But it is working in on us that something must be done. Now is the time to set in force certain agencies to make good these losses in so far as they can be repaired. Now is the time, when the excitement of the war is still on us, when the frenzy is still in our blood, for the time of reaction is surely to be reckoned with by and by. Now we are sustained by the blare of the bands and the flourish of flags, but in the cold, gray dawn of the morning after, we shall count our dead with disillusioned eyes and wonder what was the use of all this bloodshed and waste. Trade conditions are largely a matter of the condition of the spirit, and ours will be drooping and drab when the tumult and the shouting have died and the reign of reason has come back.
Personal thrift comes naturally to our minds when we begin to think of the lessons that we should take to heart. Up to the time of the war and since, we have been a prodigal people, confusing extravagance with generosity, thrift with meanness. The Indians in the old days killed off the buffalo for the sport of killing, and left the carcases to rot, never thinking of a time of want; and so, too, the natives in the North Country kill the caribou for the sake of their tongues, which are considered a real "company dish," letting the remainder of the animal go to waste.
This is a startling thought, and comes to one over and over again. You will think of it when you order your twenty-five cents' worth of cooked ham and see what you get! You will think of it again when you come home and find that the butcher delivered your twenty-five cents' worth of cooked ham in your absence, and, finding the door locked, passed it through the keyhole. And yet the prodigality of the Indian and the caribou-killer are infantile compared with the big extravagances that go on without much comment. Economy is a broad term used to express the many ways in which other people might save money. Members of Parliament have been known to tell many ways in which women might economize; their tender hearts are cut to the quick as they notice the fancy footwear and expensive millinery worn by women. Great economy meetings have been held in London, to which the Cabinet Ministers rode in expensive cars, and where they drank champagne, enjoining women to abjure the use of veils and part with their pet dogs as a war measure; but they said not a word about the continuance of the liquor business which rears its head in every street and has wasted three million tons of grain since the war began. What wonder is it that these childish appeals to the women to economize fall on deaf or indignant ears! Women have a nasty way of making comparisons. They were so much easier to manage before they learned to read and write.
The war wears on its weary course. The high cost of living becomes more and more of a nightmare to the people, yet the British Government tolerates a system which wastes more sugar than would feed the army, impairs the efficiency of the working-man one sixth, and wastes two million dollars every day in what is at best a questionable indulgence, and at worst a national menace. Speaking of economy, personal thrift, conservation, and other "win-the-war" plans, how would the elimination of the liquor traffic do for a start?
There are two ways of practicing economy: one is by refusing to spend money, which is not always a virtue; and the other is by increasing production, which is the greatest need of this critical time. The farmers are doing all they can: they are producing as much as they have means and labor for. But still in Canada much land is idle, and many people sit around wondering what they can do. There will be women sitting on verandas in the cities and towns in the summer, knitting socks, or maybe crocheting edges on handkerchiefs, who would gladly be raising potatoes and chickens if they knew how to begin; and a corresponding number of chickens and potatoes will go unraised. But the idea of cooeperation is taking root, and here and there there is a breaking away from the conventional mode of life. The best thing about it is that people are thinking, and pretty soon the impact of public opinion will be so strong that there will be a national movement to bring together the idle people and the idle land. We are paying a high price for our tuition, but we must admit that the war is a great teacher.
There is a growing sentiment against the holding-up of tracts of land by speculators waiting for the increase in value which comes by the hard work of settlers. Every sod turned by the real, honest settler, who comes to make his home, increases the value of the section of land next him, probably held by a railway company, and the increase makes it harder for some other settler to buy it. By his industry the settler makes money for the railway company, but incidentally makes his own chance of acquiring a neighbor more remote!
The wild-lands tax which prevails in the western provinces of the Dominion, and which we hope will be increased, will make it unprofitable to hold land idle, and will do much, if made heavy enough, to liberate land for settlement.
As it is now, people who have no money to buy land have to go long distances from the railroad to get homesteads, and there suffer all the inconveniences and hardships and dangers of pioneer life, miles from neighbors, many miles from a doctor, and without school or church; while great tracts of splendid land lie idle and unimproved, close beside the little towns, held in the tight clasp of a hypothetical owner far away.
Western Canada has a land problem which war conditions have intensified. But people are beginning to talk of these things, and the next few years will see radical changes.
The coming of women into the political world should help. Women are born conservationists. Their first game is housekeeping and doll-mending. The doll, by preference, is a sick doll, and in need of care. Their work is to care for, work for something, and if the advent of women into politics does not mean that life is made easier and safer for other women and for children, then we will have to confess with shame and sorrow that politically we have failed! But we are not going to fail! Already the angel has come down and has troubled the water. Discussions are raging in women's societies and wherever women meet together, and out of it something will come. Men are always quite willing to be guided by women when their schemes are sound and sane.
In New Zealand the first political activity of women was directed toward lowering the death-rate among children, by sending out trained nurses to care for them and give instruction to the mothers. Ours will follow the same line, because the heart of woman is the same everywhere. Dreams will soon begin to come true. Good dreams always do—in time; and why not? There is nothing too good to be true! Here is one that is coming!
Little Mary Wood set out bravely to do the chores; for it was Christmas Eve, and even in the remoteness of the Abilene Valley, some of the old-time festivity of Christmas was felt. Mary's mother had had good times at Christmas when she was a little girl, and Mary's imagination did the rest. Mary started out singing.
It was a mean wind that came through the valley that night; a wind that took no notice of Christmas, or Sunday, or even of the brave little girl doing the chores, so that her father might not have them to do when he came home. It was so mean that it would not even go round Mary Wood, aged eleven, and small for her age—it went straight through her and chattered her teeth and blued her hands, and would have frozen her nose if she had not at intervals put her little hand over it.
But in spite of the wind, the chores were done at last, and Mary came back to the house. Mary's mother was always waiting to open the door and shut it quick again, but to-night, when Mary reached the door she had to open it herself, for her mother had gone to bed.
Mary was surprised at this, and hastened to the bedroom to see what was wrong.
Mary's mother replied to her questions quite cheerfully. She was not sick. She was only tired. She would be all right in the morning. But Mary Wood, aged eleven, had grown wise in her short years, and she knew there was something wrong. Never mind; she would ask father. He always knew everything and what to do about it.
Going back to the kitchen she saw the writing-pad on which her mother had been writing. Her mother did not often write letters; certainly did not often tear them up after writing them; and here in the home-made waste-paper basket was a torn and crumpled sheet. Mary did not know that it was not the square thing to read other people's letters, and, besides, she wanted to know. She spread the letter on the table and pieced it together. Laboriously she spelled it out:—
"I don't know why I am so frightened this time, Lizzie, but I am black afraid. I suppose it is because I lost the other two. I hate this lonely, God-forsaken country. I am afraid of it to-night—it's so big and white and far away, and it seems as if nobody cares. Mary does not know, and I cannot tell her; but I know I should, for she may be left with the care of Bobbie. To-night I am glad the other two are safe. It is just awful to be a woman, Lizzie; women get it going and coming, and the worst of it is, no one cares!"
Mary read the letter over and over, before she grasped its meaning. Then the terrible truth rolled over her, and her heart seemed to stop beating. Mary had not lived her eleven years without finding out some of the grim facts of life. She knew that the angels brought babies at very awkward times, and to places where they were not wanted a bit, and she also knew that sometimes, when they brought a baby, they had been known to take the mother away. Mary had her own opinion of the angels who did that, but it had been done. There was only one hope: her father always knew what to do.
She thawed a hole in the frosted window and tried to see down the trail, but the moon was foggy and it was impossible to see more than a few yards.
Filled with a sense of fear and dread, she built up a good fire and filled the kettle with water; she vigorously swept the floor and tidied the few books on their home-made shelf.
It was ten o'clock when her father came in, pale and worried. Mary saw that he knew, too.
He went past her into the bedroom and spoke hurriedly to his wife; but Mary did not hear what they said.
Suddenly she heard her mother cry and instinctively she ran into the room.
Her father stood beside the bed holding his head, as if in pain. Mary's mother had turned her face into the pillow, and cried; and even little Bobbie, who had been awakened by the unusual commotion, sat up, rubbing his eyes, and cried softly to himself.
Mary's father explained it to Mary.
"Mrs. Roberts has gone away," he said. "I went over to see her to-day. We were depending on her to come over and take care of your mother—for a while—and now she has gone, and there is not another woman between here and the Landing."
"It's no use trying, Robert," Mrs. Wood said between her sobs; "I can't stay—I am so frightened. I am beginning to see things—and I know what it means. There are black things in every corner—trying to tell me something, grinning, jabbering things—that are waiting for me; I see them everywhere I look."
Mr. Wood sat down beside her, and patted her hand.
"I know, dear," he said; "it's hell, this lonely life. It's too much for any woman, and I'll give it all up. Better to live on two meals a day in a city than face things like this. We wanted a home of our own, Millie,—you remember how we used to talk,—and we thought we had found it here—good land and a running stream. We have worked hard and it is just beginning to pay, but we'll have to quit—and I'll have to work for some one else all my life. It was too good to be true, Millie."
He spoke without any bitterness in his voice, just a settled sadness, and a great disappointment.
Suddenly the old dog began to bark with strong conviction in every bark, which indicated that he had really found something at last that was worth mentioning. There was a sudden jangle of sleighbells in the yard, and Mary's father went hastily to the door and called to the dog to be quiet. A woman walked into the square of light thrown on the snow from the open door, and asked if this was the place where a nurse was needed.
Mr. Wood reached out and took her big valise and brought her into the house, too astonished to speak. He was afraid she might vanish.
She threw off her heavy coat before she spoke, and then, as she wiped the frost from her eyebrows, she explained:—
"I am what is called a pioneer nurse, and I am sent to take care of your wife, as long as she needs me. You see the women in Alberta have the vote now, and they have a little more to say about things than they used to have, and one of the things they are keen on is to help pioneer women over their rough places. Your neighbor, Mrs. Roberts, on her way East, reported your wife's case, and so I am here. The Mounted Police brought me out, and I have everything that is needed."
"But I don't understand!" Mr. Wood began.
"No!" said the nurse; "it is a little queer, isn't it? People have spent money on pigs and cattle and horses, and have bonused railways and elevator companies, or anything that seemed to help the country, while the people who were doing the most for the country, the settlers' wives, were left to live or die as seemed best to them. Woman's most sacred function is to bring children into the world, and if all goes well, why, God bless her!—but when things go wrong—God help her! No one else was concerned at all. But, as I told you, women vote now in Alberta, and what they say goes. Men are always ready to help women in any good cause, but, naturally enough, they don't see the tragedy of the lonely woman, as women see it. They are just as sympathetic, but they do not know what to do. Some time ago, before the war, there was an agitation to build a monument to the pioneer women, a great affair of marble and stone. The women did not warm up to it at all. They pointed out that it was poor policy to build monuments to brave women who had died, while other equally brave women in similar circumstances were being let die! So they sort of frowned down the marble monument idea, and began to talk of nurses instead.
"So here I am," concluded Mrs. Sanderson, as she hung up her coat and cap. "I am a monument to those who are gone, and the free gift of the people of Alberta to you and your wife, in slight appreciation of the work you are doing in settling the country and making all the land in this district more valuable. They are a little late in acknowledging what they owe the settler, but it took the women a few years to get the vote, and then a little while longer to get the woman's point of view before the public."
Mary Wood stood at her father's side while the nurse spoke, drinking in every word.
"But who pays?" asked Mary's father—"who pays for this?"
"It is all simple enough," said the nurse. "There are many millions of acres in Alberta held by companies, and by private owners, who live in New York, London, and other places, who hold this land idle, waiting for the prices to go up. The prices advance with the coming-in of settlers like yourself, and these owners get the benefit. The Government thinks these landowners should be made to pay something toward helping the settlers, so they have put on a wild-lands tax of one per cent of the value of the land; they have also put a telephone tax on each unoccupied section, which will make it as easy for you to get a telephone as if every section was settled; and they have also a hospital tax, and will put up a hospital next year, where free treatment will be given to every one who belongs to the municipality.
"The idea is to tax the wild land so heavily that it will not be profitable for speculators to hold it, and it will be released for real, sure-enough settlers. The Government holds to the view that it is better to make homes for many people than to make fortunes for a few people."
Mary's father sat down with a great sigh that seemed half a laugh and half a sob.
"What is it you said the women have now?" asked Mary.
The nurse explained carefully to her small but interested audience. When she was done, Mary Wood, aged eleven, had chosen her life-work.
"Now I know what I'll be when I grow big," she said; "I intended to be a missionary, but I've changed my mind—I am going to be a Voter!"
He walked among us many years, And yet we failed to understand That there was courage in his fears And strength within his gentle hand: We did not mean to be unkind, But we were dull of heart and mind!
* * * * *
But when the drum-beat through the night And men were called, with voice austere, To die for England's sake—and right, He was the first to answer, "Here!" His courage, long submerged, arose, When at her gates, knocked England's foes!
* * * * *
And so to-day, where the brave dead Sleep sweetly amid Flemish bowers, One grave, in thought, is garlanded With prairie flowers!
And if the dead in realms of bliss Can think on those they knew below, He'll know we're sorry, and that this Is our poor way of saying so!
The war has put a new face on our neighborhood life; it has searched out and tried the hidden places of our souls, and strange, indeed, have been its findings. By its severe testings some of those who we thought were our strongest people have been abased, and some of the weak ones have been exalted. There were some of our people who were good citizens in the normal times of peace, but who could not stand against the sterner test of war; and then again we have found the true worth of some of those whom in our dull, short-sighted way we did not know!
Stanley Goodman came to our neighborhood when he was a lad of sixteen. The Church of England clergyman, who knew his people in England, brought him to Mrs. Corbett, who kept the Black Creek Stopping House, and asked her if she could give him a room and look after him. He told her of the great wealth and social position of the family who were willing to pay well for the boy's keep.
"If they are as well off as all that," said Mrs. Corbett, "why are they sending the wee lad out here, away from all of them?"
The clergyman found it hard to explain. "It seems that this boy is not quite like the other members of the family—not so bright, I take it," he said; "and the father particularly is a bit disappointed in him!"
"Do you mean," said Mrs. Corbett, "that they are ashamed of the poor little fellow, and are sending him out here to get rid of him? Faith, if that's the kind of heathen there is in England I don't know why they send missionaries out here to preach to us. Bad and all as we are, there is none of us that would do the like of that!"
"They will provide handsomely for him in every way, Mrs. Corbett, and leave no wish ungratified," the minister said uneasily.
Mrs. Corbett was a difficult person in some ways.
"Oh, sure, they will give him everything but love and home, and that'll be what the poor wee lad will hunger for! Money is a queer thing for sure, when it will make a mother forget the child that she brought into the world!"
"I think the mother—from what I can gather—wanted to keep the boy, but the father is a very proud man, and this lad aggravated him some way just to see him, and the mother yielded to his wishes, as a true wife should, and for the sake of peace has withdrawn her objections."
"A poor soft fool, that's all she is, to let a domineering old reprobate send her poor lad away, just because he did not like to see him around, and him his own child! And even you, Mr. Tilton, who have been out here living with civilized people for three years, have enough of the old country way in you yet to say that a true wife should consent to this to please the old tyrant! Faith, I don't blame the Suffragettes for smashing windows, and if I wasn't so busy feeding hungry men, I believe I would go over and give them a hand, only I would be more careful what I was smashing and would not waste my time on innocent windows!"
"But you will take him, won't you, Mrs. Corbett? I will feel quite easy about him if you will!"
"I suppose I'll have to. I can't refuse when his own have deserted him! I would be a poor member of the Army if I did not remember Our Lord's promise to the poor children when their fathers and mothers forsake them, and I will try to carry it out as well as I can."
Stanley was soon established in the big white-washed room in Mrs. Corbett's boarding-house. He brought with him everything that any boy could ever want, and his room, which he kept spotlessly clean, with its beautiful rug, pictures, and books, was the admiration of the neighborhood.
Stanley understood the situation and spoke of it quite frankly.
"My father thought it better for me to come away for a while, to see if it would not toughen me up a bit. He has been rather disappointed in me, I think. You see, I had an accident when I was a little fellow and since then I have not been—quite right."
"Just think of that," Mrs. Corbett said afterwards in telling it to a sympathetic group of "Stoppers." "It wouldn't be half so bad if the poor boy didn't know that he is queer. I tried to reason it out of him, but he said that he had heard the housekeeper and the parlor-maid at home talking of it, and they said he was a bit looney. It wouldn't be half so bad for him if he was not so near to being all right! If ever I go wrong in the head I hope I'll be so crazy that I won't know that I'm crazy. Craziness is like everything else—it's all right if you have enough of it!"
"Stanley is not what any one would call crazy," said one of the Stoppers; "the only thing I can see wrong with him is that you always know what he is going to say, and he is too polite, and every one can fool him! He certainly is a good worker, and there's another place he shows that he is queer, for he doesn't need to work and still he does it! He likes it, and thanked me to-day for letting him clean my team; and as a special favor I'm going to let him hitch them up when I am ready to go!"
Stanley busied himself about the house, and was never so happy as when he was rendering some service to some one. But even in his happiest moments there was always the wistful longing for home, and when he was alone with Mrs. Corbett he freely spoke of his hopes and fears.
"It may not be so long before they begin to think that they would like to see me; do you think that it is really true that absence makes the heart grow fonder—even of people—like me? I keep thinking that maybe they will send for me after a while and let me stay for a few days anyway. My mother will want to see me, I am almost sure,—indeed, she almost said as much,—and she said many times that she hoped that I would be quite happy; and when I left she kissed me twice, and even the governor shook hands with me and said, 'You will be all right out there in Canada.' He was so nice with me, it made it jolly hard to leave."
Another day, as he dried the dishes for her, assuring her that it was a real joy for him to be let do this, he analyzed the situation again:—
"My father's people are all very large and handsome," he said, "and have a very commanding way with them; my father has always been obeyed, and always got what he wanted. It was my chin which bothered him the most. It is not much of a chin, I know; it retreats, doesn't it? But I cannot help it. But I have always been a bitter disappointment to him, and it really has been most uncomfortable for mother—he seemed to blame her some way, too; and often and often I found her looking at me so sadly and saying, 'Poor Stanley!' and all my aunts, when they came to visit, called me that. It was—not pleasant."
Every week his letter came from home, with books and magazines and everything that a boy could wish for. His delight knew no bounds. "They must think something of me," he said over and over again! At first he wrote a letter to his mother every day, but a curt note came from his father one day telling him that he must try to interest himself in his surroundings and that it would be better if he wrote only once a week! The weekly letter then became an event, and he copied it over many times. Mrs. Corbett, busy with her work of feeding the traveling public, often paused long enough in her work of peeling the potatoes or rolling out pie-crust to wipe her hands hastily and read the letter that he had written and pass judgment on it.
Feeling that all green Englishmen were their legitimate prey for sport, the young bloods of the neighborhood, led by Pat Brennan, Mrs. Corbett's nephew, began to tell Stanley strange and terrible stories of Indians, and got him to send home for rifles and knives to defend himself and the neighborhood from their traitorous raids, "which were sure to be made on the settlements as soon as the cold weather came and the Indians got hungry." He was warned that he must not speak to Mrs. Corbett about this, for it is never wise to alarm the women. "We will have trouble enough without having a lot of hysterical women on our hands," said Pat.
After the weapons had come "The Exterminators" held a session behind closed doors to see what was the best plan of attack, and decided that they would not wait for the Indians to begin the trouble, but would make war on them. They decided that they would beat the bushes for Indians down in the river-bottom, while Stanley would sit at a certain point of vantage in a clump of willows, and as the Indians ran past him, he would pot them!
Stanley had consented to do this only after he had heard many tales of Indian treachery and cruelty to the settlers and their families!
The plan was carried out and would no doubt have been successful, but for the extreme scarcity of Indians in our valley.
All night long Stanley sat at his post, peering into the night, armed to the teeth, shivering with the cold wind that blew through the valley. His teeth chattered with fright sometimes, too, as the bushes rustled behind him, and an inquisitive old cow who came nosing the willows never knew how near death she had been. Meanwhile his traitorous companions went home and slept soundly and sweetly in their warm beds.
"And even after he found out that we were fooling him, he was not a bit sore," said Pat. "He tried to laugh! That is what made me feel cheap—he is too easy; it's too much like taking candy from a kid. And he was mighty square about it, too, and he never told Aunt Maggie how he got the cold, for he slipped into bed that morning and she didn't know he was out."
Another time the boys set him to gathering the puff-balls that grew in abundance in the hay meadow, assuring him that they were gopher-eggs and if placed under a hen would hatch out young gophers.
Stanley was wild with enthusiasm when he heard this and hastened to pack a box full to send home. "They will be surprised," he said. Fortunately, Mrs. Corbett found out about this before the box was sent, and she had to tell him that the boys were only in fun.
When she told him that the boys had been just having sport there came over his face such a look of sadness and pain, such a deeply hurt look, that Mrs. Corbett went back to the barn and thrashed her sturdy young nephew, all over again.
When the matter came up for discussion again, Stanley implored her not to speak of it any more, and not to hold it against the boys. "It was not their fault at all," he said; "it all comes about on account of my being—not quite right. I am not quite like other boys, but when they play with me I forget it and I believe what they say. There is—something wrong with me,—and it makes people want—to have sport with me; but it is not their fault at all."
"Well, they won't have sport with you when I am round," declared Mrs. Corbett stoutly.
Years rolled by and Stanley still cherished the hope that some day "permission" would come for him to go home. He grew very fast and became rather a fine-looking young man. Once, emboldened by a particularly kind letter from his mother, he made the request that he should be allowed to go home for a few days. "If you will let me come home even for one day, dearest mother," he wrote, "I will come right back content, and father will not need to see me at all. I want to stand once more before that beautiful Tissot picture of Christ holding the wounded lamb in his arms, and I would like to see the hawthorn hedge when it is in bloom as it will be soon, and above all, dear mother, I want to see you. And I will come directly away."
He held this letter for many days, and was only emboldened to send it by Mrs. Corbett's heartiest assurances that it was a splendid letter and that his mother would like it!
"I do not want to give my mother trouble," he said. "She has already had much trouble with me; but it might make her more content to see me and to know that I am so well—and happy."
After the letter had been sent, Stanley counted the days anxiously, and on the big map of Canada that hung on the kitchen wall he followed its course until it reached Halifax, and then his mind went with it tossing on the ocean.
"I may get my answer any day after Friday," he said. "Of course I do not expect it right off—it will take some little time for mother to speak to father, and, besides, he might not be at home; so I must not be disappointed if it seems long to wait."
Friday passed and many weeks rolled by, and still Stanley was hopeful. "They are considering," he said, "and that is so much better than if they refused; and perhaps they are looking about a boat—I think that must be what is keeping the letter back. I feel so glad and happy about it, it seems that permission must be coming."
In a month a bulky parcel came to him by express. It contained a framed picture of the Good Shepherd carrying the lost lamb in his arms; a box of hawthorn blossoms, faded but still fragrant, and a book which gave directions for playing solitaire in one hundred and twenty-three ways!!
Mrs. Corbett hastened to his room when she heard the cry of pain that escaped his lips. He stood in the middle of the floor with the book in his hand. All the boyishness had gone out of his face, which now had the spent look of one who has had a great fright or suffered great pain. The book on solitaire had pierced through his cloudy brain with the thought that his was a solitary part in life, and for a few moments he went through the panicky grief of the faithful dog who finds himself left on the shore while his false master sails gayly away!
"I will be all right directly," he stammered, making a pitiful effort to control his tears.
Mrs. Corbett politely appeared not to notice, and went hastily downstairs, and although not accustomed to the use of the pen, yet she took it in hand and wrote a letter to Stanley's father.
"It is a pity that your poor lad did not inherit some of your hardness of heart, Mr. Goodman," the letter began, "for if he did he would not be upstairs now breakin his and sobbin it out of him at your cruel answer to his natural request that he might go home and see his mother. But he has a heart of gold wherever he got it I don't know, and it is just a curse to him to be so constant in his love for home, when there is no love or welcome there for him. He is a lad that any man might well be proud of him, that gentle and kind and honest and truthful, not like most of the young doods that come out here drinkin and carousin and raisin the divil. mebbe you would like him better if he was and this is just to tell you that we like your boy here and we dont think much of the way you are using him and I hope that you will live to see the day that you will regret with tears more bitter than he is sheddin now the way you have treated him, and with these few lines I will close M corbett."
How this letter was received at Mayflower Lodge, Bucks, England, is not known, for no answer was ever sent; and although the letters to Stanley came regularly, his wish to go home was not mentioned in any of them. Neither did he ever refer to it again.
"Say, Stan," said young Pat one day, suddenly smitten with a bright thought, "why don't you go home anyway? You have lots of money—why don't you walk in on 'em and give 'em a surprise?"
"It would not be playing the game, Pat; thank you all the same, old chap," said Stanley heartily, "but I will not go home without permission."
After that Stanley got more and more reticent about the people at home. He seemed to realize that they had cut him off, but the homesick look never left his eyes. His friends now were the children of the neighborhood and the animals. Dogs, cats, horses, and children followed him, and gave him freely of their affection. He worked happy hours in Mrs. Corbett's garden, and "Stanley's flowers" were the admiration of the neighborhood.
When he was not busy in the garden, he spent long hours beside the river in a beautifully fashioned seat which he had made for himself, beneath a large poplar tree. "It is the wind in the tree-tops that I like," he said. "It whispers to me. I can't tell what it says, but it says something. I like trees—they are like people some way—only more patient and friendly."
The big elms and spruce of the river valley rustled and whispered together, and the poplars shook their coin-like leaves as he lay beneath their shade. The trees were trying to be kind to him, as the gray olive trees in Gethsemane were kind to One Other when his own had forgotten Him!
* * * * *
When the news of the war fell upon the Pembina Valley, it did not greatly disturb the peacefulness of that secluded spot. The well-to-do farmers who had held their grain over openly rejoiced at the prospect of better prices, and the younger men, when asked to enlist, replied by saying that the people who made the war had better do the fighting because they had no ambition to go out and stop German bullets. The general feeling was that it would soon be over.
At the first recruiting meeting Stanley volunteered his services by walking down the aisle of the church at the first invitation. The recruiting officer motioned to him to be seated, and that he would see him after the meeting.
Stanley waited patiently until every person was gone, and then timidly said, "And now, sir, will you please tell me what I am to do?"
The recruiting officer, a dapper little fellow, very pompous and important, turned him down mercilessly. Stanley was dismayed. He wandered idly out of the church and was about to start off on his four-mile walk to the Stopping House when a sudden impulse seized him and he followed the recruiting agent to the house where he was staying.
He overtook him just as he was going into the house, and, seizing him by the arm, cried, "Don't you see, sir, that you must take me? I am strong and able—I tell you I am no coward—what have you against me, I want to know?"
The recruiting officer hesitated. Confound it all! It is a hard thing to tell a man that he is not exactly right in the head.
But he did not need to say it, for Stanley beat him to it. "I know what's wrong," he said; "you think I'm not very bright—I am not, either. But don't you see, war is an elemental sort of thing. I can do what I'm told—and I can fight. What does it matter if my head is not very clear on some things which are easy to you? And don't you see how much I want to go? Life has not been so sweet that I should want to hold on to it. The young men here do not want to go, for they are having such a good time. But there is nothing ahead of me that holds me back. Can't you see that, sir? Won't you pass me on, anyway, and let me have my chance? Give me a trial; it's time enough to turn me down when I fail at something. Won't you take me, sir?"
The recruiting officer sadly shook his head. Stanley watched him in an agony of suspense. Here was his way out—his way of escape from this body of death that had hung over him ever since he could remember. He drew nearer to the recruiting officer,—"For God's sake, sir, take me!" he cried.
Then the recruiting officer pulled himself together and grew firm and commanding. "I won't take you," he said, "and that's all there is about it. This is a job for grown-up men and men with all their wits about them. You would faint at the sight of blood and cry when you saw the first dead man."
In a few weeks another recruiting meeting was held, and again Stanley presented himself when the first invitation was given. The recruiting officer remembered him, and rather impatiently told him to sit down. Near the front of the hall sat the German-American storekeeper of the neighboring town, who had come to the meeting to see what was going on, and had been interrupting the speaker with many rude remarks; and when Stanley, in his immaculate suit of gray check, his gray spats, and his eyeglass, passed by where he was sitting, it seemed as if all his slumbering hatred for England burst at once into flame!
"My word!" he mimicked, "'ere's a rum 'un—somebody should warn the Kaiser! It's not fair to take the poor man unawares—here is some of the real old English fighting-stock."
Stanley turned in surprise and looked his tormentor in the face. His look of insipid good-nature lured the German on.
"That is what is wrong with the British Empire," he jeered; "there are too many of these underbred aristocrats, all pedigree and no brains, like the long-nosed collies. God help them when they meet the Germans—that is all I have to say!"
He was quite right in his last sentence—that was all he had to say. It was his last word for the evening, and it looked as if it might be his last word for an indefinite time, for the unexpected happened.
Psychologists can perhaps explain it. We cannot. Stanley, who like charity had borne all things, endured all things, believed all things, suddenly became a new creature, a creature of rage, blind, consuming, terrible! You have heard of the worm turning? This was a case of a worm turning into a tank!
People who were there said that Stanley seemed to grow taller, his eyes glowed, his chin grew firm, his shoulders ceased to be apologetic. He whirled upon the German and landed a blow on his jaw that sounded like a blow-out! Before any one could speak, it was followed by another and the German lay on the floor!
Then Stanley turned to the astonished audience and delivered the most successful recruiting speech that had ever been given in the Pembina Valley.
"You have sat here all evening," he cried, "and have listened to this miserable hound insulting your country—this man who came here a few years ago without a cent and now has made a fortune in Canada, and I have no doubt is now conspiring with Canada's enemies, and would betray us into the hands of those enemies if he could. For this man I have the hatred which one feels for an enemy, but for you Canadians who have sat here and swallowed his insults, I have nothing but contempt. This man belongs to the race of people who cut hands off children, and outrage women; and now, when our Empire calls for men to go out and stop these devilish things, you sit here and let this traitor insult your country. You are all braver than I am, too; I am only a joke to most of you, a freak, a looney,—you have said so,—but I won't stand for this."
That night recruiting began in the valley and Stanley was the first man to sign on. The recruiting agent felt that it was impossible to turn down a man who had shown so much fighting spirit; and, besides, he was a small man and he had a face which he prized highly!
When the boys of the valley went to Valcartier there was none among them who had more boxes of home-made candy or more pairs of socks than Stanley; nor was any woman prouder of her boy than Mrs. Corbett was of the lad she had taken into her home and into her heart ten years before.
They were sent overseas almost at once, and, after a short training in England, went at once to the firing-line.
* * * * *
It was a dull, foggy morning, and although it was quite late the street-lamps were still burning, and while they could not make much impression on the darkness, at least they made a luminous top on the lamp-posts and served as a guide to the travelers who made their way into the city. In the breakfast-room of Mayflower Lodge it was dark, and gloomier still, for "the master" was always in his worst mood in the morning, and on this particular morning his temper was aggravated by the presence of his wife's mother and two sisters from Leith, who always made him envious of the men who marry orphans, who are also the last of their race.
Mr. Goodman was discussing the war-situation, and abusing the Government in that peculiarly bitter way of the British patriot.
His wife, a faded, subdued little woman, sat opposite him and contributed to the conversation twittering little broken phrases of assent. Her life had been made up of scenes like this. She was of the sweet and pliable type, which, with the best intentions in the world, has made life hard for other women.
Mr. Goodman gradually worked back to his old grievance.
"This is a time for every man to do his bit, and here am I too old to go and with no son to represent me—I who came from a family of six sons! Anyway, why doesn't the Government pass conscription and drag out the slackers who lounge in the parks and crowd the theaters?"
Aunt Louisa paused in the act of helping herself to marmalade and regarded him with great displeasure; then cried shrilly:—
"Now, Arthur, that is nothing short of treason, for I tell you we will not allow our dear boys to be taken away like galley-slaves; I tell you Britons never, never shall be slaves, and I for one will never let my Bertie go—his young life is too precious to be thrown away. I spent too many nights nursing him through every infantile disease—measles, whooping-cough,—you know yourself, my dear Clara,—beside the times that he broke his arm and his leg; though I still think that the cold compress is the best for a delicate constitution, and I actually ordered the doctor out of the house—"
"What has that to do with conscription?" asked her brother-in-law gruffly. "I tell you it is coming and no one will be gladder than I am."
"I think it is nothing short of unkind the way that you have been speaking of the Germans. I know I never got muffins like the muffins I got in Berlin that time; and, anyway, there are plenty of the commoner people to go to fight, and they have such large families that they will not miss one as I would miss my Bertie, and he has just recently become engaged to such a dear girl! In our home we simply try to forget this stupid war, but when I come here I hear nothing else—I wonder how you stand it, dear Clara."
Aunt Louisa here dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief in a way that her brother-in-law particularly detested.
"You will hear more about the war some of these days," he said, "when a German Zeppelin drops bombs on London."
Aunt Louisa came as near snorting as a well-bred lady could come, so great was her disdain at this suggestion.
"Zeppelin!" she said scornfully—"on England!! You forget, sir, that we are living in a civilized age! Zeppelin! Indeed, and who would let them, I wonder! I am surprised at you, sir, and so is mother, although she has not spoken."
"You will probably be more surprised before long; life is full of surprises these days."
Just then the butler brought him a wire, the contents of which seemed to bear out this theory, for it told him that Private Stanley Goodman, of the First Canadian Battalion, for conspicuous bravery under fire had been recommended for the D.C.M., but regretted to inform him that Private Goodman had been seriously wounded and was now in the Third Canadian Hospital, Flanders.
The nursing sister, accustomed to strange sights, wondered why this wounded man was so cold, and then she noticed that he had not on his overcoat, and she asked him why he was not wearing it on such a bitter cold night as this. In spite of all his efforts his teeth chattered as he tried to answer her.
"I had to leave a dead friend of mine on the field to-night," said Stanley, speaking with difficulty. "And I could not leave him there with the rain falling on him, could I, sister? It seemed hard to have to leave him, anyway, but we got all the wounded in."
* * * * *
In twenty-four hours after they received the telegram his father and mother stood by his bedside. Only his eyes and his forehead could be seen, for the last bullet which struck him had ploughed its way through his cheek; the chin which had so offended his father's artistic eye—what was left of it—was entirely hidden by the bandage. The chill which he had taken, with the loss of blood, and the shock of a shrapnel wound in his side, made recovery impossible, the nurse said. While they stood beside the bed waiting for him to open his eyes, the nurse told them of his having taken off his coat to cover a dead comrade.
When at last Stanley opened his eyes, there was a broken and sorrowful old man, from whose spirit all the imperious pride had gone, kneeling by his bedside and humbly begging his forgiveness. On the other side of the bed his mother stood with a great joy in her faded face.
"Stanley—Stanley," sobbed his father, every reserve broken down; "I have just found you—and now how can I lose you so soon. Try to live for my sake, and let me show you how sorry I am."
Stanley's eyes showed the distress which filled his tender heart.
"Please don't, father," he said, speaking with difficulty; "I am only very happy—indeed, quite jolly. But you mustn't feel sorry, father—I have been quite a duffer! thanks awfully for all you have done for me—I know how disappointed you were in me—I did want to make good for your sakes and it is a bit rough that now—I should be obliged—to die.... But it is best to go while the going is good—isn't it, sir? It's all a beautiful dream—to me—and it does seem—so jolly—to have you both here."
He lay still for a long time; then, rousing himself, said, "I'm afraid I have been dreaming again—no, this is father; you are sure, sir, are you?—about the medal and all that—and this is mother, is it?—it is all quite like going home—I am so happy; it seems as if permission had come."
He laughed softly behind his bandages, a queer, little, choking, happy laugh; and there, with his mother's arms around him, while his father, stern no longer, but tender and loving, held his hand, "permission" came and the homesick, hungry heart of the boy entered into rest.
THE SLACKER—IN UNIFORM
Mrs. P.A. Brunton was convinced that she was an exceptional woman in every way. She would tell you this in the first fifteen minutes of conversation that you had with her, for many of her sentences began, "Now, I know, of course, that I am peculiar in many ways"; or, "I am afraid you will not understand me when I say this"; or, "I am afraid I am hopelessly old-fashioned in this." She would explain with painstaking elaboration that she did not know why she was so peculiar, but her manner indicated that she was quite content to be so; indeed, it can only be described as one of boastful resignation. She seemed to glory in her infirmity.
Mrs. Brunton was quite opposed to women voting, and often spoke with sorrow of the movement, which to her meant the breaking-up of the home and all its sacred traditions. She did not specify how this would be done, but her attitude toward all new movements was one of keen distrust. She often said that of course she would be able to vote intelligently, for she had had many advantages and had listened to discussions of public matters all her life, having been brought up in an atmosphere of advanced thinking; but she realized that her case was an exceptional one. It was not the good fortune of every woman to have had a college course as she had, and she really could not see what good could come from a movement which aimed at making all women equal! Why, if women ever got the vote, an ignorant washwoman's vote might kill hers! It was so much better to let women go on as they were going, exerting their indirect influence; and then it was the woman of wealth and social prestige who was able to exert this influence, just as it should be! She certainly did not crave a vote, and would do all she could to prevent other women from getting it.
Mrs. Brunton had come from the East, and although she had lived many years in the West, she could never forget what a sacrifice she had made by coming to a new country. Being a college graduate, too, seemed to be something she could not outgrow!
When her only boy was old enough to go to school, she became the teacher's bad dream, for she wrote many notes and paid many calls to explain that Garth was not at all like other children and must not be subjected to the same discipline as they, for he had a proud and haughty spirit that would not submit to discipline unless it were tactfully disguised. Garth was a quiet, mild little lad who would have been much like other boys if left alone.
Garth was twenty years old when the war began, and he was then attending the university. He first spoke of enlisting when the war had gone on a year.
"Enlist!" his mother cried, when he mentioned it to her, "I should say not—you are my only child, and I certainly did not raise you to be a soldier. There are plenty of common people to do the fighting; there are men who really like it; but I have other ambitions for you—you are to be a university man."
When the Third University Company went, he spoke of it again, but his mother held firm.
"Do you think I am going to have you sleeping in those awful trenches, with every Tom, Dick, and Harry? I tell you soldiering is a rough business, and I cannot let a boy of mine go—a boy who has had your advantages must not think of it."
"But, mother, there are lots of boys going who have had just as good advantages as I have."
Just then came in Emily Miller, the little girl from next door whose brother was going away the next day. Emily was an outspoken young lady of fourteen.
"When are you going, Garth?" she asked pointedly.
"He is not going," said his mother firmly. "His duty is at home finishing his education, and I am simply amazed at your mother for letting Robert go. Does she not believe in education? Of course I know there are not many who lay the stress on it that I do, but with me it is education first—always."
"But the war won't wait," said Emily; "my mother would be very glad to have Bob finish his education, but she's afraid it will be over then."
"War or no war, I say let the boys get their education—what is life without it?"
Emily surveyed her calmly, and then said, "What would happen to us if every mother held her boy back—what if every mother took your attitude, Mrs. Brunton?"
"You need not speculate on that, child, for they won't. Most mothers run with the popular fancy—they go with the crowd—never thinking, but I have always been peculiar, I know."
"Oh, mother, cut out that 'peculiar' business—it makes me tired!" said Garth undutifully.
When Robert Miller came in to say good-bye, he said: "You'll be lonesome, Garth, when we all go and you are left with the women and the old men—but perhaps you will enjoy being the only young man at the party."
"Garth may go later," said his mother,—"at least if the war lasts long enough,—but not as a private. I will not object to his taking the officers' classes at the university."
"See, Bob," crowed Garth, "I'll have you and Jim Spaulding for my two batmen over there. But never mind, I'll be good to you and will see that you get your ha'pennyworth of 'baccy and mug of beer regular."
Mrs. Brunton laughed delightedly. "Garth always sees the funny side," she cooed.
"That certainly is a funny side all right," said Robert, "but he'll never see it! These pasteboard officers never last after they get over—they can only carry it off here. Over there, promotions are on merit, not on political pull."
The third, fourth, and fifth contingents went from the university, and still Garth pursued the quest of learning. His mother openly rebuked the mothers of the boys who had gone. "Let the man on the street go! Look at the unemployed men on our streets!" she said; "why aren't they made to go—and leave our university boys at home?"
"Every man owes a duty to his country," one of the mothers said. "If one man neglects or refuses to pay, that is no reason for others to do the same. This is a holy war—holier than any of the crusades—for the crusader went out to restore the tomb of our Lord, and that is only a material thing; but our boys are going out to give back to the world our Lord's ideals, and I know they are more precious to Him than any tomb could be!"
"My dear Mrs. Mason," said Garth's mother, "you are simply war-mad like so many women—it is impossible to reason with you."
A year went by, and many of the university boys were wounded and some were killed. To the mothers of these went Mrs. Brunton with words of sympathy, but came away wondering. Some way they did not seem to receive her warmly.
"Where is Garth now?" asked one of these women.
"He's thinking of taking the officers' training," answered Mrs. Brunton, "as soon as the college term closes. A boy meets the very nicest people there, and I do think that is so important, to meet nice people."
"And no Germans!" said the other woman tartly.
* * * * *
Mrs. Brunton gave a very select and intellectual farewell party for Garth when he went to another city to take the officers' training, and she referred to him as "my brave soldier laddie," much to the amusement of some of the party.
In two weeks he came home on leave of absence, very elegant in his new uniform. He also brought cabinet-sized photographs which cost eighteen dollars a dozen. Another party was held—the newspaper said he was the "raison d'etre for many pleasant social gatherings."
At the end of two weeks he went out again to take more classes. He was very popular with the girls, and the mother of one of them came to visit Mrs. Brunton. They agreed on the subject of military training and education, and exceptional women, and all was gay and happy.
At the end of three months Garth again came home. No hero from the scenes of battle was ever more royally received, and an afternoon reception was held, when patriotic songs were sung and an uncle of the young man made a speech.
Soon after that Garth went to Toronto and took another course, because his mother thought it was only right for him to see his own country first, before going abroad; and, besides, no commission had yet been offered him. The short-sightedness of those in authority was a subject which Mrs. Brunton often dwelt on, but she said she could not help being glad.
Meanwhile the war went wearily on; battalion after battalion went out and scattering remnants came home. Empty sleeves, rolled trousers legs, eyes that stared, and heads that rolled pitifully appeared on the streets. On the sunshiny afternoons many of these broken men sat on the verandas of the Convalescent Home and admired the smart young lieutenant who went whistling by—and wondered what force he was with.
The war went on to the completion of its third year. Garth had attended classes in three cities, and had traveled Canada from end to end. There had been four farewell parties and three receptions in his honor. He came home again for what his mother termed "a well-earned rest."
He sat on the veranda one day luxuriously ensconced in a wicker chair, smoking a cigarette whose blue wreaths of smoke he blew gayly from him. He was waiting for the postman—one of Mae's letters had evidently gone astray, and the postman, who seemed to be a stupid fellow, had probably given it to some one else. He had made several mistakes lately, and Garth determined that it was time he was reprimanded—the young officer would attend to that.
"Posty" came at last, a few minutes late again, and Garth rapped imperiously with his cane, as "Posty," peering at the addresses of the letters, came up the steps.
"See here," cried Garth, "let me see what you have!"
"Posty" started nervously and the letters dropped from his hands. While he gathered them up, Garth in his most military manner delivered himself of a caustic rebuke:—
"You have left letters here which belong elsewhere, and I have lost letters through your carelessness. What is the matter with you anyway—can't you read?" he snapped.
"Yes, sir," stammered "Posty," flushing as red as the band on his hat.
"Well, then," went on the young officer, "why don't you use your eyes—where do you keep them anyway?"
"Posty" stood at attention as he answered with measured deliberation:—
"I have one of them here ... but I left the other one at Saint-Eloi. Were you thinking of hunting it up for me, sir,—when—you—go—over?"
* * * * *
That was six weeks ago. Still the war goes on. Returned men walk our streets, new pale faces lie on hospital pillows, telegraph boys on wheels carry dread messages to the soldiers' homes.
Garth has gone back to an Eastern city for another course (this time in signaling). He gave a whole set of buttons off his uniform to Mae before he went—and he had his photograph taken again!
Even if he does not get over in time to do much in this war, it is worth something to have such a perfectly trained young officer ready for the next war!
NATIONAL SERVICE—ONE WAY
There are some phrases in our conversations now that are used so often that they seem to be in some danger of losing their meaning. The snap goes out of them by too much handling, like an elastic band which has been stretched too far. One of these is "national service."
If the work of the soldier, who leaves home, position, and safety behind him, and goes forth to meet hardship and danger, receiving as recompense one dollar and ten cents per day, is taken as the standard of comparison, the question of national service becomes very simple, indeed, for there is but one class, and no other that is even distantly related to it, but if national service is taken to mean the doing of something for our country's good which we would not feel it our duty to do but for the emergencies created by the war, then there are many ways in which the sincere citizen may serve.
The Abilene Valley School was closed all last year, and weeds are growing in the garden in which the year before flowers and vegetables, scarlet runners and cabbages, poppies and carrots, had mingled in wild profusion. The art-muslin curtains are draggled and yellow, and some of the windows, by that strange fate which overtakes the windows in unoccupied houses, are broken.
The school was not closed for lack of children. Not at all. Peter Rogowski, who lives a mile east, has seven children of school-age himself, from bright-eyed Polly aged fourteen to Olga aged six, and Mr. Rogowski is merely one of the neighbors in this growing settlement, where large families are still to be found. There are twenty-four children of school-age in the district, and in 1915, when Mr. Ellis taught there, the average attendance was nineteen. At the end of the term Mr. Ellis, who was a university student, abandoned his studies and took his place in the ranks of the Army Medical Corps, and is now nursing wounded men in France. He said that it would be easy to find some one else to take the school. He was thinking of the droves of teachers who had attended the Normal with him. There seemed to be no end of them, but apparently there was, for in the year that followed there were more than one hundred and fifty schools closed because no teacher could be found.
After waiting a whole year for a teacher to come, Polly Rogowski, as the spring of 1917 opened, declared her intention of going to Edmonton to find work and go to school. Polly's mother upheld her in this determination, and together they scraped up enough money to pay her railway fare, and board for one week, although it took all that they had been putting away to get Mrs. Rogowski's teeth fixed. But Polly's mother knew that when her Polly began to teach there would be money and plenty for things like that, and anyway they had not ached so bad for a while.
The city, even Edmonton, is a fearsome place for a fourteen-year-old girl who has no friends, seven dollars in money, and only an intense desire for an education to guide her through its devious ways. But the first night that Polly was away, her mother said an extra prayer before the Blessed Virgin, who, being a mother herself, would understand how much a young girl in a big city needs special care.
It was a cold, dark day when Polly with her small pack arrived at the C.N.R. Station, and looked around her. Surely no crusader going forth to restore the tomb of his Lord ever showed more courage than black-eyed Polly when she set forth on this lonely pilgrimage to find learning. She had heard of the danger of picking up with strangers, and the awful barred windows behind which young girls languished and died, and so refused to answer when the Travelers' Aid of the Y.W.C.A. in friendliest tones asked if she might help her.
Polly was not to be deceived by friendly tones. The friendly ones were the worst! She held her head high and walked straight ahead, just as if she knew where she was going. Polly had a plan of action. She was going to walk on and on until she came to a house marked in big letters "BOARDING-HOUSE," and she would go in there and tell the lady that she wanted to get a room for one day, and then she would leave her bundle and go out and find a school and see the teacher. Teachers were all good men and would help you! Then she would find a place where they wanted a girl to mind a baby or wash dishes, or maybe milk a cow; and perhaps she would have a bed all to herself. City houses were so big and had so many rooms, and she had heard that in some of the beds only one person slept! Having her programme so well laid out, it is no wonder that she refused to confide in the blue serge lady who spoke to her.
Polly set off at a quick pace, looking straight ahead of her across the corner of the station yard, following the crowd. The Travelers' Aid followed close behind, determined to keep a close watch on the independent little Russian girl.
At the corner of First and Jasper, Polly stopped confused. A great crowd stood around the bulletin board and excitedly read the news of the Russian revolution; automobiles honked their horns, and street-cars clanged and newsboys shouted, and more people than Polly had ever seen before surged by her. For the first time Polly's stout heart failed her. She had not thought it would be quite like this!
Turning round, she was glad to see the woman who had spoken to her at the station. In this great bustling, pushing throng she seemed like an old friend.
"Do you know where I could find a boarding-house?" asked Polly breathlessly.
The Travelers' Aid took her by the hand and piloted her safely across the street; and when the street-car had clanged by and she could be heard, she told Polly that she would take her to a boarding-house where she would be quite safe.
Polly stopped and asked her what was the name of the place.
"Y.W.C.A.," said the Aid, smiling.
Polly gave a sigh of relief. "I know what that is," she said. "Mr. Ellis said that was the place to go when you go to a city. Will you let me stay until I find a school?"
"We'll find the school," said the other woman. "That is what we are for; we look after girls like you. We are glad to find a girl who wants to go to school."
Polly laid her pack down to change hands and looked about her in delight. The big brick buildings, the store-windows, even the street-signs with their flaring colors, were all beautiful to her.
"Gee!" she said, "I like the city—it's swell!"
Polly was taken to the office of the secretary of the Y.W.C.A., and there, under the melting influence of Miss Bradshaw's kind eyes and sweet voice, she told all her hopes and fears.
"Our teacher has gone to be a soldier and we could not get another, for they say it is too lonesome—out our way—and how can it be lonesome? There's children in every house. But, anyway, lady-teachers won't come and the men are all gone to the war. I'll bet I won't be scared to teach when I grow up, but of course I won't be a lady; it's different with them—they are always scared of something. We have a cabin for the teacher, and three chairs and a painted table and a stove and a bed, and a brass knob on the door, and we always brought cream and eggs and bread for the teacher; and we washed his dishes for him, and the girl that had the best marks all week could scrub his floor on Friday afternoons. He was so nice to us all that we all cried when he enlisted, but he explained it all to us—that there are some things dearer than life and he just felt that he had to go. He said that he would come back if he was not killed. Maybe he will only have one arm and one leg, but we won't mind as long as there is enough of him to come back. We tried and tried to get another teacher, but there are not enough to fill the good schools, and ours is twenty miles from a station and in a foreign settlement.... I'm foreign, too," she added honestly; "I'm Russian."
"The Russians are our allies," said the secretary, "and you are a real little Canadian now, Polly, and you are not a bit foreign. I was born in Tipperary myself, and that is far away from Canada, too."
"Oh, yes, I know about it being a long way there," Polly said. "But that doesn't matter, it is the language that counts. You see my mother can't talk very good English and that is what makes us foreign, but she wants us all to know English, and that is why she let me come away, and I will do all I can to learn, and I will be a teacher some day, and then I will go back and plant the garden and she will send me butter, for I will live in the cabin. But it is too bad that we cannot have a teacher to come to us, for now, when I am away, there is no one to teach my mother English, for Mary does not speak the English well by me, and the other children will soon forget it if we cannot get a teacher."
While she was speaking, the genial secretary was doing some hard thinking. This little messenger from the up-country had carried her message right into the heart of one woman, one who was accustomed to carry her impulses into action.
* * * * *
The Local Council of Women of the City of Edmonton met the next day in the club-room of the Y.W.C.A., and it was a well-attended meeting, for the subject to be discussed was that of "National Service for Women." As the time drew near for the meeting to begin, it became evident that great interest was being taken in the subject, for the room was full, and animated discussions were going on in every corner. This was not the first meeting that had been held on this subject, and considerable indignation was heard that no notice had been taken by the Government of the request that had been sent in some months previous, asking that women be registered for national service as well as men.
"They never even replied to our suggestion," one woman said. "You would have thought that common politeness would have prompted a reply. It was a very civil note that we sent—I wrote it myself."
"Hush! Don't be hard on the Government," said an older woman, looking up from her knitting. "They have their own troubles—think of Quebec! And then you know women's work is always taken for granted; they know we will do our bit without being listed or counted."
"But I want to do something else besides knitting," the first speaker said; "it could be done better and cheaper anyway by machinery, and that would set a lot of workers free. Why don't we register ourselves, all of us who mean business? This is our country, and if the Government is asleep at the switch, that is no reason why we should be. I tell you I am for conscription for every man and woman."
"Well, suppose we all go with you and sign up—name, age, present address; married?—if so, how often?—and all that sort of thing; what will you do with us, then?" asked Miss Wheatly, who was just back from the East where she had been taking a course in art. "I am tired of having my feelings all wrought upon and then have to settle down to knitting a dull gray sock or the easy task of collecting Red Cross funds from perfectly willing people who ask me to come in while they make me a cup of tea. I feel like a real slacker, for I have never yet done a hard thing. I did not let any one belonging to me go, for the fairly good reason that I have no male relatives; I give money, but I have never yet done without a meal or a new pair of boots when I wanted them. There is no use of talking of putting me to work on a farm, for no farmer would be bothered with me for a minute, and the farmer's wife has trouble enough now without giving her the care of a greenhorn like me—why, I would not know when a hen wanted to set!"
"You do not need to know," laughed the conscriptionist; "the hen will attend to that without any help from you; and, anyway, we use incubators now and the hen is exempt from all family cares—she can have a Career if she wants to."
"I am in earnest about this," Miss Wheatly declared; "I am tired of this eternal talk of national service and nothing coming of it. Now, if any of you know of a hard, full-sized woman's job that I can do, you may lead me to it!"
Then the meeting began. There was a very enthusiastic speaker who told of the great gift that Canada had given to the Empire, the gift of men and wheat, bread and blood—the sacrament of empire. She then told of what a sacrifice the men make who go to the front, who lay their young lives down for their country and do it all so cheerfully. "And now," she said, "what about those of us who stay at home, who have three good meals every day, who sleep in comfortable beds and have not departed in any way from our old comfortable way of living. Wouldn't you like to do something to help win the war?"
There was a loud burst of applause here, but Miss Wheatly sat with a heavy frown on her face.
"Wasn't that a perfectly wonderful speech?" the secretary whispered to her when the speaker had finished with a ringing verse of poetry all about sacrifice and duty.
"It is all the same old bunk," Miss Wheatly said bitterly; "I often wonder how they can speak so long and not make one practical suggestion. Wouldn't you like to help win the war? That sounds so foolish—of course we would like to win the war. It is like the old-fashioned evangelists who used to say, 'All who would like to go to heaven will please stand up.' Everybody stood, naturally."
While they were whispering, they missed the announcement that the president was making, which was that there was a young girl from the North Country who had come to the meeting and wished to say a few words. There was a deep, waiting silence, and then a small voice began to speak. It was Miss Polly Rogowski from the Abilene Valley District.
There was no fear in Polly's heart—she was not afraid of anything. Not being a lady, of course, and having no reputation to sustain, and being possessed with one thought, and complete master of it, her speech had true eloquence. She was so small that the women at the back of the room had to stand up to see her.
"I live at Abilene Valley and there are lots of us. I am fourteen years old and Mary is twelve, and Annie is eleven, and Mike is ten, and Peter is nine, and Ivan is seven, and Olga is six, and that is all we have old enough to go to school; but there are lots more of other children in our neighborhood, but our teacher has gone away to the war and we cannot get another one, for lady-teachers are all too scared, but I don't think they would be if they would only come, for we will chop the wood, and one of us will stay at night and sleep on the floor, and we will light the fires and get the breakfast, and we bring eggs and cream and everything like that, and we could give the teacher a cat and a dog; and the girl that had done the best work all week always got to scrub the floor when our last teacher was there; and we had a nice garden—and flowers, and now there is not anything, and the small children are forgetting what Mr. Ellis taught them; for our school has been closed all last summer, and sometimes Peter and Ivan and the other little boys go over to the cabin and look in at the windows, and it is all so quiet and sad—they cry."
There was a stricken silence in the room which Polly mistook for a lack of interest and redoubled her efforts.
"We have twenty-four children altogether and they are all wanting a teacher to come. I came here to go to school, but if I can get a teacher to go back with me, I will go back. I thought I would try to learn quick and go back then, but when I saw all so many women able to read right off, and all looking so smart at learning, I thought I would ask you if one of you would please come. We give our teacher sixty-five dollars a month, and when you want to come home we will bring you to the station—it is only twenty miles—and the river is not deep only when it rains, and then even I know how to get through and not get in the holes; and if you will come we must go to-morrow, for the ice is getting rotten in the river and won't stand much sun."
That was the appeal of the country to the city; of the foreign-born to the native-born; of the child to the woman.
The first person to move was Miss Wheatly, who rose quietly and walked to the front of the room and faced the audience. "Madam President," she began in her even voice, "I have been waiting quite a while for this, I think. I said to-day that if any one knew of a real, full-sized woman's job, I would like to be led to it.... Well—it seems that I have been led"
She then turned to Polly and said, "I can read right off and am not afraid, not even of the river, if you promise to keep me out of the holes, and I believe I can find enough of a diploma to satisfy the department, and as you have heard the river won't stand much sun, so you will kindly notice that my address has changed to Abilene Valley Post-Office."
Polly held her firmly by the hand and they moved toward the door. Polly turned just as they were passing through the door and made her quaint and graceful curtsy, saying, "I am glad I came, and I guess we will be for going now."
Just a little white-faced lad Sitting on the "Shelter" floor; Eyes which seemed so big and sad, Watched me as I passed the door. Turning back, I tried to win From that sober face a smile With some foolish, trifling thing, Such as children's hearts beguile.
But the look which shot me through Said as plain as speech could be: "Life has been all right for you! But it is no joke for me! I'm not big enough to know— And I wonder, wonder why My dear 'Daddy' had to go And my mother had to die!
"You've a father, I suppose? And a mother—maybe—too? You can laugh and joke at life? It has been all right for you? Spin your top, and wave your fan! You've a home and folks who care Laugh about it those who can! Joke about it—those who dare —But excuse me—if I'm glum I can't bluff it off—like some!"
Then I sadly came away And felt guilty, all the day!
Dr. Frederick Winters was a great believer in personal liberty for every one—except, of course, the members of his own family. For them he craved every good thing except this. He was kind, thoughtful, courteous, and generous—a beneficent despot.
There is much to be said in favor of despotic government after all. It is so easy of operation; it is so simple and direct—one brain, one will, one law, with no foolish back-talk, bickerings, murmurings, mutinies, letters to the paper. A democracy has it beaten, of course, on the basis of liberty, but there is much to be said in favor of an autocracy in the matter of efficiency.
"King Asa did that which was right in the sight of the Lord"; and in his reign the people were happy and contented and had no political differences. There being only one party, the "Asaites," there were no partisan newspapers, no divided homes, no mixed marriages, as we have to-day when Liberals and Conservatives, disregarding the command to be not unequally yoked together, marry. All these distressing circumstances were eliminated in good King Asa's reign.
It is always a mistake to pursue a theory too far. When we turn the next page of the sacred story we read that King Omri, with the same powers as King Asa had had, turned them to evil account and oppressed the people in many ways and got himself terribly disliked. Despotism seems to work well or ill according to the despot, and so, as a form of government, it has steadily declined in favor.
Despotic measures have thriven better in homes than in states. Homes are guarded by a wall of privacy, a delicate distaste for publicity, a shrinking from all notoriety such as rebellion must inevitably bring, and for this reason the weaker ones often practice a peace-at-any-price policy, thinking of the alert eyes that may be peering through the filet lace of the window across the street.
Mrs. Winters submitted to the despotic rule of Dr. Winters for no such reason as this. She submitted because she liked it, and because she did not know that it was despotic. It saved her the exertion of making decisions for herself, and her conscience was always quite clear. "The Doctor will not let me," she had told the women when they had asked her to play for the Sunday services at the mission. "The Doctor thought it was too cold for me to go out," had been her explanation when on one occasion she had failed to appear at a concert where she had promised to play the accompaniments; and in time people ceased to ask her to do anything, her promises were so likely to be broken.
When the Suffrage agitators went to see her and tried to show her that she needed a vote, she answered all their arguments by saying, "I have such a good husband that these arguments do not apply to me at all"; and all their talk about spiritual independence and personal responsibility fell on very pretty, but very deaf, ears. The women said she was a hopeless case.
"I wonder," said one of the women afterwards in discussing her, "when Mrs. Winters presents herself at the heavenly gate and there is asked what she has done to make the world better, and when she has to confess that she has never done anything outside of her own house, and nothing there except agreeable things, such as entertaining friends who next week will entertain her, and embroidering 'insets' for corset-covers for dainty ladies who already have corset-covers enough to fill a store-window,—I wonder if she will be able to put it over on the heavenly doorkeeper that 'the Doctor would not let her.' If all I hear is true, Saint Peter will say, 'Who is this person you call the Doctor?' and when she explains that the Doctor was her husband, Saint Peter will say, 'Sorry, lady, we cannot recognize marriage relations here at all—it is unconstitutional, you know—there is no marrying or giving in marriage after you cross the Celestial Meridian. I turned back a woman this morning who handed in the same excuse—there seems to have been a good deal of this business of one person's doing the thinking for another on earth, but we can't stand for it here. I'm sorry, lady, but I can't let you in—it would be as much as my job is worth.'"
Upon this happy household, as upon some others not so happy, came the war!—and Dr. Winters's heroic soul responded to the trumpet's call. He was among the first to present himself for active service in the Overseas Force. When he came home and told his wife, she got the first shock of her life. It was right, of course, it must be right, but he should have told her, and she remonstrated with him for the first time in her life. Why had he not consulted her, she asked, before taking such a vital step? Then Dr. Winters expressed in words one of the underlying principles of his life. "A man's first duty is to his country and his God," he said, "and even if you had objected, it would not have changed my decision."
Mrs. Winters looked at him in surprise. "But, Frederick," she cried, "I have never had any authority but you. I have broken promises when you told me to, disappointed people, disappointed myself, but never complained—thinking in a vague way that you would do the same for me if I asked you to—your word was my law. What would you think if I volunteered for a nurse without asking you—and then told you my country's voice sounded clear and plain above all others?"
"It is altogether different," he said brusquely. "The country's business concerns men, not women. Woman's place is to look after the homes of the nation and rear children. Men are concerned with the big things of life."
Mrs. Winters looked at him with a new expression on her face. "I have fallen down, then," she said, "on one part of my job—I have brought into the world and cared for no children. All my life—and I am now forty years of age—has been given to making a home pleasant for one man. I have been a housekeeper and companion for one person. It doesn't look exactly like a grown woman's whole life-work, now, does it?"
"Don't talk foolishly, Nettie," he said; "you suit me."
"That's it," she said quickly; "I suit you—but I do not suit the church women, the Civic Club women, the Hospital Aid women, the Children's Shelter women; they call me a slacker, and I am beginning to think I am."
"I would like to know what they have to do with it?" he said hotly; "you are my wife and I am the person concerned."
Without noticing what he said, she continued: "Once I wanted to adopt a baby, you remember, when one of your patients died, and I would have loved to do it; but you said you must not be disturbed at night and I submitted. Still, if it had been our own, you would have had to be disturbed and put up with it like other people, and so I let you rule me. I have never had any opinion of my own."
"Nettie, you are excited," he said gently; "you are upset, poor girl, about my going away—I don't wonder. Come out with me; I am going to speak at a recruiting meeting."
Her first impulse was to refuse, for there were many things she wanted to think out, but the habit of years was on her and she went.
The meeting was a great success. It was the first days of the war, when enthusiasm seethed and the little town throbbed with excitement. The news was coming through of the destruction and violation of Belgium; the women wept and men's faces grew white with rage.
Dr. Winters's fine face was alight with enthusiasm as he spoke of the debt that every man now owes to his country. Every man who is able to hold a gun, he said, must come to the help of civilization against barbarism. These dreadful outrages are happening thousands of miles away, but that makes them none the less real. Humanity is being attacked by a bully, a ruffian,—how can any man stay at home? Let no consideration of family life keep you from doing your duty. Every human being must give an account of himself to God. What did you do in the great day of testing? will be the question asked you in that great day of reckoning to which we are all coming.
When he was through speaking, amid the thunderous applause, five young men walked down to the front and signified their intention of going.
"Why, that's Willie Shepherd, and he is his mother's only support," whispered one of the women; "I don't think he should go."
When they went home that night Mrs. Winters told the Doctor what she had heard the women say, and even added her remonstrance too.
"This is no time for remonstrance," he had cried; "his mother will get along; the Patriotic Fund will look after her. I tell you human relationships are forgotten in this struggle! We must save our country. One broken heart more or less cannot be taken into consideration. Personal comfort must not be thought of. There is only one limit to service and sacrifice, and that is capacity."
Every night after that he addressed meetings, and every night recruits came to the colors. His speeches vibrated with the spirit of sacrifice and the glory of service, and thrilled every heart that listened, and no heart was more touched than that of his wife, who felt that no future in the world would be so happy as to go and care for the wounded men.
She made the suggestion one night, and was quite surprised to find that the Doctor regarded it favorably. All that night she lay awake from sheer joy: at last she was going to be of service—she was going to do something. She tried to tell herself of the hardships of the life, but nothing could dim her enthusiasm. "I hope it will be hard," she cried happily. "I want it hard to make up for the easy, idle years I have spent. I hate the ease and comfort and selfishness in which I have lived."
The next day her application went in and she began to attend the ambulance classes which were given in the little city by the doctors and nurses.
The Doctor was away so much that she was practically free to go and come as she liked, and the breath of liberty was sweet to her. She also saw, with further pangs of conscience, the sacrifices which other women were making. The Red Cross women seemed to work unceasingly.
The President of the Red Cross came to her office every morning at nine, and stayed till five.
"What about lunch?" Mrs. Winters asked her, one day. "Do you go home?"
"Oh, no," said the other woman; "I go out and get a sandwich."
"But I mean—what about your husband's lunch?"
"He goes home," the president said, "and sees after the children when they come in from school—of course I have a maid, you know."
"But doesn't he miss you dreadfully?" asked Mrs. Winters.
"Yes, I think he does, but not any more than the poor fellows in the trenches miss their wives. He is not able to go to the front himself and he is only too glad to leave me free to do all I can."
"But surely some other woman could be found," said Mrs. Winters, "who hasn't got as many family cares as you have."
"They could," said the president, "but they would probably tell you that their husbands like to have them at home—or some day would be stormy and they would 'phone down that 'Teddy' positively refused to let them come out. We have been busy people all our lives and have been accustomed to sacrifice and never feel a bit sorry for it—we've raised our six children and done without many things. It doesn't hurt us as it does the people who have always sat on cushioned seats. The Red Cross Society knows that it is a busy woman who can always find time to do a little more, and I am just as happy as can be doing this."
Mrs. Winters felt the unintentional rebuke in these words, and turned them over in her mind.
One day, three months after this, the Doctor told her that it was quite probable he would not be going overseas at all, for he was having such success recruiting that the major-general thought it advisable to have him go right on with it. "And so, Nettie," he said, "you had better cancel your application to go overseas, for of course, if I do not go, you will not."
For a moment she did not grasp what he meant. He spoke of it so casually. Not go! The thought of her present life of inactivity was never so repulsive. But silence fell upon her and she made no reply.
"We will not know definitely about it for a few weeks," he said, and went on reading.
After that, Mrs. Winters attended every recruiting meeting at which her husband spoke, eagerly memorizing his words, hardly knowing why, but she felt that she might need them. She had never been able to argue with any one—one adverse criticism of her position always caused her defense to collapse. So she collected all the material she could get on the subject of personal responsibility and sacrifice. Her husband's brilliant way of phrasing became a delight to her. But always, as she listened, vague doubts arose in her mind.
One day when she was sewing at the Red Cross rooms, the women were talking of a sad case that had occurred at the hospital. A soldier's wife had died, leaving a baby two weeks old and another little girl of four, who had been taken to the Children's Shelter, and who had cried so hard to be left with her mother. One of the women had been to see the sick woman the day before she died, and was telling the others about her.
"A dear little saint on earth she was—well bred, well educated, but without friends. Her only anxiety was for her children and sympathy for her husband. 'This will be sad news for poor Bob,' she said, 'but he'll know I did my best to live—I cannot get my breath—that's the worst—if I could only get my breath—I would abide the pain some way.' The baby is lovely, too,—a fine healthy boy. Now I wonder if there is any woman patriotic enough to adopt those two little ones whose mother is dead and whose father is in the trenches. The baby went to the Shelter yesterday."
"Of course they are well treated there," said Mrs. Winters.
"Well treated!" cried the president—"they are fed and kept warm and given all the care the matron and attendants can give them; but how can two or three women attend to twenty-five children? They do all they can, but it's a sad place just the same. I always cry when I see the mother-hungry look on their faces. They want to be owned and loved—they need some one belonging to them. Don't you know that settled look of loneliness? I call it the 'institutional face,' and I know it the minute I see it. Poor Bob Wilson—it will be sad news for him—he was our plumber and gave up a good job to go. At the station he kept saying to his wife to comfort her, for she was crying her heart out, poor girl, 'Don't cry, Minnie dear, I'm leaving you in good hands; they are not like strangers anymore, all these kind ladies; they'll see you through. Don't you remember what the Doctor said,'—that was your husband, Mrs. Winters,—'the women are the best soldiers of all—so you'll bear up, Minnie.'
"Minnie was a good soldier right enough," said the president, "but I wonder what Bob will think of the rest of us when he comes home—or doesn't come home. We let his Minnie die, and sent his two babies to the Children's Shelter. In this manner have we discharged our duty—we've taken it easy so far."
Mrs. Winters sat open-eyed, and as soon as she could, left the room. She went at once to the Shelter and asked to see the children.
Up the bare stairs, freshly scrubbed, she was taken, and into the day-nursery where many children sat on the floor, some idly playing with half-broken toys, one or two wailing softly, not as if they were looking for immediate returns, but just as a small protest against things in general. The little four-year-old girl, neatly dressed and smiling, came at once when the matron called her, and quickly said, "Will you take me to my mother? Am I going home now?"
"She asks every one that," the matron said aside.
"I have a little brother now," said the child proudly; "just down from heaven—we knew he was coming."
In one of the white cribs the little brother lay, in an embroidered quilt. The matron uncovered his face, and, opening one navy-blue eye, he smiled.
"He's a bonnie boy," the matron said; "he has slept ever since he came. But I cannot tell—somebody—I simply can't."
Mrs. Winters went home thinking so hard that she was afraid her husband would see the thoughts shining out, tell-tale, in her face.
She told him where she had been and was just leading up to the appeal which she had prepared, for the children, when a young man called to see the Doctor.
The young fellow had called for advice: his wife would not give her consent to his enlisting, and his heart was wrung with anxiety over what he should do.
The Doctor did not hesitate a minute. "Go right on," he said; "this is no time to let any one, however near and dear, turn us from our duty. We have ceased to exist as individuals—now we are a Nation and we must sacrifice the individual for the State. Your wife will come around to it and be glad that you were strong enough to do your duty. No person has any right to turn another from his duty, for we must all answer to Almighty God in this crisis, not to each other."
The next day, while the Doctor was away making a recruiting speech in another town, the delivery van of the leading furniture store stood at his back door and one high chair stood in it, one white crib was being put up-stairs in his wife's bedroom, and many foreign articles were in evidence in the room. The Swedish maid was all excitement and moved around on tip-toe, talking in a whisper.
"There ban coming a baby hare, and a li'l' girl. Gee! what will the Doctor man say! He ban quick enough to bring them other houses, no want none for self—oh, gee!"
Then she made sure that the key was not in the study door, for Olga was a student of human nature and wanted to get her information first-hand.
* * * * *
When the Doctor came in late that night, Mrs. Winters met him at the door as usual. So absorbed was he in telling her of the success of his meetings that he did not notice the excitement in her face.
"They came to-night in droves, Nettie," he said, as he drank the cocoa she had made for him.
"They can't help it, Fred," she declared enthusiastically, "when you put it to them the way you do. You are right, dear; it is not a time for any person to hold others back from doing what they see they should. It's a personal matter between us and God—we are not individuals any more—we are a state, and each man and woman must get under the burden. I hate this talk of 'business as usual'—I tell you it is nothing as usual."
He regarded her with surprise! Nettie had never made so long a speech before.
"It's your speeches, Fred; they are wonderful. Why, man alive, you have put backbone even into me—I who have been a jelly-fish all my life—and last night, when I heard you explain to that young fellow that he must not let his wife be his conscience, I got a sudden glimpse of things. You've been my conscience all my life, but, thank God, you've led me out into a clear place. I'm part of the State, and I am no slacker—I am going to do my bit. Come, Fred, I want to show you something."
He followed her without a word as she led the way to the room upstairs where two children slept sweetly.
"They are mine, Fred,—mine until the war is over, at least, and Private Wilson comes back; and if he does not come back, or if he will let me have them, they are mine forever."
He stared at this new woman, who looked like his wife.
"It was your last speech, Fred,—what you said to that young man. You told him to go ahead—his wife would come around, you said—she would see her selfishness. Then I saw a light shine on my pathway. Every speech has stiffened my backbone a little. I was like the mouse who timidly tiptoed out to the saucer of brandy, and, taking a sip, went more boldly back, then came again with considerable swagger; and at last took a good drink and then strutted up and down saying, 'Bring on your old black cat!' That's how I feel, Fred,—I'm going to be a mother to these two little children whose own mother has passed on and whose father is holding up the pillars of the Empire. It would hardly be fair to leave them to public charity, now, would it?"
"Well, Nettie," the Doctor said slowly, "I'll see that you do not attend any more recruiting meetings—you are too literal. But all the same," he said, "I am proud of my convert."
Olga Jasonjusen tiptoed gently away from the door, and going down the back stairs hugged herself gayly, saying, "All over—but the kissing. Oh, gee! He ain't too bad! He's just needed some one to cheek up to him. Bet she's sorry now she didn't sass him long ago."
I saw my old train friend again. It was the day that one of our regiments went away, and we were all at the station to bid the boys good-bye.
The empty coaches stood on a siding, and the stream of khaki-clad men wound across the common from the Fair buildings, which were then used as a military camp. The men were heavily loaded with all their equipment, but cheerful as ever. The long-looked-for order to go forward had come at last!
Men in uniform look much the same, but the women who came with them and stood by them were from every station in life. There were two Ukrainian women, with colored shawls on their heads, who said good-bye to two of the best-looking boys in the regiment, their sons. It is no new thing for the Ukrainian people to fight for liberty! There were heavily veiled women, who alighted from their motors and silently watched the coaches filling with soldiers. Every word had been said, every farewell spoken; they were not the sort who say tempestuous good-byes, but their silence was like the silence of the open grave. There were many sad-faced women, wheeling go-carts, with children holding to their skirts crying loudly for "Daddy." There were tired, untidy women, overrun by circumstances, with that look about them which the Scotch call "through-other." There were many brave little boys and girls standing by their mothers, trying hard not to cry; there were many babies held up to the car-window to kiss a big brother or a father; there were the groups of chattering young people, with their boxes of candy and incessant fun; there were brides of a day, with their white-fox furs and new suits, and the great new sorrow in their eyes.
One fine-looking young giant made his way toward the train without speaking to any one, passing where a woman held her husband's hands, crying hysterically—we were trying to persuade her to let him go, for the conductor had given the first warning.
"I have no one to cry over me, thank God!" he said, "and I think I am the best off." But the bitterness in his tone belied his words.
"Then maybe I could pretend that you are my boy," said a woman's voice behind me, which sounded familiar; "you see I have no boy—now, and nobody to write to—and I just came down to-night to see if I could find one. I want to have some one belonging to me—even if they are going away!"