Part 3 out of 6
door swung open, the children came forth, but upon the threshold
Paulina paused, glanced into the cell, ran back and throwing herself
at the prisoner's feet, seized his hand and kissed it again and
again with loud weeping.
For a single instant the man yielded her his hand, and then in a
voice stern but not unkind, he said, "Go. My children are in your
keeping. Be faithful."
At once the woman rose and came back to the door where Mrs. French
stood waiting for her.
As they passed on, the guard turned to the men and said briefly, "Come."
As they were about to enter the cell, the boy suddenly left
Paulina's side, ran to Simon Ketzel and clutching firm hold
of his hand said, "Let me go with you."
"Go back," said the guard, but the boy still clung to Ketzel's hand.
"Oh, let him go," said Mrs. French. "He will do no harm." And the
guard gave grudging permission.
With a respectful, almost reverential mien, the men entered the cell,
knelt before the prisoner and kissed his hand. The moments were
precious and there was much to say and do, so Kalmar lost no time.
"I have sent for you," he said, "first to give you my report
which you will send back to headquarters."
Over and over again he repeated the words of his report, till he
was certain that they had it in sure possession.
"This must go at once," he said.
"At once," replied Simon.
"In a few weeks or months," continued the prisoner in a low voice,
"I expect to be free. Siberia could not hold me, and do you think that
any prison in this country can? But this report must go immediately."
"Immediately," said Simon again.
"Now," said Kalmar solemnly, "there is one thing more. Our cause
fails chiefly because of traitors. In this city is a traitor. My
oath demands his death or mine. If I fail, I must pass the work on
to another. It is for this I have called you here. You are members
of our Brotherhood. What do you say?"
The men stood silent.
"Speak!" said Kalmar in a low stern voice. "Have you no words?"
But still they stood silent and distressed, looking at each other.
"Tell me," said Kalmar, "do you refuse the oath?"
"Master," said Joseph Pinkas sullenly, "this is a new country.
All that we left behind. That is all well for Russia, but not
for Canada. Here we do not take oath to kill."
"Swine!" hissed Kalmar with unutterable scorn. "Why are you here?
Go from me!"
From his outstretched hand Joseph fell back in sudden fear. Kalmar
strode to the door and rattled it in its lock.
"This man wishes to go," he said, as the guard appeared. "Let him go."
"What about the others?" said the guard.
"Permit them to remain for a few moments," said Kalmar, recovering
the even tone of his voice with a tremendous effort.
"Now, Simon Ketzel," he said, turning back to the man who stood
waiting him in fear, "what is your answer?"
Simon took his hand and kissed it. "I will serve you with my money,
with my life. I am all Russian here," smiting on his breast, "I
cannot forget my countrymen in bondage. I will help them to freedom."
"Ah," said Kalmar, "good. Now listen. This Rosenblatt betrayed us,
brought death and exile to many of our brothers and sisters. He
still lives. He ought to die. What do you say?"
"He ought to die," answered Simon.
"The oath is laid upon me. I sought the privilege of executing
vengeance; it was granted me. I expect to fulfil my oath, but I
may fail. If I fail," here he bent his face toward that of Simon
Ketzel, his bloodshot eyes glowing in his white face like red
coals, "if I fail," he repeated, "is he still to live?"
"Do you ask me to kill him?" said Simon in a low voice. "I have
a wife and three children. If I kill this man I must leave them.
There is no place for me in this country. There is no escape.
I must lay upon my children that burden forever. Do you ask me
to do this? Surely God will bring His sure vengeance upon him.
Let him go into the hands of God."
"Let him go?" said Kalmar, his breath hissing through his shut
teeth. "Listen, and tell me if I should let him go. Many years ago,
when a student in the University, I fell under suspicion, and
without trial was sent to prison by a tyrannical Government.
Released, I found it difficult to make a living. I was under
the curse of Government suspicion. In spite of that I succeeded.
I married a noble lady and for a time prospered. I joined a Secret
Society. I had a friend. He was the rejected suitor of my wife.
He, too, was an enthusiast for the cause of freedom. He became a
member of my Society and served so well that he was trusted with
their most secret plans. He sold them to the Government, seeking
my ruin. The Society was broken up and scattered, the members, my
friend included, arrested and sent to prison, exile and death.
Soon he was liberated. I escaped. In a distant border town I took
up my residence, determined, when opportunity offered, to flee
the country with my wife and two infant children, one a babe in
his mother's arms. At this time my friend discovered me. I had no
suspicion of him. I told him my plans. He offered to aid me. I gave
him the money wherewith to bribe the patrol. Once more he betrayed
me. Our road lay through a thick forest. As we drove along, a
soldier hailed us. I killed him and we dashed forward, only to find
another soldier waiting. We abandoned our sleigh and took to a
woodcutter's track through the forest. We had only a mile to go.
There were many tracks. The soldier pursued us through the deep
snow, firing at random. A bullet found a place in my wife's heart.
Ah! My God! She fell to the snow, her babe in her arms. I threw
myself at her side. She looked up into my face and smiled. 'I am
free at last,' she said. 'Farewell, dear heart. The children--leave
me--carry them to freedom.' I closed her eyes, covered her with
snow and fled on through the forest, and half frozen made my way
across the border and was safe. My children I left with friends and
went back to bring my wife. I found blood tracks on the snow, and
bones." He put his hands over his face as if to shut out the horrid
picture, then flinging them down, he turned fiercely upon Simon.
"What do you say? Shall I let him go?"
"No," said Simon, reaching out both his hands. "By the Lord God
Almighty! No! He shall die!"
Kalmar tore open his shirt, pulled out a crucifix.
"Will you swear by God and all the saints that if I fail you will
take my place?"
Simon hesitated. The boy sprang forward, snatched the crucifix from
his father's hand, pressed his lips against it and said in a loud
voice, "I swear, by God and all the saints."
The father started back, and for a few moments silently
contemplated his boy. "What, boy? You? You know not what you say."
"I do know, father. It was my mother you left there in the snow.
Some day I will kill him."
"No, no, my boy," said the father, clasping him in his arms. "You are
your father's son, your mother's son," he cried. "You have the heart,
the spirit, but this oath I shall not lay upon you. No, by my hand
he shall die, or let him go." He stood for some moments silent,
his head leaning forward upon his breast. "No," he said again,
"Simon is right. This is a new land, a new life. Let the past die
with me. With this quarrel you have nothing to do. It is not yours."
"I will kill him," said the boy stubbornly, "I have sworn the oath.
It was my mother you left in the snow. Some day I will kill him."
"Aha! boy," said the father, drawing him close to his side, "my
quarrel is yours. Good! But first he is mine. When my hand lies
still in death, you may take up the cause, but not till then.
You hear me?"
"Yes, father," said the boy.
"And you promise?"
"Now farewell, my son. A bitter fate is ours. A bitter heritage I
leave you!" He sank down upon the bench, drew his boy toward him
and said brokenly, "Nay, nay, it shall not be yours. I shall free
you from it. In this new land, let life be new with you. Let not
the shadow of the old rest upon you." He gathered the boy up in his
strong arms and strained him to his breast. "Now farewell, my son.
Ah! God in Heaven!" he cried, his tears raining down upon the boy's
face, "must I give up this too! Ah, those eyes are her eyes, that
face her face! Is this the last? Is this all? How bitter is life!"
He rocked back and forward on the bench, his boy's arms tight about
his neck. "My boy, my boy! the last of life I give up here! Keep
faith. This," pulling out the miniature, "I would give you now,
but it is all I have left. When I die I will send it to you.
Your sister I give to your charge. When you are a man guard her.
Now go. Farewell."
The guard appeared at the door.
"Come, you must go. Time's up," he said roughly.
"Time is up," cried the father, "and all time henceforth is useless
to me. Farewell, my son!" kissing him. "You must go from me. Don't
be ashamed of your father, though he may die a prisoner or wander
The boy clung fast to his father's neck, drawing deep sobbing breaths.
"Boy, boy," said the father, mingling his sobs with those of his
son, "help me to bear it!"
It was a piteous appeal, and it reached the boy's heart. At once he
loosened one hand from its hold, put it up and stroked his father's
face as his sobs grew quiet. At the touch upon his face, the father
straightened himself up, gently removed his son's clinging arm from
"My son," he said quietly, "we must be men. The men of our blood
meet not death so."
Immediately the boy slipped from his father's arms and stood erect
and quiet, looking up into the dark face above him watchful for the
next word or sign. The father waved his hand toward the door.
"We now say farewell," he said quietly. He stooped down, kissed
his son gravely and tenderly first upon the lips, then upon the
brow, walked with him to the barred door.
"We are ready," he said quietly to the guard who stood near by.
The boy passed out, and gave his hand to Paulina, who stood waiting
"Simon Ketzel," said Kalmar, as he bade him farewell, "you will
befriend my boy?"
"Master, brother," said Simon, "I will serve your children with my
life." He knelt, kissed the prisoner's hand, and went out.
That afternoon, the name of Michael Kalmar was entered upon the
roll of the Provincial Penitentiary, and he took up his burden of
life, no longer a man, but a mere human animal driven at the will
of some petty tyrant, doomed to toil without reward, to isolation
from all that makes life dear, to deprivation of the freedom of
God's sweet light and air, to degradation without hope of recovery.
Before him stretched fourteen long years of slow agony, with cruel
abundance of leisure to feed his soul with maddening memories of
defeated vengeance, with fearful anxieties for the future of those
dear as life, with feelings of despair over a cause for which he
had sacrificed his all.
BROTHER AND SISTER
Before summer had gone, Winnipeg was reminded of the existence of
the foreign colony by the escape from the Provincial Penitentiary
of the Russian prisoner Kalmar. The man who could not be held by
Siberian bars and guards found escape from a Canadian prison easy.
That he had accomplices was evident, but who they were could not be
discovered. Suspicion naturally fell upon Simon Ketzel and Joseph
Pinkas, but after the most searching investigation they were released
and Winnipeg went back to its ways and forgot. The big business men
rebuilding fortunes shattered by the boom, the little business men
laying foundations for fortunes to be, the women within the charmed
circle of Society bound to the whirling wheel of social functions,
other women outside and striving to beg, or buy, or break their way
into the circle, and still other women who cared not a pin's head
whether they were within or without, being sufficient for themselves,
the busy people of the churches with their philanthropies, their
religious activities, striving to gather into their several folds
the waifs and strays that came stumbling into their city from all
lands--all alike, unaware of the growing danger area in their young
city, forgot the foreign colony, its problems and its needs.
Meantime, summer followed winter, and winter summer, the months and
years went on while the foreign colony grew in numbers and more
slowly in wealth. More slowly in wealth, because as an individual
member grew in wealth he departed from the colony and went out to
make an independent home for himself in one of the farming colonies
which the Government was establishing in some of the more barren and
forbidding sections of the country; or it may be, loving the city and
its ways of business, he rapidly sloughed off with his foreign clothes
his foreign speech and manner of life, and his foreign ideals as well,
and became a Canadian citizen, distinguished from his cosmopolitan
fellow citizen only by the slight difficulty he displayed with some
of the consonants of the language.
Such a man was Simon Ketzel. Simon was by trade a carpenter, but he
had received in the old land a good educational foundation; he had,
moreover, a shrewd head for affairs, and so he turned his energies
to business, and with conspicuous success. For in addition to all
his excellent qualities, Simon possessed as the most valuable part
of his equipment a tidy, thrifty wife, who saved what her husband
earned and kept guard over him on feast days, saved and kept guard
so faithfully that before long Simon came to see the wisdom of her
policy and became himself a shrewd and sober and well-doing
Canadian, able to hold his own with the best of them.
His sobriety and steadiness Simon owed mostly to his thrifty wife,
but his rapid transformation into Canadian citizenship he owed
chiefly to his little daughter Margaret. It was Margaret that
taught him his English, as she conned over her lessons with him
in the evenings. It was Margaret who carried home from the little
Methodist mission near by, the illustrated paper and the library
book, and thus set him a-reading. It was Margaret that brought both
Simon and Lena, his wife, to the social gathering of the Sunday
School and of the church. It was thus to little Margaret that the
Ketzels owed their introduction to Canadian life and manners, and to
the finer sides of Canadian religion. And through little Margaret it
was that those greatest of all Canadianising influences, the school
and the mission, made their impact upon the hearts and the home of
the Ketzel family. And as time went on it came to pass that from the
Ketzel home, clean, orderly, and Canadian, there went out into the
foul wastes about, streams of healing and cleansing that did their
beneficent work where they went.
One of these streams reached the home of Paulina, to the great
good of herself and her family. Here, again, it was chiefly little
Margaret who became the channel of the new life, for with Paulina
both Simon and Lena had utterly failed. She was too dull, too
apathetic, too hopeless and too suspicious even of her own kind to
allow the Ketzels an entrance to her heart. But even had she not
been all this, she was too sorely oppressed with the burden of her
daily toil to yield to such influence as they had to offer. For
Rosenblatt was again in charge of her household. In a manner best
known to himself, he had secured the mortgage on her home, and thus
became her landlord, renting her the room in which she and her
family dwelt, and for which they all paid in daily labour, and
dearly enough. Rosenblatt, thus being her master, would not let her
go. She was too valuable for that. Strong, patient, diligent, from
early dawn till late at night she toiled and moiled with her baking
and scrubbing, fighting out that ancient and primitive and endless
fight against dirt and hunger, beaten by the one, but triumphing
over the other. She carried in her heart a dull sense of injustice,
a feeling that somehow wrong was being done her; but when Rosenblatt
flourished before her a formidable legal document, and had the same
interpreted to her by his smart young clerk, Samuel Sprink, she,
with true Slavic and fatalistic passivity, accepted her lot and bent
her strong back to her burden without complaint. What was the use of
complaint? Who in all the city was there to care for a poor, stupid,
Galician woman with none too savoury a reputation? Many and generous
were the philanthropies of Winnipeg, but as yet there was none that
had to do with the dirt, disease and degradation that were too often
found in the environment of the foreign people. There were many
churches in the city rich in good work, with many committees that
met to confer and report, but there was not yet one whose special
duty it was to confer and to report upon the unhappy and struggling
and unsavoury foreigner within their city gate.
Yes, there was one. The little Methodist mission hard by the
foreign colony had such a committee, a remarkable committee in a
way, a committee with no fine-spun theories of wholesale reform,
a committee with no delicate nostril to be buried in a perfumed
handkerchief when pursuing an investigation (as a matter of fact,
that committee had no sense of smell at all), a committee of one,
namely, John James Parsons, the Methodist missionary, and he worked
chiefly with committees of one, of which not the least important
was little Margaret Ketzel.
It was through Margaret Ketzel that Parsons got his first hold of
Paulina, by getting hold of her little girl Irma. For Margaret,
though so much her junior in years and experience, was to Irma a
continual source of wonder and admiration. Her facility with the
English speech, her ability to read books, her fine manners, her
clean and orderly home, her pretty Canadian dress, her beloved
school, her cheery mission, all these were to Irma new, wonderful
and fascinating. Gradually Irma was drawn to that new world of
Margaret's, and away from the old, sordid, disorderly wretchedness
of her own life and home.
After much secret conference with all the Ketzels, and much patient
and skilful labour on the part of the motherly Lena, a great day
at length arrived for Irma. It was the day on which she discarded
the head shawl with the rest of the quaint Galician attire, and
appeared dressed as a Canadian girl, discovering to her delighted
friends and to all who knew her, though not yet to herself, a rare
beauty hitherto unnoticed by any. Indeed, when Mr. Samuel Sprink,
coming in from Rosenblatt's store to spend a few hurried minutes
in gorging himself after his manner at the evening meal, allowed
himself time to turn his eyes from his plate and to let them rest
upon the little maid waiting upon his table, the transformation
from the girl, slatternly, ragged and none too clean, that was wont
to bring him his food, to this new being that flitted about from
place to place, smote him as with a sudden blow. He laid down the
instruments of his gluttony and for a full half minute forgot the
steaming stew before him, whose garlic-laden odours had been
assailing his nostrils some minutes previously with pungent delight.
Others, too, of that hungry gorging company found themselves disturbed
in their ordinary occupation by this vision of sweet and tender beauty
that flitted about them, ministering to their voracity.
To none more than to Rosenblatt himself was the transformation of
Irma a surprise and a mystery. It made him uneasy. He had an
instinctive feeling that this was the beginning of an emancipation
that would leave him one day without his slaves. Paulina, too,
would learn the new ways; then she and the girl, who now spent long
hours of hard labour in his service, would demand money for their
toil. The thought grieved him sore. But there was another thought
that stabbed him with a keener pain. Paulina and her family would
learn that they need no longer fear him, that they could do without
him, and then they would escape from his control. And this
Rosenblatt dreaded above all things else. To lose the power to
keep in degradation the wife and children of the man he hated with
a quenchless hatred would be to lose much of the sweetness of life.
Those few terrible moments when he had lain waiting for the
uplifted knife of his foe to penetrate his shrinking eyeballs had
taken years from him. He had come back to his life older, weaker,
broken in nerve and more than ever consumed with a thirst for
vengeance. Since Kalmar's escape he lived in daily, hourly fear
that his enemy would strike again and this time without missing,
and with feverish anxiety he planned to anticipate that hour with
a vengeance which would rob death of much of its sting.
So far he had succeeded only partially. Paulina and Irma he held in
domestic bondage. From the boy Kalman, too, he exacted day by day the
full tale of his scanty profits made from selling newspapers on the
street. But beyond this he could not go. By no sort of terror could he
induce Paulina to return to the old conditions and rent floor space
in her room to his boarders. At her door she stood on guard, refusing
admittance. Once, indeed, when hard pressed by Rosenblatt demanding
entrance, she had thrown herself before him with a butcher knife in
her hand, and with a look of such transforming fierceness on her face
as drove him from the house in fear of his life. She was no longer his
patient drudge, but a woman defending, not so much her own, as her
husband's honour, a tigress guarding her young.
Never again did Rosenblatt attempt to pass through that door, but
schooled himself to wait a better time and a safer path to compass
his vengeance. But from that moment, where there had been merely
contempt for Paulina and her family, there sprang up bitter hatred.
He hated them all--the woman who was his dupe and his slave, but
who balked him of his revenge; the boy who brought him the cents
for which he froze during the winter evenings at the corner of
Portage and Main, but who with the cents gave him fierce and
fearless looks; and this girl suddenly transformed from a timid,
stupid, ill-dressed Galician child, into a being of grace and
loveliness and conscious power. No wonder that as he followed her
with his eye, noting all this new grace and beauty, he felt uneasy.
Already she seemed to have soared far beyond his sordid world and
far beyond his grasp. Deep in his heart he swore that he would find
means to bring her down to the dirt again. The higher her flight,
the farther her fall and the sweeter would be his revenge.
"What's the matter wit you, boss? Gone back on your grub, eh?"
It was his clerk, Samuel Sprink, whose sharp little eyes had not
failed to note the gloomy glances of his employer.
"Pretty gay girl, our Irma has come to be," continued the cheerful
Samuel, who prided himself on his fine selection of colloquial
English. "She's a beaut now, ain't she? A regular bird!"
Rosenblatt started. At his words, but more at the admiration in
Samuel's eyes, a new idea came to him. He knew his clerk well, knew
his restless ambition, his insatiable greed, his intense selfishness,
his indomitable will. And he had good reason to know. Three times
during the past year his clerk had forced from him an increase of
salary. Indeed, Samuel Sprink, young though he was and unlearned in
the ways of the world, was the only man in the city that Rosenblatt
feared. If by any means Samuel could obtain a hold over this young
lady, he would soon bring her to the dust. Once in Samuel's power,
she would soon sink to the level of the ordinary Galician wife.
True, she was but a girl of fifteen, but in a year or so she would
be ready for the altar in the Galician estimation.
As these thoughts swiftly flashed through his mind, Rosenblatt
turned to Samuel Sprink and said, "Yes, she is a fine girl.
I never noticed before. It is her new dress."
"Not a bit," said Samuel. "The dress helps out, but it is the girl
herself. I have seen it for a long time. Look at her. Isn't she a
bird, a bird of Paradise, eh?"
"She will look well in a cage some day, eh, Samuel?"
"You bet your sweet life!" said Samuel.
"Better get the cage ready then, Samuel," suggested Rosenblatt.
"There are plenty bird fanciers in this town."
The suggestion seemed to anger Samuel, who swore an English oath
and lapsed into silence.
Irma heard, but heeded little. Rosenblatt she feared, Samuel Sprink
she despised. There had been a time when both she and Paulina
regarded him with admiration mingled with awe. Samuel Sprink had
many attractions. He had always plenty of money to jingle, and had
a reputation for growing wealth. He was generous in his gifts to
the little girl--gifts, it must be confessed, that cost him little,
owing to his position as clerk in Rosenblatt's store. Then, too,
he was so clever with his smart English and his Canadian manners,
so magnificent with his curled and oily locks, his resplendent
jewelry, his brilliant neckties. But that was before Irma had been
brought to the little mission, and before she had learned through
Margaret Ketzel and through Margaret's father and mother something
of Canadian life, of Canadian people, of Canadian manners and dress.
As her knowledge in this direction extended, her admiration and
reverence for Samuel Sprink faded.
The day that Irma discarded her Galician garb and blossomed forth
as a Canadian young lady was the day on which she was fully cured
of her admiration for Rosenblatt's clerk. For such subtle influence
does dress exercise over the mind that something of the spirit of
the garb seems to pass into the spirit of the wearer. Self-respect
is often born in the tailor shop or in the costumer's parlour.
Be this as it may, it is certain that Irma's Canadian dress gave
the final blow to her admiration of Samuel Sprink, and child
though she was, she became conscious of a new power over not only
Sprink, but over all the boarders, and instinctively she assumed
a new attitude toward them. The old coarse and familiar horseplay
which she had permitted without thought at their hands, was now
distasteful to her. Indeed, with most of the men it ceased to be
any longer possible. There were a few, however, and Samuel Sprink
among them, who were either too dull-witted to recognise the change
that had come to the young girl, or were unwilling to acknowledge
it. Samuel was unwilling also to surrender his patronising and
protective attitude, and when patronage became impossible and
protection unnecessary, he assumed an air of bravado to cover
the feeling of embarrassment he hated to acknowledge, and tried
to bully the girl into her former submissive admiration.
This completed the revulsion in Irma's mind, and while outwardly
she went about her work in the house with her usual cheerful and
willing industry, she came to regard her admirer and would be patron
with fear, loathing, and contempt. Of this, however, Samuel was
quite unaware. The girl had changed in her manner as in her dress,
but that might be because she was older, she was almost a woman,
after the Galician standard of computation. Whatever the cause,
to Samuel the change only made her more fascinating than ever,
and he set himself seriously to consider whether on the whole,
dowerless though she would be, it would not be wise for him to
devote some of his time and energy to the winning of this
fascinating young lady for himself.
The possibility of failure never entered Samuel's mind. He had an
overpowering sense of his own attractions. The question was simply
should he earnestly set himself to accomplish this end? Without
definitely making up his mind on this point, much less committing
himself to this object, Samuel allowed himself the pleasurable
occupation of trifling with the situation. But alas for Samuel's
peace of mind! and alas for his self-esteem! the daily presence of
this fascinating maiden in her new Canadian dress and with her new
Canadian manners, which appeared to go with the dress, quite swept
him away from his ordinary moorings, and he found himself tossed
upon a tempestuous sea, the helpless sport of gusts of passion that
at once surprised and humiliated him. It was an intolerably painful
experience for the self-centred and self-controlled Samuel; and
after a few months of this acute and humiliating suffering he was
prepared to accept help from almost any course.
At this point Rosenblatt, who had been keeping a watchful eye upon
the course of events, intervened.
"Samuel, my boy," he said one winter night when the store was
closed for the day, "you are acting the fool. You are letting
a little Slovak girl make a game of you."
"I attend to my own business, all the same," growled Samuel.
"You do, Samuel, my boy, you do. But you make me sorry for you,
Samuel grunted, unwilling to acknowledge even partial defeat to the
man whom he had beaten more than once in his own game.
"You desire to have that little girl, Samuel, and yet you are
afraid of her."
But Samuel only snarled and swore.
"You forget she is a Galician girl."
"She is Russian," interposed Samuel, "and she is of good blood."
"Good blood!" said Rosenblatt, showing his teeth like a snarling
dog, "good blood! The blood of a murdering Nihilist jail bird!"
"She is of good Russian blood," said Samuel with an ugly look in
his face, "and he is a liar who says she is not."
"Well, well," said Rosenblatt, turning from the point, "she is a
Galician in everything else. Her mother is a Galician, a low-bred
Galician, and you treat the girl as if she were a lady. This is
not the Galician manner of wooing. A bolder course is necessary.
You are a young man of good ability, a rising young man. You will
be rich some day. Who is this girl without family, without dower
to make you fear or hesitate? What says the proverb? 'A bone for
my dog, a stick for my wife.'"
"Yes, that is all right," muttered Samuel, "a stick for my wife,
and if she were my wife I would soon bring her to time."
"Ho, ho," said Rosenblatt, "it is all the same, sweetheart and
wife. They are both much the better for a stick now and then.
You are not the kind of man to stand beggar before a portionless
Slovak girl, a young man handsome, clever, well-to-do. You do not
need thus to humble yourself. Go in, my son, with more courage and
with bolder tactics. I will gladly help you."
As a first result of Rosenblatt's encouraging advice, Samuel
recovered much of his self-assurance, which had been rudely
shattered, and therefore much of his good humour. As a further
result, he determined upon a more vigorous policy in his wooing.
He would humble himself no more. He would find means to bring
this girl to her place, namely, at his feet.
The arrival of a Saint's day brought Samuel an opportunity to
inaugurate his new policy. The foreign colony was rigidly devoted
to its religious duties. Nothing could induce a Galician to engage
in his ordinary avocation upon any day set apart as sacred by his
Church. In the morning such of the colony as adhered to the Greek
Church, went en masse to the quaint little church which had come
to be erected and which had been consecrated by a travelling
Archbishop, and there with reverent devotion joined in worship,
using the elaborate service of the Greek rite. The religious duties
over, they proceeded still further to celebrate the day in a
somewhat riotous manner.
With the growth of the colony new houses had been erected which far
outshone Paulina's in magnificence, but Paulina's still continued
to be a social centre chiefly through Rosenblatt's influence. For
no man was more skilled than he in the art of promoting sociability
as an investment. There was still the full complement of boarders
filling the main room and the basement, and these formed a nucleus
around which the social life of a large part of the colony loved
It was a cold evening in February. The mercury had run down till it
had almost disappeared in the bulb and Winnipeg was having a taste
of forty below. Through this exhilarating air Kalman was hurrying
home as fast as his sturdy legs could take him. His fingers were
numb handling the coins received from the sale of his papers, but
the boy cared nothing for that. He had had a good afternoon and
evening; for with the Winnipeg men the colder the night the warmer
their hearts, and these fierce February days were harvest days for
the hardy newsboys crying their wares upon the streets. So the
sharp cold only made Kalman run the faster. Above him twinkled the
stars, under his feet sparkled the snow, the keen air filled his
lungs with ozone that sent his blood leaping through his veins.
A new zest was added to his life to-night, for as he ran he
remembered that it was a feast day and that at his home there
would be good eating and dance and song. As he ran he planned
how he would avoid Rosenblatt and get past him into Paulina's room,
where he would be safe, and where, he knew, good things saved from
the feast for him by his sister would be waiting him. To her he
would entrust all his cents above what was due to Rosenblatt,
and with her they would be safe. For by neither threatening nor
wheedling could Rosenblatt extract from her what was entrusted
to her care, as he could from the slow-witted Paulina.
Keenly sensitive to the radiant beauty of the sparkling night,
filled with the pleasurable anticipation of the feast before him,
vibrating in every nerve with the mere joy of living his vigorous
young life, Kalman ran along at full speed, singing now and then in
breathless snatches a wild song of the Hungarian plains. Turning a
sharp corner near his home, he almost overran a little girl.
"Kalman!" she cried with a joyous note in her voice.
"Hello! Elizabeth Ketzel, what do you want?" answered the boy,
pulling up panting.
"Will you be singing to-night?" asked the little girl timidly.
"Sure, I will," replied the lad, who had already mastered in the
school of the streets the intricacies of the Canadian vernacular.
"I wish I could come and listen."
"It is no place for little girls," said Kalman brusquely; then
noting the shadow upon the face of the child, he added, "Perhaps
you can come to the back window and Irma will let you in."
"I'll be sure to come," said Elizabeth to herself, for Kalman was
off again like the wind.
Paulina's house was overflowing with riotous festivity. Avoiding
the front door, Kalman ran to the back of the house, and making
entrance through the window, there waited for his sister. Soon
she came in.
"Oh, Kalman!" she cried, throwing her arms about him and kissing
him, "such a feast as I have saved for you! And you are cold. Your
poor fingers are frozen."
"Not a bit of it, Irma," said the boy--they always spoke
in Russian, these two, ever since the departure of their
father--"but I am hungry, oh! so hungry!"
Already Irma was flying about the room, drawing from holes and
corners the bits she had saved from the feast for her brother.
She spread them on the bed before him.
"But first," she cried, "I shall bring to the window the hot stew.
Paulina," the children always so spoke of her, "has kept it hot for
you," and she darted through the door.
After what seemed to Kalman a very long time indeed, she appeared
at the window with a covered dish of steaming stew.
"What kept you?" said her brother impatiently; "I am starved."
"That nasty, hateful, little Sprink," she said. "Here, help me
through." She looked flushed and angry, her "burnin' brown eyes"
shining like blazing coals.
"What is the matter?" said Kalman, when he had a moment's leisure
to observe her.
"He is very rough and rude," said the girl, "and he is a little pig."
Kalman nodded and waited. He had no time for mere words.
"And he tried to kiss me just now," she continued indignantly.
"Well, that's nothing," said Kalman; "they all want to do that."
"Not for months, Kalman," protested Irma, "and never again, and
especially that little Sprink. Never! Never!"
As Kalman looked at her erect little figure and her flushed face,
it dawned on him that a change had come to his little sister.
He paused in his eating.
"Irma," he said, "what have you done to yourself? Is it your hair
that you have been putting up on your head? No, it is not your
hair. You are not the same. You are--" he paused to consider,
"yes, that's it. You are a lady."
The anger died out of Irma's brown eyes and flushed face. A soft
and tender and mysterious light suffused her countenance.
"No, I am not a lady," she said, "but you remember what father
said. Our mother was a lady, and I am going to be one."
Almost never had the children spoken of their mother. The subject
was at once too sacred and too terrible for common speech. Kalman
laid down his spoon.
"I remember," he said after a few moments' silence. A shadow
lay upon his face. "She was a lady, and she died in the snow."
His voice sank to a whisper. "Wasn't it awful, Irma?"
"Yes, Kalman dear," said his sister, sitting down beside him and
putting her arms about his neck, "but she had no pain, and she was
"No," said the boy with a ring in his voice, "she was not afraid;
nor was father afraid either." He rose from his meal.
"Why, Kalman," exclaimed his sister, "you are not half done your
feast. There are such lots of nice things yet."
"I can't eat, Irma, when I think of that--of that man. I choke
here," pointing to his throat.
"Well, well, we won't think of him to-night. Some day very soon,
we shall be free from him. Sit down and eat."
But the boy remained standing, his face overcast with a fierce frown.
"Some day," he muttered, more to himself than to his sister,
"I shall kill him."
"Not to-day, at any rate, Kalman," said his sister, brightening
up. "Let us forget it to-night. Look at this pie. It is from
Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and this pudding."
The boy allowed his look to linger upon the dainties. He was a
healthy boy and very hungry. As he looked his appetite returned.
He shook himself as if throwing off a burden.
"No, not to-night," he said; "I am not going to stop my feast for him."
"No, indeed," cried Irma. "Come quick and finish your feast.
Oh, what eating we have had, and then what dancing! And they
all want to dance with me," she continued,--"Jacob and Henry and
Nicholas, and they are all nice except that horrid little Sprink."
"Did you not dance with him?"
"Yes," replied his sister, making a little face, "I danced with
him too, but he wants me to dance with no one else, and I don't
like that. He makes me afraid, too, just like Rosenblatt."
"Afraid!" said her brother scornfully.
"No, not afraid," said Irma quickly. "But never mind, here is the
pudding. I am sorry it is cold."
"All right," said the boy, mumbling with a full mouth, "it is fine.
Don't you be afraid of that Sprink; I'll knock his head off if he
"Not yet, Kalman," said Irma, smiling at him. "Wait a year or two
before you talk like that."
"A year or two! I shall be a man then."
"Oh, indeed!" mocked his sister, "a man of fifteen years."
"You are only fifteen yourself," said Kalman.
"And a half," she interrupted.
"And look at you with your dress and your hair up on your head,
and--and I am a boy. But I am not afraid of Sprink. Only yesterday I--"
"Oh, I know you were fighting again. You are terrible, Kalman.
I hear all the boys talking about you, and the girls too. Did
you beat him? But of course you did."
"I don't know," said her brother doubtfully, "but I don't think he
will bother me any more."
"Oh, Kalman," said his sister anxiously, "why do you fight so much?"
"They make me fight," said the boy. "They try to drive me off the
corner, and he called me a greasy Dook. But I showed him I am no
Doukhobor. Doukhobors won't fight."
"Tell me," cried his sister, her face aglow--"but no, I don't want
to hear about it. Did you--how did you beat him? But you should not
fight so, Kalman." In spite of herself she could not avoid showing
her interest in the fight and her pride in her fighting brother.
"Why not?" said her brother; "it is right to fight for your rights,
and if they bother me or try to crowd me off, I will fight till I die."
But Irma shook her head at him.
"Well, never mind just now," she cried. "Listen to the noise.
That is Jacob singing; isn't it awful? Are you going in?"
"Yes, I am. Here is my money, Irma, and that is for--that brute.
Give it to Paulina for him. I can hardly keep my knife out of him.
Some day--" The boy closed his lips hard.
"No, no, Kalman," implored his sister, "that must not be,
not now nor ever. This is not Russia, or Hungary, but Canada."
The boy made no reply.
"Hurry and wash yourself and come out. They will want you to sing.
I shall wait for you."
"No, no, go on. I shall come after."
A shout greeted the girl as she entered the crowded room. There was
no one like her in the dances of her people.
"It is my dance," cried one.
"Not so; she is promised to me."
"I tell you this mazurka is mine."
So they crowded about her in eager but good-natured contention.
"I cannot dance with you all," cried the girl, laughing,
"and so I will dance by myself."
At this there was a shout of applause, and in a moment more she
was whirling in the bewildering intricacies of a pas seul followed
in every step by the admiring gaze and the enthusiastic plaudits
of the whole company. As she finished, laughing and breathless,
she caught sight of Kalman, who had just entered.
"There," she exclaimed, "I have lost my breath, and Kalman will
Immediately her suggestion was taken up on every hand.
"A song! A song!" they shouted. "Kalman Kalmar will sing! Come,
Kalman, 'The Shepherd's Love.'" "No, 'The Soldier's Bride.'"
"No, no, 'My Sword and my Cup.'"
"First my own cup," cried the boy, pressing toward the beer keg in
the corner and catching up a mug.
"Give him another," shouted a voice.
"No, Kalman," said his sister in a low voice, "no more beer."
But the boy only laughed at her as he filled his mug again.
"I am too full to sing just now," he cried; "let us dance," and,
seizing Irma, he carried her off under the nose of the disappointed
Sprink, joining with the rest in one of the many fascinating dances
of the Hungarian people.
But the song was only postponed. In every social function of the
foreign colony, Kalman's singing was a feature. The boy loved to
sing and was ever ready to respond to any request for a song. So
when the cry for a song rose once more, Kalman was ready and eager.
He sprang upon a beer keg and cried, "What shall it be?"
"My song," said Irma, who stood close to him.
The boy shook his head. "Not yet."
"'The Soldier's Bride,'" cried a voice, and Kalman began to sing.
He had a beautiful face with regular clean-cut features, and the
fair hair and blue grey eyes often seen in South Eastern Russia.
As he sang, his face reflected the passing shades of feeling in
his heart as a windless lake the cloud and sunlight of a summer sky.
The song was a kind of Hungarian "Young Lochinvar." The soldier
lover, young and handsome, is away in the wars; the beautiful
maiden, forced into a hateful union with a wealthy land owner,
old and ugly, stands before the priest at the altar. But hark!
ere the fateful vows are spoken there is a clatter of galloping
hoofs, a manly form rushes in, hurls the groom insensible to the
ground, snatches away the bride and before any can interfere,
is off on a coal-black steed, his bride before him. Let him
follow who dares!
The boy had a voice of remarkable range and clearness, and he
rendered the song with a verve and dramatic force remarkable in
one of his age. The song was received with wild cheers and loud
demands for more. The boy was about to refuse, when through the
crowding faces, all aglow with enthusiastic delight, he saw the
scowling face of Rosenblatt. A fierce rage seized him.
He hesitated no longer.
"Yes, another song," he cried, and springing to the side of the
musicians he hummed the air, and then took his place again upon
the beer keg.
Before the musicians had finished the introductory bars, Irma came
to his side and entreated, "Oh, Kalman, not that one! Not that one!"
But it was as though he did not hear her. His face was set and
white, his blue eyes glowed black. He stood with lips parted,
waiting for the cue to begin. His audience, to most of whom the
song was known, caught by a mysterious telepathy the tense emotion
of the boy, and stood silent and eager, all smiles gone from their
faces. The song was in the Ruthenian tongue, but was the heart cry
of a Russian exile, a cry for freedom for his native land, for
death to the tyrant, for vengeance on the traitor. Nowhere in all
the Czar's dominions dared any man sing that song.
As the boy's strong, clear voice rang out in the last cry for
vengeance, there thrilled in his tones an intensity of passion that
gripped hard the hearts of those who had known all their lives long
the bitterness of tyranny unspeakable. In the last word the lad's
voice broke in a sob. Most of that company knew the boy's story,
and knew that he was singing out his heart's deepest passion.
When the song was finished, there was silence for a few brief
moments; then a man, a Russian, caught the boy in his arms, lifted
him on his shoulder and carried him round the room, the rest of the
men madly cheering. All but one. Trembling with inarticulate rage,
Rosenblatt strode to the musicians.
"Listen!" he hissed with an oath. "Do I pay you for this? No more
of this folly! Play up a czardas, and at once!"
The musicians hastened to obey, and before the cheers had died,
the strains of the czardas filled the room. With the quick reaction
from the tragic to the gay, the company swung into this joyous and
exciting dance. Samuel Sprink, seizing Irma, whirled her off into
the crowd struggling and protesting, but all in vain. After the
dance there was a general rush for the beer keg, with much noise
and good-natured horse play. At the other end of the room, however,
there was a fierce struggle going on. Samuel Sprink, excited by the
dance and, it must be confessed, by an unusual devotion to the beer
keg that evening, was still retaining his hold of Irma, and was
making determined efforts to kiss her.
"Let me go!" cried the girl, struggling to free herself. "You must
not touch me! Let me go!"
"Oh, come now, little one," said Samuel pleasantly, "don't be so
mighty stiff about it. One kiss and I let you go."
"That's right, Samuel, my boy," shouted Rosenblatt; "she only wants
coaxing just a little mucher."
Rosenblatt's words were followed by a chorus of encouraging cheers,
for Samuel was not unpopular among the men, and none could see any
good reason why a girl should object to be kissed, especially by
such a man as Samuel, who was already so prosperous and who had
such bright prospects for the future.
But Irma continued to struggle, till Kalman, running to her side,
cried, "Let my sister go!"
"Go away, Kalman. I am not hurting your sister. It's only fun.
Go away," said Sprink.
"She does not think it fun," said the boy quietly. "Let her go."
"Oh, go away, you leetle kid. Go away and sit down. You think
yourself too much."
It was Rosenblatt's harsh voice. As he spoke, he seized the boy
by the collar and with a quick jerk flung him back among the crowd.
It was as if he had fired some secret magazine of passion in the
boy's heart. Uttering the wild cry of a mad thing, Kalman sprang
at him with such lightning swiftness that Rosenblatt was borne back
and would have fallen, but for those behind. Recovering himself,
he dealt the boy a heavy blow in the face that staggered him for
a moment, but only for a moment. It seemed as if the boy had gone
mad. With the same wild cry, and this time with a knife open in
his hand, he sprang at his hated enemy, stabbing quick, fierce
stabs. But this time Rosenblatt was ready. Taking the boy's stabs
on his arm, he struck the boy a terrific blow on the neck. As
Kalman fell, he clutched and hung to his foe, who, seizing him
by the throat, dragged him swiftly toward the door.
"Hold this shut," he said to a friend of his who was following
After they had passed through, the man shut the door and held it
fast, keeping the crowd from getting out.
"Now," said Rosenblatt, dragging the half-insensible boy around to
the back of the house, "the time is come. The chance is too good.
You try to kill me, but there will be one less Kalmar in the world
to-night. There will be a little pay back of my debt to your cursed
father. Take that--and that." As he spoke the words, he struck the
boy hard upon the head and face, and then flinging him down in the
snow, proceeded deliberately to kick him to death.
But even as he threw the boy down, a shrill screaming pierced
through the quiet of the night, and from the back of the house a
little girl ran shrieking. "He is killing him! He is killing him!"
It was little Elizabeth Ketzel, who had been let in through the
back window to hear Kalman sing, and who, at the first appearance
of trouble, had fled by the way she had entered, meeting Rosenblatt
as he appeared dragging the insensible boy through the snow. Her
shrieks arrested the man in his murderous purpose. He turned and
fled, leaving the boy bleeding and insensible in the snow.
As Rosenblatt disappeared, a cutter drove rapidly up.
"What's the row, kiddie?" said a man, springing out. It was
Dr. Wright, returning from a midnight trip to one of his
patients in the foreign colony. "Who's killing who?"
"It is Kalman!" cried Elizabeth, "and he is dead! Oh, he is dead!"
The doctor knelt beside the boy. "Great Caesar! It surely is my
friend Kalman, and in a bad way. Some more vendetta business,
I have no doubt. Now what in thunder is that, do you suppose?"
From the house came a continuous shrieking. "Some more killing,
I guess. Here, throw this robe about the boy while I see about this."
He ran to the door and kicked it open. It seemed as if the whole
company of twenty or thirty men were every man fighting. As the
doctor paused to get his bearings, he saw across the room in the
farthest corner, Irma screaming as she struggled in the grasp of
Samuel Sprink, and in the midst of the room Paulina fighting like
a demon and uttering strange weird cries. She was trying to force
her way to the door.
As she caught sight of the doctor, she threw out her hands toward
him with a loud cry. "Kalman--killing! Kalman--killing!" was all
she could say.
The doctor thrust himself forward through the struggling men,
crying in a loud voice, "Here, you, let that woman go! And you
there, let that girl alone!"
Most of the men knew him, and at his words they immediately
"What the deuce are you at, anyway, you men?" he continued,
as Paulina and the girl sprang past him and out of the door.
"Do you fight with women?"
"No," said one of the men. "Dis man," pointing to Sprink,
"he mak fun wit de girl."
"Mighty poor fun," said the doctor, turning toward Sprink.
"And who has been killing that boy outside?"
"It is that young devil Kalman, who has been trying to kill
Mr. Rosenblatt," replied Sprink.
"Oh, indeed," said the doctor, "and what was the gentle
Mr. Rosenblatt doing meantime?"
"Rosenblatt?" cried Jacob Wassyl, coming forward excitedly.
"He mak for hurt dat boy. Dis man," pointing to Sprink,
"he try for kiss dat girl. Boy he say stop. Rosenblatt he
trow boy back. Boy he fight."
"Look here, Jacob," said Dr. Wright, "you get these men's
names--this man," pointing to Sprink, "and a dozen more--and
we'll make this interesting for Rosenblatt in the police court
Outside the house the doctor found Paulina sitting in the snow
with Kalman's head in her lap, swaying to and fro muttering and
groaning. Beside her stood Irma and Elizabeth Ketzel weeping
wildly. The doctor raised the boy gently.
"Get into the cutter," he said to Paulina. Irma translated.
The woman ran without a word, seated herself in the cutter
and held out her arms for the boy.
"That will do," said the doctor, laying Kalman in her arms.
"Now get some shawls, quilts or something for your mother
and yourself, or you'll freeze to death, and come along."
The girl rushed away and returned in a few moments with a
bundle of shawls.
"Get in," said the doctor, "and be quick."
The men were crowding about.
"Now, Jacob," said the doctor, turning to Wassyl, who stood near,
"you get me those names and we'll get after that man, you bet!
or I'm a Turk. This boy is going to die, sure."
As he spoke, he sprang into his cutter and sent his horse off at a
gallop, for by the boy's breathing he felt that the chances of life
were slipping swiftly away.
JACK FRENCH OF THE NIGHT HAWK RANCH
A map of Western Canada showing the physical features of the
country lying between the mountains on the one side and the Bay
and the Lakes on the other, presents the appearance of a vast
rolling plain scarred and seamed and pitted like an ancient face.
These scars and seams and pits are great lazy rivers, meandering
streams, lakes, sleughs and marshes which form one vast system of
waters that wind and curve through the rolls of the prairie and
nestle in its sunlit hollows, laving, draining, blessing where
they go and where they stay.
By these, the countless herds of buffalo and deer quenched their
thirst in the days when they, with their rival claimants for the land,
the Black Feet and the Crees, roamed undisturbed over these mighty
plains. These waterways in later days when The Honourable the Hudson's
Bay Company ruled the West, formed the great highways of barter. By
these teeming lakes and sleughs and marshes hunted and trapped Indians
and half-breeds. Down these streams and rivers floated the great fur
brigades in canoe and Hudson's Bay pointer with priceless bales of
pelts to the Bay in the north or the Lakes in the south, on their
way to that centre of the world's trade, old London. And up these
streams and rivers went the great loads of supplies and merchandise
for the far-away posts that were at once the seats of government
and the emporiums of trade in this wide land.
Following the canoe and Hudson's Bay boat, came the river
barge and side-wheeler, and with these, competing for trade,
the overland freighter with ox train and pack pony, with Red
River cart and shagginappi.
Still later, up these same waterways and along these trails came
settlers singly or in groups, the daring vanguard of an advancing
civilization, and planted themselves as pleased their fancy in
choice spots, in sunny nooks sheltered by bluffs, by gem-like
lakes or flowing streams, but mostly on the banks of the great
rivers, the highways for their trade, the shining links that held
them to their kind. Some there were among those hardy souls who,
severing all bonds behind them, sought only escape from their
fellow men and from their past. These left the great riverways
and freighting trails, and pressing up the streams to distant
head waters, there pitched their camp and there, in lonely, lordly
independence, took rich toll of prairie, lake and stream as they
needed for their living.
Such a man was Jack French, and such a spot was Night Hawk Lake,
whose shining waters found a tortuous escape four miles away by
Night Hawk Creek into the South Saskatchewan, king of rivers.
The two brothers, Jack and Herbert French, of good old English
stock, finding life in the trim downs of Devon too confined and
wearisome for their adventurous spirits, fell to walking seaward
over the high head lands, and to listening and gazing, the soft
spray dashing wet upon their faces, till they found eyes and ears
filled with the sights and sounds of far, wide plains across the
sea that called and beckoned, till in the middle seventies, with
their mother's kiss trembling on their brows and on their lips,
and their father's almost stern benediction stiffening their backs,
they fared forth to the far West, and found themselves on the black
trail that wound up the Red River of the North and reached the
straggling hamlet of Winnipeg.
There, in one of Winnipeg's homes, they found generous welcome
and a maiden, guarded by a stern old timer for a father and four
stalwart plain-riding brothers, but guarded all in vain, for
laughing at all such guarding, the two brothers with the hot
selfishness of young love, each unaware of the other's intent,
sought to rifle that house of its chief treasure.
To Herbert, the younger, that ardent pirate of her heart, the
maiden struck her flaming flag, and on the same night, with fearful
dismay, she sought pardon of the elder brother that she could not
yield him like surrender. With pale appealing face and kind blue
eyes, she sought forgiveness for her poverty.
"Oh, Mr. French," she cried, "if I only could! But I cannot give
you what is Herbert's now."
"Herbert!" gasped Jack with parched lips.
"And oh, Jack," she cried again with sweet selfishness,
"you will love Herbert still, and me?"
And Jack, having had a moment in which to summon up the reserves
of his courage and his command, smiled into her appealing eyes,
kissed her pale face, and still smiling, took his way, unseeing
and unheeding all but those appealing, tearful eyes and that
pleading voice asking with sweet selfishness only his life.
Three months he roamed the plains alone, finding at length one sunny
day, Night Hawk Lake, whose fair and lonely wildness seemed to suit
his mood, and there he pitched his camp. Thence back to Winnipeg a
month later to his brother's wedding, and that over, still smiling,
to take his way again to Night Hawk Lake, where ever since he spent
He passed his days at first in building house and stables from the
poplar bluffs at hand, and later in growing with little toil from
the rich black land and taking from prairie, lake and creek with
rifle and with net, what was necessary for himself and his man,
the Scotch half-breed Mackenzie, all the while forgetting till he
could forget no longer, and then with Mackenzie drinking deep and
long till remembering and forgetting were the same.
After five years he returned to Winnipeg to stand by her side whose
image lived ever in his heart, while they closed down the coffin
lid upon the face dearest to her, dearest but one to him of all
faces in the world. Then when he had comforted her with what
comfort he had to give, he set face again toward Night Hawk Lake,
leaving her, because she so desired it, alone but for her aged
mother, bereft of all, husband, brothers, father, who might guard
her from the world's harm.
"I am safe, dear Jack," she said, "God will let nothing harm me."
And Jack, smiling bravely still, went on his way and for a whole
year lived for the monthly letter that advancing civilization had
come to make possible to him.
The last letter of the year brought him the word that she was
alone. That night Jack French packed his buckboard with grub for
his six-hundred-mile journey, and at the end of the third week,
for the trail was heavy on the Portage Plains, he drove his
limping broncho up the muddy Main Street of Winnipeg.
When the barber had finished with him, he set forth to find his
brother's wife, who, seeing him, turned deadly pale and stood
looking sadly at him, her hand pressed hard upon her heart.
"Oh, Jack!" she said at length, with a great pity in her
voice,--"poor Jack! why did you come?"
"To make you a home with me," said Jack, looking at her with eyes
full of longing, "and wherever you choose, here or yonder at the
Night Hawk Ranch, which is much better,"--at which her tears began
"Poor Jack! Dear Jack!" she cried, "why did you come?"
"You know why," he said. "Can you not learn to love me?"
"Love you, Jack? I could not love you more."
"Can you not come to me?"
"Dear Jack! Poor Jack!" she said again, and fell to sobbing bitterly
till he forgot his own grief in hers. "I love my husband still."
"And I too," said Jack, looking pitifully at her.
"And I must keep my heart for him till I see him again." Her voice
sank to a whisper, but she stood bravely looking into his eyes, her
two hands holding down her fluttering heart as if in fear that it
"And is that the last word?" said Jack wearily.
"Yes, Jack, my brother, my dear, dear brother," she said,
"it is the last. And oh, Jack, I have had much sorrow, but none
more bitter than this!" And sobbing uncontrollably, she laid
herself on his breast.
He held her to him, stroking her beautiful hair, his brown hand
trembling and his strong face twisting strangely.
"Don't cry, dear Margaret. Don't cry like that. I won't make you weep.
Never mind. You could not help it. And--I'll--get--over it--somehow.
Only don't cry."
Then when she grew quiet again he kissed her and went out, smiling
back at her as he went, and for fifteen years never saw her face again.
But month by month there came a letter telling him of her and her
work, and this helped him to forget his pain. But more and more
often as the years went on, Jack French and his man Mackenzie sat
long nights in the bare ranch house with a bottle between them,
till Mackenzie fell under the table and Jack with his hard head and
his lonely heart was left by himself, staring at the fire if in
winter, or out of the window at the lake if in summer, till the
light on the water grew red, to his great hurt in body and in soul.
One spring day in the sixteenth year, in the middle of the month of
May, when Jack had driven to the Crossing for supplies, an unexpected
letter met him, which gave him much concern and changed forever the
even current of his life. And this was the letter:
'My dear Jack,--You have not yet answered my last, you bad boy,
but you know I do not wait for answers, or you would seldom hear
from me.' "And that's true enough," murmured Jack. 'But this is a
special letter, and is to ask you to do a great thing for me, a very
great thing. Indeed, you may not be able to do it at all.' "Indeed!"
said Jack. 'And if you cannot do it, I trust you to tell me so.'
"Trust me! well rather," said Jack again.
'You know something of my work among the Galicians, but you do not
know just how sad it often is. They are poor ignorant creatures, but
really they have kind hearts and have many nice things.' "By Jove!
She'd find good points in the very devil himself!" 'And I know you
would pity them if you knew them, especially the women and the children.
The women have to work so hard, and the children are growing up wild,
learning little of the good and much of the bad that Winnipeg streets
can teach them.' "Heaven help them of their school!" cried Jack.
'Well, I must tell you what I want. You remember seeing in the
papers that I sent you some years ago, the account of that terrible
murder by a Russian Nihilist named Kalmar, and you remember perhaps
how he nearly killed a horrid man who had treated him badly, very
badly, named Rosenblatt. Well, perhaps you remember that Kalmar
escaped from the penitentiary, and has not been heard of since.
His wife and children have somehow come under the power of this
Rosenblatt again. He has got a mortgage on her house and forces
the woman to do his will. The woman is a poor stupid creature, and
she has just slaved away for this man. The boy is different. He is
a fine handsome little fellow, thirteen or fourteen years old, who
makes his living selling newspapers and, I am afraid, is learning a
great many things that he would be better without.' "Which is true of
more than him," growled Jack. 'Of course, he does not like Rosenblatt.
A little while ago there was a dance and, as always at the dances, that
awful beer! The men got drunk and a good deal of fighting took place.
Rosenblatt and a friend of his got abusing the girl. The boy flew at him
and wounded him with a knife,' "And served him jolly well right," said
Jack with an oath. 'and then Rosenblatt nearly killed him and threw him
out in the snow. There he would have certainly died, had not Dr. Wright
happened along and carried him to the hospital, where he has been ever
since. The doctor had Rosenblatt up before the Court, but he brought a
dozen men to swear that the boy was a bad and dangerous boy and that he
was only defending himself. Fancy a great big man against a boy thirteen!
Well, would you believe it, Rosenblatt escaped and laid a charge against
the boy, and would actually have had him sent to jail, but I went to the
magistrate and offered to take him and find a home for him outside of
the city.' "Good brave little lady! I know you well," cried Jack.
'I thought of you, Jack,' "Bless your kind little heart," said
Jack. 'and I knew that if you could get him you would make a man of
him.' "Aha! You did!" exclaimed Jack. 'Here he is getting worse and
worse every day. He is so quick and so clever, he has never been to
school, but he reads and speaks English well. He is very popular
with his own people, for he is a wonderful singer, and they like him
at their feasts. And I have heard that he is as fond of beer as any
of them. He was terribly battered, but he is all right again, and
has been living with his sister and his step-mother in the house
of a friend of his father's. But I have promised to get him out
of the city, and if I do not, I know Rosenblatt will be after him.
Besides this, I am afraid something will happen if he remains.
The boy says quite quietly, but you can't help feeling that he
means it, that he will kill Rosenblatt some day. It is terribly
sad, for he is such a nice boy.' "Seems considerable of an angel,"
agreed Jack. 'I am afraid you will have to teach him a good many
things, Jack, for he has some bad habits. But if he is with you
and away from the bad people he meets with here, I am sure he will
soon forget the bad things he has learned.' "Dear lady, God grant
you may never know," said Jack ruefully.
'This is a long letter, dear Jack. How I should like to go up
to Night Hawk Ranch and see you, for I know you will not come
to Winnipeg, and we do not see enough of each other. We ought to,
for my sake and for Herbert's too.' "Ah God! and what of me?"
groaned Jack. 'I cannot begin to thank you for all your kindness.
And, Jack, you must stop sending me money, for I do not need it
and I will not use it, and I just keep putting what you send me
in the bank for you. The Lord has given me many friends, and He
never has allowed me to want.
'I shall wait two weeks, and then send you Kalman--that is his
name, Kalman Kalmar, a nice name, isn't it? And he is a dear good
boy; that is, he might be.' "Good heart, so might we all," cried
Jack. 'But I love him just as he is.' "Happy boy." 'Wouldn't it
be fine if you could make him a good man? How much he might do for
his people! And if he stays here he will get to be terrible, for
his father was terrible, although, poor man, it was hardly his
fault.' "I surely believe in God's mercy," said poor Jack.
'This is a long rambling letter, dear Jack, but you will forgive
me. I sometimes get pretty tired.' And Jack's brown lean hand
closed swiftly. 'There is so much to do. But I am pretty well and
I have many kind friends. So much to do, so many sick and poor
and lonely. They need a friend. The Winnipeg people are very kind,
but they are very busy.
'Now, my dear Jack, will you do for Kalman all you can? And--may
I say it?--remember, he is just a boy. I do not want to preach to
you, but he needs to be under the care of a good man, and that is
why I send him to you.
'Your loving sister,
There was a grim look on Jack French's face as he finished reading
the letter the second time.
"You're a good one," he said, "and you have a wise little head as
well as a tender heart. Don't want to preach to me, eh? But you
get your work in all the same. Two weeks! Let's see, this letter
has been four weeks on the way--up to Edmonton and back! By Jove!
That boy ought to be along with Macmillan's outfit. I say, Jimmy,"
this to Jimmy Green, who, besides representing Her Majesty in the
office of Postmaster, was general store keeper and trader to the
community, "when will Macmillan be in?"
"Couple of days, Jack."
"Well, I guess I'll have to wait."
And this turned out an unhappy necessity for Jack French, for when
the Macmillan outfit drove up to the Crossing he was lying incapable
and dead to all around, in Jimmy Green's back store.
THE EDMONTON TRAIL
Straight across the country, winding over plains, around sleughs,
threading its way through bluffs, over prairie undulations, fording
streams and crossing rivers, and so making its course northwest
from Winnipeg for nine hundred miles, runs the Edmonton trail.
Macmillan was the last of that far-famed and adventurous body of
men who were known all through the western country for their skill,
their courage, their endurance in their profession of freighters
from Winnipeg to the far outpost of Edmonton and beyond into the
Peace River and Mackenzie River districts. The building of railroads
cut largely into their work, and gradually the freighters faded from
the trails. Old Sam Macmillan was among the last of his tribe left
upon the Edmonton trail. He was a master in his profession. In the
packing of his goods with their almost infinite variety, in the
making up of his load, he was possessed of marvellous skill, while
on the trail itself he was easily king of them all.
Macmillan was a big silent Irishman, raw boned, hardy, and with a
highly developed genius for handling ox or horse teams of any size
in a difficult bit of road, and possessing as well a unique command
of picturesque and varied profanity. These gifts he considered as
necessarily related, and the exercise of each was always in
conjunction with the other, for no man ever heard Macmillan swear
in ordinary conversation or on commonplace occasions. But when his
team became involved in a sleugh, it was always a point of doubt
whether he aroused more respect and admiration in his attendants
by his rare ability to get the last ounce of hauling power out of
his team or by the artistic vividness and force of the profanity
expended in producing this desired result. It is related that on an
occasion when he had as part of his load the worldly effects of an
Anglican Bishop en route to his heroic mission to the far North, the
good Bishop, much grieved at Macmillan's profanity, urged upon him
the unnecessary character of this particular form of encouragement.
"Is it swearing Your Riverence objects to?" said Macmillan, whose
vocabulary still retained a slight flavour of the Old Land. "I do
assure you that they won't pull a pound without it."
But the Bishop could not be persuaded of this, and urged upon
Macmillan the necessity of eliminating this part of his persuasion.
"Just as you say, Your Riverence. I ain't hurried this trip and
we'll do our best."
The next bad sleugh brought opportunity to make experiment of the
new system. The team stuck fast in the black muck, and every effort
to extricate them served only to imbed them more hopelessly in the
sticky gumbo. Time passed on. A dark and lowering night was imminent.
The Bishop grew anxious. Macmillan, with whip and voice, encouraged
his team, but all in vain. The Bishop's anxiety increased with the
approach of a threatening storm.
"It is growing late, Mr. Macmillan, and it looks like rain.
Something must be done."
"It does that, Your Lordship, but the brutes won't pull half their
own weight without I speak to them in the way they are used to."
The good man was in a sore strait. Another half hour passed, and
still with no result. It was imperative that his goods should be
brought under cover before the storm should break. Again the good
Bishop urged Macmillan to more strenuous effort.
"We can't stay here all night, sir," he said. "Surely something
can be done."
"Well, I'll tell Your Lordship, it's one of two things, stick or
swear, and there's nothing else for it."
"Well, well, Mr. Macmillan," said the Bishop resignedly, "we must
get on. Do as you think best, but I take no responsibility in the
matter." At which Pilate's counsel he retired from the scene,
leaving Macmillan an untrammelled course.
Macmillan seized the reins from the ground, and walking up and down
the length of his six-horse team, began to address them singly and
in the mass in terms so sulphurously descriptive of their ancestry,
their habits, and their physical and psychological characteristics,
that when he gave the word in a mighty culminating roar of blasphemous
excitation, each of the bemired beasts seemed to be inspired with a
special demon, and so exerted itself to the utmost limit of its powers
that in a single minute the load stood high and dry on solid ground.
One other characteristic made Macmillan one of the most trusted of
the freighters upon the trail. While in charge of his caravan he
was an absolute teetotaler, making up, however, for this abstinence
at the end of the trip by a spree whose duration was limited only
by the extent of his credit.
It was to Mr. Macmillan's care that Mrs. French had committed
Kalman with many and anxious injunctions, and it is Macmillan's
due to say that every moment of that four weeks' journey was
one of undiluted delight to the boy, although it is to be feared
that not the least enjoyable moments in that eventful journey were
those when he stood lost in admiration while his host, with the free
use of his sulphurously psychological lever, pried his team out of
the frequent sleughs that harassed the trail. And before Macmillan
had delivered up his charge, his pork and hard tack, aided by the
ardent suns and sweeping winds of the prairie, had done their work,
so that it was a brown and thoroughly hardy looking lad that was
handed over to Jimmy Green at the Crossing.
"Here is Jack French's boy," said Macmillan. "And it's him that's
got the ear for music. In another trip he'll dust them horses out
of a hole with any of us. Swear! Well, I should smile! By the
powers! he makes me feel queer."
"Swear," echoed a thick voice from behind the speaker, "who's swearing?"
"Hello! Jack," said Macmillan quietly. "Got a jag on, eh?"
"Attend to your own business, sir," said Jack French, whose
dignity grew and whose temper shortened with every bottle.
"Answer my question, sir. Who is swearing?"
"Oh, there's nothing to it, Jack," said Macmillan. "I was telling
Jimmy here that that's a mighty smart boy of yours, and with a
great tongue for language."
"I'll break his back," growled Jack French, his face distorted with
a scowl. "Look here, boy," he continued, whirling fiercely upon the
lad, "you are sent to me by the best woman on earth to make a man
of you, and I'll have no swearing on my ranch," delivering himself
of which sentiment punctuated by a feu de joie of muddled oaths,
he lurched away into the back shop and fell into a drunken sleep,
leaving the boy astonished and for some minutes speechless.
"Is that her brother?" he asked at length, when he had found voice.
"Whose brother?" said Jimmy Green.
"Yes, boy, that's her brother," said Macmillan. "But that is not
himself any more than a mad dog. Jimmy here has been filling him
up," shaking his finger at the culprit, "which he had no right to
do, knowing Jack French as he does, by the same token."
"Oh, come on, Mac," said Jimmy apologetically. "You know Jack
French, and when he gets a-goin' could I stop him? No, nor you."
Next morning when Kalman came forth from the loft which served
Jimmy Green as store room for his marvellously varied merchandise,
he found that Macmillan had long since taken the trail and was by
this time miles on his journey toward Edmonton. The boy was lonely
and sick at heart. Macmillan had been a friend to him, and had
constituted the last link that held him to the life he had left
behind in the city. It was to Macmillan that the little white-faced
lady who was to the boy the symbol of all that was high and holy
in character, had entrusted him for safe deliverance to her brother
Jack French. Kalman had spent an unhappy night, his sleep being
broken by the recurring vision of the fierce and bloated face of
the man who had cursed him and threatened him on the previous
evening. The boy had not yet recovered from the horror and surprise
of his discovery that this drunken and brutalized creature was the
noble-hearted brother into whose keeping his friend and benefactress
had given him. That a man should drink himself drunk was nothing to
his discredit in Kalman's eyes, but that Mrs. French's brother, the
loved and honoured gentleman whom she had taught him to regard as
the ideal of all manly excellence, should turn out to be this
bloated and foul-mouthed bully, shocked him inexpressibly. From
these depressing thoughts he was aroused by a cheery voice.
"Hello! my boy, had breakfast?"
He turned quickly and beheld a tall, strongly made and handsome
man of middle age, clean shaven, neatly groomed, and with a fine
open cheery face.
"No, sir," he stammered, with unusual politeness in his tone,
and staring with all his eyes.
It was Jack French who addressed him, but this handsome, kindly,
well groomed man was so different from the man who had reeled over
him and poured forth upon him his abusive profanity the night before,
that his mind refused to associate the one with the other.
"Well, boy," said Jack French, "you must be hungry. Jimmy, anything
left for the boy?"
"Lots, Jack," said Jimmy eagerly, as if relieved to see him clothed
again and in his right mind. "The very best. Here, boy, set in here."
He opened a door which led into a side room where the remains of
breakfast were disclosed upon the table. "Bacon and eggs, my boy,
eggs! mind you, and Hudson's Bay biscuit and black strap. How's that?"
The boy, still lost in wonder, fell to with a great access of good
cheer, and made a hearty meal, while outside he could hear Jack
French's clear, cheery, commanding voice directing the packing of
The packing of the buckboard was a business calling for some skill.
In the box seat were stowed away groceries and small parcels for
the ranch and for settlers along the trail. Upon the boards behind
the seat were loaded and roped securely, sides of pork, a sack of
flour, and various articles for domestic use. Last of all, and with
great care, French disposed a mysterious case packed with straw,
the contents of which were perfectly well known to the boy.
The buckboard packed, there followed the process of hitching up,
--a process at once spectacular and full of exciting incident, for
the trip to the Crossing was to the bronchos, unbroken even to the
halter, their first experience in the ways of civilized man. Wild,
timid and fiercely vicious, they were brought in from their night
pickets on a rope, holding back hard, plunging, snorting, in terror,
and were tied up securely in an out shed. There was no time spent
in gentle persuasion. French took a collar and without hesitation,
but without haste, walked quietly to the side of one of the
shuddering ponies, a buckskin, and paying no heed to its frantic
plunging, slipped it over his neck, keeping close to the pony's
side and crowding it hard against the wall. The rest of the
harness offered more difficulty. The pony went wild at every
approach of the trailing straps and buckles. Kalman looked on
in admiration while French, without loss of temper, without oath
or objurgation, went on quietly with his work.
"Have to put a hitch on him, Jimmy, I guess," said French after
he had failed in repeated attempts.
Jimmy took a thin strong line of rope, put a running noose around
the pony's jaw, threw the end over its neck and back through the
noose again, thus making a most cruel bridle, and gave the rope
a single sharp jerk. The broncho fell back upon its haunches, and
before it had recovered from its pain and surprise, French had the
harness on its back and buckled into place.
The second pony, a piebald or pinto, needed no "Commache hitch,"
but submitted to the harnessing process without any great protest.
"Bring him along, Jimmy," said French, leading out the pinto.
But this was easier said than done, for the buckskin after being
faced toward the door, set his feet firmly in front of him and
refused to budge an inch.
"Touch him up behind, boy," said Green to Kalman, who stood by
eager to assist.
Kalman sprang forward with a stick in his hand, dodged under the
poles which formed the sides of the stall, and laid a resounding
whack upon the pony's flank. There was a flash of heels, a bang on
the shed wall, a plunge forward, and the pony was found clear of
the shed and Kalman senseless on the ground.
"Jimmy, you eternal fool!" cried French, "hold this rope!" He ran
to the boy and picked him up in his arms. "The boy is killed, and
there'll be the very deuce to pay."
He laid the insensible lad on the grass, ran for a pail of water
and dashed a portion of it in his face. In a few moments the boy
opened his eyes with a long deep sigh, and closed them again as if
in contented slumber. French took a flask from his pocket, opened
the boy's mouth, and poured some of its contents between his lips.
At once Kalman began to cough, sat up, and gazed around in a stupid
manner upon the ponies and the men.
"He's out," he said at length, with his eyes upon the pinto.
"Out? Who's out?" cried French.
"Judas priest!" exclaimed Jimmy, using his favourite oath.
"He means the broncho."
"By Jove! he _is_ out, boy," said French, "and you are as near out as
you are likely to be for some time to come. What in great Caesar's
name were you trying to do?"
"He wouldn't move," said the boy simply, "and I hit him."
"Listen here, boy," said Jimmy Green solemnly, "when you go to
hit a broncho again, don't take anything short of a ten-foot pole,
unless you're on top of him."
The boy said nothing in reply, but got up and began to walk about,
still pale and dazed.
"Good stuff, eh, Jimmy?" said French, watching him carefully.
"You bet!" said Jimmy, "genuine clay."
"It is exceptionally lucky that you were standing so near the little
beast," said French to the boy. "Get into the buckboard here, and
Kalman climbed in, and from that point of vantage watched the rest
of the hitching process. By skillful manoeuvring the two men led,
backed, shoved the ponies into position, and while one held them
by the heads, the other hitched the traces. Carefully French looked
over all straps and buckles, drew the lines free, and then mounting
the buckboard seat, said quietly, "Stand clear, Jimmy. Let them go."
Which Jimmy promptly did.
For a few moments they stood surprised at their unexpected freedom,
and uncertain what to do with it, then they moved off slowly a few
steps till the push of the buckboard threw them into a sudden terror,
and the fight was on. Plunging, backing, kicking, jibing, they finally
bolted, fortunately choosing the trail that led in the right direction.
"Good-by, Jimmy. See you later," sang out French as, with cool head
and steady hand, he directed the running ponies.
"Jumpin' cats!" replied Jimmy soberly, "don't look as if you
would," as the bronchos tore up the river bank at a terrific gallop.
Before they reached the top French had them in hand, and going more
smoothly, though still running at top speed. Kalman sat clinging to
the rocking, pitching buckboard, his eyes alight and his face aglow
with excitement. There was stirring in the boy's brain a dim and
far-away memory of wild rides over the steppes of Southern Russia,
and French, glancing now and then at his glowing face, nodded grim
"Afraid, boy?" he shouted over the roar and rattle of the pitching
Kalman looked up and smiled, and then with a great oath he cried,
"Let them go!"
Jack French was startled. He hauled up the ponies sharply and
turned to the boy at his side.
"Boy, where did you learn that?"
"What?" asked the boy in surprise.
"Where did you learn to swear like that?"
"Why," said Kalman, "they all do it."
"Why, everybody in Winnipeg."
"Does Mrs. French?" said Jack quietly.
The boy's face flushed hotly.
"No, no," he said vehemently, "never her." Then after a pause and
an evident struggle, "She wants me to stop, but all the men and the
boys do it."
"Kalman," said French solemnly, "no one swears on my ranch."
Kalman was perplexed, remembering the scene of the previous night.
"But you--" he began, and then paused.
"Boy," repeated French with added solemnity, "swearing is a foolish
and unnecessary evil. There is no swearing on my ranch. Promise me
you will give up this habit."
"I will not," said the boy promptly, "for I would break my word.
Don't you swear?"
French hesitated, and then as if forming a sudden resolution he
replied, "When you hear me swear you can begin. And if you don't
mean to quit, don't promise. A gentleman always keeps his word."
The boy looked him steadily in the eye and then said, as if
pondering this remark, "I remember. I know. My father said so."
French forbore to press the matter further, but for both man and
boy an attempt at a new habit of speech began that day.
Once clear of the Saskatchewan River, the trail led over rolling
prairie, set out with numerous "bluffs" of western maple and
poplar, and diversified with sleughs and lakes of varying size, a
country as richly fertile and as fair to look upon as is given the
eyes of man to behold anywhere in God's good world. In the dullest
weather this rolling, tree-decked, sleugh-gemmed prairie presents a
succession of scenes surpassingly beautiful, but with a westering
sun upon it, and on a May day, it offers such a picture as at once
entrances the soul and lives forever in the memory. The waving
lines, the rounded hills, the changing colour, the chasing shadows
on grass and bluff and shimmering water, all combine to make in
the soul high music unto God.
For an hour and more the buckboard hummed along the trail smooth
and winding, the bronchos pulling hard on the lines without a sign
of weariness, till the bluffs began to grow thicker and gradually
to close into a solid belt of timber. Beyond this belt of timber
lay the Ruthenian Colony but newly placed. The first intimation
of the proximity of this colony came in quite an unexpected way.
Swinging down a sharp hill through a bluff, the bronchos came upon
a man with a yoke of oxen hauling a load of hay. Before their
course could be checked the ponies had pitched heavily into the
slow moving and terrified oxen, and so disconcerted them that they
swerved from the trail and upset the load. Immediately there rose
a volley of shrill execrations in the Galician tongue.
"Whoa, buck! Steady there!" cried Jack French cheerily as he steered
his team past the wreck. "Too bad that, we must go back and help to
He tied the bronchos securely to a tree and went back to offer aid.
The Galician, a heavily-built man, was standing on the trail with a
stout stake in his hand, viewing the ruins of his load and expressing
his emotions in voluble Galician profanity with a bad mixture of
halting and broken English. Kalman stood beside French with wrath
growing in his face.
"He is calling you very bad names!" he burst out at length.
French glanced down at the boy's angry face and smiled.
"Oh, well, it will do him good. He will feel better when he gets
it all out. And besides, he has rather good reason to be angry."
"He says he is going to kill you," said Kalman in a low voice,
keeping close to French's side.
"Oh! indeed," said French cheerfully, walking straight upon the man.
"That is awkward. But perhaps he will change his mind."
This calm and cheerful front produced its impression upon the
"Too bad, neighbour," said French in a loud, cheerful tone as
he drew near.
The Galician, who had recovered something of his fury, damped to
a certain extent by French's calm and cheerful demeanour, began
to gesticulate with his stake. French turned his back upon him
and proceeded to ascertain the extent of the wreck, and to advise
a plan for its repair. As he stooped to examine the wagon for
breakages, the wrathful Galician suddenly swung his club in the
air, but before the blow fell, Kalman shrieked out in the Galician
tongue, "You villain! Stop!"
This unexpected cry in his own speech served at once to disconcert
the Galician's aim, and to warn his intended victim. French,
springing quickly aside, avoided the blow and with one stride
he was upon the Galician, wrenched the stake from his grasp,
and, taking him by the back of the neck, faced him toward the
front wheels of the wagon, saying, as he did so, "Here, you idiot!
take hold and pull."
The strength of that grip on his neck produced a salutary effect
upon the excited Galician. He stood a few moments dazed, looking
this way and that way, as if uncertain how to act.
"Tell the fool," said French to Kalman quietly, "to get hold of
those front wheels and pull."
The boy stood amazed.
"Ain't you going to lick him?" he said.
"Haven't time just now," said French cheerfully.
"But he might have killed you."
"Would have if you hadn't yelled. I'll remember that too, my boy.
But he didn't, and he won't get another chance. Tell him to take
hold and pull."
Kalman turned to the subdued and uncertain Galician, and poured
forth a volume of angry abuse while he directed him as to his
present duty. Humbly enough the Galician took hold, and soon the
wagon was put to rights, and after half an hour's work, was loaded
again and ready for its further journey.
By this time the man had quite recovered his temper and stood for
some time after all was ready, silent and embarrassed. Then he
began to earnestly address French, with eager gesticulations.
"What is it?" said French.
"He says he is very sorry, and feels very bad here," said Kalman,
pointing to his heart, "and he wants to do something for you."
"Tell him," said French cheerfully, "only a fool loses his temper,
and only a cad uses a club or a knife when he fights."
Kalman looked puzzled.
"No, a cad. Don't you know what a cad is? Well, a cad is--hanged if
I know how to put it--you know what a gentleman is?"
"Well, the other thing is a cad."
The Galician listened attentively while Kalman explained, and made
humble and deprecating reply.
"He says," interpreted Kalman, "that he is very sorry, but he wants
to know what you fight with. You can't hurt a man with your hands."
"Can't, eh?" said French. "Tell him to stand up here to me."
The Galician came up smiling, and French proceeded to give him his
first lesson in the manly art, Kalman interpreting his directions.
"Put up your hands so. Now I am going to tap your forehead."
Tap, tap, went French's open knuckles upon the Galician's forehead.
"Look out, man."
Tap, tap, tap, the knuckles went rapping on the man's forehead,
despite his flying arms.
"Now," said French, "hit me."
The Galician made a feeble attempt.
"Oh, don't be afraid. Hit me hard."
The Galician lunged forward, but met rigid arms.
"Come, come," said French, reaching him sharply on the cheek with
his open hand, "try better than that."
Again the Galician struck heavily with his huge fists, and again
French, easily parrying, tapped him once, twice, thrice, where he
would, drawing tears to the man's eyes. The Galician paused with
a scornful exclamation.
"He says that's nothing," interpreted Kalman. "You can't hurt a man
"Can't, eh? Tell him to come on, but to look out."
Again the Galician came forward, evidently determined to land one
blow at least. But French, taking the blow on his guard, replied
with a heavy left-hander fair on the Galician's chest, lifted him
clear off his feet and hurled him breathless against his load of
hay. The man recovered himself, grinning sheepishly, nodding his
head vigorously and talking rapidly.
"That is enough. He says he would like to learn how to do that.
That is better than a club," interpreted Kalman.
"Tell him that his people must learn to fight without club or
knife. We won't stand that in this country. It lands them in prison
or on the gallows."
Kalman translated, his own face fiery red meanwhile, and his own
appearance one of humiliation. He was wondering how much of his
own history this man knew.
"Good-by," said French, holding out his hand to the Galician.
The man took it and raised it to his lips.
"He says he thanks you very much, and he wishes you to forget
"All right, old man," said French cheerfully. "See you again some day."
And so they parted, Kalman carrying with him an uncomfortable sense of
having been at various times in his life something of a cad, and a fear
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