THE story of S’adi, the Persian poet, has always been a favorite of mine. Those of you who studied Persian literature, may remember that the Sheikh Moslin Eddin Saadi Alsbirazi (to give him his full title) led in his early years the life of a dervish and wandered over much of the country. During his travels, he was taken by the Crusaders and put I to work on their fortifications of Tripoli. Doubtless his work was hard, but he seems to have had time to write both poetry and prose the best known of which, in this country, are the Gulistan and the Bostan. S’adi was redeemed from slavery by a rich merchant, who also bestowed upon him his daughter and a handsome dowry. Therefore we may take it for granted that the end of his days was spent in peace and plenty—not particularly because he had a wife or even a dowry, but because j according to the date of his death, the poet lived to the extraordinary age of 116 I years.
i But the story—-once, during his dervish j days, when the road was dusty, the sun i was hot, his throat was parched and his bare feet blistered, S’adi was moved to lift his voice in lamentation; and he complained to heaven that he had no shoes— ! when lo, on looking down the hot and : dusty road, he beheld a pilgrim crawling i on his hands and knees because he had no feet. And S’adi went on his way ; rejoicing!
He tells this little circumstance charmj ingly, and invests it with all the glamour his romantic language gives even the I smallest incident, but after all, he has only I said, “Things are never so bad that they I might not be worse,” which is a very j healthy sort of optimism.
MISS ISABEL ELIZABETH HENDERSON, of Winnipeg bears at least two points of resemblance to my old friend S’adi; she writes and she is an optimist. In spite of a distressing physical handicap which she has suffered for many years.
I do not intend to dwell upon her affliction. She does not—so why should I?
“Don’t,” she begged, “picture me as a ‘patient martyr,’ or ‘bearing my affliction with Christian fortitude.’ ”
I certainly shall not. A much truer pic, ture is that of a girl of buoyant spirits, 1 the very antithesis of an invalid; one ' who has retained throughout her trial, an amazingly frivolous mind!
Stricken when eleven years old with an illness from which she never recovered,
¡ she was a delicate child; when just enter; ing upon womanhood, another illness I made it necessary for her to remain in bed I seven years. Yet, in her inspiringly i bright way she says:
“I don’t know that I have attained sucI cess in spite of a physical handicap, for both ‘physical’ and ‘handicap’ are but relative terms—I might almost say that illness gave me leisure I would not have ; had otherwise, and was the cause of my attempting literary work.”
S’adi—you see! That speech smacks j strongly of the old fellow’s philosophy.
: Miss Henderson had not health, but illj ness gave her leisure in which to write.
I She was born a few miles from Winni-
peg. Happening to be the third generation of Canadian-born settlers, and of unmixed Scottish descent, she derives considerable amusement from the fact that, since becoming a public character, English interviewers frequently ask which of her ancestors was Indian. Old Country people—some of them—find it difficult even now, to realize that every man who went west more than fifty years ago, did not marry a squaw!
“LJ ER education was sketchy. Attend-
TT ance at school was irregular at best! Miss Henderson says she learned the three R’s. anyway, and filled in the vacuum with reading—Dickens, George Eliot, Kipling and some poetry. Biography, history, travels—everything of this sort which came fo hand.
“I do not know,” she says, “that I should go so far as to advise that children should only be taught to read and write, and then be turned loose in the world’s great library, but that is practically what happened to me, and the system has at least the merit of being a pleasant one to fol-
The author of “Mv Canada” was not a child prodigy. She never wanted to write —she never crept away to the attic and poured out ner young heart in stories throbbing with genius and defective grammar. She had no literary ambitions whatsoever: the passion to create did not stir her soul, nor does it perhaps, even now. I think it might be truly said that Beth Henderson who prelera lo be known as “Elinor Marsden Eliot, ’ does not l'ke to write.
“Eight years ago,” she confessed, “when confronted with the probability of staying in bed, not days, not weeks, but years —I began to think that writing was all that was left for me to do. Even then it was very distateful, and the hour a day I spent on ‘My Canada’ besides exhausting me physically, was desperately hard
Considering this it is the more remark-
able that a girl with no previous training, not even the experience which comes with childish efforts at literary creation, should have produced a book. And it is truly amazing that one who for years— all her life practically—has been confined within the walls of her home, should have acquired the breadth of treatment, freedom of style and sweep of vision which her work reveals. Her book, “My Canada” was a model child. It was accepted by the first publisher to whom it was sent and the reviewers have been very kind. Its name is quite descriptive, save that instead of being a sort of glorified Baedeeker, it is a novel. It is written in clear, easily-read English and is just the kind of book for us average people to understand and enjoy.
I am told by those who know the West better than I, that it gives a fair photographic description of Western life and conditions. But beside this, there shine from its pages a simple goodness, a wholesome optimism and plenty of Scotch wit, all of which reflect the happy, unspoiled nature of its author.
It was not with the object of seeking appreciation for Elizabeth Henderson’s book that this brief sketch was written; but rather to commend her attitude, her outlook on life to all those who like Friend S’adi lift up their voice in lamentation and complain to heaven because they have no shoes!
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