. She
could not keep from feeling Danny's brown suit and stroking lovingly
his shiny brown shoes.
Then came a stuff dress for Ma, and Sunday suits for Pa, Teddy,
and Billy. By this time the whole staff were busy helping on the good
work. Mr. Mason had no fur-lined capes in stock, but he would send for
one, he said, and have it still in time for Sunday, for Pearl was
determined to have her whole family go to church Sunday morning.
My, what an outburst of good clothes there'll be, Camilla said.
Now, what are you going to have for yourself?
Pearl had always dreamed of a wine-coloured silk, but she hesitated
now, for she had heard that silk did not wear well, and was a material
for rich people only, but that did not prevent the dream from coming
back. While Pearl was thinking about it, Mr. Mason and Camilla held a
What about your favourite colour, now, Pearl? Camilla asked.
Isn't it a wine-coloured silk you always wish for when you see the new
Pearl admitted that it had been her wish for quite a while, but she
wanted to see overcoats first; so overcoats were bought and overcoats
sent on approval. There were yards and yards of flannelette bought to
be made into various garments. Pearl was going to have a dressmaker
come to the house, who, under Camilla's direction, would make all sorts
of things for the Watsons.
Pearl's purchases were so numerous that two packing boxes were sent
up on the dray wagon, and it was a proud moment for her when she saw
them carried in and placed in the middle of the floor of the room.
Now, set down, Pearl said firmly; every wan of ye set on the
floor, so none of yer stuff can fall, and I'll give ye what's for ye.
But ye can't put them on till Sunday morning, that is the Sunday
things, and ye can't put on any of them till, to-morrow morning, when
ye'll be as clean as hot water and bar soap can make ye; for me and Ma
are going at ye all to-night. There's nothin' looks more miserabler
than a good suit of clothes with a dirty neck fornenst it.
Everybody did as Pearl said, and soon their arms were full of her
purchases. Danny was so delighted with the gold bears that he quite
neglected to look at his suit. Tommy was rubbing his chin on his new
coat to see how it felt. Patsey was hunting for pockets in his, when
some one discovered that Bugsey was in tears, idle, out-of-place tears!
Mrs. Watson, in great surprise, inquired the cause, and, after some
coaxing, Bugsey whimpered: I wish I'd always knew I was goin' to get
Mrs. Watson remonstrated with him, but Purl interposed gently.
L'ave him alone, Ma; I know how he feels! He's enjoyin' his cry as
much as if he was laughin' his head off!
An hour was spent in rapturous inspection, and then everything was
placed carefully back in the boxes. That night, after supper, there
came a knock at the door, and a long pasteboard box, neatly tied with
wine-coloured ribbon, was handed in. On its upper surface it bore in
bold characters the name of Miss P. Watson, and below that, With the
compliments of Mason &Meikle.
Excitement ran high.
Open it, Pearlie dear, her mother said. Don't stand there gawkin'
at it. There'll be something in it, maybe.
There was something in it for sure. There was a dress length of the
softest, springiest silk, the kind that creaks when you squeeze it, and
it was of the shade that Pearl had seen in her dreams. There were yards
of silk braid and of cream net. There were sparkling buttons and spools
of thread, and a neck of cream filling with silver spangles on it,
and at the bottom of the box; rolled in tissue paper, were two pairs of
embroidered stockings and a pair of glittering black patent leather
slippers that you could see your face in!
Look at that now! Mrs. Watson exclaimed. Doesn't it beat all?
But Pearl, breathing heavily, was in a state of wordless delight.
It's just as well I wasn't for scoldin' Bugsey for cryin' over his
suit, she said at length; for if it wasn't that I'm feart o' spottin'
some of these, I'd be for doin' a cry myself. I've got such a glad spot
here in me Adam's apple. Reach me yer apron, Mait's comin' out of me
eyes in spite of meself. Camilla must ha' told them what I would like,
and wasn't it kind of them, Ma, to ever think o' me? And who'd ever 'a'
thought of Mr. Mason being so kind, and him so stern lookin'?
Ye never can tell by looks, Pearlie, her mother said
sententiously. Many's the kind heart beats behind a homely face.
Which is true enough in experience, though perhaps not quite in keeping
with the findings of anatomical science.
That night there were prohibitory laws made regarding the taking of
cherished possessions to bed by the owners thereof; but when the lights
were all out, and peaceful slumber had come to the little house, one
small girl in her nightgown went quietly across the bare floor to the
lounge in the room to feel once more the smooth surface of her
slippers and to smell that delicious leathery smell. She was tempted to
take one of them back with her, but her conscience reminded her of the
rule she had made for the others, and so she imprinted a rapturous kiss
on the sole of one of them, where it would not show, and went back to
All week the sound of the sewing machine could be heard in the
Watson home, as Mary Barner, Camilla, Mrs. Watson, and one real
dressmaker fashioned various garments for the young Watsons. Even Mrs.
Francis became infected with the desire to help, and came over
hurriedly to show Mrs. Watson how to put a French hem on her new
napery. But as the only napery, visible or invisible, was a marbled
oilcloth tacked on the table, Mrs. Francis was unable to demonstrate
the principle of French hemming. Camilla, however, showed her mistress
where to work the buttonholes on Patsey's nightshirt, and later in the
afternoon she felled the seams in Mary's plaid dress.
Saturday night brought with it arduous duties, for Pearl was
determined that the good clothes of her family would not be an outward
On Sunday morning, an hour before church time, the children were all
dressed and put on chairs as a precaution against accidents. Mrs.
Watson's fur-lined cape had come the night before, and Camilla had
brought over a real winter hat in good repair, which Mrs. Ducker had
given her. Mrs. Ducker said it was really too good a hat to give away,
but she could not wear it with any comfort now, for Mrs. Grieves had
one almost the same. Mrs. Ducker and Mrs. Grieves had had a slight
unpleasantness at the last annual Ladies' Aid dinner, the subject under
discussion being whether chickens should be served with or without
Camilla came for the boys on Sunday morning, and took them for Mrs.
Francis to see, and also for the boys to see themselves in the long
mirror in the hall. Danny sidled up to Mrs. Francis and said in a
confidential whisper: Ain't I the biggest dood in the bunch?
When the others had admired their appearance sufficiently and filed
back to the dining-room, Bugsey still stood before the glass,
resolutely digging away at a large brown freckle on his cheek. He came
out to Camilla and asked her for a sharp knife, and it was with
difficulty that he was dissuaded from his purpose. When Mrs. Francis
saw the drift of Bugsey's intention, she made a note in her little red
book under the heading, The leaven of good clothes.
Just as they went into church Pearlie gave them her parting
Don't put yer collection in yer mouths, ye might swallow it; I'ave
it tied up in yer handkerchiefs, and don't chew the knot. Keep yer eye
on the minister and try to understand all ye can of it, and look like
as if ye did, anyway!
John Watson, coached by Pearl, went first and waited at the end of
the seat to let the whole flock march past him. There was one row full
and four in the row behind. Pearl sat just behind Danny, so that she
could watch his behaviour from a strategic point.
The minister smiled sympathetically when he saw the Watson family
file in. He had intended preaching a doctrinal sermon on baptism, but
the eager faces of the Watson children inspired him to tell the story
of Esther. Even Danny stayed awake to listen, and when it came to an
end and Mr. Burrell told of the wicked Haman being hanged on the
scaffold of his own making, Patsey whispered to Bugsey in a loud pig
whisper: That's when he got it in the neck! Mrs. Watson was
horrified beyond words, but Pearl pointed out that while it was beyond
doubt very bad to whisper in church, still what Patsey said showed that
he had sensed what the story was about.
The next week she dramatized the story for the boys. Jimmy was
always the proud and haughty Ahasuerus, his crown made of the
pasteboard of the box his father's new cap came in. Bugsey was the
gentle Esther who came in trembling to see if she would suit his
Majesty. The handle of a dismembered parasol was used for the golden
sceptre, and made a very good one after Mary had wound it around with
the yellow selvage that came off her plaid dress.
You lads have got to play educated games now, Pearl had said, when
she started them at this one. 'Bull-in-the-ring,' 'squat-tag,'
'button, button, who's got the button?' are all right for kids that
don't have to rise in the world, but with you lads it's different.
Ye've got to make yer games count. When I get to school I'll learn lots
of games for ye, but ye must all do yer best now.
CHAPTER III. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Pap wunct he scold and says to me,
Don't play too much, but try
To study more and nen you'll be
A great man by and by.
Nen Uncle Sidney says: You let
Him be a boy and play.
The greatest man on earth, I bet,
'Ud trade with him to-day.
James Whitcomb Riley.
PEARL started to school one Monday morning. She felt very brave
until she got into the girls' hall, where the long row of store
coats, fur caps and collars seemed to oppress her with their
Maudie Ducker's 'coon coat and red scarf seemed to be particularly
antagonistic, and she hung her mother's cut-down coat and her new wool
toque as far from them as possible.
Outwardly calm, but with a strong tendency to bolt for home, Pearl
walked into the principal's room, and up to his desk, where he sat
making his register.
He looked up inquiringly and asked curtly: What-do you want?
I am comin' to school, if you please, Pearl said calmly.
What do you know? he asked, none too gently, for it was one of his
Not much yet, Pearl said, but I want to know a whole lot.
He put down his pen and looked at her with interest. We've plenty
of room for people who don't know things, but want to. We're short of
that kind. We've plenty of people here who think they know a lot and
don't want to know any more, but you're an entirely new kind.
Pearl laughedthe easy, infectious laugh that won for her so many
You see, she said, I've got to learn as fast as I can, now while
the money lasts, for there's so many of us. I'm ignorant for me age,
too. I'm thirteen now, and I haven't been to school since I was ten,
but I should be able to learn a whole lot, for I'm going to come as
long as this dress lasts anyway, and I've got sateen sleeves to put on
over it past the elbows to save it, for that's where it'll likely go
first, and I'm takin' long steps to keep my boots from wearin' out, and
I'm earnin' a little money now, for I've got the job of takin' care of
the school, me and Jimmy.
The schoolmaster forgot that he was discouraged, forgot that he had
been having a hard time with Grade VIII's geography, forgot that he had
just made up his mind to quit teaching. He saw nothing but a little
girl standing eagerly before him, telling him her hopes, and depending
on him to help her to realize them.
He put out his hand impulsively, and took hers.
Pearl, he said, you're all right!
That night, when Pearl went home, she gave her family the story of
the Magna Charta, drawing such a vivid picture of King John's general
depravity that even her father's indignation was stirred.
That lad'll have to mend his ways, he said seriously, as he opened
the stove door to get a coal for his pipe, or there will be trouble
coming his way.
And you bet there was, Pearl replied. What did they do but all
git together one day, after they got the crop cut, and they drawed up a
list of things that he couldn't do, and then they goes to him, and says
they: 'Sign this, yer Highness;' and he takes the paper and wipes his
glasses on his hanky, and he reads them all over polite enough, and
then he says, says he, handing it back: 'The divil I will!'
Did he really say that, Pearlie? her Mother asked.
Did he? Pearl said scornfully. He said worse than that, Ma; and
then they says, says they: 'Sign it, or there'll be another man on yer
job.' And says he, brave as ye please: 'I'll see ye some place before I
sign it,' and with that what did they do but jist sit down where they
were, lit their pipes, as unconcerned as could be, and says they: 'Take
yer time, your Highness, we're not in a hurry; we bro't our dinners,'
says they, 'an' we'll stay right here till ye find yer pen,' and they
just sat there on their hunkers talkin' about the crops and the like o'
that, until he signed it; which he did very bad-mannered, and flung it
back at them and says he: 'There now, bad cess to yez, small good it'll
do yez, for I'm the King,' says he, 'an' I'll do as I blame please, so
I will. The King can do no wrong,' says he. 'Well, then,' says one of
them, foldin' up the Magna Charta and puttin' it away careful in his
breast pocket, 'the King can't break his word, I guess,' and wid that
he winks at the rest of them, and they says, says they: 'That's one on
you, yer Majesty!' But they couldn't put him in good humour, and they
do say, Ma, that when the company was gone that that man cut up
somethin' rough, cursed and swore, and chewed up sticks, and frothed at
the mouth like a mad dog, and sure, the very next day, when he was
driving through a place called 'The Wash,' drunk as an owl, he dropped
his crown, and his little satchel wid all his good clothes in it, and
him being the way he was he never heard them splash. When he missed
them he felt awful, and went back to hunt for them, puddlin' round in
his bare feet for hours, and some say he had et too many lampreys,
whatever that is, for his breakfast, but anyway, he got a cowld in his
head and he died, so he did.
Wasn't that a bad state for the poor man to die in, childer dear,
said Mrs. Watson, wishing to give Pearl's story a moral value; and him
full of wickedness and cursin'!
And lampwicks, too, Ma! Bugsey added.
Where he wuz now? asked Danny, who had a theological bent.
Faith, now, that's not an easy thing to say for certain, said the
father gravely. Things look pretty bad for him, I'm thinkin'.
After some discussion as to John's present address, Pearlie summed
it up with a fine blending of charity and orthodoxy by saying: Well,
we just hope he's gone to the place where we're afraid he isn't.
The days passed fleet-footed with the Watson familydays full of
healthy and happy endeavour, with plenty to eat, clothes to wear, Ma at
home, and everybody getting a chance to be somebody. Pearl was the
happiest little girl in the world. Every night she brought home
faithfully what she had learned at school, at least the interesting
part of it, and when the day's work had been dull and abstract, out of
the wealth of her imagination she proceeded to make it interesting.
Under Pearl's sympathetic telling of it, they wept over the untimely
fate of Mary, Queen of Scots, and decided that Elizabeth was a bad lot,
and Mrs. Watson declared that if she had aknowed all this before, she
would never ha' called Mary, Mary Elizabeth, because that just seems
like takin' sides with both parties, and she just couldn't abear
people that do that!
Lady Jane Grey, the Princes in the Tower, Oliver Cromwell, the
unhappy Charles I, were their daily guests, and were discussed with the
freedom and interest with which dwellers in small towns are popularly
supposed to discuss their neighbours.
All of the evening was not given up to pleasure. Pearl saw to it
that each child did his stint of home work, and very often a spelling
match was held, with Pearl as the teacher and no-fair-to-try-over. The
result of this was that Teddy Watson, Class V; Billy Watson, Class III;
Tommy and Jimmy Watson, Class IIA; Patsey and Bugsey Watson, Class I,
were impregnable rocks at the head of their classes on whom the
troublesome waves of ei's and ie's, one l or two l's, beat in
Even John Watson, hard though his hands were with the handling of a
shovel, was not immune from this outburst of learning, and at Pearlie's
suggestion even he was beginning to learn! He filled pages of her
scribbler with John Watson, in round blocky letters, and then added
Now, Pa, Pearlie said one night, ain't there some of yer friends
ye'd like to write to, seein' as yer gettin' on so fine?
John had not kept up a close touch with his friends down east since
he came to Manitoba.
It's fifteen year, he said, since I left the Ottaway valley, but
I'm thinkin' me sister Katie is alive. Katie was me oldest sister, but
I'm thinkin' it would take a lot to kill her!
What was she like, Pa? Pearl asked.
John smoked on reminiscently. She was a smart girl, was Kate, wid
her tongue. I always liked to hear her usin' it, on someone else. I
mind once me poor, father and Katie went to a circus at Arnprior and
father got into a bean and shell game. It looked rale easy at first
sight, and me father expected to make a bunch o' money, but instead o'
that, he lost all he had on him, and his watch, and so he came to Katie
and told her what had happened. Well, sir, they say that Katie just
gave a le'p and cracked her heels together, and, sir, she went at yon
man, and he gave back the money, every cent of it, and me father's
watch, too. The people said they never heerd language like Katie used
She didn't swear, did she, John?' Mrs. Watson asked, in a shocked
tone, giving him a significant look which, interpreted, meant that was
not the time to tell the truth if the truth were incriminating.
No, John said slowly, Katie would not waste her breath swearin'.
She told the man mostly what she thought of him, and how his looks
struck her, and what he reminded her of. I mind she said a rang o' tang
would lose friends if he changed faces with him, and a few things like
that, but nobody could say that Katie used language unbecomin' a lady.
She was always partick'ler that way.
Would you like to write to her and see how she is, Pa? Pearl
Well, now I don't care if I do, her father answered.
The letter was written with infinite pains. The composition was
Pearlie's, and Pearlie was in her happiest mood, and so it really was a
very pleasant and alluring picture she drew of how John Watson had
prospered since coming west, and then, to give weight to it, she sent a
snapshot that Camilla had taken of the whole family in their good
It seems to me, Mrs. Watson said one night, like as if we are
gettin' on too prosperous. The childer have been gettin' on so well,
and we're all so happy like, I'm feart somethin' will happen. This is
too good to last.
Mrs. Watson had a strain of Highland blood in her, and there was a
Banshee in the family two generations back, so it was not to be
wondered at that she sometimes indulged in gloomy forebodings.
Every day she looked for something to happen. One day it did. It was
Aunt Katie from down the Ottaway!
Aunt Kate Shenstone came unannounced, unheralded by letter, card, or
telegram. Aunt Kate said you never could depend on the mailsthey were
like as not to open your letter and keep your stamp! So she came,
carrying her two telescope valises and her handbag. She did not believe
in having anything checkedthat was inviting disaster!
Aunt Kate found her way to the Watson home under the direction of
Wilford Ducker, who had all his previous training on the subject of
courtesy to strangers seriously upset by the way Jimmy Watson talked to
him when they met a few days afterward.
You see, John, Mrs. Shenstone said to her brother, when he came
home, it seemed so lucky when I got your letter. I always did want to
come to Manitoba, but Bill, that's my man, John, he was a sort of a
tie, being a consumptive; but I buried Bill just the week before I got
Wus he dead? Bugsey asked quickly.
Dead? Aunt Kate gasped. Well, I should say he was. My, I'm
glad! Bugsey exclaimed.
Aunt Kate demanded an explanation for his gladness.
I guess he's glad, because then you could come and see us, Auntie,
Mary said. Mary was a diplomat.
'Tain't that, Bugsey said frankly. I am glad my Uncle Bill is
dead, cos it would be an awful thing for her to bury him if he wasn't!
Mrs. Shenstone sat down quickly and looked anxiously around her
John, she said, they're all right wise, are they?
Oh, I guess so, he answered cheerfully, as far as we can tell
At supper she was given the cushioned chair and the cup and saucer
that had no crack. She made a quick pass with her hand and slipped
something under the edge of her plate, and it was only the keen eyes of
Danny, sitting beside her, that saw what had happened, and even he did
not believe what he had seen until, leaning out of his chair, he looked
searchingly into his aunt's face.
She's tuck out her teeth! he cried. I saw her.
Pearlie endeavoured to quiet Danny, but Mrs. Shenstone was by no
means embarrassed. You see, Jane, she said to Mrs. Watson, I just
wear them when I go out. They're real good-lookin' teeth, but they're
no good to chew with. There must be something wrong with them. Mother
never could chew with them, eitherthey were mother's, you know and I
guess they couldn't ha' been made right in the first place.
Patsey, who was waiting for the second table, came around and had a
look at them.
Them's the kind to have, you bet, he said to Tommy, who was also
one of the unemployed; she can take them out if they ache, and let
them ache as much as they've' a mind to. Tommy had had some experience
with toothache, and spoke with feeling.
Mrs. Shenstone was a woman of uncertain age, and was of that variety
of people who look as old when they are twenty-five as they will ever
look. She was dressed in rusty mourning, which did not escape the sharp
eyes of her young nephews.
When did you say Uncle Bill died? Jimmy asked.
Just four weeks to-morrow, she said, and launched away into an
elaborate description of Bill's last hours.
Did you get yer black dress then? Mary asked, before Pearl could
get her nudged into silence.
No; I didn't, Aunt Kate answered, not at all displeased with the
question, as Pearl was afraid she might be. I got this dress quite a
while agone. I went into black when mother died, and I've never seen
fit to lay it off. Folks would say to me: 'Oh, Mrs. Shenstone, do lay
off your mournin',' but I always said: 'Mother's still dead, isn't she?
and she's just as dead as she ever was, isn't she? Well, then, I'll
stick to my crape,' says I; and besides, I knew all along that Bill was
goin' sooner or later. He thought sometimes that he was gettin' better,
but, land! you couldn't fool me, him coughin' that dreadful hollow
cough and never able to get under it, and I knew I was safe in stickin'
to the black. I kept the veil and the black gloves and all laid away.
They say keep a thing for seven years and you'll find a use for it, if
you've any luck at all. I kept mine just six years, and you see, they
did come in good at last.
I guess you were good and glad, weren't you, Auntie? asked Tommy.
Mrs. Watson and Pearl apologized as best they could for Tommy.
That's all right, now, Jane, Mrs. Shenstone said, chuckling
toothlessly; youngsters will out with such things, and, now since
you've asked me, Tommy, I am not what you'd call real glad, though I am
glad poor Bill's gone where there ain't no consumption, but I miss him
every minute. You see, he's been with me sittin' in his chair for the
last four years, as I sat beside him sewin', and he was great company,
Bill was, for all he was so sick; for he had great sperrits, and could
argue somethin' surprisin' and grand. 'You're a good girl, Katie,' was
the last words he ever said. I never was no hand to make a big palaver,
so just as soon as the funeral was over I went right on with my sewin'
and finished up everything I had in the house, for I needed the money
to pay the expenses; and, besides, I made the first payment on the
stoneit's a lovely one, John, cost me $300, but I don't mind that. I
just wish Bill could see it. I often wish now I had set it up before he
went, it would ha' pleased him so. Bill was real fond of a nice grave,
that is, fixed up nicehe took such an interest in the sweet alyssum
we had growin' in the garden, and he showed me just how he wanted it
put on the grave. He wanted a horseshoe of it acrost the grave with B.
S. inside, made of pansies. You see B. S. stands for Bill Shenstone,
He was a real proud man, yer Uncle Bill was, and him just a
labourin' man, livin' by his anvil. Mind you, when I made him overalls
I always had to put a piece of stuff out on the woodpile to fade fer
patches. Bill never could bear to look at a patch of new stuff put on
when the rest was faded.
Well, he couldn't see the patch, could he, auntie? Jimmy asked,
making a shrewd guess at the location of it.
Maybe he couldn't, Bill's wife answered proudly. But he knew it
Where he wuz now? Danny asked, his mind still turning to the
Mrs. Shenstone did not at once reply, and the children were afraid
that her silence boded ill for Bill's present happiness. She stirred
her tea absent-mindedly. If there's a quiet field up in heaven, with
elm-trees around it, she said at last; elm-trees filled with singin'
birds, a field that slopes down maybe to the River of Life, a field
that they want ploughed, Bill will be there with old Bess and Doll,
steppin' along in the new black furrow in his bare feet, singin':
There's a city like a bride,
just beyond the swellin' tide.
He always said that would be heaven for him 'thout no harp or big
procession, and I am sure Bill would never hear to a crown or such as
that. Bill was a terrible quiet man, but a better-natured man never
lived. So I think, Tommy, that your Uncle Bill is ploughin' down on the
lower eighty, where maybe the marsh marigolds and buttercups bloom all
the year aroundthere's a hymn that says somethin' about everlasting
spring abides and never witherin' flowers, so I take it from that that
the ploughin' is good all the year around, and that'll just suit Bill.
When the meal was over, Aunt Katie complacently patted her teeth
back into place. I never like no one to see me without them, she
said, exceptin' my own folks. I tell you, I suffer agonies when
there's a stranger in for a meal. Now, Jane, let's git the children to
bed. Mary and Pearl, you do the dishes. Hustle, you young lads, git off
your boots now and scoot for bed. I never could bear the clatter of
children. Come here, and I'll loosen your lacesthis to Bugsey, who
sat staring at her very intently. What's wrong with you? she
exclaimed, struck by the intent look on his face.
I'm just thinkin', Bugsey answered, without removing his eyes from
the knothole on the door.
And what are you thinkin'? she demanded curiously.
I'm just thinkin' how happy my Uncle Bill must be up
there...ploughin'...without any one to bother him.
Mrs. Shenstone turned to her brother and shook her head gravely:
Mind you, John, she said, you'll have to watch yon ladhe's a deep
Aunt Kate had only been a few days visiting at her brother John's
when the children decided that something would have to be done. Aunt
Kate was not an unmixed blessing, they thought.
She's got all cluttered up with bad habits, not havin' no family of
her own to raise, Pearl said. She wouldn't jump up and screech every
time the door slams if she'd been as used to noises as Ma is, and this
talk about her nerves bein' all unstrung is just plain sillyand as
for her not sleepin' at nights, she sleeps as sound as any of us. She
says she hears every strike of the clock all night long, and she thinks
she does; but she doesn't, I know. Anyway, I'm afraid Ma will get to be
like her if we don't get her stopped.
Ma backed her up to-day when she said my face was dirty just after
I had washed it, so she did, Mary said with a grieved air.
Nearly every one of them had some special grievance against Aunt
Let's make her sign a Charta, Tommy said, like they did with
The idea became immensely popular.
She won't sign it, said Bugsey, the pessimist. Let her dare to
not, said Jimmy gravely, and she shall know that the people are the
Pearl said that it would do no harm to draw up the paper anyway, so
a large sheet of brown paper was found, and Pearl spread it on the
floor. Mrs. Watson and Aunt Kate had gone downtown, so every person
felt at liberty to speak freely. Pearl wasn't sure of the heading and
Mrs. Kate Shenstone
Please take notice of these things, and remember them to do them,
and much good will follow here and hereafter.
She read it over to the others, and everybody was well pleased with
After receiving suggestions from all, the following by-laws were
recommended to govern the conduct of Aunt Kate in future:
1. Keep your nerves strung. 2. Don't screech at every little noise.
It don't help none. 3. Don't make nobody wash when they are already
done so. 4. Sleep at night, snore all you want to, we don't stay awake
listen to you. 5. Don't bust yourself to think of things for us
to do. We kep the
wood-box full long before we ever saw you, also waterpail and
other errings. 6. Don't make remarks on freckles. We have them,
and don't care,
freckles is honourable. (This was Jimmy's contribution.) 7.
Don't always say you won't live long, we don't mind, only Mrs.
Jane Watson is picking it up now from you. We don't like it,
it ain't cheerful. 8. Don't interfere about bedtime. We don't
with you. 9. Don't tell about children raised in idleness that turned
bad. It ain't cheerful, and besides we're not.
Just then the cry was raised that she was coming, and the Magna
Charta was hastily folded up, without receiving the signatures.
Aunt Kate, who was very observant, suspected at once that the
children had been up to something.
What have you youngsters been up to now, while we were away? she
There was a thick silence. Mrs. Watson asked the children to answer
Mary it was who braved the storm. We've been drawing up a list of
things for you, she said steadily.
Aunt Kate had seen signs of rebellion, and had got to the place
where she was not surprised at anything they did.
Give it here, she said.
Wait till it's signed, Pearl said. It's Charta, Aunt Kate, she
went on, like 'King John to sign.
I didn't hear about it. Pearl explained.
Let me see it, anyway. Pearl gave her the document, and she
retired to her room with it to look it over.
Say, Pearl, said Jimmy, go in there and get out my catapult, will
you? She may sign it and then cutup rough.
There was no more said about it for several days, but Aunt Kate was
decidedly better, though she still declared she did not sleep at night,
and Pearl was determined to convince her that she did. Aunt Kate was a
profound snorer. Pearl, who was the only one who had ever heard her, in
trying to explain it to the other children, said that it was just like
some one pulling a trunk across the room on a bare floor to see how
they would like it in this corner, and then, when they get it over
here, they don't like it a bit, so they pull it back again; and
besides that, Pearl said, she whistles comin' back and grinds her
teeth, and after all that she gets up in the mornin' and tells Ma she
heard every hour strike. She couldn't hear the clock strike anyway, and
her kickin' up such a fuss as she is, but I'm going to stop her if I
can; she's our aunt, and we've got to do our best for her, and,
besides, there's lots of nice things about her.
The next morning Pearl was very solicitous about how her aunt had
Not a bit better, Aunt Kate said. I heard every hour but six. I
always drop off about six.
Did you really hear the clock last night, Auntie? Pearl asked with
Oh, it's very little you youngsters know about lying awake. When
you get to the age of me and your mother, I tell you, it's different I
get thinkin', thinkin', thinkin', and my nerves get all unstrung.
And you really heard the clock? Pearl said. My, but that is
Nothin' queer about it, Pearl. What's queer about it, I'd like to
Because I stopped the clock, Pearl said, just to see if you could
hear it when it's stopped, and for once Aunt Kate, usually so ready of
speech, could not think of anything to say.
Aunt Kate went to bed early the next night, leaving the children
undisturbed to enjoy the pleasant hour as they had done before she
came. The next morning she handed Pearl the sheet of brown paper, and
below the list of recommendations there it was in bold writing:
Kate W. Shenstone.
See that, now, said Pearl triumphantly, as she showed it to the
children, what it does for you to know history!
Say, said Jim, where could we get some of them things, what did
you call them, Pearl?
'Twouldn't do any good, she wouldn't eat them, Billy said.
Lampreys or lampwicks, or somethin' like that.
Now, boys, said Pearl, that's not right. Don't talk like that. It
CHAPTER IV. SOMETHING MORE THAN
Where is the blot?
PEARLIE WATSON, the new caretaker of the Milford school, stood broom
in hand at the back of the schoolroom and listened. Pearlie's face was
troubled. She had finished the sweeping of the other three rooms, and
then, coming into Miss Morrison's room to sweep it, she found Maudie
Ducker rehearsing her piece for the Medal Contest. Miss Morrison was
instructing Maudie, and Mrs. Ducker would have told you that Maudie was
Every year the W. C. T. U. gave a silver medal for the best reciter,
and for three consecutive years Miss Morrison had trained the winner;
so Mrs. Ducker was naturally anxious to have Maudie trained by so
successful an instructor. Miss Morrison had studied elocution and
gesturing. It was in gesturing that Maudie was being instructed when
Pearlie came in with her broom.
It was a pathetic monologue that Miss Morrison had chosen for
Maudie, supposed to be given by an old woman in a poorhouse. Her
husband had died a drunkard and then her only son, as likely a lad as
you ever saw, had also taken to crooked ways and left her all alone.
One day a man came to visit the poorhouse, and poor old Nan, glad of
any one to talk to, tells all her story to the sympathetic stranger,
asking him at last wouldn't he try to find and save her poor Jim, whom
she had never ceased to pray for, and whom she still believed in and
loved. Then she discovered the man to be in tears, and of course he
turns out to be the long-lost Jim, and a happy scene follows.
It is a common theme among temperance reciters, but to Pearlie it
was all new and terrible. She could not go on with her sweepingshe
was bound to the spot by the story of poor old Nan and her woes.
Miss Morrison was giving Maudie instruction on the two lines:
It is the old, sad, pitiful story, sir,
Of the devil's winding stair.
Neither of them had time to think of the meaningthey were so
anxious about the gestures. Maudie did a long, waving sweep with three
notches in it, more like a gordon braid pattern than a stair, but it
was very pretty and graceful, and Miss Morrison was pleased.
And men go down and down and down
To darkness and despair.
Maudie scalloped the air three times evenly to indicate the down
Tossing about like ships at sea
With helm and anchor lost.
Maudie certainly gave the ships a rough time of it with her willowy
left arm. Miss Morrison said that to use her left arm to toss the ships
would add variety.
On and on thro' the surging waves,
Not caring to count the cost.
Maudie rose on the ball of her left foot and indicated distance
with the proper Delsarte stretch.
* * *
It was dark when Pearl got home. Maudie Ducker has a lovely piece,
she began at once; but she spoils itshe makes a fool of it.
The family were just at supper, and her mother said reprovingly, O
Pearlie! now, sure Miss Morrison is teaching her, and they do be sayin'
she's won three medals herself.'
Well, Pearlie said, unconvinced, them kind of carrin's-on may do
fine for some pieces, but old women wid their hearts just breakin'
don't cut the figger eight up in the air, and do the Dutch-roll, and
kneel down and get up just for showthey're too stiff, for one thing.
Ye can't listen to the story the way Maudie carries on, she's that full
of twists and turnin's. Maudie and Miss Morrison don't care a cent for
the poor owld woman.
Tell us about it, Pearlie, the young Watsons cried. Well, Pearl
began, as she hung up her thin little coat behind the door, this Nan
was a fine, purty girl, about like Mary there, only she didn't have a
good pa like ours; hers used to come home at night, full as ye plaze,
and they were all, mother, too, scairt to death purty near. Under the
bed they'd go, the whole bilin' of them, the minute they'd hear him
comin' staggerin' up to the cheek of the dure, and they'd have to wait
there 'ithout no supper until he'd go to sleep, and then out they'd
come, the poor little things, eyes all red and hearts beatin', and chew
a dry crust, steppin' aisy for fear o' wakin' him.
Look at that now! John Watson exclaimed, pausing with his knife
half way to his mouth.
That ain't all in the piece, Pearl explained; but it's
understood, it says something about 'cruel blows from a father's hand
when rum had crazed his brain,' and that's the way poor Nan grew up,
and I guess if ever any girl got a heart-scald o' liquor, she did. But
she grew up to be a rale purty girl, like Mary Barrier, I think, and
one day a fine strappin' fellow came to town, clerkin in a store,
steady enough, too, and he sees Nan steppin' out for a pail of water
one day and her singin' to herself, and sez he to himself: 'There's the
girl fer me!' and he was after steppin' up to her, polite as ye plaze
(Pearl showed them how he did it), and says he: 'Them pails is heavy
for ye, miss, let me have them.
And after that nothin' would do him but she must marry him, and he
was as fine a lookin' upstandin' fellow as you'd see any place, and
sure Nan thought there had never been the likes of him. After that she
didn't mind the old man's tantrums so much, for she was thinkin' all
the time about Tom, and was gittin' mats and dish-towels made. And they
had a fine weddin', with a cake and a veil and rice, and the old man
kept straight and made a speech, and it was fine. And now, Ma, here's
the part I hate to tell yezit seems so awful. They hadn't been
married long before Tom began to drink, too.
The dirty spalpeen! John angrily.
Ye may well say that, Pa, after all she had to stand from the old
man. But that's what the piece said:
But Tom, too, took to drinkin';
He said 'twas a harmless thing;
So the arrow sped and my bird of hope
Came down with a broken wing.
The Watson family were unanimous that Tom was a bad lot!
Tom cut up worse than the old man, and she used to have to get some
of the neighbours to come in and sit on his head while she tuk his
boots off, and she'd have clean give up if it hadn't been for her
little boy, like Danny there; but if I ever thought that our Danny
would go back on us the way that young Jim went back on his ma, I don't
know how I'd stand it.
What did he do, Pearlie? Mary asked.
Soon as he got big enough nothin' would do him but he'd drink too,
and smoke cigarettes and stay out late, and one day stole somethin',
and had to scoot, and she says so pitiful:
'I've never seen my poor lost boy
From that dark day to this.'
Then the poorwoman goes to the poorhouse, mind you!
God help us! cried Mrs. Watson, did it come to that?
Yes, Ma; but what d'ye think? One day a finelookin' man came in to
see all the old folks, silk hat and kid gloves on him and all that, and
this poor woman got talkin' to him, and didn't she up and tell him the
whole story, same as I'm tellin' you, only far more pitiful, and sure
didn't she end up by beggin' him to be kind to her poor Jimmy if he
ever comes across him; and tellin' him how she always prays for him and
knows he'll be saved yet. She never held it against the young scamp
that he never writ back even the scratch of a pen, just as full of
excuses for him as Ma would be if it was one of you lads, and Pearl's
voice quivered a little.
But sure, now, it is wonderful how things turn out! Pearlie went
on, after she had wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her checked apron,
for wasn't this Jim all the time forninst her, and her not knowin' it,
and didn't he grab her in his arms and beg her to forgive him; and he
cried and she cried, and then he took her away with him, and she had a
good time at last.
The next day Pearl borrowed the book from Maudie Ducker and learned
the words, and for several evenings recited them to her admiring and
tearful family. Then, to make it more interesting, Pearl let the young
Watsons act it. Jimmy spoke right up and says he: I bo'r to be the old
man, and come home drunk, but as this was the star part, Jimmy had to
let Tommy and Billy have it sometimes.
The first scene was the father's spectacular homecoming. The next
scene was the wedding, and Jimmy made the speech after Pearl had
coached him, and in most feeling terms he warned his son-in-law against
the flowing bowl, and told what a good girl his little Nancy was, and
what a bad pa he'd been; and then he broke down and cried real tears,
which Pearl said was good actin'. The third scene was where Tom came
home drunk. It was somewhat marred by Mary, who was playing the part of
the broken-hearted bride, and was supposed to burst into tears when she
saw the condition of her husband, and say:
So the arrow has sped and my bird of hope
Comes down with a broken wing.
Now Mary had her own ideas of how intemperate husbands should be
dealt with, and she had provided herself with a small, flat stick as
she sat waiting in what was supposed to be joyful anticipation for her
liege lord's homecoming. When she discovered his condition she cut out
the speech about the bird of hope, and used the stick with so much
vigour that it seemed he was in more danger than the bird of hope of
having a broken wing. Billy, the bridegroom, was naturally indignant,
but his father was disposed to approve of Mary's methods. Faix, I'm
thinkin', he said, there'd be less of it if they got that every time
they cum home that way.
Scene IV was the young son (Patsey) fleeing from the hands of
justice. Pearlie hid him behind the flour-barrel until the two sleuths
of the law, Danny and Tommy, passed by, and then he was supposed to do
his great disappearing act through the cellar window.
Scene V was the most important of all. It was the poorhouse, and
required a good deal of stage-setting. All evidences of wealth had to
be carefully eradicated. The cloth was taken from the table, and the
one mat lifted off the floor. Newspapers were pinned over the windows,
and the calendars were turned with their faces to the wall. The lamp
with the cracked chimney was lighted instead of the good lamp, and
then Pearlie, with her mother's old black shawl around her shoulders,
ceased to be Pearlie Watson and became poorhouse Nan, widowed,
deserted, old as the world itself, with heartbreak and tears.
John Watson sat and listened to her with a growing wonder in his
heart, but as the story went on even he forgot that it was Pearl, and
shed many unashamed tears over the sorrows of poorhouse Nan.
Camilla came in one night and heard Pearl recite it all through.
The morning of the contest an emergency meeting of the W. C. T. U.
was hurriedly called at the home of Mrs. Francis. What was to be done?
Maudie Ducker and Mildred Bates had the measles, and could not recite,
which left only four reciters. They could do with five, but they could
not go on with four. The tickets were sold, the hall rented, the
contest had been advertised over the country! Who could learn a
recitation in a day? Miss Morrison was sent for. She said it was
impossible. A very clever pupil might learn the words, but not the
gestures, and a piece was nothing without gestures. Mrs. White again
exclaimed: What shall we do?
Mrs. Francis said: We'll see what Camilla says.
Camilla came and listened attentively while the woes of the W. C. T.
U. were told her. It was with difficulty that she restrained an
exclamation of delight when she heard that they were short of reciters.
Pearl Watson knows Maudie's selection, she said quietly, and recites
it very well, indeed!'
Impossible! Miss Morrison exclaimed. She has had no lessons.
I think she watched you training Maudie, Camilla ventured.
Only once, Miss Morrison replied, and she can not possibly know
the gestures; but we will be glad to have any one fill in. People will
not expect her to do very well when she has had no training, she added
When Camilla returned to the kitchen she was smiling gently.
There's a surprise coming to little Miss Morrison, she said.
* * *
That night the hall was full to the door, and people stood in the
aisles. Everybody loves a contest. Pearl and the other four contestants
sat in a front seat. The latter were beautifully dressed in white net
over silk, with shoes and stockings of white, and numerous bows of
By the draw that Miss Morrison made, Pearl came last on the
programme, and Miss Morrison kindly asked the chairman to explain that
Pearl had had no training whatever, and that she had only known that
she was going to recite that morning Miss Morrison wished to be quite
Camilla sat beside Pearl. She had dressed Pearl for the occasion,
and felt rather proud of her work as she sat beside Contestant No. 5.
Pearl's brown hair was parted and brushed smoothly back, and tied with
two new bright red ribbonsCamilla's gift. It did not occur to Pearl
that she was in the race for the medal. She was glad of a chance to
fill in and help the contest along.
John Watson, Mrs. Watson, and all the little Watsons were present,
and filled two side seats. Mr. Francis had heard something from Camilla
that caused him to send tickets to the whole Watson family, and even
come himself, which was an unprecedented event.
Lucy Bates was the first contestant, and made her parents and many
admiring relatives very proud of the a flutter of lace.
Maude Healythe star reciter of the Hullett neighbourhoodrecited
How Father Signed the Pledge, in a good, clear, ringing voice, and
the Hullett people thought they were just as sure of the medal as if
they saw the chairman pinning it on Maude.
Two other girls recited, with numerous gestures, selections of the
same class; in which wayward sons, stormy nights, and railway accidents
Then the chairman made the explanation in regard to Pearl's
appearance, and asked her to come forward and recite. Camilla gave her
hand an affectionate little squeeze as she left the seat, and, thus
fortified, Pearlie Watson faced the sea of faces unflinchingly. Then
came that wonderful changethe little girl was gone, and an old woman,
so bowed, so broken, began to tell her story, old enough to most of us,
but strong always in its gripping pathosthe story of a child cheated
of her birthright of happiness because some men will grow rich on other
men's losses and fatten on the tears of little children. The liquor
traffic stood arraigned before the bar of God as the story went on,
unfolding darker and darker chapters in the woman's life. It had been
the curse that had followed her always, had beaten and bruised her,
The people saw it in its awfulness, and the pity of it rolled over
them as they listened to that sad, old, cracked voice.
When she came to the place where she begged the well-dressed
stranger to try and save her boy, and, clasping her trembling hands
besought the God of Heaven to bear with her Jim a little longer, and
let her see the desire of her heart, her son redeemed and forgiven,
there was an audible sob from some one in the back of the hall, and
many a boy away from home, careless and forgetful of his own mother,
remembered her now with sudden tenderness. The words of the prayer were
stiff and unnatural, but when did the Spirit of God depend upon
felicity of expression? It can abound wherever there is the honest
heart, and when Pearl, with tears flowing down her cheeks, but with
voice steady and clear, thanked the God of all grace for sending her
the answer to her prayers, even the dullest listener got a glimmering
of the truth that there is One behind the shadows who keeps watch
above His own.
When Pearl had finished, the audience sat perfectly motionless, and
then burst into such a tornado of applause that the windows rattled in
John Watson sat still, but his heart was singing within him
Pearlie, Pearlie, God bless her!
When the judges met for their decision it was found that they had
forgotten to mark Pearl as to memory, gesture, pronunciation, etc., as
their rules required them to do.
Father O'Flynn, the little Irish priest, wiping his eyes
suspiciously, said: Gentlemen, my decision is for Number 5. The other
And so it came about that Pearlie Watson was once more called to
face the large and cheering audience, while Father O'Flynn, with many
kind words, presented her with the W. C. T. U. oratorical prize.
Miss Morrison went home that night disturbed in spirit, wondering
if, after all, there might not be something more in it than gestures,
voice, memory, and articulation.
CHAPTER V. AT THE CHICKEN HILL SCHOOL
Ho! I'm going back to where
We were youngsters! Meet me there,
Dear old barefoot chums, and we
Will be as we used to be,
Lawless rangers up and down
The old creek behind the town.
James Whitcomb Riley.
IF a river is measured by the volume of water in its current, the
Souris River, on whose southern bank the little town of Millford is
built, is but an insignificant stream; but if bold and precipitous
banks, sheer cliffs, and a broad valley are to be considered, then the
Souris may lay claim to some distinction. For a few weeks in the spring
of the year, too, it is a swift and mighty flood that goes sweeping
through the valley, carrying on its turbulent waters whirling ice-jams,
branches of trees, and even broken bridge-timbers from the far country
known as the Antlers of the Souris. When the summer is very dry, the
river shrinks to a gentle, trickling thread of water, joining shallow
pools, overhung with gray-green willows that whiten in the breeze.
At Millford, the Souris flows almost straight east and keeps this
direction for about three miles, and then turns sharply north toward
the Sand Hill country, where six miles farther on it joins the
On one of its banks, just before it takes the northern turn, stands
the farmhouse of Thomas Perkins, a big white frame house, set in a
grove of maples; a mile south is the big stone house of Samuel
Motherwell, where Pearlie Watson wiped out the stain on her family's
honour by working off the old ten-dollar debt of her father's.
Two miles farther east, on the old Turtle Mountain trail, stands the
weather-beaten schoolhouse where Martha Perkins got her meagre
education, and where Bud, her brother, was now attending. The
schoolhouse is bare and unlovely, without tree or flower. The rain and
the sun, the scorching winds of spring and winter's piercing blizzards
have had their way with it for many years, and now it defies them all,
for its paint is all gone, and it has no beauty for them to fade.
A straggling woodpile and a long straw covered shed stand near it.
Three windows, curtainless and staring, are in each side, and a small
porch with two steps leading up to it is at the south end. Here the
gophers frolic in the quiet summer afternoons, and steal what is left
of the children's dinners from the tin pails behind the door. The porch
smells of crumbs.
Away to the east, Oak Creek runs through a wooded belt of fertile
lands, its tall elms and spruce giving a grateful shade to the farmers'
cattle. To the north are the sand-hills of the Aissinboine, where stiff
spruce trees stand like sentinels on the red sand; but no tiny seedling
had ever been brought to the school-yard, no kind hand had ever sought
to relieve that desolate grayness, bleak and lonely as a rainy midnight
in a deserted house.
Inside, the walls are dull with age, so dark and smoked you would
think they could become no darker shade, but on the ceiling above the
long stovepipe that runs from the stove at the door to the chimney at
the other end, there runs a darker streak still. The stove is a big,
square box, set on four stubby feet, and bears the name Sultana.
Some small effort has been made to brighten the walls. One of Louis
Wain's cat pictures, cut from a London Graphic, is stuck on the wall
with molasses. There is a picture of the late King Edward when he was
the Prince of Wales, and one of the late Queen Victoria framed with
varnished wheat. There is a calendar of '93 showing red-coated
foxhunters in full chase. Here the decorations end abruptly.
The teacher's desk is of unpainted wood, and on its lid, which lifts
up, revealing the mysteries of mysteries below, there run ancient
rivers of ink, pointing back to a terrible day when Bud Perkins leaned
against the teacher's desk in class. A black spot on the floor under
the teacher's chair shows just how far-reaching was Bud's offence.
The desks are all ink-stained and cut and inscribed with letters and
names. Names are there on the old desks that can be read now on
business and professional signs in Western cities, and some, too, that
are written in more abiding type still, on the marble slabs that dot
the quiet field on the river-bank.
The dreariness of the school does not show so much in the
winter-time, when the whole landscape is locked in snow, and the
windows are curtained by frost-ferns. The big boys attend school in the
winter-time, too, for when there is nothing for them to do at home the
country fathers believe that it is quite proper to pay some attention
It was a biting cold day in January. The Christmas and New Year's
festivities were over, and the Manitoba winter was settling down to
show just what a Manitoba winter can do in the way of weather. The sky
was sapphire blue, with fleecy little strings of white clouds, an
innocent-looking sky, that had not noticed how cold it was below. The
ground was white and sparkling, as if with silver tinsel, a glimmer of
diamonds. Frost-wreaths would have crusted the trees and turned them
into a fairy forest if there had been trees; but there was not a tree
at the Chicken Hill School, so the frost-wreaths lay like fairy lace on
the edges of the straw-covered shed and made fairy frills around the
straggling woodpile. Everything was beautiful, blue and silver, sparkle
and dance, glitter and glimmer.
Out on the well-tramped school-yard the boys and girls were playing
shinny, which is an old and honourable game, father or uncle of
Big Tom Steadman was captain of one side, and his fog-horn voice, as
he shouted directions and objurgations to his men and his opponents,
was the only discordant note in all that busy, boisterous, roaring
Libby Anne Cavers was on the other side, and Libby Anne was a force
to be reckoned with, for she was little and lithe, and determined and
quick, with the agility of a small, thin cat. She was ten years old,
but looked about seven.
Big Tom had the ball, and was preparing to shoot on the opposing
goal. He flourished his stick in the air with a yell of triumph, and in
his mind the game was already won. But he had forgotten Libby Anne,
who, before his stick reached the ground, had slipped in her own little
crook, and his stick struck the empty snow, for Libby Anne was fast
flying up the field with the ball, while the players cheered. It was
Tom Steadman ran after her in mad pursuit, and overtook her just as
she passed the ball to Bud Perkins, who was the captain of her side.
Then Tom Steadman, coward that he was, struck her with his heavy stick,
struck fair and straight at her poor little thin shins, a coward's
blow. Libby Anne doubled up into a poor little whimpering, writhing
A sudden horror fell on the field, and the game stopped. Bud Perkins
looked at her poor quivering little face, white as ashes now, his own
face almost as pale, and then, pulling of his coat, ran over to' where
Tom Steadman stood.
Drop yer stick, you coward, and stand up to me, he said in a voice
that rang with the blood-lust.
Tom Steadman was older and bigger, and he felt very sure that he
could handle Bud, so his manner was full of assurance.
The school closed in around them and watched the fight with the
stolid indifference of savages or children, which is much the same
thing. Big Tom Steadman dealt his cruel sledge-hammer blows on Bud, on
his face, head, neck, while Bud, bleeding, but far from beaten, fought
like a cornered badger. The boys did not cheer; it was too serious a
business for noisy shouting, and besides, the teacher might be aroused
any minute, and stop the fight, which would be a great disappointment,
for every boy and girl, big and little, wanted to see Tom Steadman get
what was coming to him.
Bud was slighter but quicker, and fought with more skill. Big Tom
could hit a knockout blow, but there his tactics ended. He knew only
the one way of dealing with an antagonist, and so, when one of his eyes
suddenly closed up and his nose began to bleed, he began to realize
that he had made a big mistake in hitting Libby Anne when Bud Perkins
was there. With a clever underarm hold, Bud clinched with him, and he
Libby Anne, limping painfully, put her shinny stick into Bud's
Sock it to him now, Bud, she said, now you've got him.
Bud dropped the stick and tried to laugh, but his mouth would not
Get up, Tom, Bud said. I won't hit you when you're down. Stand up
and let me at you again.
Tom swore threateningly, but showed no disposition to get up.
I guess he's had enough, Bud said. He's sorry he hit you now,
Libby Anne. He sees now that it's a dirty shame to hit a little girl.
He never thought much about it before. Come away, kids, and let him
When school was called, the whole story of the fight came out.
Tom Steadman was the only son of one of the trusteesthe
trustee, indeed, the one who lived in the biggest house, was councillor
of the municipality, owned a threshing-machine, boarded the teacher,
and made political speechesand so Bud's offence was not a slight one.
A school meeting was called, to see what was to be done. Young Tom
was there, swollen of lip and nose, and with sunset shades around both
eyes. Libby Anne was there, too, but she had been warned by her father,
a poor, shiftless fellow, living on a rented farm, that she must not
say anything to offend the Steadmans, for Mr. Steadman owned the farm
that they were living on.
The trial was decided before it began. The teacher, Mr. Donald, was
away attending the Normal, and his place was being filled by a young
fellow who had not enough courage to stand for the right.
The question to be decided was this: Did Tom Steadman strike Libby
Anne with intent to hurt; or did he merely reprimand her gently to
shinny on her own side; or did she run under his stick when he struck
at the ball? Tom Steadman said she ran under his stick, and he didn't
see her, whereupon some of the children who were not living on rented
farms groaned. Several of the children gave their testimony that Tom
had without doubt struck her a-purpose! Then Mr. Steadman, Tom's
father, a big, well-fed man, who owned nineteen hundred acres of land
and felt that some liberty should be allowed the only son of a man who
paid such a heavy school-tax, took charge and said, fixing his eyes on
Bill Cavers, his poverty-stricken tenant: Let us see what Libby Anne
has to say. I should say that Libby Anne's testimony should have more
weight than all these others, for these young ones seem to have a spite
at our Tom. Libby Anne, did Tom strike you a-purpose?
Be careful what you say, Libby Anne, her father said miserably,
his eyes on the ground. He owed Steadman for his seed-wheat.
Libby Anne looked appealingly at Bud. Her eyes begged him to forgive
Mr. Steadman repeated the question.
Speak, Libby Anne, her father said, never raising his eyes.
Did Tom hit you a-purpose?
Libby Anne drew a deep breath, and then in a strange voice she
She flung out the word as if it burned her.
Libby Anne was a pathetic figure in her much-washed derry dress,
faded now to the colour of dead grass, and although she was clean and
well-kept, her pleading eyes and pale face told of a childhood that had
been full of troubles and tears.
Bud stared at her in amazement, and then, as the truth flashed on
him, he packed up his books, hot with rage, and left the schoolhouse.
Bill Cavers hung his head in shame, for though he was a shiftless
fellow, he loved his little girl in his better moments, and the two
cruel marks on her thin little shins called loudly for vengeance; but
must live, he told himself miserably.
When Bud left the school Libby Anne was in her seat, sobbing
bitterly, but he did not give her a glance as he angrily slammed the
door behind him.
Two days after this, Bud was drawing wood from the big bush north of
the Assiniboine, and as he passed the Cavers home Libby Anne, with a
thin black shawl around her, came running out to speak to him.
Bud, she called breathlessly, I had to say it. Dad made me do it,
'cos he's scairt of old man Steadman.
Bud stopped his horses and jumped down. They stood together on the
shady side of the load of poles.
That's all right, kid, Bud said. Don't you worry. I liked lickin'
But Bud, Libby Anne said wistfully, you can't ever forget that I
lied, can you? You can't ever like me again?
Bud looked at the little wind-blown figure, such a little troubled,
pathetic face, and something tender and manly stirred in his heart.
Run away home now, Libby Anne, he said kindly. Sure I like you,
and I'll wallop the daylight out of anybody that ever hurts you. You're
all right, Libby Anne, you bet; and I'll never go back on you.
The bitter wind of January came down the Souris valley, cold and
piercing, and cut cruelly through Libby Anne's thin shawl as she ran
home, but her heart was warmed with a sweet content that no winter wind
CHAPTER VI. PEARL'S UNRULY CONSCIENCE
We turn unblessed from faces fresh with beauty,
Unsoftened yet by fears,
To those whose lines are chased by love and duty
And know the touch of tears.
Ella Wheekr Wikox.
THE Watson family attended school faithfully all winter. Pearl took
no excuses from the boys. When Tommy came home bitterly denouncing Miss
Morrison, his teacher, because she had applied the external motive to
him to get him to take a working interest in the DukeDaisyKitty
lesson, Pearl declared that he should be glad that the teacher took
such a deep interest in him. When Bugsey was taken sick one morning
after breakfast and could not go to school, but revived in spirits just
before dinner-time, only to be took bad again at one o'clock, Pearl
promulgated a rule, and in this Aunt Kate rendered valuable assistance,
that no one would be excused from school on account of sickness unless
they could show a coated tongue, and would take a tablespoonful of
castor oil and go to bed with a mustard plaster (this was Aunt Kate's
suggestion), missing all meals. There was comparatively little sickness
among the Watsons after that.
Aunt Kate was a great help in keeping the household clothes in
order. She insisted on the children hanging up their own garments,
taking care of their own garters, and also she saw to it that each one
ate up every scrap of food on his or her plate, or else had it set away
for the next meal. But in spite of all this Aunt Kate was becoming more
Thus relieved of family cares, Pearl had plenty of time to devote to
her lessons and the progress she made was remarkable. She had also more
time to see after the moral well-being of her young brothers, which
seemed to be in need of some attentionat least she thought so when
Patsey came home one day and signified his intention of being a
hotel-keeper when he grew up, because Sandy Braden had a diamond as big
as a marble. Patsey had the very last Sunday quite made up his mind to
be a missionary. Pearl took him into her mother's room, and talked to
him very seriously, but the best she could do with him was to get him
to agree to be a drayman; higher than that he would not gothe
fleshpots called him!
Jimmy became enamored of the railway and began to steal rides in
box-cars, and once had been taken away and had to walk back five miles.
It was ten o'clock when he got home, tired happy. He said he was
hungry enough to eat raw dog, which is a vulgar expression for a
little boy nine years old.
Even Danny began to show signs of the contamination of the world,
and came swaggering home one night feeling deliciously wicked smoking a
liquorice pipe, and in reply to his mother's shocked remonstrance had
told her to cut it out.
Those things had set Pearl thinking. The boys were growing up and
there was no work for them to do. It was going to be hard to raise them
in the town. Pearl talked it over with Mr. Burrell, the minister, and
he said the best place to raise a family of boys was the farm, where
there would be plenty of employment for them. So Pearl decided in her
own mind that they would get a farm. It would mean that she would have
to give up her chance of an education, and this to her was a very
One night, when everyone else was asleep, even Aunt Kate, Pearl
fought it all out. Every day was bringing fresh evidences of the evil
effects of idleness on the boys. Jimmy brought home a set of Nations
and offered to show her how to play pedro with them. Teddy was playing
on the hockey team, and they were in Brandon that night, staying at a
hotel, right within smell of the liquor, Pearl thought. The McSorley
boys had stolen money from the restaurant man, and Pearl had overheard
Tommy telling Bugsey that Ben McSorley was a big fool to go showing it,
and Pearl thought she saw from this how Tommy's thoughts were running.
All these things smote Pearl's conscience and seemed to call on her
to renounce her education to save the family. Small good your learnin'
'll be to ye, Pearl Watson, if yer brothers are behind the bars, she
told herself bitterly. It's not so fine ye'll look, all dressed up,
off to a teachers' convention in Brandon, readin' a paper on 'How to
teach morals,' and yer own brother Tommy, or maybe Patsey, doin' time
in the Brandon jail! How would ye like, Pearlie, to have some one tap
ye on the shoulder and say, 'Excuse me for troublin' of ye, Miss
Watson, but it's visitor's day at the jail, and yer brother Thomas
would like ye to be after stepping, over. He's a bit lonesome. He's
Something caught in her throat, and her eyes were too full to be
comfortable. She slipped out of bed and quietly knelt on the bare
floor. Dear God, she prayed, ye needn't say another word. I'll go,
so I will. It's an awful thing to be ignorant, but it's nothin' like as
bad as bein' wicked. No matter how ignorant ye are ye can still look up
and ask God to bless ye, but if ye are wicked ye're re dead out of it
altogether, so ye are; so I'll go ignorant, dear Lord, to the end o' my
days, though ye know yerself what that is like to me, an I'll try never
to be feelin' sorry or wishin' myself back. Just let me get the lads
brought up right. Didn't ye promise someone the heathen for their
inheritance? Well, all right, give the heathen to that one, whoever it
was ye promised it to, but give me the ladsthere's seven of them, ye
mind. I guess that's all. Amen.
The next day Pearl went to school as usual, determined to make the
best use of the short time that remained before the spring opened. All
day long the path of knowledge seemed very sweet and alluring to her.
She had been able to compute correctly how long eighteen cows could
feed on a pasture that twenty-six horses had lived on eighteen days
last year, the grass growing day and night, three cows eating as much
as one horse; in Literature they were studying The Lady of the Lake,
and Alan-bane's description of the fight had intoxicated her with its
stirring enthusiasm. Knowledge was a passion with Pearl; meat and
drink to her, her mother often said, and now how was she to give it
She sat in her seat and idly watched the children file out. She
heard them racing down the stairs. Outside, children called gaily to
each other, the big doors slammed so hard the windows rattled and at
last all was still with the awful stillness of a deserted school.
It was a warm day in March, a glorious day of melting sunshine, when
the rivers begin to think of spring, and 'away below the snow the
little flowers smile in their sleep.
Pearl went to the window and looked out at the familiar scene. Her
own home, straggling and stamped with poverty, was before her. It does
look shacky but it's home, and I love it, you bet, she said. Nobody
would ever know to look at it the good times that goes on inside. Then
she turned and looked around the schoolroom, with its solemn-looking
blackboards, and its deserted seats littered with books. The sun poured
into the room from the western windows and a thousand motes danced in
its beams. The room smelled of chalk and ink and mothballs, but Pearl
liked it, for to her it was the school-smell.
I'll purtend I am the teacher, Pearl said, just for once. I'll
never be one now; I'm goin' to give up that hope, at least I'm goin' to
try to give it up, maybe, but I'll see how it feels anyway. She sat in
the teacher's chair and saw the seats filled with shadowy forms. She
saw herself, well-dressed and educated, earning a salary and helping to
raise her family from ignorance and poverty.
I am Miss Watson now, she said, as she opened the register and
called the names of her own making. Me hair is done like Miss
Morrison's, all wadded out around me head, wid a row of muskrat houses
up the back, the kind I can take off and comb on the palm o' me hand.
I've got gold-fillin' in me teeth which just shows when I laugh wide,
and I'll do it often, and I've got a watch wid a deer's head on it and
me name on it, R. J. P. Watson, and I can talk like they do in books. I
won't ever say 'I've often saw,' I'll say 'I have invariably observed.'
I suppose I could say it now, but it doesn't seem to fit the rest of
me; and I'll be sittin' here now plannin' my work for to-morrow, and
all the children are wonderin' hard what I'm thinkin' of. Now I'll
purtend school is out. There's three little girls out there in the hall
waitin' to take me hand home, nice little things about the size I used
to be meself. I may as well send them home, for I won't be goin' for a
long time yet. She went into the hall and in a very precise Englishy
voice dismissed her admiring pupils. I am afraid I will be here too
long for you to wait, childer dear, she said, I have to correct the
examination papers that the Entrance class wrote on to-day on
elementary and vulgar fractions, and after that I am goin' for a drive
with a friendshe smiled, but forgot about the gold filling. My
friend, Dr. Clay, is coming to take me. So good-bye, Ethel, and Eunice,
and Claire, bowing to each one.
Pearl heard the scamper of little feet down the stairs, and kissed
her hand three times to them.
I'll just see if he's coming, she murmured to herself, going to
He was coming, in her imagination and in reality. Dr. Clay was
driving up to the school, looking very handsome in his splendid
turn-out, all a-jingle with sleigh-bells. Pearl was so deep in her
rainbow dream she tapped gaily on the window. He looked up smiling and
waved his hand to her.
Just then Miss Morrison came out and he helped her into the cutter
and they drove away. At the same moment Miss Watson with the
gold-filled teeth, and the merry widow puffs, disappeared and Pearl
Watson, caretaker of the Millford School, in a plain little serge
dress, beginning to wear in spite of sateen sleeve protectors, turned
from the window with a sudden tightening of the heart, and sought the
refuge of her own seat, and there on the cool desk she laid her head,
sobbing softly, strange new tears that were not all pain!
CHAPTER VII. THE SECOND CHANCE
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
PEARL, having taken her resolve to leave school, did not repine, and
no one, not even her mother, knew how hard the struggle had been. It
all came out afterward that, John Watson, too, in his quiet way, had
been thinking of the advantages of farm life for his growing family. So
when Pearl proposed it he was ready to rise and second the motion.
Nearly all the land around Millford had been homesteaded, and was
being successfully farmed, but there was one quarter-section in the
crook of the Souris that had been abandoned. Bill Cavers had entered it
some years before, and paid his ten dollar entrance fee, built a little
house on it, and farmed it indifferently for two or three years; but
poor Bill had to let it go at last. The numerous black whiskey bottles
around his miserable buildings told the story. The land was goodit
was only four miles from Millfordit could be re-entered on payment of
ten dollars. John Watson went out to see the farm and came back well
satisfied, so they decided to move out on it as soon as the snow was
By selling the house and lot they had enough money to buy a team of
horses, a waggon, and some machinery. For seed grain and everything
else that was needed Pearl would take her money. Aunt Kate protested
loudly against having Pearlie's money taken, and said if it wasn't that
Bill's stone had come so high she'd spend her own rather than have
Pearlie's touched. But Pearl stoutly insisted that helping her family
in this way was just what she wanted to have done with her money.
Pearl had not seen the farm until she drove out with her father on
the first load. A movin' gen'rally looks sort of sad, doesn't it, Pa?
she said, as she settled herself on the dismembered beds. But there's
nothin' sad about this movin'. We're not goin' because we can't pay the
rent, and there's goin' to be a notice of it in the paper, too.
How do you know that, acushla? her father asked her.
I wrote it myself. I was afraid Mr. Evans might forget. He's all
cluttered up wid politics, so I wrote it myself, and pinned it on his
What did you say, Pearlie?
I wrote this: Mr. and Mrs. John Watson and their interesting family
are leaving our midst to live on a farm, hoping to better their
circumstances and give the boys a chance to grow up decent.
Faith, that's puttin' it plain, Pearlie, her father laughed.
You're gettin' to be real handy wid the pen.
I have a far lovelier one than that done, Pa; but I couldn't bear
to have it published in a newspaper, for every pryin' eye to see. So I
wrote it out in purple ink, and will just keep it in me scrapbook.
What was it, Pearlie?
I wouldn't say it for everybody, Pa, for they wouldn't understand;
but I know you will. This is what I wrote:
Farewell, sweet childhood's happy home,
For now we sadly haste away.
We'll leave your happy scene with tears
We tried to leave you yesterday,
But fate denied, for Adam Watt
Had broke the axle of his dray.
Farewell, sweet childhood's happy home,
We're going out four weary mile,
We've gone to seek another home
And may not see you for a while.
But every inch of thee is dear,
And every stick in thy woodpile.
Each mark upon thy wall is linked
With deepest meaning and with love,
See where young Bugsey spilled the ink,
Caused by his youngest brother's shove.
See where wee Danny picked a hole
He knew no better tho', I guess.
The patch that covers it from sight
Is made of Pearlie's winsey dress.
All through the dreary winter time
Thou sheltered us from cold so bleak
Thou sheltered us from wind and rain,
Save where thy kitchen roof did leak.
When strangers come to live in thee,
And fill thy halls with noise and shout,
Still think, dear house, of those who once
Did from thy gates go in and out.
It's just grand, her father said admiringly, and it's true, too.
I don't know where you get the things you think of.
The road lay along the bank of the Souris, which still ran high with
the spring floods. The spring came early in Manitoba that year, and
already the cattle were foraging through the pastures to be ready for
the first blade of grass that appeared. The April sun flooded the bare
landscape with its light and heat. From the farm-yards they passed came
the merry cackle of hens. Horses and colts galloped gaily around the
corrals, and the yellow meadow larks on the fence-posts rang out their
glad challenge. The poplar trees along the road were blushing with the
green of spring, and up from the river-flats, gray-purple with scrub
oak and willow, came the indescribably sweet spring smell.
At the corner of Thomas Perkins's farm they turned straight north,
following the river.
There's our farm, Pearlie, her father said.
What Pearl saw was one long field of old stubble, gray and faded,
cut out of the scrub, and at the end of the field, against a grove of
poplars, stood a little house, so sad, so battered, so broken, that
Pearl's stout heart almost sank. It was made of logs and plastered with
mud, and had settled down on one side, looking as ungainly and tired as
an old horse when he rests on one leg. There was a door in the side
next the road, with one window at each side of itwindows with almost
everything in them except glass.
Pearl jumped down from the waggon and ran around her new home trying
to find something good about it. When her father came in after tying up
his horses, he found her almost in tears.
Pa, she said, this is sadder than I ever thought it would be. I
wish it had been real dirty and shiftless; but look, Pa, they've tried
to keep it nice. See, it's been whitewashed, and there's a place you
can tell they've had a bit of oil-cloth behind the box the wash basin
sat on, to keep the spatters off the wall. And see here, Pa, stooping
to pick up a piece of cretonne from the rubbish on the floorthis has
been a paper holderthere's beads sewed on it around the flowers; and
do you see yon little shelf? It's got tack marks on it; she's had a
white curtain on it, with knitted lace. I know she has, and see,
Palooking behind the window casingyes, sir, she's had curtains on
here, too. There's the tack. She had them tied back, too, and you can
see where they've had pictures. I know just what Mrs. Cavers is likea
poor, thin woman, with knots on her knuckles. I could see her face in
the house as we drove up to the door, kind of crooked like the house,
and gray and weather-beaten, with teeth out. Houses always get to look
like the people who live in them. They've triedat least she has, and
she's failed. That's the sad thing to me, Pashe's tried. If people
just set around and let things go to smash and don't care, that's too
bad but there's nothing sad about it. But to try your livin' best and
still have to go underthat's awful!
Pearl walked to the window and wiped the cobwebs from it.
I know how she felt when she was standin' here watchin' fer Bill,
hopin' so hard that he's come home right this time, and bring the list
of things she asked him to bring with his wheat-ticket. I can see she
was that kind, always hopin'; if she wasn't that kind she wouldn't ever
have sewed the beads on. She'd stand here and watch for Bill so full of
hope and still so black afraid, and then it would come on dark and she
couldn't see anything but Perkins's light winkin' through the trees,
and then she'd lay out the supper, but not eat a bite herself, but just
wait, and wait, and wait. And then when Bill did come she'd run out wid
the lantern with her heart thumpin' so, and her knees all weak and
wobblyand Bill, you know how he'd be. Sandy Braden had got the
wheat-ticket, and he hadn't paid a bill or bro't a thing for the house,
and so at last she saw she was beat and done for; she saw that every
hope she had had was a false one.
They were putting up the stove now, and when it was set in place
Pearl said: Let's get a fire goin' now, quick, Paand that'll cheer
Her father went to the river and brought water, which they heated on
the stove, and then he scrubbed the floor while Pearl cleaned the
windows and put up the cheese-cloth curtains she had brought. She went
outside to see how the curtains looked, and came back well pleased.
Pa, she said, I've got a name for it. We'll call it 'The Second
For why, Pearlie? her father asked curiously. Well, it just came
to me as I was lookin' round, what this farm has had to put up with
Bill Cavers. Here it is as good a farm as any around here, and it's all
run to weeds. I am sure this yard is knee-high with ragweed and lamb's
quarter in the summer, and the fields are all grown up with mustard and
wild-oats, and they're an abomination to any farm; and so it has just
sort, of give up and got discouraged, and now it lets in any old weed
that comes along, because it thinks it'll never be any good. But here
comes the Watsons, the whole bilin' of them, and I can see over there,
Pataking him to the windowthe place the garden will be, all
nicely fenced to keep out the cattle; and over there, under the trees,
will be the chicken-house, with big white hens swaggerin' in and out of
it and down the ravine there will be the pig-pasture, and forninst us
will be acres and acres of wheat, and be hind the bluff there will be
the oat-field. I can see it, Pa.
Faith, and yer a grand girl at seein' things, her father said,
with his slow smile, and I just hope yer right.
I'm sure of it, said Pearl, after a pause, and that's why, we'll
call it 'The Second Chance,' for it's a nice kind name, and I like the
sound of it, anyway. I am thinkin', maybe that it is that way with most
of us, and we'll be glad, maybe, of a second chance. Now, Pa, I don't
mind tellin' ye that it was a sore touch for me to have to leave
school, and me doin' so well, but I am hopin' still that some time,
some place, perhaps, for me, too, like the farm, there may be a second
chance. Do you see what I mane, Pa?
I see it, acushla, said her father. And I'm thinkin' maybe
there's one for me, too.
And all day long, as John Watson worked, there was a wish in his
honest heart, so earnest a wish that it formed a prayer, that he might
be able to give his children many of the things that had been denied
him; and it came to him, vaguely at first, but growing ever clearer
that in Pearlie, Teddy and the rest of them, and his desire to do
better for them, than he had done for himself, he was getting his
The next day saw the whole family moved out and safely landed on the
farm. Mrs. Watson, Aunt Kate and Pearlie were soon busy putting up beds
and setting the house in order. Teddy, who was fifteen years old, and a
strong boy for his age, was set to plow at once on the field in front
of the house, for it was still early in April, and there was time to
get in some crop. John Watson, when he got his family and household
goods safely landed, went to work, assisted by Billy and Jimmy, to prop
up the old stables and make them habitable for the two cows.
Mary was given the hardest task of allto look after her four young
brothersnot to let them play in the mud, for obvious reasons; climb
trees, which is hard on the clothes; go in bare feet, which is not a
safe thing to do until after the 24th of May; or fall in the river,
which is a dangerous proceeding at any time. Mary was something of a
child-trainer, and knew what fascination the prohibited has for people,
and so marched her four young charges down to the river, regaling them,
as they went, with terrible stories of drowning and shipwreck. They
threw sticks in, pretending they were drowning sailors, but that soon
grew monotonous, for the sailors all made their escape and went sailing
serenely down the stream. The balm of Gilead trees exuded their healing
perfume on the cool breeze that blew ceaselessly up the broad valley; a
golden-brown chipmunk raced up a tree and scolded at them from the
topmost branches; overhead, in the clear blue of the mid-heaven, a
flock of wild geese, with flashing white wings, honked away to the
Brandon Hills, en route for that northern lake that no man knows; while
a flock of goldfinches, like a shower of marigolds, settled on a clump
of willows, singing pauselessly.
Let's catch them and sell them, said Tommy, who had the stubby
hands of a money-maker.
What'll ye do with the money? Patsey asked.
But before Tommy could decide between an automobile and an Irish
mail, the goldfinches had crossed the river and were fluttering over
the purple branches of the leafless saskatoon bushes, which bordered
A jack-rabbit came gaily leaping down the road behind them, and at
sight of him the four boys set off in eager pursuit. Bugsey got right
in Tommy's way, which was a fortunate thing for the jack-rabbit,
because only for that Tommy would have had him he is pretty sure of
After the rabbit had gone from sight and the baffled hunters
returned to where Mary sat, Bugsey came in for a good deal of abuse
from the other three. Then, to change the conversation, which was
rather painful, Bugsey suggested: What do you bet that fellow hasn't
got a nest somewhere around here? Say we have a look for it.
A vigourous search began. Incidentally Tommy found a nest of mice,
and Patsey discovered a hawk's nest in a tree and was halfway up before
Mary saw him. She made him come straight downclimbing trees was too
hard on the clothes; but when she came back from looking up Danny, who
had dropped behind to look down a gopher's hole, she found that Patsey
had discovered a plan whereby he could climb up for the lovely silver
nest and not endanger the safety of his clothes, either. He stood below
the tree with the coveted nest in his arms, covered with glory and
scratches, but little else.
When the boys got home everybody had something to show but Danny.
Tommy had his mouse's nest; Patsey had the hawk's nest; Bugsey had a
fungus. Danny was the only empty-handed one, but Pearlie cheered him up
wonderfully by predicting that he would get the very first wood-tick
when the season opened.
CHAPTER VIII. A GOOD LISTENER
The prosperity of a joke lieth in the ear of thine friend.
WHILE John Watson was busy fixing the dilapidated stables, he was
joined by his nearest neighbour, Thomas Perkins, who was of a very
sociable nature, and loved the sound of his own voice.
Thomas Perkins was a man of middle age, a stout man with a florid
countenance and dewy blue eyes; his skin was of that quality that is
easily roughened by the wind. He always spoke rapidly, and without
How do you do, Mr. Watson, how do you do? Just movin' in, eh? Well,
sir, I'm glad to see you; the little house looked lonely since Bill and
the wife left. Poor Bill, he was a decent chap, too; but he lost his
What was the bet about? Mr. Watson asked, while the other man
stopped to light his pipe.
Well, you see, Bill bet the Government ten dollars that he could
make a living on this farm, and the Government puts up the farm against
the ten dollars that he can't. That's the way it goes. Nearly every
body wins when they bet with the Government. I made the same bet twenty
years ago, and it would take ten thousand dollars now to get me off of
old seventeen, north half; you see, I won my bet, but poor Bill lost
his. Still, it wasn't a fair race. Bill would have won it if the
Government hadn't put the whiskey in his way. You can be pretty sure
it's whiskey that wins it for the Government nearly every time when the
homesteader loses. You'll win yours, all right, no fear of that. I made
my start when I was nine years old; left home with the wind in my
backthat's all I ever got from homeand I started right in to make
my pile, and I guess I haven't done too bad, eh? What's that?
Mr. Watson had not spoken, but the other man nudged him genially and
did not resent his silence at all.
First money I ever earned was from an old Scotch woman, picking
potatoes at eleven cents a day, and I worked at it twenty-five hours a
day, up an hour before daythere was no night there, you bet, it was
like heaven that way; and then when I got my sixty-six cents, didn't
she take it from me to keep. It was harder to get it back from her than
to earn itoh, gosh! you know what the Scotch are like. Ye see, my
mother died when I was a little fellow, and the old man married again,
a great big, raw-boned, rangey lady. I says: 'Not for mine,' when I saw
her, and lit outnever got a thing from home and only had about enough
clothes on me to flag a trainand I've railroaded and worked in lumber
shanties. But a farm's the place to make money. How many of a family
Nine, John Watson said, after some deliberation.
Well, sir, you'll save a lot of hired help; that's the deuce,
payin' out money to hired help, and feedin' them, too. I lost two of my
boys when they were just little lads, beginnin' to be some good.
Terrible blow on me; they'd a been able to handle a team in a year or
two, if they'd a livedtwins they were, too. After raisin' them for
six years, it was hardyear of the frozen wheat, toooh, yes, 'tain't
all easy. Now, there's old Bruce Simpson, back there at Pelican Lake.
It would just do you good to be there of a mornin.' He has four boys
and four girls, and just at the clip of five o'clock them lads jump out
of bedthe eight feet hit the floor at the same minute and come
leppin' down the stairs four abreast, each fellow with a lantern, and
get out to the stable and feed up. The four girls are just the
samefine, smart, turkey-faced girls they are, with an arm like a
stove-pipe. You'll be all right with the help you've gotyou'll have
nearly enough to run a threshin' mill. Any girls?
Two girls, said John Watson.
Two! That's not so badthey'll be needed all right to help the
missus. I have two girls, too; but one of them's no goodtoo much like
the mother's folks. You know the Grahams are all terrible high-headed
peopleone of the old man's brothers is a preacher down in the
StatesProfessor Graham, they call himand sir, they can't get over
it. Martha, my oldest girl, she's all rightstraight Perkins, Martha
isno nonsense about her; but Edith, she's all for gaddin' round and
dressin' up. 'Pa,' she says one day to me, 'I want a piano'that was
the Graham comin' out of herand I says, says I 'Edie, my dear, run
along now and let me hear you play a toon on the cream separator or the
milkin'-stool,' says I; 'there's more money in it.' But, by George! the
wife kept at me, too, about this piano business, just pesterin' the
very life out o' me, until I got sick of it. But I got them one at
lastI was at a sale in Brandon, last fall, and I got one for eighty
dollars. I told them it cost four hundredyou have to do it, when
you're dealin' with wimmin'they like things to cost a lot. Well, sir,
I got the worth of my money, let me tell you. It's a big, long, dappled
one, all carved with grapes and lions. Two or three people can play it
at once, and it's big enough to make a bed on it when there's company.
But what do you think of this now? Oh, it has clean disgusted me. They
don't like it because it won't go in the parlour door, and there isn't
room for it in the hall, and if you'll believe me, it's sittin' out
there in the machine-shedso I've got to take it down to Winnipeg and
try to change it.
You see, that's what comes o' lettin' young ones go to school.
Since Edie got her education she thinks she knows more than the rest of
us. My boy, young Bobbut we call him Budhe's been to school a good
deal; but he and Steadman's boy had a row, and I guess Bud was put
outI don't know. I was glad enough to get him home to draw poles from
the big bush. Old George Steadman is a sly old rooster, and the other
day he comes up to me in Millford, snuffin like a settin' goose, and I
saw there was something on his mind. 'What's wrong, George?' I said.
'It's about them oats you promised me for seed,' he said. I had
promised him some of my White Banner oats this spring. 'Ye'll let me
have them, will ye?' says he. 'I was wonderin' if it made any
difference about the boys quarrelin',' says he. I says: 'No, George, it
don't make no difference; if you have the money you can have the oats,
but don't expect me to take no security on mortgaged property,' says
Mr. Perkins slapped his patient listener on the back and laughed
You see, that was the worst thing I could say to him, for he's so
eternally proud of his land. He has nineteen hundred acres all paid
for, and him and the missus is always talkin' about it.
Did he have much when he started? John Watson asked.
Well, I should say not. His wife had some money; but, you bet, she
has it yet. She was a Hunter; they're as tight as the bark to the tree,
every one of themthey'd skin a flea for the hide and tallow. Well,
I'll just tell you, she lent him forty dollars to buy a cow with the
first year they were in this country, with the understandin' he'd pay
her back in the fall. Well, the crop didn't turn out well and he
couldn't pay her, so she sold the cow, and the kids had to do without
milk. Well, I must be goin' now to see how things are goin'. I don't
work muchI just kinda loaf around and take care of the stock. How
would you like a yoke of oxen to plough with? I got two big husky
brutes out there in the pasture that know how to plowI got them on a
horse dealand they've never done a stroke of work for me. Come on
over with me and I'll fix you up with harness and all. I got the whole
John Watson looked at him in grateful surprise and thanked him for
such welcome help.
Oh, don't say a word about it, John, Mr. Perkins said genially,
I'll be glad to see the beggars having to work. Look out for the black
onehe's a sly old dog, and looks to me like an ox that would keep
friends with a man for ten years to get a good chance to land a kick on
him at last.
When John Watson went over for the oxen, Mrs. Perkins came out
bareheaded to make kind inquiries for his wife and family. From within
came the mellow hum of the cream-separator, as Martha, the steady
member of the family, played a profitable tune thereon.
That night Pearl called all her family to come out and see the
sunset. The western sky was one vast blue lake, dotted with burning
boats that ever changed their form and colour; each shore of the lake
was slashed into innumerable bays, edged with brightest gold; above
this were richest shades' of pale yellow, deepening into orange, while
thick gray mountains of clouds were banked around the horizon, bearing
on their sullen faces here and there splashes of colour like stray
John Watson watched it silently, and then said, more to himself than
to anyone else: It is putty, ain't it?
CHAPTER IX. MRS. PERKINS'S TURN
Tell you what I like the best
Long about knee-deep in June
... Some afternoon
Just to git out and rest
And not work at nothing else.
James Whitcomb Riley.
OUT in the poplar grove behind the house, on a fine, sunshiny
Saturday, afternoon, Pearl Watson and Billy were busy making a hammock
under Aunt Kate's directions. They had found an old barrel in the
scrub, and Aunt Kate was showing them how, with the staves, they could
make the loveliest hammock by boring two auger holes in each end and
running ropes thro' the holes.
When the hammock was completed and swung between two big trees,
Pearl ran into the house for her mother.
Ma, she said, we've made this hammock mostly for you, and you're
to get in first. She took a quilt and pillow off one of the beds and
brought her mother out to the hammock, which was now held down by the
four youngest boys. By a quick movement Pearl spilled them out on the
grass and, spreading the quilt on the staves, soon made her mother
Now, Ma, here's where you're to come every after-noon, she said.
Aunt Kate'll see that you do it when I'm not here to watch you; but,
anyway, I know I can trust you. Look up to the clouds and listen to the
birds and think of the nicest things you ever heard, and forget that
there ever comes holes in the little lads' pants, and forget that you
ever had to wash for other people, and just remember we've a farm of
our own and the crops' growin', and so is the garden just as fast as if
you was up watchin' it.
Aunt Kate, standing by, looked in wonder at her little niece.
Faith, Pearlie, you have quare ways, she said. Ye're as much like
yer Uncle Bill as if ye belonged to him. He'd have taken great comfort
out of you and yer quare speeches if he was here, pore fellow.
He's in a better place, Katie, dear, said Mrs. Watson piously.
After a pause, Pearl said: You see, Ma, a person has to get soaked
full of sunshine and contented feelings to be able to stand things.
You've just got to lay in a stock of them, like a squirrel does the
nuts for the winter, and then when trouble comes you can go back and
think over all the good times you've had, and that'll carry ye over
till the trouble passes by. Every night here there'll be a lovely
sunset, all blue and gold, like the streets of heaven. That ought to
help some, and now the leaves are comin' and new flowers every day
nearly, and the roses'll be here in June, and the cherry blossoms will
be smellin' up the place before that, and at night ye'll hear the wild
ducks whizzin' by up in the air. They'll all keep us heartened up
more'n we need just now, but we better be settin' it away to use when
we need it.
Look! Who's yon? Aunt Kate asked, looking down the road.
A quaint-looking, stout old lady was walking toward them.
That'll be Mrs. Perkins comin' to see us, Mrs. Watson said, in
alarm. Let me out o' this, Pearlie. It's a lazy trollop she'll think I
am if she ketches me lyin' here.
Lie where you are, Ma, Pearl said firmly. It'll do her good to
see some one restin' easy. I know her, Ma, she's Martha's mother, and
they're great workers.
When Mrs. Perkins arrived, Pearl went forward and introduced her to
her mother and Aunt Kate, with due ceremony.
Mrs. Perkins was a short, stout woman, whose plump figure was much
like the old-fashioned churn, so guiltless was it of modern form
improvers. Mrs. Perkins's eyes were gray and restless, her hair was the
colour of dust, and it was combed straight back and rolled at the back
of her neck in a little knob about the size and shape of a hickory nut.
She was dressed in a clean print dress, of that good old colour called
lilac. It had little white daisies on a striped ground and was of that
peculiar shade that people call clean looking. It was made in a plain
bask with buttons down the front, and a plain, full skirt, over which
she wore a white, starched apron, with a row of insertion and a flounce
of crocheted lace.
Pearl brought out chairs.
Well, now, you do look comfortable,' said Mrs. Perkins, with just
a shadow of reproach in her voice that did not escape Pearlie. It must
be nice to have nothin' to do but just laze around.
She's done a big day's work already, Pearl said, quickly. She
worked all her life raisin' us, and now she's goin' to take a rest once
in a while: and watch us rustle.
Well, upon my word, you can talk some, can't you? Mrs. Perkins
said, not altogether admiringly. Aunt Kate gallantly interposed on
Pearl's behalf by telling what a fine help the was to her mother, and
soon the conversation drifted into an amiable discussion of whether or
not peas should be soaked before they are planted.
Then Pearl and Mary went into the house and prepared the best meal
that the family supply of provisions permitted. They boiled eggs hard,
and spiced them the way Pearl had seen Camilla do. Pearl sliced up some
of Aunt Kate's home-made bread as thin as she could, and buttered it;
she brought out, from the packing box that they were still in, one of
the few jars of peaches, and then made the tea. She and Mary covered
the table with a clean white flour-sack; they filled a glass jar with
ferns and anemones for a centre-piece and set the table as daintily as
they could, even putting a flower beside each pate.
Land alive! Mrs. Perkins exclaimed, when they carried the table
out under the trees, where she sat with Aunt Kate and Mrs. Watson. I
haven't et outside since we used to have the picnics in Millford in old
Major Rogers's time. I mind the last one we had. I seen old Mrs.
Gilbert just fillin' the stuff into her basket, and I do believe she
tuk more home than she brought, though I ain't the one to say it,
because I do not like to talk against a neighbour, though there are
some as say it right out, and don't even put a tooth on it.
Don't you go to the Pioneers picnics, now? Pearl asked, as she
poured the tea.
No; I haven't gone since Mrs. Burrell came. I don't like her. She
isn't what I think a minister's wife ought to be, mind you; she said an
awful queer thing at our place the very first time she was there. She
was askin' me why we didn't get out to church, and I was tellin' her
about all the chores we had to do, milkin' and feedin' the stock, and
that, and she didn't say much, but when she got down to pray before she
left, she started off all right, and I wasn't really noticin' what she
was sayin' until I hears her say: 'Lord, take away the cows and the
pigs and the hens from these people, if it is the pigs and the cows and
hens that's keepin' them from attendin' church, for it is better for
them to do without milk or butter or eggs all their lives than to be
eternally lost.' Them was just her words. Well, it just about made me
faint to think of losin' all that, and I says: 'Take that back, and
we'll go'; I was so flustered. And now, some of us has been drivin'
down once a day; but, mind you, I don't feel real easy when I'm near
her. The idea of her plottin' harm against innocent critturs that never
done her any harm!
Pearl said to Mary when they went back into the kitchen, Mary, that
woman hasn't got the right idea of things. It don't do you a bit of
good to eat outside if you're thinkin' hard of anybody. It'll take a
queer old lot of blue sky and fresh air and singin' birds and
cherry-blossoms to soak all that out of her; but of course it'll help
Mrs. Perkins stirred her tea with pleasure. She found it a real
delight to have good listeners who did not interrupt her. All her life
she had had to tell her stories against a counter-attraction, that is,
if her husband was present, for he was always telling one of his own at
the same time, and that sort of thing wears on the stoutest nerves.
You'll soon have a real nice place here, Mrs. Watson, she said,
looking around. Poor Mrs. Cavers would have had things nice if she had
had her own way. She was the greatest woman for makin' little
fixin'sshe and my Martha were always doin' somethingdear me, the
way she'd stick up for that man, and make excuses for him! 'Mr. Cavers
has a headache,' or 'Mr. Cavers is quite tired out.' Mr. Cavers, mind
you. Oh, I tell you, she was fetched up different. Any one could see
that. When I saw her first she was as pretty a girl as you'd see, and
Bill was a fine-lookin' man, too. We never knew he would drink, and I
don't think he ever did until Sandy Braden got his license and opened
up a bar. I'll never forget the first night he came home drunk. She
came runnin' over to our house and told us she was afraid he was dyin'.
Pa and I went over with her, and I told her right out, plump and plain,
what was wrong with him just as soon as I saw him. I'll never forget
the way she backed up from me, givin' queer little screeches, and then
she came back quick, her eyes just blazin', and says she, grabbin' me
by the shoulders, 'I don'tbelieveit,' just as slow as that, and
then she begged me to forgive her, the pore lamb, and straightened
right up as stiff as a poker, but all white and twitchy, and from that
day to this she has never let on to a livin' soul about him drinkin',
but she's just as nice to him as if he was a good man to her.
Pearl listened to this story with sympathetic interest. She had
known this all the timethe beads on the cretonne had told the story.
And when her little Georgie died, if ever a woman was tried sore it
was her. She sent Bill for the doctor, and he fell in with a threshin'
gang and forgot to come home; yes, and that poor woman was alone with
little George choking with croup. Libby Anne ran over for me, but he
was too far gone. Bill came home in the mornin' so drunk we couldn't
make him understand that the child was dead, and he kept askin' us all
the time how little Georgie was now. I came home in the mornin' to help
to milk, and Martha went over to stay with her. Martha can't ever
forget the sad sight she saw when she went in. Bill was on the lounge
drunk. Little George lay on the bed dead, and she was sittin' there
makin' the shroud, and even then she made excuses for Bill to Martha,
and said he'd been up all night, and was tired.
When Pearl went back into the kitchen she reported progress to Mary.
She's talkin' kinder now, Mary. The fresh air and the wind through
the trees is beginnin' to tell on her. Give me another cup of tea for
CHAPTER X. THE NEW PUPILS
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Has had elsewhere its setting, and cometh from afar,
Not in entire forgetfulness, not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From Godwho is our Home.
WHEN school opened after the Easter holiday, the Watson family began
to attend. It was two miles to the bare little schoolhouse at the
cross-roads. The road lay straight across the prairie, green now with
the tender green of spring, and dotted thick with blue anemones. A
prairie fire, the fall before, had burned away all the old grass, and
so everywhere the country was of the richest dazzling green, varied
only in the shadesthe tender, soft green of the young wheat, the
bluish green of the oat-fields, with here and there splendid groves of
poplars, making a scene which, to Pearl's eyes, was of untold beauty.
Away to the south the Tiger Hills were veiled in blue smoke, as if
some distant prairie fire was raging through the meadows beyond. Across
the long reach of upland pastureswiftly and almost noiselesslyswept
the mixed train of the Canadian Northern, its huge smoke plume standing
straight up in the morning air, white and gray like billows of chiffon,
suddenly changing to deepest black.
They're stokin' up for the grade, Jimmy said, as he stood watching
it. Jimmy had not stolen rides on freight-cars without learning
Danny, although not quite of school age, was with the party because
he refused to stay at home. Aunt Kate encouraged him in the idea, and
made him a pair of pants and fixed up a striped sweater of Bugsey's for
him. So Danny, fully clothed in boy's attire, was very much in
When they were crossing the fire-guard around the school, Bugsey
grew faint-hearted and began to cry. I'm feart he'll bate me, he
Bugsey had been to school in Millford, of course, but his teacher
there had been Miss Morrison, and the teacher here was a man.
Patsey showed signs of being infected with the tear-germ, too, and
so Pearlie quickly forged ahead with the unaffected members of her
party, to get them under cover before they had time to think of it.
School was called when she arrived in haste and walked up to the
teacher's desk, followed by Danny, Mary, Jimmy, and Tommy. Danny was
hiding his face in her skirts. Tommy and Jimmy were outwardly calm, but
Pearl knew that it would take very little to stampede them.
We're coming to school, if you please, Pearl said, keeping a tight
hold of Danny.
The teacher was a man of middle-age, with heavy eyebrows and great
dignity of manner. He looked at the Watson family in silence.
Speak to them, or they'll bolt, Pearl said, with the authority
that comes of being the eldest girl in a large family.
The teacher saw the situation and rose to it. Come here, Johnny,
he said at a venture. Are you a little gun-shy?
My name ain't Johnny, if yer meanin' me, said Jimmy, with a fine
show of courage.
Pearl introduced her flock hastily and told the teacher to hang on
to Danny while she went for the others.
When Pearl came in leading the other two boys the teacher exclaimed
This'll be all until winter-time, Pearl assured him, and then
Teddy and Billy will be comin'.
I guess we're sure of the Government grant now, the teacher said,
smiling. He helped Pearl to convince the boys that they were in the
hands of friends, and even brought out the contents of his pocket and
searched through his desk to get Danny to take a cheerful view of life
The Watson family, when they were at last settled in their new
seats, did a great deal to relieve the bareness of the dingy
school-room. All at once the room seemed to be very much alive and
While the teacher was busy with the boys, Pearl's sharp eyes were
looking over her new schoolmates. Instinctively she knew that the pale
little girl ahead of her must be Libby Anne Cavers. She had wondered
often, since coming to the farm, how Libby Anne would regard the Watson
family. Would she think that they had taken away her old home?
Impulsively Pearl leaned over and presented Libby Anne with a new
slate-rag securely anchored by a stout string to the neck of a small
bottle filled with water. This new way of slate-cleaning had not yet
reached the Chicken Hill School, where the older method prevailed, and
as a result, Libby Anne's small slate-rag was dark gray in colour and
unpleasant in character, and nearly always lent to her less provident
Libby Anne turned her pale face and frightened eyes toward the big
new girl, and in that glance Pearl read all her sad child history.
Libby Anne was just what she had pictured her to be, little and thin
and scared. She put her hands on Libby Anne's thin shoulders and,
drawing her back, whispered in her ear: I like ye, Libby Anne.
Libby Anne's face brightened, though she made no reply. However, in
a few minutes she pulled the cork from the little bottle and gave her
slate a vigorous cleaning with the new rag, and Pearl knew her oblation
of friendship had been favourably received.
Mr. Donald, the teacher, was a student of human nature, as every
successful teacher must be, and before the day was over he was sure
that in Pearl Watson he had a pupil of more than ordinary interest. At
the afternoon recess he called her to his desk and asked her about her
previous school experience.
Pearl told him frankly her hope and fears. I want to learn, she
said. I want to know things, because I love to learn, and besides, I
have to be able to tell the boys and Mary what's what. We're awful
poor, but we're happy, and there's none of us real stupid. All we want
is a chance. I just ache to know things. Do you ever? she asked him
I do, Pearl, he answered. I do, indeed.
Oh, well, she said, I guess you know all of the things I'm
thinkin' about; but I suppose the farther a person goes the more they
see that they don't know.
That's it, Pearl, he said, smiling. The larger the circle of
light, the larger the darkness around it.
Pearl pondered a minute.
That's just what I've often thought, but I didn't know how to say
it. Well, she went on, I often wonder what makes the wind blow, and
what makes you fall when you step off things, and how does the hail
come when it's scorchin' hot; and I've often wondered what holds the
clouds up, and I'd like to know what's goin' on, and what people think
She stopped suddenly, and looked closely into his face. She had to
be sure of a sympathetic listener.
Go on, Pearl, Mr. Donald said, kindly. I am interested. Tell me
what else you are wondering about.
Well, she said, I'll tell you the biggest wonder I have. I would
not tell it to every one, for if they've never thought of it it is just
as well for them, for there's a danger of thinkin' too far in it. I am
wonderin' often why God let the bad men crucify the dear Lord, and Him
that kind and sweet and gentle. I often think about it at night, and
can't sleep. I think about all the angels, big strappin' fellows,
flyin' around the cross, feelin' so sorry for Him, and just wantin' so
bad to hold Him up in their arms, but knowin' they dassent interfere
without orders, and I often imagine to meself that the word did come to
the angels to jump in and save Him, and I can just see how tender they
would lift Him down from the cross, and the two poor fellows with Him,
and they would float away off into the blue sky, leaving the bad people
down below, the soldiers and the high priests and all of them, gawkin'
up, wid their mouths open, watchin' them growin' smaller and smaller,
until they were gone clean from sight; and then Pilate would say to
them: 'Didn't I tell you to watch what you were about? Let me tell yez,
ye have put your foot in it good and plenty this time.' But then I
think of what really did happen, and it just breaks my heart to think
Pearl's tears overflowed her eyes, but she wiped them away and went
on steadily. I wonder if you could tell me why it happened, Mr.
Donald. I know God did it for the best. I am not sayin' a word against
Him, mind ye, for I know what He's like, and how good He is, and all;
but it was awful to let our Lord die that like.
Mr. Donald felt his own heart strangely moved at the little girl's
I am not very well up in these things, Pearl, he said; but if He
hadn't died he could not have shown us the resurrection.
Oh, I don't mind Him dyin', said Pearl quickly. Everybody has to
die, and when they've lived right and done the best they could for
every one, it is just glorious to die and go home. It's just like
people comin' home from college with their examination papers marked
high, and their certificates and medals to show how hard they worked;
or I guess it's more like soldiers comin' home all tired out, and
sunburnt, showing their scarswe can show our hands all hard with work
for other people, and our faces cheerful and patient. That's what'll
count up there, I guess. It's all right to die, but I can't see why He
had to die that wayit was terrible, and it wasn't comin' to Him.
Perhaps it was to show us how much He loved us, the teacher said
He shows us that in lots of ways, Pearl said. He says He loves
us, and ye can't live one day without feelin' that there's love in the
world, and I'm sure it didn't come from anywhere else but Godoh, no,
it didn't need, that to show us.
The teacher was looking at her in wonder.
I tell you what to do, Pearl. Ask Mr. Burrell; he'll be able to
After school that night Pearl opened the theological discussion
Mr. Donald, she said, don't you think we should try to get some
one to preach here and have a Sunday-school? These children here,
except Lib. Cavers, don't know anything about the Bible. I've been
asking them about Easter Sunday. They don't know anything about it,
only it's a time to see how many eggs you can hold, and they think that
God is a bad word It would just be fine if we could have a
Sunday-school and learn verses. Our Jimmy got a black Testament for
fifty verses, said exactly like the book. You would be superintendent,
Mr. Donald coloured painfully. I don't know, Pearlwe'll see, he
That night when he went back to his boarding-placethe big brick
house on the hillhe was strangely disturbed and troubled. He had told
himself years ago that religion was a delusion, a will o' the wisp. But
there was something in Pearl's face and in her words that seemed to
contradict the logic of his reasoning.
Charles Donald was a man who tried hard to make a stoic of himself,
to convince himself that he was past feeling the stings of evil
fortune. He had suffered so deeply that he told himself that nothing
could ever hurt him again. A spiritual numbness had come upon him,
which he took to be the compensation for the variety of hard knocks he
had experienced. He was a genial, pleasant, gentle man, but his face
bore that look of settled sadness that comes into the eyes of people
for whom the world has held an awkward hour.
He was regarded by the people in the school district as a good
teacher, and, indeed, he had quite conscientiously put before his
pupils as much of the curriculum as they could conveniently grasp. He
was kind and patient with his pupils always, but he had never exerted
himself to change their outlook upon life, or to put nobler ideals
They are happier as they are, he often thought to himself. The ox
in the field, so long as the grass is good, is happier than most of us
with all our wisdom, and well he should be, for his days are free from
care, and when his days are over there's the quick blow and the sharp
knife, and that is not so bad.
But after Pearl came to school, he found himself going over his
neglected library to find the books that would throw light on the many
questions that she brought forward, and every evening he went carefully
over the lessons, taking a distinct pride now in making them of
interest to her.
In this way, having more to employ his thoughts, he soon began to
think of the past less sadly. Pearl's optimism was contagious.
CHAPTER XI. THE HOUSE OF TROUBLE
There! little girldon't cry!
James Whitcomb Riley.
A MILE from the Chicken Hill School stood the little vermin-infested
house in which the Cavers family lived after they abandoned the
weed-choked farm on the river-bank. This unpretentious log house had
been the first home of Mr. and Mrs. Steadman, and was part of the
improvements specified by the Government to show that a homestead is
entered in good faith. The land had been rich and productive, and from
it George Steadman had made the money to buy the half-section of school
land just across the road and to erect the magnificent brick house and
splendid barns that were the pride of his heart.
George Steadman was so keen after money that he even overworked his
farms, and now his old farm was so impoverished that it was unable to
grow a heavy crop. This was the principal reason he had for letting it
to such an undesirable tenant as Bill Cavers. No wide-awake tenant
would take it, and, besides, if he had rented it to almost any person
else, he would have had to spend some money fixing up the house, which
was in a most dilapidated condition.
Bill Cavers had lost the ambition that he once had, and now did not
care very much what sort of house he lived in. Bill was content to live
the simple life, if the liquid refreshment were not simplified too
much, and Mrs. Cavers never complained.
The Caverses had only one child living, Libby Anne, eleven years
old; but there were several little unmarked mounds in the Millford
cemetery that Libby Anne and Mrs. Cavers sometimes piled high with
white cherry-blossoms or blue anemones. Little George had lived to be
two years old, and Libby Anne remembered that when he died there was a
funeral, with horses and buggies in the yard, and the minister prayed
and there was singing, and Martha Perkins brought over little cookies
with pink seeds on them, and it was fine!
But for days and days Libby Anne would steal up the narrow stairs,
fully expecting to find her little brother sleeping under the pink
quilt on his mother's bed, but there wasn't ever even the dint of him
on the quilt, and Libby Anne at last went up with her eyes shut to feel
around the bed, so as not to be disappointed so soon. Then her mother
told her about the beautiful country that little George had gone to,
and Libby Anne was glad to know that no one there was ever cold or
hungry, and that nobody's father ever came home drunk. One day in
school Libby Anne told the teacher what heaven was like, and when she
mentioned this last and greatest advantage of living there he told her
gently that she must not say such things.
For some time after coming to the Steadman farm things had gone
better with the Caverses, for a strong influence was brought to bear on
Bill, to keep him sober. Mr. Steadman had never taken any interest in
the liquor questionhe had no taste for whiskey himself, and, besides,
it costs moneybut now, with Bill Cavers for his tenant, he began to
see things differently. If Bill Cavers drank he would not be able to
pay the rent. So Mr. Steadman desired Bill to be a sober man, and to
this end had a very straight talk with him on the subject of total
Bill Cavers was a very poor farmer, as one look at his abandoned
homestead would show; that he was not a success as a husband no one
would doubt after seeing Mrs. Cavers; and that he was a conspicuous
failure as a father, Elizabeth Anne Cavers, his daughter, with her
frightened eyes and sad mouth, would abundantly testify. But there was
one capacity in which William Cavers was a spectacular success, and
that was in maintaining the country's revenue from malt and distilled
liquors, for Bill was possessed of a thirst that never faltered.
Bill was quite different from the drunkard who consumes and never
produces, for he would work and work hard; and he was strictly honest
with every one except himself and his family. Sandy Braden was not
afraid to trust Bill with all the whiskey he wanted, for Bill would
surely pay. His wife might not have respectable clothes to come to town
in, and Libby Anne knew what it was like more than once to go hungry to
bed, but Bill always paid what was chalked up against him at the Grand
Pacific without question. All the neighbours called Bill Cavers a good,
When Bill was sober, he bitterly regretted the way he had wasted his
money, and he often made solemn protestations as to his future conduct,
the strange part of it being that at such times he fully believed that
he would never drink again, and his wife was always, sure that he would
In this way life was harder for her than it would have been for a
less sanguine woman, who would have long ago given up all hope, but
Mrs. Cavers always saw her husband as he had been in his good days; his
drinking had never ceased to be a shock to her; she never could accept
it as the inevitable, but constantly looked for better days to come.
Mrs. Cavers often told Libby Anne about the lovely home she had when
she was a little girl, and showed her just how the flower-beds were
laid out and how the seat was put in the big elm-tree outside her
mother's window, where she often sat and read and dreamed; and so it
was no wonder that her mother's old home in Ontario, where her
grandmother and Aunt Edith still lived, became to Libby Anne a sort of
Paradise Valley, the delectable country of her dreams, and through all
her colourless childhood there ran a hope like a thread of gold that
some time she and her mother would go back.
The last summer that they had been on their own farm this hope had
been very real, for her father had said one day, when he was in his
best mood, that if the crop turned out well they would all go down east
for three months.
Then what a busy, hopeful time began for Libby Anne and her mother.
Everything was bent toward this one end. Mrs. Cavers made butter and
sold it. Libby Anne looked faithfully after the eggs, and made every
old hen give an account of herself each night. By getting the
neighbours to subscribe to a magazine, Mrs. Cavers was able to add a
few dollars to her savings. The kind-hearted neighbours, who knew of
the projected visit, were all ready to help.
Martha Perkins gave Libby Anne ten fine young turkeys, half-grown,
to help to buy new clothes for herself, and the thought of the lovely
red curly cloth coat that she would be able to buy when she sold her
turkeys comforted her not a little when, tired out with her other work,
she came to gather them in for the night, and they obstinately would
scamper away into the trees; as unconcerned as if there was never a
wolf or a mink or a weasel in the world.
No crop was ever watched with greater hope and fear than that one.
Every bank of cloud that gathered in the west seemed to sit like a dead
weight on Libby Anne's heart, for it might bring hail, and a hailed-out
crop meant that they could not go home, and that wasouter darkness.
Perhaps it was the child's wordless prayers that stayed the hail and
the frost and the rust, for certain it is that none came, and the crop
was most abundant.
Libby Anne and Mrs. Cavers worked in the field to save a hired man's
wages. Libby Anne was a tireless little worker, and though many, many
times her thin arms must have ached, she never complained, because
every sheaf that she carried brought her nearer the Promised Land.
People driving past looked with pity at the tired-looking woman and
the little girl in the faded derry dress carrying sheaves almost as big
as herself, and one day Mrs. Burrell, the minister's wife, spoke to
them sympathizingly. Libby Anne flashed back at her almost scornfully.
Don't you know we are going home? she said, her tired face kindling.
At last the grain was harvested and threshed, the neighbours kindly
assisting, and Bill began to sell his grain. He paid his store bills,
his binder-twine bill, his blacksmithing, and made the payment on his
binder. Libby Anne sold her turkeys and got her coat, and the day was
set for them to go eastDecember the first, the first excursion!
The day before they were to start, Bill went to town to cast his
vote; the Provincial elections were held that year on the last day of
November. There was a good deal of excitement over the election, for
Sandy Braden, the popular proprietor of the Grand Pacific Hotel, was
running against a Brandon man, and Millford was standing solid for
their own man. The bar could not be opened until after five o'clock,
when the voting was over, but after that there was nothing to prevent
It did abound all night. There was a bonfire in front of the hotel
when the returns began to come in, for Sandy was winning easily, and
Sandy certainly showed his gratitude for the way the boys had stood by
Mrs. Cavers and Libby Anne waited all that long night. They tried to
keep up each other's courage, making all sorts of excuses for Mr.
Cavers's absence. Mrs. Cavers knew, but she did not tell Libby Anne,
that he was going to cash the wheat-tickets that he had saved for the
trip, for the train went so early in the morning he was afraid he might
not have time then.
Libby Anne went again and again into the little bedroom to look at
the trunk already strapped. Surely people always went if the trunk was
strapped, and she tried and tried to feel what it was like yesterday.
Just as the sun was rising on the first day of December ushering in
the first day of the winter excursions, they heard him coming. He was
coming with the Thomas boys, who were often his companions on similar
occasions. Some one had loaded them up and started them for home,
trusting to a drunken man's luck not to get killed.
Round the turn of the road they came singing, and Libby Anne and her
mother listened with sinking hearts as the sound came nearer and
Who's the best man in this town?
Sandy Braden, Sandy Braden.
they sang, putting the words to that good old rollicking Scotch tune
of Highland Laddie.
Bill fell out of the waggon at the door. He was covered with dirt,
his clothes were torn, and one eye was blackened, but he was in a
genial mood, and tried to dance on the door-step. They got him in at
last and put him to bed, where he slept profoundly until the next
afternoon. He brought home out of his wheat-tickets thirty-five cents
and the half of a dollar billthe other half was torn away!
Libby Anne did not shed a tear until she saw her mother unstrap the
trunk to get out something, and then suddenly all the strength went out
of the lithe little arms that had carried the sheaves so bravely, and
she fell in a little heap on the floor, sobbing out strangely.
Her mother gathered her up in her arms and rocked her for a long
time in the rocking-chair, crooning over her queer little rambling
tunes without meaning; only once she spoke, and then what she said was
this: Libby Anne, I hope you will never be as lonely to see me as I am
right now to see my mother.
Just then a still later consignment of Mr. Braden's supporters drove
past the house gaily singing the same refrain:
Who's the best man in this town?
Sandy Braden, Sandy Braden.
CHAPTER XII. PEARL VISITS THE
Mylohe jest plowsand don't
Never swear-like some folks won't.
From Mylo Jones' Wife.
THE Reverend Mr. Burrell, whom Mr. Donald recommended to Pearl as a
proper person to consult on the questions that troubled her mind, was
the Methodist minister in Millford. The first year of his pastorate
there he had been alone, Mrs. Burrell having remained in the East,
with her own people.
Mrs. Ducker was the president of the Ladies' Aid Society, and given
to serious thinking, so when she read an article in the Fireside
Visitor dealing with the relation of the minister's wife to the
congregation, she was seriously impressed with the fact that the
congregation was suffering every day by not having the minister's wife
on the ground. Mrs. Ducker thereupon decided that she would bring the
matter forward at the very next meeting.
Now, it happened that the rubberman came to Millford the very day
before the Ladies' Aid meeting was held, which may seem to be a very
unimportant and irrelevant fact; but it really had a significant
bearing on that meeting of the Ladies' Aid, for little John Thomas
Forrest, dazzled by the offer of three lead-pencils for two rubbers,
sold his mother's only pair, and being a cautious child, and not fond
of disputatious conversation, did not mention the matter to his mother,
but left her to discover her loss herself, which she did the day of the
It was a sloppy day in November. Mrs. Forrest had a cold, and she
could not walk away over to Mrs. Ducker's without rubbers. Mrs. Forrest
did not go to the meeting. If Mrs. Forrest had gone she would have,
beyond doubt, raised objections. She always did, and usually very
But when Mrs. Ducker, after the business was over, breathlessly
declared that she thought Mrs. Burrell should come and join her
husband, she found Mrs. Francis and Mrs. Bates quite imbued with the
same idea, for they likewise were subscribers to the Fireside Visitor.
Mrs. Francis also gave prominence to the fact that Mr. Burrell needed
some one to take care of him, for she had seen him that very day
without his rubbers. Having no children of her own, Mrs. Francis did
not know that the day after the rubberman had been in town quite a
few people went without rubbers, not because they were careless of
their health either, but because they had thoughtlessly left them in
the front porch, where little boys can easily get them.
Half an hour after they began to discuss it, everybody felt that not
only was the church suffering severely, but that they had been the
unconscious witnesses of a domestic tragedy.
They formed a committee on ways and means, another one to solicit
aid from country members, and a social committee to get up a pie social
to buy a new stair-carpet for the parsonage, and they appointed Mrs.
Francis and Mrs. Ducker to approach Mr. Burrell on the subject of his
The unconscious object of their solicitude was quite surprised to
receive that evening a visit from Mrs. Francis and Mrs. Ducker.
Reverend John Burrell did not look like a man who was pining for the
loved and losthe was a small, fair man, with a pair of humorous blue
eyes. A cheerful fire was burning in the Klondike heater, and an air of
comfort pervaded his study.
The ladies made known their errand, and then waited to see the glad
look that would come into their pastor's face.
He stirred the fire before replying.
It is very kind of you ladies to think of fixing up the parsonage,
he said. Mrs. Burrell is having a very pleasant visit with her mother
Yes; but her place is here, Mrs. Ducker said with decision,
feeling around in the shadowy aisles of her mind for some of the
Fireside Visitor's It is lonely for you, and it must be for her.
Mr. Burrell did not say it was not.
Mrs. Francis was filled with enthusiasm over the idea of fixing up
the parsonage, and endeavoured, too, to give him some of the reasons
why a church prospers better spiritually when there is a woman to help
in the administration of its affairs.
When the women had gone, the Reverend John Burrell sat looking long
and earnestly into the fire. Then he got up suddenly and rattled down
the coals with almost unnecessary vigour and murmured something
exclamatory about sainted womanhood and her hand being in every good
work, though that may not have been the exact words he used!
The work of remodelling the parsonage was carried on with
enthusiasm, and two months later Mrs. Burrell arrived.
Mrs. Ducker, Mrs. Francis, and Mrs. Bates went to the station with
Mr. Burrell to meet her, and were quite surprised to see a large,
handsome, auburn-haired woman, carrying two valises, alight from the
train and greet their minister with these words: Well, John Burrell, I
declare if you aren't out this raw day without your overcoat, and you
know how easily you take a cough, too. I guess it is high time for me
to come. Now, please do keep your mouth closed.
* * *
The first time Pearl was in Millford she called at the Methodist
parsonage to see Mr. Burrell. The question of having service in the
schoolhouse was bothering Pearl.
It was a dull brown house, with, a row of tall maples in front of
it, and a pansy bed, made by filling the earth into old binder-wheels,
on each side of the walk. Pearl at once though of the old binder-wheel
in the scrub at home, and in her quick fancy she saw the purple faces
of prospective pansies looking up from it as it lay in front of the
Mrs. Burrell came to the door in answer to Pearl's ring, but did not
recognize her at the first glance. She told Pearl to have a seat in the
When Mr. Burrell came in he was pleased to see Pearl, who said, in
response to his friendly greeting: We're doin' fine, Mr. Burrell.
We're goin' to have a crop and potatoes and lots of things. There's
seven of us goin' to school and learning. Jimmy's at long division. I'm
just finishing 'The Lady of the Lake.' Danny's doing digits, that's
another name for figgers. Patsey's readin' at the Sweet Pea lesson,
with ten of the hardest words for meanings. That's all right, but
there's no church or Sunday-school. We left town to get a better chance
to bring up the boys right, and the farm is fine only for what I'm
tellin' ye. Every Sunday the other children trap gophers and the people
sleep or visit. I do be hearin' them tellin' about it at school, and
last Sunday, mind ye, wee Patsey and Bugsey wanted to make a kite, and
of course ma wouldn't let them, but Jimmy up and sayshe was in it,
too, do you mindhe says: 'Let's make it out of an Onward, and that
will be all right; sure that's a Sunday paper.'
Mr. Burrell laughed sympathetically, but shook his head, too, so
Pearl knew he was with her on the proper observance of the Sabbath.
And Mr. Burrell, she went on, I am worried about Dannyhe's that
artful and deepif ever a child should be learnin' verses he's the
wan. Yesterday he hit his thumb when he was hammerin' with the little
tack-hammer, and instead of just yellin' and stickin' his finger in his
mouth the way he did before, he said right out plainwell, you know
what the beavers build to broaden out the waterwell, that's what he
Is it as bad as that, Pearlie? Mr. Burrell asked in a shocked
voice, which was contradicted by the twinkle in his eye.
It is, Pearl answered, and I was wonderin' if you could come and
preach to us on Sunday afternoons, and encourage them to get a
Sunday-school. There's lots of room in the school, and there's a fine
big shed for the horses if it was raining, and there's no need of so
many services here, she concluded with alarming frankness. What I
mean is, she explained in answer to his look of surprise, there's
lots of churches here, and all kinds of preachin' goin' on', with only
a few scatterin' people out at each one.
Mrs. Burrell came in hastily and listened to the conversation.
How far out is it, Pearl? Mr. Burrell asked.
About five miles, I think; just a nice drive for you and the
Does she want you to take another country appointment, John? Mrs.
Burrell asked; and Pearl noticed for the first time that her hair was
just the colour of their horse at homethe one that was cross.
That was Pearlie's suggestion, he answered.
Well, indeed, he is not going to do any such thing; I should say
not, and Mrs. Burrell shut her mouth with a click. And, besides,
nearly every Sunday it rains.
Well, that's good for the crops, said Pearl, thinking of the
twenty acres of wheat in front of the house and of the oat-field behind
the bluff; and, besides, quoting a favourite axiom of her mother's,
he ain't sugar or salt, and he won't melt.
Well, what would happen our congregation if we had only one service
a day? They would all be going to the Presbyterian.
That won't hurt them, Pearl said hopefully. They'll get good
sermons from Mr. Grantley.
Mrs. Burrell could not think of what she wanted to say. Pearl kept
her eye on Mr. Burrellthere was something in his face which made her
After a pause he said to her: Pearl, your idea is strictly
first-class. I have wanted to take another outside appointment ever
since I came here, but the congregation had objections. However, I'll
talk it over with Mr. Grantley, and I'm sure we can arrange something.
Mrs. Burrell remembered then. She found the words she was looking
for. You'll do nothing of the sort, John. Going away every Sunday to
two outside appointments and leaving our own people exposed to
Presbyterian doctrine. That's a horrid, bare, desolate little school,
anyway, and you couldn't do a bit of good to those people; I know you
couldn't. I'll go to the Trustee Board meetingthey meet to-nightand
I'll tell them you are physically unfityou are wearing two
thicknesses of flannel, with mustard quilted in between them, now on
your chest, and you had onion poultices on your feet last night for
your cough, and so you're not fit to go.
Please, ma'am, said Pearl, we won't mind. I didn't notice it at
all, and I don't believe anybody will, if you don't tell them.
Mr. Burrell laughed so heartily that Mrs. Burrell told him he was a
very frivolous man, and quite unfit for the position he held.
Sure, you could come out yerself, Pearl said encouragingly, and
show us how to fix it up. It is bare, as you said, but the land is
there, and it could grow scarlet-runners and pansies, the same as you
have yer self here by the cheek of the dure. If some one like yerself'd
come and show us how to fix it up, we might have a purty place yet!
Fix it up on Sunday! Mrs. Burrell cried, with vehement emphasis.
Show us, I said, Pearl corrected her, and I guess it would be a
real good work to fix it up, too.
It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath day, you know, Mattie, Mr.
Burrell quoted gently.
Mrs. Burrell sniffed audibly.
The trustees meet this evening, Pearl. Now, if you will stay in,
I'll drive you out to-morrow morning. Mrs. Burrell will be glad to have
you stay here.
Mrs. Burrell seconded the invitation.
But I am going to the meeting, John, she declared decidedly. I'll
tell them that you are not to undertake it.
My dear, I understood the Ladies' Aid were meeting to-night, her
husband said, with the forced enthusiasm of a person who tries to draw
a child's attention from a prohibited pleasure.
It does, too; but I am going to the other meeting, answered his
Mr. Burrell looked at Pearl in alarm.
But I want you to stay, Pearl, Mrs. Burrell said quickly, and with
more kindliness than she had yet shown.
Pearl thanked her, but said she would have to go to see her father
first and see if she could stay. Mrs. Burrell went out into the kitchen
to get tea ready, while Mr. Burrell went to the door with Pearl.
In the little square hall they held a hurried conference. Will she
go to that meeting? Pearl asked in a whisper.
Will she cut up rough?
Mr. Burrell thought it likely that she would.
Don't let her go, said Pearl, who evidently believed in man's
He made a gesture of helplessness.
Pearl wrinkled her forehead, and then took a step nearer him and
said slowly: Hide her false teethshe won't go if she has to gum it.
He stared at her a second before he grasped the full significance of
Things like that have been done, Pearl said, reassuringly. Ma
knew a woman once, and whenever she wanted to keep her man at home she
hid his wooden leg. I suppose, now, she hasn't Pearl looked at him
Oh, no! he said hastily. We can't do that.
Pearl went out, leaving the Reverend John Burrell clearly
demonstrating the fact that he was too frivolous a person for his
* * *
When Pearl came back, after getting her father's permission to stay
for the night, she found Mrs. Burrell in a more amiable frame of mind,
and after tea was over she was much relieved to find that Mrs. Burrell
had given up the idea of going to the trustee meeting, but was going to
the Ladies' Aid meeting instead, and was going to take Pearl with her.
Before the meeting, Pearl went over to see Camilla and Mrs. Francis.
Mrs. Francis was the secretary of the Ladies' Aid, but was unable to go
to the meeting that night on account of a severe headache. Pearl,
always ready to help, asked if she could take the minutes of the
Thank you so much, Pearl, Mrs. Francis said. It would relieve me
if you would write down everything that happens, so that I can make a
full report of it. It is so sweet of you, dear, to offer to do it for
me; and now run along with Camilla, for I know she has a lot of things
that she is longing to show you.
Camilla took Pearl upstairs to her room, and there spread out before
Pearl's enraptured vision a wonderful creation of white silk and lace.
The lace has little cucumbers in it, Pearl said, looking at it
closely, and it's the loveliest dress I ever saw. Have you worn it
Camilla did not at once reply, and then, quite by intuition, Pearl
guessed the truth.
Camilla! she exclaimed. You are going to be married to Jim.
Camilla put her gently.
Yes, dear, I am, she said. Pearl, sat thinking deeply.
Are you happy, Camilla? she said at last. Are you that happy you
feel you can never lose a bit of the glad feeling?
Camilla held her tighter, and kissed her again. I've thought about
it a little, Pearl said after a while, and I thought perhaps that
would be how people felt, and then it didn't matter if it was all dark
and gloomy outside, or even if the wind was howlin' and rattlin' the
windows, you wouldn't mind, for all the time you would be singin'
inside, just bustin' for joy, and you'd feel that contented sort of
feelin', just as if the sun was pourin' down and the birds singin' and
the hills all white with cherry-blossoms; is that anything like it,
It is very like that, Pearl, she said.
And, Camilla, she went on, do you feel like you could die to save
him from any trouble or pain, and even if he did go wrongJim never
will, I know, but I am just supposin'even if he did go wrong you'd
never go back on him, or wish you hadn't took him, but you'd stay with
the job and say to yourself: 'He's my man, and I'll stay by him, so I
Camilla nodded her head.
Pearl's eyes suddenly filled with tears.
And, Camilla, do you ever think if you were to lose him it wouldn't
be so bad as' never to have had him, and even if the time came that he
had to go, you could bear it, for you'd know that somewhere you'd find
him again waitin' for you and lovin' you still, just the same; and even
if it was long, long years ago that you were left alone, you'd never
forget him, but you'd always know that somewhere, up in the air or in
the clouds or maybe not so far, he was there dear as ever, and you'd
always keep thinkin' in your heart: 'He's the only man for me.'
Camilla's arms tightened around her, and Pearl felt something warm
on her cheek.
How do you know all this? Camilla whispered, after a while.
Pearl laughed and wiped her eyes on her handkerchief. I don't
know, she said. I never knew that I did know it all till just now.
I've thought about it a little.
Camilla laughed, too, and went over to the wash stand to bathe her
eyes, while Pearl, in wonder, inspected the dress.
Now, Pearlie Watson, I want you to do me a favour, said Camilla
As many as you like, was Pearl's quick answer.
I want you for my bridesmaid. You are my good luck, Pearl. Remember
you sent Jim to me. If it hadn't been for you I might never have met
Pearl's eyes sparkled with delight, but no words came.
And see here, Miss Watson, I have been reading up all about
weddings, and I find it is a very correct thing for the bride and
bridesmaid to be dressed alike. Miss Watson, will you please stand up
and shut your eyes?
Pearl stood up.
Over her head she felt Camilla putting something soft and
deliciously silky. Camilla was putting her arms in unmistakable
sleeves, and pulling down an unmistakable skirt.
Open your eyes, Pearlie.
When Pearl opened her eyes she found herself dressed in a white silk
dress, exactly the same as the one that lay on the bedcucumbers and
Oh, Camilla! was all she could say, as she lovingly stroked the
Jim would not think of having anybody but you, and Dr. Clay is
going to be the groomsman.
Pearl looked up quickly.
Dr. Clay told me, Camilla went on, that he would rather have you
for the bridesmaid when he was going to be the groomsman than any other
girl, big or little.
Pearl clasped her hands with a quick motion.
Better'n Miss Morrison? she asked, all in one breath.
Yes; better than pose so, for he said on earth.
Oh, Camilla! Pearl said again, taking deep breaths of happiness,
and the starry look in her eyes set Camilla wondering.
CHAPTER XIII. THE LADIES' AID
Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us,
To see oorselves as ithers see us.
PEARL went to the Ladies' Aid Meeting, which was held at Mrs.
Ducker's, and was given a little table to sit at while she took the
notes. Pearl was a fairly rapid writer, and was able to get down most
of the proceedings.
Camilla copied the report into the minute-book, and as Mrs. Francis
did not think about it until the next meeting, when she came to read it
she found it just as Pearl had written it, word for word. The reading
caused some excitement. The minutes were as follows:
* * *
The Ladies' Aid met at the home of Mrs. Ducker. There were seven
present when it started; but more came. Mrs. Burrell doesn't know why
they can't come in time. She told them so. Mrs. Bates said, Lands
sakes, she had a hard enough time getting there at all. She left a big
bag of stockings all in holes. Mrs. Forrest says it's been so hot the
holes are the most comfortable part of the stockings, and if she was in
Mrs. Bates's place she'd let the girls go barefoot. Mrs. Bates is going
to let Mildred go, but she can't let Blancheshe's so lankyshe'd
look all legs, like a sand-hill crane. Burrell says, Let's open the
meeting by singing, How Firm a Foundation but Mrs. Ducker says, Oh,
don't take that, it's in sharps; take Nearer, Still Nearerit's in
flats, and Maudie can handle the flats better. Then they sang, and Mrs.
Burrell and Mrs. Ducker prayed. Mrs. Ducker prayed longest, but Mrs.
Burrell prayed loudest, and for most things. Mrs. Bates read the last
report, and they said it was better than usual, she'd only left out one
or two things. Then they collected the money. Nearly every one paid;
only Mrs. Burrell couldn't find hers, she was sure she had it in her
glove when she came in, and she couldn't see how it ever fell out. Mrs.
Ducker will get it when she sweeps if it's in the house at all. Mrs.
Williams had her ten cents in a tea-cup all ready, but when she went to
get it it was gone, and she's afraid she gave that cup to one of the
boarders by mistake. Mrs. Williams says that's the worst of keeping
boarders, your home is never your own. Mrs. Forrest says if she only
knew which one got it, she should charge it up to him. Mrs. Williams
wouldn't ever think of doing that. Total receipts of evening, $2.20.
Then Mrs. Burrell asked what about the new stairs carpet. She's
ashamed every time she takes any one upstairs, it's going something
awful. Mrs. White hasn't had time to think anything about it, she's
been doing up rhubarb; it's so nice and tender in the spring. None of
Mrs. Bates's folks will eat rhubarb, and so she never does any up,
though she really is very fond of it herself, done with pineapple, the
shredded pineapplehalf and half. Mrs. Ducker is doing rhubarb, too,
it's nice in the spring when everything else goes flat on you. Mrs.
Burrell says, What about the stairs carpet, now if you're done with the
Mrs. Forrest said linoleum is better than carpet. Mrs. Ducker said
it's too cold on the feet. Mrs. Grieves said, Land sakes, let them wear
their bootsthey don't need to go canterin' up and down the stairs in
their bare feet, do they? Mrs. Burrell said linoleum would do all right
if they couldn't afford carpet; but there wasn't any decent linoleum in
town, and even if there was you have to pay two prices for it, but she
saw in the Free Press that there was going to be a linoleum sale in
Winnipeg on Saturday. Mrs. Ducker does not like sales. Mr. Ducker got a
horse at a sale one time, and the very first time they hitched it up it
took blind staggers. Mrs. Forrest thinks there would be no danger of
the linoleum havin' it, though. Mrs. Burrell said she wished they'd
talk sense. Mrs. Snider said she would move that Mrs. Burrell gets
whatever she wants for the stairs and the Ladies' Aid will pay for it.
Carried. Mrs. Burrell said what about the knives and forks committee.
Mrs. Bates hasn't been able to go out since she fell down stairs.
There's a black patch on her knee yet. Mrs. Bates blackens easy. Mrs.
Snider has had her hands full, goodness knows, since Aunt Jessie has
been laid up with erysipelas. Aunt Jessie is pretty hard to wait on,
and doesn't like the smell of the ointment the doctor gave her, it's
altogether different from what she got when she was down in the States.
Mrs. Burrell said she would get the knives and forks herself if anybody
would make a motion. Two made it, and three seconded it. Carried.
Mrs. Burrell said, How are the things getting on for the bazaar?
Mrs. Ducker had a box of things sent from Mrs. Norman in Winnipeg. Mrs.
Snider thinks Mrs. Norman must have been at a sale: You can get things
so cheap there sometimes. When Mrs. Snider was in at Bonspiel time, she
saw lovely lace stockings for eleven cents a pair, and beautiful
flowered muslin, just the very same as they ask sixty-five cents here,
going for twenty-nine cents. (Couldn't get all they said here,
everybody talked at once about sales.)
Mrs. Burrell said: Where'll we hold it, anyway, if we do get enough
stuff? Mrs. Ducker thought the basement of the church. Mrs. Bates can't
get used to holding sales in churches. Her mother never could either.
Mrs. Burrell said when the church was having the sale, what was the
odds where it was held? No use turning up your nose at a sale and still
take the money. Mrs. Smith moved that sale be held in church, though if
the stuff didn't come in faster, a piano box would do. Mrs. Allen said,
hurry up, do, please. She left the baby with Jim, and he's no good at
all if She begins to fuss. Mrs. Snider seconded the motion.
Mrs. Burrell said, where will we meet next time? Mrs. Graham said,
come to my house. Mrs. Forrest said it was too far. Mrs. Graham said
the walk would do her good, she had just been reading in the Fireside
Visitor that that's what's wrong with lots of people, they don't walk
enough. Mrs. Forrest is glad to know this, for she has often wondered
what was wrong with lots of people, but Mrs. Forrest doesn't think much
of the Fireside Visitorit's away off sometimes.
Mrs. Brown would like to come every time if she had company home.
Mrs. Burrell said bring Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown wouldn't come. You
couldn't get him within three acres of a Ladies' Aid Meeting. Never
could. Decided to meet at Mrs. Burrell's.
R. J. P. WATSON, Sec.
Just for this time.
* * *
Pearl and Mrs. Burrell became very good friends before Pearl left
the next morning. Mrs. Burrell, while they were washing up the
breakfast dishes, apologized in her own way for her outburst against
the country appointment.
I'm a crabbed old woman, Pearl, dear, she said.
Not old, Pearl said promptly, with wisdom beyond her years. She
did not deny the other adjective.
I'm a crabbed old woman, Pearl, she repeated; but I am always
afraid he'll catch cold and get sick he is so reckless, and never seems
to have serious thoughts about himself, or realize what wet feet will
do for him if he persists in them; and really, child, it's hard to be a
minister's wife. You've so many people to please, and when you're
pleasing one, some one else doesn't like it. Now, did you notice Mrs.
Maxwell wasn't at the meeting? She got miffed with me over the smallest
little thing. You know her boy, Alec, plays lacrosse, and there's going
to be a big game here on the 1st of July, at the Pioneers' Picnic, and
she was talking about ithe's so foolish that way for a woman of her
age. I said to her, just as kindly as I am speaking to you now: 'I do
hope Alec will be able to control his temper,' I said. 'I know it's
hard for people with that complexion to control their temper.' You see,
I know, for my youngest brother has hair just like Alec Maxwell, and I
told her this, and I did it all so kindly. But what do you suppose? She
tossed her headMrs. Burrell showed Pearl the wayand she says.
'Just look after your own, Mrs. Burrell. I guess Alec can control
himself as well as most red-headed people.' Red-headed, mind you! I was
so upset about it. Of course, I know there is a tinge of red in
minemore of a gold, I guess it is, just when the sun shines on
itbut no one would think of calling it red, would they, Pearl?
No, indeed, Pearl answered truthfully. It isn't a bit red.
Pearl was thinking that sorrel was nearer the colour, but she knew
she must not say it.
I am always getting people offended at me when I do not mean any
offence. John just laughs at me when I tell him. He often says,
'Mattie, you are a wonder in your own way,' and I am not sure just what
he means by it; but often, Pearl, I'm afraid I haven't tact.
Pearl assured Mrs. Burrell that she shouldn't worry about it.
Sometimes I think I do pretty well, and say the right thing. One
night I met Miss Rose, your friend, and Mr. Russell out walking. I met
them going past the McSorley house, and you know they're building a
piece to it since the twins came. So I said to Mr. Russell: 'Be sure to
get a big house at first, so you won't have to be adding to it all the
time; it's so expensive to enlarge a house.' I guess Mr. Russell took
it all right, because he said: 'Yes, Mrs. Burrell, just as solemn as
can be, but I don't believe John liked it, because he began to talk to
Miss Rose right away. I often think, Pearl, if my own little girl had
lived I would have been a lot happier; I wouldn't be depending, then,
so much on other people for my happiness. I am a poor, cross old woman,
and I really do not mean to be. I feel real kind to people, and would
be if they would let me.
You're all right, Mrs. Burrell, Pearl said soothingly. You've
keen kind to me, and I like you just fine.
Mrs. Burrell looked at her gratefully.
I believe you do, you blessed child; you see the good in
When Pearl went home that day she announced to her family that she
was happy in four places. I'm happy because we're goin' to have church
now, that's one; and I'm happy because Mrs. Burrell gave me all those
pansy plants, that's two; and I'm happy because Camilla is goin' to be
married, and she has made me the loveliest white silk dress you ever
saw, just the spittin' image of her own, because I'm to be her
bridesmaid, that's three; and I'm happy becauseshe hesitated, as a
sudden shyness seized heroh, well, I'm just happy.
CHAPTER XIV. IN CASE
Ah! well for us all some deep hope lies
Deeply buried from mortal eyes.
PEARL went around the settlement the next week, to tell the people
that there would be church in the schoolhouse the next Sunday
On Monday evening, coming home from school, she went into the
Perkins home. She had not seen Martha since she had lived at the
Motherwells' the year before. It was a large frame house, with a
well-kept garden in front and a hedge of purple and white lilacs in
full bloom. Pearl was standing looking at the hedge in mute enjoyment,
when Martha came out to get green onions and lettuce for tea.
Take some lilacs, Pearl, she said, pointing to them. They are
pretty, aren't they?
Oh, Martha! Pearl cried, you must be happy living with these
things. Don't you just wish you could gather up all the poor little
children? Mr. Donald was reading to us out of a magazine to-day, and
showing us the pictures of how they are crowded together in the cities,
and never see any grass, just all side walks and black dirt. Wouldn't
you love to let them all have a look and a smell and armful and be
happy for once?
I guess it doesn't do much good to be once if it doesn't last.
Well, I don't know, Pearl said, after some deliberation. I
believe it does. I've often heard Ma tell about the day she and Pa were
married, how the sun just danced on the flowers and the grass, and she
carried a big sheaf of lilacs, and when she came to this country, and
it was all so new and bare, and no flowers only the wild ones, and she
hadn't got used to them, she often thought of them lilacs and pretty
near smelled them again, and cried over them, and got real happy just
thinkin' of them. You know there's a lot in lilacs, more than their
beauty. Some flowers have a lot in them, just like people. Now, there's
the wild sunflower, it's a pretty flower, with real rich colours,
yellow and brown; but nobody ever cries over it, or has a good time
over it in any way, because it doesn't make you think of anything.
It's just a weed, Martha said with conviction.
Well, now, Pearl went on, even some weeds have something in them.
There's the blue cockle and the ball mustard. They're bad weeds, but
they're pretty. They've got a sort of a bold-as-brass look about them,
and they have to be pulled, but they're pretty.
Yes; they're pretty, Martha agreed. She had often thought about
the cockle as she pulled it out of the garden. The flaming purple of
it, so strong and bold and defiant, seemed to mock her and sneer at her
sallow face and streaky, hay-coloured hair. In her best moments she had
often wondered how it could be so bad when it was so beautiful, but
there were times, too, when she had almost envied the bold and evil
cockle, and thought bitterly that somehow it had the best of it.
But what's the use of its lovely flashing purple? Pearl said, as
if in answer to her thoughts. Nobody likes it, and it just gets rooted
up and flung in heaps. It only takes up room and spoils crops and makes
people mad. Look at the mignonetteit isn't pretty, but everybody
loves it and plants it, and don't think a garden's a garden without it.
Oh, I tell ye, Martha, beauty ain't everything, unless, ye can back it
up with something better. Lots of the finest people on earth ain't much
to look at, but nobody thinks of that.
Pearl was pinning a spray of lilac on her print dress as she talked.
Then she made known her errand.
Yes, I'll go, Martha said, readily. And so will Bud. He likes Mr.
Burrell. Pa and Ma will go, too, I guess. I'll be glad to have
somewhere to go on Sunday afternoonsit's lonesome since Edith went to
Winnipeg. Come in, Pearl. You've never been in our house yet, have
Pearl followed her into the big kitchen, spotlessly clean and
comfortable. Three windows let in the afternoon sunlight, windows that
sparkled from a recent washing; a trailing fuchsia in full bloom, in an
old wash-basin painted green, was suspended from the ceiling in front
of the east window. There were flowers in every window, abundant in
bloom, showing that a loving hand was caring for them. On the wall was
a paper-holder made of cretonne with beads outlining the flowers.
Did Mrs. Cavers make that? Pearl asked quickly. Yes, Martha
said. Mrs. Cavers gave it to mother years ago.
There was a bookshelf made by stringing together empty spools, with
two boards covered with flowered cretonne for the shelves, but the only
books on it were a cook-book, covered with oil-cloth, and Kendall's
Horse Book. A framed picture of Dan Patch was on the wall.
That belongs to Bud, she said smiling. He's the greatest boy for
horseshe's always training the colts, down in the pasture. He has one
now that is a pacer. He's always wanting to run his colts in the races,
but father won't let him. I've never been a race in my life, have you?
Oh, yes, Pearl said. I've been at every race that I ever was near
enough to go to, or lacrosse match or baseball match, or anything. You
sure must come to the Pioneers' Picnic this year, Martha; we will have
a splendid time.
I've never had time to go, Martha said slowly. I've always had to
stay home and look after things, and besides, I don't know many people
and I don't like going among strangers. I often get lonesome now since
Mrs. Cavers has gone to live on the other farm, and I am real glad you
came over, Pearl. I hope you and I will be good friends.
Pearl looked at her with quick sympathy.
You bet we will, Martha, she said heartily.
Martha's pale face flushed with pleasure. Pearl was quick to notice
what a fine forehead and what steady, calm eyes she had, and that she
would be a good-looking girl if her hair were combed becomingly. Poor
Martha, who stayed so much at home, knew but one way of hair-dressing,
which was to part it in the middle and comb it straight backthe way
hair was done when her mother was young. She was dressed in a clean,
starched dress of gray print, plain as a nun's. Pearl noticed that her
teeth were clean and even, and her active brain was doing a rapid
summing-up of Martha's chances for beauty.
Look at how pretty her teeth are, she was thinking to herself;
she may not know how to do her hair, but you bet she takes care of
them. Whether or not yer hair's combed right is a matter of style, but
clean or dirty teeth is a matter of the heart. Martha's heart's all
right, you bet; and say, wouldn't she look fine in a wine, coloured
dress, made long, with lots of fluffy things to make her look rounder
and fatter, and her hair like Miss Morrison's, all kinkly and puffed,
with a smashin' big combs with diamondsno, I wouldn't just like a big
comb either, it wouldn't suit her face. I just wish Camilla could live
in the house with her for a while. She'd make Martha look a different
girl. She's got hair, too, Pearl was thinking, but she rolls it into
such a hard little nub you'd never know. It needs to be all fluffed
out. That nub of hair is just like Martha herself. It's all there, good
stuff in it, but it needs to be fluffed out.
Stay for tea, Pearl, Martha was saying. Father and Mother are
away, and there's only Bud and me at home.
Pearl readily agreed. She had told her mother that she probably
would not be home for tea. Pearl's social instincts were strong.
Martha took her into the parlour, a close, stuffy little room, and
showed some of her treasured possessions. There were the hair-wreath,
the seed-wreath, and the wax flowers, which, to Pearl, were triumphs of
art. There were three huckaback cushions standing stiff and grand on
the high back of the lounge, and another one made of little buns of
silk beside them, all far beyond the reach of mortal head.
Do you never use them, Martha? Pearl asked, touching them gently.
Do you know, I like cushions that are not half as pretty, but look
more friendly like and welcome. But these are just lovely, she added
An enlarged picture of Mr. Perkins was on one wall, while on the
opposite side of the room hung one of Mrs. Perkins.
Pearl told the other children about them when she went home. There
they are, she said, just glarin' straight at each other, day and
night, winter or summer, just the same, neither one of them givin' in
an inch. 'I can stare as long as you,' you'd think they was saying, the
way they've got their eyes glued on one another; and it ain't
A hanging lamp, with its fringe of glittering pendants, hung over a
table made of spools like the bookshelves, and covered with a drape of
tissue paper table-napkins, cut into a deep fringe around the edge.
The table that held the family Bible had a cover made of rope,
hanging in huge tassels down at each corner. Under the carpet had been
placed newspapers, to make it wear better, and it crackled noisily as
they walked over it. On the window curtains were pinned little
calendars and Christmas cards, stuck on ribbons.
To Pearl these decorations were full of beauty, all except the wool
wreath, which hung over the lounge in a deep frame covered with glass;
but its indigo and mustard coloured roses and swollen bright green
leaves made her suspicious that it was not in keeping with the findings
of good taste.
There was something in Pearl's sympathetic interest that encouraged
Martha to show her the contents of a cupboard upstairs in her room.
There were quilts in abundance. Martha held them up lovingly in
different angles to show how they make a pattern every way you look at
them. There were the Pavements of New York in blue and white, the
Double Irish Chain in red and white, Fox and Geese in buff and
white; there were daintily hemstitched sheets and pillow covers; there
were hooked mats in great variety, a lovely one in autumn leaves which
seemed a wonderful creation to Pearl; there were pin-cushions, all
ribbon and lace, and picture-frames ready for pictures, made of pine
cones that Martha had gathered on the sand-hills of the Assiniboine.
When Pearl had feasted her eyes on all these wonders and praised
them abundantly, Martha opened her trunk and showed her a still more
precious store of hand embroidery, such beautiful garments as Pearl had
never dreamed of.
Martha, she cried impulsively, are you going to be married, too?
Martha's pale face flushed painfully, and Pearl was quick to see her
No, I am not, Pearl, she answered steadily.
Not just now, Pearl said, trying to speak carelessly; but, of
course, you will some time. Such a clever girl as you are will be sure
to get married. You're a dandy housekeeper, Martha, and when it comes
to gettin' married, that's what counts.
Oh, no, Pearl, there are other things more important than that,
Martha spoke sadly and with settled conviction. She was standing at the
foot of the bed, looking out between the muslin curtains at the level
stretch of country, bordered by the wooded river bank. She had been
looking at this same scene, varied only by the changing seasons, for
many weary, wearing years, and the big elms on the river bank had
looked back indifferently, although they must have known that Martha
was growing old, that Martha was fading, and that the chances of the
trunk and cupboardful ever being used were growing less. The long arms
of the windmill on the barn caught the sunlight and threw it in a
thousand dancing splinters on the floor behind her.
Being a good housekeeper hasn't got anything to do with getting
married, she said again, and her voice was tense with feeling. I can
work and keep house, and sew and bake; but no man would ever fancy me'
why should he? A man wants his wife to be pretty and smart and bright,
and what am I?
The strain in her voice struck Pearl's heart with pity.
I am old, and wrinkled, and weatherbeaten. Look at that, Pearl.
She held up her hands, so cruelly lined and calloused: That's my
picture; they look like me.
No, no, no! Pearl cried, throwing her arms around Martha's thin
shoulders, and holding her tight in her strong young arms. You're only
twenty-five, and that's not old; and your looks are all right if you
would only do your hair out bigger and fluffier, and you'd get to be a
better figure if you'd breathe deep, and throw back your shoulders, and
sleep with your windows open. I read all about it, and I'll get it for
you. It was in a paper Camilla getsa long piece called 'How to Be
Pretty, though Plain.' I am doin' the things, too, and we'll do them
together, Martha. See here, Martha, here's the way to breathe, and
here's the way to throw back your shoulderssuiting the action to the
wordand a cold bath every morning will give you rosy cheeks.
She kissed Martha impulsively. Oh, you bet you'll get married,
Martha, and I'll be your bridesmaidme and Bud will be itand Lib
Cavers will be maid of honour and carry a shock of lilacs, and I'll
write a piece about it for the paper.
Martha smiled bravely, and Pearl was too polite to notice that her
eyes were suspiciously dewy.
Oh, no, Pearl, she said, as she put away all the things carefully,
I guess I'll never be married; but I love to make these things, and
when I'm sewing at them I often imagine things, foolish things that'll
never be; but I have them all ready, anywayshe was closing down her
trunk lidI have them ready, anywayin casewell, just in
CHAPTER XV. THE SOWING
And other fell on good ground.
EVERYTHING else is pretty only the old school, said Mary Watson.
Look at the sky and the grass and the spruce trees on the
sandhillsall nice colours only the old school, and it's just a
grindy-gray-russet inside and out.
Mary was a plain-spoken young lady of ten.
Well, we can clean it, anyway, Pearl said hopefully. If we get it
clean it won't look so bad, even if it ain't pretty; and we can get
lots of violets, though they don't show much; but we'll know they're
there; and we can get cherry-blossoms and put them in something big on
the desk for the minister to look over, and they'll do him good, for
he'll see that somebody thought about it.
Maudie Steadman did not think much of the idea of violets and
cherry-blossoms. Maudie was fat, and had pale freekles all over her
face and on her hands. She talked in a jerky way, and was always out of
Perhaps we could get Maw's tissue-paper flowers. She's got lovely
purple roses and yellow ones, and the like o' that, Maudie said.
Pearl considered it awhile.
No, Maudie, she said. Paper roses are fine in the winter, but in
the summer, if you use them, it looks as if you don't think much of the
kind that God's puttin' up, and you think you can do better yourself.
So I think with lots of meadow rue for the green stuff and violets and
blossoms, it'll be all right. Anyway, when the people get in with their
Sunday clothes on, and the flowers on their hats, it'll take the bare
look off it.
When Sunday came it seemed as if it were a day specially prepared
for the beginning of religious instruction in the Chicken Hill School.
The sky was cloudless save for little gauzy white flakespuffs of
chiffon that had blown off the angels' hats, Mary Watson said they
were. The grain was just high enough to run in waves before the wind,
and even Grandfather Gray, Mrs. Steadman's father, admitted that the
craps were as far on as he'd ever seen them; but in order that no one
could accuse him of stirring up false hopes, he pointed out that the
wheat has a long way to go yet before the snow flies, and there's lots
that might happen it.
By half-past two o'clock, the time set for the service, the yard was
well filled with buggies and waggons, while knots of men, looking
uncomfortable in high collars, stood discussing the crops and the price
of horses, all in the best of humour. When they saw the minister's gray
horse coming, the minister himself became the subject of conversation.
It beats me, George Steadman said, springing the lid of his pipe
with his thumb as he struck a match on the sole of his boot, it beats
me what a man sees in preaching as a steady job. It's easy work, all
right, only one day in the week; but there's no money in it. A man can
make more money at almost anything else he goes athe was thinking of
short-hornsand be more independent. It certainly beats me why they
Did ye ever hear, George, of greater rewards than money, and a
greater happiness than being independent? Roderick Ray, the Scottish
Covenanter, asked gently, as he unbuckled his beast from the cart.
Roderick Ray had a farm on Oak Creek, three miles east of the
schoolhouse. Yon man is a Methodist, an' I'm na' sa fond o' them as o'
some ithers, but I can see he has the root o' the matter in him for
all; and I'm thinkin' that he has the smile o' his Lord and Master on
him, an' that's better nor gold, nor siller, nor houses, nor lands, nor
cattle on a thousand hills; for, after all, George, these things slip
frae us easy and we slip away frae them easier still, an' it's then
we'll hear the Good Man ask: 'An' hoo did ye spend the years I gave ye?
Did ye warn the sinner, teach the young, feed the hungry an' comfort
the sad?' An' I'm thinkin', George, that to all this yon little man,
Methoda body though he be, will be able to give a verra guid answer an'
a very acceptable one.
The men sat on one side of the school, and the women on the other.
Even a very small boy, when he found himself sitting with the women,
made a scurry across to the other side. Danny Watson alone of the male
portion of the congregation was unaffected by this arrangement, and
clung to his sister Pearl, quite oblivious of public opinion.
Mrs. Cavers and Libby Anne sat beside the window, in the seat ahead
of Danny, Mary, and Pearl. Mrs. Cavers's eyes were on the group of men
at the woodpile, for Bill was among them, very much smartened up in his
good clothes. She had had some difficulty in persuading him to come. He
wanted to stay at home and sleep, he said. While the men talked beside
the woodpile, Sandy Braden, the hotelkeeper, drove up with his pacing
horse and rubber-tired buggy. He stopped to talk to the men. Sandy was
a very genial fellow, and a general favourite.
Mrs. Cavers sat perfectly still; only the compression of her lips
showed her agitation.
Come on, Bill, and I'll give you a good swift ride, she heard him
Bill hesitated and looked around uneasily. Sandy gave him a
significant wink and then he went without a word.
Inside, Mrs. Cavers gave a little smothered cry, which Libby Anne
understood. She moved nearer to her mother in sympathy.
Mrs. Cavers leaned forward, straining her eyes after the cloud of
dust that marked the pacing horse's progress, clasping and unclasping
her hands in wordless misery. Bill was goneshe had lost him again.
The wind drove ripples in the grain, the little white clouds hung
motionless in the sky, but Bill was gone, and the sun, bright and
pitiless, was shining over all. Then the other men came in and the
The singing was led by Roderick Ray, who had the Covenanters' blood
in his veins. He carried a tuning-fork with him always, and fitted the
psalm tunes to the hymns, carrying them through in a rolling baritone,
and swinging his whole body to the motion.
The Reverend John Burrell was a student of men. He had travelled the
North-West before the days of railways, by dog-train, snow-shoes, and
horse-back, preaching in the lumber camps and later on in the railway
camps, and it was a deep grief to him when his health broke down and he
was compelled to take a smaller appointment. He liked to be on the
firing-line. He was a gentle, shrewd, resourceful man, whose sense of
humour and absolute belief in the real presence of God had carried him
over many a rough place.
As he stood before his congregation this day in the schoolhouse, a
great compassion for the men and women before him filled his heart. He
saw their lives, so narrow and bare and self-centred; he read the hard
lines that the struggle with drought and hail and weeds had written on
their faces; and so he spoke to them, not as a stranger might speak,
but as a brother, working with them, who also had carried burdens and
felt the sting of defeat; but who had gone a little farther down the
road, and had come back to tell them to persevere, for things were
better farther on!
He had had to do with travel-stained, wayfaring men for so long that
he had got into the way of handing out to them at once, when he had the
opportunity, the richest treasures of his Father's storehouse. When
they looked to him for bread they were not given a stone, and so,
standing in the bare schoolroom that day, he preached to them Christ,
the Saviour of mankind, and showed the way of life eternal.
There was something very winsome about Mr. Burrell's preaching, not
because of his eloquence, for he was a man of plain speech, low-voiced
and gentle, but because he spoke with the quiet certainty of one who
sees Him who is invisible. Near the front sat Bud Perkins and Teddy
Watson, athletic-looking young fellows, clear-eyed and clean-skinned,
just coming into their manhood, and there was a responsiveness in the
boys' faces that made the minister address his appeal directly to them
as he set before them the two ways, asking them to choose the higher,
the way of loving service and Christlike endeavour.
When the service was over, Mrs. Burrell went around shaking hands
with the women. I am so glad we thought of holding service here, she
said genially. You people do turn out so well. Is this Mrs. Cavers?
she asked, as she shook hands with Mrs. Steadman.
Pearl Watson put her right.
Mrs. Steadman, in a broad black hat resplendent with cerise roses,
stiffened perceptibly, but Mrs. Burrell did not notice this, but
rattled on in her gayest humour. I always do get those names mixed. I
knew there were the two families out here.
She then turned to Mrs. Slater and Mrs. Motherwell. It is a
bare-looking school, isn't it? she said amiably. You women ought to
try to fix it up some. It does look so wind-swept and parched and
cheerless. Mrs. Burrell prided herself on her plain speaking.
At this Mrs. Steadman, who was a large, pompous woman, became so
indignant that the cerise roses on her hat fairly shook. I guess it
doesn't keep the children from learning, she said hotly; and that's
mostly what a school is for.
Oh, you are quite wrong, Mrs. Steadman, Mrs. Burrell replied,
wondering just how it had happened that she had given Mrs. Steadman
cause for offence. Perhaps you think it doesn't prevent the children
from learning, but it does. There's plenty of other things for children
to learn besides what is in the books. Maybe they didn't learn them
when you were young, but it would have been better if they had.
Children should have a bed of flowers, and a little garden and trees to
Well, you can have them for yours, Mrs. Steadman said harshly,
narrowing her eyes down to glittering slits. She knew that Mrs. Burrell
had no children living; but when Mrs. Steadman's anger rose she tried
to say the bitterest thing she could think of.
Mrs. Burrell was silent for a moment or two. Then she said gently:
My little girl has them, Mrs. Steadman. She has the flowers that never
fade, and she needs no shade from trees, for no heat shall fall upon
them there. I wasn't thinking of my own, I was thinking of yours and
the other children who come here.
Well, I guess we've done more for the school than anybody else
anyway, Mrs. Steadman said loftily. We pay taxes on nineteen hundred
acres of land, and only send two children.
Mrs. Slater and Mrs. Motherwell joined the conversation then, and
endeavoured to smooth down Mrs. Steadman's ruled plumage.
She ain't goin' to dictate to us, Mrs. Steadman declared
vehemently, after Mrs. Burrell had gone to speak to Mrs. Watson and
Aunt Kate. Mrs. Steadman had a positive dread of having any person
dictate to her.
Teddy Watson hitched up Mrs. Cavers's horse. There was still no sign
of Bill, and after a little talk with Martha Slater she and Libby Anne
drove sadly home.
Bud Perkins got the minister's horse ready and stood holding it
while Mr. Burrell was talking to Roderick Ray, who wanted to be sure
how Mr. Burrell stood on election. When the conversation was over Mr.
Burrell walked over to where Bud was holding his horse. A sudden
impulse seized him. Bud, he said gently, laying his hand on the boy's
shoulder, I wonder if you are the good ground? I wonder if you are
going to let the seed grow?
Bud turned and looked the minister straight in the face, while a
fine flush came into his own. I am going to try, he said simply.
Mr. Burrell took hold of Bud's hand and said earnestly: God only
knows what can be made of a young man who is willing to try.
Bud's eyes were shining with emotion as he returned the handclasp.
And thus the good seed was sown in the fertile soil of Bud Perkins's
heart, destined to be cruelly choked by weeds in the evil days to come,
but never quite forgotten by the Master Sower!
* * *
On the way home Bud was strangely lent, and Martha, with quick
intuition, divined the cause. A great wave of emotion was surging
through the boy's heart, a great new love for every one and everything;
he wanted to do something, to suffer, to endure. Every ripple that ran
over the grain, every note of the robin and meadowlark, the rustle of
the leaves above them as they drove through the poplar grove on the
school section, were to him the voices of God calling him to loving
Martha, he said suddenly, I haven't been very good to you, have
I, old girl? Lots of times I could have been nicer and helped you more.
I want to be better to you now. I never thought of it before, but I
know that I've often let you do things that I might have done myself. I
am going to be kinder and better, I hope.
Martha was not ready of speech. You're all right, Bud, she said.
I knew how you feel, and I'm glad.
CHAPTER XVI. SPIRITUAL ADVISORS
Like tides on a crescent sea-beach
When the moon is new and thin,
Into our hearts high yearnings
Come welling and surging in
Come from the mystic ocean
whose rim no foot has trod.
Some of us call it longing
And others call it God.
W. H. Carruth.
WHEN Bud and Martha reached home, Bud went straight to his father
who was sitting in his stockinged feet, yawning over a machinery
catalogue. Dad, he said, I'm going to be a better boy than I've
How's that, Buddie? Mr. Perkins asked suspiciously.
Bud coloured uncomfortably. I've made up my mind to be e a
Christian, father, he answered, after a pause.
All right, Bud, that's all right, the old man answered, letting
the catalogue fall to the floor. A little religion is a fine thing,
and no one should be without it. I'm a religious man myself, Buddie, if
any one should ask you. I can always ask a blessing at the table when
there's companyyou know that yourselfand I've attended church for
years; I never miss goin' the Sunday the Foresters get preached to. I
favour the Church of England, myself, though your ma's folks always
patronized the Methodists. I like the Church of England best because
they can give you such a dandy funeral, no matter who you are, by
George! and no questions asked. They sure can give a fellow a great
send-off. This little Burrell is a Methodist, isn't he?
Yes, he's a Methodist, said Bud.
Well, now, Bud, I don't want to discourage you, but you have to be
careful how you get mixed up with them Methodists; they go too far and
are apt to overdo things. You mind when there was them big revival
meetings at Millford a few years ago. Well, sir, Brown, the druggist,
got religion and burned up all his pipes and tobacco; they tell me they
were as fine a stock of briar-roots and amber mouthpieces as any person
would care to see; people who raked over the as ashes tell me it was a'
terrible sight altogetherand he was a smart man up to that time,
makin' good ney sellin' rain-water for medicine. Now, Buddie, go slow.
I don't mind you goin' to church and chippin' in your nickel when the
plate passes, and it's all right to buy stuff at their sales. I mind
when the Church of England ladies raffled off that quilt, I bought two
ten-cent throws, and never kicked when I didn't get it. I says: 'Oh,
well, it's gone for a good cause.' But don't let them get too strong a
hold on you.
But, father, Bud said earnestly, I want to stand up for
everything that's right. I want to be straight and honest, and help
people, and I've just been thinkin' about itit's not fair to plug
wheat the way we've been doingit's not right to pretend that it's all
first class when there's frozen grain in it.
Thomas Perkins grew serious.
Buddie, dear, he said, you're gettin' cluttered up with a lot of
bum ideas. A farmer has to hold his own against everybody else. They're
all trying to fleece him, and he's got to fool them if he can. I'm
honest myself, Bud, you know that; but there's nothing pleases me quite
so well as to be able to get eighty-seven cents a bushel for wheat that
I would only be gettin' fifty-three for if I hadn't taken a little
trouble when I was fillin' it up.
But it would make a fellow feel mean to get caught, Bud said,
trying to get hold of an argument that would have weight.
A fellow needn't be caught, Bud, if he ain't too graspin'. You
don't need to plug every time. They know blame well when a fellow has
some frozen wheat, and it don't do to draw in No. I hard or No. I
Northern every time. It's safest to plug it just one grade above what
it is. Oh, it's a game, Bud, and it takes a good player. Now, son, you
run along and bring up the cows, and don't you be worryin' about
religion. That's what happened me brother Jimmy, your own poor uncle.
He got all taken up with the Seventh Day Adventists, and his hired help
was gettin' two Sundays a weekhe wouldn't let them work Saturday and
they wouldn't work Sunday. Your poor uncle was afraid to let them work
on Saturday, for, accordin' to his religion, you'd be damned if you let
your hired help work just the same as if you worked yourself; but he
used to say he'd be damned if he'd let them sit idle and him payin'
them big wages, and it was a bad mix-up, I tell you. And then there was
old man Redmond, he got religion and began to give back things he said
he'd stolebrought back bags to Steadman that he 'said he stole at a
threshin' at my place; but they had Steadman's name on them. It made
lots of trouble, Bud, and I never saw anything but trouble come out of
this real rip-roarin' Methodist religion, and I don't want you to get
mixed up in it.
Bud went down the ravine that led to the river with a troubled
heart. There was something sweet and satisfying just within reach, but
it eluded him as he tried to grasp it. Bud had never heard of
conviction of sin, repentance and justification, but he knew that a
mysterious something was struggling within him. He found the cows, and
turned them homeward. Then he flung himself on the grassy slope of the
river-bank and gave himself to bitter reflections. There is no use of
me tryin' to be anybody, he thought sadly. I don't know anything, and
I'd just make a fool of myself if I was to try to do anything.
A flock of plovers circled over his head, rapidly whirring their
wings, then sailing easily higher and higher into the blue of the
evening sky. He looked after them enviously.
Things don't bother those chaps, he said to himself.
He started up suddenly. Some one was calling his name. Looking
across the ravine, he saw Pearl Watson standing outside the fence.
Hello, Bud! she shouted. What's wrong?
He ran down the bank and up the opposite side of the ravine.
I am all out of humour, Pearl, he said. I wish I had never been
born. I'm a big awkward lump.
Pearl looked at him closely.
That's the devil, Bud, she said gravely. He gets into people and
tells them they're no good, an' never will be. It's just his way of
keepin' people from doin' good things. You see, Bud, the devil ain't so
terrible particular about gettin' us to do bad things as just to keep
us from doin' good ones. If you do nothin' at all it will please him
all right, for all you've got to do to be lost is to do nothin'. It's
just like a stick in the river. If it just keeps quiet it will go down
stream, and so it is with usthings is movin' that way. Now, Bud,
them's wrong thoughts you're havin' about not bein' any good. You can
see, hear and talk, and sense thingsthat's all anybody can do. You're
big and strong, and most likely will live fifty years. Here, now, God
has set you up with a whole outfitwhat are you goin' to do with it?
That's what I don't know, Pearl, he said. What can I do? Where
can I go where I'll be any real use?
You don't need to leave home, Bud, Pearl said; you don't need to
be et up by cannibals to be a Christian. Stay right at home and go on
and work and do your work better than ever; just do it as if God
Himself was lookin' over your shoulder; and be that kind and gentle
that even the barn cats'll know who you're tryin' to be like. Earn all
the money you can, too, Bud. Do you know what I'm goin' to do with my
first money I earn? I'll be seventeen before I can teach, and with the
first money I get I'll send some to support a little girl in India.
She'll be called Pearl and I'll bring her up a Bible-woman.
I'm all discouraged, Bud said.
Pearl leaned over the fence and said earnestly: Bud, when I get
discouraged I take it as a sign that I haven't been keepin' prayed up,
and I go right at it and pray till I get feelin' fine. I'm goin' to
She knelt down on her side of the fence. He did the same.
Oh, God! she said, here's Bud all balled up in his mind, wantin'
to do right, but not knowin' how to go at it. I guess you've often seen
people like that, and know better how to go about strengthenin' them up
than I can tell You. Bud's all right of a boy, too, dear Lord, when he
gets a real grip on things. You should have seen him wallop the
daylight out of young Tom Steadman when he hit Lib Cavers. I wasn't
there; but they tell me is was something grand. Bless him now, dear
Lord, and never, never let go of Bud. Even if he lets go of You, keep
your grip on him. For the dear Saviour's sake, Amen.
They rose from their knees and shook hands silently through the
I wish I could believe as easy as you, Pearl, Bud said.
Look over there, Bud, she cried, pointing to the little house
beside the bluff. The setting sun had caught the western windows and
lit them into flame. It's just like that with any of us, Bud. That old
windy is all cracked and patched, but look how it shines when the sun
gets a full blaze on it. That's like us, Bud. We're no good ourselves,
we're cracked and patched, but when God's love gets a chance at us we
can shine and glow.
You're a great kid, Pearl, he said.
She laughed delightedly. I'm like the windy, she said; God puts
good thoughts in me because I keep turned broadside and catch all
that's comin' my way. Go home now, Bud, and don't ever say you're
They shook hands again silently through the fence, and parted.
Through the tall elms and balms that fringed the river Bud could see
the Souris slipping swiftly over its shining pebbles, a broad ribbon of
gold coming out of the West, and it seemed as if some of the glory of
the sunset was coming to him on its sparkling waters. His eye followed
its course until it disappeared around the bend. A new tenderness for
it and a new sense of companionship filled his heart.
Good old Souris, he said, as he turned homeward.
* * *
On the Watson farm there were many improvements being made. The old
machinery that littered the yard had been taken away to the poplar
grove near by, where the boys spent many happy hours constructing
threshing-machines. On Arbour Day, under Pearl's inspection, each child
went to the river flat and dug up a small maple tree, and planted it in
front of where the new house was going to be. Pearl had the exact
location of the new house firmly fixed in her mind before she had been
many days on the farm, and soon had every person, even Aunt Kate,
helping to beautify the grounds. A wide hedge of the little wild
rosebushes which grew plentifully along the headlands, was set out
behind where the house was to stand, to divide the lawn from the
garden, Pearl said, and although to the ordinary eye they were a weedy
looking lot, to Pearl's optimistic vision they, were already aglow with
fragrant bloom. Aunt Kate sent down east to her sister Lib for roots of
sweet Mary, ribbon-grass, and live-forever, all of which came, took
root, and grew in the course of time.
Pearl's dream of a fine chicken-house under the trees began to
assume tangible form when Mrs. Slater came to call, and brought with
her a fine yellow hen and thirteen little woolly chicks. Mrs.
Motherwell came, too, and brought with her a similar offering, only
hers were Plymouth Rocks. Mrs. John Green brought nine little fluffy
ducklings and their proud but perplexed mother, a fine white Orpington.
Gifts like these often accompany first calls in the agricultural
districts of the West. They answer the purpose of, and indeed have some
advantage over, the engraved card with lower left-hand corner turned
down, in expressing friendly greetings to all members of the family.
Temporary dwellings were hastily constructed of packing boxes for
the hens and their respective flocks, but after seeding, a real
henhouse, made of logs with a sod roof, was erected.
One thing troubled Pearl's conscience. She was not sure that they
had been real square with the Caverses. It was quite legal for them to
take possession of the farm, of course, for Bill Cavers had abandoned
it; but should they not pay something for the improvements that had
been made? The house had sheltered them, and the stable, such as it
was, was better than no stableit did not seem right to take it for
nothing. She spoke to her father about it, and he readily agreed with
her, and said they would do something when they saw how the crop
Pearl worked hard at school, and made such rapid progress that one
day Mr. Donald told her, after reading one of her compositions, that he
believed he could put her through for a teacher in a couple of years,
she was doing so well. Pearl stared at him speechless with joy. Then
she went to the window and looked out at the glorious June day, that
all at once had grown more glorious still. The whole landscape seemed
to Pearl to be swimming in a golden mist. An oriole flew carolling
gaily over the woodpile, singing the very song that was in her own
heart. When she came back to the teacher's desk her eyes were shining
with happy tears.
Just to think, she said in a tremulous voice, that I can do me
duty to the boys and git me stifficate at the same time! I just feel
like I ought to apologize to God for ever doubtin' that I'd get it.
Then she told the teacher of the fears she had when coming out on the
farm, that she would have no further chance of an education. And now,
she concluded, here I am doin' me duty and gettin' me chance at the
same time. Ain't that happiness enough for any one?
The teacher looked at her wonderingly. You're a cheerful
philosopher, Pearl, he said gravely, and you make me wish I was
twenty years younger.
Pearl looked in her dictionary to find what philosopher meant, but
even then she could not imagine why Mr. Donald wanted to be twenty
After Pearl's visit to the Perkins home, when Martha showed her all
her treasures, her active brain had been busy devising means of
improving Martha, mentally and physically. After consulting with
Camilla, Pearl went over to see Martha again, full enthusiasm and
beauty-producing devices. She put Martha through a series of
calisthenics and breathing exercises she had learned at school, for
Martha was inclined to stoop, and Camilla had said that a graceful
carriage was one of the most important things.
Martha had never had any money of her own, having always sold her
butter to the store and received due bills in return. Thomas Perkins
was not mean about anything but moneyhe would gladly give to his
children anything else that he possessedbut he considered it a very
unlucky thing to part with money. Pearl saw plainly that cold cash was
necessary for carrying out her plans for Martha, and so, acting on
Camilla's suggestion, she got customers for Martha's butter who would
pay her cash every week.
She got for Martha, too, a lotion for her hands which, put on
regularly every night, was sure to soften and whiten them. She showed
her how to treat her hair to make it lose its 'hard, stringy look.
Camilla had written out full instructions and sent a piece of the soap
that would do the work.
When Martha got her first butter money she sent for the magazine
that she had wanted her father to give her the money for before, and
when the first number came, she read it diligently and became what the
magazine people would call a good user. Pearl had inspired in her a
belief in her own possibilities, and it was wonderful to see how soon
she began to make the best of herself.
CHAPTER XVII. THE PIONEERS' PICNIC
It is always fair weather
When good fellows get together.
THE Pioneers' Picnic was the great annual social event of the Souris
Valley, and was looked forward to by young and old. It was held each
year on the first day of July, on the green flats below the town of
Millford. In John Watson's home, as in many others, preparations for it
One very necessary part of the real enjoyment of a holiday is cash,
cold, hard cash, for ice-cream, lemonade; and Long Toms can only be
procured in that way.
Tommy and Patsey for the first time bitterly regretted their country
residence, for if they had been in Millford, they said, they could have
delivered parcels and run errands and have had a hundred dollars saved
easy. Pearl suggested the black bottles that were so numerous in the
bush as a possible source of revenue, and so every piece of scrub and
the bluff behind the house were scoured for bottles. Thirty-seven were
found, and were cleaned and boxed ready for the day.
Then Bugsey's conscience woke up and refused to be silenced. Lib
Cavers ought to have them, he said sadly.
The others scouted the idea. Bugsey was as loath to part with them
as the others; but they had their consciences under control and Bugsey
She couldn't take them in and sell them, said Tommy, speaking very
loudly and firmly, to drown the voice of his conscience. It wouldn't
be dacent, everybody knowin' where they came from, and what was in
them, and where it went to, and who it was, and all.
Tommy had ideas on what constituted good form.
Pearl was called upon to settle it and, after some thought, gave her
If you give Lib Cavers one package of 'Long Tom' popcorn and one of
gum for a present, it'll be all right. Don't tell her why yer givin' it
to herjust say, 'Present from a friend,' when you hand it to her.
Maybe she don't like popcorn, anyway, Bugsey said, beginning to
hope; and I don't believe her ma will let her chew gum; and it don't
look nice for little girls, he added virtuously.
I'll tell you what we'll do, said Tommy, who was a diplomat.
We'll give it to her ma to give to her.
Offer it, you mean, corrected Patsey; 'give it' means she tuk
Aunt Kate had been busy making suits for her young nephews all
spring, for Aunt Kate was very handy with the needle. She had made
shirts for Teddy and Billy with elaborate flossin' down the front, so
elaborate indeed that it threatened to upset the peace of the family.
Billy rebelled openly, and Teddy said when he was out of his Aunt's
hearing, that he would rather go without a shirt than wear that
scalloped thing. Aunt Kate was serene through it all, and told them how
fond their Uncle Bill had been of that same pea-vine pattern. Pearl saw
at once that there was going to be a family jar, and so saved the
situation by getting Martha Perkins to make wide silk ties for the two
boys, wide enough to hide the ramifications of the pea-vineand then
to avoid the uncomfortable questioning of Aunt Kate, she hid her
glasses on the evening of June the thirtieth. Anyway, Pearl said to
herself, she might get them broke on a big day like the 'First,' and
she can see plenty without them, so she can.
The 'morning of July the first broke clear and sparkling, and before
six o'clock the whole Watson family were stirring. Out in the garden
the four little boys were pulling radishes and tying them into bunches.
Mary, her hair done in many tight little pigtails, was doing a
flourishing business' in lettuce. Jimmy was at the head of the green
onion department. The Watsons had the contract of supplying green
vegetables to the hotel for the day.
Pearl and Aunt Kate were sorting out clothes, while Mrs. Watson got
Down on the river-bank John Watson was cutting down poles for the
new stable that he was going to put up in the fall. There was a great
contentment in his heart as he looked at his twenty acres of wheat and
the same of oats. The season had been so favourable that although the
grain had been sown late, it was now well advanced. A field of fifteen
acres farther up the river had been cleared and ploughed and would be
in crop next year, and as he looked at his land in the sparkling
morning sunshine something of Pearl's optimistic vision came to him,
and in his fancy he saw all the roots and scrub cleared away and
replaced by magnificent fields of grain, dappled with light and shade,
his pasture full of cattle, a comfortable house instead of the
weatherworn one before him, himself and the Missus enjoying peace and
plenty; and the children growing up in wisdom's ways; and Pearliehis
heart's treasure, little Pearl, with the natest fut in the country,
and the sparrow shins of herPearlie getting her chance.
Faith, there's few of them can bate our Pearlie, I'm thinkin', if
she can only get the chance.
By ten o'clock active preparations began on the junior members of
the family. Mary's hair showed that putting in fourteen hard braids the
night before is worth the trouble. She had a lovely barred muslin made
out of an old one of Aunt Kate's that she couldn't wear now, being in
There were new suits for some, clean suits for all, and the only
disturbance that occurred was when Danny would not hold still while
Pearl fastened the front of his blouse; but just a hint of leaving him
at home, made a better boy of Danny at once.
Bugsey, who was the first one dressed, went out to watch the
weather, and in a short time came running in, in tears. There was a
cloud coming up, and Bugsey, the pessimist, knew it was going to rain.
Pearl backed Danny out of the door, holding tight by his
tie-strings, to look at the weather. Sure enough, black clouds had
formed in the west, and were marching relentlessly up the sky. The
whole family came out to look. In the east the sun blazed bright and
unconcerned. The old pig ran past them carrying a wisp of hay in her
mouth, and by common impulse three of the boys threw sticks after her.
She was just trying to make it rainshe couldn't go to the picnic
herself, and she'd just like to see it rain! Little whirls of wind
circled around in the hip-yard, and there was an ominous roll of
distant thunder. Loud wails broke from Bugsey, Danny, and Mary, and
when the edge of the cloud went over the sun and the whole landscape
darkened the wails became general.
Come into the house, commanded Pearl, it's only goin' to be a
shower and lay the dust. Cheer up, there's enough blue 'sky to make a
pair of pants, and it's not time for us to be goin' yet, anyway.
The tearful family followed her into the house and sat in doleful
silence watching the big drops that began to beat on the western
Pearl was a strong believer in work as a remedy for worry. Jimmy was
put to tightening up the buttons on his new suit. Tommy blackened boots
with lampblack and lard, and Bugsey, who was weeping copiously, was put
to counting radishes as a little bit of busy work.
Pearl kept up a brave show of confidence in the weather, but Mrs.
Watson's and Aunt Kate's contributions to the conversation were all of
a humid character and dealt with spoiled feathers, parasols blown
inside out, and muslin dresses so spattered with mud that they were not
worth bringing home.
Pearl continued her preparations in the face of great
discouragement. Aunt Kate foretold a three days' rainit looked to be
settlin' that way, and besides, look at that old gray hen, she hadn't
gone in, and that was a sure sign of a long rain. This brought a
renewed downpour in the house.
Pearl grew desperate. Look at all the other hens that did go in,
she said, as she tied the bows in her own hair. I don't see the sense
of taking that crazy old ike of a hen's word for it against all the
other hens that have gone in. She's a mournful old thing, and is
staying out to make the other ones feel bad, or else she don't know
enough to go in. Hurry up, Mary, and get all that stuff in; it's a
quarter to eleven now, and we've got Tommy to do yet when he's done
with the boots. It's none of our business whether it rains now or not.
We're not wantin' to go just now.
Pearlie, dear, her mother said, you're raisin' too many hopes in
Hopes! Pearl cried. Did you say hopes, Ma? They look like a bunch
with too many hopes, settin' there blubberin' their eyes out and
spoiling their looks.
By eleven o'clock everything was ready but the weather, and then, as
if it suddenly dawned on the elements that this was hardly a square
deal on Pioneers' Picnic day, the clouds parted right over John
Watson's house, and a patch of blue sky, ever widening, smiled down
encouragingly. Sorrow was changed to joy. Bugsey dried his eyes when he
saw the sun shining on the Brandon Hills.
A little breeze frolicked over the trees and flung down the
raindrops in glittering showers, and at exactly a quarter past eleven
the Watson family, seated on three seats in the high-boxed waggon,
drove gaily out of the yard.
Sure, we enjoy it all the better for getting the scare, said Mary
The Perkinses, in their two-seated buggy, were just ahead on the
road. Even Martha, encouraged by Pearl, was coming to the picnic.
Behind the Watsons came the Caverses and the Motherwells.
Let's ask Libby Anne to ride with us, said Tommy, but Mary, with
fine tact, pointed out that she would see the bottles, and it might
hurt her feelings, for, mind you, said Mary, she knows, young and
all as she is.
Mary was one year younger herself.
Along every trail that led into the little town came buggies and
waggons, their occupants in the highest good humour. There was a
laughing ripple in the meadowlark's song, as if he were declaring that
he knew all the time that the rain was only a joke.
Across the river lay the Horsehoe slough, a crescent of glistening
silver, over which wild ducks circled and skimmed and then sank into
its clear waters, splashing riotously, as if they, too, were holding an
Old Boys' Reunion. It was the close season for wild fowl, and nobody
knew it better than they.
Coming down into the valley, innumerable horses, unhitched and tied
to the wagons, were to be seen. The rain had driven away the
mosquitoes, and a cool breeze, perfumed with wild roses and cowslips,
came gently from the West. The Watsons drove to a clump of poplar trees
which seemed to offer shade for the horses. Bugsey and Tommy carried
the box of bottles to the drug-store, admonished by Pearl to drive a
Pearl went with Jimmy and Patsey, who took the green vegetables to
the hotel. Jimmy had been accustomed to bringing milk to the back door
and was quite an admirer of Mr. Braden, the genial proprietor.
Mr. Braden himself came into the kitchen just as they knocked at the
door. He was faultlessly dressed, and in a particularly happy mood, for
the first of July was one of his richest harvests, both in the
dining-room and in the bar, where many a dollar would be laid on the
altar of auld lang syne; and besides this, Sandy Braden was really
glad to see all the old timers, apart from any thought of making money.
He paid Jimmy for the vegetables, and gave him an extra quarter for a
treat for himself and the others.
Acting on a sudden impulse, Pearl said: Mr. Braden, you know Bill
Cavers, don't you?
Mr. Braden said he did.
Well, said Pearl, they've all come to town to-day. Mrs. Cavers
hasn't been here for ever so long, but Bill promised to stay sober
to-day if she'd come.
Well, what else? he said.
They're goin' to have a photo taken to send home to her folks in
Ontario. Mrs. Cavers is all fixed up, with her hair curled, and Libby
Anne has a new dress made out of her mother's weddin' one, and Bill is
lookin' finehe hasn't been drunk since that Sunday you took him away
from the school when we were havin' church.
Mr. Braden suddenly stopped smiling.
And what I want to ask you, Mr. Braden, as a real favour, is not to
fill Bill up until they get the photo taken, anyway. You know how his
lip hangs when' he's drunkhe wouldn't look nice in a photo to send
home. Mrs. Cavers went all white and twitchy that day you took him away
from church. I was right behind her, and I guess that's how she'd look
in a photo if he got drunk, and she wouldn't look nice, either; and
even Libby Anne wouldn't be lookin' her best, because she gets mad when
her father is drunk, and says she'd like to kill you, and burn up all
your whiskey, and lots of things like that that ain't real Christian.
So you see, it would spoil the whole picture if you let him get drunk.
Sandy Braden was not a hard-hearted man, and so, when Pearl told him
all this with her eyes on him straight and honest and fearless, he was
He tried to get a grip on himself. Who told you to come to me about
it? he asked suspiciously.
Nobody told me, Pearl said. I never thought of it myself until I
saw you lookin' so fine and such fine clothes on you, and you so full
of good humour, and I thought maybe you're not as bad as I always
thought you were, and maybe you don't know what a bad time Mrs. Cavers
and Libby Anne have when Bill drinks.
You see, Pearl continued, after she had waited in vain for him to
speak, you've got all Bill had anyway. You mind the money they saved
to go homeyou got that, I guess, didn't you? And you'll not be losin'
anything to-day, for Bill hasn't got it. He gave all the money he had
to Mrs. Cavershe was afraid he'd spend itand that's what they're
goin' to get the photo with.
Sandy Braden continued to look at the floor, and seemed to be
unconscious of her presence.
That's all I was wantin' to say, Pearl said at last. He looked up
then, and Pearl was struck with the queer white look in his face.
All right, Pearl, he said. I promise you Bill won't get a drop
here to-day. He tried to smile. I hope the photo will turn out well.
Thank you, Mr. Braden, Pearl said. Good-bye.
Sandy Braden went back to the bar-room and told his bartender not to
sell to Bill Cavers under any consideration. The bartender, who owned a
share the business, became suspicious at once.
Why not? he asked.
Because I don't want Bill Cavers to get drunk, that's all, he said
Out with it, Sandy. Who's been at you? the W. C. T. U. been
That's none of your business Bob. If I choose to shut down on Bill
Cavers it's nobody's business, is it?
Well, now, I guess it's some of my business, the bartender said.
Don't forget that I have a little interest in this part of the joint;
and besides, you know my principles. I'll sell to any one who has the
moneywe're out for the coin, and we're not runnin' any Band of Hope.
Now, see here, Bob, this man Cavers drinks up every cent he earns,
and to-day I happen to know that he is trying to keep straight. They've
come in to get a photo taken, and she hasn't been off the farm for
The bartender laughed.
Bill will take a hot photo when he gets about two finger-lengths in
him! No, it's not our business who buys. We're here to sell. That's one
thing I don't believe in, is refusin' liquor to any man. Every man has
a perfect right to as much liquor as he wants.
Sandy Braden was about to make a spirited reply, but some one called
him in the office and in the excitement of the day's events he forgot
all about Bill Cavers until his attention was called toward him later
in the day.
* * *
Meanwhile the boys had disposed of their bottles to the drug-store,
receiving in payment a bountiful supply of gum, licorice, and
drug-store candies, and a Union Jack for each one. There was quite a
run on bottles before an hour, for the Hogan twins cornered the market
by slipping around to the alley at the back of the store and securing
the bottles that stood in a box in the back shed. Then they came around
to the front and sold them again, flags being the consideration every
time, for the twins were loyal sons of the Dominion.
The drug-store man had bought his own bottles twice before he found
out, but it is a proof of the twins' ability as financiers that they
did not come back after he found it out. Lots of silly little boys
would, but there is an advantage in being twins!
Down below the town, on the river-flat, the old timers were getting
together. Under a grove of tall elms a group of the older men were
recounting the stirring scenes of the boom days, when flour was ten
dollars a bag, and sugar twenty-five cents a pound; and the big flood
of '82, when the Souris, the peaceful little murmuring stream that now
glinted through the trees below them, ran full from bank to bank and
every house in Millford had a raft tied to its back door.
In the picnic grounds, which had been cleared out for this purpose
years before, the women, faded and worn, most of them, with many long
years on the prairie, but wonderfully brightened up by meeting old
friends, spread their table-covers on the long, rough tables, and
brought out the contents of their baskets.
Mrs. Watson introduced her sister-in-law to all the old friends, who
at once received her into the sisterhood, and in a few minutes Aunt
Kate was exchanging opinions on lemon pies with the best of them.
Then, speaking of pies, some one recalled Grandma Lowry's vinegar
pies-that triumph of housewifely art, whereby a pie is made without
eggs or milk or fruit, and still is a pie!
Wasn't she a wonder? Did you ever see the beat of old Grandma
Lowry? they asked each other, looking up the hillside where they had
laid her the year before, and hushing their voices reverently as if
they were afraid that they might disturb her slumbers.
I brought some of the vinegar pies to-day, Mrs. Slater said. I
thought it would be nice to remember her that way. She brought me over
two of them the first Christmas we were in the country. I never will
forget Grandma Lowry.
A little old woman in black stopped cutting the cake suddenly and
looked up. Then she began to speak in a slow, monotonous voice. She
came to me, she said, when my three boys were down with diphtheria in
the dead of winter, and sat with my little Charlie the last night he
was on earth. I says to her: 'Lie down, Mrs. Lowry'she'd been up two
nights alreadybut she saysI'll never forget just the way she said
itshe says: 'Mary, I helped little Charlie to come into the world,
and if it so be that he's goin' to leave it, who's got a better right
than me to' be with him?'
The shade of the elm-trees was getting smaller and smaller as the
sun rose higher, and some of the old-timers were sitting in the sun
before they noticed it, so interested were they in Mr. Slater's story
of the surveying party that crossed the Assiniboine that fateful night
in November, '79, when only five out of the eight got over.
Then the women announced, by beating on a dishpan, that dinner was
ready, and every tree and bush gave answerit was the old miracle of
Roderick Dhu's men rising from copse and heath and cairn. Gray-haired
men came running like boys, catching at each other's coat-tails,
tripping each other, laughing, care-free, for it was Pioneers' Picnic
day, and that is the one day when gladness and good-fellowship have
full play, and cares and years with their bitter memories of hail and
frost fall from them like a garment. Hungry little boys fell down out
of trees, asking where was the pie! Little girls in fluffy skirts stood
shyly around until some motherly soul ushered them down the line where
she said there was plenty of room and lots of good eating.
Demure young ladies, assisted by young fellows in white aprons,
poured tea and coffee from huge white pitchers, making frequent
journeys to the stove over among the trees, and sometimes forgetting to
come back until some one had to go for them!
There were roast chicken and boiled ham set in beds of crispest
lettuce and parsley. There were moulds of chicken jelly with sprigs of
young celery stuck in the top. There were infinite varieties of salads
and jellies and pickles; there were platters full of strawberry tarts,
made from last year's wild strawberries, which had been kept for this
very occasion; there were apple pies covered with a thick mat of
scalded cream. There was Mrs. Motherwell's half-hour cake, which
tradition said had to be beaten for that length of time all the one
way; there were layer cake, fig cake, rolled jelly cake, election
cake, cookies with a hole, cookies with a raisin instead of a hole;
there were dough nuts, Spanish bun and ginger-bread. No wonder that
every one ate until they were able to eat no more.
Pearl helped to wait on the others. Danny did not say a word, but
just laid about him. At last he called Pearl to him, and, in a muffled
whisper, asked: What is there now that I haven't had? Pearl then knew
that he was approaching the high-water mark.
* * *
Having overruled Martha's objections to mingling with her fellow-men
at picnics, and having persuaded her to come and see for herself if
picnics were not a good thing, Pearl felt responsible for her enjoyment
Pearl had some anxious thoughts on the subject of a proper dress for
Martha for the picnic, when she found that her best summer dress was a
black muslin, which to Pearl seemed fit only for a funeral.
She wondered how to bring forward the subject without appearing
rude, when Martha saved her from all further anxiety one day by coming
over to ask her to help her to pick out a dress from the samples she
had sent for. The magazine had begun to bear fruit.
They decided on a white muslin with a navy blue silk dot in it, and
then Pearl suggested a blue ribbon girdle with long ends, a hat like
Camilla's, a blue silk parasol, and long blue silk gloves.
When Pearl saw Martha the day of the picnic, it just seemed too good
to be true that Martha could look so nice. She had braided her hair the
night before and made it all fluffy and wavy, and under the broad brim
of her blue hat it didn't look the colour of last year's hay at all,
Pearl thought. Martha herself seemed to feel less constrained and
awkward than she ever did before. Mrs. Francis would have called it the
leaven of good clothes.
Pearl was wondering what she was going to do with Martha, now that
she had got her there, when she saw Arthur Wemyss, the young
She took him aside and said: Arthur, you are the very fellow I want
to see. I've got Martha Perkins with me to-day, and she's pretty shy,
you knownever been to any of these picnics beforeand I'm so busy
looking after all our young lads that I haven't time to go around with
her. Now, I wonder if you would take her around and be nice to her.
Martha's just a fine girl and young, too, if she only knew it, and she
should be having a good time at picnics.
Arthur expressed his willingness to be useful. He would be glad, he
said, to do his best to give Miss Martha a pleasant time.
And so it came about that Arthur, in his courteous way, escorted
Martha through the throng of picnickers, found a seat for her at the
table, and waited on her with that deference that seems to come so easy
to the well-bred young Englishman.
Arthur was an open-hearted young fellow, and finding Martha very
sympathetic, told her about his plans. Thursa was coming from England
in December to marry him, and he was going to have a house put up just
as soon as the harvest was over. His father had sent him the money, and
so he was not depending entirely on the harvest. He showed her the plan
of the house and consulted her on the best position for the cellar door
and the best sort of cistern. He showed her a new photo of Thursa that
he had just received. She was a fluffy-haired little thing in a much
befrilled dress, holding a fan coquettishly behind her head. Martha
noticed how fondly he looked at it, and for a moment a shivering sense
of disappointment smote her heart. But she resolutely put it from her
and feasted her eyes on the lovelight in his, even though she knew it
was the face of another woman that had kindled it.
Arthur was a wholesome-looking young man, with a beaming face of
unaffected good-humour, and to Martha it seemed the greatest happiness
just to be near him and hear his voice. She tried to forget everything
save that he was here beside her, for this one dear sweet afternoon.
When the thought of Thursa's coming would intrude on her, or the
bitterer thought still that she was only a plain, sunburnt, country
girl, with rough hands and uncouth ways, she forced them away from her,
even as you and I lie down again, and try to gather up the ravelled
threads of a sweet dream, knowing well that it is only a dream and that
waking time is drawing near, but holding it close to our hearts as long
as we can.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE LACROSSE MATCH
What's come of old Bill Lindsay and the
Saxhorn fellers, say?
I want to hear the old band play.
James Whitcomb Riley.
THE great event of the Pioneers' Picnic was the lacrosse match
between Millford and Hillsboro. It was held at three o'clock in the
afternoon, and everybody was there.
The Millford lacrosse boys were in serious financial difficulty
everything gone but their honour, as one sentimental member had put
it, and if the columns of the Hillsboro Gazette were to be trusted,
that was gone, too. But in the big game on this occasion they hoped to
retrieve their fallen fortunes.
Everybody felt that the real business of the day had begun when the
two lacrosse teams drew up on the field. The women had finished their
clearing up after dinner, and piled rhubarb leaves on their baskets to
keep the eatables cool for supper.
Bud Perkins and Teddy Watson were playing for Millford, and Mrs.
Perkins, Mrs. Watson, and Aunt Kate were in a pleasurable state of
excitement, though they told the other women over and over that
lacrosse was a dangerous game, and they did not want the boys to play.
Mrs. Breen, too, whose son Billy was Millford's trusty forward,
experienced a thrill of motherly pride when she heard the crowd
breaking into cheers as the Millford boys in their orange and black
jerseys lined up on the field.
Pearl had gathered up her four brothers after dinner and washed them
clean at the river, also made repairs on their drooping stockings and
twisted collars, and, holding tight to Danny, marshalled them across
the end of the field to where Arthur and Martha sat with Jim and
Camilla, and Tom Motherwell and Nellie Slater.
Dr. Clay came driving around the end of the field. When he saw Pearl
he stopped and asked her if she would come and sit in his buggy to
watch the game.
I can't leave the boys, thank you, doctor, she said; there's been
three of them lost since noon, and they've all got their good clothes
Well, of course, we'll have to keep track of them, in that case,
he said, smiling, because it would be a real loss to lose them,
clothes and all. I tell you what we'll do, Pearl. I'll give you the
horse and buggypile them all in, and it will be the easiest way of
The doctor drove to a clear space where the boys would have a good
view of the game, and then went away to get a bag of peanuts for them.
In the centre of the field the referee placed the ball between Bud
Perkins's stick and McLaren's, of Hillsboro. There was a moment of
intense excitement and then away went the ball toward Hillsboro's goal,
half a dozen in pursuit. The whole field was alive with black and
orange, blue and white, legs and arms and sticks darting in and out in
a way that would make your eyes ache to follow them. Once the ball came
to the side, causing a receding wave of fluttering muslin. Mrs.
Maxwell, whose son had that shade of hair which is supposed to indicate
a hasty temper, was shouting directions to him as loudly as she could.
Mrs. Maxwell's directions were good ones, too, if Alec could only have
followed them. Shoot, Alec! she called. Shoot it in! Run, Alec!
Shoot it in!
Millford's only lawyer, the dignified and stately Mr. Hawkins, came
majestically down the line, carrying a camp stool under his arm. He had
found it necessary to change his position, incensed at the undignified
behaviour of the Hillsboro girls, who had taken up their position on
one side of the field and were taking a lively interest in the game. He
had ventured a slight rebuke, whereupon the whole battery of their
indignation had been trained on him, with the result that he withdrew
hastily. He sat down just in front of Mrs. Perkins and Mrs. Watson, and
began to take an interest in the game. The ball was near Millford's
goal and a scrimmage was taking place, a solid knot of players that
moved and writhed and twisted.
Suddenly Bud Perkins shot out from the others, carrying his stick
high above his head as he, raced up the field. Bud! Bud! Bud!
Millford cried in an ecstasy of hope and fear. He sprang, dodged,
whirled, the whole field in pursuit, and then, when in line with
Hillsboro's goal, he shot low and swift and sure!
A great cheer burst from the crowd, hats were thrown in the air,
little boys turned handsprings, and Millford went stark, staring mad.
Mrs. Perkins was not naturally an excitable woman, and she looked
the very soul of meekness in her respectable black dress and little
black bonnet tied tightly under her chin, but if your only boythe
only living out of threeyour boy that had been real delicate and hard
to raiseif he had dodged the whole field and shot a goal, straight as
a die, and the whole town were cheering for him, mad with joy, you
might have been roused a bit, too. When Mrs. Perkins came to herself
she was pounding her parasol on the broad, dignified shoulders of
Millford's most stately citizen, Mr. E. Cuthbert Hawkins, who moved
away rather haughtily.
Over near the lemonade booth, Bud's father was explaining to an
interested group just how Bud came to be such a smart boy.
Young Bud has never worked the way his dad did, he said. I ain't
like some men that rob the cradle for farm hands and puts little lads
building roads when they are so small they have to be weighted down
with stones in their pockets to keep them from blowin' away. Young Bud
has run in the pasture all his life, you may say, and it would be queer
if he hadn't some speed in him. He comes of pretty good stock, let me
tell you, registered in every strain, if I do say it. Look at that for
a well-rounded leg! Mr. Perkins made it easy for every one to do so.
Eighteen inches around the calf, and tapered to the toe! He patted it
lovingly. I tell you, there was action there a few years ago!
Meanwhile the play went on faster than ever. Hillsboro scored a goal
through the Millford goal-keeper's stick breaking, and the score stood
one to one until within fifteen minutes of the time. The Millford boys
were plainly nervous. Victory meant the district championship, and
confusion to their enemies.
The game was close and hardno long throwsevery inch
contestedit had ceased to be a game, it was a battle! One minute the
ball went close to Millford's goal and Mrs. Watson and Mrs. Perkins
clutched each other's hands in wordless dread; but the wiry form of
Teddy Watson shot up in the air and the ball bounced back into the
Millford captain's stick. As he ran along the edge of the crowd with
it, one of the Hillsboro girls slashed at him viciously with her red
parasol. The captain passed the ball safely to Alec Maxwell, whose red
hair made him a shining mark for the Hillsboro girls. But Sandy was not
a bit disconcerted by their remarks. Big Dave Hunter, his check, was
after him. Big Dave was a powerfully built fellow with a chest like a
Clyde and a cheerful expanse of freckles. As Alec Maxwell threw the
ball to Bud Perkins, Big Dave's long reach intercepted it, and then he
made one of those grand rushes for which he was known and dreaded by
his opponents, and which are still remembered by the old boys who
played the game. This time Dave's good old trick miscarried, for Teddy
Watson, slender as he was, neatly body-checked himthe ball fell from
his stick into that of Alec Maxwell, who, boring his way through the
Hillsboro defence, shot on goal and scored.
The home crowd went wild with cheers, for time was up, and the score
stood two to one in Millford's favour. Thomas Perkins was hilarious.
Come on, John! he said to John Watson, let's have a little Schlitz.
I never take anything stronger now, since the boy grew up. What! You
don't drink Schlitz? It's harmless as hay-tea, but perhaps you're
CHAPTER XIX. THE END OF THE GAME
Oh, Thou who hast lighted the sun,
Oh, Thou who hast darkened the tare,
The sin of the Stone that was hurled
By the Goat from the light of the sun
As she sinks in 'the mire of the tarn.
WHEN Pearl got her four lively young charges settled down she had
time to look about her. Up and down the line of spectators her eye
searched for Libby Anne and Mrs. Cavers, but they were nowhere to be
seen, and Pearl became more and more troubled.
I'd like fine to see that faded old raincoat of hers, she said to
herself, and Lib's little muslin hat; but every raincoat that Pearl
saw was new and fresh, and every muslin hat had a bright and happy
little face under it, instead of Libby Anne's pale cheeks and sad, big
Dr. Clay came over with a bag of popcorn for them, and Pearl told
him the cause of her worry.
They had their dinner all right, she said in a low voice to the
doctor, as he leaned over the wheel. Bill was fine, and do you know,
he is real nice when he's sober? I waited on them, and Mrs. Cavers
seemed so happy; it pretty near made my heart stop beatin' every time I
thought of it, and how nice it would be if he'd keep straight. Libby
Anne had two licorice kittens and a package of gum saved up in a bag;
she said she wouldn't eat them to-day, for she was havin' a good enough
time when she could see her mother enjoyin' herself so well. Lib is
only ten years old, but she knows as much as some grown-up people. The
last I saw of them they were going up to Mrs. Burrell's to fix up a
little before they had the photo taken. I think I'll go and see about
them, Doctor; I can't enjoy myself for wonderin' if they're all right.
I'll go with you, the doctor said, calling Jimmy Watson to come
and hold the horse and look after the boys.
Down the almost deserted street the doctor and Pearl went, looking
for any member of the Cavers family. Flags hung motionless in the
bright sunshine. The trees that formed the arch over the road were
beginning to droop in the heat of the afternoon.
The photographer's tent was the first place they went to. A young
lady and gentleman were posing for a photo, the young lady all gone to
blushes and the young man very gorgeous in tan boots and a red tie.
Pearl did the talking.
Did you take a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Cavers and Libby Anne?
What are they like? the photographer asked.
She is a little woman, pale and tried-looking; looks as if she sat
up a lot at night, Pearl answered.
I know who you mean, then, he said. She has been up here with her
little girl looking for some one, but I do not know where she went from
Pearl's heart sank. He's broke his word! she said angrily, when
they were on the street. He promised me he would not give Bill any
liquor until he got his picture taken, anyway. Pearl's eyes were
throwing off rings of fire.
Who promised? the doctor asked.
Sandy Braden. I told him all about the photos when we went there
this morning with the onions and other stuff, and he seemed real nice
about it; but it doesn't look as if he meant it.
I don't know, Pearl. Sandy Braden is not a bad fellow. He wouldn't
go back on his word. I'm sure of that. You go up to Mrs. Burrell's and
I'll go down to the hotel and see if, they know anything about Bill.
The bar-room was full. Even the lacrosse game was not a strong
enough attraction to draw away all the crowd; the products of Walker
and Seagram still held their own.
Bob Steele, the bartender, was telling about Bill Cavers going to
have his photo taken.
They got around Sandy easy, he was saying; but that's one thing I
won't let any one interfere with. As long as I've been selling liquor
I've never refused to sell to any man. I refuse no one. Every man has a
perfect right to whatever he wants to eat or drinkI claim that for
myself, and I hold that no one has a right to interfere with another
The crowd in the bar-room gave maudlin approval.
And so you just bet Bill Cavers got all he wanted. He came in here
soon after dinner, and the first man that asked him to drink got turned
down. Think of Bill Cavers refusin' good liquor! But when he heard it
bubblin' in the glass his knee just wobbledthat's the beauty of
sellin' our goods, it advertises itself, and works nights and Sundays.
I says: 'What'll you have, Bill?' and he saidBill's an honest
fellowhe said: 'I've no money, Bob.' But I says: 'That makes no
difference, your credit is good hereyou've always paidand so name
yer drink, Bill,' and I poured out a glass of Three Swallows; and you
bet by the time Bill was ready to quit he would sure look well in a
picture. I was takin' a risk of losin' money, too. Bill's honest
enough, but there's a strong chance that there'll be judgment against
his stuff this fall. But I've always said a man has a right to all the
liquor he wants, and I'm prepared to stand by it even if I drop money
on it. It may be foolishlooking around for applause, but his
audience were not in the mental condition to discuss fine ethical
pointsbut I'm prepared to do it.
Dr. Clay, standing on the outer edge of the crowd, heard all this.
He made his way to the bar. Where is Bill Cavers, now? he asked.
The gleam in the doctor's eyes should have warned the bartender to
be discreet in his answers. Well, I can't just say, he answered with
mock politeness, resenting the tone of the doctor's question. He
didn't leave word with me, but I guess he's getting his photo taken.
Did you set him drunk and then turn him out in this blazing sun?
the doctor asked, in a voice so tense with anger that the audience,
befuddled as they were, drew closer to see what it was all about.
We never keep people longer than is necessary, the bartender said,
with an evil smile, and besides, Bill was due at the photographer's.
Before the doctor knew what he was doing his right arm flew out and
landed a smashing blow on the bartender's smirking face, a blow that
sent him crashing into the bottles behind him. He recovered in an
instant, and the doctor's quick eye caught the flash of a knife in his
hand as he came over the bar at him. With a swift blow the doctor
knocked the knife from his hand, and, grasping him by the coat collar,
he dragged him to the back door, and then, raising him on the toe of
his boot, landed him in the middle of the mud-puddle that had been left
by the morning's rain.
The bartender was just gathering himself up when Sandy Braden drove
up to the stable door with his pacer.
Meanwhile Pearl had continued the search for Mrs. Cavers and Libby
Anne. She was on her way to Mrs. Burrell's when she caught sight of
something like a parasol down in the trees where the horses were tied.
She ran down to the picnic grounds hastily, and there, in a grassy
hollow, shaded by a big elm, she found the objects of her search.
Bill Cavers, with purple face and wide open mouth, lay breathing
heavily. Libby Anne was fanning him with her muslin hat, and Mrs.
Cavers was tenderly bathing his swollen face with water Libby Anne had
brought from the river. Her own eyes were red with crying and hopeless
We've just found him, Pearl, she said. He's been here in the hot
sun I don't know how long. I never saw him breathing so queer before.
I'll get the doctor, said Pearl.
She ran back up the road and found the doctor talking to Sandy
Braden, at the stable behind the hotel.
Come on, Doctor! Pearl cried breathlessly. I found them. You
come, tooto, Mr. Bradenit will take you both to carry him.
Sandy Braden hesitated, but there was something in Pearl's
compelling eyes that made him follow her.
They reached the grassy slope. Mrs. Cavers had made a pillow of her
coat for his head, and was still bathing his face. The doctor hastily
loosened the drunken man's clothing and listened to the beating of his
heart. Its irregular pounding was unmistakable, it was making its last
Dr. Clay took out his hypodermic syringe and made an injection in
Bill's arm. Bill stirred uneasily. I don'twantitBob, he said
thickly. I promisedthemissus. She'swith meto-day.
Sandy Braden endeavoured to quiet Mrs. Cavers's fears.
It's the heat, Mrs. Cavers, he said; but it'll soon wear
offhe'll be all right soon, won't he, Doc?
The doctor made no reply, but listened again to the sick man's
heart. It was failing.
Mrs. Cavers, looking up, read the doctor's face.
She fell on the ground beside her husband, calling him every tender
name as she rained kisses on his livid cheeks, uttering queer little
cries like a wounded animal, but begging him always to live for her
sake, and crying out bitterly that she could not give him up.
Sandy Braden, who had often seen men paralyzed with liquor, gently
tried to take her away, assuring, her again that he would be all right
soon. She noticed then for the first time who it was who had come with
the doctor, and shaking off his hand, she sprang up and faced him, with
blazing eyes that scorched into his very soul.
Sandy Braden put up his hand as if to ward off her fury.
Bill moved his lips, and she knelt beside him once more, her thin
gray hair falling over her shoulders. The sick man gazed into her face,
and a look of understanding came into his bloodshot eyes.
Ellie, he said with great effort, Ididnotwantitat
first, and with his eyes still looking into hers, as if mutely
pleading with her to understand, the light faded from them ... and the
last long, staggering breath went out. Then fell silence ... that
never-ending silence ... and quite perceptibly the colour went in
patches from his face. Dr. Clay gently touched Mrs. Cavers's arm. Yes,
Doctor, I know ... he's dead. She talked like people do in their
I did my best, Will, she said, as she smoothed his thick black
hair. I tried my hardest to save you, and I always thought I would win
... but they've beat me, Will. They were too strong for me ... and I'm
sorry! She bent down and tenderly kissed his forehead, damp now with
the dews of death.
There was not a leaf stirring on the trees. Every bird in the valley
was still. Only the gentle lapping of the Souris over the fallen tree
in the current below them came to their ears.
Sandy Braden's face was as white as his shirt-bosom as he stood
looking at Bill's quiet face.
A cheer from the lacrosse grounds came like a voice from another
world; the world of life and pleasure and action.
Mrs. Cavers, roused at the sound, stood up and addressed the
Excuse me, Mr. Braden, she said, I was almost forgetting. Mr.
Cavers, I know had not enough with him to pay for ... all this. She
motioned toward Bill's dead face. This ... must have cost a lot. She
handed him some silver. It is all I have with me to-day ... I hope it
is enough. I know Mr. Cavers would not like to leave a debt ... like
Mechanically Sandy Braden took the money, then dropping it as if it
burned him, he turned away and went slowly up the road that he had
come, reeling unsteadily. A three-seated democrat, filled with drunken
men, was just driving away from his stable. They were a crowd from
Howard, who had been drinking heavily at his bar all the afternoon.
They drove away,madly lashing their horses into a gallop.
Sandy Braden hid in a clump of poplars until they got past him.
Looking back toward the river he could see Mrs. Cavers kneeling beside
her husband, and even at that distance he fancied he could see Bill's
dead face looking into hers, and begging her to understand. Just as the
democrat passed pants burst into maudlin song:
Who's the best man in this town?
Sandy Braden, Sandy Braden.
Who's the best man in this town?
Sandy Braden, Sandy Braden.
And then it was that Sandy Braden fell prone upon the ground and
buried his face in the cool, green grass, crying: God be merciful to
me, a sinner!
* * *
When the victorious lacrosse team came down the street, they were
followed by a madly cheering throng. They went straight to the hotel,
where, by the courtesy of the proprietor, they had always been given
rooms in which to dress.
Bob Steele met them at the office door, all smiles and
congratulations, in spite of a badly blackened eye.
Come on in, boys! he called. It's my treat. Walk right in.
Most of the boys needed no second invitation. Bud Perkins hesitated.
His father was just behind him. Take a little Schlitz, Buddie. That
won't hurt you, he said.
Bud went in with the others. Every one was in the gayest humour. The
bartender called in the porter to help him to serve the crowd. The
glasses were being filled when a sudden hush fell on the bar-room, for
Sandy Braden, with a face as ghastly as the one he had just left on the
river-bank, came in the back door.
He raised his hand with a gesture of authority. Don't drink it,
boys! he said. It has killed one man to-day. Don't touch it.
Even the bartender turned pale, and there was a moment of intense
silence. Just then some one rushed in and shouted the news of Bill
Cavers's death. The crowd fell away until Sandy Braden and the
bartender were left face to face.
How much have you in the business here, Bob? he asked in a
perfectly controlled voice.
The bartender told him.
He took a cheque-book from his pocket and hastily made out a cheque.
Now, go, he said, as he gave it to him. I will not be needing a
man in here any more.
He took the keys from his pocket and locked the back door. Then
coming out into the office, where there were a few stragglers lounging
in the chairs, he carefully locked the door leading into the bar.
I'm done, boys, he said shortly. I've quit the business.
CHAPTER XX. ON THE QUIET HILLSIDE
They shall go out no more, oh ye,
Who speak earth's farewell thro' your tears,
Who see your cherished ones go forth
And come not back, thro' weary years.
There is a place-there is a shore
From which they shall go out no more.
Kate Tucker Goode.
WHEN sympathetic neighbours came to stay with Mrs. Cavers that
night, and sit up with the dead man, she gently refused their kind
offer. It is kind of you, dear friends, she said, but I would rather
stay alone to-night. It is the last thing I can do for him, and I shall
not be lonely. I've sat here plenty of nights waiting for him, not
knowing how he would come homeoften afraid he would be frozen to
death or kicked by the horsesbut to-night he is safe from all that,
and I am not worrying about him at all. I've got him all to myself,
now, and I want to sit here with him, just him and me. Take Libby Anne
with you, Martha. I am thinking of a sweet verse that seems to suit me
now: 'They shall go out no more.' That's my comfort now; he is safe
from so many things.
The next day was the funeral, a cloudless day of glittering sunshine
and bright blue sky. The neighbours came for miles; for Bill's death
and the closing of the bar had made a profound impression.
I wonder will Sandy Braden come, Thomas Perkins said, as he tied
his horse to a seeder in the yard. Bill was a good customer of his,
and I wouldn't be surprised if Sandy came.
You're a good guesser, Thomas, another man said, for here he
Sandy'll open up again, I think, said George Steadman, in a few
days, when he gets over this a little. He's foolish if he doesn't, with
the busy time just startin', and money beginnin' to move.
Well, I don't know, said Sam Motherwell. From what I hear, Sandy
says he's got his medicine, and won't take chances on getting any more.
It'll be a good thing for the town if he has closed for keeps. Sandy
has made thousands of dollars over his bar.
Well, George Steadman said; in his most generous tone, I don't
begrudge it to him. Sandy's a decent fellow, and he certainly never
made it out of me or mine. He's a fool if he closes up now, but if he
does, some one else will open up. I believe a bar is a help to the town
It hasn't been much of a help here, Thomas Perkins said, waving
his hand at the untidy barnyard.
Oh, well, this is an exception. There's always some man like Bill
that don't know when to quit. This business here is pretty rough on me,
though, Mr. Steadman said, in a truly grieved tone; losin' my tenant
just before harvest; but I blame nobody but Bill himself. He hasn't
used me square, you all know that.
Stop, George, stop! The broad Scotch of Roderick Ray's voice had
not been heard before in the conversation. Hoo hae we used Bill? He
was aye fond o' it an' aye drank it to his hurt an' couldna stop. What
hae we done to help him? Dye think it fair to leave a trap-door open
for a child to fall doon? An' if ye found him greetin' at the bottom,
wad ye no tak him up an' shut the door? Puir Bill, we found him
greetin' an' bruised an' sore mony times, but nane o' us had the
humanity to try to shut the door until he fell once too often, an'
could rise na more, an' now Sandy himsel' has shamed us a', an' I tell
ye, he'll no open it again, for he has better bluid in him nor that;
and our sins will lie upon our own heads if we ever let yon death-trap
be opened again!
Just then Sandy Braden, wearing a black suit, drove into the yard
and tied up his horse.
* * *
The little house was filled to overflowing with women; the men stood
bareheaded around the door. Mrs. Cavers sat beside the coffin with an
arm around Libby Anne. Mrs. Steadman, with the cerise roses still
nodding in her hat, said on the way home that it did seem queer to her
that Mrs. Cavers and Libby Anne did not shed a tear. Mrs. Steadman did
not understand that there is a limit even to tears and that Libby Anne
in her short years had seen sadder sights than even this.
The Reverend John Burrell conducted the funeral.
Shall we gather at the river? he gave out as the first hymn. Some
sang it falteringly; they had their own ideas of Bill's chances in the
next world, and did not consider the river just the proper figure of
speech to describe it.
The minister then read that old story of the poor man who went down
to Jericho and fell among thieves. Mr. Burrell's long experience with
men had made him a plain and pointed speaker, and given him that rare
gift, convincing earnestness. Now he laid his hand on the coffin and
spoke in a clear, ringing voice, that carried easily to every person in
the house and to those who stood around the door.
Here is a man who is a victim of our laws, he said, in beginning.
This is not an exceptional case. Men are being ruthlessly murdered
every day from the same cause; this is not the only home that it has
darkened. It is going on all over this land and all the time because we
are willing, for the sake of a few dollars' revenue, to allow one man
to grow rich on the failings of others. We know the consequences of
this; we know that men will be killed, body and soul, that women will
go broken-hearted, that little children will be cheated of their
childhood. This scene to-daythe dead man in his coffin, the sad-faced
wife and child, the open grave on the hillsideis a part of the
Traffic. They belong to the business just as much as the sparkling
decanters and the sign above the door. Every one of you, no doubt, has
foretold this day. I wonder have you done anything to prevent it? Let
none of us presume to judge the brother who has gone. I would rather
take my chances before the judgment-seat of God with him, the victim,
who has paid for his folly with his life, than with any one of you who
have made this thing possible. 'Ye who are strong ought to bear the
infirmity of the weak.' I do not know how it will be with this man when
he comes to give an account of himself to God, but I do know that God
is a loving, tender Father, who deals justly and loves mercy, and in
that thought to-day we rest and hope. Let us pray.
Impress this scene on our heart, to-day, dear Lord, he prayed;
this man cut down in his prime; this woman old with sorrow, not with
years; this child, cheated of her father's love. Let us ask ourselves
how long will we sit idly by, not caring. And oh, God, we pray Thee to
bless the one man who, among us all, has said that as far as he is
responsible this traffic shall cease; bless him abundantly, and may his
troubled heart find peace. May he never forget that there is a fountain
where all sin and uncleanness may be washed away. Remind our hearts
this day of how He died to save us from the sins of selfishness and
greed, and ever lives to cheer and guide us. Let us hear the call that
comes to us to-day to do a man's part in protecting the weak, the
helpless, and the young. Let the love of this woman for her husband
call to our remembrance Thy unchanging love for us, and if it be in
keeping with Thy divine laws, may the precious coin of her unfaltering
devotion purchase for him a holding in the heavenly country. For the
sake of Thy dear Son we ask it.
The funeral went slowly along the well-beaten road that skirts the
sand-hills of the Assiniboine, and crawled like a long black snake
through the winding valley of Oak Creek, whose banks were hanging with
wild roses and columbine, while down in the shady aisles of the creek
bed, under the stunted oak that gives it its name, pink and yellow
lady's slippers gave out their honeyed fragrance.
It is hard to die and leave all this behind, Thomas Perkins said;
looking down the valley, where the breezes rippled the leaves. I
always think it must be hard to snuff out in June or July and have to
pass out without knowin' how the crop'll turn out; but I guess now,
from what I've heard, when the clock strikes quittin'time, a fellow
won't be worryin' about the crops.
On the quiet hill, dotted with spruce, that looks down on the
Souris, they laid Bill Cavers away. Very gently the coffin was lowered
into its sandy bed as the minister read the beautiful words of the
burial service and the neighbours and friends stood silent in the
presence, the majestic presence of Death. Just before the sand was
filled in, Ellen Cavers, tearless still, kissed the roses she held in
her hand and dropped them gently on the coffin.
One by one the neighbours walked away, untied their horses, and
drove slowly down the hill, until Libby Anne and her mother were left
alone. Bud and Martha were waiting at the gate for them. Mrs. Cavers,
looking up, noticed that one man stood with bowed head near the gate.
It was Sandy Braden, his face white and full of sadness.
Mrs. Cavers walked over to where he stood and held out her hand.
Mr. Braden, she said, looking at him with a glimmer of tears in her
He took her hand, so cruelly seamed and workworn; his was white and
plump and well-kept. He tried to speak, but no words came.
Looking up she read his face with a woman's quick understanding. I
know, she said.
CHAPTER XXI. FROZEN WHEAT
For them 'at's here in airliest infant stages,
It's a hard world;
For them 'at gets the knocks of boyhood's ages,
It's a mean world;
For them 'at nothin's good enough they're gittin',
It's a bad world;
For them 'at learns at last what's right and fittin',
It's a good world.
James Whitcomb Riley.
THE summer was over, and the harvest, a great, bountiful harvest,
was gathered in. The industrious hum of the threshing-machine was heard
from many quarters, and the roads were dotted thick with teams bringing
in the grain to the elevators.
In the quiet field on the hillside, where the spruce trees, straight
and stiff, stand like faithful sentinels, the grass that had grown over
Bill Cavers's grave was now sere and gray; only the hardy pansies were
green still and gay with blossoms, mute emblems of the love that never
Mrs. Cavers and Libby Anne were still living on the rented farm.
After Bill's death the neighbours, with true Western generosity, had
agreed among themselves to harvest the crop for her. The season had
been so favourable that her share of the crop would be a considerable
It was a typical autumn day in middle September. The golden and
purple flowers of the fall bespangled the roadsidewild sunflowers,
brown-centred gaillardia, wild sage, and goldenrod. The bright blue of
the cloudless sky set off the rich tints of autumn. The stubble fields
still bore the golden-yellow tinge of the harvest, and although the
maple leaves were fast disappearing before the lusty winds of autumn,
the poplars, yellow and rust-coloured, still flickered gaily, the wild
rosehaws and frost-touched milkweed still gave a dash of colour to the
shrubbery on the river-bank.
There had been an early frost that fall, which had caught the late
wheat, and now the grain which was brought into the elevators had to be
closely graded. The temptation to plug the wheat was strong, and so
much of it was being done that the elevator men were suspicious of
Young Tom Steadman was weighing wheat in the Farmers' Elevator while
the busy time was on, and although there was no outward hostility
between him and Bud Perkins, still his was too small a nature to forget
the thrashing that Bud had given him at the school two years ago, and,
according to Tom's code of ethics, it would be a very fine way to get
even if he could catch Bud selling plugged wheat.
The first load that Bud brought in Tom asked him if he had plugged
it. Bud replied quite hotly that he had not.
I suppose, said Tom, you stopped all that since you joined the
Bud's face flushed, but he controlled his temper and answered: Yes,
that's what stopped me, and I'm not ashamed to say so.
The manager of the elevator, who was present, looked at him in
surprise. Were you ever caught? he asked.
No, said Bud; I was not.
Well, then, you're a fool to ever admit that you did it, he said
I can't help that, Bud said. I am not going to lie about it.
Well, it makes people suspicious of you to know you ever did it,
that's all, Mr. Johnston said.
You are welcome to watch me. I am not asking you to take my word
for it, Bud replied.
You're a queer lad, said the elevator man.
Bud's wheat was closely examined, and found to be of uniform
The wheat went up to the dollar mark and Thomas Perkins decided to
rush his in to the elevator at once. He stayed at home himself and
filled the bags while Bud did the marketing.
All went well for a week. Contrary to his own words about being
suspicious of Bud, the elevator boss was, in his own mind, confident
of the boy's honesty.
One day, just as Bud's second last bag was thrown in, young Steadman
gave a cry of delight, and picked out a handful. Number II Northern was
the grading that Bud had been getting all the week. Young Steadman
showed it triumphantly to the elevator boss who examined it closely.
It was frozen wheat!
Bud was gathering up his bags when the elevator man called him over.
Look at that, he said, holding the wheat before him.
Bud looked at it incredulously. That's not mine, he said.
Young Steadman's eyes were on him exultingly. He had got even at
last, he thought.
We'll have to see about this, Bud, the elevator man said sternly.
The other bag was emptied, and Bud saw with his own eyes that the
middle of the bag was filled with frozen wheat! He turned dizzy with
shame and rage. The machinery in the elevator with its deafening,
thump-thump-thump, seemed to be beating into his brain. He leaned
against the wall, pale and trembling.
The same instinct which prompted Tom Steadman when he hit Libby Anne
Cavers prompted him now. I thought you said you wouldn't do such a
thing since you joined the Church, he said, with an expression of
Bud's cup of bitterness was overflowing, and at first he did not
notice what had been said.
Tom took his silence to mean that he might with safety say more. I
guess you're not as honest as you'd like to have people think, and
joinin' the Church didn't do you so much good after all.
Bud came to himself with a rush then, and young Tom Steadman went
spinning across the floor with the blood spurting from his nose.
* * *
Bud was fined ten dollars for assault, and of course it became known
in a few hours that the cause of the trouble was that Bud had been
caught selling frozen wheat in the middle of his bags.
Through it all Bud made no word of defence. No one knew how bitter
was the sting of disgrace in the boy's soul or how he suffered. When he
went home that afternoon there was a stormy scene. I told you I would
not sell 'plugged' wheat, he said to his father, raging with the
memory of it, and, without letting me know, you put it in and made me
out a thief and a liar.
The old man moistened his lips. Say, Buddie, he said, it was too
bad you hit young Steadman; he's an overgrown slab of a boy, and I
don't mind you lickin' him, but they'll take the 'law' on ye every
time; and ten dollars was a terrible fine. Maybe they'd have let you
off with five if you'd coaxed them.
Coax! said Bud, scornfully. I wouldn't coax them. What do I care
about the money, anyway? That's not what I'm kicking about.
Oh, Buddie, you are a reckless young scamp to let ten dollars go in
one snort, and then say you don't care.
With an angry exclamation Bud turned away.
* * *
The next time Bud went to Millford Mrs. Burrell saw him passing the
house and called him in. She had heard an account of the affair from
the wife of the elevator boss, and had told it to Mr. Burrell, who
promptly declared he did not believe it, whereupon Mrs. Burrell grew
indignant. Did he doubt Mrs. Johnston's word?
Mr. Burrell cautioned her not to speak of it to any one, and went
out at once to see Bud. Mr. Burrell had only been gone a few minutes
when Bud himself came driving past the house. Mrs. Burrell told herself
that Providence had put Bud in her way. Mrs. Burrell blamed Providence
for many things quite unjustly. Come in, Bud, she called from the
door; I want to see you.
Bud knew the minister's wife but slightly; he had seen her at the
services in the schoolhouse. He had intended going in to see Mr.
Burrell, for he felt that he must tell some one that he was not guilty,
and he felt that the minister was the one whose opinion he most valued.
So he went in gladly, hoping that Mr. Burrell might be there.
Now, Bud, Mrs. Burrell began, with her severest air, I am sorry
to say what I have to say, but it's all for your own good, and it
really hurts me to say it.
Don't say it then! burst from the boy's white lips; he was too
sore to stand any more.
I must say it, Bud, she went on, as conscientious in her cruelty
as Queen Mary. You have done very wrong, and you must repent. I could
not sleep a wink last night, thinking of it, and Mr. Burrell did think
so much of, you, too.
Did think! Bud inferred from the heavy emphasis that Mr.
Burrell's regard was all past, and he hid his face so that she might
not see how deeply she had hurt him.
But you are young yet, and your life is all before you, and you
must repent and begin all over again. 'While the lamp of life holds out
to burn, the vilest sinner may return.' You must pray for strength, so
you won't be tempted to be dishonest again, and you really should
apologize to young Mr. Steadman. Mrs. Johnston says his face is very
Bud looked up quickly and said with flashing eyes: I'm glad of
that. I wish I had smashed him againthe pup!
Then Mrs. Burrell was shocked utterly. My dear boy, she said, I
am afraid your heart is very hard and wicked. Mr. Burrell thought you
were soundly converted, too, but you seem to be really rebellious
against God, who is kinder and better than any earthly parent. This is
a matter for earnest and agonizing prayer.
Bud stood up and looked at her with eyes that flamed with anger.
Unfortunately Bud, like Martha, was entirely lacking in humour;
otherwise his heart would have been saved many a cruel hurt. I don't
want your prayers, he said, when he could control himself.
Something in the boy's face touched Mrs. Burrell's heart with pity.
Perhaps I've been wrong, she said. I do make mistakes sometimes. I
may have made one now.
You certainly have, he said, as he took his hat and left the
Mrs. Burrell watched him going down the path with his long, swinging
stride, and her heart was strangely troubled. She had a conviction that
she had done no good, and perhaps had done a great deal of harm. When
I try to do good, evil comes of it, she said sorrowfully, and then she
went to her own room and prayed; and it was an earnest and agonizing
prayer, too; though very different from the prayer she had in mind when
she spoke to Bud, for the burden of it all was this, that God would in
some way overrule all her mistakes for good, and not let the boy suffer
because of any word of hers.
She continued to plead until her heart found peace in the thought
that has comforted so many of us in our sore need, that perhaps when He
sees the faulty, crooked lines we are drawing, the Great Surveyor will,
in His mercy, put in for us, here and there, the correction lines.
* * *
When Bud drove home that night his thoughts were far too bitter for
a boy of eighteen. A sense of injustice was poisoning the fountains of
his heart, and so, when he met Mr. Burrell, he felt he could stand no
more. The whole world was against him now, he thought, and he would let
them see he didn't care. He would never tell any one now about the
wheat. He would never give away his father; but he would leave Millford
right straight, leave it for ever, so when Mr. Burrell drew in his
horse to speak to him, Bud turned his head and drove rapidly away. Mr.
Burrell went home very sad about it all, wondering if Bud were really
guilty, but determined to stand by him just the same.
When he got home Mrs. Burrell told him about her interview with Bud.
She was thoroughly repentant now, and tearfully declared that she knew
now she had been very unwise.
Mr. Burrell drove back that night to see Bud, but he was too late,
for Bud had gone.
* * *
Arriving at his home, Bud stabled his horses, and then went into the
house. His father was filling bags in the granary, but Bud felt that he
could not bear to see him. He went to his own room and hurriedly
changed his clothes. He had only one thoughtto get awayto get away
where no one knew him. In the last few hours the whole world had
changed for himthat Mr. Burrell should so easily believe him guilty
had overflowed his cup of bitterness.
A red and silver scripture text, in the form of a shield, hung on
his bedroom wall; Martha had given it to him, some time ago, and it had
often brought him comfort and inspiration.
He is able to deliver you, it said.
Bud read it now scornfully, and with a sudden impulse tore it down
and crushed it in his hands. There's nothing in it, the boy cried
He went out to the pasture and whistled to his pacing colt, which
came to him at once. The boy laid his head on the colt's velvet neck
and patted it lovingly.
I'll come back for you, Bunko, he said. You're mine, anyway.
The colt rubbed his head against Bud's arm.
Across the ravine, where the fringed blue gentian looked up from the
sere grass, the cows were grazing, and Bud, from habit, went for them
and brought them up to the bars.
The sun was setting when Bud reached the Cavers's house, for he
could not go without saying good-bye to Libby Anne. She was driving
their two cows in from a straw stack, and called gaily to him when she
saw him coming.
I've come to say good-bye, Lib, said Bud simply.
Where are you going? she asked.
I don't knowanywhere to get away from here. Then he told her
what had happened.
I'm glad you took a smash at Tom Steadman, she said, her big eyes
flashing, when he had finished. Then suddenly she began to cry. I
don't want you to go, she sobbed. You won't ever come back; I won't
see you ever again.
Don't say that, Libby, Bud cried in real distressshe looked so
little and pale in her black dressI will come back some time, and I
won't forget my little girl. You're my girl, you know, Lib.
I'm your girl all right, the child said unsteadily. But I want
you to stay. I can't make up things like Pearl and Mary Watson canI
can do some pretendin' games pretty good now, but I can't pretend about
youI'll know you're gone all the time, Bud, and she caught her
breath in a quivering sob.
Then Bud lifted the little girl in his arms and kissed her over and
Don't cry, Libby, he said. I'm going away to make lots of money,
and you mustn't fret. Every night I want you to say to yourself: 'I'm
Bud's girl, and he won't forget me;' and whenever you get lonely or
downhearted, just say that. Now Libby Anne, tell me who you are.
I'm Bud's girl, all right, she answered gravely.
The sun had gone down in a crimson haze, and a misty tenderness
seemed to brood over the world. The September evening was so full of
peace and beauty with its muffled tinkle of cowbells and the soft song
of the whippoorwill that came at intervals from the maple bush on Oak
Creek, it was hard to believe that there were troubled hearts anywhere.
The hoarse whistle of a long freight train on the C. P. R. boomed
harshly through the quiet air. I must go, Lib, said Bud.
Libby Anne stood looking after him as he went quickly down the road.
The evening twilight soon hid him from her sight, but she still looked
down the winding road until it dipped down in the valley of Oak Creek.
Suddenly from the river-bank came the weird cry of a prairie wolf,
and Libby Anne, turning with a shudder, ran home in the gathering dusk.
CHAPTER XXII. AUTUMN DAYS
There's a wonderful charm in the autumn days,
When Earth to her rest is returning;
When the hills are drowned in a purple haze,
When the wild grape sweetens, and all in a blaze
Of crimson the maples are turning.
WHEN autumn came to the Souris valley and touched the trees with
crimson and gold, it found that some progress had been made on the farm
that was getting its second chance.
Down on the river flat the hay had been cut and gathered into two
stacks, which stood beside the stable, and the two Watson cows now
fattened on the rich growth of aftergrass.
The grain, which had been an abundant crop, had been threshed and
drawn at once to the elevator, for there was no place to store it; but
as the price was one dollar a bushel for the best, and seventy cents
for the poorest, John Watson had no cause for complaint. The stable,
which he had built of poles, was now roofed by a straw stack and was
intended for a winter shelter for the two cows.
In the early spring Pearl had planted a bed of Polly's poppies, and
all summer long they had flamed red and brilliant against the poplar
grove behind the house, which sheltered them from the winds. The weeds
around the buildings were all cut down and the scrub cleaned out for a
garden the next year. In the holidays the boys had fenced this with
peeled poplar poles.
A corner of the wheat-field before the house had already been used
for a garden, and had been a great source of delight and also of profit
to the family. The boys had complained a little at first about having
to pull mustard and shepherd's purse and french-weed, with which the
farm was infested, but Pearl presented weed-pulling in a new light. She
organized two foraging parties, who made raids upon the fields and
brought back the spoils of war. Patsey was Roderick Dhu, who had a
henchman bold, called Daniel the Redhanded. Bugsey was Alan-bane, and
Tommy was to have been his henchman, Thomas Trueman, but Tommy had
strong ideas about equal rights and would be Alan-bane's twin brother,
Tommy-bane, or nothing. They were all dark-visaged, eagle-eyed
Highlanders, who made raids upon the Lowlands to avenge ancient wrongs.
Pearl had learned about the weeds at school, and soon had her whole
family, including Aunt Kate, organized into a weed-fighting brigade.
Even the golden dandelion was ruthlessly cut down, and Mary, who was
strong on experiments, found out that its roots were good to eat. After
that any dandelion that showed its yellow face was simply inviting
In school Pearl was having a very happy time, and she and her
teacher were mutually helpful to each other. Pearl's compositions were
Mr. Donald's delight. There was one that he carried with him and often
found inspiration in to meet the burdens of his own monotonous life.
The subject was True Greatness, and was suggested by a lesson of that
name in the reader. Needless to say, Pearl's manner of treating the
subject was different from the reading lesson.
A person can never get true greatness, she wrote, by trying for
it. You get it when you're not looking for it. It's nice to have good
clothesit makes it a lot easier to act decentbut it is a sign of
true greatness to act when you haven't got them just as good as if you
had. One time when Ma was a little girl they had a bird at their house,
called Bill, that broke his leg. They thought they would have to kill
him, but next morning they found him propped up sort of sideways on his
good leg, singing! That was true greatness. One time there was a woman
that had done a big washing and hung it on the line. The line broke and
let it all down in the mud, but she didn't say a word, only did it over
again; and this time she spread it on the grass, where it couldn't
fall. But that night a dog with dirty feet ran over it. When she saw
what was done, she sat down and didn't cry a bit. All she said was:
'Ain't it queer that he didn't miss nothing!' That was true greatness,
but it's only people who have done washings that know it! Once there
was a woman that lived near a pig-pen, and when the wind blew that way
it was very smelly, indeed; and at first when she went there to live
she couldn't smell anything but straight pig, but when she lived there
a while she learned to smell the clover blossoms through it. That was
* * *
Camilla's wedding had been a great event in Pearl's life. It had
taken place early one Wednesday morning in the church at Millford. It
was a pretty wedding, the paper said. The altar of the church was
banked high with wild roses, whose sweet perfume made Pearl think of
school-booksshe always kept her books full of rose petals, and to her
it was a real geography smell.
Mr. Burrell and Mr. Grantley both took part in the ceremony, to show
there was no hard feelings, Pearl thought, for Camilla was a
Presbyterian and Jim was a Methodist.
Mr. Francis brought Camilla in, and Pearl followed. Jim and the
doctor stood at the altar, while down from the choir-gallery, which
seemed to be overflowing with roses, came the strains of the
wedding-march. Pearl had never heard it before, but it seemed to her
now as if she had always known it, for in it throbbed the very same joy
that was beating in her own heart. It was all over in a minute and they
were coming down the aisle, her hand on the doctor's arm. The carriage
was waiting for them at the door, and they drove back to the house,
everybody talking and laughing and throwing rice.
When the wedding breakfast was over, and Jim and Camilla had gone on
the train, Pearl and the doctor and Mr. and Mrs. Francis drove back to
the house. Everything was just as they had left itthe flowers were
still on the table, and the big clock in the hall was still going,
though it seemed a long, long time that they had been away. Mrs.
Francis was quite worn out by the efforts of the morning, and said she
must go and rest. Would Pearl box up the wedding cake in the little
white boxes? It is a severe strain to lose Camilla, she said, even
for two weeks. Two weeks is fourteen days, and that means forty-two
meals without her.
We'll attend to the wedding-cake, and put away the presents and run
things generally, the doctor said.
In the dining-room Dr. Clay cut up wedding-cake and packed it in
boxes for mailing, while Pearl quickly cleared away the dishes. She was
quite a pretty little girl in her white silk dress. She was tall and
slight, and lithe and graceful in her movements, with pansy-brown eyes
and a smooth, olive skin that neither sun nor wind could roughen. But
the beauty of her face was in the serene expression which comes only to
people whose hearts are brave and sweet and honest.
The doctor watched her with a great admiration in his face. Pearl,
how old are you? he asked suddenly.
I am fifteen, she answered.
He took one of her shapely little sunburnt hands and held it gently
in his; then with his other hand he took a pearl ring from his pocket
and was about to slip it on her finger, but, suddenly changing his
mind, he laid it in her hand instead.
Pearl gave an exclamation of delight.
It's yours, Pearl, he said. Put it on.
She put it on her finger, her eyes sparkling with pleasure.
Oh, Doctor Clay! she said, breathlessly.
He, smiling, watched her as she held her hand up to look at it. It
is just a remembrance, dear, he said, of some one who thinks that
there is no little girl in the world like you.
When Pearl went home, she gave an account of the wedding to her
Gettin' married ain't so much when you get right up to it, she
said. They had a terrible busy time getting ready for it that morning.
Mrs. Francis was a long way more excited than Camilla, and broke quite
a few dishes, but they were all her own; she didn't get into any of
Camilla's. She set fire to her hair when she was curling it, but after
that she did fine. Camilla looked after everything and wrote down in a
notebook all the things Mrs. Francis is to cook while she is away.
Camilla's a little bit afraid that she'll burn the house down, but the
neighbours are all going to try to see after things for her. Camilla
had her hair done the loveliest I ever saw, all wavy, but not frizzy.
We went to the church and got that done before we came back to the
house to eat. Camilla had a big bunch of roses that Jim gave her, tied
with white satin ribbon, and mind you, they didn't cut off the ends,
that's how free they were with the ribbon. I held them along with mine
while Jim put on the ringthat's mostly an account of the what I was
forand Jim kissed her right before every one, and so did Mrs.
Francis, and so did I, and that was all until we came to the house, and
then Mrs. Francis kissed her again and did me, too, when she got
started, and kissed Jim, too, and he kissed me, and we had a great
time. The meal was called a breakfast, but say, kids, there was
eating for you! Maybe you think a breakfast is mostly porridge and
toast and the like o' that. Well, now, there wasn't a sign of
porridgeoyster soup came first.
Wha's 'at? Danny asked. The wedding details had reached the place
where Danny's interest began.
They're the colour of gray stones, only they're soft, and if you
shut your eyes they're fine, and while you're wondering whether or not
you'll swallow them, they slip down and you begin to look for another;
and then there was little dabs of fried fish laid on a lettuce leaf,
with a sprig of parsley beside it, and a round of lemon. They took the
lemon in their fingers and squeezed it over their fish. It looked a
little mussy to me, but I guess it's manners all right; and then there
was olives on a little glass dish, and every one took onethey taste
like willow bark in spring. Mrs. Burrell said she just loved them, and
et a lot. I think that's carryin' your manners too far. I et the one I
took and thought I did well. Mr. Burrell asked the blessin', and gave
Jim and Camilla lots of good advice. He said to be sure and get mad one
at a time. And then we had lots of other stuff to eat, and we went to
the train, and Camilla told me to watch that Mrs. Francis didn't let
the tea-kettle boil dry while I was there, and I guess that was all.
But of the incident of the pearl ring, strangely enough, she said
not a word.
* * *
When Thomas Perkins found out that Bud had really gone he was
plunged in deepest grief. He came over to where John Watson was
ploughing stubble, the very picture of self-pity. Pretty hard on a
man, John, pretty hard, he began as soon as he came within hearing
distance, to lose his only boy and have to hire help; after losin' the
twins, too, the year of the frozen wheatfine little fellows they was,
too, supple as a string of suckers. And now, by golly, Bud's gone,
John, with the good new eighteen-dollar suitthat's what I paid for it
in cold cash in Brandon last winterand I'll have to keep my hired man
on if he don't come back, and this beggar I have, he can eat like a
flock of grasshoppershe just chunks the butter on his bread and makes
syrup of his tea. Oh, yes, John, it's rough on a man when he begins to
go down the other side of the hill and the bastin' threads are showin'
in his hair. It's pretty hard to have to do with hired help. I
understand now better'n ever why Billy Winter was cryin' so hard when
his third wife died. Billy was whoopin' it up somethin' awful when Mr.
Grantley went out to bury the woman, and Mr. Grantley said somethin' to
comfort Billy about her bein' in a better placethat was a dead sure
bet, anywaybut Billy went right on bawlin'he didn't seem to take no
notice of this better place ideaand after a while he says right out,
says he: 'She could do more work than three hired girls, and she was
the savin'est one I've had yet.'
Bud'll come back, said John Watson, soothingly. The poor lad is
feeling hurt about ithe don't like to have people thinkin' hard of
Wasn't ten dollars a ter'ble fine, John, only eighteen? Mr.
It isn't the money I'm thinkin' of, it's feelin's; poor Bud, and
him as honest a lad as ever drew breath. John Watson had a shrewd
suspicion of who had plugged the grain.
Well, I don't see why he need feel so bad, the other man said.
Nobody minds stealin' from the railways or the elevator men. They'd
steal the coppers off a dead man's eyeseh, what? But where Bud ever
got such notions of honesty, I don't knowsearch me. It's a fine thing
to be honest, but it's well to have it under control. Now, there's some
kind of sharp tricks I don't hold with. They say that Mrs. George
Steadman sold a seven-pound stone in the middle of a crock of butter to
Mason here some years ago. She thought he'd ship it away to Winnipeg
and nobody'd ever know; but as sure as you're born, when she got home
she found it in the middle of her box of tea. He paid her twenty-five
cents a pound for it, but, by golly! she paid him fifty cents a pound
for it back. Now, I don't hold with thatit was too risky a deal for
me. This Mason's a sharp one, I tell youyou'll get up early if you
ever get ahead of him. In the airly days, when we all had to go on tick
for everything we got at his storethey do say that every time one of
us farmers went to town that Mason, as soon as he saw us, would say to
his bookkeeper: 'Tom Perkins is in town; put him down for a dollar's
worth of sugar and a quarter of chewin' tobacco.'
Pearl came out with a pail to dig some potatoes in the garden.
Well, my pretty dear, Mr. Perkins said amiably, how are you
feeling this evening?
I am real well, thank you, Pearl said, and I hope you are, too.
Well now, my dear, I am not, he said. You know, of course, that
Yes, I know, said Pearl, but I know Bud didn't do it. Bud is a
good boy, and too honest to do any thing like that. Bud wouldn't plug
grain. What does Bud care for a few cents more on every bushel if he
has to lie to get it?
Look at that now, John! Mr. Perkins cried, nudging Mr. Watson
gaily. Isn't that a woman for you all over, young and all as she is?
They never think how the money comes, the lovely critturs.
Money isn't everything, Mr. Perkins, said Pearl earnestly.
Well, my little dear, most of us think it is pretty nearly
God doesn't care very much about money, she answered. Look at the
sort of people he gives it to.
Mr. Perkins looked at her in surprise. Upon my word, that's true,
he said. Say, Pearlie, you'll be taking away the preachers' job from
them when you get a little bigger, if they're not careful.
Pearl laughed good-humouredly and went on with her potato-digging.
Thomas Perkins went home soon after, and even to him the quiet glory
of the autumn evening came with a sense of beauty and of God's
overshadowing care. I kinda wish now, he said to himself, that I had
gone and cleared up the boy's name at first. I can hardly do it now.
They would think I hadn't had the nerve to do it at first. Say, what
that kid said is pretty near right. Money ain't everything. He was
looking at the bars of amethyst cloud that streaked the west, and at
the lemon-coloured sky below them. Prairie chickens whirred through the
air on their way to a straw pile near by. From the Souris valley behind
him came the strident whistle of the evening train as it thundered over
the long wooden bridge. A sudden love of his home and family came to
Thomas Perkins as he looked over at his comfortable buildings and his
broad fields. If Bud were only over there, he thought, how good it
would be! Poor Bud, wandering to-night without a home, and through no
fault of his own.
Just for the moment Mr. Perkins was honestly repentant; then the
other side of his nature came back. I do hope that boy will think to
grease' his bootsthey'll go like paper if he doesn't, he said.
CHAPTER XXIII. PEARL'S PHILOSOPHY
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man's mind,
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
F. W. Faber.
IT WAS a dreamy day in late October, when not only the Tiger Hills
were veiled in mist, but every object on the prairie had a gentle
draping of amber gray. Prairie fires ragin' in the hills, said Aunt
Kate, who always sought for an explanation of natural phenomena, but
Pearlie Watson knew better. She knew that it was a dream curtain that
God puts around the world in the autumn, when the grass is faded and
the trees bare and leafless. She explained it to the other children
coming home that night.
You see, kids, said Pearl, in the summer everything is so well
fixed up that there's no need to hide anything, and so the sun just
shines and shines, and the days are long and bright to let every one
have a good look at things. There's the orange-lilies pepperin' the
grass, and there's cowslips and ladies' slippers, if it's yellows you
like, and there's wild roses and morning-glories, and pink ladies'
slippers, if you know whereto look for them, and the hills are all so
green and velvety, and there's the little ponds full of water with the
wind crinklin' the top of it, and strings of wild ducks sailin' kind o'
sideways across them. Oh, it's a great sight, and it would be a pity to
put a mist on it. But now the colour has faded and the ponds have dried
up, and the grass is dead and full of dust, and it's far nicer to have
this gray veil drawn in close around. It helps you to make a pretty
picture for yourself. Now, look over there, near Tom Simpson's old
housethat ain't a train track at all, but a deep blue sea, where
boats sail day and night, and 'Spanish sailors with bearded lips' walk
up and down clankin' their swords and whisperin' about hidden
Pearl's voice had fallen almost to a whisper.
To-night when the moon rises the tallest one, the one with the deep
scar on his cheek, will lead the way to the cave in the rock; the door
flies open if you say the password 'Magooslem,' and there the golden
guineas lie strewn upon the stone floors. And look back there at Lib
Cavers's housedo you see how dreamy like and sleepin' it is, not
takin' a bit of notice of anything? It don't look like a house where
there's ever dirty dishes or anybody feelin' sad or lonely, and I don't
believe that's Cavers's house at all, went on Pearl, making a bold
appeal to the imagination of her audiencethat's just a dream house,
where there is a big family of children, and they're goin' to have
pancakes for supperpancakes and maple syrup!
At this association of ideas Bugsey made a quick move for the
dinner-pail, in which he had a distinct interest. Bugsey was what his
parents called a quare lad (his brothers often called him worse than
that), and one way he had of showing his quareness was that he did
not even eat like other people. On this particular day the Watson
children had for dinner, among other plainer things, a piece of wild
cranberry pie, with the pits left in, for each child. Patsy's piece had
gone at the first recess; Danny's did not get past the fireguard around
the school; Tammy's disappeared before he had gone a hundred yards from
the house (Tommy was carrying the dinner-pail); but Bugsey, the quare
lad, did not eat his in school at all, but left it to eat on the way
Now cranberry pie with the pits in is a perishable article, and
should not be left unguarded in this present evil world, where human
nature has its frailties. When Bugsey looked into the pail, he raised a
wail of bereavement, and at the same moment Tommy set out for home at
high speed accelerated no doubt by the proddings of conscience. Bugsey
followed, breathing out slaughter, and even made the murderous threat
of takin' it out of his hide, which no doubt was only intended
Come back here, Bugsey Watson! cried Pearl authoritatively. What
do yez mane by it? S'posin' he did ate yer pie? It ain't as bad as if
he knocked an eye out of yer. You shouldn't have left it in the pail to
tempt him anyway. If you'd et it when you should ye'd had it and,
anyway, don't be ye wasting yer temper fightin' for things like pie,
that's here to-day and away to-morrow. It's a long way worse for him
that has the mean feelin' than it is for you, so it is. In her
excitement Pearl went back to her Irish brogue. Tommy by this time was
a long way down the road, still making his small legs fly, thinking
that the avenging Bugsey was in pursuit.
So intent were the children on the pie dispute that they did not
hear the approach of a buggy behind them, until Sandy Braden with his
pacing horse drove by. When he saw Pearl he reined in with a sudden
Will you come and ride with me? I'll drive you home, he said,
addressing her. Bring that little chap with you, he added, noticing
the shortness of Danny's fat legs.
Pearl assented to this, and she and Danny climbed into the
They drove for a short distance in silence, and then, pulling his
pacer to a walk, Mr. Braden said: I have always wanted to tell you,
Pearl, that I did not break my word that day. I left word with the
bartender not to give Bill Cavers any liquor, but he did give it to
him, and I have been sorry ever since about it, and I wanted you to
I am glad you told me, Pearl answered quickly, for I've often
been sorry for you, thinkin' what sad thoughts you must be havin'.
My thoughts are sad enough, he said gloomily, for it was my
whiskey that killed him, even if I didn't hand it out to him myself.
Pearl did not contradict him.
Isn't it queer how things happen? she said at last thoughtfully.
God does His level best for everybody! He tries to take them easy at
first, to see if they'll take telling, and if they do, all right; but
if they won't take telling, He has to jolt them good and plenty. But He
always knows what He's doin'.
I'm afraid I have not such unbounded faith in the Ruler of the
Universe as you have, he said at last Bill Cavers didn't get exactly
a fair deal.
Oh, don't worry about Bill Cavers now, said Pearl quickly. Bill's
still in God's hands, and God has a better chance at him now than He
ever had. God never intended Bill to be a drunkard,or you to be
handing liquor out to people; you can bank on that. And he never
intended Mrs. Cavers to be all sad and discouraged. God would do good
things for people if they would only let Him, but He has to have a free
hand on them. When you see people goin' wrong or cuttin' up dog, you
may be sure that God didn't put it down that way in the writin's. Some
one has jiggled His elbow, that's all. And it's great how He makes it
up to people, too. Now, you'd be surprised to see how cheerful Mrs.
Cavers is. When I went over after our threshin' to take her the
What money? he interrupted.
Pearl hesitated. Well, you know we took their farm when they left
it, and there was some cleared on it, and the house is better than
none, and so we gave her a little to help her and Libby Anne to get
ready to go back to her folks down East.
How much did you give her? he asked.
Two hundred dollars. She didn't want to take it, but really was
glad of it, and Pa and Ma and all of us have been feeling better ever
since. But I was goin' to tell you how cheerful she is, and Libby Anne
is happier than she used to be. Poor little Lib, she's so thin and
pale, she's never had a good time like other children.
Sandy Braden winced at her words, for an illuminated conscience
showed him what had cheated Libby Anne out of her childhood.
Poor little kid! he said.
I knew, said Pearl, after a pause, that day that Jimmy and I went
in with the onions that you didn't really know what a mean business you
were in, or you wouldn't do it. You did not look to me like a man that
would hit a woman.
That's the part of it I can't forget, he said bitterly. I can't
forget the look of that thin little wisp of a woman, and Lord! how she
glared at me! She could have killed me that day. I don't go much on
religion, Pearl. I don't see much in religion, but I certainly would
not hit a woman if I knew it.
Where did you learn that? Pearl asked quickly. You wouldn't know
that if it wasn't for religion. Mr. Burrell was telling us last Sunday
that there's no religion teaches that only ours. You say you don't go
much on religion, and still it's religion that has put any good in you
that there is, and don't you forget it.
That's not saying much for it, either, he said gloomily.
Well, now, I think it is,said Pearl. In lots of countries you'd
pass for an awful good man. It's on'y when you stood up beside Christ,
who was so good and kind and straight, that you can see you're not what
you ought to be. If it wasn't for the Bible and Christ we wouldn't know
how good a man should be.
I haven't read the Bible for a goad many years, he said slowly. I
don't believe I ever read much of it.
Pearl looked straight into his face, and said without a minute's
hesitation: Well, I'll bet you a dollar some one read it for you and
passed it on to you.
Sandy Braden looked straight ahead of him, down the deeply tinted
prairie road, at the hazy outlines of the sand-hills, with their
scattered spruce trees, blurred now into indistinctnessthat is, his
eyes were turned toward them, but what he really saw in one of those
sudden flashes of memory which makes us think that nothing is ever
entirely forgotten, was a cheerful old-fashioned room, with a
rag-carpet on the floor and pictures in round frames on the wall. The
sun came in through the eastern windows, and the whole place felt like
Sunday. He saw his mother sitting in a rocking-chair, with a big Bible
on her knee, and by her side was a little boy whom he knew to be
himself. He saw again on her finger the thin silver ring, worn almost
to a thread, and felt the clasp of her hand on his as she guided his
finger over the words she was teaching him; and back through the long
years they came to him: Love one another as I have loved you. He
remembered, too, and smelled again the sweet-mary leaves that were
always kept in his mother's Bible, and saw again the cards with big
coloured birds on them that he had got at Sunday-school for regular
attendance, and which were always kept between its pages; and while he
mused on these things with sudden tenderness, there came back again the
same numb feeling of sorrow that he had had when he came home, a
heartbroken boy, from his mother's funeral that day so many years ago,
and buried his face in the sweet-mary leaves in the old Bible, and
blotted its pages with his tears; for it seemed more like her than
anything else in the house. He remembered that the undertaker's black
mat with its ghastly white border was still in the front window, where
the coffin had rested, and that the room smelled of camphor.
Pearl saw that memory was busy with him, and said not a word.
At last he spoke. You're right, Pearl, he said. Some one did read
it and pass it on to me, and it would have been better for me if I'd
stayed closer to what she taught me.
Ain't it queer how things turn out? Pearl exclaimed, after a long
pause. Now, I've often wondered why Christ had to dieit seemed a
terrible thing to happen to Him, and Him that lovin' and kinddo you
mind how gentle and forgivin' He was?
Sandy Braden nodded.
Well, Mr. Donald and I have been talkin' about it quite a bit, and
at first we thought it shouldn't have happened, but now it looks as if
God had to strike hard to make people listen, and to show them what a
terrible thing sin is. Death ain't nothin' to be afraid of, nor
sufferin' either. Sin is the only thing to be real scared of. It wasn't
the rusty nails through His hands that made the dear Lord cry out in
agonyit was the hard hearts of them that done it. Bill Cavers's death
has done good already, for it has closed your bar, and no one knows how
many men and boys that may save; and you're a different man now,
thinking different thoughts, ain't you?
I'm a mighty unhappy man, he said sadly. I'm different that way,
that's a sure thing.
Pearl looked at him closely, as if she would see the inner working
of his mind.
Mr. Braden, I know just what you're like, she said. Did you ever
see a man 'trying to stand still on a bicycle? That's no harder than
what you're tryin' to do. You've stopped doin' wrong, but you haven't
gone on, and you're in great shape to take a bad fall. If you'd just
get busy helpin' people you'd soon get over bein' sad and down-hearted.
You're feelin' bad over Bill Cavers's death. Why don't you make Bill's
death count for something good? You're a smart man, and everybody likes
you. If you was to teach a Bible class every one would come to hear
I'll bet they would, he said, shrugging his shoulders and laughing
Well, then, said Pearl, don't let the chances all go by you. Do
you know, I often look at trees and feel sorry for them?
Why? he asked curiously.
Because they can't do a thing to help each other; and I often
wonder if they're the people who wouldn't lift a finger to help any one
when they were livin', and so they were turned into trees when they
died, and now they see grubs and worms crawlin' over their own folks,
maybe, and they can't lift a leaf to help them. Mr. Donald read us a
story in school about a man who was awful mean while he lived and
wouldn't help anybody, and when he died he had to wander up and down
the world and see people starvin' and all sorts of sad sights, but he
couldn't do a single thing for them, though he wanted to bad enough,
because he had forged a chain that bound him hand and foot while he was
livin', all unbeknownst to himself. Did you ever read that little book,
I did, he said. I read that story, but I had almost forgotten it.
I haven't thought of it for years.
It's a good story, said Pearl meaningly.
I guess it is, he answered, smiling.
When they reached the Watson home, Mrs. Watson and Aunt Kate came
out and thanked Mr. Braden profusely for his kindness in givin' the
childer a lift. Danny, who had been bored by the serious nature of the
conversation, had gone to sleep, and was carried snoring into the
Mr. Braden admired the display of poppies and asters, which still
made a brave show of colour against the almost leafless trees of the
bluff, and when Pearl ran over to pick him a bouquet of asters, was it
by accidentor does anything ever happen by accidentthat she put in
some leaves of sweet-mary?
CHAPTER XXIV. TRUE GREATNESS
A shipwrecked sailor, waiting for a sail;
No sail from day to day, but every day
The sunrise broken into scarlet shafts
A blaze upon the waters to the east,
A blaze upon the waters to the west,
but no sail.
From Enoch Arden.
ALMOST every person in the neighbourhood was interested in Arthur
Wemyss's new home which he had built on the bank of Plover Creek, a
small stream that dawdled aimlessly across the prairie from Lang's Lake
to the Souris River. Plover Creek followed the line of least resistance
all the way along, not seeming to care how often it changed its
direction, but zigzagging and even turning around and doubling on
itself sometimes. Its little dimpled banks, treeless save for clumps of
silver willow, gave a pleasing variety to the prairie scenery.
It was on one of the highest of these banks that Arthur had built
his house, and it was a pleasant outlook for any one who loves the long
view that the prairie gives, where only the horizon obstructs the
Behind the house, which faced the setting sun, was an old buffalo
run, a narrow path, grass-grown now, but beaten deep into the earth by
the hoofs of innumerable buffalo that long ago came down to the little
stream to drink. It had been a favourite killing-place, too, for the
Indians, as the numerous buffalo bones, whitened by the sun and frost
of many seasons, plainly showed.
Arthur had made a fantastic rockery of skulls and shanks and ribs,
and filled it in with earth, enough to furnish growth for trailing
nasturtiums, whose bright red and yellow blossoms were strangely at
variance with their sombre setting.
Arthur had won for himself many friends among the people of the
neighbourhood by his manly, upright ways and by his courteous manner,
and every one in the neighbourhood, particularly the women, were
interested in the coming of Thursa. Mrs. Motherwell, Mrs. Slater, and
Mrs. Watson had each promised to set a hen on thirteen eggswhich
number is supposed to lose its unluckiness when applied to eggsto
give Thursa a start in poultry. Arthur thanked them warmly, but just
for a minute he found himself wondering how Thursa would look feeding
chickens. He knew that she was adorable at tennis or golf, and although
attending to fowl is not really more strenuous than these, still it is
different. But everything looks rosy at twenty-five, and Arthur was
supremely happy dreaming of the coming of Thursa.
His father and mother had sent him a phonograph for his Christmas
present the previous year, and it had been an unending source of
comfort and pleasure to him as well as to his neighbours and friends.
There was one record that Arthur put on only when he was alone, for it
was Thursa's own voice singing to him from across the seathe song of
all others he loved to hear, for every note, every word of it, throbbed
with tenderness and love:
The hours I spent with thee, dear heart,
Are as a string of pearls to me;
I count them over, every one apart,
My rosary, my rosary.
Often when his day's work was over and he sat in his little house,
as the velvet-footed dusk came creeping down the Plover Creek, Thursa's
bird-like voice, so clear and precious and full of dearest memories,
would fill the little room with heavenly sweetness and carry him back
again to the dear days at home, when they wandered hand in hand beside
the English hedges white with laughing may.
There was only one person in the community with whom Arthur felt
really at home and to whom he could speak freely, and that was Martha
Perkins, for although Martha did not talk much she was a pleasant
listener, and Arthur always came away rested and cheered. She is a
jolly good sort, Martha is, he often told himself, a real comfortable
sort of person. In return for Martha's kindness to him Arthur brought
her books and magazines when he found that Martha now spent most of her
time reading instead of working at the never-ending needlework.
All through the harvest Arthur had had working for him a
stolid-faced son of toil, whose morose face began to get on his
nerves, and it was partly to get away from this depressing influence
that Arthur went much oftener to see Martha than he had up to this
time. His man was no company and spoiled his solitude, he said. When
the harvest was over and his farm hand had gone it seemed quite natural
for him to keep up his visits regularly, and since Bud had gone the
family were very glad of his cheery presence.
One Friday night Arthur did not come for his bread as was his
custom, and when Martha took it over herself the next morning she found
him suffering from a bad attack of la grippe. Then followed for Martha
five sweet days of never-to-be-forgotten happiness, when Arthur,
fevered and restless, would exclaim with joy when she came in. Martha
was a born nurse, quiet, steady, and cheerful, and no matter how
Arthur's head was aching when she came in, he always felt better just
to have her near, and the touch of her hand, work-hardened though it
was, on his forehead, always had the effect of soothing him.
She went every night and morning to Arthur's house, bringing with
her enough tempting eatables to feed two healthy men; for Martha was
strongly imbued with the idea that to eat well was a sure road to
recovery. In Arthur's case her faith was justified, for on the morning
of the sixth day she found him so much better that she realized the
happy days were over. Arthur no longer needed her.
My word, Martha, he said, you have been a welcome sight to me
this week. You are like the good fairy of the tales. I have been
noticing how you have improved the house. Thursa will thank you when
she comes: I am sure you and Thursa will be the greatest pals ever. I
was just thinking, Martha, what a comfortable sort of person you are
anyway. You do know how to make people feel easy in their minds. It is
wonderful. I never saw any one like you in that way.
Any person looking at Martha then would not have called her a plain
girl, so radiant did her face become at these words of praise.
It's my only gift, she said with her slow smile. I cannot sing or
talk or look nice. I can only bake and scrub and sew and keep things
Well, that is a gift, I tell you, a real good one. People who talk
sometimes talk too much, and you can't live on singing, you know,
though it is one of the greatest gifts. He was thinking of Thursa's
chirrupy little treble, which to him was the sweetest music on earth.
Thursa will brighten us all when she comes. Just to hear her laugh,
Martha, would chase away the blues any day. She has the most adorable
little ways. You do not mind hearing me rave about her, do you, Martha?
You know, you are the only person I can talk to about her, and when you
see her you won't blame me at all.
Martha was putting on her wraps to go home, and fortunately he could
not see her face.
That's all right, Arthur, she said bravely. I like to hear you
talkabout her, which came as near to being a deliberate falsehood as
Martha had ever told in all her honest life.
* * *
The arrangements for Arthur's wedding were all made. Thursa was
coming the first week in December and would stay with Martha until
Christmas Day. Arthur's house was not quite ready yet. Martha, glad to
feel that she was of any service to him, made great preparations for
the coming of Thursa.
Her own bedroom, which was to be used by Thursa, was re-papered and
painted; the new rag carpet that Martha had put away in her cupboard
in case was put on the floor; new lace curtains, bought out of the
butter money, replaced the frilled art muslin that had been at the
windows. Martha's best pin-cushion, her best stand-covers and
pillow-shams were all brought out for Thursa's use. It seemed very
fitting to her that her treasures should be used by Arthur's bride. She
thought of it all sadly, but without bitterness.
One afternoon Aunt Kate and Pearl came over, and Martha invited them
to come upstairs and see the room she had made ready for Thursa.
Upon my word, Martha, Aunt Kate said, as she looked admiringly at
Martha's tastefully arranged room, you're fixin' up as if you were
goin' to be married yerself, and I just hope this English girl of his
is all he thinks she is, and not a useless tool like some of them are.
I mind well one Englishwoman who lived neighbour to me down in Ontario,
nice woman, too, but sakes alive, she was a dirty housekeeper. She was
a cousin to the Duke of something, but she'd make a puddin' in the
wash-basin just the same. I'd hate awful to see Arthur get a girl like
that. I suppose you haven't heard him say whether she's been brought up
thrifty. It means a lot, let me tell you. I've seen women that could
throw out as much at the back door as their man could bring in the
front. You don't know, do you, whether or not she's savin'?
I don't know, I'm sure, Martha said. I don't think she has much
experience, but she can learn. It's no trick to do housework.
Well, now, Martha, you're wrong, for it is a trick, Aunt Kate said
positively. It's the finest thing a woman can know. A man will get
tired of a pretty face, but he ain't likely to tire of good vittles and
well-mended clothes; and if he came home hungry and found her playin'
the piano and no dinner ready, it would make him swear, if anything
Aunt Kate went down-stairs then to help Mrs. Perkins do some sewing,
and Pearl and Martha were left alone.
It's awful good of you, Martha, to help Arthur's wedding along so
well, Pearl said, but I know you are glad to do it. People ought to
be kind to any one that's gettin' married, I do think. They need
flowers and kind things said about them far more than people do when
they are gettin' buried. Pshaw! When a person's dead they're clean out
of the bush and not needin' help from any one; but getting married is
awful. Ma saved the lilacs she had when she was married, and put them
in a gem-jar, and I've often heard her tell what a comfort they were to
her when she came home all tired and couldn't get the stains out of
some one's tablecloth. She had a piece of the cake, too, sealed up in a
vaseline jar, and the very maddest I ever saw Ma was when she found
Danny eatin' ithe et her clove apple the same day, and we couldn't do
a thing to him because it was his birthday.
Martha looked at Pearl wonderingly. There were no dried lilacs or
sealed vaseline jars in her family, but she understood vaguely what it
You are going to be the bridesmaid, Pearl, Martha said. Arthur
told me so!
Oh, goody! Pearl cried, but a sudden thought occurring to her, she
said, You should be it yourself, Martha. Why don't you?
I'll tell you why, Pearl, said Martha. I would look awful beside
Thursa. She is fair and fluffy-haired, and she'd make me look worse
than usual. Arthur asked me, but I told him I couldn't very well.
Anyway, there is the gravy to make and the pudding-sauce, and I'll have
to be right there over it. You'll do it, won't you, Pearl?
Oh, yes, I'll do it, said Pearl. Sure thing. Glad of the chance
to wear the white dress Camilla made me and my braceletandand all!
She was about to ask Martha, question, but changed her mind suddenly
and went on: I just hope there'll be a lovely blue sky and snow on the
ground and a real glitterin' sunshine, like what Christmas ought to be,
with everything so lovely that it just hurts, and so much Christmas in
it that you're dead sure the air is full of angels. And, Martha, we'll
put blue ribbons on the table to make them think of the blue sky that
was over them on their weddin' day. I tell you, Martha, it's a great
thing to have blue skies to think of, even if you haven't got blue
skies over you. It heartens a person up wonderful to know that up
through the clouds the sky is blue anyway. It's just like havin' on a
clean shirt, Martha, even if your outside clothes are not very clean.
So, if there's a blue sky we'll try to pin down some of it, so they can
use it when they need it. When is she comin', Martha?
Next week, she is in Brandon now. She is staying there a few days
to see the shops, Arthur said.
Pearl wrinkled her forehead. Isn't it a wonder she don't come
hustlin'? You'd think she'd be far more anxious to see him than any
store. She's seen loads of stores, and she hasn't seen him for two
years. Say, Martha, there was an English painter in Millford when we
lived there who sent home for his girl, and comin' over on the boat
didn't she meet another fellow she liked better and she up and married
him. Wouldn't it be awful if Thursa was to do that after Arthur gettin'
all ready, too?
Martha did not answer, and Pearl, looking up, was startled at the
expression of her faceit was like the face of a shipwrecked sailor
who has been looking, looking, looking over a desolate waste of water,
dreaming of hope, but never daring to hope, when suddenly, before his
weary eyes, there flashes a sail! Of course, it may not be a sail at
all, and even if it is a boat it may never, never see the shipwrecked
sailor, but still a great hope leaps into his face!
Pearl saw it all in Martha's face in that moment; she remembered
Martha's saying that often when she sat at her embroidery she imagined
foolish things that could never come true.
Isn't she a brick? Pearl thought to herself. Gettin' ready for
this weddin' just as cheerful as if her heart wasn't breakin'! Then
Pearl, in her quick imagination, made a new application: Just like if
it was me gettin' ready for Miss Morrison to marry She stopped and
thought, with a stern look on her face. Then she said to herself
grimly: I believe this is the greatest piece of True Greatness I've
seen yet, and if it is, then I haven't got a smell of it.
No word from Bud, is there, Martha? asked after a while.
Nothing, only the card from Calgary saying he was working on a
horse-ranch west of there. It's lonely without him, I tell you, Pearl.
I wonder will he ever come back? said Martha wistfully.
Sure he will! cried Pearl. Bud'll come back, and it'll all be
cleared up, and don't you forget it.
I don't know how, Pearl.
Some way we don't expect, maybe, but it'll all come right.
Everything will in time, Pearl answered cheerfully.
At tea-time the conversation naturally turned to weddings. Mr.
Perkins had been in a doleful frame of mind until the visitors came,
but under the stimulus of fresh listeners he brightened up wonderfully.
Here were two people who had not heard any of his stories. He was full
of reminiscences of strange weddings that he had been at or had heard
of. One in particular, which came back to him now with great vividness,
was when his friend, Ned Mullins, married the Spain girl down the
Ned had intended to marry the youngest one, he said, but when we
got there, by jinks, there was Jane, the oldest one, all decked out
with ribbons and smilin' like a basket of chips, while the pretty one,
Rosie, that Ned wanted, was sittin' in a corner holdin' a handkerchief
to her eyes. Old man Spain said he'd let no man cull the familyhe'd
have to take them as they come, by George! Poor Ned was all broke up.
They wouldn't let him say a word to Rosiethey seemed to know which
way her evidence would run. The timber-boss took Ned aside; I can hear
him yet the way he said, 'Marry the girl, Ned, me boy; the Spaniards
are too numerous for us! We mustn't make bad blood wid them!' Father
Welsh was there all ready, kinda tapping his foot impatient-like,
waiting to earn his money. Old Geordie Hodgins was there; he was one of
the oldest river-drivers on the Ot'way, a sly old dog with a big wad o'
money hid away some place, some said it was in the linin' of his cap.
Old Geordie never looked at a girlScotch, you know, they're careful.
Well, old Geordie began kinda snuffin' like he always did when he got
excited. Well, sir, he got up and began to walk around, slappin' his
hands together, and all the clatter stopped, for every one was
wonderin' what was wrong with Geordie; and old man Spain, he says:
'What's wrong, Geordie? Sit down, blame you, and let's get on wid the
weddin'.' And then old Georgie straightens up and says, 'I'll take the
old one, if ye like, and let Ned have the wan he wants,' and with that
the little one with the red eyes bounces right out of her corner and
she slaps a kiss on Geordie that you could hear for the brea'th of an
acre. Old Geordie wiped it off with the back of his hand and says he,
'Look out, young Miss, don't you do that again or Ned'll have to take
the old one after all.' And by jinks, as soon as she heard that the old
one, who wasn't so slow after all, she bounced up and landed one on
Geordie that sounded like an ox pullin' his foot out of the mud, and,
then Ned he came to himself and says he, 'See here, Geordie's gettin'
more'n his share; where do I come in?' and then John McNeish, the
piper, struck up his pipes, and we were all off into an eight-hand reel
before you could wink. There wasn't enough girls to go round, and I had
to swing around Bill Fraser with the wooden leg, and Bill was kinda
topply around the corners, but we got the two couples married and they
both done well.
Mrs. Perkins was something of a raconteur herself, and she, too, was
ready with a story on the same subject. She and her husband never
interfered with each other's story-telling. Each chose his or her own
story and proceeded with it quite independent of the other one. But it
was confusing to the audience when the two stories ran concurrently, as
they did to-day.
Mrs. Perkins's story was about her youngest sister's husband's
brother, who was the biggest cut-up you ever saw. He'd keep a whole
room full of people in stitches, and he was engaged to a girl called
Sally Gibsonshe was one of the Garafraxa Gibsons that ran the mill at
'the Soble'well, anyway, this Sally Gibson gave him the slip and
married a fellow from Owen Sound, and some say even kept the ring,
though Mrs. Perkins was not prepared to say for sure; but, anyway, this
was pretty hard on her youngest sister's husband's brother. Henry Hall
was his name and he had bought the license and all. He was terrible
cut up and vowed he'd marry some one and not lose his license
altogether, so he came over to where Bessie Collins lived, and he came
in at the back door, and there was Bessie scrubbin' the floor, and he
says: 'Bessie, will you marry me?' and she says, knowin' what a cut-up
he was, she says, 'Go on, Hank, you're foolin',' and he says: 'I'm not
foolin', Bessie,' and he told her what Sally Gibson had went and done,
and then Bessie says: 'Well, wait till I've finished this floor and do
off the door-step, and I don't care if I do.' So she went and primped
herself some and they were married and they done well, too!
* * *
When Pearl and her aunt were walking home that night Aunt Kate said:
I like them people better one at a time. I never did like a two-ring
circus. I never could watch the monkey trundlin' a barrel up a gangway
when the clown was jumpin' through rings; it always annoyed me to be
losin' either one or the other. Did you get any sense of it, Pearlie?
But Pearl's thoughts were on an entirely different theme. Miss
Morrison ain't what you'd call a real pretty girl, not like Mary Barner
or Camilla, she said absently.
CHAPTER XXV. THE COMING OF THURSA
Each hour a pearl, each pearl a prayer
To still a heart in absence wrung.
I tell each bead unto the end, and there
A cross is hung!
EARLY in December Thursa came. Martha had asked Pearl to come over
and help her to receive her guest, which Pearl was only too glad to do,
for she knew how hard all this was for Martha.
Just like sendin' out invitations to yer own funeral, Pearl said,
as early in the morning of the eventful day she walked over the snowy
road to the Perkins home. In spite of all, Pearl was determined to have
Martha looking her very best. She was even prepared to put powder on
Martha's face, and had actually secured some from Camilla for the
Martha had improved in many ways since the day she and Pearl had
talked beside the lilac hedge. She stood straighter; she walked more
gracefully; she was more at her ease in conversation. These were the
outward visible signs; but the most important change that had taken
place in Martha was that she now had a broader outlook on the world. It
was no longer bounded on the north by the Assiniboine River and the
Brandon Hills, and on the south by the Tiger Hills and Pelican Lake.
The hours that she had spent studying the magazine had been well spent,
and Martha had really learned a great deal. She had learned that there
were hundreds and hundreds of other girls like herself, living lonely
lives of endless toil and sacrifice, and who still kept alive the
little flame of ambition and the desire to make the best of their
surroundings and themselves; and from the stories, which she now read
with consuming interest, she learned that there were other women who
loved hopelessly, but yet without bitterness, whose hearts were
enriched by it, and who went on with their work day by day, bravely
fighting the good fight; and with all this Martha's heart was greatly
sustained and comforted. Martha had some blue days, too, when she was
deeply conscious of her own dullness, and was disposed to give up all
her efforts; but Pearl Watson was always able to fire her with fresh
enthusiasm, for it was Pearl's good gift that she could inspire people
to worthy endeavour.
It was not long before Arthur noticed that Martha was brightening up
and that she seemed easier to talk to. After his long days of solitude
he was glad of an opportunity to talk to an interested listener, and so
he found his way over to the Perkins home three or four nights every
He told her stories of his school-days and of the glorious holidays
he had spent at his uncle's country home. Arthur was a close observer
and an interesting talker, and even Mrs. Perkins sometimes sat up to
listen to him. Thomas Perkins said he didn't take much stock in the
stories that young English chap told, and so he usually retired to the
kitchen, where he would sit studying the catalogues. Mr. Perkins
preferred the centre of the stage, if he were on it at all, and
certainly would not consent to do a thinking part for anybody.
* * *
Don't you be a bit worried, Martha, Pearl said soothingly, as she
was combing Martha's hair that morning; you'll look just as well as
she does. Englishwomen always look queer to me with those big rough
coats on them, all crinkly at the seams. They always wear them coming
over on the boat, and it looks to me as if they fell in a few times and
the stuff shrunk something awful; and their hair is always queer, done
in a bun on the small of their neck.
But Thursa is not like that, Martha said. She is little and
slight, and has a skin as fair as a lily and pink cheeks.
Pearl stepped back to look at Martha's hair, done in a braid around
the top, before replying:
Skin like a lily, has she? Well, that settles itwe'll use the
powder. Now, don't say a word, Marthait ain't wicked at allit's
paintin' and powderin' that's wicked. Now, I could make a bright glow
on each of yer cheeks by usin' the red leaf of one of the roses on my
summer hat. I thought of that, and I tried it myselfit was a fine
colour and would improve you, Martha, but I'm afraid it wouldn't be
just the thing to do it, and anyway you are looking fine now, and your
red silk waist will give you a colour.
They went down-stairs when Martha's toilet was complete, speculating
on what Thursa would be like. Martha was plainly nervous, which Pearl
saw, but would not recognize. They were not left long in doubt, for in
a few minutes they heard Arthur driving up to the door. Pearl and
Martha held each other's hands in suspense until the door opened and
Arthur said quite simply:
Martha, this is Thursa.
And then poor Martha had need of her full supply of true greatness
as Thursa's fresh young beauty burst on her, for Thursa was of that
most bewitching type of young English girl, clear-skinned and
violet-eyed, with a head of curling golden hair. She wore a long green
coat and a little green cap that did not begin to hold down the
If Martha was embarrassed Thursa certainly was not. She kissed
Martha impulsively and called her the dearest thing, and then,
turning to Pearl, cried gaily. Come here, you brown-eyed witch. I
should have known you anywhere. You two girls have spoiled Arthur, I am
afraid, by dancing attendance on him. He will be so frightfully
important and overlordish, but all that will be changed now. I am
really a very domineering person.
When Martha took Thursa upstairs to remove her wraps she said, as
she tucked in her curls before the glass: It does seem so gorgeous to
be away without an aunt. I have three of them at home, you know, and
they have always taken the wildest interest in me, and there was always
one ready to come with me every place. They are not old really, but
they seem old to me, and I really expect they will never die. They have
heaps of money, too, and so I simply had to be civil to them. I had a
perfectly ripping time on the boat. My aunts put me in charge of the
Bishop of Donchester, and he was a perfect love and went to his
stateroom so early every evening, and slept in a steamer chair every
afternoon until he got ill, the old dear, and then he didn't appear at
all for three days, and I really had such jolly fun. It did seem such
fun not to be bothered with some one stalking me all the time. There
were such pleasant people, too, on shipboard!'
Martha remembered what Pearl had said about the English girl who had
changed her mind coming over on the boat, and, making an excuse about
having dinner to see to, went down stairs and sent Pearl up to Thursa.
Pearl would get at the true state of affairs quicker than any one else.
Did you have a pleasant journey? Pearl asked, when she went
Oh, rather! said Thursa. It was simply heavenly to be away any
place without an aunt. I was just telling Martha I have three of
themAunt Honora, Aunt Constance, and Aunt Prudence. They have dangled
their money over my head for years, but I don't care now if I never get
it. They've always done everything for me. They picked out Arthur for
me because his uncle is a bishop, and they do adore bishops.
But didn't you like Arthur firstyourselfanyway? Pearl
exclaimed, hanging on to the chair in her excitement.
Thursa pursed her pretty lips. Well enoughoh, yes, real welland
I liked him awfully when he decided to come to Canadait was so
splendid and dashing of him, I thought, and I was simply wild to come,
too, for the adventures!
The what? Pearl asked.
The adventures. It must be perfectly jolly to chase Indians and
buffaloes and bears. Wouldn't it be a lark to send one home?
Pearl winked hard, wondering if it was an Indian, a buffalo, or a
bear she wanted to send home.
After dinner, for which Arthur stayed, Thursa said she believed she
would take a restshe had so many letters to write, too, to people she
met on shipboard, and such delightful people.
Arthur begged to be let stay 'a little while longer, but Thursa said
very, decidedly he must go now and not come back until the next
evening, for she really must get her letters donethere was one in
particular that must be sent by next post. Do you know a Mr. Smeaton
in Brandon, she asked, Mr. Jack Smeaton?
Arthur did not know him.
He was on the boat and was so jolly! He was teaching me Canadian
words. We did have good fun over it. He told me to be sure and let him
know how I liked you when I saw you.
I said I would come and see anyway, for I said I couldn't believe
you had changed so very much in two years. He said it was always well
to take thirty days to consider any serious step, and he taught me the
word for it'a thirty days' option'that's it, Arthur. That's what I
have on you!
She laughed merrily, but Arthur pleaded with her not to say such
Then Thursa became very serious. Now, Arthur, for heaven's sake,
she said, don't act like the aunts. That's what I've listened to all
my life. Calm yourself, my de-ar. That's what I've run away from. I
might as well have stayed with them if you're going to do it. It's
wicked of you, Arthur, it really is, to scold me, when I came so far
just to see you, and when you know how tired I am.
Pearl and Martha retired hastily to the kitchen.
Arthur apologized in due form and Thursa's good-humour came back.
Now, then, Arthur, run along, because I am going to have a long sleep,
and then I have some very serious thinking to do. The aunts said that
is what I am incapable of doing, but I've done some that would have
surprised them if they had just heard me at it. Now I am going to do
some more. It's so horrible to be in a quandary. It is as bad as it was
when I was choosing a gown for my first party; I lay awake nearly a
whole night trying to decide between a reseda and a pink-violet. It was
perfectly maddening, and I did have such a head the next day.
Are you in a quandary now, Thursa? he asked gently. Tell me about
Oh, no, Arthur, dear me, noI haven't got half my thinking done
yet. I'll tell you after I get it done. I am so happy to think that I
got away without any of the aunts that, really, I am not very worried
about anything. You' know I wasn't perfectly sure that I was away until
I was a day out, and once I got such a frightthere was something
swimming behind the boat! But now, good-bye, Arthur. Kiss me, if you
like. There, now, that will do. Yes, I do like you, Arthur, you're a
good sort. Good-bye till to-morrow evening.
Two days later Arthur took Thursa over to see the house. She was
quite rested now from her journey, and in her scarlet coat and hat she
was more bewitching than ever.
It is very pretty here in the summer-time, Thursa, he said, as
they stood together in the little porch. I had some flowers last year,
and the trees are growing nicely. It will be the dearest place on earth
to me when you are here. Won't it be glorious to be together always,
dearie, you and I? I wonder if you know how beautiful you are, Thursa?
Thursa knit her brows in deep thought. I wonder if I do? she said
quite gravely. I've heard quite a 'lot about it lately, and I don't
object to hearing it as much as my aunts would wish me to, I fear. It
seems pleasant, really!
Arthur laughed joyously. Her beauty dazzled him.
Then they went into the house that he had built and furnished with
much loving care. Thursa was interested in everything; the shining new
pots and pans gave her great delightshe said they were such jolly
little dears, but what were they all for? Arthur tried to explain, but
Thursa became impatient at the mention of cooking and washing dishes,
and cried out petulantly. Why don't you tame a squaw and have her do
all this? I simply loathe cooking or washing up. It is horrid, messy
work, Arthur, and I really never can do it. I know I can't. I never
stayed in our scullery at home for one minute. Of course my aunts would
not have allowed me to stay anyway, but that isn't why. I simply detest
work of that kind.
Arthur's face showed his disappointment. We will have to get some
one to show you how, he said, after an unpleasant pause. You will not
dislike it so much after you learn how, Thursa. It is really pleasant
work, housekeeping is, and I am sure you will learn to be a famous
Don't bank too strong on it, Arthur. Isn't that the right word? Mr.
Smeaton taught me that. This idea of having to cook has upset me
She sat down in the rocking-chair and rocked herself in her
agitation. Arthur, I shall go staring mad if I have to mess around and
try to cook. I know I shall. I feel it beginning on me, and I shall
have rough hands, and my skin will get red and blotchy, just like a
cook's, and there will always be a greasy smell on my clothes. I am
going to cry, Arthur, I am, now, really, and nobody can stop me, and I
do cry dreadfully when I start.
Oh, don't cry, Thursa! Arthur pleaded, with all the helplessness
of a man in the presence of tears. Don't cry, dearest. You'll break my
heart if you cry the first day you come into your new home. I don't
want you to cook or work or do anything, only just stay with me and
love me and let me look at youyou are too beautiful to ever have to
Contrary to her expectations, Thursa did not cry, but looked at
Arthur with a very shrewd expression on her pretty face.
I'd rather stay here and take a chance on itthat's a Canadian
word, toothan go back to the aunts and have to work antimacassars and
put up with them trailing around after me alwaysthat was perfectly
maddeningbut it seems to me she went over to Arthur's new
sideboard and looked critically into the glassit seems to me a girl
like meyou see I am not what you might call a fright, am I,
Arthur?and here in Canada there are abundant opportunities for good
marriagesI think I really should do pretty well.
Arthur stood beside her looking at her image in the glass. When her
meaning became clear he turned away hastily to hide the hurt her words
had given him.
You mean I am not good enough for you. You are quite right, I am
not. You are a queen among women, Thursa.
Queen nothing! Thursa cried impatiently. You make love like they
do it in Scott's novels. The aunts made me read it, and now I simply
loathe anything that sounds like it. Now, Mr. Smeaton said I was a
Arthur consigned Mr. Smeaton and all such cads to a hotter climate.
Good for you, Arthur! she said, laughing, you can ride the high
horse, too. I like you like that. Now, Mr. Smeaton said
See here, Thursa, Arthur broke in, did that cur make love to
Madly, she said.
And you let himand listened?
She clapped her hands and laughed merrily.
Listened? I didn't have to listen hard. He was near me, you know,
and he did make love so beautifully. I wish you could have heard him.
I'd have bashed his head for him, Arthur said hotly. Who is he,
He has a dry-goods store in Brandon. He's a linen-draper really,
and is only six-and-twenty, but he is awfully clever, and so charming.
When I sent you word that I was staying to see the shops I meant I was
staying to see his shop. He took me to his own home, and his mother and
sisters were lovely to me. He wanted me to marry him at Montreal, and
asked me again at North Bay, and twice in Winnipeg, and I really forgot
to count how many times he proposed to me in Brandon; but I wanted to
be perfectly fair, and would not marry him until I had seen you.
Arthur said not a word, but walked over to the eastern window. It
was a pleasant day in early winter. He could see the curls of smoke
rising from the neighbours' houses into the frosty air, and the long
gray wreath of it that the morning train had left still lay on the
Tiger Hills. A mirage had lifted the old spruce bush on the Assiniboine
into vision. Every mark on the landscape stung him with remembrances of
happy days when youth and love and hope were weaving for him a glorious
He turned suddenly and caught her in his arms. Don't go back on me,
Thursa! I won't give you up! he cried. He can't love you the way I
do. You haven't been in his mind, day and night, all these years. He
doesn't love you, dear, like I do, and he can't have you. I tell you, I
won't give you up. You are mine forever.
Suddenly his arms, dropped and he put her away from him. Let me
think a minute, Thursa, he said, in his usual tone. This has come on
me suddenly. Stay here until I come back.
Outside the cold, bracing air fanned his burning face. He stood on
the bank of the Plover Creek and looked with unseeing eyes around him,
and found himself thinking of the most trifling thingshe couldn't
think about what he wanted to; his brain refused to act. Suddenly there
came over him a great calmness, and with it a strong resolve. He would
do the square thing. He loved Thursa, but there was something stronger
even than thatsomething that must be obeyed.
When Arthur went back to the house his face was white with the
conflict, but his resolve was taken Do you want to marry this Brandon
man, Thursa? he asked.
I don't know. I am thinking. Don't hurry me now. I can't bear to be
hurried. That's where Aunt Honora and I never could agree; she crowded
me so. I am thinking very hard, really. Mr. Smeaton's offer is still
open. I was to let him know. Of course, Arthur, you are a bishop's
nephew, and that's something. Mr. Smeaton's family are all in trade.
That does not matter in this country, said Arthur. No, that's
what he said, too. He is so witty and clever. He said I could write to
the aunts that I had married the son of a leading M. P. of the West.
Is his father a Member of Parliament? Arthur asked quickly.
Thursa laughed delightedly. M. P. stands for 'milk peddler,' she
said. Wasn't he adorable to think of that?
Very clever indeed, Arthur said quietly.
We did have screaming fun over it. He said we would spell it
Smeatholym if it would make the aunts feel any easier, and he told me I
could tell them how brave he wasthat he once slew a wild oryx. He
said he often drove a yoke of wild oryxen before him as gentle as
lambs. I know Aunt Constance would be deeply impressed with this. He
even went so far, Arthurhe was so deadly in earnestto give me the
telegraph form to sign. It is all written if I decide to marry him.
Let me see it! said Arthur.
She opened her little bead purse and handed him a yellow telegraph
blank, on which was written:
Mr. John Smeaton,
L. G. D. is past. O. for O.
What does it mean? he asked.
You could never guessit is so funny, she laughed. 'L. G. D.' is
'love's golden dream.' 'O. for O.' means 'open for offers.'
Arthur's face was twitching with pain and anger, but with wonderful
self-control he asked her again:
Do you want to marry this man?
I think I do, Arthur. He's lovely.
Arthur handed her his pencil and motioned to her to sign the blank.
Oh, Arthur! she cried, do you mean it? May I sign it? Do you not
She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him impulsively.
Arthur made no response to her embrace, but the perspiration stood out
in beads on his forehead.
Sign it, he said, almost roughly. He turned away his head, while
she signed her name.
She watched him anxiously. Why didn't he speak? This was dreadfully
Thursa, he said at last, will you sing for me that Rosary song?
Just once. I want to hear it.
She sang it, sweet and tender as ever, every word a caress.
When she was done, he stood up and said very gently, but very sadly,
I wanted to be sure it was not ever meant for me. A clean cut is the
He went to his phonograph records and picked out the Rosary. Only
for a second he fondled it in his hand, then crushed it in pieces and
threw them into the fire. There now, Thursa, he said steadily, that
chapter is closed forever.
She looked at him in astonishment. Why don't you get excited and
threaten to shoot yourself and all that?
Because I have no notion of doing it, he said.
Well, I do wish you would be a little bit melodramaticthis is
deadly uninteresting. I would have loved to write home something really
This is thrilling enough for me, Thursa, he answered. Then, after
a pause, he said, Shall I send your telegram?
Not just yet, she answered. You see, Arthur, I want to be sure. I
know that Mr. Smeaton is lovely and all that, but I want to be sure he
is a gentleman. I want you to go and see him; Arthur. I will do
whatever you say.
She came and put her hands on Arthur's shoulders and looked up at
Arthur, I have not treated you very well, but you'll do this for
me, and if you find that he is not she hesitatedI do not like to
speak of him in this way, it doesn't seem right to doubt him, and I
don't doubt him really; but you will do it, won't you, Arthur?
I will not do it! he cried. Don't ask me to do this!
And Arthur, if you come back and say that I must forget him, I
will, try to, and I will marry you and try to like all these horrid
little pots and pans. I truly will, and we will never speak of this
She was looking into his face as she spoke, and there was an
earnestness in the depths of her violet eyes, a sweet womanliness, that
he had never seen before.
Oh, Thursa! he cried, his voice quivering with tenderness. You
are making it hard for mehow can I help but perjure myself to win
you? Any man would lie to you rather than lose you. Send some one else;
I can't do it. I can't come back and tell you he is worthy of you.
Thursa drew his face down to hers and kissed his cheek.
Arthur, I know you, and I will trust you. You couldn't lie; you
don't know how, and you will do this, for me.
CHAPTER XXVI. IN HONOUR'S WAYS
O memories that bless and burn,
O barren gain and bitter loss,
I kiss each bead and try at last to learn
To kiss the cross.
ARTHUR went to Brandon that night, presumably on business relating
to his house-furnishing. Not even Martha knew the nature of his visit
to the Wheat City. It was late in the evening when he arrived, so late
that he was unable to make any inquiries, but was forced to spend the
night in uncertainty, with only his own gloomy thoughts for company.
The varied night sounds of the city smote on his unaccustomed ear. The
long hall of the hotel echoed the passing of many feet; doors slammed
at intervals, and once a raucous voice called loudly for Towels for
'53'; from the room next his came the sound of talking and laughter;
farther down the hall a young baby cried dismally. Through the babel of
voices came the regular pink-pank of a banjo in the parlour below.
Outside, the wind raged against the frosted windows, train-bells rang
and whistles blew all night long, and the pounding of horses' feet on
the pavement never ceasedthere seemed to be one long procession of
heavy drays passing down the street.
In the quiet of his own house on Plover Creek Arthur had almost
forgotten the outside world that never sleepsthe rushing, careless,
inexorable world, that cannot be stayed or entreated. He had lived his
life in the country, and he loved its silent places, the kindly
silences of the country nights that lie so soothingly on the heart and
brain. To-night, the roar of the Brandon street was full of evil
significance, for this man, this interloper, whom his soul hated so
bitterly, was part of the great uncaring throng that surged past; this
rushing, jostling, aggressive life was what he stood for, this man who
had stolen from him his heart's dearest treasure.
All night long Arthur lay staring into the darkness, trying to,
fight out the greatest battle of his life; on one side Thursa and the
memory of her kisses on his cheek, and on the other side honour and
honesty, and all the traditions of his house; sometimes telling himself
sternly that there was but one course open to him, and then, suddenly
overcome by his love for her, crying out bitterly that he would never,
never give her up. The pitch-black night seemed interminable to him,
but dawn came at last, deep blue behind the frost-ferns on the window,
slowly fading to pale azure, then suddenly changing to rosiest pink as
the sun rolled up over the sandhills of the Assiniboine and sent his
cheerful rays over an untroubled white world.
At half-past eight Arthur was walking the street. No one would
imagine, to look at the quietly dressed young Englishman, that he was
going through a severe mental struggle. Without any difficulty he found
the store for which he was looking. The words on the sign, J. C.
Smeaton &Co., Dry Goods, in black and gold, seemed charged with open
A group of women stood in front of the door waiting for it to be
opened. They were looking longingly at the window display of lace
blouses, which were going to be sold, according to a staring sign, at
half the regular price. They were the typical bargain-hunters,
sharp-eyed and distrustful, and not particularly amiable. Early rising
on a cold winter morning is at the best no aid to amiability, even if
by the effort a ten-dollar blouse is bought for five.
The waiting group were discussing sales in general, and one woman
was disposed to think that all sales were snares and delusionsshe
lived on Eighteenth Street, and had had to get up very early. Another
woman exonerated herself from complicity in the matter of sales by
saying that her sister-in-law had telephoned her to come down and get
her a waist; she would never have come for herself, never! There was
only one real optimist in the crowdof course, optimism does not
usually flourish before breakfast. She declared that Smeaton's sales
were all right. If Smeaton advertised a sale it was a sale. People
could say what they liked about Jack Smeaton, but she had always found
him straight as a string.
Arthur hurried awaythe woman's crude words of praise for the man
he hated struck him like a blow between the eyes.
Arthur went first to a Church of England clergyman whom he knew
slightly, and made inquiries. The clergyman was unable to give any
information about the young man. He knew him well by sight, he said,
but he had never spoken to him. He directed Arthur to go to one of the
wardens of his church, a Mr. Bevan, who was one of the old-timers in
Brandon and knew everybody.
To Mr. Bevan's office Arthur went, and waited there an hour, for the
senior member of the firm of Bevan &Wallace, real estate brokers, did
not begin the day very early. However, he did come at last, and looked
sharply at Arthur's eager face as he made known his business.
Smeaton? Mr. Bevan cried, when Arthur was through speaking. What
do I know about young Jack Smeaton? What do you know about him? If you
can tell me anything that he has been up to that is very bad, I'll be
glad to hear it, the cheeky young beggar. Think of it! Last fall he
went out making political speechesI heard him! He's a rabid Grit,
too, will stop at nothing to get a vote. Oh, yes, I know Jack Smeaton.
Would you call him a man of honour? Arthur asked.
Man of honour? the old man cried excitedly. Bless your heart,
what have I just told you? Didn't I say he was a Grit? Why don't you
listen, man, to what I am telling you? His voice fell to a
confidential whisper. Young Jack Smeaton is one of the strongest Grits
in this city, and he has a very great influence on the young men, for
they like him, mind you. Oh, he is a bad one, a deep one, and don't you
Would you consider him a man worthy of trust? Arthur said eagerly,
trying to pierce through the old man's political prejudice.
Trust! the other man repeated, scorn, wonder, contempt in his
voice. Young man, where were you at the time of the last election? You
talk like a man from Mars. Didn't you hear about the ballot-stuffing
that went on here? How do you suppose the Grits carried this
constituency? No, sir; I would not trust him, or any of them.
Arthur rose to go.
My advice to you, young man, is to have no dealings with Jack
Smeaton. He's pretty nearly sure to influence you, for, mind you, he
has a way with him.
Arthur walked back to his room at the hotel with many conflicting
emotions struggling in his heart. Jack Smeaton was evidently a man of
strong character, and a flirtation such as he had carried on with
Thursa would mean nothing to himhe had probably forgotten it by this
time. Couldn't he honestly go back and tell Thursa that one of the
church-wardens, to whom the clergyman had sent him for information, had
told him emphatically to have nothing to do with Jack Smeaton? Thursa
would ask to know nothing further. She had said, with that sweet look
in her face, that if he came back and told her to forget this fellow
she would marry him and do her best. Arthur recalled every tone of her
dear voice, the touch of her soft little hands, as she drew his face
down to hers when she said this. Thursa was his own. She had come from
England as his affianced wife. What right had this adventurer to steal
her away from him? Arthur clenched his fists and raged at the man who
had done him this injury. He would go back to Thursa in the morning,
and they would be happy yet. This man's name would never be mentioned
Arthur was not nearly so happy in this resolve as he expected to be.
There was a distinct uneasiness in his heart that increased as the day
went on. At five o'clock he stood outside the Smeaton store, to which
he seemed drawn by a strange fascination. The man who was so largely in
his thoughts was, no doubt, only a few feet away from him, happy,
careless, prosperous, arrogant, having his own way by hook or crook.
The clock struck the half-hour. The store would be closed six.
Arthur started back to the hotel. What did he care when the store
closed? It was nothing to him. At the corner of Rosser and Eighth
Street some Salvation Army people were holding a meeting, and as he
passed through the crowd the tinkle of their cymbals in a familiar tune
came to his ear. Then a dozen voices, clear and distinct, broke into
If some poor wandering child of Thine,
Has spurned to-day the voice divine,
Now, Lord, the gracious work begin,
Let him no more lie down in sin.
It brought him back to the old life at home, this dear old hymn of
his childhood, with its old-fashioned, monotonous tune, and it awakened
in his consciousness the voices he was trying hard to silence. A light
shone in upon him and showed him a straight path, a hard road, set with
thorns, which he must follow. The colour suddenly went from Arthur's
face as he realized which way the path of honour led.
Abide with me from morn till eve,
For without Thee I cannot live.
sang the Army, while Arthur, pale and trembling on the outer edge of
the crowd, leaned against a lamppost for support. He did not hear the
words they were singing, but the old tune beat into heart and brain the
memories of his home and childhood. He saw his father's saintly face,
proud and strong, unstained by any compromise with evil, and it called
to him across the sea to play the man.
The Army had sung the hymn all through, and now they were kneeling
in prayer; a thin-voiced girl led the petitions, while the others,
frequently interjected exclamations of thanksgiving. Arthur did not
hear a word of it, but into his troubled heart there came peace and the
strength of God, which alone is able to make a man swear to his own
He walked rapidly back to the store he had left and asked to see Mr.
Smeaton. Mr. Smeaton had his hat and coat on, about to leave the store,
but he came back, and, taking Arthur into his office, offered him a
Arthur remained standing, and, without speaking, gave the young man
a searching glance. What he saw was a muscular young fellow, of about
his own age, with clear gray eyes and curling brown hair. He was
faultlessly dressed, and had an unmistakably straightforward expression
What can I do for you? the young merchant asked.
Without a word Arthur took from his pocket Thursa's telegram. His
hand trembled, and he had a queer, dizzy feeling as he did it, but he
put it safely in the other man's hand.
Away across the sea, in the Rectory of St. Agnes, a gray-haired
father and mother were praying for their boy so far away, and their
prayer for him that day was not that he might have wealth, or ease, or
fame, or the praise of men, nor that he might always gain his heart's
desirenot that at all; they asked for him a greater gift stillthat
he might always walk in honour's ways.
Jack Smeaton's face was illumined with joy as he read Thursa's
Did she send me this? Where is she? I want to see herwho are
you? he asked, all in one breath.
Something in Arthur's face told him who he was. You are Arthur, he
The two young men stood looking at each other, but for a full minute
I have only one question to ask you, Mr. Smeaton, Arthur said at
last. Do you love her?
I do, the other man replied, as God hears me. And Arthur,
looking into his clear gray eyes, believed him, and his last hope
I feel like a miserable sneak in your presence, Jack Smeaton said
humbly. Upon my word, that enchanting little beauty turned my brain.
Isn't she the most bewitching little girl in all the world?
I have always thought so, Arthur said quietly. I have behaved
badly to you, Mr.
Wemyss, Arthur said.
Mr. Wemyss, and I humbly apologize.
It is not necessary, Arthur said, with an effort. Her happiness
is the only thing to be considered. She was only a child when she gave
me her promise, only seventeen, and I can see now that she would not be
happy with me.
Come with me now, Mr. Wemyss. I want you to meet my people. They
will be glad to have you stay for dinner.
Thank you, Arthur said, trying hard to speak naturally. I would
I shall go back with you to-morrow, if I may, Mr. Smeaton said. I
cannot just say to you all that is in my heart, but you have taught me
a lesson on what it is to be a gentleman.
He held out his hand, which Arthur took without hesitation, and they
That night as Jack Smeaton was selecting a pearl necklace for
Thursa, along with all sorts of other beautiful gifts, he was pondering
deeply one thoughtthat perhaps, after all, successive generations of
gentle breeding do count for something in the make-up of a man, and
having a bishop in the family may help a little, too.
CHAPTER XXVII. THE WEDDING
Life? 'Tis the story of love and troubles
Of troubles and love that travel together
The round world through.
WHEN Arthur and Jack Smeaton arrived at the Perkins home the next
morning, and announced that the wedding would take place at once, Mrs.
Perkins, without waiting for further details, made an emergency visit
to the hen-house and slew six chickensthere could be no wedding
without fried chicken. Then she came back to find out who was to be the
Mr. Perkins was hurriedly despatched for Pearl Watson, who was to be
the bridesmaid, and Mr. and Mrs. Watson and Aunt Kate, who were to be
the guests. Mr. Perkins, who had refused to leave the house without
being dressed in his other suit, was in the hilarious humour that
went with his good clothes when he reached the Watson home.
By golly! John, he said, that Arthur's a game one, and don't you
forget ithe's simply handed his girl over to the other fellow; and I
tell you he's done it handsome, just as cool and cheerful about it as
if he liked the job. The little girl there, that Thursa, she's pretty
enough to make men draw their shootin'-irons on each other. I'm
fifty-three year old myself, but, by jingo! I was proud to be seen
walkin' down the street with her yesterday in Millford; she drove in
with me, and we walked around a bit. She had a hat as big as a waggon
wheel, carrying as many plumes as a hearse. Whew! You should 'a' seen
the people lookin' at us. She took my arm, mind ye, John; and say, now,
I can't understand Arthur bringin' that other gent right back with him.
Arthur went up to find out about this fellow, if he was the straight
goods, and all thatshe told me the hull thing yesterday. It was a
secret, she said, but she just told me and the missus and Marthashe
didn't see any one elseand she was that glad to-day when she saw this
'Jack' fellow that she kissed him and kissed Arthur, tooa kind of
overflow meetin' his wasI stood around handy by, but she over-looked
me some way; and then her and Jack went into the parlour to decide who
was goin' to be boss and a few things like that, and I'll be blessed if
Arthur didn't pitch right in to help Martha and the missus to get
dinner ready. Never winked an eyelash, that fellowthe English have
great grit, when you get a nice one. So hurry along now, we'll have to
rustle. The minister's comin' at twelve o'clock sharp, and they're
goin' away on the afternoon train. He's a right smart-lookin' fellow,
this Jackthe little girl's doin' well, all right, all right; he maybe
hasn't got as good a pedigree as Arthur, but he'll suit her better. She
won't sass back to him, I'll bet, the way she would to Arthur. She'd
give Arthur a queer old time, I know, but this chap'll manage her; he's
got that sort of a way with him. I could see it, though I was only
speakin' a few words to him.
* * *
Pearl was dressed in her cream silk dress, and carried a bouquet of
Land sakes! Aunt Kate exclaimed, where does anyone get roses at
this time o' year, I'd like to know?
I lived in Ontario many a year, and that's what I never saw was
roses in December. They must 'a' had a sheltered place to grow in. And
every person who heard her was too loyal a Manitoban to enlighten her.
Thursa, in a trailing gown of white silk mull, came into the parlour
leaning on Arthur's arm, and made the responses as demurely as the
staid Aunt Prudence would have desired. Any one looking at Arthur's
unmoved face would never have guessed at the tragedy that was taking
place in the young man's heart.
The wedding breakfast was a very jolly meal, and everybody, Arthur
included, was in the best of humour. Young Jack Smeaton clearly
demonstrated that the old lawyer had expressed the truth when he said:
Jack Smeaton has a way with him. He discussed the various knitting
wools with Mrs. Perkins, and told Thomas Perkins a new way of putting
formalin on his seed-wheat to get rid of the smut, and how to put
patches on grain bags with flour paste. Mrs. Perkins told very vividly
the story of Mary Ann Corbett's wedding, where the bridegroom failed
'to appear, and she married her first love, who was acting in the
capacity of best man, and the old man Corbett gave them the deed of one
hundred and fifty acres of land, and a cow and a feather bed, and some
other tokens of paternal affection, and they lived happy ever
While she was telling this, her husband, in his usual graphic way,
told his story, which happened to be on this occasion an account of the
death of his old friend, Tony Miner; which had happened the winter
The last words Tony saidmind ye, he was sensible to the lastwas
to tell his missus not to let the undertaker do her on the price of the
coffin. He was a very savin' man, was Tony, but he needn't have
worried, for the old lady could see a hole in a ladder as quick as most
people, and even an undertaker couldn't get ahead of her. The old lady
went herself and picked out the coffin. They sent it out in a box, of
course, with Tony's name on it in big black letters, and when they
charged her a dollar for the box she wanted them to take it back, but
they said they couldn't when it had the name on it; but I tell you,
she's a savin' woman, and no wonder Tony died rich. She wasn't goin' to
let the box go to waste when it cost money, so she made a door for the
hen-house out of it, and there it is yet, with 'Anthony Miner' in big
black letters on it. Some say she's goin' to make it answer for a
headstone, but I don't know about that. She's a fine savin' woman, and
no one can say she is superstitious anyway, or filled with false
The two stories ran concurrently and filled in most of the time at
the table. Mr. Perkins did not believe in having awkward pauses or any
Pearl could not help noticing the glow on Martha's cheek and the
sympathetic way she had of watching Arthur.
My, but women are queer, Pea thought to her self. Here's Martha,
now, glad as glad that the other fellow has got Thursa, and still
feelin' so sorry for Arthur she can't eat her vittles. Wasn't it fine
that Martha had so' much good stuff cooked in the house and was able to
set up such a fine meal at a minute's notice? I wonder if it ever
strikes Arthur what a fine housekeeper she is? I'll bet Miss Thursa'll
never be able to bake a jenny Lind cake like this, or jell red currants
so you can cut them with a knife.
Thursa and Jack left on the five o'clock train. It was a heavy,
misty day, the kind that brings a storm, and the loose snow that lay on
the ground needed only a strong enough wind to make a real Manitoba
The bride and groom, with Arthur and Martha, drove in the Perkins
double cutter. Dr. Clay, who had not been able to come to the wedding,
came out afterward, and he and Pearl drove behind.
At the station there was only time for a hurried good-bye. Thursa
seemed to take a more serious view of life, now that the real parting
had come. She held Arthur's hand in a close grasp. You've behaved
awfully decent, Arthur, she said earnestly.
Arthur smiled bravely and thanked her.
The last to say good-bye were Jack and Arthur. It was an
embarrassing moment for both of them, but their handclasp was warm and
genuine, and Jack said in a low voice: I'll try to be worthy of her,
old man, and of you.
Arthur spoke not a word.
The train pulled out of the station and made its way slowly over the
long Souris bridge. They watched it wind up the steep grade until it
was hidden by a turn of the hill, and even then they stood listening to
the hoarse boom of the whistle that came down the misty valley. The
wind, that seemed to be threatening all day, came whistling down the
street, driving before it little drifts of snow as they turned away
from the station platform.
Dr. Clay took Pearl over to Mrs. Francis, where she was to stay for
the night. Arthur and Martha drove home in silence. When they reached
the door Martha said: Come in, Arthur, and stay; don't try to get your
own supper to-night.
Arthur roused himself with an effort. I think I'll go home, Martha,
Mr. Perkins came out and helped Arthur to put away the team. Martha
stood watching him as he walked across the field to his own little
lonely house. The snow was drifting in clouds across the fields, and
sometimes hid him from sight, but Martha stood straining her eyes for
the last glimpse of him. Her heart was full of tenderness for him, a
great, almost motherly tenderness, for he was suffering, and he was
lonely, and her heart's greatest desire was to help him.
Arthur went bravely back to his own desolate housethe house that
he had built with such loving thoughts. The fire was dead, like his own
false hopes, and the very ticking of the clock seemed to taunt him with
his loss. The last time he had been here she was with him. It was there
beside the window that she had told him about this man; it was there
she had kissed him, and he had held her close to his heart for one
sweet moment; it was there he had fought so hard to give her up. But he
loved her still, and would always love her, the violet-eyed Thursa, the
sweetheart of his boyish dreams.
He made an attempt to light the fire, but it would not burnit was
like everything else, he told himself, it was against him. He went out
and fed his horses and made them comfortable for the night, and then
came back to his deserted house, dark now, and chilly and comfortless.
With the light of his lantern he saw something white on the floor.
He picked it up listlessly, and then the odour of violets came to
himit was Thursa's hand-kerchief, that she had dropped that day. He
buried his face in it, and groaned.
The wind had risen since sunset, and now the snow sifted drearily
against his windows. Down the chimney came the weird moaning of the
storm, sobbing and pitiful sometimes, and then angry and defiant. He
sat by the black stove with his overcoat on, holding the little
handkerchief against his lips, while the great, bitter sobs of manhood
tore their way through his heart.
All night long, while the storm raged around the little house and
rattled every door and window, he sat there numb with cold and dumb
with sorrow. The lantern burned out, unnoticed. At daylight he threw
himself across the bed, worn out with grief and loneliness, and slept a
heavy sleep, still holding the violet-scented handkerchief to his lips.
* * *
When Arthur woke the sun was pouring in through the frosted windows.
He got up hastily and took off his overcoat; he was stiff and
uncomfortable. He went hurriedly out to his little kitchen, thinking of
the horses, which needed his care. An exclamation of surprise burst
from his lips.
A bright fire was burning in the stove, and a delicious odour of
frying ham came to his nostrils. His table was set with a white cloth,
and on it was placed a dainty enough breakfast to tempt the appetite of
He went hurriedly to the door and looked outthere were tracks
through the high drifts of snow! He turned back to the table and poured
himself a cup of steaming coffee. Dear old Martha, he said, she is a
jolly good sort!
Arthur was gloriously hungry, and ate like a hunter. It was his
first square meal for more than twenty-four hours, and every bite of it
tasted good to him. I never even thanked Martha for all her kindness,
he said, when he was done; but that's the beauty of Martha, she
understands without being told.
CHAPTER XXVIII. A SAIL! A SAIL!
The buds may blow and the fruit may grow
And the autumn leaves drop crisp and sere;
But whether the rain or the sun or the snow,
There is ever a song somewhere, my dear.
James Whitcomb Riley.
THE first week after Thursa's marriage Arthur kept to his own house,
and the neighbours, with fine' tact, stayed away. Many and varied were
the ways they took of showing the sincerity of their sympathy. A roast
of spare ribs, already cooked, was left one day mysteriously on his
door-step; the next day a jar of pincherry jelly and a roll of
jelly-cake were there. His mail was brought to him daily by one or
other of the neighbours, and when it seemed to John Green's kind heart
that Arthur's mail was very small and uninteresting, he brought over
several back numbers of the Orillia Packet, one of which contained
obituary verses that his own cousin had composed, and which Mr. Green
marked with wavy ink lines, so that Arthur would be sure to see them.
Mr. Green thought that his cousin's lachrymal symposium on the
uncertainty of all things human should be very comforting to Arthur in
his present mental state. Little parcels, too, came mysteriously
through the mail to Arthur. One day it was a pair of socks, from an
anonymous contributor; another time there came a pair of woollen
mittens, red and blue, done in that intricate pattern which is known to
the elect as Fox and Geese. A little slip of paper, pinned on the
wrist of one, stated that they were from a friend, and Arthur
shrewdly suspected that Aunt Kate Shenstone had sent them. The evil
significance of the gift was not known to the giver, and not noticed by
These new evidences of neighbourly solicitude carried the intended
message, for they brought to his mind the comfort of knowing that there
were loyal-hearted friends all around him who were sincerely sorry for
It was a week before Arthur left his own house, and then he went for
his bread to the Perkins home. If he had not been so burdened with his
own trouble he would surely have noticed how carefully Martha was
dressed, how light her step, how happy her face. The tiny speck on the
horizon had been a sail, sure enough. It might not be coming her
wayit might never see the shipwrecked sailorbut it was a sail!
Pearlie Watson, the very day after the wedding, began to do some
hard thinking on Martha's behalf. One factstood out above all
othersthere was a chance for Martha now, if she could only qualify.
Pearl talked it over with her Aunt Kate, who was a woman of the
world, and had seen many marriages and much giving in marriage. Aunt
Kate was hopeful, even confident, of the outcome of the present case.
Of course Martha'll get him! she said. Why shouldn't she? I never
in all my life seen better hard soft soap than what she makes, and her
bread is as light as a feather, you could make a meal of it; and now
since she's took to fluffin' her hair, and dressin' up so' nice, she's
a good enough lookin' girl. She ain't as educated as he is, of course,
but land alive! you couldn't beat that hard soft soap of hers, no
matter what education you had.
Pearl shook her head and wished that she could share her aunt's
optimism, but she felt that something more than a knowledge of
soap-making was needed for a happy married life. On her way to school
she thought about it so hard that it seemed to her that any one coming
behind her would be sure to find some of her thoughts in the snow.
Mr. Donald, who saw that something was troubling her, inquired the
cause of her worried face.
Of course, I do not want to know if it is a secret, Pearl, he
said; but it may be that I could help you if I knew all about it.
Pearl looked at him before replying.
It isn't a secret that I was told and promised, not to tell. It is
something that I found out by accident, or, at least, all by my own
self, and still it's not to be talked about, only among friends.
Mr. Donald nodded.
Pearl went on: Maybe now you're just the one that could help me. I
believe I will tell you all about it.
This was at recess. The children were out playing shinney. They
could hear the shouts of the contending sides. Pearl told him her hopes
and fears regarding Martha. Martha's all right at heart, you bet, she
concluded; she's good enough for Arthur or any one, really. If she had
vulgar ways or swore when she got mad, or sassed her Ma, or told lies,
or was stingy or mean or anything like that, it would be far worse and
harder to get rid of, because nothing but a miracle of grace will cast
out the roots of sin, and then even it is a big risk to marry any one
like that, because you're never sure but one tiny little root may be
left, and in due season it may bust up and grow.
It may, indeed, Mr. Donald said, smiling. Then he added, when his
smile had faded: 'Bust up and grow' are the words to express it.
But if Martha could only get smoothed up in education, and know
about William the Conqueror, and what causes tides, and could talk a
little more and answer back a little smarter like, it would be all
right, I do believe.
I have known men to marry uneducated women, and be very fond of
them, too, said Mr. Donald thoughtfully. Some of the Hudson's Bay
factors married squaws.
I know, Pearl agreed. Old Louie Baker, the surveyor's guide, told
Pa about his squaw, Rosie. He Eked Rosie fine, and thought she was real
pretty when there wasn't a white woman in sight, but when the white
women began to come into the country he got ashamed of poor Rosie, and
every day she seemed to get dirtier and greasier, and her toes turned
in more; and, anyway, Mr. Donald, it's hard for a woman to feel that
she isn't just up to the mark. Gettin' married ain't all there is to
it, you bet. It's only in books that they say people git married, and
leave it like that, for that's when the real hard times beginkeepin'
it up and makin' it turn out well. That's the hard part.
Mr. Donald looked at her in wonder. You have wisdom beyond your
years, Pearl, he said gravely.
All Martha needs is more education, and there's lots of it lyin'
around looseit's stickin' out of every-thingit's in the air and on
the ground, and all over, and it seems too bad if Martha can't grab
holt of some of it, and her so anxious for it.
The well is deep, and she has nothing to draw with, the
schoolmaster quoted absently.
Pearl recognized the words, and quickly answered: Do you mind that
the woman was wrong about that when she said there was nothing to draw
with? Well, now, I believe Martha has something to draw with, tooshe
has you and me, so she has. You have the education that Martha needs.
I'm gettin' it every day. Can't you and I pass it on to Martha?
How, Pearl? he asked.
I don't know just yet. I haven't got it thought out that far. But
there's some way, there's always some way to help people.
It was time to call school then, and no more was said until the next
day, when Mr. Donald said to Pearl: I believe events are coming our
way. Mrs. Steadman told me last night that she was going to Ontario for
three months, and I am to go elsewhere to board. I wonder would Mrs.
Perkins take me in?
Pearl gave an exclamation of joy. Would she? she cried. You bet
she would, and you could help Martha every night. Isn't it just dandy
the way things happen?
That night Pearl went to see Martha on her way home from school.
Pearl was to find out if the teacher would be taken to board.
Martha was alone in the house, her father and mother having gone to
Millford. When Pearl knocked at the door, Martha opened it. A
spelling-book was in her hand, which she laid down hurriedly.
Pearl made known her errand. It was too good to be delayed.
Say, Martha, isn't it great? He'll help you every nighthe can
tell you the most interesting thingshe gets lots of newspapers and
magazines, and he knows about electricity and politics and poetry and
everything, and a person can get educated just by listening to him.
Martha stood looking at Pearl a minute, then suddenly threw her arms
around her. You are my good angel, Pearl Watson! she cried. You are
always bringing me good things. Of course we'll take him, and be glad
to have him; and I'll listen to him, you may be sure; and Pearl, I just
can't help telling you that I'm so happy nowI can't tell you how
happy I am.
Martha's brimming eyes seemed to contradict her words, but Pearl,
who understood something of the springs of the heart, understood.
I can't help being happy, Martha went on. I tell myself that it's
wicked for me to feel so glad Thursa's gone, when he's so miserable
over it. But she wouldn't ever have suited him, would she, Pearl? She'd
have made him miserable before long, and herself, too; but that's not
all the reason that I'm glad she's gone, she added, truthfully.
Martha's face was hidden on Pearl's shoulder as she said this.
I know about it, Pearl said. I found it all out that day when you
were showing me the room, and I'm just as pleased as you are, or pretty
near. Of course, it would never have done for him to marry Thursa, and
the way it all turned out would convince any one that Providence ain't
feelin' above takin' a hand in people's affairs. She was nice and
pretty, and all that, but she's the kind that would always have sour
bread, and you bet, sour bread cuts love; she'd be just like Dave
Elder's wife, it tires her dreadful to sweep the floor; but she can go
to three dances a week, and then she lies on the lounge all day and
says her nerves are bad. But, Martha, you do right to be glad. It's
never wrong to be happy. God made everything to have a good time. Look
at the gophers and birds, and even the mosquitoesthey have a bang-up
time while it lasts. We've got to be happy every chance we get.
Whenever you see it passin' by take a grab at it. I mind, when I was a
wee little thing, I had a piece of bright blue silk that I had found,
and it was just lovely; it put me through a whole winter takin' a look
at it now and then. I had to stay at home while Ma was washing, and it
was pretty cold in the house sometimes, but the blue silk kept me
heartened up. It's just like a piece on Arthur's phonographhere and
there in it there's a little tinklin' song, so sweet and liltin' it
just cuts into yer heart; but, mind you, you don't get much o' that at
a time. There's all kinds of clatterin' crash, smash, and jabber on
both sides of it, cuttin' in on both ends of it, and just when yer
gettin' tired of rough house, in she sails again sweeter than ever,
just puttin' yer heart crossways with the sweetness of it. It keeps
ringin' in my ears all the time, that dear little ripplin', tinklin'
tune, and perhaps it needed all that gusty buzzin' and rip-roarin' to
drive the sweetness clean into you. That's the way it is always;
Martha; we've got to listen for the little song whenever we can hear
I am listening to it all the time, Pearl, Martha said softly. It
may not be meant for me at all, but it is sweet while it lasts, and I
can't help hearing it, can I, Pearl?
Pearl kissed her friend warmly and whispered words of hope, and
then, fearing that this might be faith without works, heard her spell a
page of words from Bud's old speller.
CHAPTER XXIX. MARTHA'S STRONG
How does love speak?
THE next week Mr. Donald moved over to the Perkins home. His trunks
had been sent over in the morning, and after school he walked home with
Pearl. Mr. Donald had seen Martha at the services in the schoolhouse,
but had not spoken to her. Pearl now brought him in triumphantly and
introduced him to Mrs. Perkins and Martha.
The cleanliness and comfort of the big square kitchen, with its
windows filled with blooming plants, the singing canary, the
well-blackened range with its cheerful squares of firelight, the
bubbling tea-kettle, all seemed to promise rest and comfort. Martha,
neatly dressed in a dark blue house dress, with dainty white collar and
apron, greeted, him hospitably, and told, him she hoped he would be
comfortable with them. There was no trace of awkwardness in her manner,
only a shy reserve that seemed to go well with her steady gray eyes and
gentle voice. Pearl was distinctly proud of Martha.
When Mr. Donald went up to his room he looked around him in pleased
surprise. It was only a small room, but it was well-aired, and had that
elusive, indescribable air of comfort which some rooms have, and
others, without apparent reason, have not. The stovepipe from the
kitchen range ran through it, giving it ample warmth. His room at Mrs.
Steadman's had been of about the temperature of a well. It was with a
decided feeling of satisfaction that the school-master hung his
overcoat on a hook behind the door and sat down in the cushioned
rocking-chair. A rag carpet, gaily striped in red, green, and yellow,
covered the floor, and a tawny wolf-skin lay in front of the bed.
This looks good to me, said the schoolmaster, stretching himself
luxuriously in his chair and enjoying the warmth of the room, with the
pleasant feeling that at last he had one little spot that he could call
his own, where he could sit and read and think, or, if he wanted to,
just sit and be comfortable. From below came the pleasant rattle of
dishes and an appetizing odour of baking chicken.
Mr. Donald went to the wash-stand, and washed his hands, smiling
pleasantly to himself. Martha, like you, he was saying, and I'll
gladly make a deal with you. I have quite a stock of history and
geography and literature and other things which we call knowledge, and
I will gladly, part with it for just such things as these, looking
around him approvingly. Give me cream on my porridge, Martha, and I'll
teach you all I know and more. A few minutes later Mr. Donald went
down to supper.
Mr. Perkins did the honours of the table, and each wore his coat
while he carved the chicken, as a token of respect for the new boarder.
He hospitably urged Mr. Donald to eat heartily, though there was no
special need of urging him, for Martha's good cooking and dainty
serving were proving a sufficient invitation.
Mr. Perkins was in fine fettle, and gave a detailed account of the
visit he and Sam Motherwell made to Winnipeg to interview the
Department of Education about the formation of the Chicken-Hill School
District. Mr. Donald was much amused by his host's description of the
Big Chief of educational matters.
You see, I knowed cousins of his down below, near Owen Sound, Mr.
Perkins said, though I didn't see that he favoured them at all at
first; but when I got a look at him between the ears I could see the
very look of the old man his uncle. Maybe you've seen him, have you?
Long-faced, lantern-jawed old pelter, with a face like a
coffinthey're the kind you have to look out for; they'd go through
you like an electric shock! Well, sir, Sam and me was sittin' there on
the edge of our chairs, and that old rack o' bones just riddled us with
questions. Sam got suspicious that there was a job gittin' put up on us
some way, and so he wouldn't say a word for fear it would raise the
taxes, and that left all the talkin' to me. Now, I don't mind carryin'
on a reasonable conversation with any one, but, by jinks, nobody could
talk to that man. I tried to get a chance to tell him about knowin' his
folks, and a few amusin' things that came to me about the time his
uncle Zeb was married and borrowed my father's black coat for the
occasion, but, land alive, he never let up on his questions. He asked
me every blamed thing about every family in the neighbourhood. He had
the map of the township right before him, and wrote down everything I
told him nearly. I was scared to death we hadn't enough children to get
the Gover'ment grant, and so I had to give twins to the Steadmans
twice, both pairs of school age. I wasn't just sure of how many we
needed to draw the grant, but I was bound to have enough to be sure of
it. Sam Motherwell's no good to take along with you at a time like
that; he kinda gagged when I gave George the second pair of twins, and
when the old man went out he went at me about it, and said it was not a
decent way to treat a neighbour and him not there to deny it. I told
him: 'My land sakes alive! I hadn't said nothin' wrong about either
George Steadman or the twins; and it's no disgrace to have 'em. Plenty
of good people have twins.'
Well, sir, when the old man came back he asked me a whole string of
questions about them two pair of twins, just as if everything depended
on them. I had to name them first thing. I got the girls all
rightLily and Rose I called thembut when he asked me about the boys
I couldn't think of anything that would do for the boys except 'Buck'
and 'Bright.' Of course I explained that them wasn't really their
names, but that's what everyone called them, they were such cute little
chaps and looked just alike, only Buck toed in a little. I kicked Sam
to pitch in and tell something about their smart ways, but he just sat
like a man in a dream; he never seemed to get over his surprise at them
comin'. All this time the old lad was leafin' over a great big book he
had, and askin' the greatest lot of fool questions about the twins. I
told him that Lily and Rose was pretty little things with yalla hair
and they sang 'The Dyin' Nun' at a concert we had in the church at
Millford somethin' grand; and the two boys were the greatest lads, I
said, to trap gophersterrible shame not to have a school for them.
Then the old chap looked at me, and his face seemed to be as long as a
horse's, an' he says, lookin' square at me: 'I'm real glad you told me
about Mr. Steadman's twins, because it's the first we've heard of them.
Mr. Steadman is a mightly careless man to only register two
childrenThomas J., born October 20, 1880, and Maud Mary, born sick a
time 1882, and not a single entry of the twins, either pair; and here
the first we hear of them is when they begin to feel the need of an
educationBuck and Bright trappin' gophers, and Lily and Rose
delightin' large audiences with 'The Dyin' Nun' and other classic gems.
Any father might well be proud of them. I'll write to Mr. Steadman and
tell him just what I think of such carelessness. Even if Buck does toe
in a little that's no reason why him and his runnin' mate shouldn't
have a place in the files of his country. I'll mention to Mr. Steadman
that we're deeply indebted to his friend and neighbour for putting us
right in regard to his family tree.
Well, Sir, I could see I had put my foot in it up to the knee, but
I was game, you bet, and looked back at him as cool as a cucumber. I
wasn't going to go back on them twins now when I had brought them into
the world, as you might say; so I just said George Steadman was kinda
careless about some things, he'd been cluttered up with politics for
quite a while, and I guess he'd overlooked having the kids registered,
but I'd speak to him about it. I'm a pretty good bluffer myself, but I
couldn't fool that man. His face seemed to me to get longer every
minute, and says he, when we were coming away, 'Give my love to the
twins, Mr. Perkins, both pairinterestin' children, I'm sure they
My land sakes alive, you should have heard Motherwell pitch into me
when we got out. Sam was as huffy about it as a wet hen.
It's no good tryin' to fool them lads. I got my lesson that time,
if I'd just had sense enough to know it; but if you believe me, sir, I
got caught again. (Eh, what's that? Have another piece of chicken.) It
was when I went to Montreal to see about the lump in my jaw. Did ye
hear about the trouble we had that year, summer of '87? Big crop, but
frozenforty-seven cents, by George, best you could do. Well, sir,
didn't I take a lump in my jawjust like you've seen in those mangy
steers. It wasn't very big at first, but it grooved something awful. I
got a bottle of Mason's Lump jaw cure, but it just peeled the hide off
me, and the lump grew bigger than ever. The missus here got scared she
was goin' to lose me, and nothin' would do her but that I'd have to go
to Montreal to see Dr. Murray. Now, I've always heard that he's awful
easy on poor men, but takes it out of the rich ones, so you can bet I
went prepared to put up a hard-luck story. I wore a boiled shirt, goin'
down, but you bet I peeled it off before I went to see him, and I told
him a pretty likely story about livin' on a rented farm, and me with a
big family, most of them sickly like their ma's folks. He seemed awful
sorry for me and wrote down my name and where I lived, and all that,
and by George, I began to think he was goin' to pay my way back or give
me the price of a cow or somethin'. He husked out the lump quick
enough, had me come at seven o'clockthat man gets up as early as a
farmerand when I came to settle up he says to me: 'Mr. Perkins, if I
was you I wouldn't live on a rented farm any longer. I'd go on one of
my ownthe north half of seventeen therewhat's the matter with that?
My secretary tells me you own that and there's two hundred acres under
cultivation, and then there's that quarter-section of yours just across
the Assiniboine, where you keep your polled Angus cattle. It really
seems too bad for you to be grubbin along on a rented farm when you
have four hundred and eighty acres of your owngood land, too.' Then
he laughed, and I knew I was up against it, and I tried to laugh, too,
but my laugh wasn't near as hearty as his. Then he says: 'It do beat
all how many poor men with large sickly families, livin' on rented
farms, come here to see me; but'says; he, gittin' close up to me, and
kinda tappin' me on the shoulder 'did you ever hear about an angel
writin' in a big bookwritin' steady day and night? Well, says he,
'here's one of them books,' and he whipped over the pages and showed me
my name, where I lived and all. 'Ye can't fool the angels,' says he,
'and now I'll just trouble you for an even hundred,' says he. 'I have
had three workin'-girls in to see me about their eyes today, and I done
them free. I was writin' for some one like you to come along and settle
for them when he was settlin' for his own. I paid it without a kick,
you bet. Don't it beat the cars? Eh? What?
Mr. Donald laughed heartily and agreed with Mr. Perkins that honesty
was the best policy.
While her father was telling his story Martha sat thinking her own
thoughts. She had listened to his reminiscences so often that they had
long ago ceased to interest her. The schoolmaster studied her face
closely. No wonder she is quiet, he thought to himself, she has
never had a chance to talk. There is no room in the conversation for
any one else when her voluble parent unfurls his matchless tongue.
Martha cannot or does not talk for the same reason that people that
live in the dark in time lose the power to see, because they haven't
had it to do.
That night Arthur came over for his bread. The schoolmaster noticed
the sudden brightening of Martha's face when Arthur's knock sounded on
the door, and the animated, eager way in which she listened to every
word he said. There was a feeling of good-fellowship, too, between them
which did not escape the sharp eyes of the schoolmaster. Arthur likes
her, he thought, that's a sure thing; but I'm afraid it's that
brotherly, sort of thing that's really no good. But, of course, time
may bring it all right. He's thinking too much now of the fair-haired
Thursa. It's hard to begin a new song when the echoes of the old song
are still ringing in your ears.
Through the open doorway he could see Martha in the kitchen filling
the basket that Arthur had brought over for his bread. The breadthree
loaveswas put in the bottom, rolled in a snow-white flour-sack; then
she put in a roasted chicken, a fruit-cake and a jar of cream.
Strong arguments in your favour, Martha, the teacher said, smiling
to himself as he watched her.
They are good, sensible, cogent arguments, every one of them,
Martha, and my own opinion is that you will win.
CHAPTER XXX. ANOTHER MATCH-MAKER
Music waves eternal wands.
THE days went by pleasantly for the school-master, who became more
and more interested in Martha's struggle for an education. He spent
many of his evenings in directing her studies or in reading to her, and
Martha showed her gratitude in a score of ways. Pearl was delighted
with the turn events had taken, and before the month of January had
gone declared that she could see results. Martha was learning.
There was one other person in the neighbourhood who was taking an
interest in Martha's case and was determined to help it along, and that
was Dr. Emeritus Emory, the music-teacher of the Souris valley.
Dr. Emory was a mystery, a real, live, undiscoverable mystery. All
that was really known of him was that he had come from England several
years before and worked as an ordinary farm-hand with a farmer at the
Brandon Hills. He was a steady, reliable man, very quiet and reticent.
That he knew anything about music was discovered quite by accident one
day when the family for whom he worked were all away to a picnic and
Emer was left to mind the house. One of the neighbour's boys came
over to borrow a neck-yoke. Emer, glad to be alone in the house, was
in the parlour playing the piano. The neighbour's boy knocked and
knocked at the back door, but got no response. Finally he went around
to the front and looked in the window to see who was playing the piano,
and there sat Emer ripplin' it off by the yard, the boy said
afterward, the smashin'est band music you ever heard.
Soon after that Emer left the plough, and Dr Emeritus Emory began
to teach music to the young people of the neighbourhood and of the
neighbourhoods beyond, for he was fond of long walks and thought
nothing of twenty miles in a day. His home was where night found him,
and, being of a genial, kindly nature, he was a welcome guest at many a
The music-teacher's reticence regarding his own affairs exasperated
some of the women. There was no human way of finding out who he was or
why he left home. Mrs. George Steadman once indignantly exclaimed,
speaking of Dr. Emory,You can't even tell if he's married, or if
she's livin'. Maybe she is, for all we know. He never gets no mail.
George went and asked.
Dr. Emory was equally silent on the happenings at the houses at
which he stayed. Mrs. Steadman pointed out to Mrs. Motherwell that if
the old lad wanted he could be real chatty, instead of sittin' around
singin' his little fiddlin' toons. Here last week when he came to give
Maudie her lesson he came straight from Slater's, and I was just dyin'
to know if they was gettin' ready for Edith's weddin'. We heard it had
been put off, and so I asked him out straight if he saw much sewin'
around. 'They were sewin' onion seed,' says he. He seems kinda stoopid
sometimes. But I says to him, makin' it as plain as I could, 'I mean,
did ye see any sewin' around the house, did ye see anything in the line
of sewin?' because I know people often put it away, but if he was half
smart he'd see the bastin' threads or somethin', so I says, 'Did you
see anythin' like sewin?' 'Just the sewin'-machine,' says he, thinkin'
hard. 'I remember distinctly seein' it.' Then I just got my dander up,
for I was determined to know about it, and I knew very well he c'ud
tell me if he'd a mind to. I says, 'Do ye think Edith is gittin' ready
to be married?' and says he, real solemn likeI thought for sure he
was goin' to tell me somethin'says he, 'Mrs. Steadman, I believe
every girl is gittin' ready for her weddin' sometime. Maudie here is
doin' an ocean-wave huckaback cushion now, I see. What's that for, I
wonder? I suppose Edith Slater is gittin' ready. I don't see why she
shouldn't,' and then he began to lilt a little foreign toon, and I was
good and mad, I can tell ye; but ye can't get nothin' out, of him. He
gits his livin' pretty easy, too, and he ought to be a little chatty, I
Dr. Emeritus Emory was not so engrossed in his profession as to be
insensible to a good square meal and a well-kept room to sleep in, and
so a chart of his peregrinations through the neighbourhood, with the
meal-stations starred, would have been a surer guide to the good bread
and butter makers than the findings of the Agricultural Society which
presumed every year at the Show Fair to pick the winners, and any
young man looking for a wife would make no mistake if he followed the
Dr. Emory seldom passed the Perkins home without stopping, and
although he had no pupil there since Edith left, he almost invariably
planned his pilgrimage so as to be there about nightfall, for a good
supper, bed, and breakfast and a warm welcome were not to be passed by.
If the music-teacher's way of getting his board and lodging was
unique, he had also his own system of getting his laundry work done.
Like all systems, it had its limitations; it required a certain
understanding on the part of the lady of the house. This sometimes did
not exist, and so it happened that the pair of stockings or the
underwear that he left, quite by accident, in the room he had occupied
were returned to him on his next visit, neatly wrapped in newspaper,
but otherwise unchanged in condition.
But Martha Perkins never failed him. On his next visit the articles
he had left were always returned to him, washed, ironed, and oven
mended, and Martha always asked, as if there were some chance of doubt,
if they were his.
Although he had never thanked Martha for her kindness, Dr. Emory was
deeply sensible of it, an many a time as he came walking down the
river-bank and saw the Perkins home, with its friendly, smoke curling
up through the trees, a lively feeling of gratitude stirred in him. He
had a habit of talking to him-selfgossiping, indeed, for it was only
to himself that he discussed neighbourhood matters or his own affairs.
Martha's a good girl, he said to himself one night as he came down
the long Souris hill, a very good girl. She puts a conscientious darn
on the heel of a sock, quiet, unobtrusive, like herself. Martha should
marry. Twenty years from now if Martha's not married she will be
lonesome ... and gray and sad. I can see her, bent a littlegood
still, and patient, but when all alone ... quite sad. It is well to
live alone and be free when one is young ... the world is wide ... but
the time comes when one would like ...companyall one's own ...some
one who ... cares.
The old man suddenly came to himself and looked around suspiciously
at the bare oaks and willows that fringed the road. Not even to them
would he impart the secret of his heart. But some vision of the past
seemed to trouble him for he walked more slowly and seemed to be quite
insensible of the beauty of the scene around him.
The setting, sun threw long shafts of crimson light across the
snowbound valley and lit the windows of the distant farmhouse into
flame. A white rabbit flashed across the road and disappeared in the
brown scrub. The wind, which had blown all day, had ceased as evening
approached, and now not a branch stirred in the quiet valley, over
which the purple shades of the winter evening were creeping.
It's a good world, he said at last, as if trying to convince
himselfit is full of beauty and music. I think there must be another
world . . . over beyond the edge of things . . . a world that is
perhaps a little kinder and more justit must be. I think it will
A flock of prairie chickens rose out of the snow almost at his feet
and flew rapidly across the river and up over the other hill. His eye
followed their flighthe loved those brave birds, who stay with us
through the longest winter and whose stout hearts no storm can daunt.
Then softly he began to sing, a brave song of love and pain and
enduring, a song that helped him to believe that:
Good will fall,
At last, far off, at lastto all,
And every winter change to spring.
His voice wavered and trembled at first, as if it, too, felt the
weariness of the years, but by the time he had sung the first verse all
trace of sadness had vanished, and he went up the other, bank walking
briskly and singing almost gaily.
Thomas Perkins, doing his evening chores, stopped to listen at the
stable door as the old doctor came across the white field, then he
shook his head and said. By George, it's well to be him, not a blessed
thing to bother him. It's great how easy some people get through the
That night, after a warm supper, the old doctor sat in the cheerful
kitchen of the Perkins home and watched Martha quickly and deftly
clearing away the dishes. Humming to himself an air from Faust no one
would have thought that he was deliberately contemplating doing a
match-making turn, but certain it is that his brain was busy devising
means of suggesting to Arthur what a splendid girl Martha was. There
was this difference between Dr. Emory and Pearl Watson as
match-makers,Pearl played the game perfectly fair, calling to her aid
such honest helps as the spelling-book and the pages of the Woman's
Magazine. The doctor, who knew more of the devious paths of the human
heart, chose other weapons for his warfare.
Arthur came over for his bread that evening also, and when Dr. Emory
went to the organ in the parlour and began to play, every one in the
house went in to listen. He did not often play without being asked, but
to-night he suggested it himself. The parlour lamp was lighted, a
gorgeous affair with a large pink globe on which a stalwart deer,
poised on a rock, was about to spring across a rushing stream. But the
parlour lamp seemed to expend all its energy lighting up, the deer and
stream and the wreath of wild roses on the other side, and have very
little left for the room. The doctor silently commended its dim light,
for it suited his purpose better.
At Mr. Perkins's request he played Irish reels and jigs. Mrs.
Perkins had only one favourite, Home, Sweet Home, with variations;
that was the only tune she was real sure of. When the Doctor got these
two orders filled he began the real business of the evening with
Handel's Largo. Mr. Perkins began to yawn and soon took his
departure, closely followed by Mrs. Perkins. They unitedly declared
that they didn't like a die-away ducky piece like that that hadn't any
swing to it.
The Doctor's fine old eyes were shining with a real purpose as he
played. I'll suggest their thoughts for them, the old man was
chuckling to himself. Who can resist these dreamy love-songs?he was
playing Schubert's Serenade. Twilight and music! If the moon would
only show her face at the window! I'm letting loose a whole flock of
cupids. Oh, I know, I know, I've heard their whispersthey tell you
there is no death or lonelinessor separationlying little rascals!
But sweet, oh, wondrously sweet to listen to. Listen to this,
Arthurit's all yoursMartha's just as true and pure and sweet as all
thisand she loves you, man alive, think of that. Sorrow and evil days
and death itself will never change Marthashe's a solid rock for you
to build your soul's happiness on. Dream on now, Arthur, as millions
have dreamed before you; let your dreams keep pace with thisit will
carry you on its strong tideit will land you safe on the rainbow
shore. It carries me even, and I am old and full of evil days. What
must it be to you, Arthur, for you are young and can easily believe,
and the girl who loves you is right beside you. Take the thoughtit's
bright with promiseit's full of love and comfort and home for you.
The schoolmaster stole away to his room upstairs and took a faded
photograph from an old portfolio and kissed it tenderly.
* * *
Behind the lace curtains the full moon, with a golden mist around
her face, shone softly into the dimly-lighted room, and still the old
man played on, the deathless songs of youth and lovethe sweet,
changeless melodies which have come down the ages to remind us of the
love that still lives, glorious and triumphant, though the hearts that
loved are dust.
CHAPTER XXXI. MRS. CAVERS'S
O! the world's a curious compound,
With its honey and its gall,
With its cares and bitter crosses
But a good world after all.
James Whitcomb Riley.
THE people of the neighbourhood were disposed to wonder why Mrs.
Cavers lived on in the old tumble-down Steadman house after her
husband's death. Why doesn't she go home to her own people? they
asked each othernot in any unkindly, spirit, but because they
naturally expected that she would do this. Libby Anne had told the
children at school so much about her mother's lovely home in Ontario,
where her Grandmother and Aunt Edith still lived, that the people of
the neighbourhood had associated with it the idea of wealth.
Unfortunately, they were wrong about this. Mrs. Cavers's mother and
sister lived in a pretty white cottage, just outside one of Ontario's
large cities. Roses ran over the porch, and morning-glory vines shut in
the small verandah. It was a home of refinement and good taste, but not
of wealth or even competence. Mrs. Cavers's only sister, Edith, and the
sweet-faced mother lived there in peace and contentment, but every
dollar of Edith's small salary as milliner's assistant was needed for
Mrs. Cavers had never let her mother and sister know what hard times
she had come through. It was her good gift that she could hide her
troubles even from them. Even now her letters were cheerful and
hopeful, the kindness of her neighbours being often their theme. She
made many excuses for not coming home to live. She was afraid the damp
winters would not agree with Libby Anne; she had not disposed of all of
her stock and machinery yet. These and other reasons she gave, but
never the real one. She knew how hard it was to find a situation in
Ontario, and now, faded and wrinkled and worn as she was, what chance
had she among the many? She would stay in the West and get a position
as house-keeper on a farm. She could earn her own living and Libby
Anne's, and Libby Anne would go to school.
Mrs. Cavers was a brave woman and faced the issues of life without a
murmur. She told herself over and over again that she should be
thankful that she had her health and such kind friends and neighbours.
But sometimes at night when Libby Anne was sleeping, and she sat alone
by the fire, the weariness of the years rolled over her. If she could
only see, her mother, she often thought, and feel once more that gentle
touch of sympathy that never fails, if she could creep into her
mother's arms, as she had often done as a child, and cry away all the
pain and sorrow she had ever knownshe could forget that life had held
for her so much of ill.
The Watsons' gift of two hundred dollars came like a prisoner's
release, for with it she could go home. She and Libby Anne would have a
visit at home anyway. Then she would come back on the Harvesters'
excursion and work for three months during the busy time, and perhaps
go home again. She would not think of the future beyond thatit was
enough to know that she and Libby Anne would go home in the spring.
It was in February that Libby Anne took a cold. When she had been
away from school a few days Pearl Watson went over to see what was
wrong. Libby Anne's flushed face and burning eyes so alarmed Pearl that
next day she sent a note by her father, who was going to Millford, to
her friend, Dr. Clay.
Dr. Clay went out at once to see Libby Anne, and, without alarming
Mrs. Cavers, made a thorough examination of the child's lungs. He found
that one of them undoubtedly was affected.
Mrs. Cavers was telling him about their proposed journey east, which
the generous gift from the Watsons had made possible. They would go
just as soon as Libby Anne's cold got better nowthe damp weather
would be over then.
The doctor's face was turned away. How' could he tell her? He could
not tell her here in this forsaken, desolate little house. Come for a
drive, Mrs. Cavers, he said at last. Let me take you and Libby Anne
over to see Mrs. Perkins and Martha. It will do you both good.
Mrs. Cavers gladly assented, but would going out hurt Libby Anne?
Oh, no! the doctor assured her, the fresh air will do her good.
When they drove into the Perkins yard Martha and Mrs. Perkins warmly
welcomed them. The doctor had some calls to make across the river, but
he would be back in time to take them home before dark, he said. When
Mrs. Perkins had taken the visitors into the parlour the doctor
followed Martha into the kitchen. He would tell Martha, for Dr. Clay,
like every one else who knew her, had learned that Martha's quiet ways
were full of strength. Martha would know what to do.
He told her in a few words.
Has she a chance? asked Martha, quietly.
She has a good chance, he answered. It is only in an early stage,
but she must be put in a tent, kept in bed, and have plenty of
nourishing food; either that or she must be sent to a sanitarium.
Where is there one? Martha asked.
At Gravenhurst, Muskoka.
Oh, not among strangers! she said quickly.
But her mother can't be left alone with her, said the doctor.
Martha stood still for some moments with one hand on the
tea-kettle's shining lid. Then she spoke. The tent can be put up here
in our yard, she said.
Mother and I will help Mrs. Cavers. I'll ask father and mother, but
I'm sure they'll be willing. They never went back on a neighbour. We
must give Libby Anne her chance.
The doctor looked at her with admiration. Will you tell Mrs.
Cavers, Martha? You're the best one to tell her.
All right, she answered. I will tell her.
The doctor drove away with a great reverence in his heart for the
quiet Martha. Pearl had told him about Martha's hopes and fears, and
the great ambition she had for an education. She won't have much time
to improve her mind now, he said to himself. She never hesitated,
though. She may not be acquainted with the binomial theorem, but she
has a heart of gold, and that's more important. I wonder what Arthur is
thinking. He's foolish to grieve for the tow-haired Thursa when queens
are passing by.
When Martha went to the stable to consult with her father she found
that he had been having trouble with the hired man, the one who,
according to Mr. Perkins, ate like a flock of grasshoppers. Ted had
been milking a cow, when his employer came in to remonstrate with him
about wasting oats when he was feeding the horses. Ted made no reply
until he had the pail half-full. Then suddenly he sprang up and threw
it over his employer.
You howld w'eat-plugger, he cried, you drove Bud aw'y with your
meanness, but you can't put hon me. Do your bloomin' chores yourself!
When Martha reached the barn she found her father wiping his clothes
with an empty grain-sack. He told her what had happened.
Jes' think, Martha, that beggar did not say a word until he got the
pail half full, and then he soused it onto me, good hay-fed new milk,
and from the half-Jersey toohe didn't care. This'll set ye back one
churnin' too. But he won't dare to ask me for this week's wages. I paid
him up just a week agothat'll more than settle for the milk. So it
ain't as bad as it might be. He was shoving a red handkerchief down
the back of his neck, trying to locate some of the lost milk. You
wouldn't think that half a pail of milk would go so far, now, would
you, Martha? but I tell ye he threw it strong.
Martha suggested dry clothes, and when he was dressed in them she
told him about Libby Anne.
Certainly she can stay here, Mr. Perkins cried heartily. No one
will be able to say that we went back on a neighbour. I always liked
Bill, and I always liked Mrs. Cavers, and we'll do our best for the
little girl. George Steadman is the one that ought to take her, but his
missus is away, of course, to Ontario; they'd never take any one,
anyway. People that don't look after their own ain't likely to do for
strangers. When old Mrs. Steadman, George's mother, was there sick,
Mrs. Steadman followed the doctor out one day and asked him how long
the old lady would last; couldn't he give her a rough
estimatesomethin' for her to go by likefor she was wantin' to send
word to the paperhangers; and then she told him that they was goin' to
have the house all done over as soon as Granny was out of the way,
'but', says she, 'just now we're kinda at a standstill.' One of Bruce
Simpson's girls was working there, and she heard her.
A few days after this Libby Anne's tent raised its white head under
the leafless maples that grew around the Perkins home. It was a large
tent, floored and carpeted, and fitted with everything that would add
to the little girl's comfort or the convenience of those who waited on
Dr. Clay told Mrs. Cavers that a friend of his had presented him
with the whole outfit for the use of any one who might need it.
The neighbours, moved now by the same spirit that prompted them to
harvest Mrs. Cavers's crop, came bringing many and various gifts. Mrs.
Motherwell brought chickens, Mrs. Slater fresh eggs, Mrs. Green a new
eiderdown quilt; Aunt Kate Shenstone came over to sit up at nights.
Aunt Kate had had experience with the dread disease, and felt in a
position to express an expert opinion on it. There was no cure for it;
Bill had not recovered, neither would Libby Annethis she told Mrs.
Perkins and Martha. She knew itit would let your hopes rise
sometimes, but in the end it always showed its hand, unmistakable and
mercilessoh, she knew it!
The doctor, knowing more about it than even Aunt Kate, was hopeful,
and never allowed a doubt of the ultimate result to enter his mind.
Pearl Watson came in every night on her way home from school to see
Libby Anne, and many were the stories she told and the games she
invented to beguile the long hours for the little girl. One night when
she came into the tent Dr. Clay was sitting beside Libby Anne's bed,
gently stroking her thin little hand. The child's head was turned away
from the door, and she did not hear Pearl coming in.
Libby Anne and the doctor were having a serious conversation.
Doctor, she said, am I going to die?
Oh, no, Libby, the doctor answered quickly, you're just staying
out here in the tent to get rid of your cold, so you can go to your
grandmother's. You would like to go to Ontario to see your Grandmother
and Aunt Edith, wouldn't you?
I want to go to my grandmother's, she said slowly, but I'd like
to see Bud first. I'm Bud's girl, you know, and a smile played over
her face. Bud said I must never forget that I am his girl. Have you a
The doctor laughed and looked up at Pearl. No-body ever promised to
be my girl, Libby, was his reply.
I wish you had one, so you could tell me about it, she said, quite
I can tell you what it is like, all rightor at least, I can
imagine what it would be like.
Would you stay away from your girl and never come back, and forget
all about her? she asked wistfully.
Looking up, the doctor noticed that Pearl had picked up a newspaper
and appeared to be not listening at all.
If I had a girl, Libby Anne, he said, very slowly, I might stay
away a long time, but I'd come back sometime, oh, sure; and while I was
away I'd want my girl to lie still, if she had a cold and was out in a
tent trying to get better to go to her grandmother's, and I'd want my
girl to be just as happy as she could be, and always be sure that I
would come back.
I like you, Doctor, she said, after a pause, and if I wasn't
Bud's girl I would like to be yours. Maybe Pearl Watson would be your
girl, Doctor, she said quickly. I'll ask her when she comes, if you
I wish you would, Libby Anne, he said gravely.
When he looked up Pearl had gone.
It was a week before the doctor saw Pearl. One night he met her
coming home from school. It was the first day of March, and it seemed
like the first day of spring as well. From a cloudless sky the
afternoon sun poured down its warmth and heat.
The doctor turned his horses and asked if he might drive her home.
Pearl, he said, with an' unmistakable twinkle in his eye, I want
to see you about Libby Anne. I hope you will humour her in any way you
Pearl stared at him in surprisethen suddenly the colour rose in
her cheeks as she comprehended his meaning.
Even if she asks you to do very hard things, he went on.
She hasn't asked me yet, said Pearl honestly.
Is it possible that Libby Anne has forgotten me like that? Well, I
believe it is better for me to do it myself, anyway. How old are you,
I was fifteen my last birthday.
Don't put it that way, he corrected. That's all right when you're
giving your age in school, but just now I'd rather hear you say that
you will be sixteen on your next birthday, because sixteen and three
make nineteen, and when you're nineteen you will be quite a grown-up
Oh, that's a long time ahead, said Pearl.
Quite a while, he agreed, but I am going to ask you that question
which Libby Anne has overlooked, just three years from to-day. We can
easily remember the date, March the first. It may be a cold, dark,
wintry day, with the wind from the north, or it may be bright and full
of sunshine like to-day. That will just depend on your answer.
He was looking straight into her honest brown eyes as he spoke. It
was hard for him to realize that she was only a child.
I don't like dark days, Pearl said, thoughtfully, looking away
toward the snow-covered Tiger Hills, that lay glimmering in the soft
Neither of them spoke for a few minutes. Then suddenly Pearl turned
and met his gaze, and the colour in her cheeks was not all caused by
the bright spring sun as she said, I think, it is usually pretty fine
on the first of March.
* * *
Before Libby Anne had been a week in the tent Mrs. Burrell came to
offer consolation and to express her hopes for Libby Anne's recovery.
Mrs. Burrell considered herself a very successful sick-visitor. In the
kitchen, where she went first, she found Martha preparing a chicken for
Libby Anne's dinner.
It's really too bad for you to have so much to do, Martha, she
began, when the greetings were over; a young girl like you should be
getting ready for a home of her own. Living single is all right when
you're young, but it's different when you begin to get along in life.
There's that young Englishman, what's his name?the one that his
girl went back on himhe couldn't do better now than take you. I've
heard people say so.
Oh don't! Martha cried, flushing Martha lacked the saving sense of
Mrs. Burrell did not see the pain in the girl's face, and went on
briskly, I must go in and see Libby Anne and Mrs. Cavers. Of course I
think it is very unwise to let every one go in to see the sick, but for
a woman like me that has had experience it is different. I'll try to
cheer them up, both of them.
Oh, they're all right, Martha exclaimed in alarm. They do not
need any cheering. Pearl Watson is in the tent just now.
Martha's cheeks were still smarting with the cheering that Mrs.
Burrell had just given her, and she trembled for Libby Anne and Mrs.
Mrs. Burrell went into the tent resolved to be the very soul of
cheerfulness, a real sunshine-dispenser.
Mrs. Cavers was genuinely glad to see her, for she had found out how
kind Mrs. Burrell really was at heart.
Oh, what a comfortable and cosy place for a sick little girl, she
began gaily, and a nice friend like Pearlie Watson to tell her
stories. Wouldn't I like to be sick and get such a nice rest.
Libby Anne smiled. You can come and stay with me, she said
Mrs. Burrell put her basket on the bed. Everything in it is for
Libby Anne, she said, and Libby Anne must take them out herself.
Pearl will help her.
Then came the joyous task of unpacking the basket. There were candy
dogs and cats, wrapped in tissue paper; there were pretty boxes of
home-made candy; there were gaily dressed black dolls, and a beautiful
big white doll; there was a stuffed cat with a squeak in it, a picture
book, and, at the bottom, in a dainty box, a five dollar bill.
Oh, Mrs. Burrell! was all that Mrs. Cavers could say.
Mrs. Burrell dismissed the subject by saying, Dear me, everybody is
kind to Libby Anne, I'm sureit's just a pleasure.
Then Mrs. Cavers told her of the wonderful kindness the neighbours
had shown her. That very day, two women had come from across the
rivershe had never heard of them beforeand they brought Libby Anne
two beautiful fleecy kimonos, and two hooked mats for the tent, and a
crock of fresh butter; and as for the doctor's kindness, and Martha's,
and Mr. and Mrs. Perkins's, and Arthur's and the Watson family'sonly
eternity itself would show what it had meant to her, and how it had
Tears overflowed Mrs. Cavers' gentle eyes and her voice quivered.
They love to do it, Mrs. Cavers, Mrs. Burrell answered, her own
eyes dim, and Mr. Braden, too. He's only too glad to show his
repentance of the evil he brought into your lifehe's really a
reformed man. You'd be surprised to see the change in him. He told Mr.
Burrows he'd gladly part with every cent he had to see somebody
pointing to the bedwell and strong; he's so glad to help you in any
way he can; and I overheard him tell Mr. Burrell somethingthey were
in the study and Mr. Burrell closed the door tight, so I couldn't hear
very well, but I gathered from words here and there that he intended to
do something real handsome for somebodyagain pointing with an air of
great mystery to the little face on the bed.
Mrs. Cavers was staring at her with wide eyes, her face paler even
than Libby Anne's.
What do you mean? she asked in a choked voice.
Mrs. Burrell blundered on gaily. It's nothing more than he should
dohe took your husband's money. If it had not been for his bar you
would have been comfortably well off by this time, and I am sure he has
so much money he will never miss the price Of this. She pointed to the
tent and its furnishings.
Do you mean to saythat Sandy Bradenbought this tentfor my
little girl? Mrs. Cavers asked, speaking very slowly.
Yes, of course, replied the other woman, alarmed at the turn the
conversation had taken, but, dear me, he, should make some
Restitution? the other woman repeated, in a voice that cut like
thin iceRestitution! Does anyone speak to me of restitution? Can
anything bring back my poor Will from the grave? Can anything give him
back his chance in this world and the next? Can anything make me forget
the cold black loneliness of it all? I don't want Sandy Braden's money.
Let it perish with him! Can I take the price of my husband's soul?
Mrs. Cavers and Mrs. Burrell had gone to the farther end of the tent
as they spoke, and Pearl, seeing the drift of the conversation, had
absorbed Libby Anne's attention with a fascinating story about her new
dolls. Yet not one word of the conversation did Pearl miss.
Mrs. Burrell was surprised beyond measure at Mrs. Cavers's words,
and reproved her for them.
It's really wrong of you, Mrs. Cavers, to feel so hard and bitter.
I am astonished to find that your heart is so hard. I am really.
My heart is not hard, Mrs. Burrell, she said, quietly, her eyes
bright and tearless; my heart is not hard or bitterit's only
That night when Mrs. Burrell had gone, Pearl told Martha what she
had heard. You see, Martha, she said, when she had related the
conversation, Mrs. Burrell is all right, only her tongue. It was nice
of her to comethe things she brought Libby Anne are fine, and there's
nothing wrong with her five dollars; if she'd a been born deaf and dumb
she would have been a real nice woman, but the trouble with her is she
talks too easy. If she had to spell it off on her fingers she'd be more
careful of what she says, and it would give her time to think.
The next time the doctor came, Mrs. Cavers insisted on paying him
for the tent and everything that was in it. There was a finality in her
manner that made argument useless.
The doctor was distressed and earnestly tried to dissuade her.
Let me pay for it, Mrs. Cavers, then, he said. Surely you are
willing that I should help you.
Aren't you doing enough, doctor, she said. You are giving your
time, your skill, for nothing. Oh doctor, don't you see you are
humiliating me by refusing to take this money?
Then the doctor took the money, wondering with a heavy heart how he
could tell Sandy Braden.
CHAPTER XXXII. ANOTHER NEIGHBOUR
How fair a lot to fill
Is left for each man still!
THE early days of March were bright and warm and full of the promise
of spring. Mouse ears came out on the willows that bordered the river,
and a bunch of them was proudly carried to Libby Anne by Jimmy Watson,
who declared that he had heard a meadowlark. One evening, too, as she
lay in her tent, Libby Anne had heard the honking of wild geese going
north, and the bright March sun that came through the canvas each day
cheered her wonderfully. Libby Anne always believed that Bud would come
home in the springhe would surely come to see the big brown tumbling
flood go down the Souris valley. Nobody could stay away from home in
the spring, when the hens are cackling in the sun-shiny yard, and water
trickling down the furrows, and every day may be the day the first
crocus comes. Bud would surely come then, and she would get all better,
and she and her mother would go to Grandma's, and so Libby Anne
beguiled her days and nights with pleasing fancies as she waited for
But although the snow had left the fields in black patches and the
sun was bright and warm, the anemones delayed their coming and the ice
remained solid and tight in the Souris.
One day, instead of the dazzling sunshine, there were lead-gray
clouds, and a whistling wind came down the valley, piercing cold,
carrying with it sharp little hurrying snowflakes.
Up to this time Libby Anne had made good progress, but with the
change in the weather came a change in her. Almost without warning she
The doctor's face was white with pain when he told her mother the
meaning of the flushed cheeks and laboured breathing. She had been
doing so well, too, and seemed in a fair way to win against the
relentless foe, but now, restlessly tossing on her pillow, with a
deadly catch in her breathing, what chance had such a frail little spar
of weathering the angry billows?
When the doctor went back to his office he saw Sandy Braden passing
and called him in. He told him of the new danger that threatened Libby
What can we do, Clay? he cried, when the doctor had finished. Is
there anyone that can give her a better chance than you? How about that
Scotch doctor, MacTavish? Isn't he pretty good? Can't we get him?
He's too busy, I'm afraid. I don't think he ever leaves the city,
Dr. Clay replied. He's the best I know, if we could only get
himthough perhaps we will not need him. I'll watch the case, and if
there is any chance of an operation being necessary we can wire him.
The next day Dr. Clay wired for the famous specialist, and in a few
hours the answer came back that Dr. MacTavish could not leave the city.
Dr. Clay had gone back to Libby Anne's bedside before the message came,
and so it was to Sandy Braden that it was delivered.
It took Sandy Braden an hour to write his reply, and the wiring of
it cost him four dollars, but it really was a marvel in its wayit was
a wonderful production from a literary standpoint, and it was
marvellous in its effect, for it caused Dr. John MacTavish, late of
Glasgow, Scotland, to change his mind. He was just about to leave his
house to deliver an address before the Medical Association when this,
the longest telegram he had ever received, was handed to him. He read
it through carefully, looked out at the gathering snowstorm, shrugged
his shoulders, read it again, this time aloud, then telephoned his
regrets to the Medical Association.
The storm, which had been threatening for several days, was at its
height when the train, four hours late, came hoarsely blowing down the
long grade into Millford. Sandy Braden was waiting on the storm-swept
platform for the doctor, and took him at once to his hotel, where a hot
supper was waiting for him.
When the doctor had finished his supper he was in a much better
humour, which, however, speedily vanished when his host informed him
that the patient was in the country, and that they would drive out at
I won't go, declared Dr. MacTavish bluntly. I won't go out in a
blizzard like this for anyone. It's fifteen degrees below zero and a
terrific wind blowing, and the night as black as ink. I won't go,
that's all there is about it.
Now look here, Doctor MacTavish, Sandy Braden said, persuasively,
I know it's a dreadful night but I have the best team in this country,
and I know every inch of the road. I'll get you there!
I won't go, said the doctor, in exactly the same tone as before.
And besides, Sandy Braden went on, other man had not spoken, the
little girl is ill, an operation is necessary, and the doctor is
counting on you. It is now we need you, and you must come. Think of the
poor motherthis little kid is all she has
I know all that, and I'm sorry for her, and for you, too, but I
won't go a step in this storm. Don't waste your breath. Don't you know
you can't move a Scotchman? I know my own business best.
Sandy Braden controlled himself by an effort.
Doctor MacTavish, he said, we are wasting, time, and that little
girl may be gone before we get there. I suppose you are used to this
kind of thing, but, mind you, it means a lot to us, and this little
girl is not going to die if human power can save her. Will five hundred
dollars bring you? If money is any use to you say what you want and
I'll give it to you. He was shaking with the intensity of his emotion.
Dr. MacTavish turned on him with dignityhe was thoroughly
See here, he said brusquely, I don't want your moneyit's not a
matter of moneyI won't go out in this storm. Money won't buy me to
freeze myself. Didn't I tell you I'm Scotch and canny? he added, half
Sandy Braden's eyes flamed with sudden anger.
He took a heavy fur coat from a peg in the hall. Put that on, he
commanded. We will start in about two minutes. The horses are at the
The doctor indignantly protested. Without a word Sandy Braden seized
his arm with an iron grip and bundled him into the coat, none too
You are Scotch, are you? he said, looking the doctor straight in
the eye, while he still kept a grip of his shoulder. Well, I'm Irish,
and we're the people who hit first and explain afterward. He opened
the door and pushed the doctor ahead of him out into the raging storm.
The best team in the Braden stable was at the door, impatiently
tossing their heads and pawing the snowy ground, ready to measure their
mettle with the storm.
Get in, Sandy Braden commanded, and without another word Dr.
MacTavish got into the cutter, while one of the men who had been
holding the horses came and tucked the robes around him.
Sandy Braden jumped in beside him, took up the reins, and with an
All right, boys, let them gothey were off!
All evening Doctor Clay stayed beside Libby Anne's bedside, soothing
her restless tossing and carefully watching every symptom. Her fever
was steadily mounting, and she complained of a pain in her side. Mr.
Donald, who like everyone else in the household had been since her
illness her devoted slave, came once and stood at the foot of the bed.
Libby Anne looked up, knew him, and smiled faintly.
Dr. Clay had not mentioned to Mrs. Cavers the coming of the great
city doctor, for since the storm had risen to such violence he had
given up all hope of seeing him; for no one, he thought, could drive
against such a blinding blizzard, even if the train did get through,
which was doubtful.
The tent was banked high with snow all round, but the terrific wind
loosened the tent ropes partially, and the canvas swayed and bellied in
the storm. At the entrance, where the path came in between two high
banks, the snow sifted in drearily, making a little white mound on the
floor, like a new grave.
Through the roar of the storm came at intervals the old dog's
mournful cry. The lamp on the table, turned low though it was,
flickered in the draft, and the storm mourned incessantly in the pipe
of the Klondike heater. Through all the other sounds came the rapid
breathing of the little girl as she battled bravely with the outgoing
tide. Martha and Mrs. Cavers sat on the lounge opposite the bed.
The opening of the tent door let in a sudden gust of wind and snow
that caused the lamp to flicker uncertainly. A man in a snowy fur coat
entered and hastily slipped off his outer garments. Mrs. Cavers did not
look up. Martha turned the lamp higher.
Dr. Clay, looking up, gave an exclamation of delight.
Doctor MacTavish, you're a brick! he cried, springing to his feet.
I was afraid you wouldn't come.
The great man, warming his hands over the stove, made no reply,
except to shrug his shouldershe was looking intently at the little
girl's face. Then he shook hands with Dr. Clay gravely and asked about
the case. After hearing all that Dr. Clay had to tell him, with an
imperative gesture he signified that Mrs. Cavers and Martha were to
leave the tent. But something in Mrs. Cavers's despairing face revealed
to him the stricken mother. He touched her gently on the arm and said,
in that rolling Scotch voice that has comforted many, We'll do what we
can for the bairn.
The two women found their way with difficulty into the house,
holding tight to each other as they struggled through the storm. How
did this great city doctor get here? Who brought him? Who would brave
this terrible storm? were the questions they asked each other. They
opened the kitchen door again and again to see if there was any trace
of the driver who had brought the doctor, but the square of light from
the kitchen door revealed only the driving storm as it swept past.
Down in the shelter of the barn Sandy Braden unhitched his steaming
horses. With the help of his lantern he found a place for them in the
stable. All night long, as he waited for the dawn, there was one
thought in his brain as he paced up and down between the two rows of
horses, or as he looked out of the stable door at the little misty
patch, of light that now and then flashed out through the storm, one
agonizing, burning thought that caused the perspiration to run down his
face and more than once forced him to his knees in an agony of prayer.
And the burden of his heart's cry was that the little girl might live.
Before daybreak the storm died away, and only the snowdrifts, packed
hard and high, gave evidence of the night's fury. Sandy Braden stole
quietly up to the tent and looked in, the beating of his own heart
nearly choking him. Dr. MacTavish slept on the lounge, the peaceful
sleep of a child, or of a man who has done good work. Beside the bed
sat Dr. Clay, watching, alert, hopeful. From the tent door where he
stood he could see the little white face on the pillow and he knew from
the way the child breathed that she was sleeping easily. The eastern
wall of the tent was rosy with the dawn. Then he went back to the
stable, hitched up his team, and drove home in the sparkling sunshine.
Dr. MacTavish woke up soon after, and Dr. Clay went into the house
to tell Mrs. Cavers. She had spent the long night by the kitchen fire
listening to the raging of the storm, Martha close beside her in
wordless sympathy, and when Dr. Clay came in with, the good news that
the operation was over, and the great man believed that Libby Anne
would live, she was almost hysterical with joy.
Can I go and see her, doctor? she cried. I must go and thank him
for coming. Wasn't it splendid of him to come this dreadful night?
Come on, Mrs. Cavers, he said, his beaming.
Oh, my dear woman, don't thank me for coming, the doctor said,
laughing, when in broken phrases she tried to tell him what she felt.
Never did a man come more against his will than I. But I had no choice
in the matter when that big giant got hold of me. He coaxed me at
firstlaughing at the recollectionthen tried to bribe meI forget
what fabulous sum he offered mehalf of his kingdom, I think. I mind
he asked me if money were any use to me, but I stuck it out that I
wouldn't come until he said he'd break every bone in my body, or words
to that effect. So, my dear lady, your good man deserves all the
credithe simply bundled me up and brought me. I believe he swore at
me, but I'm not sure.
Mrs. Cavers stared at him uncomprehendingly.
Say, Clay, the doctor went on gaily, there was a glint in that
man's eye last night that made me decide to risk the storm, though I'm
not fond of a blizzard. I believe he would have struck me. Where is he
now? I like him. I want to shake hands with him.
Mrs. Cavers sank on the lounge, white and trembling.
Dr. Clay saw the mistake the other man was making and hastened to
set him right.
Do you mean to tell me, Clay, that that man who brought me here is
not the little girl's father? Well, then, who in the world is he?
His name is Sandy Braden, Dr. Clay replied, and he isjust a
Well, then, the doctor cried in astonishment, let me tell you,
madamturning to Mrs. Caversyou have one good neighbour.
Much to the doctor's surprise, Mrs. Cavers buried her face in her
hands, while her shoulders shook with sobs. After a few minutes she
raised her head, and looking the doctor in the face, said brokenly:
Doctor MacTavish, you are right about that, but I have not only one
good neighbour; I have many.
Then she stood up and laid her hand on the young doctor's arm. Dr.
Clay, she said, tell Sandy Braden I have only one word for himher
eyes grew misty again, and her voice tremulousonly one word, and
that is, May God bless himalways.
CHAPTER XXXIII. THE CORRECTION LINE
It's a purty good world, this is, old man,
It's a purty good world this is;
For all its follies and shows and lies,
Its rainy weather, and cheeks likewise,
And age, hard hearing, and rheumatiz;
We're not a faultin' the Lord's own plan;
All things jest
At their best,
It's a puny good world, old man.
James Whitcomb Riley.
ON THE Sunday afternoon following the big storm, when the delayed
passenger train on the C. P. R. slowly ploughed its way through
snowbanks into the station at Newbank, there alighted from it a young
man with bearded face. The line had been tied up since the storm on
Thursday night, but early on Sunday afternoon the agent at Newbank,
where the railway crosses the Souris on the long wooden bridge, gave
out the glad word that she would be down sometime soon, and the
inhabitantsseventeen in numbercongregated on the small platform
without delay. They were expecting neither friends nor parcels. But
there would be a newspaper or two, pretty old now, as some people
reckon the age of newspapers, but in Newbank a newspaper is very wisely
considered new until it has been read, and news is always news until
you have heard it, no matter how long after the occurrence.
Another good reason for all the inhabitants putting in such a prompt
appearance is that some one might get off, and hearing other people
tell about an arrival is not quite the same thing as seeing it for
On this particular occasion, as old No. 182 came sweeping
majestically into the station, everybody was glad that they were there
to see it. There was snow on the engine, snow on the cars, and snow
every place, that snow could possibly stick. While the train waited the
conductor walked around the platform speaking genially to every one.
Even the small boys called Hello, Dave! to him. Dave had run on
this line since it had been built, three years before, and everybody
knew him. He discussed the tie-up on the line with the postmaster,
apparently taking no notice of the fact that the train was pulling out.
However, as the last coach passed him, he swung himself up with easy
grace, quite as an afterthought, much to the admiration of the small
but appreciative band of spectators.
On the platform were left the mailbag, two Express parcels, and
three milk cans. The people of Newbank stood watching the train as it
ran slowly over the long bridge, shaking all the valley with its
thunder, then they turned and walked over to the store to get their
newspapers and discuss the news.
Say, I'd hate to live in one of them out-of-the-way places where
you never get to hear what's goin' on, said Joe McCaulay,
sententiously. It's purty nice, I tell ye, to get a newspaper every
week, jest as reg'lar as the week comes.
This had been a particularly interesting arrival of the train, for
there had been one passenger. He did not wait long enough for anyone to
have a good look at him, but struck right across the drifts toward the
river, as if he knew where he was going. There was only one person who
claimed to have seen his face, and that was a very old lady who was
unable to go to the station on account of rheumatism, but who always
kept a small hole thawed in the frosting of her bedroom window, and
managed in this way to see a good deal of what was going on outside.
When the other members of her household came home, and told of the
young man's coming off the train and hurriedly setting out across
country without letting anyone see him or ask him where he came from,
where he was going, who he was, what did he want, or any simple little
thing like that, the aged grandmother triumphantly informed them that
he was just a boy with his first crop of whiskershe carried nothing
in his handhe wasn't even a pedlar or a book-agenthe didn't look
around at allhe was sure of the road, but he must have some reason
for not wanting to be known. Not many rheumatic old ladies, with only a
small eye-hole in a frozen window, would have observed as much, and she
was naturally quite elated over the fact that she had seen more than
the people who went to the station, and the latter were treated to some
scathing remarks about the race not always being to the swift, but the
way she expressed it was that it is not always them that runs the
fastest that sees the most.
The young man whose coming had aroused this comment walked rapidly
over the hard-packed drifts. There had been no teams on the road since
the storm, and there was not much danger of meeting anyone, but in any
event, he thought his crop of black whiskers would be a sufficient
disguise. He did not want any-one to know him. Not that he cared, he
told himself, recklessly, but it would be just as well not to see any
of them. It seemed ages to the lad since he had left this place, though
it was only six months since he had said good-bye to Libby Anne in the
purple September twilight.
Things looked odd to him as he walked quickly over the drifts toward
the old Cavers house. The schoolhouse was more dingy and
desolate-looking; the houses and barns all seemed smaller; there was
the same old mound on the Tiger Hills on the southern horizon,the one
that people said had been built by the Mound Builders, but when you
came up to it, is just an ordinary hill with a hay-meadow at the foot;
the sandhills, too, were there still, with their sentinel spruce-trees,
scattered and lonesome. Looking over at the schoolhouse, Bud remembered
the day he thrashed Tom Steadman thereit came back to him with a
thrill of pleasure; and then came the memory of that other day at the
school, when he had told Mr. Burrell that he was going to try to let
the good seed grow in his heart, and when he had been so full of high
resolves. Small good it had done him, though, and Mr. Burrell had been
quick to believe evil of him. Bud's face burned with anger even now.
But he could get along without any of them!
Since leaving home six months before, Bud had had a varied
experience. He went to Calgary first, and got a job on a horse-ranch,
but only stayed a month; then he worked in a livery stable in Calgary
for a while, but a restless mood was on him, and he left it, too, when
his first month was served. He then came to Brandon and found work in a
livery stable there. The boy was really homesick, though he did not let
himself admit the fact. His employer was a shrewd old horse-man, and
recognizing in Bud a thoroughly reliable driver, soon raised his wages
and gave him a large share of the responsibility. He had in his stable
a fine young pacer, three years old, for which he was anxious to secure
a mate. Bud told him about his pacing colt at home, and the liveryman
suggested that Bud go home and bring back the colt, and they would have
a team then that would make the other fellows sit up and take notice.
I've surely earned that colt, Bud was thinking bitterly when he
came near the Cavers' house. If the old man won't give him to me,
there are other ways of getting him.
He noticed with alarm that there were no signs of life around the
Cavers house, but then remembered that this being Sunday, Mrs. Cavers
and Libby Anne would be at church in the schoolhouse. He would go in
and wait for them; he knew just how Libby Ann's eyes would sparkle when
she, saw himand what would she say when she saw what he had in the
little box in his pocket?
The day had grown dull and chilly, and a few snowflakes came
wandering listlessly downas if the big storm had not entirely cleared
the air. No barking dog heralded Bud's approach; no column of smoke
rose into the air. The unfrosted windows stared coldly at him, and when
he turned around the corner of the house he started back with an
exclamation of alarm, for one of the panels of the door had been blown
in and a hard snowdrift blocked the entrance.
He went to the curtainless window and looked in. The stove was
there, red with rust; two packing-boxes stood on the floor, and from
one of those protruded Libby Anne's plaid dress. Through the open
bedroom door he could see Libby Anne's muslin hat hanging on the
opposite wall. It looked appealingly at him through the cold silence of
the deserted house. His first thought was that Libby Anne and her
mother had gone East, but as the furniture was still in the house, and
the boxes of clothing, this thought had to be abandoned. But where were
they? Why were Libby Anne's clothes here?
Just then Bud noticed the little hand-sleigh that he had made for
Libby Anne, standing idly behind the stove, and it brought to his eyes
a sudden rush of tearshis little girl was dead; the little girl who
had loved him. He remembered how she had clung to him that night he
came to say good-bye, and begged him to come back, and now, when he
came back, there was only the muslin hat and the sleigh and the plaid
dress to tell him that he was too late!
Bud retraced his steps sadly to the road and made his way to the
schoolhouse, which lay straight on his road home. In his anxiety for
Libby Anne, he forgot about it being the hour for service. The
schoolyard was blown clean and bare. In the woodpile he noticed
shinney-sticks where their owners had put them for safe-keepinghe
knew all the hidie-holes, though it was years and years since he had
played shinney here. His boyhood seemed separated from him by a wide
gulf. Since leaving home he had been to church but seldom, for Bud made
the discovery that many another young man makes, that the people who go
to church and young people's meetings are not always as friendly as the
crowd who frequent the pool-rooms and bars. Bud had been hungry for
companionship, and he had found it, but in places that did not benefit
The minister's cutter, in front of the shed, called to his
remembrance the fact that this was the hour for service, which no doubt
was going on now. It's a wonder they still keep it up, he thought,
It seemed the most natural thing in the world for him to go into the
porchhe, would hear what was going on, anyway, and perhaps he could
see if Mrs. Cavers were there. Suddenly some one began to singthe
voice was strange, and yet familiar, like something had heard long,
long, ago. When he realized that it was Mrs. Cavers he was listening
to, a sudden impulse seized him to rush in. Libby Anne must be there
beside her mothershe was always beside her.
was it for crimes that I have done,
He groaned upon the tree?
Mrs. Cavers was singing alone, it seemed, in her sweet thin voice.
Oh, no, Bud said to himself, I guess it was not for any crimes
she ever did.
The day had grown darker and colder, biting wind began to whirl hard
little around the porch. Mrs. Cavers sang on:
Well may the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in.
When Christ, the mightly Saviour died
For man, the creatures sin.
Then he heard Mr. Burrell say, quite distinctly: Ye that do truly
and earnestly repent of your sins and are in love and charity with your
neighbours, and intend to lead a new life ... draw near with faith and
take this holy sacrament to your comfort ... meekly kneeling upon your
Bud heard a few moving forwardhe knew who they were, just the same
fewhe had gone with them once, more fool he waswhat was the use of
that man talking about love and charity when the very first chance he
got he would turn a fellow down?
... Who in the same night that he was betrayed took bread and brake
it, saying: 'Take, eat; this is my body which was broken for you this
is my blood of the New Testament, which was shed for you ....'
This one sentence came out to him clearly, fastening itself on his
mind, and though in a vague way he heard the service through, his mind
was busy with the thought that the Saviour of men had been betrayed by
a friend, betrayed to his death, and had died blessing and forgiving
... the same night that he was betrayed.
The solemnity of it all fell on the boy's heart. He had knelt there
once, and heard those words and taken these tokens of the Lord's death,
with his heart swelling with love for Him who had not even refused to
die. It had been a glorious day of June sunshine, when through the open
windows came the robin's song and the prairie breeze laden with the
perfume of wolf-willow blossoms and sweet-grass. He remembered how the
tears had risen unbidden to his eyeshappy tears of love and
loyaltyand he had felt that nothing could ever separate him from the
Master whom he loved. But now he stood on the outside of the doorhe
was an outsiderhe had no part in this. He made a step backwardhe
would go awayhe would hear no morehe had come back for the pacing
colthe was done with this neighbourhood and homehe was done with
Drink ye this in remembrance that Christ's blood was shed for you.
The voice sounded at Bud's elbow, as if calling him to stay. He
hesitatedthey were not nearly done yetthere was no danger of anyone
coming outeveryone stayed for the whole service, he knew, even if
they didn't take part.
Our Father, who art in heaven, he heard them all repeat, and quite
unconsciously he began to follow the words with them. It was like an
old friend coming out to meet him.
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them who trespass against
Bud stopped abruptly, he couldn't say thathe would not forgivehe
had been bitterly wronged, and he would never forgivehe had done what
was right, and what had he got for it? He tried to summon back to him
the anger that had kept alive his resolve to stay away from home.
Instead of anger and bitterness he found his, heart swelling with the
old love for the One who, the same night that he was betrayed, took
bread and broke it, saying: Take, eat; this is my body, which was
broken for you.
Some one was prayingit was Mr. Burrellevery word came to Bud
Dear Lord, the minister prayed, be one with us to-day, and grant
that the great appeal which Thou dost make in the broken body and the
shed blood may find an answer in every heart that hears. Compel us with
it to consecrate our lives to Thee. If there is any root of bitterness
in our lives, let us bring it to where the shadow of the Cross may fall
upon it. Oh, dear Lord, bless all those who have wandered from Thee.
Bless the dear boy of our prayers who may have wandered far, but who,
we believe, will never be deaf to the call of the Spirit. We praise
Thee for prayers answeredfor sick ones healedfor lives
redeemedand we humbly crave Thy mercy for us all. Amen.
What strange power was in these words to make Bud Perkins suddenly
realize that only one thing mattered? He opened the door and walked in.
The people heard the door open and some one come quickly toward the
front. They saw the minister step down from the platform and into the
aisle, where he clasped a black-bearded youth in his arms. For a full
minute no one spoke; then Roderick Ray, the Scottish Covenanter, broke
O dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved to sin no more.
What a scene of rejoicing was in the schoolhouse that dark March
day! Roderick Ray slapped Bud on the back again and again, crying:
Wonderful! Wonderful! Mr. Perkins hung on to Bud's arm as if he were
afraid he might lose him again, and told him over and over again what a
time he had been having with hired help. There's nothing like your own
you bet. Even George Steadman shook hands with Bud, and told him he
was glad to see him back again.
While Mrs. Cavers, in answer to his eager inquiry, was telling Bud
all about Libby Anne's illness, and the great kindness of his father
and mother and Martha Pearl Watson whispered to Mr. Perkins: Now's the
time to clear up Bud's name about that wheat plugging. Tell them who
did it. In the excitement of the moment there did not seem anything
odd in the suggestion. Pearl was shrewd enough to know that the
psychological moment had come.
Mr. Burrell was still standing with his hand on Bud's shoulder, as
if he could never let go of him. Pearl whispered to the minister to ask
the people to sit down for a few minutes, for Mr. Perkins had something
to say to them. Mr. Burrell did as Pearl had asked him. Then Mr.
Perkins addressed a few words to the congregation which were probably
as strange a closing as any sacramental service has ever had.
Well, friends, he said, I believe I have a few words to say. I
should have said them before, I guess. In fact, I should have said them
when the thing happened, but I'm a terrible man to put off things that
I don't like to do. But I'm so glad to get Buddie home that I don't
mind tellin' ye that he didn't have nothin' to do with that wheat
pluggin'that was my idea entirelyin fact, Bud raised Cain about us
ever pluggin' grain, and said he'd not stand for it any more. I ain't
much used to speakin' in church, as you know. I've always kept my
religion in my wife's name, and I may not be talking in a suitable way
at all. I'm a good deal like old Jimmie Miller was at a funeral one
time. Jimmie had took a glass or two too much, and just when the
minister asked them to walk around and view the remains, old Jimmie
jumped up and proposed the health of the bride and groom. Well, of
course, someone grabbed him and pulled him down, and says: 'Sit down,
man, this is a funeral!' 'Well,' says Jimmie, speakin' pretty thick, 'I
don't care what it is, but it's a very successful event any way.'
That's the way I feelit's the happiest day I've known for quite a
while. Thomas Perkins suddenly stopped speaking and blew his nose
noisily on a red handkerchief. The neighbours, looking at him in
surprise, realized that there was strong emotion behind his lightly
It seemed to be quite a natural thing for them to sing Praise God,
from whom all blessings flow, and for the hand-shaking to begin all
over again. They were only a handful of very ordinary people in a
desolate-looking, unpainted schoolhouse that dark Sunday afternoon, but
a new spirit seemed suddenly to have come over them, a new spirit that
made them forget their worries and cares, their sordid jealousies and
little meannesses, the spirit of love and neighbourly kindness, and
there were some there who remembered that old promise about the other
One who will come wherever two or three are gathered together, and
thought they felt the Unseen Presence.
A few hours later Bud was sitting in the cushioned rocking-chair of
the tent before a cheerful fire that blazed in the Klondike heater. On
the lounge sat his father, mother and Mrs. Cavers.
Libby Anne, in a pale blue kimono, and wrapped in a warm shawl, was
on Bud's knee, holding in her hands a gold locket and a chain, and
saying over and over to herself in an ecstasy: Bud did come back and
I'm Bud's girl.
Mr. Perkins was in radiant good-humour. By George, it's great to
have Buddie home! he said, and our kid here gettin' better. Let me
tell you, Buddie, we've had a pretty dull, damp time around here;
things have been pretty blue, and with no one to help me with the stock
since Ted left. I was tellin' ye about Ted, wasn't I? Well, sir, we've
been up against it all right, but now I'm feelin' so good I could whoop
and yell, and still, I kinda feel I shouldn't. I'm a good deal like old
Bill Mills, down at the Portage, the time the boys 'shivaried' him. You
see, just the day after the first woman was buried old Bill started in
to paint up his buckboard, and as soon as the paint was dry he was off
huntin' up another woman; and he got her, too, a strappin' fine big
Crofter girlby George! you should see her milkin' a cowI passed
there one day when she was milkin', and I can tell you she had a big
black-and-white Holstein cow shakin' to the horns! Well, anyway, when
Bill and the girl got married, the boys came to 'shivaree' them. The
old woman was just dead two months, and when the noise started Bill
came out, mad as hops, and told them they should be ashamed of
themselves making such a racket at a house where there had so lately
been a funeral! That's how it is with us, eh, what? By George, it's
great altogether to have Buddie home.
CHAPTER XXXIV. THE CONTRITE HEART
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave no wake.
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
And the heart forgets its sorrow and ache.
James Russell Lowell.
DURING Libby Anne's illness Mrs. Cavers had been so anxious about
her that she had hardly given a thought to anything else; but when the
little girl's perfect recovery seemed assured, she was confronted again
by the problem of their future. Libby Anne's illness, in spite of the
neighbours' and the doctor's kindness, had made a hole in the two
hundred dollars the Watsons had given her. She still had some money
left from her share of the crop, but she would need that for new
clothes for herself and Libby Anne; there would be the price of their
tickets, and the other expenses of the journey, and she must save
enough to buy her ticket back to Manitoba.
Of course, there were still the two cows and the hens, which the
neighbours had kindly taken care of for her, and there was some old
machinery, but she did not expect that she would get much from the sale
The first day that Libby Anne was able to walk, Dr. Clay came out to
see her, and brought to Mrs. Cavers a letter from the new tenant who
had rented the Steadman farm. The letter stated that the writer was
anxious to buy all her furniture, machinery and stock, and wanted to
make her an offer of three hundred dollars cash for them.
Mrs. Cavers read the letter with astonishment. She had never hoped
for such a price. Now, doctor, she said, you've been to me one of
the best friends any one ever had. Tell me one thingis Sandy Braden
paying part of this?
Dr. Clay was prepared for the question and answered evasively. I'll
bring the man here to see youhe's an old Indiana farmer with lots of
money, and you know your implements are in very good shape. I went out
with him to the farm, and together we figured out what the stuff was
worth. Here is the list; he is perfectly satisfied if you are.
Mrs. Cavers shook her head doubtfully. I know that the stuff is not
worth more than half that amount, and I know very well that either you
or Mr. Braden has fixed this up for me to let me still feel independent
and have my trip back home. I know that, but I'm going to take it,
doctor, without a word. I am not even going to try to thank you. I
haven't seen my mother or any of my own people for twelve years. It has
been my sweetest dream that some day I would go back home, and now it
looks as if the dream were coming true. I am like a little hungry boy
who has been looking at a peach in a shop window for days and days and
days, desiring without hope, when suddenly someone comes out and puts
it in his handhe will quite likely run away with it without so much
as thanking his kind friend, but he's grateful just the same. That's
the way it is with me, doctor; I am grateful, too, so grateful that I
can't talk about it.
A month later Mrs. Cavers and Libby Anne arrived safely home, and
Libby Anne's enraptured eyes beheld the tall maple trees, the bed of
red and yellow tulips, and the budding horse-chestnuts of her dreams.
The grandmother, a gentle, white-haired old lady, looked anxiously and
often at her widowed daughter's face, so worn and tired, so cruelly
marked by the twelve hard years; and although Mrs. Cavers told them but
little of her past life that was gloomy and sad, yet the mother's keen
eyes of love read the story in her daughter's work-worn hands, her gray
hair, and the furrows that care and sorrow had left in her face. She
followed her about with tenderest solicitude, always planning for her
comfort and pleasure. She often sat beside Mrs. Cavers when, in the
quiet afternoon, she lay in the hammock on the veranda. Always as they
talked the mother was thinking of the evil days that the world had held
for her poor girl, and planning in every way her loving heart could
devise to make it up to her, after the fashion of mothers the wide
To Mrs. Cavers, the spring and summer days were full of peace and
happiness. The quiet restfulness of her mother's homethe
well-appointed rooms, the old-fashioned piano, with its yellow keys, in
the back parlour, the dear familiar pictures on the wallsall these
seemed to soothe her tired heart. The garden, with its patch of
ribbongrass, its sumach trees and scarlet runners, was full of pleasant
associations, and when she sat in the little vine-covered summer-house
and listened to the birds nesting in the trees above, the long twelve
years she had lived seemed like a bad dream, hazy and unrealthe real
things were the birds and the vines, and her mother's love.
July came in warm and sultry, but behind the morning-glory vines
that closed in the small veranda it was always cool and pleasant. One
day Mrs. Cavers, lying in the hammock, was looking at the sweet face of
her mother, who sat knitting beside her. All afternoon, as she lay
there, she had been thinking of the hot, busy days on the farm which
she must soon facethe busy, busy farm, where the work has to be done,
for the men must be fed. Each day she seemed to dread it morethe
early rising, the long, long hours, the constant hurry and rush, the
interminable washing of heavy, white dishes in a hot little kitchen,
reeking with tobacco smoke. She had gone through it many times,
cheerfully, bravely, for there had always been in her heart the hope of
something bettergood days would surely come, when her husband would
do better, and they would be happy yet. This thought had sustained her
many times, but the good, days had never come, and nowhow could she
go back to it with no hope. There was nothing ahead of her but endless
toil, just working every day to earn a living. Oh, was life really such
a priceless boon that people should crave it so!
Must you really go back to the West, Ellie dear? her mother asked,
as if she read her daughter's bitter thoughts.
Mrs. Cavers sat up and smiled bravely. Oh, yes, mother, it's the
West for me; but some day we'll come back again for another one of
these dear, lovely visits. I always felt I would never really be rested
until I got back here and had you to sit beside me. But, of course, I
must go back for the harvestit is really a beautiful country, and
especially so in the fall of the year, and I have some business there
which I must go and attend to. She did not tell the nature of the
Ellie, I would like to have you always with me, and your dear
little girlthere's only the four of us, and we are so happy here. Why
can't you stay with us?
Mrs. Cavers knew why, but she could not tell her mother that she had
very little in the world beyond the price of a ticket back to Manitoba.
I've been praying every day since you came, Ellie, that we would
never need to part again, her mother said wistfully. I can't let you
go, it seems.
Just then the gate clicked and a heavy step came rapidly up the
walk. Mrs. Cavers, starting to her feet, found herself face to face
with Sandy Braden as he came up the steps.
For a few seconds neither of them spoke. Then Mrs. Cavers held out
her hand. Mr. Braden, she said. Words failed her.
I want to speak to you for a few minutes, he said.
She opened the door and led him into the little parlour.
Mrs. Cavers, I know that my presence is full of bitter memories for
you, he began. You have no reason to think kindly of me, I well know;
but no one else could do this for me, or I would not force myself on
you this way
She interrupted him. You were kind to me and my little girl once;
you did for us what few would have done. I have never thanked you, but
I have always been and always will be grateful; and when I think of
youthat is what I remember.
There was a silence between them for a few seconds. Then he spoke.
I don't know how to begin to say what I want to say. I did you a
great wrongyou, and others, too; not willfully, but I did it just the
same. I can never make amends. Oh, forgive me for talking about making
amendsbut you're not the only one who has suffered; it's with me
night and day. I can see Bill's face that dayon the river-bank! I
liked Bill, too. As you know, I closed the bar that day forever, but it
was too lateto help Bill.
Mrs. Cavers was holding the back of a chair, her face colourless and
I heard a few days ago that you were coming back to Manitoba to
work, to earn your living and the little girl's. I can't stand thatI
had to comeOh, don't scorn me like thatlet me help you. If it had
not been for my bar you would have had plenty. I want you to take this;
it's the deed of a half-section of land near Brandonit will keep you
in plenty. I'm a blundering fellowI've put it roughly, but God knows
I mean it all right.
He stopped and wiped the perspiration from his face.
I can't take it, Mrs. Cavers said, without moving.
You must! he cried, moving nearer to her. Don't refuse! Oh, Mrs.
Cavers, you were merciful to me oncedo you mind how you held out your
hand to me that day? God bless you, it was like a drop of water to a
man in hell. Have mercy now; take a little of the burden from a guilty
I do forgive you freely, and I wish you well, butIIcan't take
your money, she whispered hoarsely.
He walked up and down the room for a few moments, then turned to her
Mrs. Cavers, I've been a guilty man, careless and hard, but that
dayon the river-bankI saw things as I never saw them before, and
I'm trying to be square. My motherhis voice broke and his eyes
glistenedmy mother has been in heaven twenty years. She always told
me about God's mercy tothe very worstthat He turned no one down
that came to Him. My mother was that kind herself, and knowing herhas
made it easier for me to believe thatGod is always mercifuland
always willingto give a fellow aa second chance. I can't look for
it or ask it untilyou take this. Now, Mrs. Cavers, I know you don't
like mewhy should you?but won't you take it?
She hesitated, and was about to refuse again, when he suddenly
seized her arm and compelled her to meet his gaze.
For God's sake! he cried.
Mrs. Cavers took the document in her trembling hands.
Sandy Braden turned to leave the room, but she detained him.
Mr. Braden, she almost whispered, her voice was so low, I have a
mother like yours, one who makes it easy to believe that God is always
loving and kindI want her to thank you for me. Tell her all about
itshe'll understand, just like your own mother wouldthese dear old
mothers are all the same.
Mrs. Cavers went back to the veranda and brought her mother into the
parlour; then she went out, leaving them alone.
What passed between them no one ever knew, but an hour later Sandy
Braden went out from the little white cottage with a new light shining
in his face, and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, in
his heart. He went back into the world that day destined to do a strong
man's part in the years to come.
CHAPTER XXXV. THE LURE OF LOVE AND
If you've heard the wild goose honking, if you've
seen the sunlit plain,
If you've breathed the smell of ripe grain, dewy, wet,
You may go away and leave it, say you will not come
But it's in your blood, you never can forget.
THERE is a belief, to which many sentimental people still hold, in
spite of all contradictory evidence, that marriages are arranged in
heaven, and that no amount of earthly wire-pulling can alter the
decrees of the Supreme Court. Many beautiful sentiments have been
expressed, bearing on this alluring theme, but none more comprehensive
than Aunt Kate Shenstone's brief summary: You'll get whoever is for
ye, and that's all there is to it.
Theoretically, Mrs. Burrell was a believer in this doctrine of
non-resistance, modified, however, by the fact that she also believed
in the existence of earthly representatives of the heavenly matrimonial
bureau, to whom is entrusted the pleasing duty of selecting and
pairing. Of this glorious company, Mrs. Burrell believed herself a
member in good standing, and one who stood high upon the honour roll.
Therefore, having decided that Arthur should marry Martha Perkins she
proceeded to arrange the match with a boldness that must have made the
She planned an evening party, and wrote to Arthur asking him to
bring Martha, but forgot to send Martha an invitation, which rather
upset her plans, for Martha declined to go. Mrs. Burrell, however, not
to be outdone, took Arthur aside and talked to him very seriously about
his matrimonial prospects; but Arthur brought the conversation to an
abrupt close by telling her he had not the slightest intention of
marrying, and had quite made up his mind to go back to England as soon
as the harvest was over.
When Mrs. Burrell was telling her husband about it she was almost in
If he goes to England, John, we'll never see him again; he'll marry
an English girlI know it. They're so thick over there he can't help
it, when he sees so many dangling after him! He'll just have to marry
one of them.
To thin them out, I suppose you mean, her husband said, smiling.
Don't worry, anyway, and above all things, don't interfere. Leave
something for Providence to do.
After Mrs. Cavers and Libby Anne had gone, life in the Perkins's
home settled down to its old pleasing monotony. The schoolmaster found
Martha a willing and apt pupil, and came to look forward with pleasure
to the evenings he spent helping her to understand the world in which
she was living. Dr. Emory paid his regular visits, seeking with the
magic arts of music to draw Arthur's thoughts down the pleasant lanes
of love. Pearl Watson, like a true general, kept a strict oversight of
everything, but apparently took no active part herself; only on
Saturday afternoons, which she usually spent with Martha, she had
Martha tell her the stories she had read during the week. At first the
telling was haltingly done, for Martha was not gifted with fluent
speech, but under the spell of Pearl's sympathetic listening, her
story-telling powers developed amazingly.
When the summer days came, with their wealth of flowers and singing
birds, to Martha the whole face of Nature seemed changed; she heard new
music in the meadowlark's ringing note, and the plaintive piping of the
whippoorwill. The wild roses' fragrant beauty, the gorgeous colouring
of the tiger-lilies and moccasin flowers, the changing hues of the
grainfields at noon-day as the drifting clouds threw racing shadows
over them, were all possessed of a new charm, a new power to thrill her
heart, for the old miracle of love and hope had come to Martha, the old
witchery that has made blue skies bluer and green things greener, for
us all. There was the early rising in the dewy mornings when the
river-valley was filled with silvery mist, through which the trees
loomed gray and ghostly; there was the quivering heat of noonday, that
played strange tricks on the southern horizon, when even the staid old
Tiger Hills seemed to pulsate with the joy of summer; and, then the
evenings, when the day's work was done, and the western sky was all
aglow with crimson and gold.
One quiet Sunday evening in harvest time, Martha and Arthur stood
beside the lilac hedge and watched the sun going down behind the
Brandon Hills. Before them stretched the long field of ripening grain.
There was hardly a leaf stirring on the trees over their heads, but the
tall grain rustled and whispered of the abundance of harvest.
As they listened to the rustling of the wheat Martha said: I have
been trying to think what it sounds like, but can think of nothing
better than the bursting of soap-bubbles on a tub of water, and that's
a very unpoetical comparison.
I think it's a very good one, though, Arthur said, absently.
And it seems to whisper: 'Plenty, plenty, plenty,' as if it would
tell us we need not rush and worry so, she went on. I love to listen
to it. It has such a contented sound.
Arthur sighed wearily, and looking up, Martha saw his face was sad
with bitter memories.
What is it, Arthur? she said, drawing nearer in quick sympathy.
I'm all right, he answered quickly, but, with an effort; just a
little bit blue, perhaps.
How can anyone be blue to-night with everything so beautiful and
full of promise? Martha cried.
There are other thingsbeside these, he said gloomily.
Martha shrank back at his words, for she knew of whom he was
thinking. Then a sudden rage seized her, and she turned and faced him
with a new light burning in her eyes.
You must forget her! she cried. You must! She cares nothing for
you. She, never loved you, or she would not have treated you so badly.
She soon let you go when she got what she thought, was a better chance.
Why do you go on loving her? She seized his arm and shook him. It's
foolish, it's weakwhy do you do it? I wouldn't waste a thought on any
one who cares nothing for meit isn'tit isn't she stopped
abruptly, and the colour surged into her pale face.
Oh, Arthur, forgive me for speaking so. All the anger had gone
from her voice. I cannot bear to see you so unhappy. Try to forget
her. The world is wide and beautiful.
In the western sky a band of crimson circled the horizon.
Martha, Arthur said gently, you are one of the truest friends a
fellow ever had, and I know you think I am foolish and sentimental, but
I am just a little bit upset to-day. I saw her last nightshe andher
husband were on the train going to Winnipeg, and I saw them at the
station. She's lovelier than ever. This sounds foolish to you, I know,
Martha, but that's because you don't know. I hope you will never know.
Martha turned away hastily.
All this, he continued, waving his hand toward the evening sky and
the quiet landscape, all this reminds me of her. You know, Martha,
when you look at the sun for a while you can see suns everywhere you
look; that's the way it is with me.
The colour was fading from the sky; only the faintest trace of
rose-pink tinged the gray clouds.
I think I shall go home to England, Arthur said, after a long
silence. I shall go home for a while, and then, perhapspshaw! I
don't know what I shall do. In the failing light he could not see the
pallor of Martha's face, neither did he notice that she shivered as if
The sunset glory had all gone from the clouds; there was nothing
left now but the ashes.
I am sorry you are going, Martha said steadily. We will miss
The schoolmaster, who was sitting by the kitchen window, noticed
Martha's white face when she came into the house and guessed the cause.
Looking after Arthur as he walked rapidly down the road to his own
house, Mr. Donald shook his head sadly, murmuring to himself: Lord,
who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?
When Martha went up to her own room she sat before the mirror as she
had done that at other night two years before, and looked sadly at her
face reflected there. She recalled his words: She is lovelier than
everthis was what had won and held his love. Oh, this cruel, unjust
world, where the woman without beauty has to go lonely, hungry,
unmatedit was not fair; she stretched out her arms in an agony of
Thursa cares nothing for him, and I would gladly die to save him
pain! she whispered hoarsely.
She tore off her collar roughly and threw it from her; she took down
her hair and brushed it almost savagely; then she went to the open
window, and, leaning on the casement, listened to the rustling of the
wheat. It no longer sang to her of peace and plenty, but inexorable,
merciless as the grave itself, it spoke to her of heart-break and hopes
that never come true.
* * *
In September Arthur went to England. After he had gone, Martha went
about her work with the same quiet cheerfulness. She had always been a
kind-hearted neighbour, but now she seemed to delight in deeds of
mercy. She still studied with the school-master, who daily admired the
bravery with which she hid her heartache. Martha was making a fight, a
brave fight, with an unjust world. She would studyshe would fit
herself yet for some position in life when her parents no longer needed
her. Surely, there was some place where a woman would not be
disqualified because she was not beautiful.
Arthur had written regularly to her. Looking ahead, she dreaded the
time when he would cease to write, though she tried to prepare for it
by telling herself over and over again that it must surely come.
Arthur's last letter came in November, and now with Christmas coming
nearer, Martha was lonelier than ever for a word from him. The week
before Christmas she looked for his letter every day. Christmas eve
came, a beautiful moonlight, sparkling night, with the merry jingle of
sleighbells, in the air, but no letter had yet come.
Mr. and Mrs. Perkins and Bud had driven in to Millford to attend the
concert given by the Sunday-school, but Martha stayed at home. When
they were gone, and she sat alone in the quiet house, a great
restlessness seized her. She tried to read and then to sew, but her
mind, in spite of her, would go back to happier days. It was not often
that Martha allowed herself to indulge in self-pity; but to-night, as
she looked squarely into the future and saw it stretching away before
her, barren and gray, it seemed hard to keep back the tears. It was not
like Martha to give way to her emotions; perhaps it was the Christmas
feel in the air that gripped her heart with new tenderness.
She finished making the pudding for the Christmas dinner, and put
the last coat of icing on the Christmas cake, and then forced herself
to dress another doll for one of the neighbour's children. Sometimes
the tears dimmed her eyes, but she wiped them away bravely.
Suddenly a loud knock sounded on the door. Martha sprang up in some
confusion, and hastily tried to hide the traces of her tears, but
before she was ready to open the door it opened from without and Arthur
stood smiling before her.
Oh, Arthur! she cried, her face glowing with the love she could
not hide. I was just thinking that you had stopped writing to me.
Well, I have, too, he laughed; letters are not much good anyway.
I knew you were here, for I met the others on the road, he continued,
as he hung his overcoat on its old nail behind the door, and so I
hurried along, for I have a great many things to tell you. No, in
answer to her question, I have not had supperI couldn't wait. I
wanted to see you. I've made, a big discovery.
Martha had put the tea-kettle on and was stirring the fire.
Don't bother getting any supper for me until I tell you what I
She turned around and faced him, her heart beating faster at the
eagerness in his voice.
Martha, dear, he said, I cannot do without youthat's the
discovery I made. I have been lonelylonely for this broad prairie and
you. The Old Country seemed to stifle me; everything is so little and
crowded and bunched up, and so dark and foggyit seemed to smother me.
I longed to hear the whirr of prairie chickens and see the wild ducks
dipping in the river; I longed to hear the sleighs creaking over the
frosty roads; and so I've come home to all thisand you, Martha, He
came nearer and held out his arms. You're the girl for me.
Martha drew away from him. Arthur, are you sure? she cried.
Perhaps it's just the country you're in love with. Are you sure it
isn't just the joy of getting back to it all. It can't be meI am only
a plain country girl, not pretty, not educated, not clever, not
He interrupted her in a way that made further speech not only
impossible but quite unnecessary.
Martha, I tell you it is you that makes me love this country. When
I thought of the sunlit prairie it was your dear eyes that made it
glorious. Your voice is sweeter than the meadowlark's song at sunrise.
You are the soul of this country for meyou stand for it all. You are
the sunshine, the birdsong, the bracing air, the broad outlook, the
miles of golden wheat. Now, tell me, dear, for you haven't told me yet,
are you glad to see me back?
But what would your mother say? Martha asked, evading his
question. Arthur, think of the people at home.
He opened his pocket-book and took out a leather case. Springing the
lid, he handed it to her, saying: My mother knows all about you, and
she sends you this.
Martha took out the beautiful necklace of pearls and read the tender
little note, inside the case. Her eyes filled with happy tears, and
looking up into Arthur's smiling face, her last doubt vanished.
A few hours later, when the old clock on the wall, slowly struck the
midnight hour, telling them that another Christmas morning had come,
they listened to it, hand in hand without a spoken word, but in their
hearts was the echo of all the Christmas bells that were ringing around