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´╗┐Title: Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town
Author: Leacock, Stephen, 1869-1944
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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SUNSHINE SKETCHES OF A LITTLE TOWN

By Stephen Leacock, 1869-1944


          Preface

     I    The Hostelry of Mr. Smith
     II   The Speculations of Jefferson Thorpe
     III  The Marine Excursion of the Knights of Pythias
     IV   The Ministrations of the Rev. Mr. Drone
     V    The Whirlwind Campaign in Mariposa
     VI   The Beacon on the Hill
     VII  The Extraordinary Entanglement of Mr. Pupkin
     VIII The Fore-ordained Attachment of Zena Pepperleigh and Peter Pupkin
     IX   The Mariposa Bank Mystery
     X    The Great Election in Missinaba County
     XI   The Candidacy of Mr. Smith
     XII  L'Envoi. The Train to Mariposa



Preface

I know no way in which a writer may more fittingly introduce his work to
the public than by giving a brief account of who and what he is. By this
means some of the blame for what he has done is very properly shifted to
the extenuating circumstances of his life.

I was born at Swanmoor, Hants, England, on December 30, 1869. I am not
aware that there was any particular conjunction of the planets at the
time, but should think it extremely likely. My parents migrated to
Canada in 1876, and I decided to go with them. My father took up a farm
near Lake Simcoe, in Ontario. This was during the hard times of Canadian
farming, and my father was just able by great diligence to pay the hired
men and, in years of plenty, to raise enough grain to have seed for the
next year's crop without buying any. By this process my brothers and
I were inevitably driven off the land, and have become professors,
business men, and engineers, instead of being able to grow up as farm
labourers. Yet I saw enough of farming to speak exuberantly in political
addresses of the joy of early rising and the deep sleep, both of body
and intellect, that is induced by honest manual toil.

I was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, of which I was head
boy in 1887. From there I went to the University of Toronto, where
I graduated in 1891. At the University I spent my entire time in the
acquisition of languages, living, dead, and half-dead, and knew nothing
of the outside world. In this diligent pursuit of words I spent about
sixteen hours of each day. Very soon after graduation I had forgotten
the languages, and found myself intellectually bankrupt. In other words
I was what is called a distinguished graduate, and, as such, I took
to school teaching as the only trade I could find that need neither
experience nor intellect. I spent my time from 1891 to 1899 on the staff
of Upper Canada College, an experience which has left me with a profound
sympathy for the many gifted and brilliant men who are compelled to
spend their lives in the most dreary, the most thankless, and the worst
paid profession in the world. I have noted that of my pupils, those who
seemed the laziest and the least enamoured of books are now rising
to eminence at the bar, in business, and in public life; the really
promising boys who took all the prizes are now able with difficulty to
earn the wages of a clerk in a summer hotel or a deck hand on a canal
boat.

In 1899 I gave up school teaching in disgust, borrowing enough money
to live upon for a few months, and went to the University of Chicago
to study economics and political science. I was soon appointed to a
Fellowship in political economy, and by means of this and some temporary
employment by McGill University, I survived until I took the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy in 1903. The meaning of this degree is that the
recipient of instruction is examined for the last time in his life, and
is pronounced completely full. After this, no new ideas can be imparted
to him.

From this time, and since my marriage, which had occurred at this
period, I have belonged to the staff of McGill University, first as
lecturer in Political Science, and later as head of the department of
Economics and Political Science. As this position is one of the prizes
of my profession, I am able to regard myself as singularly fortunate.
The emolument is so high as to place me distinctly above the policemen,
postmen, street-car conductors, and other salaried officials of the
neighbourhood, while I am able to mix with the poorer of the business
men of the city on terms of something like equality. In point of
leisure, I enjoy more in the four corners of a single year than a
business man knows in his whole life. I thus have what the business man
can never enjoy, an ability to think, and, what is still better, to stop
thinking altogether for months at a time.

I have written a number of things in connection with my college life--a
book on Political Science, and many essays, magazine articles, and so
on. I belong to the Political Science Association of America, to the
Royal Colonial Institute, and to the Church of England. These things,
surely, are a proof of respectability. I have had some small connection
with politics and public life. A few years ago I went all round the
British Empire delivering addresses on Imperial organization. When I
state that these lectures were followed almost immediately by the Union
of South Africa, the Banana Riots in Trinidad, and the Turco-Italian
war, I think the reader can form some idea of their importance. In
Canada I belong to the Conservative party, but as yet I have failed
entirely in Canadian politics, never having received a contract to build
a bridge, or make a wharf, nor to construct even the smallest section
of the Transcontinental Railway. This, however, is a form of national
ingratitude to which one becomes accustomed in this Dominion.

Apart from my college work, I have written two books, one called
"Literary Lapses" and the other "Nonsense Novels." Each of these is
published by John Lane (London and New York), and either of them can be
obtained, absurd though it sounds, for the mere sum of three shillings
and sixpence. Any reader of this preface, for example, ridiculous though
it appears, could walk into a bookstore and buy both of these books for
seven shillings. Yet these works are of so humorous a character that for
many years it was found impossible to print them. The compositors fell
back from their task suffocated with laughter and gasping for air.
Nothing but the intervention of the linotype machine--or rather, of the
kind of men who operate it--made it possible to print these books. Even
now people have to be very careful in circulating them, and the books
should never be put into the hands of persons not in robust health.

Many of my friends are under the impression that I write these humorous
nothings in idle moments when the wearied brain is unable to perform the
serious labours of the economist. My own experience is exactly the other
way. The writing of solid, instructive stuff fortified by facts and
figures is easy enough. There is no trouble in writing a scientific
treatise on the folk-lore of Central China, or a statistical enquiry
into the declining population of Prince Edward Island. But to write
something out of one's own mind, worth reading for its own sake, is an
arduous contrivance only to be achieved in fortunate moments, few
and far between. Personally, I would sooner have written "Alice in
Wonderland" than the whole Encyclopaedia Britannica.

In regard to the present work I must disclaim at once all intentions of
trying to do anything so ridiculously easy as writing about a real place
and real people. Mariposa is not a real town. On the contrary, it is
about seventy or eighty of them. You may find them all the way from Lake
Superior to the sea, with the same square streets and the same maple
trees and the same churches and hotels, and everywhere the sunshine of
the land of hope.

Similarly, the Reverend Mr. Drone is not one person but about eight or
ten. To make him I clapped the gaiters of one ecclesiastic round the
legs of another, added the sermons of a third and the character of a
fourth, and so let him start on his way in the book to pick up such
individual attributes as he might find for himself. Mullins and Bagshaw
and Judge Pepperleigh and the rest are, it is true, personal friends
of mine. But I have known them in such a variety of forms, with such
alternations of tall and short, dark and fair, that, individually,
I should have much ado to know them. Mr. Pupkin is found whenever a
Canadian bank opens a branch in a county town and needs a teller. As for
Mr. Smith, with his two hundred and eighty pounds, his hoarse voice,
his loud check suit, his diamonds, the roughness of his address and
the goodness of his heart,--all of this is known by everybody to be a
necessary and universal adjunct of the hotel business.

The inspiration of the book,--a land of hope and sunshine where little
towns spread their square streets and their trim maple trees beside
placid lakes almost within echo of the primeval forest,--is large
enough. If it fails in its portrayal of the scenes and the country that
it depicts the fault lies rather with an art that is deficient than in
an affection that is wanting.

Stephen Leacock. McGill University, June, 1912.



ONE. The Hostelry of Mr. Smith

I don't know whether you know Mariposa. If not, it is of no consequence,
for if you know Canada at all, you are probably well acquainted with a
dozen towns just like it.

There it lies in the sunlight, sloping up from the little lake that
spreads out at the foot of the hillside on which the town is built.
There is a wharf beside the lake, and lying alongside of it a steamer
that is tied to the wharf with two ropes of about the same size as they
use on the Lusitania. The steamer goes nowhere in particular, for the
lake is landlocked and there is no navigation for the Mariposa Belle
except to "run trips" on the first of July and the Queen's Birthday, and
to take excursions of the Knights of Pythias and the Sons of Temperance
to and from the Local Option Townships.

In point of geography the lake is called Lake Wissanotti and the river
running out of it the Ossawippi, just as the main street of Mariposa is
called Missinaba Street and the county Missinaba County. But these
names do not really matter. Nobody uses them. People simply speak of the
"lake" and the "river" and the "main street," much in the same way
as they always call the Continental Hotel, "Pete Robinson's" and the
Pharmaceutical Hall, "Eliot's Drug Store." But I suppose this is just
the same in every one else's town as in mine, so I need lay no stress on
it.

The town, I say, has one broad street that runs up from the lake,
commonly called the Main Street. There is no doubt about its width. When
Mariposa was laid out there was none of that shortsightedness which is
seen in the cramped dimensions of Wall Street and Piccadilly. Missinaba
Street is so wide that if you were to roll Jeff Thorpe's barber shop
over on its face it wouldn't reach half way across. Up and down the Main
Street are telegraph poles of cedar of colossal thickness, standing at a
variety of angles and carrying rather more wires than are commonly seen
at a transatlantic cable station.

On the Main Street itself are a number of buildings of extraordinary
importance,--Smith's Hotel and the Continental and the Mariposa House,
and the two banks (the Commercial and the Exchange), to say nothing of
McCarthy's Block (erected in 1878), and Glover's Hardware Store with the
Oddfellows' Hall above it. Then on the "cross" street that intersects
Missinaba Street at the main corner there is the Post Office and the
Fire Hall and the Young Men's Christian Association and the office of
the Mariposa Newspacket,--in fact, to the eye of discernment a perfect
jostle of public institutions comparable only to Threadneedle Street or
Lower Broadway. On all the side streets there are maple trees and
broad sidewalks, trim gardens with upright calla lilies, houses with
verandahs, which are here and there being replaced by residences with
piazzas.

To the careless eye the scene on the Main Street of a summer afternoon
is one of deep and unbroken peace. The empty street sleeps in the
sunshine. There is a horse and buggy tied to the hitching post in front
of Glover's hardware store. There is, usually and commonly, the burly
figure of Mr. Smith, proprietor of Smith's Hotel, standing in his
chequered waistcoat on the steps of his hostelry, and perhaps, further
up the street, Lawyer Macartney going for his afternoon mail, or the
Rev. Mr. Drone, the Rural Dean of the Church of England Church, going
home to get his fishing rod after a mothers' auxiliary meeting.

But this quiet is mere appearance. In reality, and to those who know it,
the place is a perfect hive of activity. Why, at Netley's butcher shop
(established in 1882) there are no less than four men working on the
sausage machines in the basement; at the Newspacket office there are
as many more job-printing; there is a long distance telephone with
four distracting girls on high stools wearing steel caps and talking
incessantly; in the offices in McCarthy's block are dentists and lawyers
with their coats off, ready to work at any moment; and from the big
planing factory down beside the lake where the railroad siding is, you
may hear all through the hours of the summer afternoon the long-drawn
music of the running saw.

Busy--well, I should think so! Ask any of its inhabitants if Mariposa
isn't a busy, hustling, thriving town. Ask Mullins, the manager of the
Exchange Bank, who comes hustling over to his office from the Mariposa
House every day at 10.30 and has scarcely time all morning to go out and
take a drink with the manager of the Commercial; or ask--well, for
the matter of that, ask any of them if they ever knew a more rushing
go-a-head town than Mariposa.

Of course if you come to the place fresh from New York, you are
deceived. Your standard of vision is all astray, You do think the place
is quiet. You do imagine that Mr. Smith is asleep merely because he
closes his eyes as he stands. But live in Mariposa for six months or a
year and then you will begin to understand it better; the buildings get
higher and higher; the Mariposa House grows more and more luxurious;
McCarthy's block towers to the sky; the 'buses roar and hum to the
station; the trains shriek; the traffic multiplies; the people move
faster and faster; a dense crowd swirls to and fro in the post-office
and the five and ten cent store--and amusements! well, now! lacrosse,
baseball, excursions, dances, the Fireman's Ball every winter and the
Catholic picnic every summer; and music--the town band in the park every
Wednesday evening, and the Oddfellows' brass band on the street every
other Friday; the Mariposa Quartette, the Salvation Army--why, after a
few months' residence you begin to realize that the place is a mere mad
round of gaiety.

In point of population, if one must come down to figures, the Canadian
census puts the numbers every time at something round five thousand. But
it is very generally understood in Mariposa that the census is largely
the outcome of malicious jealousy. It is usual that after the census the
editor of the Mariposa Newspacket makes a careful reestimate (based
on the data of relative non-payment of subscriptions), and brings the
population up to 6,000. After that the Mariposa Times-Herald makes
an estimate that runs the figures up to 6,500. Then Mr. Gingham,
the undertaker, who collects the vital statistics for the provincial
government, makes an estimate from the number of what he calls the
"demised" as compared with the less interesting persons who are still
alive, and brings the population to 7,000. After that somebody else
works it out that it's 7,500; then the man behind the bar of the
Mariposa House offers to bet the whole room that there are 9,000 people
in Mariposa. That settles it, and the population is well on the way to
10,000, when down swoops the federal census taker on his next round and
the town has to begin all over again.

Still, it is a thriving town and there is no doubt of it. Even the
transcontinental railways, as any townsman will tell you, run through
Mariposa. It is true that the trains mostly go through at night and
don't stop. But in the wakeful silence of the summer night you may hear
the long whistle of the through train for the west as it tears through
Mariposa, rattling over the switches and past the semaphores and
ending in a long, sullen roar as it takes the trestle bridge over the
Ossawippi. Or, better still, on a winter evening about eight o'clock you
will see the long row of the Pullmans and diners of the night express
going north to the mining country, the windows flashing with brilliant
light, and within them a vista of cut glass and snow-white table linen,
smiling negroes and millionaires with napkins at their chins whirling
past in the driving snowstorm.

I can tell you the people of Mariposa are proud of the trains, even if
they don't stop! The joy of being on the main line lifts the Mariposa
people above the level of their neighbours in such places as Tecumseh
and Nichols Corners into the cosmopolitan atmosphere of through traffic
and the larger life. Of course, they have their own train, too--the
Mariposa Local, made up right there in the station yard, and running
south to the city a hundred miles away. That, of course, is a real
train, with a box stove on end in the passenger car, fed with cordwood
upside down, and with seventeen flat cars of pine lumber set between the
passenger car and the locomotive so as to give the train its full impact
when shunting.

Outside of Mariposa there are farms that begin well but get thinner and
meaner as you go on, and end sooner or later in bush and swamp and the
rock of the north country. And beyond that again, as the background of
it all, though it's far away, you are somehow aware of the great pine
woods of the lumber country reaching endlessly into the north.

Not that the little town is always gay or always bright in the sunshine.
There never was such a place for changing its character with the season.
Dark enough and dull it seems of a winter night, the wooden sidewalks
creaking with the frost, and the lights burning dim behind the shop
windows. In olden times the lights were coal oil lamps; now, of course,
they are, or are supposed to be, electricity, brought from the power
house on the lower Ossawippi nineteen miles away. But, somehow, though
it starts off as electricity from the Ossawippi rapids, by the time it
gets to Mariposa and filters into the little bulbs behind the frosty
windows of the shops, it has turned into coal oil again, as yellow and
bleared as ever.

After the winter, the snow melts and the ice goes out of the lake, the
sun shines high and the shanty-men come down from the lumber woods and
lie round drunk on the sidewalk outside of Smith's Hotel--and that's
spring time. Mariposa is then a fierce, dangerous lumber town,
calculated to terrorize the soul of a newcomer who does not
understand that this also is only an appearance and that presently the
rough-looking shanty-men will change their clothes and turn back again
into farmers.

Then the sun shines warmer and the maple trees come out and Lawyer
Macartney puts on his tennis trousers, and that's summer time. The
little town changes to a sort of summer resort. There are visitors up
from the city. Every one of the seven cottages along the lake is full.
The Mariposa Belle churns the waters of the Wissanotti into foam as she
sails out from the wharf, in a cloud of flags, the band playing and the
daughters and sisters of the Knights of Pythias dancing gaily on the
deck.

That changes too. The days shorten. The visitors disappear. The golden
rod beside the meadow droops and withers on its stem. The maples blaze
in glory and die. The evening closes dark and chill, and in the gloom
of the main corner of Mariposa the Salvation Army around a naphtha lamp
lift up the confession of their sins--and that is autumn. Thus the year
runs its round, moving and changing in Mariposa, much as it does in
other places.

If, then, you feel that you know the town well enough to be admitted
into the inner life and movement of it, walk down this June afternoon
half way down the Main Street--or, if you like, half way up from the
wharf--to where Mr. Smith is standing at the door of his hostelry. You
will feel as you draw near that it is no ordinary man that you approach.
It is not alone the huge bulk of Mr. Smith (two hundred and eighty
pounds as tested on Netley's scales). It is not merely his costume,
though the chequered waistcoat of dark blue with a flowered pattern
forms, with his shepherd's plaid trousers, his grey spats and
patent-leather boots, a colour scheme of no mean order. Nor is it
merely Mr. Smith's finely mottled face. The face, no doubt, is a notable
one,--solemn, inexpressible, unreadable, the face of the heaven-born
hotel keeper. It is more than that. It is the strange dominating
personality of the man that somehow holds you captive. I know nothing in
history to compare with the position of Mr. Smith among those who drink
over his bar, except, though in a lesser degree, the relation of the
Emperor Napoleon to the Imperial Guard.

When you meet Mr. Smith first you think he looks like an over-dressed
pirate. Then you begin to think him a character. You wonder at his
enormous bulk. Then the utter hopelessness of knowing what Smith is
thinking by merely looking at his features gets on your mind and makes
the Mona Lisa seem an open book and the ordinary human countenance as
superficial as a puddle in the sunlight. After you have had a drink
in Mr. Smith's bar, and he has called you by your Christian name, you
realize that you are dealing with one of the greatest minds in the hotel
business.

Take, for instance, the big sign that sticks out into the street above
Mr. Smith's head as he stands. What is on it? "JOS. SMITH, PROP."
Nothing more, and yet the thing was a flash of genius. Other men who had
had the hotel before Mr. Smith had called it by such feeble names as
the Royal Hotel and the Queen's and the Alexandria. Every one of them
failed. When Mr. Smith took over the hotel he simply put up the sign
with "JOS. SMITH, PROP.," and then stood underneath in the sunshine as
a living proof that a man who weighs nearly three hundred pounds is the
natural king of the hotel business.

But on this particular afternoon, in spite of the sunshine and deep
peace, there was something as near to profound concern and anxiety as
the features of Mr. Smith were ever known to express.

The moment was indeed an anxious one. Mr. Smith was awaiting a telegram
from his legal adviser who had that day journeyed to the county town
to represent the proprietor's interest before the assembled License
Commissioners. If you know anything of the hotel business at all,
you will understand that as beside the decisions of the License
Commissioners of Missinaba County, the opinions of the Lords of the
Privy Council are mere trifles.

The matter in question was very grave. The Mariposa Court had just
fined Mr. Smith for the second time for selling liquors after hours. The
Commissioners, therefore, were entitled to cancel the license.

Mr. Smith knew his fault and acknowledged it. He had broken the law. How
he had come to do so, it passed his imagination to recall. Crime always
seems impossible in retrospect. By what sheer madness of the moment
could he have shut up the bar on the night in question, and shut Judge
Pepperleigh, the district judge in Missinaba County, outside of it? The
more so inasmuch as the closing up of the bar under the rigid license
law of the province was a matter that the proprietor never trusted to
any hands but his own. Punctually every night at 11 o'clock Mr. Smith
strolled from the desk of the "rotunda" to the door of the bar. If it
seemed properly full of people and all was bright and cheerful, then
he closed it. If not, he kept it open a few minutes longer till he had
enough people inside to warrant closing. But never, never unless he was
assured that Pepperleigh, the judge of the court, and Macartney, the
prosecuting attorney, were both safely in the bar, or the bar parlour,
did the proprietor venture to close up. Yet on this fatal night
Pepperleigh and Macartney had been shut out--actually left on the street
without a drink, and compelled to hammer and beat at the street door of
the bar to gain admittance.

This was the kind of thing not to be tolerated. Either a hotel must be
run decently or quit. An information was laid next day and Mr. Smith
convicted in four minutes,--his lawyers practically refusing to plead.
The Mariposa court, when the presiding judge was cold sober, and it
had the force of public opinion behind it, was a terrible engine of
retributive justice.

So no wonder that Mr. Smith awaited with anxiety the message of his
legal adviser.

He looked alternately up the street and down it again, hauled out his
watch from the depths of his embroidered pocket, and examined the hour
hand and the minute hand and the second hand with frowning scrutiny.

Then wearily, and as one mindful that a hotel man is ever the servant of
the public, he turned back into the hotel.

"Billy," he said to the desk clerk, "if a wire comes bring it into the
bar parlour."

The voice of Mr. Smith is of a deep guttural such as Plancon or Edouard
de Reske might have obtained had they had the advantages of the hotel
business. And with that, Mr. Smith, as was his custom in off moments,
joined his guests in the back room. His appearance, to the untrained
eye, was merely that of an extremely stout hotelkeeper walking from the
rotunda to the back bar. In reality, Mr. Smith was on the eve of one of
the most brilliant and daring strokes ever effected in the history of
licensed liquor. When I say that it was out of the agitation of this
situation that Smith's Ladies' and Gent's Cafe originated, anybody who
knows Mariposa will understand the magnitude of the moment.

Mr. Smith, then, moved slowly from the doorway of the hotel through the
"rotunda," or more simply the front room with the desk and the cigar
case in it, and so to the bar and thence to the little room or back bar
behind it. In this room, as I have said, the brightest minds of Mariposa
might commonly be found in the quieter part of a summer afternoon.

To-day there was a group of four who looked up as Mr. Smith entered,
somewhat sympathetically, and evidently aware of the perplexities of the
moment.

Henry Mullins and George Duff, the two bank managers, were both present.
Mullins is a rather short, rather round, smooth-shaven man of less than
forty, wearing one of those round banking suits of pepper and salt, with
a round banking hat of hard straw, and with the kind of gold tie-pin and
heavy watch-chain and seals necessary to inspire confidence in matters
of foreign exchange. Duff is just as round and just as short, and
equally smoothly shaven, while his seals and straw hat are calculated to
prove that the Commercial is just as sound a bank as the Exchange. From
the technical point of view of the banking business, neither of them had
any objection to being in Smith's Hotel or to taking a drink as long
as the other was present. This, of course, was one of the cardinal
principles of Mariposa banking.

Then there was Mr. Diston, the high school teacher, commonly known as
the "one who drank." None of the other teachers ever entered a hotel
unless accompanied by a lady or protected by a child. But as Mr.
Diston was known to drink beer on occasions and to go in and out of the
Mariposa House and Smith's Hotel, he was looked upon as a man whose life
was a mere wreck. Whenever the School Board raised the salaries of the
other teachers, fifty or sixty dollars per annum at one lift, it was
well understood that public morality wouldn't permit of an increase for
Mr. Diston.

Still more noticeable, perhaps, was the quiet, sallow looking man
dressed in black, with black gloves and with black silk hat heavily
craped and placed hollow-side-up on a chair. This was Mr. Golgotha
Gingham, the undertaker of Mariposa, and his dress was due to the fact
that he had just come from what he called an "interment." Mr. Gingham
had the true spirit of his profession, and such words as "funeral"
or "coffin" or "hearse" never passed his lips. He spoke always of
"interments," of "caskets," and "coaches," using terms that were
calculated rather to bring out the majesty and sublimity of death than
to parade its horrors.

To be present at the hotel was in accord with Mr. Gingham's general
conception of his business. No man had ever grasped the true principles
of undertaking more thoroughly than Mr. Gingham. I have often heard him
explain that to associate with the living, uninteresting though they
appear, is the only way to secure the custom of the dead.

"Get to know people really well while they are alive," said Mr. Gingham;
"be friends with them, close friends and then when they die you don't
need to worry. You'll get the order every time."

So, naturally, as the moment was one of sympathy, it was Mr. Gingham who
spoke first.

"What'll you do, Josh," he said, "if the Commissioners go against you?"

"Boys," said Mr. Smith, "I don't rightly know. If I have to quit, the
next move is to the city. But I don't reckon that I will have to quit.
I've got an idee that I think's good every time."

"Could you run a hotel in the city?" asked Mullins.

"I could," said Mr. Smith. "I'll tell you. There's big things doin'
in the hotel business right now, big chances if you go into it right.
Hotels in the city is branching out. Why, you take the dining-room
side of it," continued Mr. Smith, looking round at the group, "there's
thousands in it. The old plan's all gone. Folks won't eat now in an
ordinary dining-room with a high ceiling and windows. You have to get
'em down underground in a room with no windows and lots of sawdust round
and waiters that can't speak English. I seen them places last time I was
in the city. They call 'em Rats' Coolers. And for light meals they want
a Caff, a real French Caff, and for folks that come in late another
place that they call a Girl Room that don't shut up at all. If I go to
the city that's the kind of place I mean to run. What's yours, Gol? It's
on the house?"

And it was just at the moment when Mr. Smith said this that Billy, the
desk-clerk, entered the room with the telegram in his hand.

But stop--it is impossible for you to understand the anxiety with which
Mr. Smith and his associates awaited the news from the Commissioners,
without first realizing the astounding progress of Mr. Smith in the
three past years, and the pinnacle of public eminence to which he had
attained.

Mr. Smith had come down from the lumber country of the Spanish River,
where the divide is toward the Hudson Bay,--"back north" as they called
it in Mariposa.

He had been, it was said, a cook in the lumber shanties. To this day Mr.
Smith can fry an egg on both sides with a lightness of touch that is the
despair of his own "help."

After that, he had run a river driver's boarding-house.

After that, he had taken a food contract for a gang of railroad navvies
on the transcontinental.

After that, of course, the whole world was open to him.

He came down to Mariposa and bought out the "inside" of what had been
the Royal Hotel.

Those who are educated understand that by the "inside" of a hotel is
meant everything except the four outer walls of it--the fittings, the
furniture, the bar, Billy the desk-clerk, the three dining-room girls,
and above all the license granted by King Edward VII., and ratified
further by King George, for the sale of intoxicating liquors.

Till then the Royal had been a mere nothing. As "Smith's Hotel" it broke
into a blaze of effulgence.

From the first, Mr. Smith, as a proprietor, was a wild, rapturous
success.

He had all the qualifications.

He weighed two hundred and eighty pounds.

He could haul two drunken men out of the bar each by the scruff of the
neck without the faintest anger or excitement.

He carried money enough in his trousers pockets to start a bank, and
spent it on anything, bet it on anything, and gave it away in handfuls.

He was never drunk, and, as a point of chivalry to his customers, never
quite sober. Anybody was free of the hotel who cared to come in. Anybody
who didn't like it could go out. Drinks of all kinds cost five cents,
or six for a quarter. Meals and beds were practically free. Any persons
foolish enough to go to the desk and pay for them, Mr. Smith charged
according to the expression of their faces.

At first the loafers and the shanty men settled down on the place in a
shower. But that was not the "trade" that Mr. Smith wanted. He knew
how to get rid of them. An army of charwomen, turned into the hotel,
scrubbed it from top to bottom. A vacuum cleaner, the first seen in
Mariposa, hissed and screamed in the corridors. Forty brass beds were
imported from the city, not, of course, for the guests to sleep in, but
to keep them out. A bar-tender with a starched coat and wicker sleeves
was put behind the bar.

The loafers were put out of business. The place had become too "high
toned" for them.

To get the high class trade, Mr. Smith set himself to dress the part.
He wore wide cut coats of filmy serge, light as gossamer; chequered
waistcoats with a pattern for every day in the week; fedora hats light
as autumn leaves; four-in-hand ties of saffron and myrtle green with a
diamond pin the size of a hazel nut. On his fingers there were as many
gems as would grace a native prince of India; across his waistcoat lay
a gold watch-chain in huge square links and in his pocket a gold watch
that weighed a pound and a half and marked minutes, seconds and quarter
seconds. Just to look at Josh Smith's watch brought at least ten men to
the bar every evening.

Every morning Mr. Smith was shaved by Jefferson Thorpe, across the way.
All that art could do, all that Florida water could effect, was lavished
on his person.

Mr. Smith became a local character. Mariposa was at his feet. All the
reputable business-men drank at Mr. Smith's bar, and in the little
parlour behind it you might find at any time a group of the brightest
intellects in the town.

Not but what there was opposition at first. The clergy, for example,
who accepted the Mariposa House and the Continental as a necessary and
useful evil, looked askance at the blazing lights and the surging crowd
of Mr. Smith's saloon. They preached against him. When the Rev. Dean
Drone led off with a sermon on the text "Lord be merciful even unto this
publican Matthew Six," it was generally understood as an invitation to
strike Mr. Smith dead. In the same way the sermon at the Presbyterian
church the week after was on the text "Lo what now doeth Abiram in the
land of Melchisideck Kings Eight and Nine?" and it was perfectly plain
that what was meant was, "Lo, what is Josh Smith doing in Mariposa?"

But this opposition had been countered by a wide and sagacious
philanthropy. I think Mr. Smith first got the idea of that on the night
when the steam merry-go-round came to Mariposa. Just below the hostelry,
on an empty lot, it whirled and whistled, steaming forth its tunes on
the summer evening while the children crowded round it in hundreds. Down
the street strolled Mr. Smith, wearing a soft fedora to indicate that it
was evening.

"What d'you charge for a ride, boss?" said Mr. Smith.

"Two for a nickel," said the man.

"Take that," said Mr. Smith, handing out a ten-dollar bill from a roll
of money, "and ride the little folks free all evening."

That night the merry-go-round whirled madly till after midnight,
freighted to capacity with Mariposa children, while up in Smith's Hotel,
parents, friends and admirers, as the news spread, were standing four
deep along the bar. They sold forty dollars' worth of lager alone that
night, and Mr. Smith learned, if he had not already suspected it, the
blessedness of giving.

The uses of philanthropy went further. Mr. Smith subscribed to
everything, joined everything, gave to everything. He became an
Oddfellow, a Forester, A Knight of Pythias and a Workman. He gave a
hundred dollars to the Mariposa Hospital and a hundred dollars to the
Young Men's Christian Association.

He subscribed to the Ball Club, the Lacrosse Club, the Curling Club,
to anything, in fact, and especially to all those things which needed
premises to meet in and grew thirsty in their discussions.

As a consequence the Oddfellows held their annual banquet at Smith's
Hotel and the Oyster Supper of the Knights of Pythias was celebrated in
Mr. Smith's dining-room.

Even more effective, perhaps, were Mr. Smith's secret benefactions,
the kind of giving done by stealth of which not a soul in town knew
anything, often, for a week after it was done. It was in this way that
Mr. Smith put the new font in Dean Drone's church, and handed over a
hundred dollars to Judge Pepperleigh for the unrestrained use of the
Conservative party.

So it came about that, little by little, the antagonism had died down.
Smith's Hotel became an accepted institution in Mariposa. Even the
temperance people were proud of Mr. Smith as a sort of character who
added distinction to the town. There were moments, in the earlier quiet
of the morning, when Dean Drone would go so far as to step in to the
"rotunda" and collect a subscription. As for the Salvation Army, they
ran in and out all the time unreproved.

On only one point difficulty still remained. That was the closing of
the bar. Mr. Smith could never bring his mind to it,--not as a matter of
profit, but as a point of honour. It was too much for him to feel that
Judge Pepperleigh might be out on the sidewalk thirsty at midnight, that
the night hands of the Times-Herald on Wednesday might be compelled
to go home dry. On this point Mr. Smith's moral code was simplicity
itself,--do what is right and take the consequences. So the bar stayed
open.

Every town, I suppose, has its meaner spirits. In every genial
bosom some snake is warmed,--or, as Mr. Smith put it to Golgotha
Gingham--"there are some fellers even in this town skunks enough to
inform."

At first the Mariposa court quashed all indictments. The presiding
judge, with his spectacles on and a pile of books in front of him,
threatened the informer with the penitentiary. The whole bar of Mariposa
was with Mr. Smith. But by sheer iteration the informations had proved
successful. Judge Pepperleigh learned that Mr. Smith had subscribed a
hundred dollars for the Liberal party and at once fined him for keeping
open after hours. That made one conviction. On the top of this had come
the untoward incident just mentioned and that made two. Beyond that
was the deluge. This then was the exact situation when Billy, the desk
clerk, entered the back bar with the telegram in his hand.

"Here's your wire, sir," he said.

"What does it say?" said Mr. Smith.

He always dealt with written documents with a fine air of detachment. I
don't suppose there were ten people in Mariposa who knew that Mr. Smith
couldn't read.

Billy opened the message and read, "Commissioners give you three months
to close down."

"Let me read it," said Mr. Smith, "that's right, three months to close
down."

There was dead silence when the message was read. Everybody waited for
Mr. Smith to speak. Mr. Gingham instinctively assumed the professional
air of hopeless melancholy.

As it was afterwards recorded, Mr. Smith stood and "studied" with the
tray in his hand for at least four minutes. Then he spoke.

"Boys," he said, "I'll be darned if I close down till I'm ready to close
down. I've got an idee. You wait and I'll show you."

And beyond that, not another word did Mr. Smith say on the subject.

But within forty-eight hours the whole town knew that something was
doing. The hotel swarmed with carpenters, bricklayers and painters.
There was an architect up from the city with a bundle of blue prints
in his hand. There was an engineer taking the street level with a
theodolite, and a gang of navvies with shovels digging like fury as if
to dig out the back foundations of the hotel.

"That'll fool 'em," said Mr. Smith.

Half the town was gathered round the hotel crazy with excitement. But
not a word would the proprietor say. Great dray loads of square timber,
and two-by-eight pine joists kept arriving from the planing mill. There
was a pile of matched spruce sixteen feet high lying by the sidewalk.

Then the excavation deepened and the dirt flew, and the beams went up
and the joists across, and all the day from dawn till dusk the hammers
of the carpenters clattered away, working overtime at time and a half.

"It don't matter what it costs," said Mr. Smith; "get it done."

Rapidly the structure took form. It extended down the side street,
joining the hotel at a right angle. Spacious and graceful it looked as
it reared its uprights into the air.

Already you could see the place where the row of windows was to come, a
veritable palace of glass, it must be, so wide and commodious were they.
Below it, you could see the basement shaping itself, with a low ceiling
like a vault and big beams running across, dressed, smoothed, and ready
for staining. Already in the street there were seven crates of red and
white awning.

And even then nobody knew what it was, and it was not till the
seventeenth day that Mr. Smith, in the privacy of the back bar, broke
the silence and explained.

"I tell you, boys," he says, "it's a caff--like what they have in the
city--a ladies' and gent's caff, and that underneath (what's yours, Mr.
Mullins?) is a Rats' Cooler. And when I get her started, I'll hire a
French Chief to do the cooking, and for the winter I will put in a 'girl
room,' like what they have in the city hotels. And I'd like to see who's
going to close her up then."

Within two more weeks the plan was in operation. Not only was the caff
built but the very hotel was transformed. Awnings had broken out in a
red and white cloud upon its face, its every window carried a box of
hanging plants, and above in glory floated the Union Jack. The very
stationery was changed. The place was now Smith's Summer Pavilion. It
was advertised in the city as Smith's Tourists' Emporium, and Smith's
Northern Health Resort. Mr. Smith got the editor of the Times-Herald to
write up a circular all about ozone and the Mariposa pine woods, with
illustrations of the maskinonge (piscis mariposis) of Lake Wissanotti.

The Saturday after that circular hit the city in July, there were men
with fishing rods and landing nets pouring in on every train, almost
too fast to register. And if, in the face of that, a few little drops of
whiskey were sold over the bar, who thought of it?

But the caff! that, of course, was the crowning glory of the thing, that
and the Rats' Cooler below.

Light and cool, with swinging windows open to the air, tables with
marble tops, palms, waiters in white coats--it was the standing marvel
of Mariposa. Not a soul in the town except Mr. Smith, who knew it by
instinct, ever guessed that waiters and palms and marble tables can be
rented over the long distance telephone.

Mr. Smith was as good as his word. He got a French Chief with an
aristocratic saturnine countenance, and a moustache and imperial that
recalled the late Napoleon III. No one knew where Mr. Smith got him.
Some people in the town said he was a French marquis. Others said he was
a count and explained the difference.

No one in Mariposa had ever seen anything like the caff. All down the
side of it were the grill fires, with great pewter dish covers that went
up and down on a chain, and you could walk along the row and actually
pick out your own cutlet and then see the French marquis throw it on
to the broiling iron; you could watch a buckwheat pancake whirled
into existence under your eyes and see fowls' legs devilled, peppered,
grilled, and tormented till they lost all semblance of the original
Mariposa chicken.

Mr. Smith, of course, was in his glory.

"What have you got to-day, Alf?" he would say, as he strolled over to
the marquis. The name of the Chief was, I believe Alphonse, but "Alf"
was near enough for Mr. Smith.

The marquis would extend to the proprietor the menu, "Voila, m'sieu, la
carte du jour."

Mr. Smith, by the way, encouraged the use of the French language in
the caff. He viewed it, of course, solely in its relation to the hotel
business, and, I think, regarded it as a recent invention.

"It's comin' in all the time in the city," he said, "and y'aint expected
to understand it."

Mr. Smith would take the carte between his finger and thumb and stare
at it. It was all covered with such devices as Potage la Mariposa--Filet
Mignon a la proprietaire--Cotellete a la Smith, and so on.

But the greatest thing about the caff were the prices. Therein lay, as
everybody saw at once, the hopeless simplicity of Mr. Smith.

The prices stood fast at 25 cents a meal. You could come in and eat all
they had in the caff for a quarter.

"No, sir," Mr. Smith said stoutly, "I ain't going to try to raise no
prices on the public. The hotel's always been a quarter and the caff's a
quarter."

Full? Full of people?

Well, I should think so! From the time the caff opened at 11 till it
closed at 8.30, you could hardly find a table. Tourists, visitors,
travellers, and half the people of Mariposa crowded at the little
tables; crockery rattling, glasses tinkling on trays, corks popping, the
waiters in their white coats flying to and fro, Alphonse whirling the
cutlets and pancakes into the air, and in and through it all, Mr.
Smith, in a white flannel suit and a broad crimson sash about his waist.
Crowded and gay from morning to night, and even noisy in its hilarity.

Noisy, yes; but if you wanted deep quiet and cool, if you wanted to step
from the glare of a Canadian August to the deep shadow of an enchanted
glade,--walk down below into the Rats' Cooler. There you had it; dark
old beams (who could believe they were put there a month ago?), great
casks set on end with legends such as Amontillado Fino done in gilt on
a black ground, tall steins filled with German beer soft as moss, and a
German waiter noiseless as moving foam. He who entered the Rats'
Cooler at three of a summer afternoon was buried there for the day. Mr.
Golgotha Gingham spent anything from four to seven hours there of every
day. In his mind the place had all the quiet charm of an interment, with
none of its sorrows.

But at night, when Mr. Smith and Billy, the desk clerk, opened up the
cash register and figured out the combined losses of the caff and the
Rats' Cooler, Mr. Smith would say:

"Billy, just wait till I get the license renood, and I'll close up this
damn caff so tight they'll never know what hit her. What did that lamb
cost? Fifty cents a pound, was it? I figure it, Billy, that every one of
them hogs eats about a dollar's worth a grub for every twenty-five cents
they pay on it. As for Alf--by gosh, I'm through with him."

But that, of course, was only a confidential matter as between Mr. Smith
and Billy.

I don't know at what precise period it was that the idea of a petition
to the License Commissioners first got about the town. No one seemed to
know just who suggested it. But certain it was that public opinion
began to swing strongly towards the support of Mr. Smith. I think it was
perhaps on the day after the big fish dinner that Alphonse cooked for
the Mariposa Canoe Club (at twenty cents a head) that the feeling began
to find open expression. People said it was a shame that a man like Josh
Smith should be run out of Mariposa by three license commissioners. Who
were the license commissioners, anyway? Why, look at the license system
they had in Sweden; yes, and in Finland and in South America. Or, for
the matter of that, look at the French and Italians, who drink all day
and all night. Aren't they all right? Aren't they a musical people? Take
Napoleon, and Victor Hugo; drunk half the time, and yet look what they
did.

I quote these arguments not for their own sake, but merely to indicate
the changing temper of public opinion in Mariposa. Men would sit in the
caff at lunch perhaps for an hour and a half and talk about the license
question in general, and then go down into the Rats' Cooler and talk
about it for two hours more.

It was amazing the way the light broke in in the case of particular
individuals, often the most unlikely, and quelled their opposition.

Take, for example, the editor of the Newspacket. I suppose there wasn't
a greater temperance advocate in town. Yet Alphonse queered him with an
Omelette a la License in one meal.

Or take Pepperleigh himself, the judge of the Mariposa court. He was
put to the bad with a game pie,--pate normand aux fines herbes--the
real thing, as good as a trip to Paris in itself. After eating it,
Pepperleigh had the common sense to realize that it was sheer madness to
destroy a hotel that could cook a thing like that.

In the same way, the secretary of the School Board was silenced with a
stuffed duck a la Ossawippi.

Three members of the town council were converted with a Dindon farci a
la Josh Smith.

And then, finally, Mr. Diston persuaded Dean Drone to come, and as soon
as Mr. Smith and Alphonse saw him they landed him with a fried flounder
that even the apostles would have appreciated.

After that, every one knew that the license question was practically
settled. The petition was all over the town. It was printed in duplicate
at the Newspacket and you could see it lying on the counter of every
shop in Mariposa. Some of the people signed it twenty or thirty times.

It was the right kind of document too. It began--"Whereas in the bounty
of providence the earth putteth forth her luscious fruits and her
vineyards for the delight and enjoyment of mankind--" It made you
thirsty just to read it. Any man who read that petition over was wild to
get to the Rats' Cooler.

When it was all signed up they had nearly three thousand names on it.

Then Nivens, the lawyer, and Mr. Gingham (as a provincial official) took
it down to the county town, and by three o'clock that afternoon the
news had gone out from the long distance telephone office that Smith's
license was renewed for three years.

Rejoicings! Well, I should think so! Everybody was down wanting to
shake hands with Mr. Smith. They told him that he had done more to boom
Mariposa than any ten men in town. Some of them said he ought to run
for the town council, and others wanted to make him the Conservative
candidate for the next Dominion election. The caff was a mere babel
of voices, and even the Rats' Cooler was almost floated away from its
moorings.

And in the middle of it all, Mr. Smith found time to say to Billy,
the desk clerk: "Take the cash registers out of the caff and the Rats'
Cooler and start counting up the books."

And Billy said: "Will I write the letters for the palms and the tables
and the stuff to go back?"

And Mr. Smith said: "Get 'em written right away."

So all evening the laughter and the chatter and the congratulations went
on, and it wasn't till long after midnight that Mr. Smith was able to
join Billy in the private room behind the "rotunda." Even when he did,
there was a quiet and a dignity about his manner that had never been
there before. I think it must have been the new halo of the Conservative
candidacy that already radiated from his brow. It was, I imagine, at
this very moment that Mr. Smith first realised that the hotel business
formed the natural and proper threshold of the national legislature.

"Here's the account of the cash registers," said Billy.

"Let me see it," said Mr. Smith. And he studied the figures without a
word.

"And here's the letters about the palms, and here's Alphonse up to
yesterday--"

And then an amazing thing happened.

"Billy," said Mr. Smith, "tear'em up. I ain't going to do it. It ain't
right and I won't do it. They got me the license for to keep the caff
and I'm going to keep the caff. I don't need to close her. The bar's
good for anything from forty to a hundred a day now, with the Rats'
Cooler going good, and that caff will stay right here."

And stay it did.

There it stands, mind you, to this day. You've only to step round the
corner of Smith's Hotel on the side street and read the sign: LADIES'
AND GENT'S CAFE, just as large and as imposing as ever.

Mr. Smith said that he'd keep the caff, and when he saida thing he meant
it!

Of course there were changes, small changes.

I don't say, mind you, that the fillet de beef that you get there now is
perhaps quite up to the level of the filet de boeufs aux champignons of
the days of glory.

No doubt the lamb chops in Smith's Caff are often very much the same,
nowadays, as the lamb chops of the Mariposa House or the Continental.

Of course, things like Omelette aux Trufles practically died out when
Alphonse went. And, naturally, the leaving of Alphonse was inevitable.
No one knew just when he went, or why. But one morning he was gone. Mr.
Smith said that "Alf had to go back to his folks in the old country."

So, too, when Alf left, the use of the French language, as such, fell
off tremendously in the caff. Even now they use it to some extent. You
can still get fillet de beef, and saucisson au juice, but Billy the desk
clerk has considerable trouble with the spelling.

The Rats' Cooler, of course, closed down, or rather Mr. Smith closed it
for repairs, and there is every likelihood that it will hardly open for
three years. But the caff is there. They don't use the grills, because
there's no need to, with the hotel kitchen so handy.

The "girl room," I may say, was never opened. Mr. Smith promised it, it
is true, for the winter, and still talks of it. But somehow there's been
a sort of feeling against it. Every one in town admits that every big
hotel in the city has a "girl room" and that it must be all right.
Still, there's a certain--well, you know how sensitive opinion is in a
place like Mariposa.



TWO. The Speculations of Jefferson Thorpe

It was not until the mining boom, at the time when everybody went simply
crazy over the Cobalt and Porcupine mines of the new silver country near
the Hudson Bay, that Jefferson Thorpe reached what you might call public
importance in Mariposa.

Of course everybody knew Jeff and his little barber shop that stood just
across the street from Smith's Hotel. Everybody knew him and everybody
got shaved there. From early morning, when the commercial travellers off
the 6.30 express got shaved into the resemblance of human beings, there
were always people going in and out of the barber shop.

Mullins, the manager of the Exchange Bank, took his morning shave from
Jeff as a form of resuscitation, with enough wet towels laid on his face
to stew him and with Jeff moving about in the steam, razor in hand, as
grave as an operating surgeon.

Then, as I think I said, Mr. Smith came in every morning and there was
a tremendous outpouring of Florida water and rums, essences and revivers
and renovators, regardless of expense. What with Jeff's white coat and
Mr. Smith's flowered waistcoat and the red geranium in the window and
the Florida water and the double extract of hyacinth, the little shop
seemed multi-coloured and luxurious enough for the annex of a Sultan's
harem.

But what I mean is that, till the mining boom, Jefferson Thorpe never
occupied a position of real prominence in Mariposa. You couldn't, for
example, have compared him with a man like Golgotha Gingham, who,
as undertaker, stood in a direct relation to life and death, or to
Trelawney, the postmaster, who drew money from the Federal Government of
Canada, and was regarded as virtually a member of the Dominion Cabinet.

Everybody knew Jeff and liked him, but the odd thing was that till he
made money nobody took any stock in his ideas at all. It was only after
he made the "clean up" that they came to see what a splendid fellow
he was. "Level-headed" I think was the term; indeed in the speech of
Mariposa, the highest form of endowment was to have the head set on
horizontally as with a theodolite.

As I say, it was when Jeff made money that they saw how gifted he was,
and when he lost it,--but still, there's no need to go into that. I
believe it's something the same in other places too.

The barber shop, you will remember, stands across the street from
Smith's Hotel, and stares at it face to face.

It is one of those wooden structures--I don't know whether you know
them--with a false front that sticks up above its real height and gives
it an air at once rectangular and imposing. It is a form of architecture
much used in Mariposa and understood to be in keeping with the
pretentious and artificial character of modern business. There is a red,
white and blue post in front of the shop and the shop itself has a large
square window out of proportion to its little flat face.

Painted on the panes of the window is the remains of a legend that once
spelt BARBER SHOP, executed with the flourishes that prevailed in the
golden age of sign painting in Mariposa. Through the window you can see
the geraniums in the window shelf and behind them Jeff Thorpe with his
little black scull cap on and his spectacles drooped upon his nose as he
bends forward in the absorption of shaving.

As you open the door, it sets in violent agitation a coiled spring up
above and a bell that almost rings. Inside, there are two shaving chairs
of the heavier, or electrocution pattern, with mirrors in front of them
and pigeon holes with individual shaving mugs. There must be ever so
many of them, fifteen or sixteen. It is the current supposition of each
of Jeff's customers that everyone else but himself uses a separate mug.
One corner of the shop is partitioned off and bears the sign: HOT AND
COLD BATHS, 50 CENTS. There has been no bath inside the partition for
twenty years--only old newspapers and a mop. Still, it lends distinction
somehow, just as do the faded cardboard signs that hang against the
mirror with the legends: TURKISH SHAMPOO, 75 CENTS, and ROMAN MASSAGE,
$1.00.

They said commonly in Mariposa that Jeff made money out of the barber
shop. He may have, and it may have been that that turned his mind to
investment. But it's hard to see how he could. A shave cost five cents,
and a hair-cut fifteen (or the two, if you liked, for a quarter), and
at that it is hard to see how he could make money, even when he had both
chairs going and shaved first in one and then in the other.

You see, in Mariposa, shaving isn't the hurried, perfunctory thing that
it is in the city. A shave is looked upon as a form of physical pleasure
and lasts anywhere from twenty-five minutes to three-quarters of an
hour.

In the morning hours, perhaps, there was a semblance of haste about it,
but in the long quiet of the afternoon, as Jeff leaned forward towards
the customer, and talked to him in a soft confidential monotone, like a
portrait painter, the razor would go slower and slower, and pause and
stop, move and pause again, till the shave died away into the mere
drowse of conversation.

At such hours, the Mariposa barber shop would become a very Palace of
Slumber, and as you waited your turn in one of the wooden arm-chairs
beside the wall, what with the quiet of the hour, and the low drone of
Jeff's conversation, the buzzing of the flies against the window pane
and the measured tick of the clock above the mirror, your head sank
dreaming on your breast, and the Mariposa Newspacket rustled unheeded on
the floor. It makes one drowsy just to think of it!

The conversation, of course, was the real charm of the place. You see,
Jefferson's forte, or specialty, was information. He could tell you more
things within the compass of a half-hour's shave than you get in days
of laborious research in an encyclopaedia. Where he got it all, I
don't know, but I am inclined to think it came more or less out of the
newspapers.

In the city, people never read the newspapers, not really, only little
bits and scraps of them. But in Mariposa it's different. There they read
the whole thing from cover to cover, and they build up on it, in
the course of years, a range of acquirement that would put a college
president to the blush. Anybody who has ever heard Henry Mullins and
Peter Glover talk about the future of China will know just what I mean.

And, of course, the peculiarity of Jeff's conversation was that he could
suit it to his man every time. He had a kind of divination about it.
There was a certain kind of man that Jeff would size up sideways as
he stropped the razor, and in whose ear he would whisper: "I see where
Saint Louis has took four straight games off Chicago,"--and so hold him
fascinated to the end.

In the same way he would say to Mr. Smith: "I see where it says that
this 'Flying Squirl' run a dead heat for the King's Plate."

To a humble intellect like mine he would explain in full the relations
of the Keesar to the German Rich Dog.

But first and foremost, Jeff's specialty in the way of conversation
was finance and the money market, the huge fortunes that a man with the
right kind of head could make.

I've known Jefferson to pause in his shaving with the razor suspended
in the air as long as five minutes while he described, with his eye
half closed, exactly the kind of a head a man needed in order to make
a "haul" or a "clean up." It was evidently simply a matter of the head,
and as far as one could judge, Jeff's own was the very type required.
I don't know just at what time or how Jefferson first began his
speculative enterprises. It was probably in him from the start. There
is no doubt that the very idea of such things as Traction Stock and
Amalgamated Asbestos went to his head: and whenever he spoke of Mr.
Carnegie and Mr. Rockefeller, the yearning tone of his voice made it as
soft as lathered soap.

I suppose the most rudimentary form of his speculation was the hens.
That was years ago. He kept them out at the back of his house,--which
itself stood up a grass plot behind and beyond the barber shop,--and in
the old days Jeff would say, with a certain note of pride in his voice,
that The Woman had sold as many as two dozen eggs in a day to the summer
visitors.

But what with reading about Amalgamated Asbestos and Consolidated Copper
and all that, the hens began to seem pretty small business, and, in
any case, the idea of two dozen eggs at a cent apiece almost makes one
blush. I suppose a good many of us have felt just as Jeff did about our
poor little earnings. Anyway, I remember Jeff telling me one day that
he could take the whole lot of the hens and sell them off and crack
the money into Chicago wheat on margin and turn it over in twenty-four
hours. He did it too. Only somehow when it was turned over it came
upside down on top of the hens.

After that the hen house stood empty and The Woman had to throw away
chicken feed every day, at a dead loss of perhaps a shave and a half.
But it made no difference to Jeff, for his mind had floated away already
on the possibilities of what he called "displacement" mining on the
Yukon.

So you can understand that when the mining boom struck Mariposa,
Jefferson Thorpe was in it right from the very start. Why, no wonder; it
seemed like the finger of Providence. Here was this great silver country
spread out to north of us, where people had thought there was only a
wilderness. And right at our very doors! You could see, as I saw, the
night express going north every evening; for all one knew Rockefeller or
Carnegie or anyone might be on it! Here was the wealth of Calcutta, as
the Mariposa Newspacket put it, poured out at our very feet.

So no wonder the town went wild! All day in the street you could
hear men talking of veins, and smelters and dips and deposits and
faults,--the town hummed with it like a geology class on examination
day. And there were men about the hotels with mining outfits and
theodolites and dunnage bags, and at Smith's bar they would hand chunks
of rock up and down, some of which would run as high as ten drinks to
the pound.

The fever just caught the town and ran through it! Within a fortnight
they put a partition down Robertson's Coal and Wood Office and opened
the Mariposa Mining Exchange, and just about every man on the Main
Street started buying scrip. Then presently young Fizzlechip, who had
been teller in Mullins's Bank and that everybody had thought a worthless
jackass before, came back from the Cobalt country with a fortune, and
loafed round in the Mariposa House in English khaki and a horizontal
hat, drunk all the time, and everybody holding him up as an example of
what it was possible to do if you tried.

They all went in. Jim Eliot mortgaged the inside of the drug store and
jammed it into Twin Tamagami. Pete Glover at the hardware store bought
Nippewa stock at thirteen cents and sold it to his brother at seventeen
and bought it back in less than a week at nineteen. They didn't care!
They took a chance. Judge Pepperleigh put the rest of his wife's money
into Temiskaming Common, and Lawyer Macartney got the fever, too, and
put every cent that his sister possessed into Tulip Preferred.

And even when young Fizzlechip shot himself in the back room of the
Mariposa House, Mr. Gingham buried him in a casket with silver handles
and it was felt that there was a Monte Carlo touch about the whole
thing.

They all went in--or all except Mr. Smith. You see, Mr. Smith had come
down from there, and he knew all about rocks and mining and canoes and
the north country. He knew what it was to eat flour-baked dampers under
the lee side of a canoe propped among the underbrush, and to drink the
last drop of whiskey within fifty miles. Mr. Smith had mighty little use
for the north. But what he did do, was to buy up enough early potatoes
to send fifteen carload lots into Cobalt at a profit of five dollars a
bag.

Mr. Smith, I say, hung back. But Jeff Thorpe was in the mining boom
right from the start. He bought in on the Nippewa mine even before the
interim prospectus was out. He took a "block" of 100 shares of
Abbitibbi Development at fourteen cents, and he and Johnson, the livery
stablekeeper next door, formed a syndicate and got a thousand shares
of Metagami Lake at 3 1/4 cents and then "unloaded" them on one of the
sausage men at Netley's butcher shop at a clear cent per cent advance.

Jeff would open the little drawer below the mirror in the barber
shop and show you all kinds and sorts of Cobalt country mining
certificates,--blue ones, pink ones, green ones, with outlandish and
fascinating names on them that ran clear from the Mattawa to the Hudson
Bay.

And right from the start he was confident of winning. "There ain't no
difficulty to it," he said, "there's lots of silver up there in that
country and if you buy some here and some there you can't fail to come
out somewhere. I don't say," he used to continue, with the scissors open
and ready to cut, "that some of the greenhorns won't get bit. But if a
feller knows the country and keeps his head level, he can't lose."

Jefferson had looked at so many prospectuses and so many pictures of
mines and pine trees and smelters, that I think he'd forgotten that he'd
never been in the country. Anyway, what's two hundred miles!

To an onlooker it certainly didn't seem so simple. I never knew the
meanness, the trickery, of the mining business, the sheer obstinate
determination of the bigger capitalists not to make money when they
might, till I heard the accounts of Jeff's different mines. Take the
case of Corona Jewel. There was a good mine, simply going to ruin for
lack of common sense.

"She ain't been developed," Jeff would say. "There's silver enough in
her so you could dig it out with a shovel. She's full of it. But they
won't get at her and work her."

Then he'd take a look at the pink and blue certificates of the Corona
Jewel and slam the drawer on them in disgust. Worse than that was
the Silent Pine,--a clear case of stupid incompetence! Utter lack of
engineering skill was all that was keeping the Silent Pine from making a
fortune for its holders.

"The only trouble with that mine," said Jeff, "is they won't go deep
enough. They followed the vein down to where it kind o' thinned out and
then they quit. If they'd just go right into her good, they'd get it
again. She's down there all right."

But perhaps the meanest case of all was the Northern Star. That always
seemed to me, every time I heard of it, a straight case for the criminal
law. The thing was so evidently a conspiracy.

"I bought her," said Jeff, "at thirty-two, and she stayed right there
tight, like she was stuck. Then a bunch of these fellers in the city
started to drive her down and they got her pushed down to twenty-four,
and I held on to her and they shoved her down to twenty-one. This
morning they've got her down to sixteen, but I don't mean to let go. No,
sir."

In another fortnight they shoved her, the same unscrupulous crowd, down
to nine cents, and Jefferson still held on. "They're working her down,"
he admitted, "but I'm holding her."

No conflict between vice and virtue was ever grimmer.

"She's at six," said Jeff, "but I've got her. They can't squeeze me."

A few days after that, the same criminal gang had her down further than
ever.

"They've got her down to three cents," said Jeff, "but I'm with her.
Yes, sir, they think they can shove her clean off the market, but
they can't do it. I've boughten in Johnson's shares, and the whole of
Netley's, and I'll stay with her till she breaks."

So they shoved and pushed and clawed her down--that unseen nefarious
crowd in the city--and Jeff held on to her and they writhed and twisted
at his grip, and then--

And then--well, that's just the queer thing about the mining business.
Why, sudden as a flash of lightning, it seemed, the news came over the
wire to the Mariposa Newspacket, that they had struck a vein of silver
in the Northern Star as thick as a sidewalk, and that the stock had
jumped to seventeen dollars a share, and even at that you couldn't get
it! And Jeff stood there flushed and half-staggered against the mirror
of the little shop, with a bunch of mining scrip in his hand that was
worth forty thousand dollars!

Excitement! It was all over the town in a minutes. They ran off a news
extra at the Mariposa Newspacket, and in less than no time there wasn't
standing room in the barber shop, and over in Smith's Hotel they had
three extra barkeepers working on the lager beer pumps.

They were selling mining shares on the Main Street in Mariposa that
afternoon and people were just clutching for them. Then at night there
was a big oyster supper in Smith's caff, with speeches, and the Mariposa
band outside.

And the queer thing was that the very next afternoon was the funeral
of young Fizzlechip, and Dean Drone had to change the whole text of
his Sunday sermon at two days' notice for fear of offending public
sentiment.

But I think what Jeff liked best of it all was the sort of public
recognition that it meant. He'd stand there in the shop, hardly
bothering to shave, and explain to the men in the arm-chairs how he held
her, and they shoved her, and he clung to her, and what he'd said to
himself--a perfect Iliad--while he was clinging to her.

The whole thing was in the city papers a few days after with a
photograph of Jeff, taken specially at Ed Moore's studio (upstairs over
Netley's). It showed Jeff sitting among palm trees, as all mining men
do, with one hand on his knee, and a dog, one of those regular mining
dogs, at his feet, and a look of piercing intelligence in his face that
would easily account for forty thousand dollars.

I say that the recognition meant a lot to Jeff for its own sake. But no
doubt the fortune meant quite a bit to him too on account of Myra.

Did I mention Myra, Jeff's daughter? Perhaps not. That's the
trouble with the people in Mariposa; they're all so separate and so
different--not a bit like the people in the cities--that unless you hear
about them separately and one by one you can't for a moment understand
what they're like.

Myra had golden hair and a Greek face and would come bursting through
the barber shop in a hat at least six inches wider than what they
wear in Paris. As you saw her swinging up the street to the Telephone
Exchange in a suit that was straight out of the Delineator and brown
American boots, there was style written all over her,--the kind of
thing that Mariposa recognised and did homage to. And to see her in the
Exchange,--she was one of the four girls that I spoke of,--on her high
stool with a steel cap on,--jabbing the connecting plugs in and out
as if electricity cost nothing--well, all I mean is that you could
understand why it was that the commercial travellers would stand round
in the Exchange calling up all sorts of impossible villages, and
waiting about so pleasant and genial!--it made one realize how naturally
good-tempered men are. And then when Myra would go off duty and Miss
Cleghorn, who was sallow, would come on, the commercial men would be off
again like autumn leaves.

It just shows the difference between people. There was Myra who treated
lovers like dogs and would slap them across the face with a banana skin
to show her utter independence. And there was Miss Cleghorn, who was
sallow, and who bought a forty cent Ancient History to improve herself:
and yet if she'd hit any man in Mariposa with a banana skin, he'd have
had her arrested for assault.

Mind you, I don't mean that Myra was merely flippant and worthless. Not
at all. She was a girl with any amount of talent. You should have heard
her recite "The Raven," at the Methodist Social! Simply genius! And when
she acted Portia in the Trial Scene of the Merchant of Venice at the
High School concert, everybody in Mariposa admitted that you couldn't
have told it from the original.

So, of course, as soon as Jeff made the fortune, Myra had her
resignation in next morning and everybody knew that she was to go to
a dramatic school for three months in the fall and become a leading
actress.

But, as I said, the public recognition counted a lot for Jeff. The
moment you begin to get that sort of thing it comes in quickly enough.
Brains, you know, are recognized right away. That was why, of course,
within a week from this Jeff received the first big packet of stuff from
the Cuban Land Development Company, with coloured pictures of Cuba,
and fields of bananas, and haciendas and insurrectos with machetes and
Heaven knows what. They heard of him, somehow,--it wasn't for a modest
man like Jefferson to say how. After all, the capitalists of the world
are just one and the same crowd. If you're in it, you're in it, that's
all! Jeff realized why it is that of course men like Carnegie or
Rockefeller and Morgan all know one another. They have to.

For all I know, this Cuban stuff may have been sent from Morgan himself.
Some of the people in Mariposa said yes, others said no. There was no
certainty.

Anyway, they were fair and straight, this Cuban crowd that wrote to
Jeff. They offered him to come right in and be one of themselves. If a
man's got the brains, you may as well recognize it straight away. Just
as well write him to be a director now as wait and hesitate till he
forces his way into it.

Anyhow, they didn't hesitate, these Cuban people that wrote to Jeff from
Cuba--or from a post-office box in New York--it's all the same thing,
because Cuba being so near to New York the mail is all distributed from
there. I suppose in some financial circles they might have been slower,
wanted guarantees of some sort, and so on, but these Cubans, you
know, have got a sort of Spanish warmth of heart that you don't see
in business men in America, and that touches you. No, they asked no
guarantee. Just send the money whether by express order or by bank draft
or cheque, they left that entirely to oneself, as a matter between Cuban
gentlemen.

And they were quite frank about their enterprise--bananas and tobacco
in the plantation district reclaimed from the insurrectos. You
could see it all there in the pictures--tobacco plants and the
insurrectos--everything. They made no rash promises, just admitted
straight out that the enterprise might realise 400 per cent. or might
conceivably make less. There was no hint of more.

So within a month, everybody in Mariposa knew that Jeff Thorpe was "in
Cuban lands" and would probably clean up half a million by New Year's.
You couldn't have failed to know it. All round the little shop there
were pictures of banana groves and the harbour of Habana, and Cubans in
white suits and scarlet sashes, smoking cigarettes in the sun and too
ignorant to know that you can make four hundred per cent. by planting a
banana tree.

I liked it about Jeff that he didn't stop shaving. He went on just
the same. Even when Johnson, the livery stable man, came in with five
hundred dollars and asked him to see if the Cuban Board of Directors
would let him put it in, Jeff laid it in the drawer and then shaved him
for five cents, in the same old way. Of course, he must have felt proud
when, a few days later, he got a letter from the Cuban people, from New
York, accepting the money straight off without a single question, and
without knowing anything more of Johnson except that he was a friend of
Jeff's. They wrote most handsomely. Any friends of Jeff's were friends
of Cuba. All money they might send would be treated just as Jeff's would
be treated.

One reason, perhaps, why Jeff didn't give up shaving was because it
allowed him to talk about Cuba. You see, everybody knew in Mariposa that
Jeff Thorpe had sold out of Cobalts and had gone into Cuban Renovated
Lands--and that spread round him a kind of halo of wealth and mystery
and outlandishness--oh, something Spanish. Perhaps you've felt it about
people that you know. Anyhow, they asked him about the climate, and
yellow fever and what the negroes were like and all that sort of thing.

"This Cubey, it appears is an island," Jeff would explain. Of
course, everybody knows how easily islands lend themselves to making
money,--"and for fruit, they say it comes up so fast you can't stop
it." And then he would pass into details about the Hash-enders and the
resurrectos and technical things like that till it was thought a wonder
how he could know it. Still, it was realized that a man with money has
got to know these things. Look at Morgan and Rockefeller and all the men
that make a pile. They know just as much as Jeff did about the countries
where they make it. It stands to reason.

Did I say that Jeff shaved in the same old way? Not quite. There was
something even dreamier about it now, and a sort of new element in the
way Jeff fell out of his monotone into lapses of thought that I, for
one, misunderstood. I thought that perhaps getting so much money,--well,
you know the way it acts on people in the larger cities. It seemed
to spoil one's idea of Jeff that copper and asbestos and banana lands
should form the goal of his thought when, if he knew it, the little shop
and the sunlight of Mariposa was so much better.

In fact, I had perhaps borne him a grudge for what seemed to me his
perpetual interest in the great capitalists. He always had some item out
of the paper about them.

"I see where this here Carnegie has give fifty thousand dollars for one
of them observatories," he would say.

And another day he would pause in the course of shaving, and almost
whisper: "Did you ever _see_ this Rockefeller?"

It was only by a sort of accident that I came to know that there was
another side to Jefferson's speculation that no one in Mariposa ever
knew, or will ever know now.

I knew it because I went in to see Jeff in his house one night. The
house,--I think I said it,--stood out behind the barber shop. You went
out of the back door of the shop, and through a grass plot with petunias
beside it, and the house stood at the end. You could see the light
of the lamp behind the blind, and through the screen door as you came
along. And it was here that Jefferson used to sit in the evenings when
the shop got empty.

There was a round table that The Woman used to lay for supper, and after
supper there used to be a chequered cloth on it and a lamp with a shade.
And beside it Jeff would sit, with his spectacles on and the paper
spread out, reading about Carnegie and Rockefeller. Near him, but away
from the table, was The Woman doing needlework, and Myra, when she
wasn't working in the Telephone Exchange, was there too with her elbows
on the table reading Marie Corelli--only now, of course, after the
fortune, she was reading the prospectuses of Dramatic Schools.

So this night,--I don't know just what it was in the paper that caused
it,--Jeff laid down what he was reading and started to talk about
Carnegie.

"This Carnegie, I bet you, would be worth," said Jeff, closing up his
eyes in calculation, "as much as perhaps two million dollars, if you was
to sell him up. And this Rockefeller and this Morgan, either of them, to
sell them up clean, would be worth another couple of million--"

I may say in parentheses that it was a favourite method in Mariposa if
you wanted to get at the real worth of a man, to imagine him clean sold
up, put up for auction, as it were. It was the only way to test him.

"And now look at 'em," Jeff went on. "They make their money and what do
they do with it? They give it away. And who do they give it to? Why, to
those as don't want it, every time. They give it to these professors and
to this research and that, and do the poor get any of it? Not a cent and
never will."

"I tell you, boys," continued Jeff (there were no boys present, but in
Mariposa all really important speeches are addressed to an imaginary
audience of boys)--"I tell you, if I was to make a million out of this
Cubey, I'd give it straight to the poor, yes, sir--divide it up into a
hundred lots of a thousand dollars each and give it to the people that
hadn't nothing."

So always after that I knew just what those bananas were being grown
for.

Indeed, after that, though Jefferson never spoke of his intentions
directly, he said a number of things that seemed to bear on them. He
asked me, for instance, one day, how many blind people it would take to
fill one of these blind homes and how a feller could get ahold of them.
And at another time he asked whether if a feller advertised for some of
these incurables a feller could get enough of them to make a showing.
I know for a fact that he got Nivens, the lawyer, to draw up a document
that was to give an acre of banana land in Cuba to every idiot in
Missinaba county.

But still,--what's the use of talking of what Jeff meant to do? Nobody
knows or cares about it now.

The end of it was bound to come. Even in Mariposa some of the people
must have thought so. Else how was it that Henry Mullins made such a
fuss about selling a draft for forty thousand on New York? And why was
it that Mr. Smith wouldn't pay Billy, the desk clerk, his back wages
when he wanted to put it into Cuba?

Oh yes; some of them must have seen it. And yet when it came it seemed
so quiet,--ever so quiet,--not a bit like the Northern Star mine and
the oyster supper and the Mariposa band. It is strange how quiet these
things look, the other way round.

You remember the Cuban Land frauds in New York and Porforio Gomez
shooting the detective, and him and Maximo Morez getting clear away with
two hundred thousand? No, of course you don't; why, even in the city
papers it only filled an inch or two of type, and anyway the names were
hard to remember. That was Jeff's money--part of it. Mullins got the
telegram, from a broker or someone, and he showed it to Jeff just as he
was going up the street with an estate agent to look at a big empty lot
on the hill behind the town--the very place for these incurables.

And Jeff went back to the shop so quiet--have you ever seen an animal
that is stricken through, how quiet it seems to move?

Well, that's how he walked.

And since that, though it's quite a little while ago, the shop's open
till eleven every night now, and Jeff is shaving away to pay back that
five hundred that Johnson, the livery man, sent to the Cubans, and--

Pathetic? tut! tut! You don't know Mariposa. Jeff has to work pretty
late, but that's nothing--nothing at all, if you've worked hard all your
lifetime. And Myra is back at the Telephone Exchange--they were glad
enough to get her, and she says now that if there's one thing she hates,
it's the stage, and she can't see how the actresses put up with it.

Anyway, things are not so bad. You see it was just at this time that
Mr. Smith's caff opened, and Mr. Smith came to Jeff's Woman and said he
wanted seven dozen eggs a day, and wanted them handy, and so the hens
are back, and more of them, and they exult so every morning over the
eggs they lay that if you wanted to talk of Rockefeller in the barber
shop you couldn't hear his name for the cackling.



THREE. The Marine Excursions of the Knights of Pythias

Half-past six on a July morning! The Mariposa Belle is at the wharf,
decked in flags, with steam up ready to start.

Excursion day!

Half past six on a July morning, and Lake Wissanotti lying in the sun as
calm as glass. The opal colours of the morning light are shot from the
surface of the water.

Out on the lake the last thin threads of the mist are clearing away like
flecks of cotton wool.

The long call of the loon echoes over the lake. The air is cool and
fresh. There is in it all the new life of the land of the silent pine
and the moving waters. Lake Wissanotti in the morning sunlight! Don't
talk to me of the Italian lakes, or the Tyrol or the Swiss Alps. Take
them away. Move them somewhere else. I don't want them.

Excursion Day, at half past six of a summer morning! With the boat all
decked in flags and all the people in Mariposa on the wharf, and the
band in peaked caps with big cornets tied to their bodies ready to play
at any minute! I say! Don't tell me about the Carnival of Venice and
the Delhi Durbar. Don't! I wouldn't look at them. I'd shut my eyes! For
light and colour give me every time an excursion out of Mariposa down
the lake to the Indian's Island out of sight in the morning mist. Talk
of your Papal Zouaves and your Buckingham Palace Guard! I want to see
the Mariposa band in uniform and the Mariposa Knights of Pythias with
their aprons and their insignia and their picnic baskets and their
five-cent cigars!

Half past six in the morning, and all the crowd on the wharf and the
boat due to leave in half an hour. Notice it!--in half an hour. Already
she's whistled twice (at six, and at six fifteen), and at any minute
now, Christie Johnson will step into the pilot house and pull the string
for the warning whistle that the boat will leave in half an hour.
So keep ready. Don't think of running back to Smith's Hotel for the
sandwiches. Don't be fool enough to try to go up to the Greek Store,
next to Netley's, and buy fruit. You'll be left behind for sure if you
do. Never mind the sandwiches and the fruit! Anyway, here comes Mr.
Smith himself with a huge basket of provender that would feed a factory.
There must be sandwiches in that. I think I can hear them clinking.
And behind Mr. Smith is the German waiter from the caff with another
basket--indubitably lager beer; and behind him, the bar-tender of the
hotel, carrying nothing, as far as one can see. But of course if you
know Mariposa you will understand that why he looks so nonchalant and
empty-handed is because he has two bottles of rye whiskey under his
linen duster. You know, I think, the peculiar walk of a man with two
bottles of whiskey in the inside pockets of a linen coat. In Mariposa,
you see, to bring beer to an excursion is quite in keeping with public
opinion. But, whiskey,--well, one has to be a little careful.

Do I say that Mr. Smith is here? Why, everybody's here. There's Hussell
the editor of the Newspacket, wearing a blue ribbon on his coat, for
the Mariposa Knights of Pythias are, by their constitution, dedicated to
temperance; and there's Henry Mullins, the manager of the Exchange Bank,
also a Knight of Pythias, with a small flask of Pogram's Special in his
hip pocket as a sort of amendment to the constitution. And there's Dean
Drone, the Chaplain of the Order, with a fishing-rod (you never saw
such green bass as lie among the rocks at Indian's Island), and with
a trolling line in case of maskinonge, and a landing net in case of
pickerel, and with his eldest daughter, Lilian Drone, in case of young
men. There never was such a fisherman as the Rev. Rupert Drone.


Perhaps I ought to explain that when I speak of the excursion as being
of the Knights of Pythias, the thing must not be understood in any
narrow sense. In Mariposa practically everybody belongs to the Knights
of Pythias just as they do to everything else. That's the great thing
about the town and that's what makes it so different from the city.
Everybody is in everything.

You should see them on the seventeenth of March, for example, when
everybody wears a green ribbon and they're all laughing and glad,--you
know what the Celtic nature is,--and talking about Home Rule.

On St. Andrew's Day every man in town wears a thistle and shakes hands
with everybody else, and you see the fine old Scotch honesty beaming out
of their eyes.

And on St. George's Day!--well, there's no heartiness like the good old
English spirit, after all; why shouldn't a man feel glad that he's an
Englishman?

Then on the Fourth of July there are stars and stripes flying over half
the stores in town, and suddenly all the men are seen to smoke cigars,
and to know all about Roosevelt and Bryan and the Philippine Islands.
Then you learn for the first time that Jeff Thorpe's people came from
Massachusetts and that his uncle fought at Bunker Hill (it must have
been Bunker Hill,--anyway Jefferson will swear it was in Dakota all
right enough); and you find that George Duff has a married sister in
Rochester and that her husband is all right; in fact, George was down
there as recently as eight years ago. Oh, it's the most American town
imaginable is Mariposa,--on the fourth of July.

But wait, just wait, if you feel anxious about the solidity of the
British connection, till the twelfth of the month, when everybody is
wearing an orange streamer in his coat and the Orangemen (every man in
town) walk in the big procession. Allegiance! Well, perhaps you remember
the address they gave to the Prince of Wales on the platform of the
Mariposa station as he went through on his tour to the west. I think
that pretty well settled that question. So you will easily understand
that of course everybody belongs to the Knights of Pythias and the
Masons and Oddfellows, just as they all belong to the Snow Shoe Club and
the Girls' Friendly Society.

And meanwhile the whistle of the steamer has blown again for a quarter
to seven:--loud and long this time, for any one not here now is late
for certain; unless he should happen to come down in the last fifteen
minutes.

What a crowd upon the wharf and how they pile on to the steamer! It's a
wonder that the boat can hold them all. But that's just the marvellous
thing about the Mariposa Belle.

I don't know,--I have never known,--where the steamers like the Mariposa
Belle come from. Whether they are built by Harland and Wolff of Belfast,
or whether, on the other hand, they are not built by Harland and Wolff
of Belfast, is more than one would like to say offhand.

The Mariposa Belle always seems to me to have some of those strange
properties that distinguish Mariposa itself. I mean, her size seems to
vary so. If you see her there in the winter, frozen in the ice beside
the wharf with a snowdrift against the windows of the pilot house, she
looks a pathetic little thing the size of a butternut. But in the summer
time, especially after you've been in Mariposa for a month or two, and
have paddled alongside of her in a canoe, she gets larger and taller,
and with a great sweep of black sides, till you see no difference
between the Mariposa Belle and the Lusitania. Each one is a big steamer
and that's all you can say.

Nor do her measurements help you much. She draws about eighteen inches
forward, and more than that,--at least half an inch more, astern, and
when she's loaded down with an excursion crowd she draws a good two
inches more. And above the water,--why, look at all the decks on her!
There's the deck you walk on to, from the wharf, all shut in, with
windows along it, and the after cabin with the long table, and above
that the deck with all the chairs piled upon it, and the deck in front
where the band stand round in a circle, and the pilot house is higher
than that, and above the pilot house is the board with the gold name and
the flag pole and the steel ropes and the flags; and fixed in somewhere
on the different levels is the lunch counter where they sell the
sandwiches, and the engine room, and down below the deck level, beneath
the water line, is the place where the crew sleep. What with steps and
stairs and passages and piles of cordwood for the engine,--oh no, I
guess Harland and Wolff didn't build her. They couldn't have.

Yet even with a huge boat like the Mariposa Belle, it would be
impossible for her to carry all of the crowd that you see in the boat
and on the wharf. In reality, the crowd is made up of two classes,--all
of the people in Mariposa who are going on the excursion and all those
who are not. Some come for the one reason and some for the other.

The two tellers of the Exchange Bank are both there standing side by
side. But one of them,--the one with the cameo pin and the long face
like a horse,--is going, and the other,--with the other cameo pin and
the face like another horse,--is not. In the same way, Hussell of the
Newspacket is going, but his brother, beside him, isn't. Lilian Drone is
going, but her sister can't; and so on all through the crowd.


And to think that things should look like that on the morning of a
steamboat accident.

How strange life is!

To think of all these people so eager and anxious to catch the steamer,
and some of them running to catch it, and so fearful that they might
miss it,--the morning of a steamboat accident. And the captain blowing
his whistle, and warning them so severely that he would leave them
behind,--leave them out of the accident! And everybody crowding so
eagerly to be in the accident.

Perhaps life is like that all through.

Strangest of all to think, in a case like this, of the people who were
left behind, or in some way or other prevented from going, and always
afterwards told of how they had escaped being on board the Mariposa
Belle that day!

Some of the instances were certainly extraordinary. Nivens, the lawyer,
escaped from being there merely by the fact that he was away in the
city.

Towers, the tailor, only escaped owing to the fact that, not intending
to go on the excursion he had stayed in bed till eight o'clock and so
had not gone. He narrated afterwards that waking up that morning
at half-past five, he had thought of the excursion and for some
unaccountable reason had felt glad that he was not going.


The case of Yodel, the auctioneer, was even more inscrutable. He had
been to the Oddfellows' excursion on the train the week before and to
the Conservative picnic the week before that, and had decided not to
go on this trip. In fact, he had not the least intention of going. He
narrated afterwards how the night before someone had stopped him on the
corner of Nippewa and Tecumseh Streets (he indicated the very spot) and
asked: "Are you going to take in the excursion to-morrow?" and he had
said, just as simply as he was talking when narrating it: "No." And ten
minutes after that, at the corner of Dalhousie and Brock Streets (he
offered to lead a party of verification to the precise place) somebody
else had stopped him and asked: "Well, are you going on the steamer trip
to-morrow?" Again he had answered: "No," apparently almost in the same
tone as before.

He said afterwards that when he heard the rumour of the accident
it seemed like the finger of Providence, and fell on his knees in
thankfulness.

There was the similar case of Morison (I mean the one in Glover's
hardware store that married one of the Thompsons). He said afterwards
that he had read so much in the papers about accidents lately,--mining
accidents, and aeroplanes and gasoline,--that he had grown nervous. The
night before his wife had asked him at supper: "Are you going on the
excursion?" He had answered: "No, I don't think I feel like it," and had
added: "Perhaps your mother might like to go." And the next evening just
at dusk, when the news ran through the town, he said the first thought
that flashed through his head was: "Mrs. Thompson's on that boat."

He told this right as I say it--without the least doubt or confusion. He
never for a moment imagined she was on the Lusitania or the Olympic
or any other boat. He knew she was on this one. He said you could have
knocked him down where he stood. But no one had. Not even when he got
halfway down,--on his knees, and it would have been easier still to
knock him down or kick him. People do miss a lot of chances.

Still, as I say, neither Yodel nor Morison nor anyone thought about
there being an accident until just after sundown when they--

Well, have you ever heard the long booming whistle of a steamboat two
miles out on the lake in the dusk, and while you listen and count and
wonder, seen the crimson rockets going up against the sky and then heard
the fire bell ringing right there beside you in the town, and seen the
people running to the town wharf?

That's what the people of Mariposa saw and felt that summer evening as
they watched the Mackinaw life-boat go plunging out into the lake
with seven sweeps to a side and the foam clear to the gunwale with the
lifting stroke of fourteen men!

But, dear me, I am afraid that this is no way to tell a story. I suppose
the true art would have been to have said nothing about the accident
till it happened. But when you write about Mariposa, or hear of it, if
you know the place, it's all so vivid and real that a thing like the
contrast between the excursion crowd in the morning and the scene at
night leaps into your mind and you must think of it.


But never mind about the accident,--let us turn back again to the
morning.

The boat was due to leave at seven. There was no doubt about the
hour,--not only seven, but seven sharp. The notice in the Newspacket
said: "The boat will leave sharp at seven;" and the advertising posters
on the telegraph poles on Missinaba Street that began "Ho, for Indian's
Island!" ended up with the words: "Boat leaves at seven sharp." There
was a big notice on the wharf that said: "Boat leaves sharp on time."

So at seven, right on the hour, the whistle blew loud and long, and then
at seven fifteen three short peremptory blasts, and at seven thirty one
quick angry call,--just one,--and very soon after that they cast off
the last of the ropes and the Mariposa Belle sailed off in her cloud of
flags, and the band of the Knights of Pythias, timing it to a nicety,
broke into the "Maple Leaf for Ever!"

I suppose that all excursions when they start are much the same. Anyway,
on the Mariposa Belle everybody went running up and down all over the
boat with deck chairs and camp stools and baskets, and found places,
splendid places to sit, and then got scared that there might be better
ones and chased off again. People hunted for places out of the sun and
when they got them swore that they weren't going to freeze to please
anybody; and the people in the sun said that they hadn't paid fifty
cents to be roasted. Others said that they hadn't paid fifty cents to
get covered with cinders, and there were still others who hadn't paid
fifty cents to get shaken to death with the propeller.

Still, it was all right presently. The people seemed to get sorted out
into the places on the boat where they belonged. The women, the older
ones, all gravitated into the cabin on the lower deck and by getting
round the table with needlework, and with all the windows shut, they
soon had it, as they said themselves, just like being at home.

All the young boys and the toughs and the men in the band got down on
the lower deck forward, where the boat was dirtiest and where the anchor
was and the coils of rope.

And upstairs on the after deck there were Lilian Drone and Miss Lawson,
the high school teacher, with a book of German poetry,--Gothey I think
it was,--and the bank teller and the younger men.

In the centre, standing beside the rail, were Dean Drone and Dr.
Gallagher, looking through binocular glasses at the shore.

Up in front on the little deck forward of the pilot house was a group
of the older men, Mullins and Duff and Mr. Smith in a deck chair, and
beside him Mr. Golgotha Gingham, the undertaker of Mariposa, on a stool.
It was part of Mr. Gingham's principles to take in an outing of this
sort, a business matter, more or less,--for you never know what may
happen at these water parties. At any rate, he was there in a neat suit
of black, not, of course, his heavier or professional suit, but a soft
clinging effect as of burnt paper that combined gaiety and decorum to a
nicety.


"Yes," said Mr. Gingham, waving his black glove in a general way towards
the shore, "I know the lake well, very well. I've been pretty much all
over it in my time."

"Canoeing?" asked somebody.

"No," said Mr. Gingham, "not in a canoe." There seemed a peculiar and
quiet meaning in his tone.

"Sailing, I suppose," said somebody else.

"No," said Mr. Gingham. "I don't understand it."

"I never knowed that you went on to the water at all, Gol," said Mr.
Smith, breaking in.

"Ah, not now," explained Mr. Gingham; "it was years ago, the first
summer I came to Mariposa. I was on the water practically all day.
Nothing like it to give a man an appetite and keep him in shape."

"Was you camping?" asked Mr. Smith.

"We camped at night," assented the undertaker, "but we put in
practically the whole day on the water. You see we were after a party
that had come up here from the city on his vacation and gone out in a
sailing canoe. We were dragging. We were up every morning at sunrise,
lit a fire on the beach and cooked breakfast, and then we'd light our
pipes and be off with the net for a whole day. It's a great life,"
concluded Mr. Gingham wistfully.

"Did you get him?" asked two or three together.

There was a pause before Mr. Gingham answered.

"We did," he said,--"down in the reeds past Horseshoe Point. But it was
no use. He turned blue on me right away."

After which Mr. Gingham fell into such a deep reverie that the boat had
steamed another half mile down the lake before anybody broke the silence
again.

Talk of this sort,--and after all what more suitable for a day on the
water?--beguiled the way.


Down the lake, mile by mile over the calm water, steamed the Mariposa
Belle. They passed Poplar Point where the high sand-banks are with all
the swallows' nests in them, and Dean Drone and Dr. Gallagher looked at
them alternately through the binocular glasses, and it was wonderful how
plainly one could see the swallows and the banks and the shrubs,--just
as plainly as with the naked eye.

And a little further down they passed the Shingle Beach, and Dr.
Gallagher, who knew Canadian history, said to Dean Drone that it
was strange to think that Champlain had landed there with his French
explorers three hundred years ago; and Dean Drone, who didn't know
Canadian history, said it was stranger still to think that the hand of
the Almighty had piled up the hills and rocks long before that; and
Dr. Gallagher said it was wonderful how the French had found their way
through such a pathless wilderness; and Dean Drone said that it was
wonderful also to think that the Almighty had placed even the smallest
shrub in its appointed place. Dr. Gallagher said it filled him with
admiration. Dean Drone said it filled him with awe. Dr. Gallagher said
he'd been full of it ever since he was a boy; and Dean Drone said so had
he.

Then a little further, as the Mariposa Belle steamed on down the lake,
they passed the Old Indian Portage where the great grey rocks are; and
Dr. Gallagher drew Dean Drone's attention to the place where the narrow
canoe track wound up from the shore to the woods, and Dean Drone said he
could see it perfectly well without the glasses.

Dr. Gallagher said that it was just here that a party of five hundred
French had made their way with all their baggage and accoutrements
across the rocks of the divide and down to the Great Bay. And Dean Drone
said that it reminded him of Xenophon leading his ten thousand Greeks
over the hill passes of Armenia down to the sea. Dr. Gallagher said the
he had often wished he could have seen and spoken to Champlain, and Dean
Drone said how much he regretted to have never known Xenophon.

And then after that they fell to talking of relics and traces of the
past, and Dr. Gallagher said that if Dean Drone would come round to his
house some night he would show him some Indian arrow heads that he had
dug up in his garden. And Dean Drone said that if Dr. Gallagher would
come round to the rectory any afternoon he would show him a map of
Xerxes' invasion of Greece. Only he must come some time between the
Infant Class and the Mothers' Auxiliary.

So presently they both knew that they were blocked out of one another's
houses for some time to come, and Dr. Gallagher walked forward and told
Mr. Smith, who had never studied Greek, about Champlain crossing the
rock divide.

Mr. Smith turned his head and looked at the divide for half a second and
then said he had crossed a worse one up north back of the Wahnipitae
and that the flies were Hades,--and then went on playing freezeout poker
with the two juniors in Duff's bank.

So Dr. Gallagher realized that that's always the way when you try to
tell people things, and that as far as gratitude and appreciation goes
one might as well never read books or travel anywhere or do anything.

In fact, it was at this very moment that he made up his mind to give the
arrows to the Mariposa Mechanics' Institute,--they afterwards became, as
you know, the Gallagher Collection. But, for the time being, the doctor
was sick of them and wandered off round the boat and watched Henry
Mullins showing George Duff how to make a John Collins without lemons,
and finally went and sat down among the Mariposa band and wished that he
hadn't come.

So the boat steamed on and the sun rose higher and higher, and the
freshness of the morning changed into the full glare of noon, and they
went on to where the lake began to narrow in at its foot, just where
the Indian's Island is, all grass and trees and with a log wharf running
into the water: Below it the Lower Ossawippi runs out of the lake, and
quite near are the rapids, and you can see down among the trees the red
brick of the power house and hear the roar of the leaping water.

The Indian's Island itself is all covered with trees and tangled vines,
and the water about it is so still that it's all reflected double and
looks the same either way up. Then when the steamer's whistle blows as
it comes into the wharf, you hear it echo among the trees of the island,
and reverberate back from the shores of the lake.

The scene is all so quiet and still and unbroken, that Miss
Cleghorn,--the sallow girl in the telephone exchange, that I spoke
of--said she'd like to be buried there. But all the people were so busy
getting their baskets and gathering up their things that no one had time
to attend to it.

I mustn't even try to describe the landing and the boat crunching
against the wooden wharf and all the people running to the same side of
the deck and Christie Johnson calling out to the crowd to keep to the
starboard and nobody being able to find it. Everyone who has been on a
Mariposa excursion knows all about that.

Nor can I describe the day itself and the picnic under the trees. 'There
were speeches afterwards, and Judge Pepperleigh gave such offence
by bringing in Conservative politics that a man called Patriotus
Canadiensis wrote and asked for some of the invaluable space of the
Mariposa Times-Herald and exposed it.

I should say that there were races too, on the grass on the open side
of the island, graded mostly according to ages, races for boys under
thirteen and girls over nineteen and all that sort of thing. Sports
are generally conducted on that plan in Mariposa. It is realized that a
woman of sixty has an unfair advantage over a mere child.

Dean Drone managed the races and decided the ages and gave out the
prizes; the Wesleyan minister helped, and he and the young student, who
was relieving in the Presbyterian Church, held the string at the winning
point.

They had to get mostly clergymen for the races because all the men had
wandered off, somehow, to where they were drinking lager beer out of two
kegs stuck on pine logs among the trees.

But if you've ever been on a Mariposa excursion you know all about these
details anyway.

So the day wore on and presently the sun came through the trees on a
slant and the steamer whistle blew with a great puff of white steam and
all the people came straggling down to the wharf and pretty soon the
Mariposa Belle had floated out on to the lake again and headed for the
town, twenty miles away.


I suppose you have often noticed the contrast there is between an
excursion on its way out in the morning and what it looks like on the
way home.

In the morning everybody is so restless and animated and moves to
and fro all over the boat and asks questions. But coming home, as the
afternoon gets later and the sun sinks beyond the hills, all the people
seem to get so still and quiet and drowsy.

So it was with the people on the Mariposa Belle. They sat there on the
benches and the deck chairs in little clusters, and listened to the
regular beat of the propeller and almost dozed off asleep as they sat.
Then when the sun set and the dusk drew on, it grew almost dark on the
deck and so still that you could hardly tell there was anyone on board.

And if you had looked at the steamer from the shore or from one of
the islands, you'd have seen the row of lights from the cabin windows
shining on the water and the red glare of the burning hemlock from the
funnel, and you'd have heard the soft thud of the propeller miles away
over the lake.

Now and then, too, you could have heard them singing on the
steamer,--the voices of the girls and the men blended into unison
by the distance, rising and falling in long-drawn melody:
"O--Can-a-da--O--Can-a-da."

You may talk as you will about the intoning choirs of your European
cathedrals, but the sound of "O--Can-a-da," borne across the waters of a
silent lake at evening is good enough for those of us who know Mariposa.

I think that it was just as they were singing like this: "O--Can-a-da,"
that word went round that the boat was sinking.

If you have ever been in any sudden emergency on the water, you will
understand the strange psychology of it,--the way in which what is
happening seems to become known all in a moment without a word being
said. The news is transmitted from one to the other by some mysterious
process.

At any rate, on the Mariposa Belle first one and then the other heard
that the steamer was sinking. As far as I could ever learn the first
of it was that George Duff, the bank manager, came very quietly to Dr.
Gallagher and asked him if he thought that the boat was sinking. The
doctor said no, that he had thought so earlier in the day but that he
didn't now think that she was.

After that Duff, according to his own account, had said to Macartney,
the lawyer, that the boat was sinking, and Macartney said that he
doubted it very much.

Then somebody came to Judge Pepperleigh and woke him up and said that
there was six inches of water in the steamer and that she was sinking.
And Pepperleigh said it was perfect scandal and passed the news on to
his wife and she said that they had no business to allow it and that if
the steamer sank that was the last excursion she'd go on.

So the news went all round the boat and everywhere the people gathered
in groups and talked about it in the angry and excited way that people
have when a steamer is sinking on one of the lakes like Lake Wissanotti.

Dean Drone, of course, and some others were quieter about it, and said
that one must make allowances and that naturally there were two sides to
everything. But most of them wouldn't listen to reason at all. I think,
perhaps, that some of them were frightened. You see the last time but
one that the steamer had sunk, there had been a man drowned and it made
them nervous.

What? Hadn't I explained about the depth of Lake Wissanotti? I had
taken it for granted that you knew; and in any case parts of it are deep
enough, though I don't suppose in this stretch of it from the big reed
beds up to within a mile of the town wharf, you could find six feet of
water in it if you tried. Oh, pshaw! I was not talking about a steamer
sinking in the ocean and carrying down its screaming crowds of people
into the hideous depths of green water. Oh, dear me no! That kind of
thing never happens on Lake Wissanotti.

But what does happen is that the Mariposa Belle sinks every now and
then, and sticks there on the bottom till they get things straightened
up.

On the lakes round Mariposa, if a person arrives late anywhere and
explains that the steamer sank, everybody understands the situation.

You see when Harland and Wolff built the Mariposa Belle, they left some
cracks in between the timbers that you fill up with cotton waste every
Sunday. If this is not attended to, the boat sinks. In fact, it is part
of the law of the province that all the steamers like the Mariposa Belle
must be properly corked,--I think that is the word,--every season. There
are inspectors who visit all the hotels in the province to see that it
is done.

So you can imagine now that I've explained it a little straighter, the
indignation of the people when they knew that the boat had come uncorked
and that they might be stuck out there on a shoal or a mud-bank half the
night.

I don't say either that there wasn't any danger; anyway, it doesn't feel
very safe when you realize that the boat is settling down with every
hundred yards that she goes, and you look over the side and see only the
black water in the gathering night.

Safe! I'm not sure now that I come to think of it that it isn't worse
than sinking in the Atlantic. After all, in the Atlantic there is
wireless telegraphy, and a lot of trained sailors and stewards. But out
on Lake Wissanotti,--far out, so that you can only just see the lights
of the town away off to the south,--when the propeller comes to a
stop,--and you can hear the hiss of steam as they start to rake out the
engine fires to prevent an explosion,--and when you turn from the red
glare that comes from the furnace doors as they open them, to the
black dark that is gathering over the lake,--and there's a night wind
beginning to run among the rushes,--and you see the men going forward
to the roof of the pilot house to send up the rockets to rouse the town,
safe? Safe yourself, if you like; as for me, let me once get back into
Mariposa again, under the night shadow of the maple trees, and this
shall be the last, last time I'll go on Lake Wissanotti.

Safe! Oh yes! Isn't it strange how safe other people's adventures seem
after they happen? But you'd have been scared, too, if you'd been there
just before the steamer sank, and seen them bringing up all the women on
to the top deck.

I don't see how some of the people took it so calmly; how Mr. Smith, for
instance, could have gone on smoking and telling how he'd had a steamer
"sink on him" on Lake Nipissing and a still bigger one, a side-wheeler,
sink on him in Lake Abbitibbi.

Then, quite suddenly, with a quiver, down she went. You could feel the
boat sink, sink,--down, down,--would it never get to the bottom? The
water came flush up to the lower deck, and then,--thank heaven,--the
sinking stopped and there was the Mariposa Belle safe and tight on a
reed bank.

Really, it made one positively laugh! It seemed so queer and, anyway,
if a man has a sort of natural courage, danger makes him laugh. Danger!
pshaw! fiddlesticks! everybody scouted the idea. Why, it is just the
little things like this that give zest to a day on the water.

Within half a minute they were all running round looking for sandwiches
and cracking jokes and talking of making coffee over the remains of the
engine fires.


I don't need to tell at length how it all happened after that.

I suppose the people on the Mariposa Belle would have had to settle down
there all night or till help came from the town, but some of the men
who had gone forward and were peering out into the dark said that it
couldn't be more than a mile across the water to Miller's Point. You
could almost see it over there to the left,--some of them, I think, said
"off on the port bow," because you know when you get mixed up in these
marine disasters, you soon catch the atmosphere of the thing.

So pretty soon they had the davits swung out over the side and were
lowering the old lifeboat from the top deck into the water.

There were men leaning out over the rail of the Mariposa Belle with
lanterns that threw the light as they let her down, and the glare fell
on the water and the reeds. But when they got the boat lowered, it
looked such a frail, clumsy thing as one saw it from the rail above,
that the cry was raised: "Women and children first!" For what was the
sense, if it should turn out that the boat wouldn't even hold women and
children, of trying to jam a lot of heavy men into it?

So they put in mostly women and children and the boat pushed out into
the darkness so freighted down it would hardly float.

In the bow of it was the Presbyterian student who was relieving the
minister, and he called out that they were in the hands of Providence.
But he was crouched and ready to spring out of them at the first moment.

So the boat went and was lost in the darkness except for the lantern in
the bow that you could see bobbing on the water. Then presently it came
back and they sent another load, till pretty soon the decks began to
thin out and everybody got impatient to be gone.

It was about the time that the third boat-load put off that Mr. Smith
took a bet with Mullins for twenty-five dollars, that he'd be home in
Mariposa before the people in the boats had walked round the shore.

No one knew just what he meant, but pretty soon they saw Mr. Smith
disappear down below into the lowest part of the steamer with a mallet
in one hand and a big bundle of marline in the other.

They might have wondered more about it, but it was just at this time
that they heard the shouts from the rescue boat--the big Mackinaw
lifeboat--that had put out from the town with fourteen men at the sweeps
when they saw the first rockets go up.

I suppose there is always something inspiring about a rescue at sea, or
on the water.

After all, the bravery of the lifeboat man is the true
bravery,--expended to save life, not to destroy it.

Certainly they told for months after of how the rescue boat came out to
the Mariposa Belle.

I suppose that when they put her in the water the lifeboat touched it
for the first time since the old Macdonald Government placed her on Lake
Wissanotti.

Anyway, the water poured in at every seam. But not for a moment,--even
with two miles of water between them and the steamer,--did the rowers
pause for that.

By the time they were half-way there the water was almost up to the
thwarts, but they drove her on. Panting and exhausted (for mind you, if
you haven't been in a fool boat like that for years, rowing takes it out
of you), the rowers stuck to their task. They threw the ballast over
and chucked into the water the heavy cork jackets and lifebelts that
encumbered their movements. There was no thought of turning back. They
were nearer to the steamer than the shore.

"Hang to it, boys," called the crowd from the steamer's deck, and hang
they did.

They were almost exhausted when they got them; men leaning from the
steamer threw them ropes and one by one every man was hauled aboard just
as the lifeboat sank under their feet.

Saved! by Heaven, saved, by one of the smartest pieces of rescue work
ever seen on the lake.

There's no use describing it; you need to see rescue work of this kind
by lifeboats to understand it.

Nor were the lifeboat crew the only ones that distinguished themselves.

Boat after boat and canoe after canoe had put out from Mariposa to the
help of the steamer. They got them all.

Pupkin, the other bank teller, with a face like a horse, who hadn't gone
on the excursion,--as soon as he knew that the boat was signalling for
help and that Miss Lawson was sending up rockets,--rushed for a row
boat, grabbed an oar (two would have hampered him), and paddled madly
out into the lake. He struck right out into the dark with the crazy
skiff almost sinking beneath his feet. But they got him. They rescued
him. They watched him, almost dead with exhaustion, make his way to the
steamer, where he was hauled up with ropes. Saved! Saved!!


They might have gone on that way half the night, picking up the
rescuers, only, at the very moment when the tenth load of people left
for the shore,--just as suddenly and saucily as you please, up came the
Mariposa Belle from the mud bottom and floated.

FLOATED?

Why, of course she did. If you take a hundred and fifty people off a
steamer that has sunk, and if you get a man as shrewd as Mr. Smith
to plug the timber seams with mallet and marline, and if you turn ten
bandsmen of the Mariposa band on to your hand pump on the bow of the
lower decks--float? why, what else can she do?

Then, if you stuff in hemlock into the embers of the fire that you were
raking out, till it hums and crackles under the boiler, it won't be
long before you hear the propeller thud thudding at the stern again, and
before the long roar of the steam whistle echoes over to the town.

And so the Mariposa Belle, with all steam up again and with the long
train of sparks careering from the funnel, is heading for the town.

But no Christie Johnson at the wheel in the pilot house this time.

"Smith! Get Smith!" is the cry.

Can he take her in? Well, now! Ask a man who has had steamers sink on
him in half the lakes from Temiscaming to the Bay, if he can take her
in? Ask a man who has run a York boat down the rapids of the Moose when
the ice is moving, if he can grip the steering wheel of the Mariposa
Belle? So there she steams safe and sound to the town wharf!

Look at the lights and the crowd! If only the federal census taker could
count us now! Hear them calling and shouting back and forward from the
deck to the shore! Listen! There is the rattle of the shore ropes as
they get them ready, and there's the Mariposa band,--actually forming
in a circle on the upper deck just as she docks, and the leader with his
baton,--one--two--ready now,--

"O CAN-A-DA!"



FOUR. The Ministrations of the Rev. Mr. Drone

The Church of England in Mariposa is on a side street, where the maple
trees are thickest, a little up the hill from the heart of the town. The
trees above the church and the grass plot that was once the cemetery,
till they made the new one (the Necropolis, over the brow of the hill),
fill out the whole corner. Down behind the church, with only the driving
shed and a lane between, is the rectory. It is a little brick house with
odd angles. There is a hedge and a little gate, and a weeping ash tree
with red berries.

At the side of the rectory, churchward, is a little grass lawn with low
hedges and at the side of that two wild plum trees, that are practically
always in white blossom. Underneath them is a rustic table and chairs,
and it is here that you may see Rural Dean Drone, the incumbent of the
Church of England Church, sitting, in the chequered light of the plum
tress that is neither sun nor shadow. Generally you will find him
reading, and when I tell you that at the end of the grass plot where the
hedge is highest there is a yellow bee hive with seven bees that belong
to Dean Drone, you will realize that it is only fitting that the Dean is
reading in the Greek. For what better could a man be reading beneath the
blossom of the plum trees, within the very sound of the bees, than the
Pastorals of Theocritus? The light trash of modern romance might put
a man to sleep in such a spot, but with such food for reflection as
Theocritus, a man may safely close his eyes and muse on what he reads
without fear of dropping into slumber.

Some men, I suppose, terminate their education when they leave their
college. Not so Dean Drone. I have often heard him say that if he
couldn't take a book in the Greek out on the lawn in a spare half hour,
he would feel lost. It's a certain activity of the brain that must be
stilled somehow. The Dean, too, seemed to have a native feeling for the
Greek language. I have often heard people who might sit with him on
the lawn, ask him to translate some of it. But he always refused. One
couldn't translate it, he said. It lost so much in the translation that
it was better not to try. It was far wiser not to attempt it. If you
undertook to translate it, there was something gone, something missing
immediately. I believe that many classical scholars feel this way, and
like to read the Greek just as it is, without the hazard of trying to
put it into so poor a medium as English. So that when Dean Drone
said that he simply couldn't translate it, I believe he was perfectly
sincere.

Sometimes, indeed, he would read it aloud. That was another matter.
Whenever, for example, Dr. Gallagher--I mean, of course, old Dr.
Gallagher, not the young doctor (who was always out in the country in
the afternoon)--would come over and bring his latest Indian relics to
show to the Dean, the latter always read to him a passage or two. As
soon as the doctor laid his tomahawk on the table, the Dean would
reach for his Theocritus. I remember that on the day when Dr. Gallagher
brought over the Indian skull that they had dug out of the railway
embankment, and placed it on the rustic table, the Dean read to him so
long from Theocritus that the doctor, I truly believe, dozed off in his
chair. The Dean had to wait and fold his hands with the book across his
knee, and close his eyes till the doctor should wake up again. And the
skull was on the table between them, and from above the plum blossoms
fluttered down, till they made flakes on it as white as Dr. Gallagher's
hair.

I don't want you to suppose that the Rev. Mr. Drone spent the whole of
his time under the trees. Not at all. In point of fact, the rector's
life was one round of activity which lie himself might deplore but was
powerless to prevent. He had hardly sat down beneath the trees of an
afternoon after his mid-day meal when there was the Infant Class at
three, and after that, with scarcely an hour between, the Mothers'
Auxiliary at five, and the next morning the Book Club, and that evening
the Bible Study Class, and the next morning the Early Workers' Guild at
eleven-thirty. The whole week was like that, and if one found time to
sit down for an hour or so to recuperate it was the most one could do.
After all, if a busy man spends the little bit of leisure that he gets
in advanced classical study, there is surely no harm in it. I suppose,
take it all in all, there wasn't a busier man than the Rural Dean among
the Anglican clergy of the diocese.

If the Dean ever did snatch a half-day from his incessant work, he spent
it in fishing. But not always that, for as likely as not, instead of
taking a real holiday he would put in the whole afternoon amusing
the children and the boys that he knew, by making kites and toys and
clockwork steamboats for them.

It was fortunate for the Dean that he had the strange interest and
aptitude for mechanical advices which he possessed, or otherwise this
kind of thing would have been too cruel an imposition. But the Rev.
Mr. Drone had a curious liking for machinery. I think I never heard him
preach a better sermon than the one on Aeroplanes (Lo, what now see you
on high Jeremiah Two).

So it was that he spent two whole days making a kite with Chinese wings
for Teddy Moore, the photographer's son, and closed down the infant
class for forty-eight hours so that Teddy Moore should not miss the
pleasure of flying it, or rather seeing it flown. It is foolish to trust
a Chinese kite to the hands of a young child.

In the same way the Dean made a mechanical top for little Marjorie
Trewlaney, the cripple, to see spun: it would have been unwise to allow
the afflicted girl to spin it. There was no end to the things that Mr.
Drone could make, and always for the children. Even when he was making
the sand-clock for poor little Willie Yodel (who died, you know) the
Dean went right on with it and gave it to another child with just the
same pleasure. Death, you know, to the clergy is a different thing from
what it is to us. The Dean and Mr. Gingham used often to speak of it as
they walked through the long grass of the new cemetery, the Necropolis.
And when your Sunday walk is to your wife's grave, as the Dean's was,
perhaps it seems different to anybody.

The Church of England Church, I said; stood close to the rectory, a
tall, sweeping church, and inside a great reach of polished cedar beams
that ran to the point of the roof. There used to stand on the same spot
the little stone church that all the grown-up people in Mariposa still
remember, a quaint little building in red and grey stone. About it was
the old cemetery, but that was all smoothed out later into the grass
plot round the new church, and the headstones laid out flat, and no new
graves have been put there for ever so long. But the Mariposa children
still walk round and read the headstones lying flat in the grass and
look for the old ones,--because some of them are ever so old--forty or
fifty years back.

Nor are you to think from all this that the Dean was not a man with
serious perplexities. You could easily convince yourself of the
contrary. For if you watched the Rev. Mr. Drone as he sat reading in the
Greek, you would notice that no very long period every passed without
his taking up a sheet or two of paper that lay between the leaves of the
Theocritus and that were covered close with figures.

And these the Dean would lay upon the rustic table, and he would add
them up forwards and backwards, going first up the column and then down
it to see that nothing had been left out, and then down it again to see
what it was that must have been left out.

Mathematics, you will understand, were not the Dean's forte. They never
were the forte of the men who had been trained at the little Anglican
college with the clipped hedges and the cricket ground, where Rupert
Drone had taken the gold medal in Greek fifty-two years ago. You will
see the medal at any time lying there in its open box on the rectory
table, in case of immediate need. Any of the Drone girls, Lilian, or
Jocelyn, or Theodora, would show it to you. But, as I say, mathematics
were not the rector's forte, and he blamed for it (in a Christian
spirit, you will understand) the memory of his mathematical professor,
and often he spoke with great bitterness. I have often heard him say
that in his opinion the colleges ought to dismiss, of course in
a Christian spirit, all the professors who are not, in the most
reverential sense of the term, fit for their jobs.

No doubt many of the clergy of the diocese had suffered more or less
just as the Dean had from lack of mathematical training. But the Dean
always felt that his own case was especially to be lamented. For you
see, if a man is trying to make a model aeroplane--for a poor family in
the lower part of the town--and he is brought to a stop by the need of
reckoning the coefficient of torsion of cast-iron rods, it shows plainly
enough that the colleges are not truly filling their divine mission.


But the figures that I speak of were not those of the model aeroplane.
These were far more serious. Night and day they had been with the rector
now for the best part of ten years, and they grew, if anything, more
intricate.

If, for example, you try to reckon the debt of a church--a large church
with a great sweep of polished cedar beams inside, for the special
glorification of the All Powerful, and with imported tiles on the roof
for the greater glory of Heaven and with stained-glass windows for the
exaltation of the All Seeing--if, I say, you try to reckon up the debt
on such a church and figure out its interest and its present worth, less
a fixed annual payment, it makes a pretty complicated sum. Then if you
try to add to this the annual cost of insurance, and deduct from it
three-quarters of a stipend, year by year, and then suddenly remember
that three-quarters is too much, because you have forgotten the
boarding-school fees of the littlest of the Drones (including French, as
an extra--she must have it, all the older girls did), you have got a sum
that pretty well defies ordinary arithmetic. The provoking part of it
was that the Dean knew perfectly well that with the help of logarithms
he could have done the thing in a moment. But at the Anglican college
they had stopped short at that very place in the book. They had simply
explained that Logos was a word and Arithmos a number, which at the
time, seemed amply sufficient.

So the Dean was perpetually taking out his sheets of figures, and adding
them upwards and downwards, and they never came the same. Very often
Mr. Gingham, who was a warden, would come and sit beside the rector and
ponder over the figures, and Mr. Drone would explain that with a book of
logarithms you could work it out in a moment. You would simply open the
book and run your finger up the columns (he illustrated exactly the way
in which the finger was moved), and there you were. Mr. Gingham said
that it was a caution, and that logarithms (I quote his exact phrase)
must be a terror.

Very often, too, Nivens, the lawyer, who was a sidesman, and Mullins,
the manager of the Exchange Bank, who was the chairman of the vestry,
would come and take a look, at the figures. But they never could make
much of them, because the stipend part was not a matter that one could
discuss.

Mullins would notice the item for a hundred dollars due on fire
insurance and would say; as a business man, that surely that couldn't
be fire insurance, and the Dean would say surely not, and change it:
and Mullins would say surely there couldn't be fifty dollars for taxes,
because there weren't any taxes, and the Dean would admit that of course
it couldn't be for the taxes. In fact, the truth is that the Dean's
figures were badly mixed, and the fault lay indubitably with the
mathematical professor of two generations back.

It was always Mullins's intention some day to look into the finances of
the church, the more so as his father had been with Dean Drone at the
little Anglican college with the cricket ground. But he was a busy man.
As he explained to the rector himself, the banking business nowadays
is getting to be such that a banker can hardly call even his Sunday
mornings his own. Certainly Henry Mullins could not. They belonged
largely to Smith's Hotel, and during the fishing season they belonged
away down the lake, so far away that practically no one, unless it was
George Duff of the Commercial Bank, could see them.

But to think that all this trouble had come through the building of the
new church.

That was the bitterness of it.

For the twenty-five years that Rural Dean Drone had preached in the
little stone church, it had been his one aim, as he often put it in his
sermons, to rear a larger Ark in Gideon. His one hope had been to set up
a greater Evidence, or, very simply stated, to kindle a Brighter Beacon.

After twenty-five years of waiting, he had been able at last to kindle
it. Everybody in Mariposa remembers the building of the church. First
of all they had demolished the little stone church to make way for the
newer Evidence. It seemed almost a sacrilege, as the Dean himself said,
to lay hands on it. Indeed it was at first proposed to take the stone of
it and build it into a Sunday School, as a lesser testimony. Then,
when that provided impracticable, it was suggested that the stone be
reverently fashioned into a wall that should stand as a token. And when
even that could not be managed, the stone of the little church was
laid reverently into a stone pile; afterwards it was devoutly sold to a
building contractor, and, like so much else in life, was forgotten.

But the building of the church, no one, I think, will forget. The
Dean threw himself into the work. With his coat off and his white
shirt-sleeves conspicuous among the gang that were working at the
foundations, he set his hand to the shovel, himself guided the
road-scraper, urging on the horses; cheering and encouraging the men,
till they begged him to desist. He mingled with the stone-masons,
advising, helping, and giving counsel, till they pleaded with him
to rest. He was among the carpenters, sawing, hammering, enquiring,
suggesting, till they besought him to lay off. And he was night and day
with the architect's assistants, drawing, planning, revising, till the
architect told him to cut it out.

So great was his activity, that I doubt whether the new church would
ever have been finished, had not the wardens and the vestry men insisted
that Mr. Drone must take a holiday, and sent him on the Mackinaw trip up
the lakes,--the only foreign travel of the Dean's life.


So in due time the New Church was built and it towered above the maple
trees of Mariposa like a beacon on a hill. It stood so high that from
the open steeple of it, where the bells were, you could see all the
town lying at its feet, and the farmsteads to the south of it, and the
railway like a double pencil line, and Lake Wissanotti spread out like
a map. You could see and appreciate things from the height of the new
church,--such as the size and the growing wealth of Mariposa,--that you
never could have seen from the little stone church at all.

Presently the church was opened and the Dean preached his first sermon
in it, and he called it a Greater Testimony, and he said that it was an
earnest, or first fruit of endeavour, and that it was a token or pledge,
and he named it also a covenant. He said, too, that it was an anchorage
and a harbour and a lighthouse as well as being a city set upon a hill;
and he ended by declaring it an Ark of Refuge and notified them that
the Bible Class would meet in the basement of it on that and every other
third Wednesday.

In the opening months of preaching about it the Dean had called the
church so often an earnest and a pledge and a guerdon and a tabernacle,
that I think he used to forget that it wasn't paid for. It was only when
the agent of the building society and a representative of the Hosanna
Pipe and Steam Organ Co. (Limited), used to call for quarterly payments
that he was suddenly reminded of the fact. Always after these men came
round the Dean used to preach a special sermon on sin, in the course
of which he would mention that the ancient Hebrews used to put unjust
traders to death,--a thing of which he spoke with Christian serenity.

I don't think that at first anybody troubled much about the debt on the
church. Dean Drone's figures showed that it was only a matter of time
before it would be extinguished; only a little effort was needed,
a little girding up of the loins of the congregation and they could
shoulder the whole debt and trample it under their feet. Let them but
set their hands to the plough and they could soon guide it into the deep
water. Then they might furl their sails and sit every man under his own
olive tree.

Meantime, while the congregation was waiting to gird up its loins, the
interest on the debt was paid somehow, or, when it wasn't paid, was
added to the principal.

I don't know whether you have had any experience with Greater
Testimonies and with Beacons set on Hills. If you have, you will realize
how, at first gradually, and then rapidly, their position from year to
year grows more distressing. What with the building loan and the organ
instalment, and the fire insurance,--a cruel charge,--and the heat
and light, the rector began to realize as he added up the figures that
nothing but logarithms could solve them. Then the time came when not
only the rector, but all the wardens knew and the sidesmen knew that the
debt was more than the church could carry; then the choir knew and the
congregation knew and at last everybody knew; and there were special
collections at Easter and special days of giving, and special weeks of
tribulation, and special arrangements with the Hosanna Pipe and Steam
Organ Co. And it was noticed that when the Rural Dean announced a
service of Lenten Sorrow,--aimed more especially at the business
men,--the congregation had diminished by forty per cent.

I suppose things are just the same elsewhere,--I mean the peculiar kind
of discontent that crept into the Church of England congregation in
Mariposa after the setting up of the Beacon. There were those who
claimed that they had seen the error from the first, though they had
kept quiet, as such people always do, from breadth of mind. There were
those who had felt years before how it would end, but their lips were
sealed from humility of spirit. What was worse was that there were
others who grew dissatisfied with the whole conduct of the church.

Yodel, the auctioneer, for example, narrated how he had been to the city
and had gone into a service of the Roman Catholic church: I believe, to
state it more fairly, he had "dropped in,"--the only recognized means
of access to such a service. He claimed that the music that he had heard
there was music, and that (outside of his profession) the chanting and
intoning could not be touched.

Ed Moore, the photographer, also related that he had listened to a
sermon in the city, and that if anyone would guarantee him a sermon like
that he would defy you to keep him away from church. Meanwhile, failing
the guarantee, he stayed away.

The very doctrines were impeached. Some of the congregation began to
cast doubts on eternal punishment,--doubts so grave as to keep them
absent from the Lenten Services of Sorrow. Indeed, Lawyer Macartney took
up the whole question of the Athanasian Creed one afternoon with Joe
Milligan, the dentist, and hardly left a clause of it intact.

All this time, you will understand, Dean Drone kept on with his special
services, and leaflets, calls, and appeals went out from the Ark of
Gideon like rockets from a sinking ship. More and more with every month
the debt of the church lay heavy on his mind. At times he forgot it. At
other times he woke up in the night and thought about it. Sometimes
as he went down the street from the lighted precincts of the Greater
Testimony and passed the Salvation Army, praying around a naphtha lamp
under the open sky, it smote him to the heart with a stab.

But the congregation were wrong, I think, in imputing fault to the
sermons of Dean Drone. There I do think they were wrong. I can speak
from personal knowledge when I say that the rector's sermons were not
only stimulating in matters of faith, but contained valuable material
in regard to the Greek language, to modern machinery and to a variety
of things that should have proved of the highest advantage to the
congregation.

There was, I say, the Greek language. The Dean always showed the
greatest delicacy of feeling in regard to any translation in or out of
it that he made from the pulpit. He was never willing to accept even the
faintest shade of rendering different from that commonly given without
being assured of the full concurrence of the congregation. Either the
translation must be unanimous and without contradiction, or he could not
pass it. He would pause in his sermon and would say: "The original Greek
is 'Hoson,' but perhaps you will allow me to translate it as equivalent
to 'Hoyon.'" And they did. So that if there was any fault to be found it
was purely on the side of the congregation for not entering a protest at
the time.

It was the same way in regard to machinery. After all, what better
illustrates the supreme purpose of the All Wise than such a thing as
the dynamo or the reciprocating marine engine or the pictures in the
Scientific American?

Then, too, if a man has had the opportunity to travel and has seen the
great lakes spread out by the hand of Providence from where one leaves
the new dock at the Sound to where one arrives safe and thankful with
one's dear fellow-passengers in the spirit at the concrete landing stage
at Mackinaw--is not this fit and proper material for the construction
of an analogy or illustration? Indeed, even apart from an analogy, is it
not mighty interesting to narrate, anyway? In any case, why should the
church-wardens have sent the rector on the Mackinaw trip, if they had
not expected him to make some little return for it?

I lay some stress on this point because the criticisms directed
against the Mackinaw sermons always seemed so unfair. If the rector
had described his experiences in the crude language of the ordinary
newspaper, there might, I admit, have been something unfitting about it.
But he was always careful to express himself in a way that showed,--or,
listen, let me explain with an example.

"It happened to be my lot some years ago," he would say, "to find myself
a voyager, just as one is a voyager on the sea of life, on the broad
expanse of water which has been spread out to the north-west of us by
the hand of Providence, at a height of five hundred and eighty-one feet
above the level of the sea,--I refer, I may say, to Lake Huron." Now,
how different that is from saying: "I'll never forget the time I went on
the Mackinaw trip." The whole thing has a different sound entirely. In
the same way the Dean would go on:

"I was voyaging on one of those magnificent leviathans of the water,--I
refer to the boats of the Northern Navigation Company,--and was standing
beside the forward rail talking with a dear brother in the faith who was
journeying westward also--I may say he was a commercial traveller,--and
beside us was a dear sister in the spirit seated in a deck chair, while
near us were two other dear souls in grace engaged in Christian pastime
on the deck,--I allude more particularly to the game of deck billiards."

I leave it to any reasonable man whether, with that complete and
fair-minded explanation of the environment, it was not perfectly proper
to close down the analogy, as the rector did, with the simple words: "In
fact, it was an extremely fine morning."

Yet there were some people, even in Mariposa, that took exception
and spent their Sunday dinner time in making out that they couldn't
understand what Dean Drone was talking about, and asking one another
if they knew. Once, as he passed out from the doors of the Greater
Testimony, the rector heard some one say: "The Church would be all right
if that old mugwump was out of the pulpit." It went to his heart like a
barbed thorn, and stayed there.

You know, perhaps, how a remark of that sort can stay and rankle,
and make you wish you could hear it again to make sure of it, because
perhaps you didn't hear it aright, and it was a mistake after all.
Perhaps no one said it, anyway. You ought to have written it down at the
time. I have seen the Dean take down the encyclopaedia in the rectory,
and move his finger slowly down the pages of the letter M, looking for
mugwump. But it wasn't there. I have known him, in his little study
upstairs, turn over the pages of the "Animals of Palestine," looking for
a mugwump. But there was none there. It must have been unknown in the
greater days of Judea.


So things went on from month to month, and from year to year, and the
debt and the charges loomed like a dark and gathering cloud on the
horizon. I don't mean to say that efforts were not made to face the
difficulty and to fight it. They were. Time after time the workers of
the congregation got together and thought out plans for the extinction
of the debt. But somehow, after every trial, the debt grew larger
with each year, and every system that could be devised turned out more
hopeless than the last.

They began, I think, with the "endless chain" of letters of appeal. You
may remember the device, for it was all-popular in clerical circles some
ten or fifteen years ago. You got a number of people to write each of
them three letters asking for ten cents from three each of their friends
and asking each of them to send on three similar letters. Three each
from three each, and three each more from each! Do you observe the
wonderful ingenuity of it? Nobody, I think, has forgotten how the
Willing Workers of the Church of England Church of Mariposa sat down
in the vestry room in the basement with a pile of stationery three
feet high, sending out the letters. Some, I know, will never forget it.
Certainly not Mr. Pupkin, the teller in the Exchange Bank, for it was
here that he met Zena Pepperleigh, the judge's daughter, for the
first time; and they worked so busily that they wrote out ever so many
letters--eight or nine--in a single afternoon, and they discovered
that their handwritings were awfully alike, which was one of the most
extraordinary and amazing coincidences, you will admit, in the history
of chirography.

But the scheme failed--failed utterly. I don't know why. The letters
went out and were copied broadcast and recopied, till you could see the
Mariposa endless chain winding its way towards the Rocky Mountains.
But they never got the ten cents. The Willing Workers wrote for it in
thousands, but by some odd chance they never struck the person who had
it.

Then after that there came a regular winter of effort. First of all they
had a bazaar that was got up by the Girls' Auxiliary and held in the
basement of the church. All the girls wore special costumes that were
brought up from the city, and they had booths, where there was every
imaginable thing for sale--pincushion covers, and chair covers, and sofa
covers, everything that you can think of. If the people had once started
buying them, the debt would have been lifted in no time. Even as it was
the bazaar only lost twenty dollars.

After that, I think, was the magic lantern lecture that Dean Drone gave
on "Italy and her Invaders." They got the lantern and the slides up from
the city, and it was simply splendid. Some of the slides were perhaps
a little confusing, but it was all there,--the pictures of the dense
Italian jungle and the crocodiles and the naked invaders with their
invading clubs. It was a pity that it was such a bad night, snowing
hard, and a curling match on, or they would have made a lot of money
out of the lecture. As it was the loss, apart from the breaking of the
lantern, which was unavoidable, was quite trifling.


I can hardly remember all the things that there were after that. I
recollect that it was always Mullins who arranged about renting the hall
and printing the tickets and all that sort of thing. His father, you
remember, had been at the Anglican college with Dean Drone, and though
the rector was thirty-seven years older than Mullins, he leaned upon
him, in matters of business, as upon a staff; and though Mullins was
thirty-seven years younger than the Dean, he leaned against him, in
matters of doctrine, as against a rock.

At one time they got the idea that what the public wanted was not
anything instructive but something light and amusing. Mullins said
that people loved to laugh. He said that if you get a lot of people all
together and get them laughing you can do anything you like with them.
Once they start to laugh they are lost. So they got Mr. Dreery, the
English Literature teacher at the high school, to give an evening of
readings from the Great Humorists from Chaucer to Adam Smith. They came
mighty near to making a barrel of money out of that. If the people had
once started laughing it would have been all over with them. As it was I
heard a lot of them say that they simply wanted to scream with laughter:
they said they just felt like bursting into peals of laughter all
the time. Even when, in the more subtle parts, they didn't feel like
bursting out laughing, they said they had all they could do to keep from
smiling. They said they never had such a hard struggle in their lives
not to smile.

In fact the chairman said when he put the vote of thanks that he was
sure if people had known what the lecture was to be like there would
have been a much better "turn-out." But you see all that the people
had to go on was just the announcement of the name of the lecturer,
Mr. Dreery, and that he would lecture on English Humour All Seats
Twenty-five Cents. As the chairman expressed it himself, if the people
had had any idea, any idea at all, of what the lecture would be like
they would have been there in hundreds. But how could they get an idea
that it would be so amusing with practically nothing to go upon?


After that attempt things seemed to go from bad to worse. Nearly
everybody was disheartened about it. What would have happened to the
debt, or whether they would have ever paid it off, is more than I
can say, if it hadn't occurred that light broke in on Mullins in the
strangest and most surprising way you can imagine. It happened that he
went away for his bank holidays, and while he was away he happened to
be present in one of the big cities and saw how they went at it there
to raise money. He came home in such a state of excitement that he went
straight up from the Mariposa station to the rectory, valise and all,
and he burst in one April evening to where the Rural Dean was sitting
with the three girls beside the lamp in the front room, and he cried
out:

"Mr. Drone, I've got it,--I've got a way that will clear the debt before
you're a fortnight older. We'll have a Whirlwind Campaign in Mariposa!"

But stay! The change from the depth of depression to the pinnacle of
hope is too abrupt. I must pause and tell you in another chapter of the
Whirlwind Campaign in Mariposa.



FIVE. The Whirlwind Campaign in Mariposa

It was Mullins, the banker, who told Mariposa all about the plan of a
Whirlwind Campaign and explained how it was to be done. He'd happened to
be in one of the big cities when they were raising money by a Whirlwind
Campaign for one of the universities, and he saw it all.

He said he would never forget the scene on the last day of it, when the
announcement was made that the total of the money raised was even more
than what was needed. It was a splendid sight,--the business men of the
town all cheering and laughing and shaking hands, and the professors
with the tears streaming down their faces, and the Deans of the
Faculties, who had given money themselves, sobbing aloud.

He said it was the most moving thing he ever saw.

So, as I said, Henry Mullins, who had seen it, explained to the others
how it was done. He said that first of all a few of the business men
got together quietly,--very quietly, indeed the more quietly the
better,--and talked things over. Perhaps one of them would dine,--just
quietly,--with another one and discuss the situation. Then these two
would invite a third man,--possibly even a fourth,--to have lunch with
them and talk in a general way,--even talk of other things part of the
time. And so on in this way things would be discussed and looked at
in different lights and viewed from different angles and then when
everything was ready they would go at things with a rush. A central
committee would be formed and sub-committees, with captains of each
group and recorders and secretaries, and on a stated day the Whirlwind
Campaign would begin.

Each day the crowd would all agree to meet at some stated place and
each lunch together,--say at a restaurant or at a club or at some eating
place. This would go on every day with the interest getting keener and
keener, and everybody getting more and more excited, till presently the
chairman would announce that the campaign had succeeded and there would
be the kind of scene that Mullins had described.

So that was the plan that they set in motion in Mariposa.


I don't wish to say too much about the Whirlwind Campaign itself. I
don't mean to say that it was a failure. On the contrary, in many ways
it couldn't have been a greater success, and yet somehow it didn't seem
to work out just as Henry Mullins had said it would. It may be that
there are differences between Mariposa and the larger cities that one
doesn't appreciate at first sight. Perhaps it would have been better to
try some other plan.

Yet they followed along the usual line of things closely enough. They
began with the regular system of some of the business men getting
together in a quiet way.

First of all, for example, Henry Mullins came over quietly to Duff's
rooms, over the Commercial Bank, with a bottle of rye whiskey, and
they talked things over. And the night after that George Duff came over
quietly to Mullins's rooms, over the Exchange Bank, with a bottle
of Scotch whiskey. A few evenings after that Mullins and Duff went
together, in a very unostentatious way, with perhaps a couple of bottles
of rye, to Pete Glover's room over the hardware store. And then all
three of them went up one night with Ed Moore, the photographer, to
Judge Pepperleigh's house under pretence of having a game of poker. The
very day after that, Mullins and Duff and Ed Moore, and Pete Glover and
the judge got Will Harrison, the harness maker, to go out without any
formality on the lake on the pretext of fishing. And the next night
after that Duff and Mullins and Ed Moore and Pete Glover and Pepperleigh
and Will Harrison got Alf Trelawney, the postmaster, to come over, just
in a casual way, to the Mariposa House, after the night mail, and the
next day Mullins and Duff and--

But, pshaw! you see at once how the thing is worked. There's no need to
follow that part of the Whirlwind Campaign further. But it just shows
the power of organization.

And all this time, mind you, they were talking things over, and looking
at things first in one light and then in another light,--in fact, just
doing as the big city men do when there's an important thing like this
under way.

So after things had been got pretty well into shape in this way, Duff
asked Mullins one night, straight out, if he would be chairman of
the Central Committee. He sprung it on him and Mullins had no time to
refuse, but he put it to Duff straight whether he would be treasurer.
And Duff had no time to refuse.


That gave things a start, and within a week they had the whole
organization on foot. There was the Grand Central Committee and six
groups or sub-committees of twenty men each, and a captain for
every group. They had it all arranged on the lines most likely to be
effective.

In one group there were all the bankers, Mullins and Duff and Pupkin
(with the cameo pin), and about four others. They had their photographs
taken at Ed Moore's studio, taken in a line with a background of
icebergs--a winter scene--and a pretty penetrating crowd they looked, I
can tell you. After all, you know, if you get a crowd of representative
bank men together in any financial deal, you've got a pretty
considerable leverage right away.

In the second group were the lawyers, Nivens and Macartney and the
rest--about as level-headed a lot as you'd see anywhere. Get the lawyers
of a town with you on a thing like this and you'll find you've got a
sort of brain power with you that you'd never get without them.

Then there were the business men--there was a solid crowd for
you,--Harrison, the harness maker, and Glover, the hardware man, and
all that gang, not talkers, perhaps, but solid men who can tell you to
a nicety how many cents there are in a dollar. It's all right to talk
about education and that sort of thing, but if you want driving power
and efficiency, get business men. They're seeing it every day in the
city, and it's just the same in Mariposa. Why, in the big concerns
in the city, if they found out a man was educated, they wouldn't have
him,--wouldn't keep him there a minute. That's why the business men have
to conceal it so much.

Then in the other teams there were the doctors and the newspaper men and
the professional men like Judge Pepperleigh and Yodel the auctioneer.


It was all organized so that every team had its headquarters, two of
them in each of the three hotels--one upstairs and one down. And it
was arranged that there would be a big lunch every day, to be held in
Smith's caff, round the corner of Smith's Northern Health Resort and
Home of the Wissanotti Angler,--you know the place. The lunch was
divided up into tables, with a captain for each table to see about
things to drink, and of course all the tables were in competition with
one another. In fact the competition was the very life of the whole
thing.

It's just wonderful how these things run when they're organized. Take
the first luncheon, for example. There they all were, every man in his
place, every captain at his post at the top of the table. It was hard,
perhaps, for some of them to get there. They had very likely to be in
their stores and banks and offices till the last minute and then make a
dash for it. It was the cleanest piece of team work you ever saw.

You have noticed already, I am sure, that a good many of the captains
and committee men didn't belong to the Church of England Church. Glover,
for instance, was a Presbyterian, till they ran the picket fence of
the manse two feet on to his property, and after that he became a
free-thinker. But in Mariposa, as I have said, everybody likes to be in
everything and naturally a Whirlwind Campaign was a novelty. Anyway it
would have been a poor business to keep a man out of the lunches merely
on account of his religion. I trust that the day for that kind of
religious bigotry is past.

Of course the excitement was when Henry Mullins at the head of the table
began reading out the telegrams and letters and messages. First of all
there was a telegram of good wishes from the Anglican Lord Bishop of
the Diocese to Henry Mullins and calling him Dear Brother in Grace the
Mariposa telegraph office is a little unreliable and it read: "Dear
Brother in grease," but that was good enough. The Bishop said that his
most earnest wishes were with them.

Then Mullins read a letter from the Mayor of Mariposa Pete Glover was
mayor that year--stating that his keenest desires were with them: and
then one from the Carriage Company saying that its heartiest good will
was all theirs; and then one from the Meat Works saying that its nearest
thoughts were next to them. Then he read one from himself, as head of
the Exchange Bank, you understand, informing him that he had heard
of his project and assuring him of his liveliest interest in what he
proposed.

At each of these telegrams and messages there was round after round of
applause, so that you could hardly hear yourself speak or give an order.
But that was nothing to when Mullins got up again, and beat on the
table for silence and made one of those crackling speeches--just the way
business men speak--the kind of speech that a college man simply can't
make. I wish I could repeat it all. I remember that it began: "Now boys,
you know what we're here for, gentlemen," and it went on just as good as
that all through. When Mullins had done he took out a fountain pen
and wrote out a cheque for a hundred dollars, conditional on the fund
reaching fifty thousand. And there was a burst of cheers all over the
room.

Just the moment he had done it, up sprang George Duff,--you know the
keen competition there is, as a straight matter of business, between the
banks in Mariposa,--up sprang George Duff, I say, and wrote out a cheque
for another hundred conditional on the fund reaching seventy thousand.
You never heard such cheering in your life.

And then when Netley walked up to the head of the table and laid down
a cheque for a hundred dollars conditional on the fund reaching one
hundred thousand the room was in an uproar. A hundred thousand dollars!
Just think of it! The figures fairly stagger one. To think of a hundred
thousand dollars raised in five minutes in a little place like Mariposa!

And even that was nothing! In less than no time there was such a crowd
round Mullins trying to borrow his pen all at once that his waistcoat
was all stained with ink. Finally when they got order at last, and
Mullins stood up and announced that the conditional fund had reached a
quarter of a million, the whole place was a perfect babel of cheering.
Oh, these Whirlwind Campaigns are wonderful things!


I can tell you the Committee felt pretty proud that first day. There was
Henry Mullins looking a little bit flushed and excited, with his white
waistcoat and an American Beauty rose, and with ink marks all over him
from the cheque signing; and he kept telling them that he'd known all
along that all that was needed was to get the thing started and telling
again about what he'd seen at the University Campaign and about the
professors crying, and wondering if the high school teachers would come
down for the last day of the meetings.

Looking back on the Mariposa Whirlwind, I can never feel that it was
a failure. After all, there is a sympathy and a brotherhood in
these things when men work shoulder to shoulder. If you had seen the
canvassers of the Committee going round the town that evening shoulder
to shoulder from the Mariposa House to the Continental and up to
Mullins's rooms and over to Duffs, shoulder to shoulder, you'd have
understood it.

I don't say that every lunch was quite such a success as the first. It's
not always easy to get out of the store if you're a busy man, and a good
many of the Whirlwind Committee found that they had just time to hurry
down and snatch their lunch and get back again. Still, they came, and
snatched it. As long as the lunches lasted, they came. Even if they had
simply to rush it and grab something to eat and drink without time to
talk to anybody, they came.

No, no, it was not lack of enthusiasm that killed the Whirlwind Campaign
in Mariposa. It must have been something else. I don't just know what
it was but I think it had something to do with the financial, the
book-keeping side of the thing.

It may have been, too, that the organization was not quite correctly
planned. You see, if practically everybody is on the committees, it is
awfully hard to try to find men to canvass, and it is not allowable for
the captains and the committee men to canvass one another, because their
gifts are spontaneous. So the only thing that the different groups
could do was to wait round in some likely place--say the bar parlour
of Smith's Hotel--in the hope that somebody might come in who could be
canvassed.

You might ask why they didn't canvass Mr. Smith himself, but of course
they had done that at the very start, as I should have said. Mr. Smith
had given them two hundred dollars in cash conditional on the lunches
being held in the caff of his hotel; and it's awfully hard to get a
proper lunch I mean the kind to which a Bishop can express regret at not
being there--under a dollar twenty-five. So Mr. Smith got back his own
money, and the crowd began eating into the benefactions, and it got
more and more complicated whether to hold another lunch in the hope of
breaking even, or to stop the campaign.

It was disappointing, yes. In spite of all the success and the sympathy,
it was disappointing. I don't say it didn't do good. No doubt a lot of
the men got to know one another better than ever they had before. I have
myself heard Judge Pepperleigh say that after the campaign he knew
all of Pete Glover that he wanted to. There was a lot of that kind of
complete satiety. The real trouble about the Whirlwind Campaign was that
they never clearly understood which of them were the whirlwind and who
were to be the campaign.

Some of them, I believe, took it pretty much to heart. I know that Henry
Mullins did. You could see it. The first day he came down to the lunch,
all dressed up with the American Beauty and the white waistcoat. The
second day he only wore a pink carnation and a grey waistcoat. The third
day he had on a dead daffodil and a cardigan undervest, and on the last
day, when the high school teachers should have been there, he only wore
his office suit and he hadn't even shaved. He looked beaten.

It was that night that he went up to the rectory to tell the news to
Dean Drone. It had been arranged, you know, that the rector should not
attend the lunches, so as to let the whole thing come as a surprise;
so that all he knew about it was just scraps of information about the
crowds at the lunch and how they cheered and all that. Once, I believe,
he caught sight of the Newspacket with a two-inch headline: A QUARTER
OF A MILLION, but he wouldn't let himself read further because it would
have spoilt the surprise.

I saw Mullins, as I say, go up the street on his way to Dean Drone's.
It was middle April and there was ragged snow on the streets, and the
nights were dark still, and cold. I saw Mullins grit his teeth as he
walked, and I know that he held in his coat pocket his own cheque for
the hundred, with the condition taken off it, and he said that there
were so many skunks in Mariposa that a man might as well be in the Head
Office in the city.

The Dean came out to the little gate in the dark,--you could see the
lamplight behind him from the open door of the rectory,--and he shook
hands with Mullins and they went in together.



SIX. The Beacon on the Hill

Mullins said afterward that it was ever so much easier than he thought
it would have been. The Dean, he said, was so quiet. Of course if Mr.
Drone had started to swear at Mullins, or tried to strike him, it would
have been much harder. But as it was he was so quiet that part of the
time he hardly seemed to follow what Mullins was saying. So Mullins
was glad of that, because it proved that the Dean wasn't feeling
disappointed as, in a way, he might have.

Indeed, the only time when the rector seemed animated and excited in the
whole interview was when Mullins said that the campaign had been ruined
by a lot of confounded mugwumps. Straight away the Dean asked if those
mugwumps had really prejudiced the outcome of the campaign. Mullins
said there was no doubt of it, and the Dean enquired if the presence
of mugwumps was fatal in matters of endeavour, and Mullins said that
it was. Then the rector asked if even one mugwump was, in the Christian
sense, deleterious. Mullins said that one mugwump would kill anything.
After that the Dean hardly spoke at all.

In fact, the rector presently said that he mustn't detain Mullins too
long and that he had detained him too long already and that Mullins must
be weary from his train journey and that in cases of extreme weariness
nothing but a sound sleep was of any avail; he himself, unfortunately,
would not be able to avail himself of the priceless boon of slumber
until he had first retired to his study to write some letters; so that
Mullins, who had a certain kind of social quickness of intuition, saw
that it was time to leave, and went away.

It was midnight as he went down the street, and a dark, still night.
That can be stated positively because it came out in court afterwards.
Mullins swore that it was a dark night; he admitted, under examination,
that there may have been the stars, or at least some of the less
important of them, though he had made no attempt, as brought out on
cross-examination, to count them: there may have been, too, the electric
lights, and Mullins was not willing to deny that it was quite possible
that there was more or less moonlight. But that there was no light that
night in the form of sunlight, Mullins was absolutely certain. All that,
I say, came out in court.

But meanwhile the rector had gone upstairs to his study and had seated
himself in front of his table to write his letters. It was here always
that he wrote his sermons. From the window of the room you looked
through the bare white maple trees to the sweeping outline of the church
shadowed against the night sky, and beyond that, though far off, was
the new cemetery where the rector walked of a Sunday (I think I told you
why): beyond that again, for the window faced the east, there lay, at no
very great distance, the New Jerusalem. There were no better things that
a man might look towards from his study window, nor anything that could
serve as a better aid to writing.

But this night the Dean's letters must have been difficult indeed to
write. For he sat beside the table holding his pen and with his head
bent upon his other hand, and though he sometimes put a line or two on
the paper, for the most part he sat motionless. The fact is that Dean
Drone was not trying to write letters, but only one letter. He was
writing a letter of resignation. If you have not done that for forty
years it is extremely difficult to get the words.

So at least the Dean found it. First he wrote one set of words and then
he sat and thought and wrote something else. But nothing seemed to suit.

The real truth was that Dean Drone, perhaps more than he knew himself,
had a fine taste for words and effects, and when you feel that a
situation is entirely out of the common, you naturally try, if you have
that instinct, to give it the right sort of expression.

I believe that at the time when Rupert Drone had taken the medal
in Greek over fifty years ago, it was only a twist of fate that had
prevented him from becoming a great writer. There was a buried author in
him just as there was a buried financier in Jefferson Thorpe. In fact,
there were many people in Mariposa like that, and for all I know you may
yourself have seen such elsewhere. For instance, I am certain that Billy
Rawson, the telegraph operator at Mariposa, could easily have invented
radium. In the same way one has only to read the advertisements of Mr.
Gingham, the undertaker, to know that there is still in him a poet,
who could have written on death far more attractive verses than the
Thanatopsis of Cullen Bryant, and under a title less likely to offend
the public and drive away custom. He has told me this himself.

So the Dean tried first this and then that and nothing would seem to
suit. First of all he wrote:

"It is now forty years since I came among you, a youth full of life and
hope and ardent in the work before me--" Then he paused, doubtful of the
accuracy and clearness of the expression, read it over again and again
in deep thought and then began again:

"It is now forty years since I came among you, a broken and melancholy
boy, without life or hope, desiring only to devote to the service of
this parish such few years as might remain of an existence blighted
before it had truly begun--" And then again the Dean stopped. He read
what he had written; he frowned; he crossed it through with his pen.
This was no way to write, this thin egotistical strain of complaint.
Once more he started:

"It is now forty years since I came among you, a man already tempered
and trained, except possibly in mathematics--" And then again the rector
paused and his mind drifted away to the memory of the Anglican professor
that I spoke of, who had had so little sense of his higher mission as to
omit the teaching of logarithms. And the rector mused so long that
when he began again it seemed to him that it was simpler and better to
discard the personal note altogether, and he wrote:

"There are times, gentlemen, in the life of a parish, when it comes to
an epoch which brings it to a moment when it reaches a point--"

The Dean stuck fast again, but refusing this time to be beaten went
resolutely on:

"--reaches a point where the circumstances of the moment make the epoch
such as to focus the life of the parish in that time."

Then the Dean saw that he was beaten, and he knew that he not only
couldn't manage the parish but couldn't say so in proper English, and of
the two the last was the bitterer discovery.

He raised his head, and looked for a moment through the window at the
shadow of the church against the night, so outlined that you could
almost fancy that the light of the New Jerusalem was beyond it. Then he
wrote, and this time not to the world at large but only to Mullins:

"My dear Harry, I want to resign my charge. Will you come over and help
me?"


When the Dean at last rose from writing that, I think it was far on in
the night. As he rose he looked again through the window, looked once
and then once more, and so stood with widening eyes, and his face set
towards what he saw.

What was that? That light in the sky there, eastward?--near or far he
could not say. Was it already the dawn of the New Jerusalem brightening
in the east, or was it--look--in the church itself,--what is that?--that
dull red glow that shines behind the stained-glass windows, turning them
to crimson? that fork of flame that breaks now from the casement and
flashes upward, along the wood--and see--that sudden sheet of fire that
springs the windows of the church with the roar of splintered glass and
surges upward into the sky, till the dark night and the bare trees and
sleeping street of Mariposa are all illumined with its glow!

Fire! Fire! and the sudden sound of the bell now, breaking upon the
night.

So stood the Dean erect, with one hand pressed against the table for
support, while the Mariposa fire bell struck out its warning to the
sleeping town,--stood there while the street grew loud with the tumult
of voices,--with the roaring gallop of the fire brigade,--with the harsh
note of the gong--and over all other sounds, the great seething of the
flames that tore their way into the beams and rafters of the pointed
church and flared above it like a torch into the midnight sky.

So stood the Dean, and as the church broke thus into a very beacon
kindled upon a hill,--sank forward without a sign, his face against the
table, stricken.


You need to see a fire in a place such as Mariposa, a town still half of
wood, to know what fire means. In the city it is all different. To
the onlooker, at any rate, a fire is only a spectacle, nothing more.
Everything is arranged, organized, certain. It is only once perhaps in a
century that fire comes to a large city as it comes to the little wooden
town like Mariposa as a great Terror of the Night.

That, at any rate, is what it meant in Mariposa that night in April, the
night the Church of England Church burnt down. Had the fire gained but
a hundred feet, or less, it could have reached from the driving shed
behind the church to the backs of the wooden shops of the Main Street,
and once there not all the waters of Lake Wissanotti could stay the
course of its destruction. It was for that hundred feet that they
fought, the men of Mariposa, from the midnight call of the bell till the
slow coming of the day. They fought the fire, not to save the church,
for that was doomed from the first outbreak of the flames, but to stop
the spread of it and save the town. They fought it at the windows,
and at the blazing doors, and through the yawning furnace of the open
belfry; fought it, with the Mariposa engine thumping and panting in the
street, itself aglow with fire like a servant demon fighting its own
kind, with tall ladders reaching to the very roof, and with hose that
poured their streams of tossing water foaming into the flames.

Most of all they fought to save the wooden driving shed behind the
church from which the fire could leap into the heart of Mariposa. That
was where the real fight was, for the life of the town. I wish you could
have seen how they turned the hose against the shingles, ripping and
tearing them from their places with the force of the driven water: how
they mounted on the roof, axe in hand, and cut madly at the rafters
to bring the building down, while the black clouds of smoke rolled in
volumes about the men as they worked. You could see the fire horses
harnessed with logging chains to the uprights of the shed to tear the
building from its place.

Most of all I wish you could have seen Mr. Smith, proprietor, as I think
you know, of Smith's Hotel, there on the roof with a fireman's helmet
on, cutting through the main beam of solid cedar, twelve by twelve, that
held tight still when the rafters and the roof tree were down already,
the shed on fire in a dozen places, and the other men driven from the
work by the flaming sparks, and by the strangle of the smoke. Not so
Mr. Smith! See him there as he plants himself firm at the angle of the
beams, and with the full impact of his two hundred and eighty pounds
drives his axe into the wood! I tell you it takes a man from the pine
country of the north to handle an axe! Right, left, left, right, down
it comes, with never a pause or stay, never missing by a fraction of
an inch the line of the stroke! At it, Smith! Down with it! Till with
a shout from the crowd the beam gapes asunder, and Mr. Smith is on the
ground again, roaring his directions to the men and horses as they haul
down the shed, in a voice that dominates the fire itself.

Who made Mr. Smith the head and chief of the Mariposa fire brigade that
night, I cannot say. I do not know even where he got the huge red helmet
that he wore, nor had I ever heard till the night the church burnt down
that Mr. Smith was a member of the fire brigade at all. But it's always
that way. Your little narrow-chested men may plan and organize, but when
there is something to be done, something real, then it's the man of size
and weight that steps to the front every time. Look at Bismarck and
Mr. Gladstone and President Taft and Mr. Smith,--the same thing in each
case.

I suppose it was perfectly natural that just as soon as Mr. Smith came
on the scene he put on somebody's helmet and shouted his directions
to the men and bossed the Mariposa fire brigade like Bismarck with the
German parliament.

The fire had broken out late, late at night, and they fought it till the
day. The flame of it lit up the town and the bare grey maple trees, and
you could see in the light of it the broad sheet of the frozen lake,
snow covered still. It kindled such a beacon as it burned that from the
other side of the lake the people on the night express from the north
could see it twenty miles away. It lit up such a testimony of flame that
Mariposa has never seen the like of it before or since. Then when the
roof crashed in and the tall steeple tottered and fell, so swift a
darkness seemed to come that the grey trees and the frozen lake vanished
in a moment as if blotted out of existence.


When the morning came the great church of Mariposa was nothing but a
ragged group of walls with a sodden heap of bricks and blackened wood,
still hissing here and there beneath the hose with the sullen anger of
a conquered fire. Round the ruins of the fire walked the people of
Mariposa next morning, and they pointed out where the wreck of the
steeple had fallen, and where the bells of the church lay in a molten
heap among the bricks, and they talked of the loss that it was and how
many dollars it would take to rebuild the church, and whether it was
insured and for how much. And there were at least fourteen people who
had seen the fire first, and more than that who had given the first
alarm, and ever so many who knew how fires of this sort could be
prevented.

Most noticeable of all you could see the sidesmen and the wardens and
Mullins, the chairman of the vestry, talking in little groups about the
fire. Later in the day there came from the city the insurance men and
the fire appraisers, and they too walked about the ruins, and talked
with the wardens and the vestry men. There was such a luxury of
excitement in the town that day that it was just as good as a public
holiday.

But the strangest part of it was the unexpected sequel. I don't know
through what error of the Dean's figures it happened, through what lack
of mathematical training the thing turned out as it did. No doubt the
memory of the mathematical professor was heavily to blame for it, but
the solid fact is that the Church of England Church of Mariposa turned
out to be insured for a hundred thousand, and there were the receipts
and the vouchers, all signed and regular, just as they found them in a
drawer of the rector's study. There was no doubt about it. The insurance
people might protest as they liked. The straight, plain fact was that
the church was insured for about twice the whole amount of the cost and
the debt and the rector's salary and the boarding-school fees of the
littlest of the Drones all put together.


There was a Whirlwind Campaign for you! Talk of raising money,--that was
something like! I wonder if the universities and the city institutions
that go round trying to raise money by the slow and painful method
called a Whirlwind Campaign, that takes perhaps all day to raise fifty
thousand dollars, ever thought of anything so beautifully simple as
this.

The Greater Testimony that had lain so heavily on the congregation went
flaming to its end, and burned up its debts and its obligations and
enriched its worshippers by its destruction. Talk of a beacon on a hill!
You can hardly beat that one.

I wish you could have seen how the wardens and the sidesmen and Mullins,
the chairman of the vestry, smiled and chuckled at the thought of it.
Hadn't they said all along that all that was needed was a little faith
and effort? And here it was, just as they said, and they'd been right
after all.

Protest from the insurance people? Legal proceedings to prevent payment?
My dear sir! I see you know nothing about the Mariposa court, in spite
of the fact that I have already said that it was one of the most
precise instruments of British fair play ever established. Why, Judge
Pepperleigh disposed of the case and dismissed the protest of the
company in less than fifteen minutes! Just what the jurisdiction
of Judge Pepperleigh's court is I don't know, but I do know that in
upholding the rights of a Christian congregation--I am quoting here the
text of the decision--against the intrigues of a set of infernal skunks
that make too much money, anyway, the Mariposa court is without an
equal. Pepperleigh even threatened the plaintiffs with the penitentiary,
or worse.

How the fire started no one ever knew. There was a queer story that went
about to the effect that Mr. Smith and Mr. Gingham's assistant had been
seen very late that night carrying an automobile can of kerosene up the
street. But that was amply disproved by the proceedings of the court,
and by the evidence of Mr. Smith himself. He took his dying oath,--not
his ordinary one as used in the License cases, but his dying one,--that
he had not carried a can of kerosene up the street, and that anyway it
was the rottenest kind of kerosene he had ever seen and no more use than
so much molasses. So that point was settled.

Dean Drone? Did he get well again? Why, what makes you ask that? You
mean, was his head at all affected after the stroke? No, it was not.
Absolutely not. It was not affected in the least, though how anybody who
knows him now in Mariposa could have the faintest idea that his mind was
in any way impaired by the stroke is more than I can tell. The engaging
of Mr. Uttermost, the curate, whom perhaps you have heard preach in the
new church, had nothing whatever to do with Dean Drone's head. It was
merely a case of the pressure of overwork. It was felt very generally
by the wardens that, in these days of specialization, the rector was
covering too wide a field, and that if he should abandon some of the
lesser duties of his office, he might devote his energies more intently
to the Infant Class. That was all. You may hear him there any afternoon,
talking to them, if you will stand under the maple trees and listen
through the open windows of the new Infant School.

And, as for audiences, for intelligence, for attention--well, if I want
to find listeners who can hear and understand about the great spaces
of Lake Huron, let me tell of it, every time face to face with the blue
eyes of the Infant Class, fresh from the infinity of spaces greater
still. Talk of grown-up people all you like, but for listeners let me
have the Infant Class with their pinafores and their Teddy Bears and
their feet not even touching the floor, and Mr. Uttermost may preach to
his heart's content of the newer forms of doubt revealed by the higher
criticism.

So you will understand that the Dean's mind is, if anything, even
keener, and his head even clearer than before. And if you want proof of
it, notice him there beneath the plum blossoms reading in the Greek:
he has told me that he finds that he can read, with the greatest ease,
works in the Greek that seemed difficult before. Because his head is so
clear now.

And sometimes,--when his head is very clear,--as he sits there reading
beneath the plum blossoms he can hear them singing beyond, and his
wife's voice.



SEVEN. The Extraordinary Entanglement of Mr. Pupkin

Judge Pepperleigh lived in a big house with hardwood floors and a wide
piazza that looked over the lake from the top of Oneida Street.

Every day about half-past five he used to come home from his office in
the Mariposa Court House. On some days as he got near the house he would
call out to his wife:

"Almighty Moses, Martha! who left the sprinkler on the grass?"

On other days he would call to her from quite a little distance off:
"Hullo, mother! Got any supper for a hungry man?"

And Mrs. Pepperleigh never knew which it would be. On the days when he
swore at the sprinkler you could see his spectacles flash like dynamite.
But on the days when he called: "Hullo, mother," they were simply
irradiated with kindliness.

Some days, I say, he would cry out with a perfect whine of indignation:
"Suffering Caesar! has that infernal dog torn up those geraniums again?"
And other days you would hear him singing out: "Hullo, Rover! Well,
doggie, well, old fellow!"

In the same way at breakfast, the judge, as he looked over the
morning paper, would sometimes leap to his feet with a perfect howl of
suffering, and cry: "Everlasting Moses! the Liberals have carried East
Elgin." Or else he would lean back from the breakfast table with
the most good-humoured laugh you ever heard and say: "Ha! ha! the
Conservatives have carried South Norfolk."

And yet he was perfectly logical, when you come to think of it. After
all, what is more annoying to a sensitive, highly-strung man than an
infernal sprinkler playing all over the place, and what more agreeable
to a good-natured, even-tempered fellow than a well-prepared supper? Or,
what is more likeable than one's good, old, affectionate dog bounding
down the path from sheer delight at seeing you,--or more execrable than
an infernal whelp that has torn up the geraniums and is too old to keep,
anyway?

As for politics, well, it all seemed reasonable enough. When the
Conservatives got in anywhere, Pepperleigh laughed and enjoyed it,
simply because it does one good to see a straight, fine, honest fight
where the best man wins. When a Liberal got in, it made him mad, and he
said so,--not, mind you, from any political bias, for his office forbid
it,--but simply because one can't bear to see the country go absolutely
to the devil.

I suppose, too, it was partly the effect of sitting in court all day
listening to cases. One gets what you might call the judicial temper of
mind. Pepperleigh had it so strongly developed that I've seen him kick
a hydrangea pot to pieces with his foot because the accursed thing
wouldn't flower. He once threw the canary cage clear into the lilac
bushes because the "blasted bird wouldn't stop singing." It was a
straight case of judicial temper. Lots of judges have it, developed in
just the same broad, all-round way as with Judge Pepperleigh.


I think it must be passing sentences that does it. Anyway, Pepperleigh
had the aptitude for passing sentences so highly perfected that he spent
his whole time at it inside of court and out. I've heard him hand out
sentences for the Sultan of Turkey and Mrs. Pankhurst and the Emperor of
Germany that made one's blood run cold. He would sit there on the piazza
of a summer evening reading the paper, with dynamite sparks flying from
his spectacles as he sentenced the Czar of Russia to ten years in the
salt mines--and made it fifteen a few minutes afterwards. Pepperleigh
always read the foreign news--the news of things that he couldn't
alter--as a form of wild and stimulating torment.

So you can imagine that in some ways the judge's house was a pretty
difficult house to go to. I mean you can see how awfully hard it must
have been for Mr. Pupkin. I tell you it took some nerve to step up on
that piazza and say, in a perfectly natural, off-hand way: "Oh, how
do you do, judge? Is Miss Zena in? No, I won't stay, thanks; I think I
ought to be going. I simply called." A man who can do that has got to
have a pretty fair amount of savoir what do you call it, and he's got to
be mighty well shaved and have his cameo pin put in his tie at a pretty
undeniable angle before he can tackle it. Yes, and even then he may need
to hang round behind the lilac bushes for half an hour first, and cool
off. And he's apt to make pretty good time down Oneida Street on the way
back.

Still, that's what you call love, and if you've got it, and are well
shaved, and your boots well blacked, you can do things that seem almost
impossible. Yes, you can do anything, even if you do trip over the dog
in getting off the piazza.

Don't suppose for a moment that Judge Pepperleigh was an unapproachable
or a harsh man always and to everybody. Even Mr. Pupkin had to admit
that that couldn't be so. To know that, you had only to see Zena
Pepperleigh put her arm round his neck and call him Daddy. She would do
that even when there were two or three young men sitting on the edge of
the piazza. You know, I think, the way they sit on the edge in Mariposa.
It is meant to indicate what part of the family they have come to see.
Thus when George Duff, the bank manager, came up to the Pepperleigh
house, he always sat in a chair on the verandah and talked to the judge.
But when Pupkin or Mallory Tompkins or any fellow like that came, he sat
down in a sidelong fashion on the edge of the boards and then they knew
exactly what he was there for. If he knew the house well, he leaned his
back against the verandah post and smoked a cigarette. But that took
nerve.

But I am afraid that this is a digression, and, of course, you know all
about it just as well as I do. All that I was trying to say was that I
don't suppose that the judge had ever spoken a cross word to Zena in his
life.--Oh, he threw her novel over the grape-vine, I don't deny that,
but then why on earth should a girl read trash like the Errant Quest of
the Palladin Pilgrim, and the Life of Sir Galahad, when the house was
full of good reading like The Life of Sir John A. Macdonald, and Pioneer
Days in Tecumseh Township?


Still, what I mean is that the judge never spoke harshly to Zena, except
perhaps under extreme provocation; and I am quite sure that he never,
never had to Neil. But then what father ever would want to speak angrily
to such a boy as Neil Pepperleigh? The judge took no credit himself for
that; the finest grown boy in the whole county and so broad and big that
they took him into the Missinaba Horse when he was only seventeen. And
clever,--so clever that he didn't need to study; so clever that he used
to come out at the foot of the class in mathematics at the Mariposa
high school through sheer surplus of brain power. I've heard the judge
explain it a dozen times. Why, Neil was so clever that he used to be
able to play billiards at the Mariposa House all evening when the other
boys had to stay at home and study.

Such a powerful looking fellow, too! Everybody in Mariposa remembers
how Neil Pepperleigh smashed in the face of Peter McGinnis, the Liberal
organizer, at the big election--you recall it--when the old Macdonald
Government went out. Judge Pepperleigh had to try him for it the next
morning--his own son. They say there never was such a scene even in the
Mariposa court. There was, I believe, something like it on a smaller
scale in Roman history, but it wasn't half as dramatic. I remember Judge
Pepperleigh leaning forward to pass the sentence,--for a judge is bound,
you know, by his oath,--and how grave he looked and yet so proud and
happy, like a man doing his duty and sustained by it, and he said:

"My boy, you are innocent. You smashed in Peter McGinnis's face, but you
did it without criminal intent. You put a face on him, by Jehoshaphat!
that he won't lose for six months, but you did it without evil purpose
or malign design. My boy, look up! Give me your hand! You leave this
court without a stain upon your name."

They said it was one of the most moving scenes ever enacted in the
Mariposa Court.


But the strangest thing is that if the judge had known what every one
else in Mariposa knew, it would have broken his heart. If he could have
seen Neil with the drunken flush on his face in the billiard room of the
Mariposa House,--if he had known, as every one else did, that Neil was
crazed with drink the night he struck the Liberal organizer when the old
Macdonald Government went out,--if he could have known that even on that
last day Neil was drunk when he rode with the Missinaba Horse to the
station to join the Third Contingent for the war, and all the street of
the little town was one great roar of people--

But the judge never knew, and now he never will. For if you could find
it in the meanness of your soul to tell him, it would serve no purpose
now except to break his heart, and there would rise up to rebuke you the
pictured vision of an untended grave somewhere in the great silences of
South Africa.

Did I say above, or seem to imply, that the judge sometimes spoke
harshly to his wife? Or did you gather for a minute that her lot was
one to lament over or feel sorry for? If so, it just shows that you know
nothing about such things, and that marriage, at least as it exists
in Mariposa, is a sealed book to you. You are as ignorant as Miss
Spiffkins, the biology teacher at the high school, who always says
how sorry she is for Mrs. Pepperleigh. You get that impression simply
because the judge howled like an Algonquin Indian when he saw the
sprinkler running on the lawn. But are you sure you know the other side
of it? Are you quite sure when you talk like Miss Spiffkins does about
the rights of it, that you are taking all things into account? You might
have thought differently perhaps of the Pepperleighs, anyway, if you had
been there that evening when the judge came home to his wife with one
hand pressed to his temple and in the other the cablegram that said
that Neil had been killed in action in South Africa. That night they
sat together with her hand in his, just as they had sat together thirty
years ago when he was a law student in the city.

Go and tell Miss Spiffkins that! Hydrangeas,--canaries,--
temper,--blazes! What does Miss Spiffkins know about it all?

But in any case, if you tried to tell Judge Pepperleigh about Neil now
he wouldn't believe it. He'd laugh it to scorn. That is Neil's
picture, in uniform, hanging in the dining-room beside the Fathers of
Confederation. That military-looking man in the picture beside him is
General Kitchener, whom you may perhaps have heard of, for he was very
highly spoken of in Neil's letters. All round the room, in fact, and
still more in the judge's library upstairs, you will see pictures of
South Africa and the departure of the Canadians (there are none of the
return), and of Mounted Infantry and of Unmounted Cavalry and a lot of
things that only soldiers and the fathers of soldiers know about.

So you can realize that for a fellow who isn't military, and who wears
nothing nearer to a uniform than a daffodil tennis blazer, the judge's
house is a devil of a house to come to.

I think you remember young Mr. Pupkin, do you not? I have referred to
him several times already as the junior teller in the Exchange Bank. But
if you know Mariposa at all you have often seen him. You have noticed
him, I am sure, going for the bank mail in the morning in an office suit
effect of clinging grey with a gold necktie pin shaped like a riding
whip. You have seen him often enough going down to the lake front after
supper, in tennis things, smoking a cigarette and with a paddle and a
crimson canoe cushion under his arm. You have seen him entering Dean
Drone's church in a top hat and a long frock coat nearly to his feet.
You have seen him, perhaps, playing poker in Peter Glover's room
over the hardware store and trying to look as if he didn't hold three
aces,--in fact, giving absolutely no sign of it beyond the wild flush in
his face and the fact that his hair stands on end.

That kind of reticence is a thing you simply have to learn in banking.
I mean, if you've got to be in a position where you know for a fact
that the Mariposa Packing Company's account is overdrawn by sixty-four
dollars, and yet daren't say anything about it, not even to the
girls that you play tennis with,--I don't say, not a casual hint as a
reference, but not really tell them, not, for instance, bring down the
bank ledger to the tennis court and show them,--you learn a sort of
reticence and self-control that people outside of banking circles never
can attain.

Why, I've known Pupkin at the Fireman's Ball lean against the wall in
his dress suit and talk away to Jim Eliot, the druggist, without giving
the faintest hint or indication that Eliot's note for twenty-seven
dollars had been protested that very morning. Not a hint of it. I don't
say he didn't mention it, in a sort of way, in the supper room, just to
one or two, but I mean there was nothing in the way he leant up against
the wall to suggest it.

But, however, I don't mention that as either for or against Mr. Pupkin.
That sort of thing is merely the A B C of banking, as he himself told
me when explaining why it was that he hesitated to divulge the exact
standing of the Mariposa Carriage Company. Of course, once you get past
the A B C you can learn a lot that is mighty interesting.

So I think that if you know Mariposa and understand even the rudiments
of banking, you are perfectly acquainted with Mr. Pupkin. What? You
remember him as being in love with Miss Lawson, the high school teacher?
In love with HER? What a ridiculous idea. You mean merely because on the
night when the Mariposa Belle sank with every soul on board, Pupkin put
off from the town in a skiff to rescue Miss Lawson. Oh, but you're quite
wrong. That wasn't LOVE. I've heard Pupkin explain it himself a dozen
times. That sort of thing,--paddling out to a sinking steamer at night
in a crazy skiff,--may indicate a sort of attraction, but not real love,
not what Pupkin came to feel afterwards. Indeed, when he began to think
of it, it wasn't even attraction, it was merely respect,--that's all
it was. And anyway, that was long before, six or seven months back, and
Pupkin admitted that at the time he was a mere boy.


Mr. Pupkin, I must explain, lived with Mallory Tompkins in rooms over
the Exchange Bank, on the very top floor, the third, with Mullins's own
rooms below them. Extremely comfortable quarters they were, with two
bedrooms and a sitting-room that was all fixed up with snowshoes and
tennis rackets on the walls and dance programmes and canoe club badges
and all that sort of thing.

Mallory Tompkins was a young man with long legs and check trousers who
worked on the Mariposa Times-Herald. That was what gave him his literary
taste. He used to read Ibsen and that other Dutch author--Bumstone
Bumstone, isn't it?--and you can judge that he was a mighty intellectual
fellow. He was so intellectual that he was, as he himself admitted,
a complete eggnostic. He and Pupkin used to have the most tremendous
arguments about creation and evolution, and how if you study at a school
of applied science you learn that there's no hell beyond the present
life.

Mallory Tompkins used to prove absolutely that the miracles were only
electricity, and Pupkin used to admit that it was an awfully good
argument, but claimed that he had heard it awfully well answered in a
sermon, though unfortunately he had forgotten how.

Tompkins used to show that the flood was contrary to geology, and Pupkin
would acknowledge that the point was an excellent one, but that he had
read a book,--the title of which he ought to have written down,--which
explained geology away altogether.

Mallory Tompkins generally got the best of the merely logical side of
the arguments, but Pupkin--who was a tremendous Christian--was much
stronger in the things he had forgotten. So the discussions often lasted
till far into the night, and Mr. Pupkin would fall asleep and dream of a
splendid argument, which would have settled the whole controversy, only
unfortunately he couldn't recall it in the morning.

Of course, Pupkin would never have thought of considering himself on an
intellectual par with Mallory Tompkins. That would have been ridiculous.
Mallory Tompkins had read all sorts of things and had half a mind to
write a novel himself--either that or a play. All he needed, he said,
was to have a chance to get away somewhere by himself and think. Every
time he went away to the city Pupkin expected that he might return with
the novel all finished; but though he often came back with his eyes red
from thinking, the novel as yet remained incomplete.

Meantime, Mallory Tompkins, as I say, was a mighty intellectual fellow.
You could see that from the books on the bamboo bookshelves in the
sitting-room. There was, for instance, the "Encyclopaedia Metropolitana"
in forty volumes, that he bought on the instalment plan for two dollars
a month. Then when they took that away, there was the "History of
Civilization," in fifty volumes at fifty cents a week for fifty years.
Tompkins had read in it half-way through the Stone Age before they
took it from him. After that there was the "Lives of the Painters," one
volume at a time--a splendid thing in which you could read all about
Aahrens, and Aachenthal, and Aax and men of that class.

After all, there's nothing like educating oneself. Mallory Tompkins knew
about the opening period of all sorts of things, and in regard to people
whose names began with "A" you couldn't stick him.

I don't mean that he and Mr. Pupkin lived a mere routine of studious
evenings. That would be untrue. Quite often their time was spent in much
less commendable ways than that, and there were poker parties in their
sitting-room that didn't break up till nearly midnight. Card-playing,
after all, is a slow business, unless you put money on it, and, besides,
if you are in a bank and are handling money all day, gambling has a
fascination.

I've seen Pupkin and Mallory Tompkins and Joe Milligan, the dentist, and
Mitchell the ticket agent, and the other "boys" sitting round the table
with matches enough piled up in front of them to stock a factory. Ten
matches counted for one chip and ten chips made a cent--so you see they
weren't merely playing for the fun of the thing. Of course it's a
hollow pleasure. You realize that when you wake up at night parched with
thirst, ten thousand matches to the bad. But banking is a wild life and
everybody knows it.

Sometimes Pupkin would swear off and keep away from the cursed thing for
weeks, and then perhaps he'd see by sheer accident a pile of matches on
the table, or a match lying on the floor and it would start the craze in
him. I am using his own words--a "craze"--that's what he called it when
he told Miss Lawson all about it, and she promised to cure him of it.
She would have, too. Only, as I say, Pupkin found that what he had
mistaken for attraction was only respect. And there's no use worrying a
woman that you respect about your crazes.


It was from Mallory Tompkins that Pupkin learned all about the Mariposa
people, because Pupkin came from away off--somewhere down in the
Maritime Provinces--and didn't know a soul. Mallory Tompkins used to
tell him about Judge Pepperleigh, and what a wonderfully clever man he
was and how he would have been in the Supreme Court for certain if the
Conservative Government had stayed in another fifteen or twenty years
instead of coming to a premature end. He used to talk so much about the
Pepperleighs, that Pupkin was sick of the very name. But just as soon as
he had seen Zena Pepperleigh he couldn't hear enough of them. He would
have talked with Tompkins for hours about the judge's dog Rover. And as
for Zena, if he could have brought her name over his lips, he would have
talked of her forever.

He first saw her--by one of the strangest coincidences in the world--on
the Main Street of Mariposa. If he hadn't happened to be going up the
street and she to be coming down it, the thing wouldn't have happened.
Afterwards they both admitted that it was one of the most peculiar
coincidences they ever heard of. Pupkin owned that he had had the
strangest feeling that morning as if something were going to happen--a
feeling not at all to be classed with the one of which he had once
spoken to Miss Lawson, and which was, at the most, a mere anticipation
of respect.

But, as I say, Pupkin met Zena Pepperleigh on the 26th of June, at
twenty-five minutes to eleven. And at once the whole world changed. The
past was all blotted out. Even in the new forty volume edition of
the "Instalment Record of Humanity" that Mallory Tompkins had just
received--Pupkin wouldn't have bothered with it.

She--that word henceforth meant Zena--had just come back from
her boarding-school, and of all times of year coming back from a
boarding-school and for wearing a white shirt waist and a crimson
tie and for carrying a tennis racket on the stricken street of a
town--commend me to the month of June in Mariposa.

And, for Pupkin, straight away the whole town was irradiated with
sunshine, and there was such a singing of the birds, and such a dancing
of the rippled waters of the lake, and such a kindliness in the faces
of all the people, that only those who have lived in Mariposa, and been
young there, can know at all what he felt.

The simple fact is that just the moment he saw Zena Pepperleigh, Mr.
Pupkin was clean, plumb, straight, flat, absolutely in love with her.

Which fact is so important that it would be folly not to close the
chapter and think about it.



EIGHT. The Fore-ordained Attachment of Zena Pepperleigh and Peter Pupkin

Zena Pepperleigh used to sit reading novels on the piazza of the judge's
house, half hidden by the Virginia creepers. At times the book would
fall upon her lap and there was such a look of unstilled yearning in her
violet eyes that it did not entirely disappear even when she picked up
the apple that lay beside her and took another bite out of it.

With hands clasped she would sit there dreaming all the beautiful
day-dreams of girlhood. When you saw that faraway look in her eyes,
it meant that she was dreaming that a plumed and armoured knight was
rescuing her from the embattled keep of a castle beside the Danube. At
other times she was being borne away by an Algerian corsair over the
blue waters of the Mediterranean and was reaching out her arms towards
France to say farewell to it.

Sometimes when you noticed a sweet look of resignation that seemed
to rest upon her features, it meant that Lord Ronald de Chevereux was
kneeling at her feet, and that she was telling him to rise, that her
humbler birth must ever be a bar to their happiness, and Lord Ronald was
getting into an awful state about it, as English peers do at the least
suggestion of anything of the sort.

Or, if it wasn't that, then her lover had just returned to her side,
tall and soldierly and sunburned, after fighting for ten years in the
Soudan for her sake, and had come back to ask her for her answer and
to tell her that for ten years her face had been with him even in
the watches of the night. He was asking her for a sign, any kind of
sign,--ten years in the Soudan entitles them to a sign,--and Zena was
plucking a white rose, just one, from her hair, when she would hear her
father's step on the piazza and make a grab for the Pioneers of Tecumseh
Township, and start reading it like mad.

She was always, as I say, being rescued and being borne away, and being
parted, and reaching out her arms to France and to Spain, and
saying good-bye forever to Valladolid or the old grey towers of
Hohenbranntwein.

And I don't mean that she was in the least exceptional or romantic,
because all the girls in Mariposa were just like that. An Algerian
corsair could have come into the town and had a dozen of them for the
asking, and as for a wounded English officer,--well, perhaps it's better
not to talk about it outside or the little town would become a regular
military hospital.

Because, mind you, the Mariposa girls are all right. You've only to look
at them to realize that. You see, you can get in Mariposa a print dress
of pale blue or pale pink for a dollar twenty that looks infinitely
better than anything you ever see in the city,--especially if you can
wear with it a broad straw hat and a background of maple trees and the
green grass of a tennis court. And if you remember, too, that these are
cultivated girls who have all been to the Mariposa high school and can
do decimal fractions, you will understand that an Algerian corsair would
sharpen his scimitar at the very sight of them.

Don't think either that they are all dying to get married; because they
are not. I don't say they wouldn't take an errant knight, or a buccaneer
or a Hungarian refugee, but for the ordinary marriages of ordinary
people they feel nothing but a pitying disdain. So it is that each one
of them in due time marries an enchanted prince and goes to live in one
of the little enchanted houses in the lower part of the town.

I don't know whether you know it, but you can rent an enchanted house
in Mariposa for eight dollars a month, and some of the most completely
enchanted are the cheapest. As for the enchanted princes, they find
them in the strangest places, where you never expected to see them,
working--under a spell, you understand,--in drug-stores and printing
offices, and even selling things in shops. But to be able to find them
you have first to read ever so many novels about Sir Galahad and the
Errant Quest and that sort of thing.


Naturally then Zena Pepperleigh, as she sat on the piazza, dreamed
of bandits and of wounded officers and of Lord Ronalds riding on
foam-flecked chargers. But that she ever dreamed of a junior bank
teller in a daffodil blazer riding past on a bicycle, is pretty hard to
imagine. So, when Mr. Pupkin came tearing past up the slope of Oneida
Street at a speed that proved that he wasn't riding there merely to
pass the house, I don't suppose that Zena Pepperleigh was aware of his
existence.

That may be a slight exaggeration. She knew, perhaps, that he was
the new junior teller in the Exchange Bank and that he came from the
Maritime Provinces, and that nobody knew who his people were, and that
he had never been in a canoe in his life till he came to Mariposa, and
that he sat four pews back in Dean Drone's church, and that his salary
was eight hundred dollars. Beyond that, she didn't know a thing about
him. She presumed, however, that the reason why he went past so fast was
because he didn't dare to go slow.

This, of course, was perfectly correct. Ever since the day when Mr.
Pupkin met Zena in the Main Street he used to come past the house on his
bicycle just after bank hours. He would have gone past twenty times a
day but he was afraid to. As he came up Oneida Street, he used to pedal
faster and faster,--he never meant to, but he couldn't help it,--till he
went past the piazza where Zena was sitting at an awful speed with his
little yellow blazer flying in the wind. In a second he had disappeared
in a buzz and a cloud of dust, and the momentum of it carried him clear
out into the country for miles and miles before he ever dared to pause
or look back.

Then Mr. Pupkin would ride in a huge circuit about the country, trying
to think he was looking at the crops, and sooner or later his bicycle
would be turned towards the town again and headed for Oneida Street, and
would get going quicker and quicker and quicker, till the pedals whirled
round with a buzz and he came past the judge's house again, like a
bullet out of a gun. He rode fifteen miles to pass the house twice, and
even then it took all the nerve that he had.

The people on Oneida Street thought that Mr. Pupkin was crazy, but Zena
Pepperleigh knew that he was not. Already, you see, there was a sort
of dim parallel between the passing of the bicycle and the last ride of
Tancred the Inconsolable along the banks of the Danube.

I have already mentioned, I think, how Mr. Pupkin and Zena Pepperleigh
first came to know one another. Like everything else about them, it was
a sheer matter of coincidence, quite inexplicable unless you understand
that these things are fore-ordained.

That, of course, is the way with fore-ordained affairs and that's where
they differ from ordinary love.


I won't even try to describe how Mr. Pupkin felt when he first spoke
with Zena and sat beside her as they copied out the "endless chain"
letter asking for ten cents. They wrote out, as I said, no less than
eight of the letters between them, and they found out that their
handwritings were so alike that you could hardly tell them apart, except
that Pupkin's letters were round and Zena's letters were pointed and
Pupkin wrote straight up and down and Zena wrote on a slant. Beyond that
the writing was so alike that it was the strangest coincidence in the
world. Of course when they made figures it was different and Pupkin
explained to Zena that in the bank you have to be able to make a seven
so that it doesn't look like a nine.

So, as I say, they wrote the letters all afternoon and when it was over
they walked up Oneida Street together, ever so slowly. When they got
near the house, Zena asked Pupkin to come in to tea, with such an easy
off-hand way that you couldn't have told that she was half an hour late
and was taking awful chances on the judge. Pupkin hadn't had time to say
yes before the judge appeared at the door, just as they were stepping up
on to the piazza, and he had a table napkin in his hand and the dynamite
sparks were flying from his spectacles as he called out:

"Great heaven! Zena, why in everlasting blazes can't you get in to tea
at a Christian hour?"

Zena gave one look of appeal to Pupkin, and Pupkin looked one glance of
comprehension, and turned and fled down Oneida Street. And if the scene
wasn't quite as dramatic as the renunciation of Tancred the Troubadour,
it at least had something of the same elements in it.

Pupkin walked home to his supper at the Mariposa House on air, and that
evening there was a gentle distance in his manner towards Sadie, the
dining-room girl, that I suppose no bank clerk in Mariposa ever showed
before. It was like Sir Galahad talking with the tire-women of Queen
Guinevere and receiving huckleberry pie at their hands.

After that Mr. Pupkin and Zena Pepperleigh constantly met together.
They played tennis as partners on the grass court behind Dr. Gallagher's
house,--the Mariposa Tennis Club rent it, you remember, for fifty
cents a month,--and Pupkin used to perform perfect prodigies of valour,
leaping in the air to serve with his little body hooked like a letter
S. Sometimes, too, they went out on Lake Wissanotti in the evening in
Pupkin's canoe, with Zena sitting in the bow and Pupkin paddling in the
stern and they went out ever so far and it was after dark and the stars
were shining before they came home. Zena would look at the stars and
say how infinitely far away they seemed, and Pupkin would realize that a
girl with a mind like that couldn't have any use for a fool such as
him. Zena used to ask him to point out the Pleiades and Jupiter and Ursa
minor, and Pupkin showed her exactly where they were. That impressed
them both tremendously, because Pupkin didn't know that Zena remembered
the names out of the astronomy book at her boarding-school, and Zena
didn't know that Pupkin simply took a chance on where the stars were.

And ever so many times they talked so intimately that Pupkin came mighty
near telling her about his home in the Maritime Provinces and about his
father and mother, and then kicked himself that he hadn't the manliness
to speak straight out about it and take the consequences.

Please don't imagine from any of this that the course of Mr. Pupkin's
love ran smooth. On the contrary, Pupkin himself felt that it was
absolutely hopeless from the start.

There were, it might be admitted, certain things that seemed to indicate
progress.

In the course of the months of June and July and August, he had taken
Zena out in his canoe thirty-one times. Allowing an average of two miles
for each evening, Pupkin had paddled Zena sixty-two miles, or more than
a hundred thousand yards. That surely was something.

He had played tennis with her on sixteen afternoons. Three times he had
left his tennis racket up at the judge's house in Zena's charge, and
once he had, with her full consent, left his bicycle there all night.
This must count for something. No girl could trifle with a man to the
extent of having his bicycle leaning against the verandah post all night
and mean nothing by it.

More than that--he had been to tea at the judge's house fourteen times,
and seven times he had been asked by Lilian Drone to the rectory when
Zena was coming, and five times by Nora Gallagher to tea at the doctor's
house because Zena was there.

Altogether he had eaten so many meals where Zena was that his meal
ticket at the Mariposa lasted nearly double its proper time, and
the face of Sadie, the dining-room girl, had grown to wear a look of
melancholy resignation; sadder than romance.

Still more than that, Pupkin had bought for Zena, reckoning it
altogether, about two buckets of ice cream and perhaps half a bushel of
chocolate. Not that Pupkin grudged the expense of it. On the contrary,
over and above the ice cream and the chocolate he had bought her a white
waistcoat and a walking stick with a gold top, a lot of new neckties and
a pair of patent leather boots--that is, they were all bought on account
of her, which is the same thing.

Add to all this that Pupkin and Zena had been to the Church of England
Church nearly every Sunday evening for two months, and one evening they
had even gone to the Presbyterian Church "for fun," which, if you know
Mariposa, you will realize to be a wild sort of escapade that ought to
speak volumes.


Yet in spite of this, Pupkin felt that the thing was hopeless: which
only illustrates the dreadful ups and downs, the wild alternations of
hope and despair that characterise an exceptional affair of this sort.

Yes, it was hopeless.

Every time that Pupkin watched Zena praying in church, he knew that she
was too good for him. Every time that he came to call for her and found
her reading Browning and Omar Khayyam he knew that she was too clever
for him. And every time that he saw her at all he realized that she was
too beautiful for him.

You see, Pupkin knew that he wasn't a hero. When Zena would clasp her
hands and talk rapturously about crusaders and soldiers and firemen and
heroes generally, Pupkin knew just where he came in. Not in it, that was
all. If a war could have broken out in Mariposa, or the judge's house
been invaded by the Germans, he might have had a chance, but as it
was--hopeless.

Then there was Zena's father. Heaven knows Pupkin tried hard to please
the judge. He agreed with every theory that Judge Pepperleigh advanced,
and that took a pretty pliable intellect in itself. They denounced
female suffrage one day and they favoured it the next. One day the judge
would claim that the labour movement was eating out the heart of the
country, and the next day he would hold that the hope of the world lay
in the organization of the toiling masses. Pupkin shifted his opinions
like the glass in a kaleidoscope. Indeed, the only things on which he
was allowed to maintain a steadfast conviction were the purity of the
Conservative party of Canada and the awful wickedness of the recall of
judges.

But with all that the judge was hardly civil to Pupkin. He hadn't asked
him to the house till Zena brought him there, though, as a rule, all the
bank clerks in Mariposa treated Judge Pepperleigh's premises as their
own. He used to sit and sneer at Pupkin after he had gone till Zena
would throw down the Pioneers of Tecumseh Township in a temper and
flounce off the piazza to her room. After which the judge's manner would
change instantly and he would relight his corn cob pipe and sit and
positively beam with contentment. In all of which there was something so
mysterious as to prove that Mr. Pupkin's chances were hopeless.

Nor was that all of it. Pupkin's salary was eight hundred dollars a year
and the Exchange Bank limit for marriage was a thousand.

I suppose you are aware of the grinding capitalistic tyranny of the
banks in Mariposa whereby marriage is put beyond the reach of ever so
many mature and experienced men of nineteen and twenty and twenty-one,
who are compelled to go on eating on a meal ticket at the Mariposa House
and living over the bank to suit the whim of a group of capitalists.

Whenever Pupkin thought of this two hundred dollars he understood all
that it meant by social unrest. In fact, he interpreted all forms of
social discontent in terms of it. Russian Anarchism, German Socialism,
the Labour Movement, Henry George, Lloyd George,--he understood the
whole lot of them by thinking of his two hundred dollars.

When I tell you that at this period Mr. Pupkin read Memoirs of the
Great Revolutionists and even thought of blowing up Henry Mullins with
dynamite, you can appreciate his state of mind.


But not even by all these hindrances and obstacles to his love for Zena
Pepperleigh would Peter Pupkin have been driven to commit suicide (oh,
yes; he committed it three times, as I'm going to tell you), had it not
been for another thing that he knew stood once and for all and in cold
reality between him and Zena.

He felt it in a sort of way, as soon as he knew her. Each time that he
tried to talk to her about his home and his father and mother and found
that something held him back, he realized more and more the kind of
thing that stood between them. Most of all did he realize it, with a
sudden sickness of heart, when he got word that his father and mother
wanted to come to Mariposa to see him and he had all he could do to head
them off from it.

Why? Why stop them? The reason was, simple enough, that Pupkin was
ashamed of them, bitterly ashamed. The picture of his mother and father
turning up in Mariposa and being seen by his friends there and going up
to the Pepperleigh's house made him feel faint with shame.

No, I don't say it wasn't wrong. It only shows what difference of
fortune, the difference of being rich and being poor, means in this
world. You perhaps have been so lucky that you cannot appreciate what
it means to feel shame at the station of your own father and mother. You
think it doesn't matter, that honesty and kindliness of heart are all
that counts. That only shows that you have never known some of the
bitterest feelings of people less fortunate than yourself.

So it was with Mr. Pupkin. When he thought of his father and mother
turning up in Mariposa, his face reddened with unworthy shame.

He could just picture the scene! He could see them getting out of their
Limousine touring car, with the chauffeur holding open the door for
them, and his father asking for a suite of rooms,--just think of it, a
suite of rooms!--at the Mariposa House.

The very thought of it turned him ill.

What! You have mistaken my meaning? Ashamed of them because they were
poor? Good heavens, no, but because they were rich! And not rich in the
sense in which they use the term in Mariposa, where a rich person merely
means a man who has money enough to build a house with a piazza and to
have everything he wants; but rich in the other sense,--motor cars, Ritz
hotels, steam yachts, summer islands and all that sort of thing.

Why, Pupkin's father,--what's the use of trying to conceal it any
longer?--was the senior partner in the law firm of Pupkin, Pupkin and
Pupkin. If you know the Maritime Provinces at all, you've heard of the
Pupkins. The name is a household word from Chedabucto to Chidabecto.
And, for the matter of that, the law firm and the fact that Pupkin
senior had been an Attorney General was the least part of it. Attorney
General! Why, there's no money in that! It's no better than the Senate.
No, no, Pupkin senior, like so many lawyers, was practically a promoter,
and he blew companies like bubbles, and when he wasn't in the Maritime
Provinces he was in Boston and New York raising money and floating
loans, and when they had no money left in New York he floated it in
London: and when he had it, he floated on top of it big rafts of lumber
on the Miramichi and codfish on the Grand Banks and lesser fish in the
Fundy Bay. You've heard perhaps of the Tidal Transportation Company, and
Fundy Fisheries Corporation, and the Paspebiac Pulp and Paper Unlimited?
Well, all of those were Pupkin senior under other names. So just imagine
him in Mariposa! Wouldn't he be utterly foolish there? Just imagine him
meeting Jim Eliot and treating him like a druggist merely because he
ran a drug store! or speaking to Jefferson Thorpe as if he were a barber
simply because he shaved for money! Why, a man like that could ruin
young Pupkin in Mariposa in half a day, and Pupkin knew it.

That wouldn't matter so much, but think of the Pepperleighs and Zena!
Everything would be over with them at once. Pupkin knew just what the
judge thought of riches and luxuries. How often had he heard the
judge pass sentences of life imprisonment on Pierpont Morgan and
Mr. Rockefeller. How often had Pupkin heard him say that any man who
received more than three thousand dollars a year (that was the judicial
salary in the Missinaba district) was a mere robber, unfit to shake
the hand of an honest man. Bitter! I should think he was! He was not so
bitter, perhaps, as Mr. Muddleson, the principal of the Mariposa high
school, who said that any man who received more than fifteen hundred
dollars was a public enemy. He was certainly not so bitter as Trelawney,
the post-master, who said that any man who got from society more
than thirteen hundred dollars (apart from a legitimate increase in
recognition of a successful election) was a danger to society. Still,
he was bitter. They all were in Mariposa. Pupkin could just imagine how
they would despise his father!

And Zena! That was the worst of all. How often had, Pupkin heard her
say that she simply hated diamonds wouldn't wear them, despised them,
wouldn't give a thank you for a whole tiara of them! As for motor cars
and steam yachts,--well, it was pretty plain that that sort of thing had
no chance with Zena Pepperleigh. Why, she had told Pupkin one night in
the canoe that she would only marry a man who was poor and had his way
to make and would hew down difficulties for her sake. And when Pupkin
couldn't answer the argument she was quite cross and silent all the way
home.


What was Peter Pupkin doing, then, at eight hundred dollars in a bank in
Mariposa? If you ask that, it means that you know nothing of the life
of the Maritime Provinces and the sturdy temper of the people. I suppose
there are no people in the world who hate luxury and extravagance and
that sort of thing quite as much as the Maritime Province people, and,
of them, no one hated luxury more than Pupkin senior.

Don't mistake the man. He wore a long sealskin coat in winter, yes; but
mark you, not as a matter of luxury, but merely as a question of his
lungs. He smoked, I admit it, a thirty-five cent cigar, not because he
preferred it, but merely through a delicacy of the thorax that made it
imperative. He drank champagne at lunch, I concede the point, not in
the least from the enjoyment of it, but simply on account of a peculiar
affection of the tongue and lips that positively dictated it. His own
longing--and his wife shared it--was for the simple, simple life--an
island somewhere, with birds and trees. They had bought three or four
islands--one in the St. Lawrence, and two in the Gulf, and one off the
coast of Maine--looking for this sort of thing. Pupkin senior often said
that he wanted to have some place that would remind him of the little
old farm up the Aroostook where he was brought up. He often bought
little old farms, just to try them, but they always turned out to be so
near a city that he cut them into real estate lots, without even having
had time to look at them.

But--and this is where the emphasis lay--in the matter of luxury for his
only son, Peter, Pupkin senior was a Maritime Province man right to the
core, with all the hardihood of the United Empire Loyalists ingrained in
him. No luxury for that boy! No, sir! From his childhood, Pupkin senior
had undertaken, at the least sign of luxury, to "tan it out of him,"
after the fashion still in vogue in the provinces. Then he sent him to
an old-fashioned school to get it "thumped out of him," and after that
he had put him for a year on a Nova Scotia schooner to get it "knocked
out of him." If, after all that, young Pupkin, even when he came to
Mariposa, wore cameo pins and daffodil blazers, and broke out into
ribbed silk saffron ties on pay day, it only shows that the old Adam
still needs further tanning even in the Maritime Provinces.

Young Pupkin, of course, was to have gone into law. That was his
father's cherished dream and would have made the firm Pupkin, Pupkin,
Pupkin, and Pupkin, as it ought to have been. But young Peter was kept
out of the law by the fool system of examinations devised since his
father's time. Hence there was nothing for it but to sling him into a
bank; "sling him" was, I think, the expression. So his father decided
that if Pupkin was to be slung, he should be slung good and far--clean
into Canada (you know the way they use that word in the Maritime
Provinces). And to sling Pupkin he called in the services of an old
friend, a man after his own heart, just as violent as himself, who used
to be at the law school in the city with Pupkin senior thirty years ago.
So this friend, who happened to live in Mariposa, and who was a violent
man, said at once: "Edward, by Jehoshaphat! send the boy up here."

So that is how Pupkin came to Mariposa. And if, when he got there, his
father's friend gave no sign, and treated the boy with roughness and
incivility, that may have been, for all I know, a continuation of the
"tanning" process of the Maritime people.

Did I mention that the Pepperleigh family, generations ago, had taken up
land near the Aroostook, and that it was from there the judge's father
came to Tecumseh township? Perhaps not, but it doesn't matter.

But surely after such reminiscences as these the awful things that are
impending over Mr. Pupkin must be kept for another chapter.



NINE. The Mariposa Bank Mystery

Suicide is a thing that ought not to be committed without very careful
thought. It often involves serious consequences, and in some cases
brings pain to others than oneself.

I don't say that there is no justification for it. There often is.
Anybody who has listened to certain kinds of music, or read certain
kinds of poetry, or heard certain kinds of performances upon the
concertina, will admit that there are some lives which ought not to be
continued, and that even suicide has its brighter aspects.

But to commit suicide on grounds of love is at the best a very dubious
experiment. I know that in this I am expressing an opinion contrary
to that of most true lovers who embrace suicide on the slightest
provocation as the only honourable termination of an existence that
never ought to have begun.

I quite admit that there is a glamour and a sensation about the thing
which has its charm, and that there is nothing like it for causing a
girl to realize the value of the heart that she has broken and which
breathed forgiveness upon her at the very moment when it held in its
hand the half-pint of prussic acid that was to terminate its beating for
ever.

But apart from the general merits of the question, I suppose there are
few people, outside of lovers, who know what it is to commit suicide
four times in five weeks.

Yet this was what happened to Mr. Pupkin, of the Exchange Bank of
Mariposa.

Ever since he had known Zena Pepperleigh he had realized that his love
for her was hopeless. She was too beautiful for him and too good for
him; her father hated him and her mother despised him; his salary was
too small and his own people were too rich.

If you add to all that that he came up to the judge's house one night
and found a poet reciting verses to Zena, you will understand the
suicide at once. It was one of those regular poets with a solemn jackass
face, and lank parted hair and eyes like puddles of molasses. I don't
know how he came there--up from the city, probably--but there he was
on the Pepperleighs' verandah that August evening. He was reciting
poetry--either Tennyson's or Shelley's, or his own, you couldn't
tell--and about him sat Zena with her hands clasped and Nora Gallagher
looking at the sky and Jocelyn Drone gazing into infinity, and a little
tubby woman looking at the poet with her head falling over sideways--in
fact, there was a whole group of them.


I don't know what it is about poets that draws women to them in this
way. But everybody knows that a poet has only to sit and saw the air
with his hands and recite verses in a deep stupid voice, and all the
women are crazy over him. Men despise him and would kick him off the
verandah if they dared, but the women simply rave over him.

So Pupkin sat there in the gloom and listened to this poet reciting
Browning and he realized that everybody understood it but him. He could
see Zena with her eyes fixed on the poet as if she were hanging on to
every syllable (she was; she needed to), and he stood it just about
fifteen minutes and then slid off the side of the verandah and
disappeared without even saying good-night.

He walked straight down Oneida Street and along the Main Street just as
hard as he could go. There was only one purpose in his mind,--suicide.
He was heading straight for Jim Eliot's drug store on the main corner
and his idea was to buy a drink of chloroform and drink it and die right
there on the spot.

As Pupkin walked down the street, the whole thing was so vivid in his
mind that he could picture it to the remotest detail. He could even see
it all in type, in big headings in the newspapers of the following day:

APPALLING SUICIDE. PETER PUPKIN POISONED.

He perhaps hoped that the thing might lead to some kind of public
enquiry and that the question of Browning's poetry and whether it is
altogether fair to allow of its general circulation would be fully
ventilated in the newspapers.

Thinking of that, Pupkin came to the main corner.

On a warm August evening the drug store of Mariposa, as you know, is all
a blaze of lights. You can hear the hissing of the soda-water fountain
half a block away, and inside the store there are ever so many
people--boys and girls and old people too--all drinking sarsaparilla and
chocolate sundaes and lemon sours and foaming drinks that you take out
of long straws. There is such a laughing and a talking as you never
heard, and the girls are all in white and pink and cambridge blue, and
the soda fountain is of white marble with silver taps, and it hisses
and sputters, and Jim Eliot and his assistant wear white coats with red
geraniums in them, and it's just as gay as gay.

The foyer of the opera in Paris may be a fine sight, but I doubt if it
can compare with the inside of Eliot's drug store in Mariposa--for real
gaiety and joy of living.

This night the store was especially crowded because it was a Saturday
and that meant early closing for all the hotels, except, of course,
Smith's. So as the hotels were shut, the people were all in the drug
store, drinking like fishes. It just shows the folly of Local Option and
the Temperance Movement and all that. Why, if you shut the hotels you
simply drive the people to the soda fountains and there's more drinking
than ever, and not only of the men, too, but the girls and young boys
and children. I've seen little things of eight and nine that had to
be lifted up on the high stools at Eliot's drug store, drinking great
goblets of lemon soda, enough to burst them--brought there by their own
fathers, and why? Simply because the hotel bars were shut.

What's the use of thinking you can stop people drinking merely by
cutting off whiskey and brandy? The only effect is to drive them to
taking lemon sour and sarsaparilla and cherry pectoral and caroka
cordial and things they wouldn't have touched before. So in the long run
they drink more than ever. The point is that you can't prevent people
having a good time, no matter how hard you try. If they can't have it
with lager beer and brandy, they'll have it with plain soda and lemon
pop, and so the whole gloomy scheme of the temperance people breaks
down, anyway.

But I was only saying that Eliot's drug store in Mariposa on a Saturday
night is the gayest and brightest spot in the world.

And just imagine what a fool of a place to commit suicide in!

Just imagine going up to the soda-water fountain and asking for five
cents' worth of chloroform and soda! Well, you simply can't, that's all.

That's the way Pupkin found it. You see, as soon as he came in, somebody
called out: "Hello, Pete!" and one or two others called: "Hullo, Pup!"
and some said: "How goes it?" and others: "How are you toughing it?"
and so on, because you see they had all been drinking more or less and
naturally they felt jolly and glad-hearted.

So the upshot of it was that instead of taking chloroform, Pupkin
stepped up to the counter of the fountain and he had a bromo-seltzer
with cherry soda, and after that he had one of those aerated seltzers,
and then a couple of lemon seltzers and a bromo-phizzer.

I don't know if you know the mental effect of a bromo-seltzer.

But it's a hard thing to commit suicide on.

You can't.

You feel so buoyant.

Anyway, what with the phizzing of the seltzer and the lights and the
girls, Pupkin began to feel so fine that he didn't care a cuss for all
the Browning in the world, and as for the poet--oh, to blazes with him!
What's poetry, anyway?--only rhymes.

So, would you believe it, in about ten minutes Peter Pupkin was off
again and heading straight for the Pepperleighs' house, poet or no poet,
and, what was more to the point, he carried with him three great bricks
of Eliot's ice cream--in green, pink and brown layers. He struck the
verandah just at the moment when Browning was getting too stale
and dreary for words. His brain was all sizzling and jolly with the
bromo-seltzer, and when he fetched out the ice cream bricks and Zena
ran to get plates and spoons to eat it with, and Pupkin went with her
to help fetch them and they picked out the spoons together, they were so
laughing and happy that it was just a marvel. Girls, you know, need no
bromo-seltzer. They're full of it all the time.

And as for the poet--well, can you imagine how Pupkin felt when Zena
told him that the poet was married, and that the tubby little woman with
her head on sideways was his wife?

So they had the ice cream, and the poet ate it in bucketsful. Poets
always do. They need it. And after it the poet recited some stanzas of
his own and Pupkin saw that he had misjudged the man, because it was
dandy poetry, the very best. That night Pupkin walked home on air and
there was no thought of chloroform, and it turned out that he hadn't
committed suicide, but like all lovers he had commuted it.


I don't need to describe in full the later suicides of Mr. Pupkin,
because they were all conducted on the same plan and rested on something
the same reasons as above.

Sometimes he would go down at night to the offices of the bank below
his bedroom and bring up his bank revolver in order to make an end of
himself with it. This, too, he could see headed up in the newspapers as:

BRILLIANT BOY BANKER BLOWS OUT BRAINS.

But blowing your brains out is a noisy, rackety performance, and Pupkin
soon found that only special kinds of brains are suited for it. So he
always sneaked back again later in the night and put the revolver in its
place, deciding to drown himself instead. Yet every time that he walked
down to the Trestle Bridge over the Ossawippi he found it was quite
unsuitable for drowning--too high, and the water too swift and black,
and the rushes too gruesome--in fact, not at all the kind of place for a
drowning.

Far better, he realized, to wait there on the railroad track and throw
himself under the wheels of the express and be done with it. Yet, though
Pupkin often waited in this way for the train, he was never able to pick
out a pair of wheels that suited him. Anyhow, it's awfully hard to tell
an express from a fast freight.

I wouldn't mention these attempts at suicide if one of them hadn't
finally culminated in making Peter Pupkin a hero and solving for him the
whole perplexed entanglement of his love affair with Zena Pepperleigh.
Incidentally it threw him into the very centre of one of the most
impenetrable bank mysteries that ever baffled the ingenuity of some of
the finest legal talent that ever adorned one of the most enterprising
communities in the country.

It happened one night, as I say, that Pupkin decided to go down into
the office of the bank and get his revolver and see if it would blow his
brains out. It was the night of the Firemen's Ball and Zena had danced
four times with a visitor from the city, a man who was in the fourth
year at the University and who knew everything. It was more than Peter
Pupkin could bear. Mallory Tompkins was away that night, and when Pupkin
came home he was all alone in the building, except for Gillis, the
caretaker, who lived in the extension at the back.

He sat in his room for hours brooding. Two or three times he picked up a
book--he remembered afterwards distinctly that it was Kant's Critique
of Pure Reason--and tried to read it, but it seemed meaningless and
trivial. Then with a sudden access of resolution he started from his
chair and made his way down the stairs and into the office room of the
bank, meaning to get a revolver and kill himself on the spot and let
them find his body lying on the floor.

It was then far on in the night and the empty building of the bank was
as still as death. Pupkin could hear the stairs creak under his feet,
and as he went he thought he heard another sound like the opening or
closing of a door. But it sounded not like the sharp ordinary noise of
a closing door but with a dull muffled noise as if someone had shut
the iron door of a safe in a room under the ground. For a moment Pupkin
stood and listened with his heart thumping against his ribs. Then he
kicked his slippers from his feet and without a sound stole into the
office on the ground floor and took the revolver from his teller's desk.
As he gripped it, he listened to the sounds on the back-stairway and in
the vaults below.

I should explain that in the Exchange Bank of Mariposa the offices are
on the ground floor level with the street. Below this is another floor
with low dark rooms paved with flagstones, with unused office desks and
with piles of papers stored in boxes. On this floor are the vaults of
the bank, and lying in them in the autumn--the grain season--there is
anything from fifty to a hundred thousand dollars in currency tied in
bundles. There is no other light down there than the dim reflection from
the lights out on the street, that lies in patches on the stone floor.

I think as Peter Pupkin stood, revolver in hand, in the office of
the bank, he had forgotten all about the maudlin purpose of his first
coming. He had forgotten for the moment all about heroes and love
affairs, and his whole mind was focussed, sharp and alert, with the
intensity of the night-time, on the sounds that he heard in the vault
and on the back-stairway of the bank.

Straight away, Pupkin knew what it meant as plainly as if it were
written in print. He had forgotten, I say, about being a hero and he
only knew that there was sixty thousand dollars in the vault of the bank
below, and that he was paid eight hundred dollars a year to look after
it.

As Peter Pupkin stood there listening to the sounds in his stockinged
feet, his faced showed grey as ashes in the light that fell through the
window from the street. His heart beat like a hammer against his ribs.
But behind its beatings was the blood of four generations of Loyalists,
and the robber who would take that sixty thousand dollars from the
Mariposa bank must take it over the dead body of Peter Pupkin, teller.


Pupkin walked down the stairs to the lower room, the one below the
ground with the bank vault in it, with as fine a step as any of his
ancestors showed on parade. And if he had known it, as he came down the
stairway in the front of the vault room, there was a man crouched in the
shadow of the passage way by the stairs at the back. This man, too, held
a revolver in his hand, and, criminal or not, his face was as resolute
as Pupkin's own. As he heard the teller's step on the stair, he turned
and waited in the shadow of the doorway without a sound.

There is no need really to mention all these details. They are only
of interest as showing how sometimes a bank teller in a corded smoking
jacket and stockinged feet may be turned into such a hero as even the
Mariposa girls might dream about.

All of this must have happened at about three o'clock in the night.
This much was established afterwards from the evidence of Gillis, the
caretaker. When he first heard the sounds he had looked at his watch and
noticed that it was half-past two; the watch he knew was three-quarters
of an hour slow three days before and had been gaining since. The exact
time at which Gillis heard footsteps in the bank and started downstairs,
pistol in hand, became a nice point afterwards in the cross-examination.

But one must not anticipate. Pupkin reached the iron door of the bank
safe, and knelt in front of it, feeling in the dark to find the fracture
of the lock. As he knelt, he heard a sound behind him, and swung round
on his knees and saw the bank robber in the half light of the passage
way and the glitter of a pistol in his hand. The rest was over in an
instant. Pupkin heard a voice that was his own, but that sounded strange
and hollow, call out: "Drop that, or I'll fire!" and then just as he
raised his revolver, there came a blinding flash of light before his
eyes, and Peter Pupkin, junior teller of the bank, fell forward on the
floor and knew no more.


At that point, of course, I ought to close down a chapter, or volume,
or, at least, strike the reader over the head with a sandbag to force
him to stop and think. In common fairness one ought to stop here and
count a hundred or get up and walk round a block, or, at any rate,
picture to oneself Peter Pupkin lying on the floor of the bank,
motionless, his arms distended, the revolver still grasped in his hand.
But I must go on.

By half-past seven on the following morning it was known all over
Mariposa that Peter Pupkin the junior teller of the Exchange had been
shot dead by a bank robber in the vault of the building. It was known
also that Gillis, the caretaker, had been shot and killed at the foot of
the stairs, and that the robber had made off with fifty thousand dollars
in currency; that he had left a trail of blood on the sidewalk and that
the men were out tracking him with bloodhounds in the great swamps to
the north of the town.

This, I say, and it is important to note it, was what they knew at
half-past seven. Of course as each hour went past they learned more
and more. At eight o'clock it was known that Pupkin was not dead, but
dangerously wounded in the lungs. At eight-thirty it was known that he
was not shot in the lungs, but that the ball had traversed the pit of
his stomach.

At nine o'clock it was learned that the pit of Pupkin's stomach was all
right, but that the bullet had struck his right ear and carried it away.
Finally it was learned that his ear had not exactly been carried away,
that is, not precisely removed by the bullet, but that it had grazed
Pupkin's head in such a way that it had stunned him, and if it had been
an inch or two more to the left it might have reached his brain. This,
of course, was just as good as being killed from the point of view of
public interest.

Indeed, by nine o'clock Pupkin could be himself seen on the Main Street
with a great bandage sideways on his head, pointing out the traces of
the robber. Gillis, the caretaker, too, it was known by eight, had not
been killed. He had been shot through the brain, but whether the injury
was serious or not was only a matter of conjecture. In fact, by ten
o'clock it was understood that the bullet from the robber's second shot
had grazed the side of the caretaker's head, but as far as could be
known his brain was just as before. I should add that the first report
about the bloodstains and the swamp and the bloodhounds turned out to
be inaccurate. The stains may have been blood, but as they led to the
cellar way of Netley's store they may have also been molasses, though it
was argued, to be sure, that the robber might well have poured molasses
over the bloodstains from sheer cunning.

It was remembered, too, that there were no bloodhounds in Mariposa,
although, mind you, there are any amount of dogs there.

So you see that by ten o'clock in the morning the whole affair was
settling into the impenetrable mystery which it ever since remained.

Not that there wasn't evidence enough. There was Pupkin's own story
and Gillis's story, and the stories of all the people who had heard the
shots and seen the robber (some said, the bunch of robbers) go running
past (others said, walking past), in the night. Apparently the robber
ran up and down half the streets of Mariposa before he vanished.

But the stories of Pupkin and Gillis were plain enough. Pupkin related
that he heard sounds in the bank and came downstairs just in time to
see the robber crouching in the passage way, and that the robber was
a large, hulking, villainous looking man, wearing a heavy coat. Gillis
told exactly the same story, having heard the noises at the same
time, except that he first described the robber as a small thin fellow
(peculiarly villainous looking, however, even in the dark), wearing a
short jacket; but on thinking it over, Gillis realized that he had been
wrong about the size of the criminal, and that he was even bigger, if
anything, than what Mr. Pupkin thought. Gillis had fired at the robber;
just at the same moment had Mr. Pupkin.

Beyond that, all was mystery, absolute and impenetrable.

By eleven o'clock the detectives had come up from the city under orders
from the head of the bank.


I wish you could have seen the two detectives as they moved to and fro
in Mariposa--fine looking, stern, impenetrable men that they were. They
seemed to take in the whole town by instinct and so quietly. They found
their way to Mr. Smith's Hotel just as quietly as if it wasn't design at
all and stood there at the bar, picking up scraps of conversation--you
know the way detectives do it. Occasionally they allowed one or two
bystanders--confederates, perhaps,--to buy a drink for them, and you
could see from the way they drank it that they were still listening for
a clue. If there had been the faintest clue in Smith's Hotel or in the
Mariposa House or in the Continental, those fellows would have been at
it like a flash.

To see them moving round the town that day--silent, massive,
imperturbable--gave one a great idea of their strange, dangerous
calling. They went about the town all day and yet in such a quiet
peculiar way that you couldn't have realized that they were working at
all. They ate their dinner together at Smith's cafe and took an hour and
a half over it to throw people off the scent. Then when they got them
off it, they sat and talked with Josh Smith in the back bar to keep them
off. Mr. Smith seemed to take to them right away. They were men of his
own size, or near it, and anyway hotel men and detectives have a
general affinity and share in the same impenetrable silence and in their
confidential knowledge of the weaknesses of the public.

Mr. Smith, too, was of great use to the detectives. "Boys," he said, "I
wouldn't ask too close as to what folks was out late at night: in this
town it don't do."

When those two great brains finally left for the city on the
five-thirty, it was hard to realize that behind each grand, impassible
face a perfect vortex of clues was seething.

But if the detectives were heroes, what was Pupkin? Imagine him with
his bandage on his head standing in front of the bank and talking of the
midnight robbery with that peculiar false modesty that only heroes are
entitled to use.

I don't know whether you have ever been a hero, but for sheer
exhilaration there is nothing like it. And for Mr. Pupkin, who had gone
through life thinking himself no good, to be suddenly exalted into the
class of Napoleon Bonaparte and John Maynard and the Charge of the Light
Brigade--oh, it was wonderful. Because Pupkin was a brave man now and
he knew it and acquired with it all the brave man's modesty. In fact,
I believe he was heard to say that he had only done his duty, and that
what he did was what any other man would have done: though when somebody
else said: "That's so, when you come to think of it," Pupkin turned on
him that quiet look of the wounded hero, bitterer than words.

And if Pupkin had known that all of the afternoon papers in the city
reported him dead, he would have felt more luxurious still.

That afternoon the Mariposa court sat in enquiry,--technically it was
summoned in inquest on the dead robber--though they hadn't found the
body--and it was wonderful to see them lining up the witnesses and
holding cross-examinations. There is something in the cross-examination
of great criminal lawyers like Nivens, of Mariposa, and in the counter
examinations of presiding judges like Pepperleigh that thrills you to
the core with the astuteness of it.

They had Henry Mullins, the manager, on the stand for an hour and a
half, and the excitement was so breathless that you could have heard a
pin drop. Nivens took him on first.

"What is your name?" he said.

"Henry August Mullins."

"What position do you hold?"

"I am manager of the Exchange Bank."

"When were you born?"

"December 30, 1869."

After that, Nivens stood looking quietly at Mullins. You could feel that
he was thinking pretty deeply before he shot the next question at him.

"Where did you go to school?"

Mullins answered straight off: "The high school down home," and Nivens
thought again for a while and then asked:

"How many boys were at the school?"

"About sixty."

"How many masters?"

"About three."

After that Nivens paused a long while and seemed to be digesting the
evidence, but at last an idea seemed to strike him and he said:

"I understand you were not on the bank premises last night. Where were
you?"

"Down the lake duck shooting."

You should have seen the excitement in the court when Mullins said this.
The judge leaned forward in his chair and broke in at once.

"Did you get any, Harry?" he asked.

"Yes," Mullins said, "about six."

"Where did you get them? What? In the wild rice marsh past the river?
You don't say so! Did you get them on the sit or how?"

All of these questions were fired off at the witness from the court in a
single breath. In fact, it was the knowledge that the first ducks of the
season had been seen in the Ossawippi marsh that led to the termination
of the proceedings before the afternoon was a quarter over. Mullins and
George Duff and half the witnesses were off with shotguns as soon as the
court was cleared.


I may as well state at once that the full story of the robbery of the
bank of Mariposa never came to the light. A number of arrests--mostly
of vagrants and suspicious characters--were made, but the guilt of the
robbery was never brought home to them. One man was arrested twenty
miles away, at the other end of Missinaba county, who not only
corresponded exactly with the description of the robber, but, in
addition to this, had a wooden leg. Vagrants with one leg are always
regarded with suspicion in places like Mariposa, and whenever a robbery
or a murder happens they are arrested in batches.

It was never even known just how much money was stolen from the bank.
Some people said ten thousand dollars, others more. The bank, no doubt
for business motives, claimed that the contents of the safe were intact
and that the robber had been foiled in his design.

But none of this matters to the exaltation of Mr. Pupkin. Good fortune,
like bad, never comes in small instalments. On that wonderful day, every
good thing happened to Peter Pupkin at once. The morning saw him a
hero. At the sitting of the court, the judge publicly told him that his
conduct was fit to rank among the annals of the pioneers of Tecumseh
Township, and asked him to his house for supper. At five o'clock he
received the telegram of promotion from the head office that raised
his salary to a thousand dollars, and made him not only a hero but a
marriageable man. At six o'clock he started up to the judge's house with
his resolution nerved to the most momentous step of his life.

His mind was made up.

He would do a thing seldom if ever done in Mariposa. He would propose to
Zena Pepperleigh. In Mariposa this kind of step, I say, is seldom taken.
The course of love runs on and on through all its stages of tennis
playing and dancing and sleigh riding, till by sheer notoriety of
circumstance an understanding is reached. To propose straight out would
be thought priggish and affected and is supposed to belong only to
people in books.

But Pupkin felt that what ordinary people dare not do, heroes are
allowed to attempt. He would propose to Zena, and more than that, he
would tell her in a straight, manly way that he was rich and take the
consequences.

And he did it.

That night on the piazza, where the hammock hangs in the shadow of
the Virginia creeper, he did it. By sheer good luck the judge had
gone indoors to the library, and by a piece of rare good fortune Mrs.
Pepperleigh had gone indoors to the sewing room, and by a happy trick
of coincidence the servant was out and the dog was tied up--in fact,
no such chain of circumstances was ever offered in favour of mortal man
before.

What Zena said--beyond saying yes--I do not know. I am sure that when
Pupkin told her of the money, she bore up as bravely as so fine a girl
as Zena would, and when he spoke of diamonds she said she would wear
them for his sake.

They were saying these things and other things--ever so many other
things--when there was such a roar and a clatter up Oneida Street as
you never heard, and there came bounding up to the house one of the most
marvellous Limousine touring cars that ever drew up at the home of a
judge on a modest salary of three thousand dollars. When it stopped
there sprang from it an excited man in a long sealskin coat--worn not
for the luxury of it at all but from the sheer chilliness of the autumn
evening. And it was, as of course you know, Pupkin's father. He had seen
the news of his son's death in the evening paper in the city. They drove
the car through, so the chauffeur said, in two hours and a quarter, and
behind them there was to follow a special trainload of detectives and
emergency men, but Pupkin senior had cancelled all that by telegram half
way up when he heard that Peter was still living.

For a moment as his eye rested on young Pupkin you would almost have
imagined, had you not known that he came from the Maritime Provinces,
that there were tears in them and that he was about to hug his son to
his heart. But if he didn't hug Peter to his heart, he certainly did
within a few moments clasp Zena to it, in that fine fatherly way in
which they clasp pretty girls in the Maritime Provinces. The strangest
thing is that Pupkin senior seemed to understand the whole situation
without any explanations at all.

Judge Pepperleigh, I think, would have shaken both of Pupkin senior's
arms off when he saw him; and when you heard them call one another
"Ned" and "Phillip" it made you feel that they were boys again attending
classes together at the old law school in the city.

If Pupkin thought that his father wouldn't make a hit in Mariposa,
it only showed his ignorance. Pupkin senior sat there on the judge's
verandah smoking a corn cob pipe as if he had never heard of Havana
cigars in his life. In the three days that he spent in Mariposa that
autumn, he went in and out of Jeff Thorpe's barber shop and Eliot's drug
store, shot black ducks in the marsh and played poker every evening at
a hundred matches for a cent as if he had never lived any other life in
all his days. They had to send him telegrams enough to fill a satchel to
make him come away.

So Pupkin and Zena in due course of time were married, and went to live
in one of the enchanted houses on the hillside in the newer part of the
town, where you may find them to this day.

You may see Pupkin there at any time cutting enchanted grass on a little
lawn in as gaudy a blazer as ever.

But if you step up to speak to him or walk with him into the enchanted
house, pray modulate your voice a little musical though it is--for there
is said to be an enchanted baby on the premises whose sleep must not
lightly be disturbed.



TEN. The Great Election in Missinaba County

Don't ask me what election it was, whether Dominion or Provincial or
Imperial or Universal, for I scarcely know.

It must, of course, have been going on in other parts of the country
as well, but I saw it all from Missinaba County which, with the town of
Mariposa, was, of course, the storm centre and focus point of the whole
turmoil.

I only know that it was a huge election and that on it turned issues of
the most tremendous importance, such as whether or not Mariposa should
become part of the United States, and whether the flag that had waved
over the school house at Tecumseh Township for ten centuries should be
trampled under the hoof of an alien invader, and whether Britons should
be slaves, and whether Canadians should be Britons, and whether the
farming class would prove themselves Canadians, and tremendous questions
of that kind.

And there was such a roar and a tumult to it, and such a waving of flags
and beating of drums and flaring of torchlights that such parts of the
election as may have been going on elsewhere than in Missinaba county
must have been quite unimportant and didn't really matter.

Now that it is all over, we can look back at it without heat or passion.
We can see,--it's plain enough now,--that in the great election Canada
saved the British Empire, and that Missinaba saved Canada and that
the vote of the Third Concession of Tecumseh Township saved Missinaba
County, and that those of us who carried the third concession,--well,
there's no need to push it further. We prefer to be modest about it. If
we still speak of it, it is only quietly and simply and not more than
three or four times a day.

But you can't understand the election at all, and the conventions and
the campaigns and the nominations and the balloting, unless you first
appreciate the peculiar complexion of politics in Mariposa.

Let me begin at the beginning. Everybody in Mariposa is either a Liberal
or a Conservative or else is both. Some of the people are or have
been Liberals or Conservatives all their lives and are called
dyed-in-the-wool Grits or old-time Tories and things of that sort. These
people get from long training such a swift penetrating insight into
national issues that they can decide the most complicated question in
four seconds: in fact, just as soon as they grab the city papers out of
the morning mail, they know the whole solution of any problem you can
put to them. There are other people whose aim it is to be broad-minded
and judicious and who vote Liberal or Conservative according to their
judgment of the questions of the day. If their judgment of these
questions tells them that there is something in it for them in voting
Liberal, then they do so. But if not, they refuse to be the slaves of a
party or the henchmen of any political leader. So that anybody looking
for henches has got to keep away from them.

But the one thing that nobody is allowed to do in Mariposa is to have
no politics. Of course there are always some people whose circumstances
compel them to say that they have no politics. But that is easily
understood. Take the case of Trelawney, the postmaster. Long ago he was
a letter carrier under the old Mackenzie Government, and later he was
a letter sorter under the old Macdonald Government, and after that a
letter stamper under the old Tupper Government, and so on. Trelawney
always says that he has no politics, but the truth is that he has too
many.

So, too, with the clergy in Mariposa. They have no politics--absolutely
none. Yet Dean Drone round election time always announces as his text
such a verse as: "Lo! is there not one righteous man in Israel?" or:
"What ho! is it not time for a change?" And that is a signal for all the
Liberal business men to get up and leave their pews.

Similarly over at the Presbyterian Church, the minister says that his
sacred calling will not allow him to take part in politics and that
his sacred calling prevents him from breathing even a word of harshness
against his fellow man, but that when it comes to the elevation of the
ungodly into high places in the commonwealth (this means, of course, the
nomination of the Conservative candidate) then he's not going to allow
his sacred calling to prevent him from saying just what he thinks of
it. And by that time, having pretty well cleared the church of
Conservatives, he proceeds to show from the scriptures that the ancient
Hebrews were Liberals to a man, except those who were drowned in the
flood or who perished, more or less deservedly, in the desert.

There are, I say, some people who are allowed to claim to have no
politics,--the office holders, and the clergy and the school teachers
and the hotel keepers. But beyond them, anybody in Mariposa who says
that he has no politics is looked upon as crooked, and people wonder
what it is that he is "out after."

In fact, the whole town and county is a hive of politics, and people
who have only witnessed gatherings such as the House of Commons at
Westminster and the Senate at Washington and never seen a Conservative
Convention at Tecumseh Corners or a Liberal Rally at the Concession
school house, don't know what politics means.

So you may imagine the excitement in Mariposa when it became known that
King George had dissolved the parliament of Canada and had sent out a
writ or command for Missinaba County to elect for him some other person
than John Henry Bagshaw because he no longer had confidence in him.

The king, of course, is very well known, very favourably known, in
Mariposa. Everybody remembers how he visited the town on his great tour
in Canada, and stopped off at the Mariposa station. Although he was only
a prince at the time, there was quite a big crowd down at the depot and
everybody felt what a shame it was that the prince had no time to see
more of Mariposa, because he would get such a false idea of it, seeing
only the station and the lumber yards. Still, they all came to the
station and all the Liberals and Conservatives mixed together perfectly
freely and stood side by side without any distinction, so that the
prince should not observe any party differences among them. And he
didn't,--you could see that he didn't. They read him an address all
about the tranquillity and loyalty of the Empire, and they purposely
left out any reference to the trouble over the town wharf or the big row
there had been about the location of the new post-office. There was a
general decent feeling that it wouldn't be fair to disturb the prince
with these things: later on, as king, he would, of course, _have_ to
know all about them, but meanwhile it was better to leave him with the
idea that his empire was tranquil.

So they deliberately couched the address in terms that were just as
reassuring as possible and the prince was simply delighted with it. I
am certain that he slept pretty soundly after hearing that address. Why,
you could see it taking effect even on his aides-de-camp and the people
round him, so imagine how the prince must have felt!

I think in Mariposa they understand kings perfectly. Every time that
a king or a prince comes, they try to make him see the bright side of
everything and let him think that they're all united. Judge Pepperleigh
walked up and down arm in arm with Dr. Gallagher, the worst Grit in the
town, just to make the prince feel fine.

So when they got the news that the king had lost confidence in John
Henry Bagshaw, the sitting member, they never questioned it a bit. Lost
confidence? All right, they'd elect him another right away. They'd elect
him half a dozen if he needed them. They don't mind; they'd elect the
whole town man after man rather than have the king worried about it.

In any case, all the Conservatives had been wondering for years how the
king and the governor-general and men like that had tolerated such a man
as Bagshaw so long.

Missinaba County, I say, is a regular hive of politics, and not the
miserable, crooked, money-ridden politics of the cities, but the
straight, real old-fashioned thing that is an honour to the country
side. Any man who would offer to take a bribe or sell his convictions
for money, would be an object of scorn. I don't say they wouldn't take
money,--they would, of course, why not?--but if they did they would
take it in a straight fearless way and say nothing about it. They
might,--it's only human,--accept a job or a contract from the
government, but if they did, rest assured it would be in a broad
national spirit and not for the sake of the work itself. No, sir. Not
for a minute.

Any man who wants to get the votes of the Missinaba farmers and the
Mariposa business men has got to persuade them that he's the right man.
If he can do that,--if he can persuade any one of them that he is the
right man and that all the rest know it, then they'll vote for him.

The division, I repeat, between the Liberals and the Conservatives,
is intense. Yet you might live for a long while in the town, between
elections, and never know it. It is only when you get to understand
the people that you begin to see that there is a cross division running
through them that nothing can ever remove. You gradually become aware of
fine subtle distinctions that miss your observation at first. Outwardly,
they are all friendly enough. For instance, Joe Milligan the dentist is
a Conservative, and has been for six years, and yet he shares the same
boat-house with young Dr. Gallagher, who is a Liberal, and they even
bought a motor boat between them. Pete Glover and Alf McNichol were in
partnership in the hardware and paint store, though they belonged on
different sides.

But just as soon as elections drew near, the differences in politics
became perfectly apparent. Liberals and Conservatives drew away from one
another. Joe Milligan used the motor boat one Saturday and Dr. Gallagher
the next, and Pete Glover sold hardware on one side of the store and Alf
McNichol sold paint on the other. You soon realized too that one of the
newspapers was Conservative and the other was Liberal, and that there
was a Liberal drug store and a Conservative drug store, and so on.
Similarly round election time, the Mariposa House was the Liberal Hotel,
and the Continental Conservative, though Mr. Smith's place, where they
always put on a couple of extra bar tenders, was what you might call
Independent-Liberal-Conservative, with a dash of Imperialism thrown in.
Mr. Gingham, the undertaker, was, as a natural effect of his calling,
an advanced Liberal, but at election time he always engaged a special
assistant for embalming Conservative customers.

So now, I think, you understand something of the general political
surroundings of the great election in Missinaba County.

John Henry Bagshaw was the sitting member, the Liberal member, for
Missinaba County.

The Liberals called him the old war horse, and the old battle-axe, and
the old charger and the old champion and all sorts of things of that
kind. The Conservatives called him the old jackass and the old army mule
and the old booze fighter and the old grafter and the old scoundrel.

John Henry Bagshaw was, I suppose, one of the greatest political forces
in the world. He had flowing white hair crowned with a fedora hat, and a
smooth statesmanlike face which it cost the country twenty-five cents a
day to shave.

Altogether the Dominion of Canada had spent over two thousand dollars in
shaving that face during the twenty years that Bagshaw had represented
Missinaba County. But the result had been well worth it.

Bagshaw wore a long political overcoat that it cost the country twenty
cents a day to brush, and boots that cost the Dominion fifteen cents
every morning to shine.

But it was money well spent.

Bagshaw of Mariposa was one of the most representative men of the age,
and it's no wonder that he had been returned for the county for five
elections running, leaving the Conservatives nowhere. Just think how
representative he was. He owned two hundred acres out on the Third
Concession and kept two men working on it all the time to prove that he
was a practical farmer. They sent in fat hogs to the Missinaba County
Agricultural Exposition and the World's Fair every autumn, and Bagshaw
himself stood beside the pig pens with the judges, and wore a pair of
corduroy breeches and chewed a straw all afternoon. After that if any
farmer thought that he was not properly represented in Parliament, it
showed that he was an ass.

Bagshaw owned a half share in the harness business and a quarter share
in the tannery and that made him a business man. He paid for a pew in
the Presbyterian Church and that represented religion in Parliament. He
attended college for two sessions thirty years ago, and that represented
education and kept him abreast with modern science, if not ahead of it.
He kept a little account in one bank and a big account in the other, so
that he was a rich man or a poor man at the same time.

Add to that that John Henry Bagshaw was perhaps the finest orator in
Mariposa. That, of course, is saying a great deal. There are speakers
there, lots of them that can talk two or three hours at a stretch, but
the old war horse could beat them all. They say that when John Henry
Bagshaw got well started, say after a couple of hours of talk, he could
speak as Pericles or Demosthenes or Cicero never could have spoken.

You could tell Bagshaw a hundred yards off as a member of the House
of Commons. He wore a pepper-and-salt suit to show that he came from a
rural constituency, and he wore a broad gold watch-chain with dangling
seals to show that he also represents a town. You could see from his
quiet low collar and white tie that his electorate were a Godfearing,
religious people, while the horseshoe pin that he wore showed that his
electorate were not without sporting instincts and knew a horse from a
jackass.

Most of the time, John Henry Bagshaw had to be at Ottawa (though he
preferred the quiet of his farm and always left it, as he said, with a
sigh). If he was not in Ottawa, he was in Washington, and of course at
any time they might need him in London, so that it was no wonder that he
could only be in Mariposa about two months of the year.

That is why everybody knew, when Bagshaw got off the afternoon train
one day early in the spring, that there must be something very important
coming and that the rumours about a new election must be perfectly true.

Everything that he did showed this. He gave the baggage man twenty-five
cents to take the check off his trunk, the 'bus driver fifty cents to
drive him up to the Main Street, and he went into Callahan's tobacco
store and bought two ten-cent cigars and took them across the street and
gave them to Mallory Tompkins of the Times-Herald as a present from the
Prime Minister.

All that afternoon, Bagshaw went up and down the Main Street of
Mariposa, and you could see, if you knew the signs of it, that there was
politics in the air. He bought nails and putty and glass in the hardware
store, and harness in the harness shop, and drugs in the drug store and
toys in the toy shop, and all the things like that that are needed for a
big campaign.

Then when he had done all this he went over with McGinnis the Liberal
organizer and Mallory Tompkins, the Times-Herald man, and Gingham
(the great Independent-Liberal undertaker) to the back parlour in the
Mariposa House.

You could tell from the way John Henry Bagshaw closed the door before he
sat down that he was in a pretty serious frame of mind.

"Gentlemen," he said, "the election is a certainty. We're going to have
a big fight on our hands and we've got to get ready for it."

"Is it going to be on the tariff?" asked Tompkins.

"Yes, gentlemen, I'm afraid it is. The whole thing is going to turn on
the tariff question. I wish it were otherwise. I think it madness, but
they're bent on it, and we got to fight it on that line. Why they can't
fight it merely on the question of graft," continued the old war horse,
rising from his seat and walking up and down, "Heaven only knows. I
warned them. I appealed to them. I said, fight the thing on graft and we
can win easy. Take this constituency,--why not have fought the thing out
on whether I spent too much money on the town wharf or the post-office?
What better issues could a man want? Let them claim that I am crooked
and let me claim that I'm not. Surely that was good enough without
dragging in the tariff. But now, gentlemen, tell me about things in the
constituency. Is there any talk yet of who is to run?"

Mallory Tompkins lighted up the second of his Prime Minister's cigars
and then answered for the group:

"Everybody says that Edward Drone is going to run."

"Ah!" said the old war horse, and there was joy upon his face, "is he?
At last! That's good, that's good--now what platform will he run on?"

"Independent."

"Excellent," said Mr. Bagshaw. "Independent, that's fine. On a programme
of what?"

"Just simple honesty and public morality."

"Come now," said the member, "that's splendid: that will help
enormously. Honesty and public morality! The very thing! If Drone runs
and makes a good showing, we win for a certainty. Tompkins, you must
lose no time over this. Can't you manage to get some articles in the
other papers hinting that at the last election we bribed all the voters
in the county, and that we gave out enough contracts to simply pervert
the whole constituency. Imply that we poured the public money into this
county in bucketsful and that we are bound to do it again. Let Drone
have plenty of material of this sort and he'll draw off every honest
unbiased vote in the Conservative party.

"My only fear is," continued the old war horse, losing some of his
animation, "that Drone won't run after all. He's said it so often
before and never has. He hasn't got the money. But we must see to that.
Gingham, you know his brother well; you must work it so that we pay
Drone's deposit and his campaign expenses. But how like Drone it is to
come out at this time!"

It was indeed very like Edward Drone to attempt so misguided a thing as
to come out an Independent candidate in Missinaba County on a platform
of public honesty. It was just the sort of thing that anyone in Mariposa
would expect from him.

Edward Drone was the Rural Dean's younger brother,--young Mr. Drone,
they used to call him, years ago, to distinguish him from the rector.
He was a somewhat weaker copy of his elder brother, with a simple,
inefficient face and kind blue eyes. Edward Drone was, and always had
been, a failure. In training he had been, once upon a time, an engineer
and built dams that broke and bridges that fell down and wharves that
floated away in the spring floods. He had been a manufacturer and
failed, had been a contractor and failed, and now lived a meagre life as
a sort of surveyor or land expert on goodness knows what.

In his political ideas Edward Drone was and, as everybody in Mariposa
knew, always had been crazy. He used to come up to the autumn exercises
at the high school and make speeches about the ancient Romans and Titus
Manlius and Quintus Curtius at the same time when John Henry Bagshaw
used to make a speech about the Maple Leaf and ask for an extra half
holiday. Drone used to tell the boys about the lessons to be learned
from the lives of the truly great, and Bagshaw used to talk to them
about the lessons learned from the lives of the extremely rich. Drone
used to say that his heart filled whenever he thought of the splendid
patriotism of the ancient Romans, and Bagshaw said that whenever he
looked out over this wide Dominion his heart overflowed.

Even the youngest boy in the school could tell that Drone was foolish.
Not even the school teachers would have voted for him.

"What about the Conservatives?" asked Bagshaw presently; "is there any
talk yet as to who they'll bring out?" Gingham and Mallory Tompkins
looked at one another. They were almost afraid to speak.

"Hadn't you heard?" said Gingham; "they've got their man already."

"Who is it?" said Bagshaw quickly. "They're going to put up Josh Smith."

"Great Heaven!" said Bagshaw, jumping to his feet; "Smith! the hotel
keeper."

"Yes, sir," said Mr. Gingham, "that's the man."

Do you remember, in history, how Napoleon turned pale when he heard
that the Duke of Wellington was to lead the allies in Belgium? Do you
remember how when Themistocles heard that Aristogiton was to lead the
Spartans, he jumped into the sea? Possibly you don't, but it may help
you to form some idea of what John Henry Bagshaw felt when he heard that
the Conservatives had selected Josh Smith, proprietor of Smith's Hotel.

You remember Smith. You've seen him there on the steps of his
hotel,--two hundred and eighty pounds in his stockinged feet. You've
seen him selling liquor after hours through sheer public spirit, and you
recall how he saved the lives of hundreds of people on the day when the
steamer sank, and how he saved the town from being destroyed the night
when the Church of England Church burnt down. You know that hotel of
his, too, half way down the street, Smith's Northern Health Resort,
though already they were beginning to call it Smith's British Arms.

So you can imagine that Bagshaw came as near to turning pale as a man in
federal politics can.

"I never knew Smith was a Conservative," he said faintly; "he always
subscribed to our fund."

"He is now," said Mr. Gingham ominously; "he says the idea of this
reciprocity business cuts him to the heart."

"The infernal liar!" said Mr. Bagshaw.

There was silence for a few moments. Then Bagshaw spoke again.

"Will Smith have anything else in his platform besides the trade
question?"

"Yes," said Mr. Gingham gloomily, "he will."

"What is it?"

"Temperance and total prohibition!"

John Henry Bagshaw sank back in his chair as if struck with a club.
There let me leave him for a chapter.



ELEVEN. The Candidacy of Mr. Smith

"Boys," said Mr. Smith to the two hostlers, stepping out on to the
sidewalk in front of the hotel,--"hoist that there British Jack over the
place and hoist her up good."

Then he stood and watched the flag fluttering in the wind.

"Billy," he said to the desk clerk, "get a couple more and put them up
on the roof of the caff behind the hotel. Wire down to the city and get
a quotation on a hundred of them. Take them signs 'American Drinks' out
of the bar. Put up noo ones with 'British Beer at all Hours'; clear out
the rye whiskey and order in Scotch and Irish, and then go up to the
printing office and get me them placards."

Then another thought struck Mr. Smith.

"Say, Billy," he said, "wire to the city for fifty pictures of King
George. Get 'em good, and get 'em coloured. It don't matter what they
cost."

"All right, sir," said Billy.

"And Billy," called Mr. Smith, as still another thought struck him
(indeed, the moment Mr. Smith went into politics you could see these
thoughts strike him like waves), "get fifty pictures of his father, old
King Albert."

"All right, sir."

"And say, I tell you, while you're at it, get some of the old queen,
Victorina, if you can. Get 'em in mourning, with a harp and one of them
lions and a three-pointed prong."

It was on the morning after the Conservative Convention. Josh Smith had
been chosen the candidate. And now the whole town was covered with flags
and placards and there were bands in the streets every evening, and
noise and music and excitement that went on from morning till night.

Election times are exciting enough even in the city. But there the
excitement dies down in business hours. In Mariposa there aren't any
business hours and the excitement goes on _all_ the time.

Mr. Smith had carried the Convention before him. There had been a feeble
attempt to put up Nivens. But everybody knew that he was a lawyer and a
college man and wouldn't have a chance by a man with a broader outlook
like Josh Smith.

So the result was that Smith was the candidate and there were placards
out all over the town with SMITH AND BRITISH ALLEGIANCE in big letters,
and people were wearing badges with Mr. Smith's face on one side and
King George's on the other, and the fruit store next to the hotel had
been cleaned out and turned into committee rooms with a gang of workers
smoking cigars in it all day and half the night.

There were other placards, too, with BAGSHAW AND LIBERTY, BAGSHAW AND
PROSPERITY, VOTE FOR THE OLD MISSINABA STANDARD BEARER, and up town
beside the Mariposa House there were the Bagshaw committee rooms with
a huge white streamer across the street, and with a gang of Bagshaw
workers smoking their heads off.

But Mr. Smith had an estimate made which showed that nearly two cigars
to one were smoked in his committee rooms as compared with the Liberals.
It was the first time in five elections that the Conservative had been
able to make such a showing as that.

One might mention, too, that there were Drone placards out,--five or six
of them,--little things about the size of a pocket handkerchief, with a
statement that "Mr. Edward Drone solicits the votes of the electors of
Missinaba County." But you would never notice them. And when Drone tried
to put up a streamer across the Main Street with DRONE AND HONESTY the
wind carried it away into the lake.

The fight was really between Smith and Bagshaw, and everybody knew it
from the start.

I wish that I were able to narrate all the phases and the turns of the
great contest from the opening of the campaign till the final polling
day. But it would take volumes.

First of all, of course, the trade question was hotly discussed in the
two newspapers of Mariposa, and the Newspacket and the Times-Herald
literally bristled with statistics. Then came interviews with the
candidates and the expression of their convictions in regard to tariff
questions.

"Mr. Smith," said the reporter of the Mariposa Newspacket, "we'd like
to get your views of the effect of the proposed reduction of the
differential duties."

"By gosh, Pete," said Mr. Smith, "you can search me. Have a cigar."

"What do you think, Mr. Smith, would be the result of lowering the _ad
valorem_ British preference and admitting American goods at a reciprocal
rate?"

"It's a corker, ain't it?" answered Mr. Smith. "What'll you take, lager
or domestic?"

And in that short dialogue Mr. Smith showed that he had instantaneously
grasped the whole method of dealing with the press. The interview in the
paper next day said that Mr. Smith, while unwilling to state positively
that the principle of tariff discrimination was at variance with sound
fiscal science, was firmly of opinion that any reciprocal interchange
of tariff preferences with the United States must inevitably lead to a
serious per capita reduction of the national industry.


"Mr. Smith," said the chairman of a delegation of the manufacturers of
Mariposa, "what do you propose to do in regard to the tariff if you're
elected?"

"Boys," answered Mr. Smith, "I'll put her up so darned high they won't
never get her down again."


"Mr. Smith," said the chairman of another delegation, "I'm an old free
trader--"

"Put it there," said Mr. Smith, "so'm I. There ain't nothing like it."


"What do you think about imperial defence?" asked another questioner.

"Which?" said Mr. Smith.

"Imperial defence."

"Of what?"

"Of everything."

"Who says it?" said Mr. Smith.

"Everybody is talking of it."

"What do the Conservative boys at Ottaway think about it?" answered Mr.
Smith.

"They're all for it."

"Well, I'm fer it too," said Mr. Smith.


These little conversations represented only the first stage, the
argumentative stage of the great contest. It was during this period, for
example, that the Mariposa Newspacket absolutely proved that the price
of hogs in Mariposa was decimal six higher than the price of oranges in
Southern California and that the average decennial import of eggs into
Missinaba County had increased four decimal six eight two in the last
fifteen years more than the import of lemons in New Orleans.

Figures of this kind made the people think. Most certainly.

After all this came the organizing stage and after that the big public
meetings and the rallies. Perhaps you have never seen a county being
"organized." It is a wonderful sight.

First of all the Bagshaw men drove through crosswise in top buggies and
then drove through it again lengthwise. Whenever they met a farmer they
went in and ate a meal with him, and after the meal they took him out to
the buggy and gave him a drink. After that the man's vote was absolutely
solid until it was tampered with by feeding a Conservative.

In fact, the only way to show a farmer that you are in earnest is to go
in and eat a meal with him. If you won't eat it, he won't vote for you.
That is the recognized political test.

But, of course, just as soon as the Bagshaw men had begun to get the
farming vote solidified, the Smith buggies came driving through in the
other direction, eating meals and distributing cigars and turning all
the farmers back into Conservatives.

Here and there you might see Edward Drone, the Independent candidate,
wandering round from farm to farm in the dust of the political buggies.
To each of the farmers he explained that he pledged himself to give no
bribes, to spend no money and to offer no jobs, and each one of them
gripped him warmly by the hand and showed him the way to the next farm.

After the organization of the county there came the period of the public
meetings and the rallies and the joint debates between the candidates
and their supporters.

I suppose there was no place in the whole Dominion where the trade
question--the Reciprocity question--was threshed out quite so thoroughly
and in quite such a national patriotic spirit as in Mariposa. For a
month, at least, people talked of nothing else. A man would stop another
in the street and tell him that he had read last night that the average
price of an egg in New York was decimal ought one more than the price of
an egg in Mariposa, and the other man would stop the first one later in
the day and tell him that the average price of a hog in Idaho was point
six of a cent per pound less (or more,--he couldn't remember which for
the moment) than the average price of beef in Mariposa.

People lived on figures of this sort, and the man who could remember
most of them stood out as a born leader.

But of course it was at the public meetings that these things were most
fully discussed. It would take volumes to do full justice to all the
meetings that they held in Missinaba County. But here and there single
speeches stood out as masterpieces of convincing oratory. Take, for
example, the speech of John Henry Bagshaw at the Tecumseh Corners School
House. The Mariposa Times-Herald said next day that that speech would go
down in history, and so it will,--ever so far down.

Anyone who has heard Bagshaw knows what an impressive speaker he is, and
on this night when he spoke with the quiet dignity of a man old in years
and anxious only to serve his country, he almost surpassed himself. Near
the end of his speech somebody dropped a pin, and the noise it made in
falling fairly rattled the windows.

"I am an old man now, gentlemen," Bagshaw said, "and the time must soon
come when I must not only leave politics, but must take my way towards
that goal from which no traveller returns."

There was a deep hush when Bagshaw said this. It was understood to imply
that he thought of going to the United States.

"Yes, gentlemen, I am an old man, and I wish, when my time comes to go,
to depart leaving as little animosity behind me as possible. But before
I _do_ go, I want it pretty clearly understood that there are more darn
scoundrels in the Conservative party than ought to be tolerated in any
decent community. I bear," he continued, "malice towards none and I wish
to speak with gentleness to all, but what I will say is that how any
set of rational responsible men could nominate such a skunk as the
Conservative candidate passes the bounds of my comprehension. Gentlemen,
in the present campaign there is no room for vindictive abuse. Let us
rise to a higher level than that. They tell me that my opponent, Smith,
is a common saloon keeper. Let it pass. They tell me that he has stood
convicted of horse stealing, that he is a notable perjurer, that he is
known as the blackest-hearted liar in Missinaba County. Let us not speak
of it. Let no whisper of it pass our lips.

"No, gentlemen," continued Bagshaw, pausing to take a drink of water,
"let us rather consider this question on the high plane of national
welfare. Let us not think of our own particular interests but let
us consider the good of the country at large. And to do this, let me
present to you some facts in regard to the price of barley in Tecumseh
Township."

Then, amid a deep stillness, Bagshaw read off the list of prices of
sixteen kinds of grain in sixteen different places during sixteen years.

"But let me turn," Bagshaw went on to another phase of the national
subject, "and view for a moment the price of marsh hay in Missinaba
County--"

When Bagshaw sat down that night it was felt that a Liberal vote in
Tecumseh Township was a foregone conclusion.

But here they hadn't reckoned on the political genius of Mr. Smith.
When he heard next day of the meeting, he summoned some of his leading
speakers to him and he said:

"Boys, they're beating us on them statissicks. Ourn ain't good enough."

Then he turned to Nivens and he said:

"What was them figures you had here the other night?"

Nivens took out a paper and began reading.

"Stop," said Mr. Smith, "what was that figure for bacon?"

"Fourteen million dollars," said Nivens.

"Not enough," said Mr. Smith, "make it twenty. They'll stand for it,
them farmers."

Nivens changed it.

"And what was that for hay?"

"Two dollars a ton."

"Shove it up to four," said Mr. Smith: "And I tell you," he added, "if
any of them farmers says the figures ain't correct, tell them to go to
Washington and see for themselves; say that if any man wants the proof
of your figures let him go over to England and ask,--tell him to go
straight to London and see it all for himself in the books."


After this, there was no more trouble over statistics. I must say though
that it is a wonderfully convincing thing to hear trade figures of this
kind properly handled. Perhaps the best man on this sort of thing in the
campaign was Mullins, the banker. A man of his profession simply has to
have figures of trade and population and money at his fingers' ends and
the effect of it in public speaking is wonderful.

No doubt you have listened to speakers of this kind, but I question
whether you have ever heard anything more typical of the sort of effect
that I allude to than Mullins's speech at the big rally at the Fourth
Concession.

Mullins himself, of course, knows the figures so well that he never
bothers to write them into notes and the effect is very striking.

"Now, gentlemen," he said very earnestly, "how many of you know just to
what extent the exports of this country have increased in the last ten
years? How many could tell what per cent. of increase there has been in
one decade of our national importation?"--then Mullins paused and looked
round. Not a man knew it.

"I don't recall," he said, "exactly the precise amount myself,--not at
this moment,--but it must be simply tremendous. Or take the question of
population," Mullins went on, warming up again as a born statistician
always does at the proximity of figures, "how many of you know, how many
of you can state, what has been the decennial percentage increase in our
leading cities--?"

There he paused, and would you believe it, not a man could state it.

"I don't recall the exact figures," said Mullins, "but I have them at
home and they are positively colossal."

But just in one phase of the public speaking, the candidacy of Mr. Smith
received a serious set-back.

It had been arranged that Mr. Smith should run on a platform of total
prohibition. But they soon found that it was a mistake. They had
imported a special speaker from the city, a grave man with a white tie,
who put his whole heart into the work and would take nothing for it
except his expenses and a sum of money for each speech. But beyond the
money, I say, he would take nothing.

He spoke one night at the Tecumseh Corners social hall at the same time
when the Liberal meeting was going on at the Tecumseh Corners school
house.

"Gentlemen," he said, as he paused half way in his speech,--"while we
are gathered here in earnest discussion, do you know what is happening
over at the meeting place of our opponents? Do you know that seventeen
bottles of rye whiskey were sent out from the town this afternoon
to that innocent and unsuspecting school house? Seventeen bottles of
whiskey hidden in between the blackboard and the wall, and every single
man that attends that meeting,--mark my words, every single man,--will
drink his fill of the abominable stuff at the expense of the Liberal
candidate!"

Just as soon as the speaker said this, you could see the Smith men at
the meeting look at one another in injured surprise, and before the
speech was half over the hall was practically emptied.

After that the total prohibition plank was changed and the committee
substituted a declaration in favour of such a form of restrictive
license as should promote temperance while encouraging the manufacture
of spirituous liquors, and by a severe regulation of the liquor traffic
should place intoxicants only in the hands of those fitted to use them.


Finally there came the great day itself, the Election Day that brought,
as everybody knows, the crowning triumph of Mr. Smith's career. There is
no need to speak of it at any length, because it has become a matter of
history.

In any case, everybody who has ever seen Mariposa knows just what
election day is like. The shops, of course, are, as a matter of custom,
all closed, and the bar rooms are all closed by law so that you have to
go in by the back way. All the people are in their best clothes and at
first they walk up and down the street in a solemn way just as they do
on the twelfth of July and on St. Patrick's Day, before the fun begins.
Everybody keeps looking in at the different polling places to see if
anybody else has voted yet, because, of course, nobody cares to vote
first for fear of being fooled after all and voting on the wrong side.

Most of all did the supporters of Mr. Smith, acting under his
instructions, hang back from the poll in the early hours. To Mr. Smith's
mind, voting was to be conducted on the same plan as bear-shooting.

"Hold back your votes, boys," he said, "and don't be too eager. Wait
till she begins to warm up and then let 'em have it good and hard."

In each of the polling places in Mariposa there is a returning officer
and with him are two scrutineers, and the electors, I say, peep in and
out like mice looking into a trap. But if once the scrutineers get a man
well into the polling booth, they push him in behind a little curtain
and make him vote. The voting, of course, is by secret ballot, so that
no one except the scrutineers and the returning officer and the two or
three people who may be round the poll can possibly tell how a man has
voted.

That's how it comes about that the first results are often so
contradictory and conflicting. Sometimes the poll is badly arranged
and the scrutineers are unable to see properly just how the ballots
are being marked and they count up the Liberals and Conservatives in
different ways. Often, too, a voter makes his mark so hurriedly and
carelessly that they have to pick it out of the ballot box and look at
it to see what it is.

I suppose that may have been why it was that in Mariposa the results
came out at first in such a conflicting way. Perhaps that was how it
was that the first reports showed that Edward Drone the Independent
candidate was certain to win. You should have seen how the excitement
grew upon the streets when the news was circulated. In the big rallies
and meetings of the Liberals and Conservatives, everybody had pretty
well forgotten all about Drone, and when the news got round at about
four o'clock that the Drone vote was carrying the poll, the people were
simply astounded. Not that they were not pleased. On the contrary.
They were delighted. Everybody came up to Drone and shook hands and
congratulated him and told him that they had known all along that what
the country wanted was a straight, honest, non-partisan representation.
The Conservatives said openly that they were sick of party, utterly done
with it, and the Liberals said that they hated it. Already three or four
of them had taken Drone aside and explained that what was needed in the
town was a straight, clean, non-partisan post-office, built on a piece
of ground of a strictly non-partisan character, and constructed under
contracts that were not tainted and smirched with party affiliation. Two
or three men were willing to show to Drone just where a piece of ground
of this character could be bought. They told him too that in the matter
of the postmastership itself they had nothing against Trelawney, the
present postmaster, in any personal sense, and would say nothing against
him except merely that he was utterly and hopelessly unfit for his job
and that if Drone believed, as he had said he did, in a purified civil
service, he ought to begin by purifying Trelawney.

Already Edward Drone was beginning to feel something of what it meant
to hold office and there was creeping into his manner the quiet
self-importance which is the first sign of conscious power.

In fact, in that brief half-hour of office, Drone had a chance to
see something of what it meant. Henry McGinnis came to him and asked
straight out for a job as federal census-taker on the ground that he
was hard up and had been crippled with rheumatism all winter. Nelson
Williamson asked for the post of wharf master on the plea that he
had been laid up with sciatica all winter and was absolutely fit for
nothing. Erasmus Archer asked him if he could get his boy Pete into one
of the departments at Ottawa, and made a strong case of it by explaining
that he had tried his cussedest to get Pete a job anywhere else and it
was simply impossible. Not that Pete wasn't a willing boy, but he was
slow,--even his father admitted it,--slow as the devil, blast him, and
with no head for figures and unfortunately he'd never had the schooling
to bring him on. But if Drone could get him in at Ottawa, his father
truly believed it would be the very place for him. Surely in the Indian
Department or in the Astronomical Branch or in the New Canadian Navy
there must be any amount of opening for a boy like this? And to all of
these requests Drone found himself explaining that he would take the
matter under his very earnest consideration and that they must remember
that he had to consult his colleagues and not merely follow the dictates
of his own wishes. In fact, if he had ever in his life had any envy of
Cabinet Ministers, he lost it in this hour.

But Drone's hour was short. Even before the poll had closed in Mariposa,
the news came sweeping in, true or false, that Bagshaw was carrying
the county. The second concession had gone for Bagshaw in a regular
landslide, six votes to only two for Smith,--and all down the township
line road (where the hay farms are) Bagshaw was said to be carrying all
before him.

Just as soon as that news went round the town, they launched the
Mariposa band of the Knights of Pythias (every man in it is a Liberal)
down the Main Street with big red banners in front of it with the motto
BAGSHAW FOREVER in letters a foot high. Such rejoicing and enthusiasm
began to set in as you never saw. Everybody crowded round Bagshaw on the
steps of the Mariposa House and shook his hand and said they were proud
to see the day and that the Liberal party was the glory of the Dominion
and that as for this idea of non-partisan politics the very thought
of it made them sick. Right away in the committee rooms they began
to organize the demonstration for the evening with lantern slides and
speeches and they arranged for a huge bouquet to be presented to Bagshaw
on the platform by four little girls (all Liberals) all dressed in
white.

And it was just at this juncture, with one hour of voting left, that
Mr. Smith emerged from his committee rooms and turned his voters on the
town, much as the Duke of Wellington sent the whole line to the charge
at Waterloo. From every committee room and sub-committee room they
poured out in flocks with blue badges fluttering on their coats.

"Get at it, boys," said Mr. Smith, "vote and keep on voting till they
make you quit."

Then he turned to his campaign assistant. "Billy," he said, "wire down
to the city that I'm elected by an overwhelming majority and tell them
to wire it right back. Send word by telephone to all the polling places
in the county that the hull town has gone solid Conservative and tell
them to send the same news back here. Get carpenters and tell them to
run up a platform in front of the hotel; tell them to take the bar door
clean off its hinges and be all ready the minute the poll quits."

It was that last hour that did it. Just as soon as the big posters
went up in the windows of the Mariposa Newspacket with the telegraphic
despatch that Josh Smith was reported in the city to be elected, and was
followed by the messages from all over the county, the voters hesitated
no longer. They had waited, most of them, all through the day, not
wanting to make any error in their vote, but when they saw the Smith men
crowding into the polls and heard the news from the outside, they went
solid in one great stampede, and by the time the poll was declared
closed at five o'clock there was no shadow of doubt that the county was
saved and that Josh Smith was elected for Missinaba.


I wish you could have witnessed the scene in Mariposa that evening. It
would have done your heart good,--such joy, such public rejoicing as you
never saw. It turned out that there wasn't really a Liberal in the whole
town and that there never had been. They were all Conservatives and had
been for years and years. Men who had voted, with pain and sorrow in
their hearts, for the Liberal party for twenty years, came out that
evening and owned up straight that they were Conservatives. They
said they could stand the strain no longer and simply had to confess.
Whatever the sacrifice might mean, they were prepared to make it.

Even Mr. Golgotha Gingham, the undertaker, came out and admitted that
in working for John Henry Bagshaw he'd been going straight against his
conscience. He said that right from the first he had had his misgivings.
He said it had haunted him. Often at night when he would be working away
quietly, one of these sudden misgivings would overcome him so that he
could hardly go on with his embalming. Why, it appeared that on the very
first day when reciprocity was proposed, he had come home and said to
Mrs. Gingham that he thought it simply meant selling out the country.
And the strange thing was that ever so many others had just the same
misgivings. Trelawney admitted that he had said to Mrs. Trelawney that
it was madness, and Jeff Thorpe, the barber, had, he admitted, gone home
to his dinner, the first day reciprocity was talked of, and said to Mrs.
Thorpe that it would simply kill business in the country and introduce
a cheap, shoddy, American form of haircut that would render true loyalty
impossible. To think that Mrs. Gingham and Mrs. Trelawney and Mrs.
Thorpe had known all this for six months and kept quiet about it! Yet I
think there were a good many Mrs. Ginghams in the country. It is merely
another proof that no woman is fit for politics.


The demonstration that night in Mariposa will never be forgotten. The
excitement in the streets, the torchlights, the music of the band of
the Knights of Pythias (an organization which is conservative in all but
name), and above all the speeches and the patriotism.

They had put up a big platform in front of the hotel, and on it were
Mr. Smith and his chief workers, and behind them was a perfect forest of
flags. They presented a huge bouquet of flowers to Mr. Smith, handed to
him by four little girls in white,--the same four that I spoke of above,
for it turned out that they were all Conservatives.

Then there were the speeches. Judge Pepperleigh spoke and said that
there was no need to dwell on the victory that they had achieved,
because it was history; there was no occasion to speak of what part he
himself had played, within the limits of his official position, because
what he had done was henceforth a matter of history; and Nivens, the
lawyer, said that he would only say just a few words, because anything
that he might have done was now history; later generations, he said,
might read it but it was not for him to speak of it, because it belonged
now to the history of the country. And, after them, others spoke in the
same strain and all refused absolutely to dwell on the subject (for more
than half an hour) on the ground that anything that they might have done
was better left for future generations to investigate. And no doubt this
was very true, as to some things, anyway.

Mr. Smith, of course, said nothing. He didn't have to,--not for four
years,--and he knew it.



TWELVE. L'Envoi. The Train to Mariposa

It leaves the city every day about five o'clock in the evening, the
train for Mariposa.

Strange that you did not know of it, though you come from the little
town--or did, long years ago.

Odd that you never knew, in all these years, that the train was there
every afternoon, puffing up steam in the city station, and that you
might have boarded it any day and gone home. No, not "home,"--of course
you couldn't call it "home" now; "home" means that big red sandstone
house of yours in the costlier part of the city. "Home" means, in a way,
this Mausoleum Club where you sometimes talk with me of the times that
you had as a boy in Mariposa.

But of course "home" would hardly be the word you would apply to the
little town, unless perhaps, late at night, when you'd been sitting
reading in a quiet corner somewhere such a book as the present one.

Naturally you don't know of the Mariposa train now. Years ago, when you
first came to the city as a boy with your way to make, you knew of it
well enough, only too well. The price of a ticket counted in those days,
and though you knew of the train you couldn't take it, but sometimes
from sheer homesickness you used to wander down to the station on a
Friday afternoon after your work, and watch the Mariposa people getting
on the train and wish that you could go.

Why, you knew that train at one time better, I suppose, than any other
single thing in the city, and loved it too for the little town in the
sunshine that it ran to.

Do you remember how when you first began to make money you used to plan
that just as soon as you were rich, really rich, you'd go back home
again to the little town and build a great big house with a fine
verandah,--no stint about it, the best that money could buy, planed
lumber, every square foot of it, and a fine picket fence in front of it.

It was to be one of the grandest and finest houses that thought
could conceive; much finer, in true reality, than that vast palace of
sandstone with the porte cochere and the sweeping conservatories that
you afterwards built in the costlier part of the city.

But if you have half forgotten Mariposa, and long since lost the way to
it, you are only like the greater part of the men here in this Mausoleum
Club in the city. Would you believe it that practically every one of
them came from Mariposa once upon a time, and that there isn't one of
them that doesn't sometimes dream in the dull quiet of the long evening
here in the club, that some day he will go back and see the place.

They all do. Only they're half ashamed to own it.

Ask your neighbour there at the next table whether the partridge that
they sometimes serve to you here can be compared for a moment to the
birds that he and you, or he and some one else, used to shoot as boys in
the spruce thickets along the lake. Ask him if he ever tasted duck that
could for a moment be compared to the black ducks in the rice marsh
along the Ossawippi. And as for fish, and fishing,--no, don't ask him
about that, for if he ever starts telling you of the chub they used
to catch below the mill dam and the green bass that used to lie in the
water-shadow of the rocks beside the Indian's Island, not even the long
dull evening in this club would be long enough for the telling of it.

But no wonder they don't know about the five o'clock train for Mariposa.
Very few people know about it. Hundreds of them know that there is a
train that goes out at five o'clock, but they mistake it. Ever so many
of them think it's just a suburban train. Lots of people that take it
every day think it's only the train to the golf grounds, but the joke
is that after it passes out of the city and the suburbs and the golf
grounds, it turns itself little by little into the Mariposa train,
thundering and pounding towards the north with hemlock sparks pouring
out into the darkness from the funnel of it.

Of course you can't tell it just at first. All those people that are
crowding into it with golf clubs, and wearing knickerbockers and flat
caps, would deceive anybody. That crowd of suburban people going home
on commutation tickets and sometimes standing thick in the aisles, those
are, of course, not Mariposa people. But look round a little bit and
you'll find them easily enough. Here and there in the crowd those people
with the clothes that are perfectly all right and yet look odd in some
way, the women with the peculiar hats and the--what do you say?--last
year's fashions? Ah yes, of course, that must be it.

Anyway, those are the Mariposa people all right enough. That man with
the two-dollar panama and the glaring spectacles is one of the greatest
judges that ever adorned the bench of Missinaba County. That clerical
gentleman with the wide black hat, who is explaining to the man with
him the marvellous mechanism of the new air brake (one of the most
conspicuous illustrations of the divine structure of the physical
universe), surely you have seen him before. Mariposa people! Oh yes,
there are any number of them on the train every day.

But of course you hardly recognize them while the train is still passing
through the suburbs and the golf district and the outlying parts of the
city area. But wait a little, and you will see that when the city
is well behind you, bit by bit the train changes its character. The
electric locomotive that took you through the city tunnels is off now
and the old wood engine is hitched on in its place. I suppose, very
probably, you haven't seen one of these wood engines since you were a
boy forty years ago,--the old engine with a wide top like a hat on its
funnel, and with sparks enough to light up a suit for damages once in
every mile.

Do you see, too, that the trim little cars that came out of the city
on the electric suburban express are being discarded now at the way
stations, one by one, and in their place is the old familiar car with
the stuff cushions in red plush (how gorgeous it once seemed!) and with
a box stove set up in one end of it? The stove is burning furiously at
its sticks this autumn evening, for the air sets in chill as you get
clear away from the city and are rising up to the higher ground of the
country of the pines and the lakes.

Look from the window as you go. The city is far behind now and right and
left of you there are trim farms with elms and maples near them and with
tall windmills beside the barns that you can still see in the gathering
dusk. There is a dull red light from the windows of the farmstead. It
must be comfortable there after the roar and clatter of the city, and
only think of the still quiet of it.

As you sit back half dreaming in the car, you keep wondering why it is
that you never came up before in all these years. Ever so many times you
planned that just as soon as the rush and strain of business eased up a
little, you would take the train and go back to the little town to see
what it was like now, and if things had changed much since your day.
But each time when your holidays came, somehow you changed your mind and
went down to Naragansett or Nagahuckett or Nagasomething, and left over
the visit to Mariposa for another time.

It is almost night now. You can still see the trees and the fences and
the farmsteads, but they are fading fast in the twilight. They have
lengthened out the train by this time with a string of flat cars and
freight cars between where we are sitting and the engine. But at every
crossway we can hear the long muffled roar of the whistle, dying to a
melancholy wail that echoes into the woods; the woods, I say, for the
farms are thinning out and the track plunges here and there into great
stretches of bush,--tall tamerack and red scrub willow and with a
tangled undergrowth of bush that has defied for two generations all
attempts to clear it into the form of fields.

Why, look, that great space that seems to open out in the half-dark of
the falling evening,--why, surely yes,--Lake Ossawippi, the big lake,
as they used to call it, from which the river runs down to the smaller
lake,--Lake Wissanotti,--where the town of Mariposa has lain waiting for
you there for thirty years.

This is Lake Ossawippi surely enough. You would know it anywhere by the
broad, still, black water with hardly a ripple, and with the grip of the
coming frost already on it. Such a great sheet of blackness it looks as
the train thunders along the side, swinging the curve of the embankment
at a breakneck speed as it rounds the corner of the lake.

How fast the train goes this autumn night! You have travelled, I know
you have; in the Empire State Express, and the New Limited and the
Maritime Express that holds the record of six hundred whirling miles
from Paris to Marseilles. But what are they to this, this mad career,
this breakneck speed, this thundering roar of the Mariposa local driving
hard to its home! Don't tell me that the speed is only twenty-five miles
an hour. I don't care what it is. I tell you, and you can prove it for
yourself if you will, that that train of mingled flat cars and coaches
that goes tearing into the night, its engine whistle shrieking out its
warning into the silent woods and echoing over the dull still lake, is
the fastest train in the whole world.

Yes, and the best too,--the most comfortable, the most reliable, the
most luxurious and the speediest train that ever turned a wheel.

And the most genial, the most sociable too. See how the passengers all
turn and talk to one another now as they get nearer and nearer to the
little town. That dull reserve that seemed to hold the passengers in
the electric suburban has clean vanished and gone. They are
talking,--listen,--of the harvest, and the late election, and of how
the local member is mentioned for the cabinet and all the old familiar
topics of the sort. Already the conductor has changed his glazed hat for
an ordinary round Christie and you can hear the passengers calling him
and the brakesman "Bill" and "Sam" as if they were all one family.

What is it now--nine thirty? Ah, then we must be nearing the town,--this
big bush that we are passing through, you remember it surely as the
great swamp just this side of the bridge over the Ossawippi? There is
the bridge itself, and the long roar of the train as it rushes sounding
over the trestle work that rises above the marsh. Hear the clatter as we
pass the semaphores and switch lights! We must be close in now!

What? it feels nervous and strange to be coming here again after all
these years? It must indeed. No, don't bother to look at the reflection
of your face in the window-pane shadowed by the night outside. Nobody
could tell you now after all these years. Your face has changed in these
long years of money-getting in the city. Perhaps if you had come back
now and again, just at odd times, it wouldn't have been so.

There,--you hear it?--the long whistle of the locomotive, one, two,
three! You feel the sharp slackening of the train as it swings round
the curve of the last embankment that brings it to the Mariposa station.
See, too, as we round the curve, the row of the flashing lights, the
bright windows of the depot.

How vivid and plain it all is. Just as it used to be thirty years ago.
There is the string of the hotel 'buses, drawn up all ready for the
train, and as the train rounds in and stops hissing and panting at the
platform, you can hear above all other sounds the cry of the brakesmen
and the porters:

"MARIPOSA! MARIPOSA!"


And as we listen, the cry grows fainter and fainter in our ears and
we are sitting here again in the leather chairs of the Mausoleum Club,
talking of the little Town in the Sunshine that once we knew.





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