The social whirl of New York palled and now the latchstring of Mrs. Fred Brewster's picturesque mountain home at Jasper, Alta., is out to a host of friends, new and old—the lone, half-breed guide, the mere millionaire and the aristocrat of the world of art or literature. Enter and discover the secret of a life of full content.
DOROTHY G. BELL
IT WAS late at night. The woman in the log cabin bent closer to the fire. The light from the flames played on the not too finely chiseled, but cultured, features of her face and caught the rich, warm glow of something she held in her hand.
“Come closer to the light and look. It is beautiful,” she said, and the softness of her tone betrayed a certain pride of possession. I drew my chair to hers and fingered the deeply-col-ored. exquisitely designed porcupine quills that formed the soft, pliable belt that was the source of our admiration — a gift from an Indian chief.
I felt the weight of the perfect thing in my hand and raised my eyes, expecting to meet those of my hostess.
She was not there. I turned instinctively and saw her gliding swiftly, noiselessly to the door. She shot home the heavy bolt and stood in a listening attitude with her hand on the knob. I had heard nothing, but a moment later there was a heavy rap.
My heart stopped for a moment when I realized that we were alone—two women—in the hearfof the Rocky Mountains.
“Who’s there?” she asked.
“Ma’am, dis is Joe.” The voice was rough, but the tense face against the door relaxed at the sound of it. She drew back the bolt.
“Me scare you, ma’am?” inquired the half-breed guide as he entered the cabin.
“Just a little, Joe.”
Unshaven, just in off the trail, there was nothing refined or prepossessing in the appearance of the breed,buthe seemed very tall and straight as he stood there by his chair waiting for his hostess to take hers, and^ I wondered if it was the blood of some stately chief racing through his veins or a throw-back to some white forebear that prompted the Jittle respect.
The woman whose love of things beautiful had caused her to lose herself in the beauty of the Indian relic; the woman whose ears, trained to the stillness of the silent places, had caught the first crunch of the stranger’s footfall; the woman whose keen instinct had sensed possible danger in those steps and whose cool-headedness had prompted her to snap the bolt against it, was Mrs. Fred Brewster, once of New York, now of the Alberta mountains.
As she talked on with her visitor in the language of the woods I marvelled at her grasp of woodlore, at her interpretation of the signs of the forest, at her deftness in recognizing and placing the meaning of dead camp fires and trails he had crossed on his trip through the hills and I found it hard to believe that only a few years ago it had all been foreign to her.
When at last the breed rose to go, she disappeared for a moment through the log partition to return again with an armful of blankets and fur robes.
“Sleep in the bunk-house to-night, Joe,” she said. “Don’t break into your pack,” and the visitor went out, profuse in his thanks at her thoughtfulness.
A few moments later there was the stamp of another foot on the stony path, but this time Mrs. Brewster smiled.
“It must be the inspector,” she said. It was the inspector, one of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police force, and he, like the breed, had come to enjoy the cosiness of the cabin for a few minutes,before catching his train at Jasper.
When the December snows pile up against the little
cabin windows; when the white grip of winter seals the Rockies to holiday-makers and tourists, such men as these provide the only break in the long days at the Brewster cabin. Guides on their way home to their winter cabins stop there for a night’s warm rest. Mounties drop in when they can for a little cheer on what may prove to be a long, cheerless hunt. Trappers on their way across the Park mush extra miles to tell the story of their “lines.” Cowboys
swing their ponies in off the range to accept food and shelter for themselves and their beasts until they are ready to face the elements again. To all these, and any others who happen to pass that way, the door of the cabin is always on the latch. They know—these men—■ that a ready welcome, a warm hearth and a hot meal awaits them there.
But when the ground springs free of icy fingers; when the leafy soil softens to the pressure of new flower heads; when the silence of frozen streams is broken by splashing torrents and the red and gold glints of Mt. Pyramid’s sides are caught again in the spring sunshine that floods the Athabasca Valley, there are others who know the pleasure of Mrs. Brewster’s hospitality. For it is then
that the Brewster business—the transportation of tourists over the glorious roads and trails by motor and horseback—brings her into contact with hundreds of men and women of every class, members of foreign aristocracies, American millionaires, famous artists, political leaders—all those who come to the mountains to play for a few days or weeks—and few of them fail to discover Mrs. Brewster and experience her big heartedness.
And as nonchalantly, as naturally, as interestedly as she gives welcome to her mountain friends so she entertains the world’s notables. As easily as she talks woodlore to the forest folk so she talks to these transients, of music, art, politics, of people and problems quite foreign to her little mountain sphere. As once she entertained in high-ceiled rooms with polished floors, formal furniture and liveried servants, in the heart of the greatest city on the continent, so now she entertains in a small log cabin on the outskirts of a mountain village. Her guests sit on rustic chairs, covered with the skins of silver foxes and grizzly bears; her tea is served from the knarled root of a tree which is her tea table; her cakes and delicacies are of her own make; her dinners very often consist of wild game, and a rough-hewn table beneath a snowy cloth serves to bear her shining silver and dainty china. And there, as in New York, where she had everything to help her, her charm, her happiness, her personality, put others at their ease and make them feel at home. It is her gift. It has been her work.
From New York to Jasper BEFORE Mrs. Brewster went to Jasper, she lived in the social whirl of New York’s “four hundred.” She was a part of it; she had known nothing else; she loved it. Then suddenly it lost its glamour for her. She saw the emptiness, the insincerity of the life she was living, and became unutterably miserable because of it. From childhood she had been interested in Canada; sub-consciously, she loved it and she begged her mother to send her to school there. When she could not go she read books of Canadian life, of the western mountains, the plains; she was*fcscinated by traveler’s tales of the animal life, the big game hunts, and always she longed for the time when she might visit the “land of her dreams.”
That opportunity was to wait many years before presenting itself, but when it came she seized it and left her social activities for a two weeks’ vacation in the Canadian Rockies at Banff. It was there that she learned to know and to love the mountains about which she had dreamt all the years. It was there, too, that she met her husband’s family — not her husband. That man of the mountains was to meet her later for the first time, and win her heart in an environment as utterly strange to his nature as were his mountains to hers—New ^ ork.
It was not love, then, that brought about the sudden change of attitude towards life, the change that was to swing the course of her whole career into a different channel. It was, perhaps, the reaction of those two weeks of mountain life. On her return from them she plunged enthusiastically into the successive round of luncheons, teas, dinners, theatie parties, dances. But she found that they had suddenly lost their charm for her. There came a sudden realization that she was getting nothing out of life and she was unhappy as a result.
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Then, Canada, the country which, even as a child, she had chosen to love, went to war. Canadian men were giving up their lives. Canadian women were suffering, the whole Dominion was sacrificing. The continued round of New York frivolity mocked her, until she could not endure it.
Looking for a “Job”
THIS woman, whom the West had stirred into open rebellion against the life that had always been hers, decided to go to work. She had no training, no business knowledge, and she turned to the only thing she knew— entertaining. For a society woman to take a position then, meant censure from her friends. Mrs. Brewster knew it and invited it. She applied at an employment agency for a “job” as social secretary. Failing to get it because of her inability to do shorthand, she turned, with her problem, to a married friend who understood her mood, perhaps, better than anyone else.
“I had not thought of it before,” said her friend, “but I believe you are just the person I want. I am not well and things are getting too heavy for me. Stay with me for four months and study your shorthand meanwhile.” At the end of four months her employer would not let her go. She stayed four years.
It was during this time that Fred Brewster, rugged mountaineer and Canadian officer, came to New Yrork. When he left it a few weeks later the social secretary had promised to be his wife.
With her fiance in France, her brother flying every day, Mrs. Brewster threw herself more enthusiastically than ever into her work to try to lessen the strain of worry and waiting. In addition to the social management she took complete charge of her friend’s household, including the servants and the kitchen.
“I had never done that before,” she said “and when the cook chased me out of the kitchen with the carving knife I wondered whether I was exactly fit for the work!”
She was busy, but not busy enough, this energetic girl who was trying to find something worth while in life. She added again to her responsibilities by agreeing to guide the social affairs of her friend’s father. When later he bought a new house on Long Island, she took it upon herself to plan and direct the interior decoration of the entire mansion. Then— and not till then—she discovered her real talent. When the house was finished and her work there ended, she went, one exceptionally hot August day, to the head of the interior decoration department of one of the big stores.
“I want to become an interior decorator. Can you give me a job?” she asked him.
The manager looked at her for several moments without speaking. Then decisively:
“You look cool and happy enough to have come from the country. I’ll bet you had a swim before you left.”
Mrs. Brewster laughed at him. “I am cool and I am happy. I did come from the country and I did have a swim before I left—a glorious one—but what has that to do with giving me a job?”
“Just this,” replied the man earnestly. “You will have to give up all that and swelter here in the city with the rest of us if you take a job with me.”
“I am quite prepared for that.”
She got her “job” and a few weeks later was put in charge of a new interior decoration gift department. She failed entirely to gain there the experience she wanted, hut she did better than that— she met another woman who was an interior decorator.
“You have the ideas,” she said to Mrs.
Brewster one day. “I have the technical knowledge necessary to put them into effect. Let’s go into partnership.” They did. For several months they made a success of it and then the United States went into the war. People had more important things to think about than decorating their houses.' The business failed and Mrs. Brewster threw herself wholeheartedly into w*ar work.
There came a day at last when a certain khaki-clad Canadian soldier, with thousands of other Canadian soldiers, came back to Canada. But he came via New York. They were married quietly and Mr. and Mrs. Fred Brewrster boarded a west-bound train.
Mastering the New Life
THEIR home at Jasper that first year was only a two-room shack. Fred Brewster’s business was only an idea. Together they threw themselves into the making of a home, the building up of a life wrork. They rose every morning at five o’clock, Mr. Brewster to go to his teaming—for they must live until their business grew—Mrs. Brewster to struggle with the cooking and household tasks which she found so complicated.
Both were weary at the end of a day and once the hungry teamster came home to find his wife in tears over the remains of a ruined dinner.
“Never mind, dear,” he told her goodnaturedly. Don’t you bother any more about learning to cook. I’ll do it.”
But Mrs. Brewster was not that kind of a partner. She mastered all of the culinary art her husband could teach her and a great deal more, though she admits that they both suffered wThile that teaching was in progress.
“The fact that I was green,” she laughed, “gave me a lot of misery, but I believe it was my salvation after all. Had I been used to doing that kind of work with fine kitchen ware, electric stoves and other household conveniences I don’t think I could ever have got used to the tin pails, the camp stove and the black pots that were my only implements. My chief difficulty was fires. For months I could not build a fire properly and often I had to sit down and wait for my husband to come home before I could begin the meal. It was a long time before I tumbled to the fact that the man who was bringing me wood was giving me all the wet, green stuff that no one else would buy.”
This remarkable wcman who has struggled to conquer the hardships of western life mastered other things, even more foreign to her than cooking. She learned how to equip camping parties; where to send them; how to feed and care for stock; how to manage mountain men. And, with the development of Jasper Park, came the expansion of the Brewster business. To-day the New York society success is a partner in the firm of Fred Brewster, Ltd. Her part is the financial end of things, though when her husband is away, as he very often is, she equips the parties, plans their trip, starts them off and does everything but guide them over the mountains. She has no time for that, for the business is no longer a small one and it demands most of her time and energy.
“But it is the best job 1 ever had,” she said. “I don’t know why 1 love the 'West, but I do. I think perhaps it is because at any time of the day or night 1 can do this-—”
She rose from the depths of the rustic fur-ccuched chair before the fire and walking to the door flung it wide. “1 can do this.” she continued, “and 1 can see that.” She swung her arm across the panorama of snow-capped peaks, dimly defined under a star-lit sky and smiled.
“I love them,” she said simply, “and 1 have no yearning for any other life.”
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