McClelland & Stewart

Books by this Publisher
Sort by:
View Mode:
Garden in the Wind

Garden in the Wind

also available: Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info

My mother was expecting something or other. She kept going to the door, drawing back from the windowpane the white curtain hemmed in red linen and staring long and vaguely out at the drenched countryside. Suddenly she gave a start, one hand going up to her forehead.
“Somebody’s coming,” she announced, and went on, her voice filled with surprise: “Coming here, it looks like!”
Rain was rattling on the roof. On either side of the house we could hear water from the spouts splashing down from the overflowing rain barrels. Evening was falling. From the ditches, filled to their banks, a white steam went up.Beyond the slope of the rye field you could see no more than  a few blackened, bare treetops emerging soaked from the mist. For two days we hadn’t seen a living soul pass by. “Not a cat, not even a beggar,” my mother had sighed.
The man pushed the gate open. We could see him tip back his head and try to smile as he saw the two gable windows of the house and perhaps the smoke from the chimney. With every step he had to fight the wind, pulling his dark coat tight around him. The garden shrubs near him were twisted and tousled by the wind. Because of the shadow that already lay dark beneath the hedge, the man was on top of Farouche’s kennel before he saw our German shepherd about to spring.
My mother stifled a cry.
Almost at once we saw Farouche wagging his tail, wiggling his body and crouching in front of this man whose strangely gentle, coaxing tone we in the house could catch between the gusts of the storm.
My mother breathed a great sigh, even more astonished than she was relieved.
“Well,” she said, “that’s the first time I ever saw Farouche make friends that fast!”
The man straightened up and seemed to be surveying all the ways of entering the house. Finally, overcoming his hesitation, he made a half-turn and came rapping on the back door which looked out on the farmyard.
My father, sitting by the fire, was in the grip of the unbearable boredom he suffered with each return of the wet season to our country of the plains. The whole day long he hadn’t said a word. You wondered if he really felt he belonged there with the rest of us. Buried in his thoughts, he hadn’t seen the stranger coming, and even the sound of our voices had most likely not come through to him.
“It’s somebody who doesn’t know his way around here.” This was my mother again as she gestured to me to open the door.
As soon as autumn came we lived in the big room. The small lean-to that served as a kitchen in the summertime now turned into a kind of storage space where we could pile furniture and tools no longer needed. I went through this freezing space and with difficulty lifted the rusty latch. A wallop of rain took me in the face. The man’s head appeared, feebly lit by a vestige of light coming from the big puddles around the pump. All in all, it was a rather nice tramp’s face, the kind that isn’t any particular age and asks for a bowl of soup and will go on his way right afterwards if he isn’t offered an attic for the night. We didn’t see those people often in our out-of-the-way parts, maybe one or two a year, if that. But this one seemed to have a certain dignity and wasn’t in a hurry to beg. A short, reddish, frizzy beard, pearled with great raindrops, invaded half his cheeks; the peak of his cap threw a clean line of shadow on his forehead. His eyes, very gentle and smiling, almost tender, sparkled under the wet fringe of his lashes.
“Well! My little cousin!” he cried in a voice that was as soft and flexible and unsettling as his gaze. “You must be my little cousin Alice!” he went on, laughing.
I shook my head.
“No? Must be Agnes, then!”
“No,” I said, irritated. “I’m Ghislaine.”
“Of course, just what I thought! Of course you’re Ghislaine. I should have known it, even if I never saw you.”
As he spoke, his hands made as if they were drying each other, and he laughed behind his beard and his foot cleverly pushed at the door I was holding slightly open.
Somehow he was inside.
“This is the Rondeaus’ house, I guess?” he asked, and his incredible, friendly smile swept around the interior of the damp, cold shed as if he found it welcoming and filled with people.
“No,” I said, “we’re the Trudeaus.”
“Why, sure, just as I was going to say,” he went on coolly. “Rondeau, Trudeau, names as like as peas. Right, cousin?”
He gave me a little nudge, and I saw his eyes shining with satisfaction.
“Now, little girl, you just go and tell your father there’s a cousin here from the land of Quebec.”
I went before him into the big room – he was right on my heels – and blurted out to my father, as if in mocking reproach: “He says he’s a cousin from Quebec.”
My father stood up and made an odd gesture, as if to take the stranger in his arms, but the impulse failed him. Yet his handsome, aging, peaceful face betrayed not so much a withdrawal as the vagueness of someone suddenly awakened from a dream.
“Well, now! What part of Quebec? Saint-Alphonse?”
“Saint-Alphonse,” said the man.
He approached the stove. His clothes were starting to steam. My mother brought the Aladdin lamp. She lifted it a little above the stranger and you could see great rips in his clothing, some held together by bits of string, others gaping to reveal glimpses of his red shirt.
But the man directed at my mother a gaze so filled with friendship that she set down the lamp and busied herself elsewhere without speaking. We could see that she was excited from the way she opened all the drawers of the sideboard without finding what she wanted.
For a moment the man stood alone in the middle of the room, trying to catch our eyes, which fled his. He drew up a chair by the stove, sat down and breathed a great sigh of well-being.
Then in the silence, two or three times, we could hear his soft, rather drawling voice: “Saint-Alphonse, yes sir. That’s where I come from. Saint-Alphonse. . . .”
My father took out his tobacco pouch. He was about to fill his pipe when the stranger held out a hand and, unabashed, helped himself to the tobacco. Then, after lighting a short clay pipe, he settled back in his chair and murmured distinctly: “Thank you. Much obliged.”
The two men smoked. My mother fussed among her pots with an unusual amount of noise. And sometimes her lips opened as if she were about to say some wounding word. The stranger looked around at us children sitting in the corners, observing one after the other, and smiled out of his beard. He made little jabs with his chin, winked at each of us, then started the rounds again. A badger that we had tamed, still highly suspicious of strangers, actually slipped under the man’s chair. He took it by the scruff of its neck and laid it in his lap. The little animal, far from protesting, licked his wet beard and, its claws retracted, allowed itself to be rocked like a baby. As wild and speechless as our only friends – our animals – we were astounded to see that two of them had taken up with this stranger. Even my mother seemed impressed, and that must have aggravated her ill humour. Little by little we slid off our chairs to come nearer. The strange man gave us signs of encouragement in the manner of the magician our parents had once taken us to see at the rodeo in the next village.
My father had stood up. He was pacing to and fro in the room, his hands behind his back. Then, planting himself in front of the vagabond, he asked: “But whose boy would you be then?”
“Me?” said the man. “Why, the one that disappeared.”
A glimmer of interest showed beneath my father’s lowered eyelids.
“Yep. Gustave.”
“But they thought he was dead!”
“He wasn’t dead. He went to the States. I’m his boy.”
“Oh!” said my father. “You’re his boy!”
“I’m his boy,” the stranger repeated in a voice that was soft and stubborn.
And he turned his smiling face to where my mother was beating her pancake batter. He seemed determined to drag from her a look, a smile, a word. But she was speeding up her supper preparations so as to stay out of the conversation. It wasn’t long before the first spoonful of batter dropped into the hot frying pan. A pleasant odour filled the room. Outside, darkness spread over the desolate, naked landscape. All that could still be seen through the windowpanes was the vague glimmer of water accumulated in great pools between the patches of brush, in the hollows of the plain or running in streams. The man stretched out his legs. He took time to look around the room, low-ceilinged, large, furnished with an oak sideboard and old, modest but solid pieces so well-polished and softened by use that they reflected a long contentment. Then, without moving, he began smiling at nothing again, to himself.
“But what put you onto our trail?” my father asked suddenly.
The stranger raised his blue eyes, which shone in the direct rays of the lamp.
“In Saint-Alphonse.”
My father gave a long sigh.
“It’s been a mighty long time since I saw hide or hair of any of them from Saint-Alphonse.”
It was his turn to look toward my mother, so tiny, so much younger than he. A big apron tied around her waist, she was leaning attentively above her pan and the flame at times leapt perilously close to her face.
“How long is it now, Albertine, since I was in those parts?”
And indeed it was she who was charged with refreshing his memory on events he had described to her about people she had never seen.
She took a little while to reflect, mentally juggling dates, her pretty eyebrows arched high and her mouth a little open.
“You told me you were fourteen when you left home and you hadn’t set foot there since. You figure it out. About fifty years, if you were telling the truth.”
She always ended up with that reservation, as if to throw back the error, if error there was, solely upon my father.
Then, sulking a little, and because the stranger’s presence doubtless irritated her, she added: “What’s more, you haven’t written the folks at home for fifteen years. It’s a real shame!”
“Yes,” said my father, ignoring his wife’s last remark. “It’ll be fifty years. I wouldn’t even know them back there anymore.”
He looked down, his face lit up by distant, melancholy memories.
My mother placed her fists on her hips. Quickly, without looking at the stranger, she said: “It’s ready! Come on, children. Come and eat, Arthur.”
The tramp too stood up gaily. He chose a seat by the wall, slid in, pulling his wretched jacket tight around him, and, once established, seized his fork.
“Yes,” my father mused, “there’s a lot of things back there I never heard a word about.”
The man speared a large slice of bread with his fork. He bit the bread in the middle, then, smiling, his mouth full, he promised: “I’ll tell you all about it after.”

From the Trade Paperback edition.

close this panel
The Edible Woman

I know I was all right on Friday when I got up; if anything I was feeling more stolid than usual. When I went out to the kitchen to get breakfast Ainsley was there, moping: she said she had been to a bad party the night before. She swore there had been nothing but dentistry students, which depressed her so much she had consoled herself by getting drunk.
“You have no idea how soggy it is,” she said, “having to go through twenty conversations about the insides of peoples’ mouths. The most reaction I got out of them was when I described an abscess I once had. They positively drooled. And most men look at something besides your teeth, for god’s sake.”
She had a hangover, which put me in a cheerful mood – it made me feel so healthy – and I poured her a glass of tomato juice and briskly fixed her an Alka- Seltzer, listening and making sympathetic noises while she complained.
“As if I didn’t get enough of that at work,” she said. Ainsley has a job as a tester of defective electric toothbrushes for an electric toothbrush company: a temporary job. What she is waiting for is an opening in one of those little art galleries, even though they don’t pay well: she wants to meet the artists. Last year, she told me, it was actors, but then she actually met some. “It’s an absolute fixation. I expect they all carry those bent mirrors around in their coat pockets and peer into their own mouths every time they go to the john to make sure they’re still cavity- free.” She ran one hand reflectively through her hair, which is long and red, or rather auburn. “Could you imagine kissing one? He’d say ‘Open wide’ beforehand. They’re so bloody one- track.”
“It must have been awful,” I said, refilling her glass. “Couldn’t you have changed the topic?”
Ainsley raised her almost non- existent eyebrows, which hadn’t been coloured in yet that morning. “Of course not,” she said. “I pretended to be terribly interested. And naturally I didn’t let on what my job was: those professional men get so huffy if you know anything about their subject. You know, like Peter.”
Ainsley tends to make jabs at Peter, especially when she isn’t feeling well. I was magnanimous and didn’t respond. “You’d better eat something before you go to work,” I said, “it’s better when you’ve got something on your stomach.”
“Oh god,” said Ainsley, “I can’t face it. Another day of machines and mouths. I haven’t had an interesting one since last month, when that lady sent back her toothbrush because the bristles were falling off. We found out she’d been using Ajax.”
I got so caught up in being efficient for Ainsley’s benefit while complimenting myself on my moral superiority to her that I didn’t realize how late it was until she reminded me. At the electric toothbrush company they don’t care what time you breeze in, but my company thinks of itself as punctual. I had to skip the egg and wash down a glass of milk and a bowl of cold cereal which I knew would leave me hungry long before lunchtime. I chewed through a piece of bread while Ainsley watched me in nauseated silence and grabbed up my purse, leaving Ainsley to close the apartment door behind me.
We live on the top floor of a large house in one of the older and more genteel districts, in what I suppose used to be the servants’ quarters. This means there are two flights of stairs between us and the front door, the higher flight narrow and slippery, the lower one wide and carpeted but with stair rods that come loose. In the high heels expected by the office I have to go down sideways, clutching the bannister. That morning I made it safely past the line of pioneer brass warming- pans strung on the wall of our stairway, avoided catching myself on the many- pronged spinning wheel on the second-floor landing, and sidestepped quickly down past the ragged regimental flag behind glass and the row of oval- framed ancestors that guard the first stairway. I was relieved to see there was no one in the downstairs hall. On level ground I strode towards the door, swerving to avoid the rubber plant on one side and the hall table with the écru doily and the round brass tray on the other. Behind the velvet curtain to the right I could hear the child performing her morning penance at the piano. I thought I was safe.
But before I reached the door it swung silently inward upon its hinges, and I knew I was trapped. It was the lady down below. She was wearing a pair of spotless gardening gloves and carrying a trowel. I wondered who she’d been burying in the garden.
“Good morning, Miss MacAlpin,” she said.
“Good morning.” I nodded and smiled. I can never remember her name, and neither can Ainsley; I suppose we have what they call a mental block about it. I looked past her towards the street, but she didn’t move out of the doorway.
“I was out last night,” she said. “At a meeting.” She has an indirect way of going about things. I shifted from one foot to the other and smiled again, hoping she would realize I was in a hurry. “The child tells me there was another fire.”
“Well, it wasn’t exactly a fire,” I said. The child had taken this mention of her name as an excuse to stop practising, and was standing now in the velvet doorway of the parlour, staring at me. She is a hulking creature of fifteen or so who is being sent to an exclusive private girls’ school, and she has to wear a green tunic with knee-socks to match. I’m sure she’s really quite normal, but there’s something cretinous about the hair- ribbon perched up on top of her gigantic body.
The lady down below took off one of her gloves and patted her chignon. “Ah,” she said sweetly. “The child says there was a lot of smoke.”
“Everything was under control,” I said, not smiling this time. “It was just the pork chops.”
“Oh, I see,” she said. “Well, I do wish you would tell Miss Tewce to try not to make quite so much smoke in future. I’m afraid it upsets the child.” She holds Ainsley alone responsible for the smoke, and seems to think she sends it out of her nostrils like a dragon. But she never stops Ainsley in the hall to talk about it: only me. I suspect she’s decided Ainsley isn’t respectable, whereas I am. It’s probably the way we dress: Ainsley says I choose clothes as though they’re a camouflage or a protective colouration, though I can’t see anything wrong with that. She herself goes in for neon pink.
Of course I missed the bus: as I crossed the lawn I could see it disappearing across the bridge in a cloud of air pollution. While I was standing under the tree – our street has many trees, all of them enormous – waiting for the next bus, Ainsley came out of the house and joined me. She’s a quick- change artist; I could never put myself together in such a short time. She was looking a lot healthier – possibly the effects of makeup, though you can never tell with Ainsley – and she had her red hair piled up on top of her head, as she always does when she goes to work. The rest of the time she wears it down in straggles. She had on her orange and pink sleeveless dress, which I judged was too tight across the hips. The day was going to be hot and humid; already I could feel a private atmosphere condensing around me like a plastic bag. Maybe I should have worn a sleeveless dress too.
“She got me in the hall,” I said. “About the smoke.”
“The old bitch,” said Ainsley. “Why can’t she mind her own business?” Ainsley doesn’t come from a small town as I do, so she’s not as used to people being snoopy; on the other hand she’s not as afraid of it either. She has no idea about the consequences.
“She’s not that old,” I said, glancing over at the curtained windows of the house; though I knew she couldn’t hear us. “Besides, it wasn’t her who noticed the smoke, it was the child. She was at a meeting.”
“Probably the W.C.T.U.,” Ainsley said. “Or the I.O.D.E. I’ll bet she wasn’t at a meeting at all; she was hiding behind that damn velvet curtain, wanting us to think she was at a meeting so we’d really do something. What she wants is an orgy.”
“Now Ainsley,” I said, “you’re being paranoid.” Ainsley is convinced that the lady down below comes upstairs when we aren’t there and looks round our apartment and is silently horrified, and even suspects her of ruminating over our mail, though not of going so far as to open it. It’s a fact that she sometimes answers the front door for our visitors before they ring the bell. She must think she’s within her rights to take precautions: when we first considered renting the apartment she made it clear to us, by discreet allusions to previous tenants, that whatever happened the child’s innocence must not be corrupted, and that two young ladies were surely more to be depended upon than two young men.
“I’m doing my best,” she had said, sighing and shaking her head. She had intimated that her husband, whose portrait in oils hung above the piano, had not left as much money as he should have. “Of course you realize your apartment has no private entrance?” She had been stressing the drawbacks rather than the advantages, almost as though she didn’t want us to rent. I said we did realize it; Ainsley said nothing. We had agreed I would do the talking and Ainsley would sit and look innocent, something she can do very well when she wants to – she has a pink- and- white blunt baby’s face, a bump for a nose, and large blue eyes she can make as round as ping- pong balls. On this occasion I had even got her to wear gloves.
The lady down below shook her head again. “If it weren’t for the child,” she said, “I would sell the house. But I want the child to grow up in a good district.”
I said I understood, and she said that of course the district wasn’t as good as it used to be: some of the larger houses were too expensive to keep up and the owners had been forced to sell them to immigrants (the corners of her mouth turned gently down) who had divided them up into rooming houses. “But that hasn’t reached our street yet,” she said. “And I tell the child exactly which streets she can walk on and which she can’t.” I said I thought that was wise. She had seemed much easier to deal with before we had signed the lease. And the rent was so low, and the house was so close to the bus stop. For this city it was a real find.
“Besides,” I added to Ainsley, “they have a right to be worried about the smoke. What if the house was on fire? And she’s never mentioned the other things.”
“What other things? We’ve never done any other things.”
“Well . . .” I said. I suspected the lady down below had taken note of all the bottle- shaped objects we had carried upstairs, though I tried my best to disguise them as groceries. It was true she had never specifically forbidden us to do anything – that would be too crude a violation of her law of nuance – but this only makes me feel I am actually forbidden to do everything.
“On still nights,” said Ainsley as the bus drew up, “I can hear her burrowing through the woodwork.”
We didn’t talk on the bus; I don’t like talking on buses, I would rather look at the advertisements. Besides, Ainsley and I don’t have much in common except the lady down below. I’ve only known her since just before we moved in: she was a friend of a friend, looking for a room mate at the same time I was, which is the way these things are usually done. Maybe I should have tried a computer; though on the whole it’s worked out fairly well. We get along by a symbiotic adjustment of habits and with a minimum of that pale- mauve hostility you often find among women. Our apartment is never exactly clean, but we keep it from gathering more than a fine plum- bloom of dust by an unspoken agreement: if I do the breakfast dishes, Ainsley does the supper ones; if I sweep the living- room floor, Ainsley wipes the kitchen table. It’s a see- saw arrangement and we both know that if one beat is missed the whole thing will collapse. Of course we each have our own bedroom and what goes on in there is strictly the owner’s concern. For instance Ainsley’s floor is covered by a treacherous muskeg of used clothes with ashtrays scattered here and there on it like stepping- stones, but though I consider it a fire hazard I never speak to her about it. By such mutual refrainings – I assume they are mutual since there must be things I do that she doesn’t like – we manage to preserve a reasonably frictionless equilibrium.
We reached the subway station, where I bought a package of peanuts. I was beginning to feel hungry already. I offered some to Ainsley, but she refused, so I ate them all on the way downtown.
We got off at the second- last stop south and walked a block together; our office buildings are in the same district.
“By the way,” said Ainsley as I was turning off at my street, “have you got three dollars? We’re out of scotch.” I rummaged in my purse and handed over, not without a sense of injustice: we split the cost but rarely the contents. At the age of ten I wrote a temperance essay for a United Church Sunday- school competition, illustrating it with pictures of car crashes, diagrams of diseased livers, and charts showing the effects of alcohol upon the circulatory system; I expect that’s why I can never take a second drink without a mental image of a warning sign printed in coloured crayons and connected with the taste of tepid communion grape juice. This puts me at a disadvantage with Peter; he likes me to try and keep up with him.
As I hurried towards my office building, I found myself envying Ainsley her job. Though mine was better- paying and more interesting, hers was more temporary: she had an idea of what she wanted to do next. She could work in a shiny new air- conditioned office building, whereas mine was dingy brick with small windows. Also, her job was unusual. When she meets people at parties they are always surprised when she tells them she’s a tester of defective electric toothbrushes, and she always says, “What else do you do with a B.A. these days?” Whereas my kind of job is only to be expected. I was thinking too that really I was better equipped to handle her job than she is. From what I see around the apartment, I’m sure I have much more mechanical ability than Ainsley.
By the time I finally reached the office I was three- quarters of an hour late. None commented but all took note.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

close this panel
Owls in the Family

Owls in the Family

also available: Paperback
tagged :
More Info

Chapter 1
One May morning my friend Bruce and I went for a hike on the prairie.

Spring was late that year in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Snowdrifts still clung along the steep banks of the river in the shelter of the cottonwood trees. The river was icy with thaw water and, as we crossed over the Railroad Bridge, we could feel a cold breath rising from it. But we felt another breath, a gentle one, blowing across the distant wheat fields and smelling like warm sun shining on soft mud. It was the spring wind, and the smell of it made us walk faster. We were in a hurry to get out of the city and into the real prairie, where you can climb a fence post and see for about a million miles – that’s how flat the prairie is.

The great thing about Saskatoon was the way it ended sharp all around its edge. There were no outskirts to Saskatoon. When you stepped off the end of the Railroad Bridge you stepped right onto the prairie and there you were – free as the gophers.

Gophers were the commonest thing on the prairie. The little mounds of yellow dirt around their burrows were so thick, sometimes, it looked as if the fields had yellow measles.

But this day Bruce and I weren’t interested in gophers. We were looking for an owl’s-nest. We had decided that we wanted some pet owls, and if you want pet owls you have to find a nest and get the young ones out of it.

We headed for the nearest of the clumps of cottonwood trees that dot the prairies, and which are called “bluffs” out in Saskatchewan. The ground was spongy under our sneakers, and it squooshed when we hit a wet place. A big jack rabbit bounced up right under my feet, and scared me so much I jumped almost as high as he did. And as we came nearer the bluff, two crows came zooming out of it and swooped down on us, cawing their heads off.

Bluffs are funny places in the spring. The cottonwood trees shed a kind of white fluffy stuff that looks like snow. Sometimes it’s so thick it comes right over the top of your sneakers and you get a queer feeling that you really are walking through snow, even though the sun on your back is making you sweat right through your shirt.

We walked through this bluff, scuffing our feet in the cottonwood snow and stirring it up in clouds. We kept looking up; and after a while, sure enough, we saw a big mess of twigs high up in a poplar.

“All right,” Bruce said to the two crows which were swooping and hollering at us. “If you want me to snitch your eggs – I will!”

With that he handed me his haversack and began to shinny up the tree.

It was an easy climb because cottonwood poplars always have lots of branches. When he got to the nest and looked into it I yelled up at him: “Any eggs?” Bruce grinned but he wouldn’t answer. I could see him doing something with his free hand – the one he wasn’t holding on with – and I knew there were eggs there all right. I watched, and sure enough he was popping them into his mouth so he could carry them down out of the tree.

We always carried eggs down out of trees that way. The only thing was, crows’ eggs are pretty big, and if you have to stuff three or four of them into your mouth it nearly chokes you.

Bruce started to climb down. When he got about ten feet from the ground he stepped on a rotten branch. Poplar branches are always rotten near the ground, and you have to watch out for them. I guess Bruce forgot. Anyway, the branch broke and he slid the rest of the way and lit on his seat with a good hard bump.

All the eggs had broken, and Bruce was spitting out shells and eggs all over the cottonwood snow. I got laughing so hard I couldn’t even talk. When Bruce got most of the eggs spat out he came for me and tackled me, and we had a fight. It didn’t last long, because it was too hot to really fight, so Bruce ate a sardine sandwich to get the taste of crows’ eggs out of his mouth and then we started across the prairie again to search through other bluffs until we found an owl’s-nest.

I guess we searched about a hundred bluffs that morning, but we never saw an owl. We were getting hungry by then, so we made a sort of nest for ourselves on the ground, out of poplar snow and branches. We curled up in it and opened our haversacks.

Bruce had sandwiches and a lemon in his. He was the only boy I ever knew who liked to eat lemons. He said they were better than oranges, any day of the week.

I had a hard-boiled egg and just for fun I reached over and cracked the shell on Bruce’s head. He yelled, and we had another fight, and rolled all over his sardine sandwiches.

We were just finishing our lunch when a wood gopher came snuffling along through the cottonwood snow. Wood gophers are gray and have big bushy tails. This one came right up to us and, when I held a crust out to him, he shuffled up and took it out of my hand.

“Got no sense,” said Bruce. “You might have been a coyote, and then where’d he be at?”

“Heck,” I said. “He’s got more sense than you. Do I look like a coyote?”

The gopher didn’t say anything. He just took the crust and scuttled away to his hole somewhere. We picked up our haversacks. The sun was as bright as fireworks and the sky was so clear you could look right through it – like looking through a blue window. We started to walk.

All of a sudden Bruce stopped so fast that I bumped into him.

“Lookee!” he said, and pointed to a bluff about half a mile away. There must have been a million crows around it. It looked as if the bluff was on fire and filling the sky with black smoke – that’s how many crows there were.

When you see a bunch of crows all yelling their heads off at something, you can almost bet it’s an owl they’re after. Crows and owls hate each other, and when a crow spots an owl, he’ll call every other crow for miles and they all join in and mob the owl.

We headed for that bluff at a run. The crows saw us coming but they were too excited to pay much attention. We were nearly deaf with their racket by the time we reached the edge of the trees. I was ahead of Bruce when I saw something big and slow go drifting out of one poplar into another. It was a great horned owl, the biggest kind of owl there is, and as soon as it flew, the whole lot of crows came swooping down on it, cawing like fury. I noticed they were careful not to get too close.

Bruce and I started to hunt for the nest. After a while, the owl got more worried about us than about the crows and away he went. He flew low over the fields, almost touching the ground. That way the crows couldn’t dive on him. If they tried it they would shoot past him and crash into the dirt.

There wasn’t any owl’s-nest in that bluff after all, but we didn’t worry. We knew the nest would have to be in some bluff not too far away. All we had to do was look.

We looked in different bluffs all afternoon. We found seven crows’-nests, a red-tailed hawk’s-nest, and three magpies’-nests. I tore the seat out of my trousers climbing to the hawk’s-nest, and we both got Russian thistles in our sneakers, so we had sore feet. It got hotter and hotter, and we were so thirsty I could have eaten a lemon myself, except that Bruce didn’t have any more.

It was past suppertime when we started back toward the railroad. By then we were pretending we were a couple of Arabs lost in the desert. Our camels had died of thirst, and we were going to die too unless we found some water pretty soon.

“Listen,” Bruce said. “There’s an old well at Haultain Corner. If we cut over past Barney’s Slough to the section road, we can get a drink.”

“Too late,” I told him. “Good-by, old pal, old Sheik. I am doomed. Go on and leave me lay.”

“Oh, nuts,” said Bruce. “I’m thirsty. C’mon, let’s go.”

So we cut past Barney’s Slough and there were about a thousand mallard ducks on it. They all jumped into the air as we went by and their wings made a sound like a freight train going over a bridge.

“Wish I had my dad’s gun!” said Bruce.

But I was wondering why on the prairies they call lakes and ponds “sloughs.” I still don’t know why. But that’s what they’re called in Saskatoon.

There was one big bluff between us and Haultain Corner. It was too far to go around it, so we walked right through it. Anyway, it was cooler in among the trees. When we were about halfway through I spotted a crow’s-nest in a big old cottonwood.

“Bet it’s empty,” I said to Bruce. But the truth was that I was just too hot and tired to climb any more trees. Bruce felt the same way, and we walked past. But I took one last look up at it, and there, sticking over the edge of the nest, was the biggest bunch of tail feathers you ever saw. My heart jumped right into my throat and I grabbed Bruce by the shirt and pointed up.

It was a great horned owl all right. We kept as quiet as we could, so as not to scare her, and then we looked around the bottom of the tree. There were bits of rabbits and gophers, and lots of owl pellets. When owls catch something, they eat the whole thing–bones and fur and all. Then, after a while, they burp and spit out a ball of hair and bones. That’s an owl pellet.

“By Gang! We found it!” Bruce whispered.

I found it,” I said.

“Okay,” said Bruce. “You found it, then. So how about you climbing up and seeing how many young ones are in it?”

“Nothing doing, old pal,” I replied. “I found the nest. So if you want one of the owlets, you climb up and have a look.”

Neither of us was keen to climb that tree. The old owl was sticking close to her nest, and you can’t always tell how fierce an owl is going to be. They can be pretty fierce sometimes.

“Say,” said Bruce after a while, “why don’t we just leave her be for now? Might scare her into leaving the nest for good if we climbed up. What say we get Mr. Miller, and come back tomorrow?”

Mr. Miller was one of our teachers. Bruce and I liked him because he liked the prairie too. He was a great one for taking pictures of birds and things. We knew he would be crazy to get some pictures of the owl – and Mr. Miller never minded climbing trees.

“Sure,” I said. “Good idea.”

We went off to Haultain Corner and got a drink of water that tasted like old nails, out of the broken pump. Then we walked on home. That night I told Dad about the owl’s-nest, and he looked at Mother, and all he said was:

“Oh NO! Not owls too.”

close this panel
This Side Jordan

The six boys were playing the Fire Highlife, playing it with a beat urgent as love. And Johnnie Kestoe, who didn't like Africans, was dancing the highlife with an African girl.
Charity's scarlet smile mocked his attempts to rotate his shoulders and wriggle his European hips to the music. Her own fleshy hips and buttocks swayed easily, and her big young breasts, unspoiled by children and only lightly held by her pink blouse, rose and fell as though the music were her breath. Johnnie grinned awkwardly at her, then he jerked his head away.
'Fiyah, fiyah, fiyah, fiyah- ma,
Fiyah deah come – baby!
Fiyah, fiyah, fiyah, fiyah- ma,
Fiyah deah come – ah ah!
I went to see my lovely boy,
Lovely boy I love so well –'
At one of the tables around the outdoor dance floor, a young European woman watched thoughtfully. At another table an African man watched, then turned away and spat. Both were angry, and with the same person.
Music was the clothing of West African highlife, but rhythm its blood and bone. This music was sophisticated. It was modern. It was new. To hell with the ritual tribal dance, the drums with voices ancient as the forest.
The torn leaves of the palm trees shivered in the wind and the strings of fairy lights glittered like glass beads in the musty courtyard.
The dancers themselves did not analyse the highlife any more than they analysed the force that had brought them all together here, to a nightclub called 'Weekend In Wyoming', the wealthy and the struggling, the owners of chauffeur-driven Jaguars and the riders of bicycles.
They were bound together, nevertheless, by the music and their need of it. Africa has danced pain and love since the first man was born from its red soil. But the ancient drums could no longer summon the people who danced here. The highlife was their music. For they, too, were modern. They, too, were new.
And yet the old rhythms still beat strongly in this highlife in the centre of Accra, amid the taxi horns, just as a few miles away, in Jamestown or Labadi, they pulsed through the drums while the fetish priestess with ash- smeared cheeks whirled to express the unutterable, and the drummer's eyes grew glassy and still, his soul drugged more powerfully than the body could be.
Into the brash contemporary patterns of this Africa's fabric were woven symbols old as the sun- king, old as the oldest continent.

close this panel
Life in the Clearings versus the Bush


“The land of our adoption claims
Our highest powers, – our firmest trust –;
May future ages blend our names
With hers, when we shall sleep in dust.
Land of our sons! – last-born of earth,
A mighty nation nurtures thee;
The first in moral power and worth, –
Long mayst thou boast her sovereignty!
Union is strength, while round the boughs
Of thine own lofty maple-tree;
The threefold wreath of Britain flows,
Twined with the graceful fleur-de-lis;
A chaplet wreathed mid smiles and tears,
In which all hues of glory blend;
Long may it bloom for future years,
And vigour to thy weakness lend.”

Year after year, during twenty years’ residence in the colony, I had indulged the hope of one day visiting the Falls of Niagara, and year after year, for twenty long years, I was doomed to disappointment.
For the first ten years, my residence in the woods of Douro, my infant family, and last, not least, among the list of objections, that great want, – the want of money, – placed insuperable difficulties in the way of my ever accomplishing this cherished wish of my heart.
The hope, resigned for the present, was always indulged as a bright future a pleasant day-dream – an event which at some unknown period, when happier days should dawn upon us, might take place; but which just now was entirely out of the question.
When the children were very importunate for a new book or toy, and I had not the means of gratifying them, I used to silence them by saying that I would buy that and many other nice things for them when “our money cart came home.”
During the next ten years, this all-important and anxiously anticipated vehicle did not arrive. The children did not get their toys, and my journey to Niagara was still postponed to an indefinite period.
Like a true daughter of romance, I could not banish from my mind the glorious ideal I had formed of this wonder of the world; but still continued to speculate about the mighty cataract, that sublime “thunder of waters,” whose very name from childhood had been music to my ears.
Ah, Hope! what would life be, stripped of thy encouraging smiles, that teach us to look behind the dark clouds of to-day for the golden beams that are to gild the mor row. To those who have faith in thy promises, the most extravagant fictions are possible; and the unreal becomes material and tangible. The artist who placed thee upon the rock with an anchor for a leaning post, could never have experienced any of thy vagrant propensities. He should have invested thee with the rainbow of Iris, the winged feet of Mercury, and the upward pointing finger of Faith; and as for thy footstool, it should be a fleecy white cloud, changing its form with the changing breeze.
Yet this hope of mine, of one day seeing the Falls of Niagara, was, after all, a very enduring hope; for though I began to fear that it never would be realized, yet, for twenty years, I never gave it up entirely; and Patience, who always sits at the feet of Hope, was at length rewarded by her sister’s consenting smile.
During the past summer I was confined, by severe indisposition, almost entirely to the house. The obstinate nature of my disease baffled the skill of a very clever medical attendant, and created alarm and uneasiness in my family: and I entertained small hopes of my own recovery.
Dr. L—, as a last resource, recommended change of air and scene; a remedy far more to my taste than the odious drugs from which I had not derived the least bene fit. Ill and languid as I was, Niagara once more rose before my mental vision, and I exclaimed, with a thrill of joy, “The time is come at last – I shall yet see it before I die.”
My dear husband was to be the companion of my long journey in search of health. Our simple arrangements were soon made, and on the 7th of September we left Belleville in the handsome new steam-boat, “The Bay of Quinte,” for Kingston.
The afternoon was cloudless, the woods just tinged with their first autumnal glow, and the lovely bay, and its fairy isles, never appeared more enchanting in my eyes. Often as I had gazed upon it in storm and shine, its blue transparent waters seemed to smile upon me more lovingly than usual. With affectionate interest I looked long and tenderly upon the shores we were leaving. There stood my peaceful, happy home; the haven of rest to which Provi dence had conducted me after the storms and trials of many years. Within the walls of that small stone cottage, peeping forth from its screen of young hickory trees, I had left three dear children, – God only could tell whether we should ever meet on earth again: I knew that their prayers would follow me on my long journey, and the cherub Hope was still at my side, to whisper of happy hours and restored health and spirits. I blessed God, for the love of those young kindred hearts, and for having placed their home in such a charming locality.
Next to the love of God, the love of nature may be regarded as the purest and holiest feeling of the human breast. In the outward beauty of his creation, we catch a reflection of the divine image of the Creator, which refines the intellect, and lifts the soul upward to Him. This innate perception of the beautiful, however, is confined to no rank or situation, but is found in the most barren spots, and surrounded by the most unfavourable circumstances; wherever the sun shines and warms, or the glory of the moon and stars can be seen at night, the children of genius will find a revelation of God in their beams. But there is not a doubt that those born and brought up among scenes of great natural sublimity and beauty, imbibe this feeling in a larger degree, and their minds are more easily imbued with the glorious colouring of romance, – the inspired visions of the poet.
Dear patient reader! whether of British or Canadian origin, as I wish to afford you all the amusement in my power, deign to accompany me on my long journey. Allow me a woman’s privilege of talking of all sorts of things by the way. Should I tire you with my desultory mode of conversation, bear with me charitably, and take into account the infirmities incidental to my gossiping sex and age. If I dwell too long upon some subjects, do not call me a bore, or vain and trifling, if I pass too lightly over others. The little knowledge I possess, I impart freely, and wish that it was more profound and extensive, for your sake.
Come, and take your seat with me on the deck of the steamer; and as we glide over the waters of this beautiful Bay of Quinte, I will make you acquainted with every spot worthy of note along its picturesque shores.
An English lady, writing to me not long ago, expressed her weariness of my long stories about the country of my adoption, in the following terms: – “Don’t fill your letters to me with descriptions of Canada. Who, in England, thinks anything of Canada!”
Here the pride so common to the inhabitants of the favoured isles spoke out. This is perhaps excusable in those who boast that they belong to a country that pos sesses, in an eminent degree, the attributes bestowed by old Jacob on his first-born, “the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power.” But, to my own thinking, it savoured not a little of arrogance, and still more of igno rance, in the fair writer; who, being a woman of talent, should have known better. A child is not a man, but his progress is regarded with more attention on that account; and his future greatness is very much determined by the progress he makes in his youth.
To judge Canada by the same standard, she appears to us a giant for her years, and well worthy the most serious contemplation. Many are the weary, overtasked minds in that great, wealthy, and powerful England, that turn towards this flourishing colony their anxious thoughts, and would willingly exchange the golden prime of the mother country for the healthy, vigorous young strength of this, her stalwart child, and consider themselves only too happy in securing a home upon these free and fertile shores.
Be not discouraged, brave emigrant. Let Canada still remain the bright future in your mind, and hasten to convert your present day-dream into reality. The time is not far distant when she shall be the theme of many tongues, and the old nations of the world will speak of her progress with respect and admiration. Her infancy is past, she begins to feel her feet, to know her own strength, and see her way clearly through the wilderness. Child as you may deem her, she has already battled bravely for her own rights, and obtained the management of her own affairs. Her onward progress is certain. There is no if in her case. She possesses within her own territory all the elements of future prosperity, and she must be great!
The men who throng her marts, and clear her forests, are workers, not dreamers, who have already realized Solomon’s pithy proverb, “In all labour is profit”; and their industry has imbued them with a spirit of indepen dence which cannot fail to make them a free and enlight ened people.
An illustration of the truth of what I advance, can be given in the pretty town we are leaving on the north side of the bay. I think you will own with me that your eyes have seldom rested upon a spot more favoured by Nature, or one that bids fairer to rise to great wealth and political importance.
Sixty years ago, the spot that Belleville now occupies was in the wilderness; and its rapid, sparkling river and sunny upland slopes (which during the lapse of ages have formed a succession of banks to the said river), were only known to the Indian hunter and the white trader.
Where you see those substantial stone wharfs, and the masts of those vessels, unloading their valuable cargoes to replenish the stores of the wealthy merchants in the town, a tangled cedar swamp spread its dark, unwholesome vegetation into the bay, completely covering with an impenetrable jungle those smooth verdant plains, now surrounded with neat cottages and gardens.
Of a bright summer evening (and when is a Canadian summer evening otherwise?) those plains swarm with happy, healthy children, who assemble there to pursue their gambols beyond the heat and dust of the town; or to watch with eager eyes the young men of the place engaged in the manly old English game of cricket, with whom it is, in their harmless boasting, “Belleville against Toronto-Cobourg; Kingston, the whole world.”
The editor of a Kingston paper once had the barbarity to compare these valiant champions of the bat and ball to “singed cats – ugly to look at, but very devils to go.”
Our lads have never forgiven the insult; and should the said editor ever show his face upon their ground, they would kick him off with as little ceremony as they would a spent ball.
On that high sandy ridge that overlooks the town east-ward – where the tin roof of the Court House, a massy, but rather tasteless building, and the spires of four churches catch the rays of the sun – a tangled maze of hazel bushes, and wild plum and cherry, once screened the Indian burying-ground, and the children of the red hunter sought for strawberries among the long grass and wild flowers that flourish profusely in that sandy soil.
Would that you could stand with me on that lofty eminence and look around you! The charming prospect that spreads itself at your feet would richly repay you for toil ing up the hill.
We will suppose ourselves standing among the graves in the burying-ground of the English church; the sunny heavens above us, the glorious waters of the bay, clasping in their azure belt three-fourths of the landscape, and the quiet dead sleeping at our feet.
The white man has so completely supplanted his red brother, that he has appropriated the very spot that held his bones; and in a few years their dust will mingle together, although no stone marks the grave where the red man sleeps.
From this churchyard you enjoy the finest view of the town and surrounding country; and, turn your eyes which way you will, they cannot fail to rest on some natural object of great interest and beauty.
The church itself is but a homely structure; and has always been to me a great eyesore. It is to be regretted that the first inhabitants of the place selected their best and most healthy building sites for the erection of places of worship. Churches and churchyards occupy the hills from whence they obtain their springs of fresh water, and such delicious water! They do not at present feel any ill-consequences arising from this error of judgment; but the time will come, as population increases, and the dead accumulate, when these burying-grounds, by poisoning the springs that flow through them, will materially injure the health of the living.
The English church was built many years ago, partly of  red brick burnt in the neighbourhood, and partly of woodcoloured red to make up the deficiency of the costlier material. This seems a shab by saving, as abundance of brick-earth of the best quality abounds in the same hill, and the making of bricks forms a very lucrative and important craft to several persons in the town.
Belleville was but a small settlement on the edge of the forest, scarcely deserving the name of a village, when this church first pointed its ugly tower towards heaven. Doubtless its founders thought they had done wonders when they erected this humble looking place of worship; but now, when their descendants have become rich, and the village of log-huts and frame buildings has grown into a populous, busy, thriving town, and this red, tasteless building is too small to accommodate its congregation, it should no longer hold the height of the hill, but give place to a larger and handsomer edifice.
Behold its Catholic brother on the other side of the road; how much its elegant structure and graceful spire adds to the beauty of the scene. Yet the funds for rearing that handsome building, which is such an ornament to the town, were chiefly derived from small subscriptions, drawn from the earnings of mechanics, day-labourers, and female servants. If the Church of England were supported throughout the colony, on the voluntary principle, we should soon see fine stone churches, like St. Michael, replacing these decaying edifices of wood, and the outcry about the ever-vexed question of the Clergy Reserves, would be merged in her increased influence and prosperity.
The deep-toned, sonorous bell, that fills the steeple of the Catholic church, which cost, I have been told, seven hundred pounds, and was brought all the way from Spain, was purchased by the voluntary donations of the congregation. This bell is remarkable for its fine tone, which can be heard eight miles into the country, and as far as the village of Northport, eleven miles distant, on the other side of the bay. There is a solemn grandeur in the solitary voice of the magnificent bell, as it booms across the valley in which the town lies, and reverberates among the distant woods and hills, which has a very imposing effect.
A few years ago the mechanics in the town entered into an agreement that they would only work from six to six during the summer months, and from seven till five in the winter, and they offered to pay a certain sum to the Catholic church for tolling the bell at the said hours. The Catholic workmen who reside in or near the town, adhere strictly to this rule, and, if the season is ever so pressing, they obstinately refuse to work before or after the stated time. I have seen, on our own little farm, the mower fling down his scythe in the swathe, and the harvestman his sickle in the ridge, the moment the bell tolled for six.
In fact, the bell in this respect is looked upon as a great nuisance; and the farmers in the country refuse to be guided by it in the hours allotted for field labour; as they justly remark that the best time for hard work in a hot country is before six in the morning, and after the heat of the day in the evening.
When the bell commences to toll there is a long pause between each of the first four strokes. This is to allow the pious Catholic time for crossing himself and saying a short prayer.
How much of the ideal mingles with this worship! No wonder that the Irish, who are such an imaginative people, should cling to it with such veneration. Would any other creed suit them as well? It is a solemn thing to step into their churches, and witness the intensity of their devotions. Reason never raises a doubt to shake the oneness of their faith. They receive it on the credit of their priests, and their credulity is as boundless as their ignorance. Often have I asked the poor Catholics in my employ why such and such days were holy days? They could seldom tell me, but said that “the priest told them to keep them holy, and to break them would be a deadly sin.”
I cannot but respect their child-like trust, and the reverence they feel for their spiritual teachers; nor could I ever bring myself to believe that a conscientious Catholic was in any danger of rejection from the final bar. He has imposed upon himself a heavier yoke than the Saviour kindly laid upon him, and has enslaved himself with a thousand superstitious observances which to us appear absurd; but his sincerity should awaken in us an affectionate interest in his behalf, not engender the bitter hatred which at present forms an adamantine barrier between us. If the Protestant would give up a little of his bigotry, and the Catholic a part of his superstition, and they would consent to meet each other half way, as brothers of one common manhood, inspired by the same Christian hope, and bound to the same heavenly country, we should no longer see the orange banner flaunting our streets on the twelfth of July, and natives of the same island provoking each other to acts of violence and bloodshed.
These hostile encounters are of yearly occurrence in the colony, and are justly held in abhorrence by the pious and thinking portion of the population of either denomination. The government has for many years vainly endeavoured to put them down, but they still pollute with their moral leprosy the free institutions of the country, and effectually prevent any friendly feeling which might grow up between the members of these rival and hostile creeds.
In Canada, where all religions are tolerated, it appears a useless aggravation of an old national grievance to perpetuate the memory of the battle of the Boyne. What have we to do with the hatreds and animosities of a more barbarous age. These things belong to the past: “Let the dead bury their dead,” and let us form for ourselves a holier and truer present. The old quarrel between Irish Catholics and Protestants should have been sunk in the ocean when they left their native country to find a home, unpolluted by the tyrannies of bygone ages, in the wilds of Canada.
The larger portion of our domestics are from Ireland, and, as far as my experience goes, I have found the Catholic Irish as faithful and trustworthy as the Protestants. The tendency to hate belongs to the race, not to the religion, or the Protestant would not exhibit the same vindictive spirit which marks his Catholic brother. They break and destroy more than the Protestants, but that springs from the reckless carelessness of their character more than from any malice against their employers, if you may judge by the bad usage they give their own household goods and tools. The principle on which they live is literally to care as little as possible for the things of to-day, and to take no thought at all for the morrow.
“Shure, Ma’am, it can be used,” said an Irish girl to me, after breaking the spout out of an expensive china jug, “It is not a hair the worse!” She could not imagine that a mutilated object could occasion the least discomfort to those accustomed to order and neatness in their household arrangements.
The Irish female servants are remarkably chaste in their language and deportment. You are often obliged to find fault with them for gross acts of neglect and wastefulness, but never for using bad language. They may spoil your children by over-indulgence, but they never corrupt their morals by loose conversation.
An Irish girl once told me, with beautiful simplicity, “that every bad word a woman uttered, made the blessed Virgin blush.”
A girl becoming a mother before marriage is regarded as a dreadful calamity by her family, and she seldom, if ever, gets one of her own countrymen to marry her with this stain on her character.
How different is the conduct of the female peasantry in the eastern counties of England, who unblushingly avow their derelictions from the paths of virtue. The crime of infanticide, so common there, is almost unknown among the Irish. If the priest and the confessional are able to restrain the lower orders from the commission of gross crime, who shall say that they are without their use? It is true that the priest often exercises his power over his flock in a manner which would appear to a Protestant to border on the ludicrous.
A girl who lived with a lady of my acquaintance, gave the following graphic account of an exhortation delivered by the priest at the altar. I give it in her own words: –
“Shure, Ma’am, we got a great scould from the praste the day.” “Indeed, Biddy, what did he scold you for?” “Faix, and it’s not meself that he scoulded at all, at all, but Misther Peter N— and John L—, an’ he held them up as an example to the whole church. ‘Peter N—’ says he, ‘you have not been inside this church before to-day for the last three months, and you have not paid your pew-rent for the last two years. But, maybe, you have got the fourteen dollars in your pocket at this moment of spaking; or maybe you have spint it in buying pig-iron to make gridirons, in order to fry your mate of a Friday; and when your praste comes to visit you, if he does not see it itself, he smells it. And you, John L—, Alderman L—, are not six days enough in the week for work and pastime, that you must go hunting of hares on a holiday? And pray how many hares did you catch, Alderman John?’”
The point of the last satire lay in the fact that the said Alderman John was known to be an ambitious, but very poor, sportsman; which made the allusion to the hares he had shot the unkindest cut of all.
Such an oration from a Protestant minister would have led his congregation to imagine that their good pastor had lost his wits; but I have no doubt that it was eminently successful in abstracting the fourteen dollars from the pocket of the dilatory Peter N—, and in preventing Alderman John from hunting hares on a holiday for the time to come.
Most of the Irish priests possess a great deal of humour, which always finds a response in their mirth-loving countrymen, to whom wit is a quality of native growth.
“I wish you a happy death, Pat S—” said Mr. R—, the jolly, black-browed priest of P—, after he had married an old servant of ours, who had reached the patriarchal age of sixty-eight, to an old woman of seventy.
“D— clear of it!” quoth Pat, smiting his thigh, with a look of inimitable drollery, – such a look of broad humour as can alone twinkle from the eyes of an emeralder of that class. Pat was a prophet; in less than six months he brought the body of the youthful bride in a waggon to the house of the said priest to be buried, and, for aught I know to the contrary, the old man is living still, and very likely to treat himself to a third wife.
I was told two amusing anecdotes of the late Bishop Macdonald; a man whose memory is held in great veneration in the province, which I will give you here.
The old bishop was crossing the Rice Lake in a birch bark canoe, in company with Mr. R—, the Presbyterian minister of Peterboro’; the day was rather stormy, and the water rough for such a fragile conveyance. The bishop, who had been many years in the country, knew there was little danger to be apprehended if they sat still, and he had perfect reliance in the skill of their Indian boatman. Not so Mr. R—, he had only been a few months in the colony, and this was the first time he had ever ventured upon the water in such a tottleish machine. Instead of remaining quietly seated in the bottom of the canoe, he endeavoured to start to his feet, which would inevitably have upset it. This rash movement was prevented by the bishop, who forcibly pulled him down into a sitting posture, exclaiming, as he did so, “Keep still, my good sir; if you, by your groundless fears, upset the canoe, your protestant friends will swear that the old papist drowned the presbyterian.”
One hot, sultry July evening, the celebrated Dr. Dunlop called to have a chat with the bishop, who, knowing the doctor’s weak point, his fondness for strong drinks, and his almost rabid antipathy to water, asked him if he would take a draught of Edinburgh ale, as he had just received a cask in a present from the old country. The doctor’s thirst grew to a perfect drought, and he exclaimed “that nothing at that moment could afford him greater pleasure.”
The bell was rung; the spruce, neat servant girl appeared, and was forthwith commissioned to take the bishop’s own silver tankard and draw the thirsty doctor a pint of ale.
The girl quickly returned: the impatient doctor grasped the nectarian draught, and, without glancing into the tankard – for the time
“Was that soft hour ’twixt summer’s eve and close,” –
emptied the greater part of its contents down his throat. A spasmodic contortion and a sudden rush to the open win dow surprised the hospitable bishop, who had anticipated a great treat for his guest: “My dear sir,” he cried, “what can be the matter!”
“Oh, that diabolical stuff!” groaned the doctor. “I am poisoned.”
“Oh, never fear,” said the bishop, examining the liquid that still remained in the tankard, and bursting into a hearty laugh, “It may not agree with a Protestant’s stomach, but believe me, dear doctor, you never took such a wholesome drink in your life before. I was lately sent from Rome a cask of holy water, – it stands in the same cellar with the ale, – I put a little salt into it, in order to preserve it during this hot weather, and the girl, by mistake, has given you the consecrated water instead of the ale.”
“Oh, curse her!” cried the tortured doctor. “I wish it was in her stomach instead of mine!”
The bishop used to tell this story with great glee whenever Dr. Dunlop and his eccentric habits formed the theme of conversation.
That the Catholics do not always act with hostility towards their Protestant brethren, the following anecdote, which it gives me great pleasure to relate, will sufficiently show: –
In the December of 1840 we had the misfortune to be burnt out, and lost a great part of our furniture, clothing, and winter stores. Poor as we then were, this could not be regarded in any other light but as a great calamity. During the confusion occasioned by the fire, and, owing to the negligence of a servant to whose care he was especially confided, my youngest child, a fine boy of two years old was for some time missing. The agony I endured for about half an hour I shall never forget. The roaring flames, the misfortune that hung over us, was forgotten in the terror shook mind lest he had become a victim to the flames. He was at length found by a kind neighbour in the kitchen of the burning building, whither he had crept from among the crowd, and was scarcely rescued before the roof fell in.
This circumstance shook my nerves so completely that I gladly accepted the offer of a female friend to leave the exciting scene, and make her house my home until we could procure another.
I was sitting at her parlour window, with the rescued child on my lap, whom I could not bear for a moment out of my sight, watching the smoking brands that had once composed my home, and sadly pondering over our untoward destiny, when Mrs.—’s servant told me that a gentleman wanted to see me in the drawing-room.
With little Johnnie still in arms I went to receive the visitor; and found the Rev. Father B—, the worthy Catholic priest, waiting to receive me.
At that time I knew very little of Father B—. Calls had been exchanged and we had been much pleased with his courteous manners and racy Irish wit. I shall never forget the kind, earnest manner in which he condoled with me on our present misfortune. He did not, however, confine his sympathy to words, but offered me the use of his neat cottage until we could provide ourselves with another house.
“You know,” he said, with a benevolent smile, “I have no family to be disturbed by the noise of the children; and if you will accept the temporary home I offer you, it is entirely at your service; and,” he continued, lowering his voice, “if the sheriff is in want of money to procure necessaries for his family, I can supply him until such time as he is able to repay me.”
This was truly noble and I thanked him with tears in my eyes. We did not accept the generous offer of this good Samaritan; but we have always felt a grateful remembrance of his kindness. Mr. B— had been one of the most active among the many gentlemen who did their best in trying to save our property from the flames, a great portion of which was safely conveyed to the street. But here a system of pillage was carried on by the heartless beings, who regard fires and wreck as their especial harvest, which entirely frustrated the efforts of the generous and brave men who had done so much to us.
How many odd things happen during a fire, which would call up a hearty laugh upon a less serious occasion. I saw one man pitch a handsome chamber-glass out of an upper window the street, in order to save it; while another, at the risk of his life, carried a bottomless china jug, which had long been useless, down the burning staircase, and seemed quite elated with his success; and a carpenter took off the doors, and removed the window-sashes in order to preserve them, and, by sending a rush of air through the burning edifice, accelerated its destruction.
At that time there was only one fire-engine in the town, and that was not in a state to work. Now they have two excellent engines worked by an active and energetic body of men.
In all the principal towns and cities in the colony, a large portion of the younger male inhabitants enrol themselves into a company for the suppression of fire. It is a voluntary service, from which they receive no emolument, without an exemption from filling the office of a juryman may be considered as an advantage. These men act upon a principle of mutual safety; and the exertions which are made by them, in the hour of danger, are truly wonderful, and serve to show what can be effected by men when they work in unison together.
To the Canadian fire-companies the public is indebted for the preservation of life and property by a thousand heroic acts; – deeds, that would be recorded as surprising efforts of human courage, if performed upon the battle-field; and which often exhibit an exalted benevolence, when exercised in rescuing helpless women and children from such a dreadful enemy as fire.
The costume adopted by the firemen is rather becoming than otherwise; – a tight-fitting frock-coat of coarse red cloth, and white trousers in summer, which latter portion of their dress is exchanged for dark blue in the winter. They wear a glazed black leather cap, of a military cut, when they assemble to work their engines, or walk in procession; and a leather hat like a sailor’s nor’-wester, with a long peak behind, to protect them from injury, when on active duty.
Their members are confined to no particular class. Gentlemen and mechanics work side by side in this fraternity, with a zeal and right good will that is truly edifying. Their system appears an excellent one; and I never heard of any dissension among their ranks when their services were required. The sound of the ominous bell calls them to the spot, from the greatest distance; and, during the most stormy nights, whoever skulks in bed, the fireman is sure to be at his post.
Once a year, the different divisions of the company walk in procession through the town. On this occasion their engines are dressed up with flags bearing appropriate mottoes; and they are preceded by a band of music. The companies are generally composed of men in the very prime of life, and they make a very imposing appearance. It is always a great gala day in the town, and terminates with a public dinner; that is followed by a ball in the evening, at which the wives and daughters of the members of the company are expected to appear.
Once a month the firemen are called out to practise with the engine in the streets, to the infinite delight of all the boys in the neighbourhood, who follow the engine in crowds, and provoke the operators to turn the hose and play upon their merry ranks: and then what laughing and shouting and scampering in all directions, as the ragged urchins shake their dripping garments, and fly from the ducking they had courted a few minutes before!
The number of wooden buildings that compose the larger portion of Canadian towns renders fire a calamity of very frequent occurrence, and persons cannot be too particular in regard to it. The negligence of one ignorant servant in the disposal of her ashes, may involve the safety of the whole community.
As long as the generality of the houses are roofed with shingles, this liability to fire must exist as a necessary consequence.
The shingle is a very thin pine-board, which is used throughout the colony instead of slate or tiles. After a few years, the heat and rain roughen the outward surface, and give it a woolly appearance, rendering the shingles as inflammable as tinder. A spark from a chimney may be conveyed from a great distance on a windy day, and lighting upon the furry surface of these roofs, is sure to ignite. The danger spreads on all sides, and the roofs of a whole street will be burning before the fire communicates to the walls of the buildings.
So many destructive fires have occurred of late years throughout the colony that a law has been enacted by the municipal councils to prevent the erection of wooden buildings in the large cities. But without the additional precaution of fire-proof roofs, the prohibition will not produce very beneficial effects.
Two other very pretty churches occupy the same hill with the Catholics and Episcopal, – the Scotch Residuary, and the Free Church. The latter is built of dark limestone, quarried in the neighbourhood, and is a remarkably graceful structure. It has been raised by the hearty good-will and free donations of its congregation; and affords another capital illustration of the working of the voluntary principle.
To the soul-fettering doctrines of John Calvin I am myself no convert; nor do I think that the churches established on his views will very long exist in the world. Stern, uncompromising, unloveable and unloved, an object of fear rather than of affection, John Calvin stands out the incarnation of his own Deity; verifying one of the noblest and truest sentences ever penned by man: – “As the man, so his God. God is his idea of excellence, – the compliment of his own being.”
The Residuary church is a small neat building of wood, painted white. For several years after the great split in the National Church of Scotland, it was shut up, the few who still adhered to the old way being unable to contribute much to the support of a minister. The church has been reopened within the last two years, and, though the congregation is very small, has a regular pastor.
The large edifice beneath us, in Pinacle-street, leading to the bay, is the Wesleyan Methodist church, or chapel, as it would be termed at home. Thanks to the liberal institutions of the country, such distinctions are unknown in Canada. Every community of Christian worshippers is rightly termed a church. The Church is only arrogated by one.
The Wesleyans, who have been of infinite use in spreading the Gospel on the North American continent, possess a numerous and highly respectable congregation in this place. Their church is always supplied with good and efficient preachers, and is filled on the Sabbath to overflowing. They have a very fine choir, and lately purchased an organ, which was constructed by one of their own members, a genius in his way, for which they gave the handsome sum of a thousand dollars.
There is also an Episcopal Methodist church, composed of red brick, at the upper end of the town, by the river side, which is well attended.
You can scarcely adopt a better plan of judging of the wealth and prosperity of a town, than by watching, of a Sabbath morning, the congregations of the different denominations going to church.
Belleville weekly presents to the eye of an observing spectator a large body of well-dressed, happy-looking people, – robust, healthy, independent-looking men, and well-formed, handsome women; – an air of content and comfort resting upon their comely faces, – no look of haggard care and pinching want marring the quiet solemnity of the scene.
The dress of the higher class is not only cut in the newest French fashion, imported from New York, but is generally composed of rich and expensive materials. The Canadian lady dresses well and tastefully, and carries herself easily and gracefully. She is not unconscious of the advantages of a pretty face and figure; but her knowledge of the fact is not exhibited in an affected or disagreeable manner. The lower class are not a whit behind their wealthier neighbours in outward adornments. And the poor emigrant, who only a few months previously had landed in rags, is now dressed neatly and respectably. The consciousness of their newly-acquired freedom has raised them in the scale of society, in their own estimation, and in that of their fellows. They feel that they are no longer despised; the ample wages they receive has enabled them to cast off the slough of hopeless poverty, which once threw its deadening influence over them, repressing all their energies, and destroying that self-respect which is so necessary to mental improvement and self-government. The change in their condition is apparent in their smiling, satisfied faces.
This is, indeed, a delightful contrast to the squalid want and poverty which so often meet the eye, and pain the heart of the philanthropist at home. Canada is blessed in the almost total absence of pauperism; for none but the wilfully idle and vicious need starve here, while the wants of the sick and infirm meet with ready help and sympathy from a most charitable public.
The Wesleyan Methodists wisely placed their buryingground at some distance from the town; and when we first came to reside at Belleville, it was a retired and lovely spot, on the Kingston road, commanding a fine view of the bay. The rapid spread of the village into a town almost embraces in its arms this once solitary spot, and in a few years it will be surrounded with suburban residences.
There is a very large brick field adjoining this cemetery, which employs during the summer months a number of hands.
Turn to the north, and observe that old-fashioned, redbrick house, now tottering to decay, that crowns the precipitous ridge that overlooks the river, and which doubtless at some very distant period once formed its right bank. That house was built by one of the first settlers in Belleville, an officer who drew his lot of wild land on that spot. It was a great house in those days, and he was a great man in the eyes of his poorer neighbours.
This gentleman impoverished himself and his family by supplying from his own means the wants of the poor emigrants in his vicinity during the great Canadian famine, which happened about fifty years ago. The starving creatures promised to repay him at some future period. Plenty again blessed the land; but the generous philanthropist was forgotten by those his bounty had saved. Peace to his memory! Though unrewarded on earth, he has doubtless reaped his reward in heaven.
The river Moira, which runs parallel with the main street of the town, and traverses several fine townships belonging to the county of Hastings in its course to the bay, is a rapid and very picturesque stream. Its rocky banks, which are composed of limestone, are fringed with the graceful cedar, soft maple, and elegant rock elm, that queen of the Canadian forest. It is not navigable, but is one great source of the wealth and prosperity of the place, affording all along its course excellent sites for mills, distilleries, and factories, while it is the main road down which millions of feet of timber are yearly floated, to be rafted at the entrance of the bay.
The spring floods bring down such a vast amount of lumber, that often a jam, as it is technically called, places the two bridges that span the river in a state of blockade.
It is a stirring and amusing scene to watch the French Canadian lumberers, with their long poles, armed at the end with sharp spikes, leaping from log to log, and freeing a passage for the crowded timbers.
Handsome in person, and lithe and active as wild cats, you would imagine, to watch their careless disregard of danger, that they were born of the waters, and considered death by drowning an impossible casualty in their case. Yet  never a season passes without fatal accidents thinning their gay, lighthearted ranks.
These amphibious creatures spend half their lives in and on the waters. They work hard in forming rafts at the entrance of the bay during the day, and in the evening they repair to some favourite tavern, where they spend the greater part of the night in singing and dancing. Their peculiar cries awaken you by day-break, and their joyous shouts and songs are wafted on the evening breeze. Their picturesque dress and shanties, when shown by their red watchfires along the rocky banks of the river at night, add great liveliness, and give a peculiarly romantic character to the water scene.
They appear a happy, harmless set of men, brave and independent; and if drinking and swearing are vices common to their caste and occupation, it can scarcely be wondered at in the wild, reckless, roving life they lead. They never trouble the peaceful inhabitants of the town. Their broils are chiefly confined to their Irish comrades, and seldom go beyond the scene of their mutual labour. It is not often that they find their way into the jail or penitentiary.
A young lady told me an adventure that befell her and her sister, which is rather a droll illustration of the manners of a French Canadian lumberer. They were walking one fine summer evening along the west bank of the Moira, and the narrator, in stooping over the water to gather some wild-flowers that grew in a crevice of the rocks, dropped her parasol into the river. A cry of vexation at the loss of an article of dress, which is expensive, and almost indispensable beneath the rays of a Canadian summer sun, burst from her lips, and attracted the attention of a young man whom she had not before observed, who was swimming at some distance down the river. He immediately turned, and dexterously catching the parasol as it swiftly glided past him, swam towards the ladies with the rescued article, carried dog-fashion, between his teeth.
In his zeal to render this little service, the poor fellow forgot that he was not in a condition to appear before ladies; who, startled at such an extraordinary apparition, made the best of their heels to fly precipitately from the spot.
“I have no doubt,” said Miss —, laughing, “that the good-natured fellow meant well, but I never was so frightened and confounded in my life. The next morning the parasol was returned at the street door, with “Jean Baptiste’s compliments to the young ladies.” So much for French Canadian gallantry.
It is a pretty sight. A large raft of timber, extending perhaps for a quarter of a mile, gliding down the bay in tow of a steamer, decorated with red flags and green pine boughs, and managed by a set of bold active fellows, whose jovial songs waken up the echoes of the lonely woods. I have seen several of these rafts, containing many thousand pounds worth of timber, taking their downward course in one day.
The centre of the raft is generally occupied by a shanty and cooking apparatus, and at night it presents an imposing spectacle, seen by the red light of their fires, as it glides beneath the shadow of some lofty bank, with its dark overhanging trees. I have often coveted a sail on those picturesque rafts, over those smooth moonlighted waters.
The spring-floods bring with them a great quantity of waste timber and fallen trees from the interior; and it is amusing to watch the poor Irishwomen and children wad ing to the waist in the water, and drawing out these waifs and strays with hooked sticks, to supply their shanties with fuel. It is astonishing how much an industrious lad can secure in a day of this refuse timber. No gleaner ever enters a harvest-field in Canada to secure a small portion of the scattered grain; but the floating treasures which the waters yield are regarded as a providential supply of fir ing, which is always gathered in. These spring-floods are often productive of great mischief, as they not infre quently carry away all the dams and bridges along their course. This generally happens after an unusually severe winter, accompanied with very heavy falls of snow.
The melting of the snows in the back country, by filling all the tributary creeks and streams, converts the larger rivers into headlong and destructive torrents, that rush and foam along with “curbless force,” carrying huge blocks of ice and large timbers, like feathers upon their surface.
It is a grand and beautiful sight, the coming down of the waters during one of these spring freshets. The river roars and rages like a chafed lion; and frets and foams against its rocky barrier, as if determined to overcome every obstacle that dares to impede its furious course. Great blocks of ice are seen popping up and down in the boiling surges; and unwieldy saw-logs perform the most extrava gant capers, often starting bolt upright; while their crystal neighbours, enraged at the uncourteous collision, turn up their glittering sea-green edges with an air of defiance, and tumble about in the current like mad monsters of the deep.
The blocks of ice are sometimes lifted entirely out of the water by the force of the current, and deposited upon the top of the bank, where they form an irregular wall of glass, glittering and melting leisurely in the heat of the sun.
A stranger who had not witnessed their upheaval, might well wonder by what gigantic power they had been placed there.
In March, 1844, a severe winter was terminated by a very sudden thaw, accompanied by high winds and deluges of rain. In a few days the snow was all gone, and every slope and hill was converted into a drain, down which the long-imprisoned waters rushed continuously to the river. The roads were almost impassable, and, on the 12th of the month, the river rose to an unusual height, and completely filled its rocky banks. The floods brought down from the interior a great jam of ice, which, accumu lating in size and altitude at every bridge and dam it had carried away in its course towards the bay, was at length arrested in its progress at the lower bridge, where the ice, though sunk several feet below the rushing waters, still adhered firmly to the shore. Vast pieces of ice were piled up against the abutments of the bridge, which the moun tain of ice threatened to annihilate, as well as to inundate the lower end of the town.
It presented to the eager and excited crowd, who, in spite of the impending danger rushed to the devoted bridge, a curious and formidable spectacle. Imagine, dear reader, a huge mass, composed of blocks of ice, large stones, and drift timber, occupying the centre of the river, and extending back for a great distance; the top on a level with the roofs of the houses. The inhabitants of the town had everything to dread from such a gigantic battering ram applied to their feeble wooden bridge.
A consultation was held by the men assembled on the bridge, and it was thought that the danger might be averted by sawing asunder the ice, which still held firm, and allowing a free passage for the blocks that impeded the bridge.
The river was soon covered with active men, armed with axes and poles, some freeing the ice at the arch of the bridge, others attempting to push the iceberg nearer to the shore, where, if once stranded, it would melt at leisure. If the huge pile of mischief could have found a voice, it would have laughed at their fruitless endeavours.
While watching the men at their dangerous, and, as it proved afterwards, hopeless work, we witnessed an act of extraordinary courage and presence of mind in two brothers, blacksmiths in the town. One of these young men was busy cutting away the ice just above the bridge, when quite unexpectedly the piece on which he was standing gave way, and he was carried with the speed of thought under the bridge. His death appeared inevitable. But quick as his exit was from the exciting scene, the love in the brother’s heart was as quick in taking measures for his safety. As the ice on which the younger lad stood parted, the elder sprang into the hollow box of wood which helped to support the arch of the bridge, and which was filled with great stones. As the torrent swept his brother past him and under the bridge, the drowning youth gave a spring from the ice on which he still stood, and the other bending at the instant from his perch above, caught him by the collar, and lifted him bodily from his perilous situation. All was the work of a moment; yet the spectators held their breath, and wondered as they saw. It was an act of bold daring on the one hand, of cool determined cour age on the other. It was a joyful sight to see the rescued lad in his brave brother’s arms.
All day we watched from the bridge the hill of ice, wondering when it would take a fresh start, and if it would carry away the bridge when it left its present position. Night came down, and the unwelcome visitant remained stationary. The air was cold and frosty. There was no moon, and the spectators were reluctantly forced to retire to their respective homes. Between the watches of the night we listened to the roaring of the river, and speculated upon the threatened destruction. By daybreak my eager boys were upon the spot, to ascertain the fate of the bridge. All was grim and silent. The ice remained like a giant slumbering upon his post.
So passed the greater part of the day. Curiosity was worn out. The crowd began to disperse, disappointed that the ruin they anticipated had not taken place; just as some persons are sorry when a fire, which has caused much alarm by its central position in a town or city, is extin guished, without burning down a single house. The love of excitement drowns for a time the better feelings of human ity. They don’t wish any person to suffer injury; but they give up the grand spectacle they had expected to witness with regret.
At four o’clock in the afternoon most of the wonder-watchers had retired, disgusted with the tardy movements of the ice monster, when a cry arose from the banks of the river, to warn the few persons who still loitered on the bridge, to look out. The ice was in motion. Everyone within hearing rushed to the river. We happened to be passing at the time, and, like the rest, hurried to the spot. The vast pile, slowly, almost imperceptibly, began to advance, giving an irresistible impulse to the shore ice, that still held good, and which was instantly communicated to the large pieces that blocked the arch of the bridge, over which the waves now poured in a torrent, pushing before them the great lumps which up to the present moment had been immoveably wedged. There was a hollow, gurgling sound, a sullen roar of waters, a crack ing and rending of the shore-bound ice, and the ponderous mass smote the bridge; it parted asunder, and swift as an arrow the crystal mountain glided downwards to the bay, spurning from its base the waves that leaped and foamed around its path, and pouring them in a flood of waters over the west bank of the river.
Beyond the loss of a few old sheds along the shore, very little damage was sustained by the town. The streets near the wharfs were inundated for a few hours, and the cellars filled with water; but after the exit of the iceberg, the river soon subsided into its usual channel.
The winter of 1852 was one of great length and severity. The snow in many of the roads was level with the top rail of the fences, and the spring thaw caused heavy freshets through the colony. In the upper part of the province, particularly on the grand river, the rising of the waters destroyed a large amount of valuable mill property. One mill-owner lost 12,000 saw logs. Our wild, bright Moira was swollen to the brim, and tumbled along with the impetuosity of a mountain torrent. Its course to the bay was unimpeded by ice, which had been all carried out a few days before by a high wind; but vast quantities of saw logs that had broken away from their bosoms in the inte rior were plunging in the current, sometimes starting bolt upright, or turning over and over, as if endued with the spirit of life, as well as with that of motion.
Several of these heavy timbers had struck the upper bridge, and carried away the centre arch. A poor cow, who was leisurely pacing over to her shed and supper, was suddenly precipitated into the din of waters. Had it been the mayor of the town, the accident could scarcely have produced a greater excitement. The cow belonged to a poor Irishman, and the sympathy of everyone was enlisted in her fate. Was it possible that she could escape drowning amid such a mad roar of waves? No human arm could stem for a moment such a current; but fortunately for our heroine, she was not human, but only a stupid quadruped.
The cow for a few seconds seemed bewildered at the strange situation in which she found herself so unexpect edly placed. But she was wise enough and skilful enough to keep her head above water, and she cleared two mill dams before she became aware of the fact; and she accom modated her self to her critical situation with a stoical indifference which would have done credit to an ancient philosopher. After passing unhurt over the dams, the spectators who crowded the lower bridges to watch the result, began to entertain hopes for her life.
The bridges are in a direct line, and about half a mile apart. On came the cow, making directly for the centre arch of the bridge on which we stood. She certainly nei ther swam, nor felt her feet, but was borne along by the force of the stream.
“My eyes! I wish I could swim as well as that ere cow,” cried an excited boy, leaping upon the top of the bridge. “I guess you do,” said another. “But that’s a game cow. There’s no boy in the town could beat her.”
“She will never pass the arch of the bridge,” said a man, sullenly; “she will be killed against the abutment.”
“Jolly! she’s through the arch!” shouted the first speaker. “Pat has saved his cow!”
“She’s not ashore yet,” returned the man. “And she begins to flag.”
“Not a bit of it,” cried the excited boy. “The old daisy-cropper looks as fresh as a rose. Hurrah, boys! let us run down to the wharf, and see what becomes of her.”
Off scampered the juveniles; and on floated the cow, calm and self-possessed in the midst of danger. After pass ing safely through the arch of the bridge, she continued to steer herself out of the current, and nearer to the shore, and finally effected a landing in Front-street, where she quietly walked on shore, to the great admiration of the youngsters, who received her with rapturous shouts of applause. One lad seized her by the tail, another grasped her horns, while a third patted her dripping neck, and wished her joy of her safe landing. Not Venus herself, when she rose from the sea, attracted more enthusiastic admirers than did the poor Irishman’s cow. A party, com posed of all the boys in the place, led her in triumph through the streets, and restored her to her rightful owner, not forgetting to bestow upon her three hearty cheers at parting.
A little black boy, the only son of a worthy negro, who had been a settler for many years in Belleville, was not so fortunate as the Irishman’s cow. He was pushed, it is said accidentally, from the broken bridge, by a white boy of his own age, into that hell of waters, and it was many weeks before his body was found; it had been carried some miles down the bay by the force of the current. Day after day you might see his unhappy father, armed with a long pole, with a hook attached to it, mournfully pacing the banks of the swollen river, in the hope of recovering the remains of his lost child. Once or twice we stopped to speak to him, but his heart was too full to answer. He would turn away, with the tears rolling down his sable cheeks, and resume his melancholy task.
What a dreadful thing is this prejudice against race and colour! How it hardens the heart, and locks up all the avenues of pity! The premature death of this little negro excited less interest in the breasts of his white companions than the fate of the cow, and was spoken of with as little concern as the drowning of a pup or a kitten.
Alas! this river Moira has caused more tears to flow from the eyes of heart-broken parents than any stream of the like size in the province. Heedless of danger, the chil dren will resort to its shores, and play upon the timbers that during the summer months cover its surface. Often have I seen a fine child of five or six years old, astride of a saw-log, riding down the current, with as much glee as if it were a real steed he bestrode. If the log turns, which is often the case, the child stands a great chance of being drowned.
Oh, agony unspeakable! The writer of this lost a fine talented boy of six years – one to whom her soul clave – in those cruel waters. But I will not dwell upon that dark hour, the saddest and darkest in my sad eventful life. Many years ago, when I was a girl myself, my sympathies were deeply excited by reading an account of the grief of a mother who had lost her only child, under similar circumstances. How prophetic were those lines of all that I suffered during that heavy bereavement! –
“Oh, cold at my feet thou wert sleeping, my boy,
And I press on thy pale lips in vain the fond kiss!
Earth opens her arms to receive thee, my joy,
And all my past sorrows were nothing to this.
The day-star of hope ’neath thine eye-lid is sleeping,
No more to arise at the voice of my weeping.
 “Oh, how art thou changed, since the light breath of morning
Dispersed the soft dewdrops in showers from the tree!
Like a beautiful bud my lone dwelling adorning,
Thy smiles call’d up feelings of rapture in me:
I thought not the sunbeams all gaily that shone
On thy waking, at night would behold me alone.
“The joy that flash’d out from thy death-shrouded eyes,
That laugh’d in thy dimples, and brighten’d thy cheek,
Is quench’d – but the smile on thy pale lip that lies,
Now tells of a joy that no language can speak.
The fountain is seal’d, the young spirit at rest, –
Oh, why should I mourn thee, my lov’d one – my blest!”
The anniversary of that fatal day gave birth to the following lines, with which I will close this long chapter: –
“The shade of death upon my threshold lay,
The sun from thy life’s dial had departed;
A cloud came down upon thy early day,
And left thy hapless mother broken-hearted –
My boy – my boy!
“Long weary months have pass’d since that sad day.
But naught beguiles my bosom of its sorrow;
Since the cold waters took thee for their prey,
No smiling hope looks forward to the morrow –
My boy – my boy!
“The voice of mirth is silenced in my heart,
Thou wert so dearly loved – so fondly cherish’d;
I cannot yet believe that we must part, –
That all, save thine immortal soul, has perish’d –
My boy – my boy!
“My lovely, laughing, rosy, dimpled, child,
I call upon thee, when the sun shines clearest;
In the dark lonely night, in accents wild,
I breathe thy treasured name, my best and dearest –
My boy – my boy!
“The hand of God has press’d me very sore –
Oh, could I clasp thee once more as of yore,
And kiss thy glowing cheeks’ soft velvet bloom,
I would resign thee to the Almighty Giver
Without one tear, – would yield thee up for ever,
And people with bright forms thy silent tomb.
But hope has faded from my heart – and joy
Lies buried in thy grave, my darling boy!”

From the Trade Paperback edition.

close this panel
Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich

The Mausoleum Club stands on the quietest corner of the best residential street in the City. It is a Grecian building of white stone. About it are great elm trees with birds – the most expensive kind of birds – singing in the branches.
The street in the softer hours of the morning has an almost reverential quiet. Great motors move drowsily along it, with solitary chauffeurs returning at 10.30 after conveying the earlier of the millionaires to their down- town offices. The sunlight flickers through the elm trees, illuminating expensive nursemaids wheeling valuable children in little perambulators. Some of the children are worth millions and millions. In Europe, no doubt, you may see in the Unter den Linden avenue or the Champs Elysées a little prince or princess go past with a clattering military guard to do honour. But that is nothing. It is not half so impressive, in the real sense, as what you may observe every morning on Plutoria Avenue beside the Mausoleum Club in the quietest part of the city. Here you may see a little toddling princess in a rabbit suit who owns fifty distilleries in her own right. There, in a lacquered perambulator, sails past a little hooded head that controls from its cradle an entire New Jersey corporation. The United States attorney- general is suing her as she sits, in a vain attempt to make her dissolve herself into constituent companies. Near by is a child of four, in a khaki suit, who represents the merger of two trunk line railways. You may meet in the flickered sunlight any number of little princes and princesses far more real than the poor survivals of Europe. Incalculable infants wave their fifty- dollar ivory rattles in an inarticulate greeting to one another. A million dollars of preferred stock laughs merrily in recognition of a majority control going past in a go- cart drawn by an imported nurse. And through it all the sunlight falls through the elm- trees, and the birds sing and the motors hum, so that the whole world as seen from the boulevard of Plutoria Avenue is the very pleasantest place imaginable.
Just below Plutoria Avenue, and parallel with it, the trees die out and the brick and stone of the City begins in earnest. Even from the Avenue you see the tops of the sky- scraping buildings in the big commercial streets, and can hear or almost hear the roar of the elevated railway, earning dividends. And beyond that again the City sinks lower, and is choked and crowded with the tangled streets and little houses of the slums.
In fact, if you were to mount to the roof of the Mausoleum Club itself on Plutoria Avenue you could almost see the slums from there. But why should you? And on the other hand, if you never went up on the roof, but only dined inside among the palm- trees, you would never know that the slums existed – which is much better.
There are broad steps leading up to the club, so broad and so agreeably covered with matting that the physical exertion of lifting oneself from one’s motor to the door of the club is reduced to the smallest compass. The richer members are not ashamed to take the steps one at a time, first one foot and then the other; and at tight money periods, when there is a black cloud hanging over the Stock Exchange, you may see each and every one of the members of the Mausoleum Club dragging himself up the steps after this fashion, his restless eyes filled with the dumb pathos of a man wondering where he can put his hand on half a million dollars.
But at gayer times, when there are gala receptions at the club, its steps are all buried under expensive carpet, soft as moss and covered over with a long pavilion of red and white awning to catch the snowflakes; and beautiful ladies are poured into the club by the motorful. Then indeed it is turned into a veritable Arcadia; and for a beautiful pastoral scene, such as would have gladdened the heart of a poet who understood the cost of things, commend me to the Mausoleum Club on just such an evening. Its broad corridors and deep recesses are filled with shepherdesses such as you never saw, dressed in beautiful shimmering gowns, and wearing feathers in their hair that droop off sideways at every angle known to trigonometry. And there are shepherds too with broad white waistcoats and little patent leather shoes and heavy faces and congested cheeks. And there is dancing and conversation among the shepherds and shepherdesses, with such brilliant flashes of wit and repartee about the rise in Wabash and the fall in Cement that the soul of Louis Quatorze would leap to hear it. And later there is supper at little tables, when the shepherds and shepherdesses consume preferred stocks and gold- interest bonds in the shape of chilled champagne and iced asparagus, and great platefuls of dividends and special quarterly bonuses are carried to and fro in silver dishes by Chinese philosophers dressed up to look like waiters.
But on ordinary days there are no ladies in the club, but only the shepherds. You may see them sitting about in little groups of two and three under the palm- trees drinking whiskey and soda; though of course the more temperate among them drink nothing but whiskey and Lithia water, and those who have important business to do in the afternoon limit themselves to whiskey and Radnor, or whiskey and Magi water. There are as many kinds of bubbling, gurgling, mineral waters in the caverns of the Mausoleum Club as ever sparkled from the rocks of Homeric Greece. And when you have once grown used to them, it is as impossible to go back to plain water as it is to live again in the forgotten house in a side street that you inhabited long before you became a member.
Thus the members sit and talk in undertones that float to the ear through the haze of Havana smoke. You may hear the older men explaining that the country is going to absolute ruin, and the younger ones explaining that the country is forging ahead as it never did before; but chiefly they love to talk of great national questions, such as the protective tariff and the need of raising it, the sad decline of the morality of the working man, the spread of syndicalism and the lack of Christianity in the labour class, and the awful growth of selfishness among the mass of the people.
So they talk, except for two or three that drop off to directors’ meetings, till the afternoon fades and darkens into evening, and the noiseless Chinese philosophers turn on soft lights here and there among the palm- trees. Presently they dine at white tables glittering with cut glass and green and yellow Rhine wines; and after dinner they sit again among the palm- trees, half hidden in the blue smoke, still talking of the tariff and the labour class and trying to wash away the memory and the sadness of it in floods of mineral waters. So the evening passes into night, and one by one the great motors come throbbing to the door, and the Mausoleum Club empties and darkens till the last member is borne away and the Arcadian day ends in well- earned repose.
“I want you to give me your opinion very, very frankly,” said Mr. Lucullus Fyshe on one side of the luncheon table to the Rev. Fareforth Furlong on the other.
“By all means,” said Mr. Furlong.
Mr. Fyshe poured out a wineglassful of soda and handed it to the rector to drink.
“Now tell me very truthfully,” he said, “is there too much carbon in it?”
“By no means,” said Mr. Furlong.
“And – quite frankly – not too much hydrogen?”
“Oh, decidedly not.”
“And you would not say that the percentage of sodium bicarbonate was too great for the ordinary taste?”
“I certainly should not,” said Mr. Furlong, and in this he spoke the truth.
“Very good then,” said Mr. Fyshe, “I shall use it for the Duke of Dulham this afternoon.”
He uttered the name of the Duke with that quiet, democratic carelessness which meant that he didn’t care whether half a dozen other members lunching at the club could hear or not. After all, what was a duke to a man who was president of the People’s Traction and Suburban Co. and the Republican Soda and Siphon Co- operative, and chief director of the People’s District Loan and Savings? If a man with a broad basis of popular support like that was proposing to entertain a duke, surely there could be no doubt about his motives? None at all.
Naturally, too, if a man manufactures soda himself, he gets a little over- sensitive about the possibility of his guests noticing the existence of too much carbon in it.
In fact, ever so many of the members of the Mausoleum Club manufacture things, or cause them to be manufactured, or – what is the same thing – merge them when they are manufactured. This gives them their peculiar chemical attitude towards their food. One often sees a member suddenly call the head waiter at breakfast to tell him that there is too much ammonia in the bacon; and another one protest at the amount of glucose in the olive oil; and another that there is too high a percentage of nitrogen in the anchovy. A man of distorted imagination might think this tasting of chemicals in the food a sort of nemesis of fate upon the members. But that would be very foolish, for in every case the head waiter, who is the chief of the Chinese philosophers mentioned above, says that he’ll see to it immediately and have the percentage removed. And as for the members themselves, they are about as much ashamed of manufacturing and merging things as the Marquis of Salisbury is ashamed of the founders of the Cecil family.
What more natural therefore than that Mr. Lucullus Fyshe, before serving the soda to the Duke, should try it on somebody else? And what better person could be found for this than Mr. Furlong, the saintly young rector of St. Asaph’s, who had enjoyed the kind of expensive college education calculated to develop all the faculties. Moreover, a rector of the Anglican Church who has been in the foreign mission field is the kind of person from whom one can find out, more or less incidentally, how one should address and converse with a duke, and whether you call him, “Your Grace,” or “His Grace,” or just “Grace,” or “Duke,” or what. All of which things would seem to a director of the People’s Bank and the president of the Republican Soda Co. so trivial in importance that he would scorn to ask about them.
So that was why Mr. Fyshe had asked Mr. Furlong to lunch with him, and to dine with him later on in the same day at the Mausoleum Club to meet the Duke of Dulham. And Mr. Furlong, realising that a clergyman must be all things to all men and not avoid a man merely because he is a duke had accepted the invitation to lunch, and had promised to come to dinner, even though it meant postponing the Willing Workers’ Tango Class of St. Asaph’s until the following Friday.
Thus it had come about that Mr. Fyshe was seated at lunch, consuming a cutlet and a pint of Moselle in the plain, downright fashion of a man so democratic that he is practically a revolutionary socialist, and doesn’t mind saying so; and the young rector of St. Asaph’s was sitting opposite to him in a religious ecstasy over a salmi of duck.
“The Duke arrived this morning, did he not?” said Mr. Furlong.
“From New York,” said Mr. Fyshe; “he is staying at the Grand Palaver. I sent a telegram through one of our New York directors of the Traction, and his Grace has very kindly promised to come over here to dine.”
“Is he here for pleasure?” asked the rector.
“I understand he is –” Mr. Fyshe was going to say “about to invest a large part of his fortune in American securities,” but he thought better of it. Even with the clergy it is well to be careful. So he substituted “is very much interested in studying American conditions.”
“Does he stay long?” asked Mr. Furlong.
Had Mr. Lucullus Fyshe replied quite truthfully, he would have said, “Not if I can get his money out of him quickly,” but he merely answered, “That I don’t know.”
“He will find much to interest him,” went on the rector in a musing tone. “The position of the Anglican Church in America should afford him an object of much consideration. I understand,” he added, feeling his way, “that his Grace is a man of deep piety.”
“Very deep,” said Mr. Fyshe.
“And of great philanthropy?”
“Very great.”
“And I presume,” said the rector, taking a devout sip of the unfinished soda, “that he is a man of immense wealth?”
“I suppose so,” answered Mr. Fyshe quite carelessly; “all these fellows are.” – Mr. Fyshe generally referred to the British aristocracy as “these fellows” – “Land, you know, feudal estates; sheer robbery, I call it. How the working class, the proletariat, stand for such tyranny is more than I can see. Mark my words, Furlong, some day they’ll rise and the whole thing will come to a sudden end.”
Mr. Fyshe was here launched upon his favourite topic; but he interrupted himself, just for a moment, to speak to the waiter.
“What the devil do you mean,” he said, “by serving asparagus half cold?”
“Very sorry, sir,” said the waiter, “shall I take it out?”
“Take it out? Of course take it out, and see that you don’t serve me stuff of that sort again, or I’ll report you.”
“Very sorry, sir,” said the waiter.
Mr. Fyshe looked at the vanishing waiter with contempt upon his features. “These pampered fellows are getting unbearable,” he said. “By Gad, if I had my way I’d fire the whole lot of them: lock ’em out, put ’em on the street. That would teach ’em. Yes, Furlong, you’ll live to see it that the whole working class will one day rise against the tyranny of the upper classes, and society will be overwhelmed.”
But if Mr. Fyshe had realised that at that moment, in the kitchen of the Mausoleum Club, in those sacred precincts themselves, there was a walking delegate of the Waiters’ International Union leaning against a sideboard, with his bowler hat over one corner of his eye, and talking to a little group of the Chinese philosophers, he would have known that perhaps the social catastrophe was a little nearer than even he suspected.
“Are you inviting any one else to- night?” asked Mr. Furlong.
“I should have liked to ask your father,” said Mr. Fyshe, “but unfortunately he is out of town.”
What Mr. Fyshe really meant was, “I am extremely glad not to have to ask your father, whom I would not introduce to the Duke on any account.”
Indeed, Mr. Furlong, senior, the father of the rector of St. Asaph’s, who was President of the New Amalgamated Hymnal Corporation, and Director of the Hosanna Pipe and Steam Organ, Limited, was entirely the wrong man for Mr. Fyshe’s present purpose. In fact, he was reputed to be as smart a man as ever sold a Bible. At this moment he was out of town, busied in New York with the preparation of the plates of his new Hindu Testament (copyright); but had he learned that a duke with several millions to invest was about to visit the city, he would not have left it for the whole of Hindustan.
“I suppose you are asking Mr. Boulder,” said the rector.
“No,” answered Mr. Fyshe very decidedly, dismissing the name absolutely.
Indeed, there was even better reason not to introduce Mr. Boulder to the Duke. Mr. Fyshe had made that sort of mistake once, and never intended to make it again. It was only a year ago, on the occasion of the visit of young Viscount FitzThistle to the Mausoleum Club, that Mr. Fyshe had introduced Mr. Boulder to the Viscount and had suffered grievously thereby. For Mr. Boulder had no sooner met the Viscount than he invited him up to his hunting- lodge in Wisconsin, and that was the last thing known of the investment of the FitzThistle fortune.
This Mr. Boulder of whom Mr. Fyshe spoke might indeed have been seen at that moment at a further table of the lunch room eating a solitary meal, an oldish man with a great frame suggesting broken strength, with a white beard and with falling under- eyelids that made him look as if he were just about to cry. His eyes were blue and far away, and his still, mournful face and his great bent shoulders seemed to suggest all the power and mystery of high finance.
Gloom indeed hung over him. For, when one heard him talk of listed stocks and cumulative dividends, there was as deep a tone in his quiet voice as if he spoke of eternal punishment and the wages of sin.
Under his great hands a chattering viscount, or a sturdy duke, or a popinjay Italian marquis was as nothing.
Mr. Boulder’s methods with titled visitors investing money in America were deep. He never spoke to them of money, not a word. He merely talked of the great American forest – he had been born sixty- five years back, in a lumber state – and, when he spoke of primeval trees and the howl of the wolf at night among the pines, there was the stamp of reality about it that held the visitor spellbound; and when he fell to talking of his hunting- lodge far away in the Wisconsin timber, duke, earl, or baron that had ever handled a double-barrelled express rifle listened and was lost.
“I have a little place,” Mr. Boulder would say in his deep tones that seemed almost like a sob, “a sort of shooting box, I think you’d call it, up in Wisconsin; just a plain place” – he would add, almost crying – “made of logs.”
“Oh, really,” the visitor would interject, “made of logs. By Jove, how interesting!”
All titled people are fascinated at once with logs, and Mr. Boulder knew it – at least subconsciously.
“Yes, logs,” he would continue, still in deep sorrow; “just the plain cedar, not squared, you know, the old original timber; I had them cut right out of the forest.”
By this time the visitor’s excitement was obvious. “And is there game there?” he would ask.
“We have the timber wolf,” said Mr. Boulder, his voice half choking at the sadness of the thing, “and of course the jack wolf and the lynx.”
“And are they ferocious?”
“Oh, extremely so – quite uncontrollable.”
On which the titled visitor was all excitement to start for Wisconsin at once, even before Mr. Boulder’s invitation was put in words.
And when he returned a week later, all tanned and wearing bush- whackers’ boots, and covered with wolf bites, his whole available fortune was so completely invested in Mr. Boulder’s securities that you couldn’t have shaken twenty- five cents out of him upside down.
Yet the whole thing had been done merely incidentally – round a big fire under the Wisconsin timber, with a dead wolf or two lying in the snow.
So no wonder that Mr. Fyshe did not propose to invite Mr. Boulder to his little dinner. No, indeed. In fact, his one aim was to keep Mr. Boulder and his log house hidden from the Duke.
And equally no wonder that as soon as Mr. Boulder read of the Duke’s arrival in New York, and saw by the Commercial Echo and Financial Undertone that he might come to the City looking for investments, he telephoned at once to his little place in Wisconsin – which had, of course, a primeval telephone wire running to it – and told his steward to have the place well aired and good fires lighted; and he especially enjoined him to see if any of the shanty men thereabouts could catch a wolf or two, as he might need them.
“Is no one else coming then?” asked the rector.
“Oh yes. President Boomer of the University. We shall be a party of four. I thought the Duke might be interested in meeting Boomer. He may care to hear something of the archaeological remains of the continent.”
If the Duke did so care, he certainly had a splendid chance in meeting the gigantic Dr. Boomer, the president of Plutoria University.
If he wanted to know anything of the exact distinction between the Mexican Pueblo and the Navajo tribal house, he had his opportunity right now. If he was eager to hear a short talk – say half an hour – on the relative antiquity of the Neanderthal skull and the gravel deposits of the Missouri, his chance had come. He could learn as much about the stone age and the bronze age, in America, from President Boomer, as he could about the gold age and the age of paper securities from Mr. Fyshe and Mr. Boulder.
So what better man to meet a duke than an archaeological president?
And if the Duke should feel inclined, as a result of his American visit (for Dr. Boomer, who knew everything, understood what the Duke had come for) inclined, let us say, to endow a chair in Primitive Anthropology, or do any useful little thing of the sort, that was only fair business all round; or if he even was willing to give a moderate sum towards the general fund of Plutoria University – enough, let us say, to enable the president to dismiss an old professor and hire a new one – that surely was reasonable enough.
The president, therefore, had said yes to Mr. Fyshe’s invitation with alacrity, and had taken a look through the list of his more incompetent professors to refresh his memory.
The Duke of Dulham had landed in New York five days before and had looked round eagerly for a field of turnips, but hadn’t seen any. He had been driven up Fifth Avenue and had kept his eyes open for potatoes, but there were none. Nor had he seen any shorthorns in Central Park, nor any Southdowns on Broadway. For the Duke, of course, like all dukes, was agricultural from his Norfolk jacket to his hobnailed boots.
At his restaurant he had cut a potato in two and sent half of it to the head waiter to know if it was Bermudian. It had all the look of an early Bermudian, but the Duke feared from the shading of it that it might be only a late Trinidad. And the head waiter sent it to the chef, mistaking it for a complaint, and the chef sent it back to the Duke with a message that it was not a Bermudian but a Prince Edward Island. And the Duke sent his compliments to the chef, and the chef sent his compliments to the Duke. And the Duke was so pleased at learning this that he had a similar potato wrapped up for him to take away, and tipped the head waiter twenty- five cents, feeling that in an extravagant country the only thing to do is to go the people one better. So the Duke carried the potato round for five days in New York and showed it to everybody. But beyond this he got no sign of agriculture out of the place at all. No one who entertained him seemed to know what the beef that they gave him had been fed on; no one, even in what seemed the best society, could talk rationally about preparing a hog for the breakfast table. People seemed to eat cauliflower without distinguishing the Denmark variety from the Oldenburg, and few, if any, knew Silesian bacon even when they tasted it. And when they took the Duke out twenty- five miles into what was called the country, there were still no turnips, but only real estate, and railway embankments, and advertising signs; so that altogether the obvious and visible decline of American agriculture in what should have been its leading centre saddened the Duke’s heart. Thus the Duke passed four gloomy days. Agriculture vexed him, and still more, of course, the money concerns which had brought him to America.
Money is a troublesome thing. But it has got to be thought about even by those who were not brought up to it. If, on account of money matters, one has been driven to come over to America in the hope of borrowing money, the awkwardness of how to go about it naturally makes one gloomy and preoccupied. Had there been broad fields of turnips to walk in and Holstein cattle to punch in the ribs, one might have managed to borrow it in the course of gentlemanly intercourse, as from one cattle- man to another. But in New York, amid piles of masonry and roaring street- traffic and glittering lunches and palatial residences, one simply couldn’t do it.
Herein lay the truth about the Duke of Dulham’s visit and the error of Mr. Lucullus Fyshe. Mr. Fyshe was thinking that the Duke had come to lend money. In reality he had come to borrow it. In fact, the Duke was reckoning that by putting a second mortgage on Dulham Towers for twenty thousand sterling, and by selling his Scotch shooting and leasing his Irish grazing and sub- letting his Welsh coal rent he could raise altogether a hundred thousand pounds. This, for a duke, is an enormous sum. If he once had it he would be able to pay off the first mortgage on Dulham Towers, buy in the rights of the present tenant of the Scotch shooting and the claim of the present mortgagee of the Irish grazing, and in fact be just where he started. This is ducal finance, which moves always in a circle.
In other words the Duke was really a poor man – not poor in the American sense, where poverty comes as a sudden blighting stringency, taking the form of an inability to get hold of a quarter of a million dollars, no matter how badly one needs it, and where it passes like a storm- cloud and is gone, but poor in that permanent and distressing sense known only to the British aristocracy. The Duke’s case, of course, was notorious, and Mr. Fyshe ought to have known of it. The Duke was so poor that the Duchess was compelled to spend three or four months every year at a fashionable hotel on the Riviera simply to save money, and his eldest son, the young Marquis of Beldoodle, had to put in most of his time shooting big game in Uganda, with only twenty or twenty- five beaters, and with so few carriers and couriers and such a dearth of elephant men and hyena boys that the thing was a perfect scandal. The Duke indeed was so poor that a younger son, simply to add his efforts to those of the rest, was compelled to pass his days in mountain climbing in the Himalayas, and the Duke’s daughter was obliged to pay long visits to minor German princesses, putting up with all sorts of hardship. And while the ducal family wandered about in this way – climbing mountains, and shooting hyenas, and saving money, the Duke’s place or seat, Dulham Towers, was practically shut up, with no one in it but servants and housekeepers and gamekeepers and tourists; and the picture galleries, except for artists and visitors and villagers, were closed; and the town house, except for the presence of servants and tradesmen and secretaries, was absolutely shut. But the Duke knew that rigid parsimony of this sort, if kept up for a generation or two, will work wonders, and this sustained him; and the Duchess knew it, and it sustained her; in fact, all the ducal family, knowing that it was only a matter of a generation or two, took their misfortune very cheerfully.
The only thing that bothered the Duke was borrowing money. This was necessary from time to time when loans or mortgages fell in, but he hated it. It was beneath him. His ancestors had often taken money, but had never borrowed it, and the Duke chafed under the necessity. There was something about the process that went against the grain. To sit down in pleasant converse with a man, perhaps almost a gentleman, and then lead up to the subject and take his money from him, seemed to the Duke’s mind essentially low. He could have understood knocking a man over the head with a fire shovel and taking his money, but not borrowing it.
So the Duke had come to America, where borrowing is notoriously easy. Any member of the Mausoleum Club, for instance, would borrow fifty cents to buy a cigar, or fifty thousand dollars to buy a house, or five millions to buy a railroad with complete indifference, and pay it back, too, if he could, and think nothing of it. In fact, ever so many of the Duke’s friends were known to have borrowed money in America with magical ease, pledging for it their seats or their pictures, or one of their daughters – anything.
So the Duke knew it must be easy. And yet, incredible as it may seem, he had spent four days in New York, entertained everywhere, and made much of, and hadn’t borrowed a cent. He had been asked to lunch in a Riverside palace, and, fool that he was, had come away without so much as a dollar to show for it. He had been asked to a country house on the Hudson, and, like an idiot – he admitted it himself – hadn’t asked his host for as much as his train fare. He had been driven twice round Central Park in a motor and had been taken tamely back to his hotel not a dollar the richer. The thing was childish, and he knew it. But to save his life the Duke didn’t know how to begin. None of the things that he was able to talk about seemed to have the remotest connection with the subject of money. The Duke was able to converse reasonably well over such topics as the approaching downfall of England (they had talked of it at Dulham Towers for sixty years), or over the duty of England towards China, or the duty of England to Persia, or its duty to aid the Young Turk Movement, and its duty to check the Old Servia agitation. The Duke became so interested in these topics and in explaining that while he had never been a Little Englander he had always been a Big Turk, and that he stood for a Small Bulgaria and a Restricted Austria, that he got further and further away from the topic of money, which was what he really wanted to come to; and the Duke rose from his conversations with a look of such obvious distress on his face that everybody realised that his anxiety about England was killing him.
And then suddenly light had come. It was on his fourth day in New York that he unexpectedly ran into the Viscount Belstairs (they had been together as young men in Nigeria, and as middle- aged men in St. Petersburg), and Belstairs, who was in abundant spirits and who was returning to England on the Gloritania at noon the next day, explained to the Duke that he had just borrowed fifty thousand pounds, on security that wouldn’t be worth a halfpenny in England.
And the Duke said with a sigh, “How the deuce do you do it, Belstairs?”
“Do what?”
“Borrow it,” said the Duke. “How do you manage to get people to talk about it? Here I am wanting to borrow a hundred thousand, and I’m hanged if I can even find an opening.”
At which the Viscount had said, “Pooh, pooh! you don’t need any opening. Just borrow it straight out – ask for it across a dinner table, just as you’d ask for a match; they think nothing of it here.”
“Across the dinner table?” repeated the Duke, who was a literal man.
“Certainly,” said the Viscount. “Not too soon, you know – say after a second glass of wine. I assure you it’s absolutely nothing.”
And it was just at that moment that a telegram was handed to the Duke from Mr. Lucullus Fyshe, praying him, as he was reported to be visiting the next day the City where the Mausoleum Club stands, to make acquaintance with him by dining at that institution.
And the Duke, being as I say a literal man, decided that just as soon as Mr. Fyshe should give him a second glass of wine, that second glass should cost Mr. Fyshe a hundred thousand pounds sterling.
And oddly enough, at about the same moment, Mr. Fyshe was calculating that provided he could make the Duke drink a second glass of the Mausoleum champagne, that glass would cost the Duke about five million dollars.
So the very morning after that the Duke had arrived on the New York express in the City; and being an ordinary, democratic, commercial sort of place, absorbed in its own affairs, it made no fuss over him whatever. The morning edition of the Plutopian Citizen simply said, “We understand that the Duke of Dulham arrives at the Grand Palaver this morning,” after which it traced the Duke’s pedigree back to Jock of Ealing in the twelfth century and let the matter go at that; and the noon edition of the People’s Advocate merely wrote, “We learn that Duke Dulham is in town. He is a relation of Jack Ealing.” But the Commercial Echo and Financial Undertone, appearing at four o’clock, printed in its stock market columns the announcement: “We understand that the Duke of Dulham, who arrives in town to- day, is proposing to invest a large sum of money in American Industrials.”
And of course that announcement reached every member of the Mausoleum Club within twenty minutes.
The Duke of Dulham entered the Mausoleum Club that evening at exactly seven of the clock. He was a short, thick man with a shaven face, red as a brick, and grizzled hair, and from the look of him he could have got a job at sight in any lumber camp in Wisconsin. He wore a dinner jacket, just like an ordinary person, but even without his Norfolk coat and his hobnailed boots there was something in the way in which he walked up the long main hall of the Mausoleum Club that every imported waiter in the place recognised in an instant.
The Duke cast his eye about the club and approved of it. It seemed to him a modest, quiet place, very different from the staring ostentation that one sees too often in a German hof or an Italian palazzo. He liked it.
Mr. Fyshe and Mr. Furlong were standing in a deep alcove or bay where there was a fire and india- rubber trees and pictures with shaded lights and a whiskey- and- soda table. There the Duke joined them. Mr. Fyshe he had met already that afternoon at the Palaver, and he called him “Fyshe” as if he had known him forever; and indeed, after a few minutes he called the rector of St. Asaph’s simply “Furlong,” for he had been familiar with the Anglican clergy in so many parts of the world that he knew that to attribute any peculiar godliness to them, socially, was the worst possible taste.
“By Jove,” said the Duke, turning to tap the leaf of a rubber- tree with his finger, “that fellow’s a Nigerian, isn’t he?”
“I hardly know,” said Mr. Fyshe, “I imagine so”; and he added, “You’ve been in Nigeria, Duke?”
“Oh, some years ago,” said the Duke, “after big game, you know – fine place for it.”
“Did you get any?” asked Mr. Fyshe.
“Not much,” said the Duke; “a hippo or two.”
“Ah,” said Mr. Fyshe.
“And, of course, now and then a giro,” the Duke went on, and added, “My sister was luckier, though; she potted a rhino one day, straight out of a doolie; I call that rather good.”
Mr. Fyshe called it that too.
“Ah, now here’s a good thing,” the Duke went on, looking at a picture. He carried in his waist- coat pocket an eye- glass that he used for pictures and for Tamworth hogs, and he put it to his eye with one hand, keeping the other in the left pocket of his jacket; “and this – this is a very good thing.”
“I believe so,” said Mr. Fyshe.
“You really have some awfully good things here,” continued the Duke. He had seen far too many pictures in too many places ever to speak of “values” or “compositions” or anything of that sort. The Duke merely looked at a picture and said, “Now here’s a good thing,” or “Ah! here now is a very good thing,” or “I say, here’s a really good thing.”
No one could get past this sort of criticism. The Duke had long since found it bullet- proof.
“They showed me some rather good things in New York,” he went on, “but really the things you have here seem to be awfully good things.”
Indeed, the Duke was truly pleased with the pictures, for something in their composition, or else in the soft, expensive light that shone on them, enabled him to see in the distant background of each a hundred thousand sterling. And that is a very beautiful picture indeed.
“When you come to our side of the water, Fyshe,” said the Duke, “I must show you my Botticelli.”
Had Mr. Fyshe, who knew nothing of art, expressed his real thought, he would have said, “Show me your which?” But he only answered, “I shall be delighted to see it.”
In any case there was no time to say more, for at this moment the portly figure and the great face of Dr. Boomer, president of Plutoria University, loomed upon them. And with him came a great burst of conversation that blew all previous topics into fragments. He was introduced to the Duke, and shook hands with Mr. Furlong, and talked to both of them, and named the kind of cocktail that he wanted, all in one breath, and in the very next he was asking the Duke about the Babylonian hieroglyphic bricks that his grandfather, the thirteenth Duke, had brought home from the Euphrates, and which every archaeologist knew were preserved in the Duke’s library at Dulham Towers. And though the Duke hadn’t known about the bricks himself, he assured Dr. Boomer that his grandfather had collected some really good things, quite remarkable.
And the Duke, having met a man who knew about his grandfather, felt in his own element. In fact, he was so delighted with Dr. Boomer and the Nigerian rubber- tree and the shaded pictures and the charm of the whole place and the certainty that half a million dollars was easily findable in it, that he put his eye- glass back in his pocket and said,
“A charming club you have here, really most charming.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Fyshe, in a casual tone, “a comfortable place, we like to think.”
But if he could have seen what was happening below in the kitchens of the Mausoleum Club, Mr. Fyshe would have realised that just then it was turning into a most uncomfortable place.
For the walking delegate with his hat on sideways, who had haunted it all day, was busy now among the assembled Chinese philosophers, writing down names and distributing strikers’ cards of the International Union and assuring them that the “boys” of the Grand Palaver had all walked out at seven, and that all the “boys” of the Commercial and the Union and of every restaurant in town were out an hour ago.
And the philosophers were taking their cards and hanging up their waiters’ coats and putting on shabby jackets and bowler hats, worn sideways, and changing themselves by a wonderful transformation from respectable Chinese to slouching loafers of the lowest type.
But Mr. Fyshe, being in an alcove and not in the kitchens, saw nothing of these things. Not even when the head waiter, shaking with apprehension, appeared with cocktails made by himself, in glasses that he himself had had to wipe, did Mr. Fyshe, absorbed in the easy urbanity of the Duke, notice that anything was amiss.
Neither did his guests. For Dr. Boomer, having discovered that the Duke had visited Nigeria, was asking him his opinion of the famous Bimbaweh remains of the lower Niger. The Duke confessed that he really hadn’t noticed them, and the Doctor assured him that Strabo had indubitably mentioned them (he would show the Duke the very passage), and that they apparently lay, if his memory served him, about half- way between Oohat and Ohat; whether above Oohat and below Ohat or above Ohat and below Oohat he would not care to say for a certainty; for that the Duke must wait till the president had time to consult his library.
And the Duke was fascinated forthwith with the president’s knowledge of Nigerian geography, and explained that he had once actually descended from below Timbuctoo to Oohat in a doolie manned only by four swats.
So presently, having drunk the cocktails, the party moved solemnly in a body from the alcove towards the private dining- room upstairs, still busily talking of the Bimbaweh remains, and the swats, and whether the doolie was, or was not, the original goatskin boat of the book of Genesis.
And when they entered the private dining- room with its snow- white table and cut glass and flowers (as arranged by a retreating philosopher now heading towards the Gaiety Theatre with his hat over his eyes), the Duke again exclaimed,
“Really, you have a most comfortable club – delightful.”
So they sat down to dinner, over which Mr. Furlong offered up a grace as short as any that are known even to the Anglican clergy. And the head waiter, now in deep distress – for he had been sending out telephone messages in vain to the Grand Palaver and the Continental, like the captain of a sinking ship – served oysters that he had opened himself and poured Rhine wine with a trembling hand. For he knew that unless by magic a new chef and a waiter or two could be got from the Palaver, all hope was lost.
But the guests still knew nothing of his fears. Dr. Boomer was eating his oysters as a Nigerian hippo might eat up the crew of a doolie, in great mouthfuls, and commenting as he did so upon the luxuriousness of modern life.
And in the pause that followed the oysters he illustrated for the Duke with two pieces of bread the essential difference in structure between the Mexican pueblo and the tribal house of the Navajos, and lest the Duke should confound either or both of them with the adobe hut of the Bimbaweh tribes he showed the difference at once with a couple of olives.
By this time, of course, the delay in the service was getting noticeable. Mr. Fyshe was directing angry glances towards the door, looking for the reappearance of the waiter, and growling an apology to his guests. But the president waved the apology aside.
“In my college days,” he said, “I should have considered a plate of oysters an ample meal. I should have asked for nothing more. We eat,” he said, “too much.”
This, of course, started Mr. Fyshe on his favourite topic. “Luxury!” he exclaimed, “I should think so! It is the curse of the age. The appalling growth of luxury, the piling up of money, the ease with which huge fortunes are made” (Good! thought the Duke, here we are coming to it), “these are the things that are going to ruin us. Mark my words, the whole thing is bound to end in a tremendous crash. I don’t mind telling you, Duke – my friends here, I am sure, know it already – that I am more or less a revolutionary socialist. I am absolutely convinced, sir, that our modern civilisation will end in a great social catastrophe. Mark what I say” – and here Mr. Fyshe became exceedingly impressive – “a great social catastrophe. Some of us may not live to see it, perhaps; but you, for instance, Furlong, are a younger man; you certainly will.”
But here Mr. Fyshe was understating the case. They were all going to live to see it, right on the spot.
For it was just at this moment, when Mr. Fyshe was talking of the social catastrophe and explaining with flashing eyes that it was bound to come, that it came; and when it came it lit, of all places in the world, right there in the private dining- room of the Mausoleum Club.
For the gloomy head waiter re- entered and leaned over the back of Mr. Fyshe’s chair and whispered to him.
“Eh? what?” said Mr. Fyshe.
The head waiter, his features stricken with inward agony, whispered again.
“The infernal, damn scoundrels!” said Mr. Fyshe, starting back in his chair. “On strike: in this club! It’s an outrage!”
“I’m very sorry, sir. I didn’t like to tell you, sir. I’d hoped I might have got help from the outside, but it seems, sir, the hotels are all the same way.”
“Do you mean to say,” said Mr. Fyshe, speaking very slowly, “that there is no dinner?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” moaned the waiter. “It appears the chef hadn’t even cooked it. Beyond what’s on the table, sir, there’s nothing.”
The social catastrophe had come.
Mr. Fyshe sat silent with his fist clenched. Dr. Boomer, with his great face transfixed, stared at the empty oystershells, thinking perhaps of his college days. The Duke, with his hundred thousand dashed from his lips in the second cup of champagne that was never served, thought of his politeness first and murmured something about taking them to his hotel.
But there is no need to follow the unhappy details of the unended dinner. Mr. Fyshe’s one idea was to be gone: he was too true an artist to think that finance could be carried on over the table- cloth of a second- rate restaurant, or on an empty stomach in a deserted club. The thing must be done over again; he must wait his time and begin anew.
And so it came about that the little dinner- party of Mr. Lucullus Fyshe dissolved itself into its constituent elements, like broken pieces of society in the great cataclysm portrayed by Mr. Fyshe himself.
The Duke was bowled home in a snorting motor to the brilliant rotunda of the Grand Palaver, itself waiterless and supperless.
The rector of St. Asaph’s wandered off home to his rectory, musing upon the contents of its pantry.
And Mr. Fyshe and the gigantic Doctor walked side by side homewards along Plutoria Avenue, beneath the elm trees.
Nor had they gone any great distance before Dr. Boomer fell to talking of the Duke.
“A charming man,” he said, “delightful. I feel extremely sorry for him.”
“No worse off, I presume, than any of the rest of us,” growled Mr. Fyshe, who was feeling in the sourest of democratic moods; “a man doesn’t need to be a duke to have a stomach.”
“Oh, pooh, pooh!” said the president, waving the topic aside with his hand in the air; “I don’t refer to that. Oh, not at all. I was thinking of his financial position – an ancient family like the Dulhams; it seems too bad altogether.”
For, of course, to an archaeologist like Dr. Boomer an intimate acquaintance with the pedigree and fortunes of the greater ducal families from Jock of Ealing downwards was nothing. It went without saying. As beside the Neanderthal skull and the Bimbaweh ruins it didn’t count.
Mr. Fyshe stopped absolutely still in his tracks. “His financial position?” he questioned, quick as a lynx.
“Certainly,” said Dr. Boomer; “I had taken it for granted that you knew. The Dulham family are practically ruined. The Duke, I imagine, is under the necessity of mortgaging his estates; indeed, I should suppose he is here in America to raise money.”
Mr. Fyshe was a man of lightning action. Any man accustomed to the Stock Exchange learns to think quickly.
“One moment!” he cried; “I see we are right at your door. May I just run in and use your telephone? I want to call up Boulder for a moment.”
Two minutes later Mr. Fyshe was saying into the telephone, “Oh, is that you, Boulder? I was looking for you in vain to- day – wanted you to meet the Duke of Dulham, who came in quite unexpectedly from New York; felt sure you’d like to meet him. Wanted you at the club for dinner, and now it turns out that the club’s all upset – waiters’ strike or some such rascality – and the Palaver, so I hear, is in the same fix. Could you possibly –”
Here Mr. Fyshe paused, listening a moment and then went on, “Yes, yes; an excellent idea – most kind of you. Pray do send your motor to the hotel and give the Duke a bite of dinner. No, I won’t join you, thanks. Most kind. Good- night –”
And within a few minutes more the motor of Mr. Boulder was rolling down from Plutoria Avenue to the Grand Palaver Hotel.
What passed between Mr. Boulder and the Duke that evening is not known. That they must have proved congenial company to one another there is no doubt. In fact, it would seem that, dissimilar as they were in many ways, they found a common bond of interest in sport. And it is quite likely that Mr. Boulder may have mentioned that he had a hunting- lodge – what the Duke would call a shooting- box – in Wisconsin woods, and that it was made of logs, rough cedar logs not squared, and that the timber wolves and others which surrounded it were of a ferocity without parallel.
Those who know the Duke best could measure the effect of that upon his temperament.
At any rate, it is certain that Mr. Lucullus Fyshe at his breakfast- table next morning chuckled with suppressed joy to read in the Plutopian Citizen the item:
“We learn that the Duke of Dulham, who has been paying a brief visit to the City, leaves this morning with Mr. Asmodeus Boulder for the Wisconsin woods. We understand that Mr. Boulder intends to show his guest, who is an ardent sportsman, something of the American wolf.”
And so the Duke went whirling westwards and northwards with Mr. Boulder in the drawing- room end of a Pullman car, that was all littered up with double- barrelled express rifles and leather game bags, and lynx catchers and wolf traps and Heaven knows what. And the Duke had on his very roughest sporting suit, made, apparently, of alligator hide; and as he sat there with a rifle across his knees, while the train swept onward through open fields and broken woods, the real country at last, towards the Wisconsin forest, there was such a light of genial happiness in his face that had not been seen there since he had been marooned in the mud jungles of Upper Burmah.
And opposite, Mr. Boulder looked at him with fixed, silent eyes, and murmured from time to time some renewed information of the ferocity of the timber wolf.
But of wolves other than the timber wolf, and fiercer still, into whose hands the Duke might fall in America, he spoke never a word.
Nor is it known in the record what happened in Wisconsin, and to the Mausoleum Club the Duke and his visit remained only as a passing and a pleasant memory.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

close this panel
close this panel

User Activity

more >
Contacting facebook
Please wait...