Jan Parazyl, Canadian
JOHN LEE LAURIE
SHOUTING almost incoherently, Martin Parazyl burst into the house, madly waving a paper he had received at the post office. The family, seated at supper, stopped eating and stared at him in amazement.
"I passed! I passed!
My entrance examination! I have won the scholarship for the best marks and now I’m ready for high school! Only think of it! I passed first in the inspectorate, first in the whole inspectorate.
Now I may go to high school, mayn’t I, Papa?
Say I may, won’t you?”
The boy’s face was flushed with excitement and his eyes sparkled.
His words fairly tumbled from his lips, so that the family could scarce follow what he was saying.
The younger children, understanding English better than their parents, caught the spirit of exultation and, crowding around him, joined their hands and began to dance about and to shout gleefully at the top of their voices.
“Martin passed! Martin passed!”
The mother came up to her son and patted him lovingly on the shoulder, for, although she scarce understood what it was all about, she realized that her boy had achieved some triumph, and her maternal love and pride overwhelmed her Slavic stolidity.
Jan, the father, felt pride, a little thrill of triumph, but he could not utter words of praise and congratulation, nor give the desired consent, for he had other plans for Martin.
What a noise the children were making! Even his wife was talking excitedly in their mother tongue. All Jan’s deep-seated, inherent convictions of the importance of the father rebelled at this unseemly uproar.
What business of theirs was it anyway? They were ignoring him. He was the father—the head of the household—and Martin had dared to make a suggestion to him. Ah! in the old homeland, things were not as this; no child would have opened a letter before the father saw it and read it.
Martin had not only opened it—he had read it—he had made plans without consulting his father and a rush of anger swept over him. He would teach this boy respect. The muscles of his face contracted and he shouted: “Silence, children! Be quiet now! Be quiet!”
The shouting and dancing stopped as if by magic; the children scuttled away like frightened animals seeking cover, and a dead silence fell upon the room.
He turned to Martin, who was regarding him with a look of eager expectancy, and said harshly, “Na, na! You can stay home and work. Too long have I—”
“Silence, speak not! Too long have I let you go to the school! Too long have you been idle and useless, while I must fill your hungry mouth which has ever been gaping wide while your hands were useless. Na, na, you will work, do you hear? No more will you waste good days with
Far more significant than any statistical tabulation and far more revealing than any scholastic thesis is this simple story of a man who was able to slough off the old-world insistence on rigid family rights when the light of a new world shone into his face.
lying books while I must work in the hot sun to feed you, to buy you clothes.”
“Papa, please listen to me and I will explain—”
“Out with you, useless brat! Nine years had I when I left the school and work for my father.”
“Listen, Papa,” the hopeful light had left the boy's eyes and they were full of pleading, hard to resist; but Jan steeled himself against their appeal. He had spoken and he would not retract.
“In only four years, Papa, I can be a teacher. I will study hard, Papa, and fit myself to earn more for you than I ever could if I stopped now. Just four years—” “Four years, you good-for-nothing! Who will feed you for four years? Who will pay for your clothes? Help me more, could you? Hear him! Just hear him; he defies me; he will help more! He sets himself over the father and teaches him what will be done!”
“Papa, I don’t set myself over you and I tell the truth. The money I have won with my scholarship will buy my books and my clothes and will send me to the normal school. Papa, please, I can help you more when I am a teacher.”
“Money you have won! Indeed, you wall give me that
money, worthless creature, and I will buy more cattle for us with it.” “But, Papa, listen. I will not get the money if I don’t go to school. It will be given to someone else. Papa, I must go to high school—you must let me go! Papa, you must! You must—” “Must! Must!” and Jan wondered whether his ears had not played a trick—“Let you I must!” His rage swept up like a hurricane and he felt his veins swell and pound.
“I will teach you to say ‘must’ to me!” Blind with madrage,hereached out to seize the boy.
With a low cry, the mother flung herself between them, pushed Martin behind her, and faced her husband with blazing eyes. She spoke rapidly in their own tongue. “Jan, you shall not lay hands on the boy when you are in such a rage. He is right and you shall not touch him while I am here. Shame! Jan, that you should let your rage master you.”
“Well, I am going down to the school meeting anyway, but, in the morning, I shall settle with Martin. Perhaps then, he will have some sense,” and he slammed the door as he went out.
Jan stopped in amazement, his arm still in the air, but he saw something in her face that made him step back. In an instant he realized what he was doing, and his insane rage died down. Still, he would not give up; his pride had been injured too deeply for that and he felt that Martin had defied him, the father.
FEELING that it was now safe to appear, the children crept, one by one, from their hiding places under table and bed. The mother, the flush fading from her lined and careworn face sank into a chair by the table and buried her face in her hands. A sob shook her thin little form.
Martin came over to her side, dropped on his knees, and, looking up to her, whispered, “Don’t cry, little mother, piease don’t cry; it is all right. Papa will not be angry when he comes back and he will let me go. Don’t cry, Mama, don’t cry.”
She raised her head and he saw her weary eyes, full of mother-love, beaming down upon him, the straggling, gray hairs framing her face, and he felt a lump rising in his throat. A tear trickled slowly down her cheeks and fell on his tangled brown curls.
“Martin, boy, he will not let you go now. He is too angry, and he had planned to do other things as soon as you were out of school but, oh, my son, Mama knows how you feel and wishes you could go. I know how he feels, too. He doesn’t understand; things were so different in the old country—not as they are here at all. He wants land; we never had any there. Only the rich men had farms and we in the village had to work for them for whatever they chose to give us. Unless we went away to the cities like Prague or to the mines, we had no choice; Continued on page 49
Continued from page 19
everybody was so poor that the boys always stopped school as soon as they were able to herd the cows, and never thought of being anything but laborers. The children always lived the same as their fathers had done, but, how I had hoped things would be better for the children here! Papa doesn’t see that things are so different and he thinks you ought to stay home to work on the land.”
“Yes, I know, Mama, but I don’t like the farm and Rudolph does, so I wanted to be something else. I have tried to like the farm but I can’t. I want to study, and learn and learn. I want to be like the English boys who can go to high schools; whose fathers think they should go; I want to be a real Canadian.”
“Martin, Mama knows that and she wants you to be a Canadian, too. This is your country—you were born here and you will live here, but Papa and I are from the old country. We cannot change our ways and be Canadians when we are so old. Don’t say any more to Papa though. He has plans for us all and he has always done what he thinks is right. I am so sorry, my son, and my heart aches for you.”
JAN reached the schoolhouse to find th at he was late, and that the meeting had begun. The secretary was speaking, so he slipped quietly into a seat near the door and tried to listen, but his thoughts were still on what had occurred at home, and his attention wandered until he caught the word “teacher.” He came back from his reverie and forced himself to listen as Layton went on.
“And I think that the inspector was right. We had better keep this teacher and raise his salary if we can manage it. The school is getting pretty big and Mr. Carden has a busy time of it but he works hard and the children are getting on well. When we can get a man like Carden who will give them a love for books and homework and the ambition to plug ahead I think we owe it to the children to keep him.”
The chairman of the school board, one of Jan’s own countrymen, slowly rose and, looking around the assemblage, inquired “Does anybody else want to say something?”
Jan jumped to his feet. “Mr. Proseck, some things have I to say. Mr. Layton, he say the children like to study at home and he be glad. I think we need them to work at home when they have come from the school. Time enough do they waste every day with books—”
“But, look here, Parazyl, don’t you want them to learn something?” Phil Layton sprang to his feet.
Jan motioned him to be silent and continued: “You wait, I speak now, and,
when I finish, then maybe you say something. All the time when I say to mine children, ‘need you to-day,’ they say they to school must go. The boys here will do no work at home ; they say ‘teacher say we must study at home,’ but what do they learn? Nothing—always nothing that be good on the farm. They should learn to feed the cattle, and the pigs, to plough, to help the father, but no! always something from a book.”
When Jan sat down, Layton, who had visibly been growing angrier, jumped up at once and cried out, “Look here men, what do you want? Do you want your children to grow up like the stock, and to know nothing but work?”
“Better be good workers than lazy good-for-nothings who always sit with a book and tell the father what to do,” retorted Jan.
“That fool teacher he always tell the children ‘This is your country; you Canadians now.’ I show him I can do what I like with mine boys and that I can keep them in the right way—in the good old country way, and—”
“That’s enough, Jan!” cried Layton, “sit down and keep qr t if you can’t say anything without los your temper. You had better keep you "gue in control when you speak of Cana ». You owe everything you have to Canada, so just lay off rapping the country or you’ll find yourself in trouble!”
As the meeting broke up, Jan hurried
out but, ere he was through the gate, he heard Proseck asking him to wait that they might walk home together. Here was just what he wanted, a sympathetic ear to hearken to his troubles, so he waited in silence.
As they set off together in the soft purple gloom of the Alberta evening, Jan said, in his own tongue, “You know, Joe, that Martin has passed his examination, and now I am going to keep him at home. He should stay at home now and help me, but he does not want to do that. The teacher has made him want to go to high school and he says he has won a scholarship; says I must send him to high school. Is that the right way to talk to a father? I’ll show him whether I have to do what he says. He has had too much school already and now I am going to get some use out of him or he can get out. That ought to bring him up to the mark.”
“You are right, Jan, that is just what you should do—but do you think it is all Martin’s fault? Now be reasonable and don’t get angry; look at the way things go on in this country. It seems as if a father’s duty was only to give, and to keep on providing this, that, or the other—whatever the children want. Martin has seen this, and it is new and different. You yourself feel free and independent here, and it has touched him, too. Did our fathers intend us to come out here?”
Jan stopped to light his pipe. This was something new. It had never occurred to him that he had ever done anything against the will of his parents, but, now, a faint memory of the arguments used by the old men of his native village against emigration came back to him. He had gone away against his father’s wishes, but on the other hand, he had been grown up and married; besides, Martin was his son, and when he had made up his mind, he would not be dissuaded.
“I have made my plans, Joe, and I am going to carry them out. Listen, Anderson has rheumatism so badly that he cannot work, but he has that fine farm and cannot leave it, so he is anxious to sell it and get away to California. I have made up my mind to buy it. The land is very rich ; you remember the crops he used to raise— even better than my homestead. The buildings are far better than mine; it lies right next to mine, so, with Martin at home, l ean manage both places. Land is everything here and I have boys, so why should I not buy it and move over there to live?” Then a new idea came to him and immediately he put it into words.
; “Look here, Joe, it’s not late, only ten o’clock, and Anderson never goes to bed early, so we’ll just go over and buy it tonight. I need a witness. If you will come along, we’ll go up and get my team.”
So the two hurried along in silence until they reached Jan’s house.
A LAMP was burning dimly in the kitchen and Jan thought his wife was sitting up for him but, when he quietly opened the door, intending to get his cheque-book and the lantern, he saw that the room was deserted. He tiptoed across the floor to get the book from the trunk at the foot of his bed. Just as he put his hand on the trunk, a strange, muffled sound struck his ears; he stopped and listened intently. He took the lamp from the table and raising it high above his head, peered into the room and caught sight of a slight movement in Martin’s bed. So! That was it. Martin was crying because he could not go to school.
For a moment his heart was wrung, but the memory of the boy’s words held him back, and hurriedly setting the lamp back on the table, he got his cheque-book and took the lantern from its nail, as he went out to rejoin Joe.
When they reached the gate in his fence, he hesitated again but his companion jumped out of the democrat and opened the gate. He drove through, and while waiting for Joe to climb in again, he looked around him across the moonlit fields. Even in the moonlight the scene was attractive and a flood of elation swept over his being when he realized that in a few hours it would all be his own.
Anderson was sitting in his wheel-chair Continued on page 51
Continued, from page 19 —the very chair Jan had so often seen on the verandah—reading.
He was a pitiable sight—his huge frame twisted, big, strong hands knotted, swollen and discolored from the ravages of the dread disease. His intelligent face was furrowed and drawn with pain. Both men stood in silence for a moment, thinking of the big, handsome Swede, who, only a few years before, had been able to work with the best of them.
As they ascended the steps, Anderson turned from his paper and called out a cheery greeting.
“Hello, there; the screen isn’t locked; just pull it open and come in,” and as the men entered, he cried, “well, well, Jan, how goes it? You are a mighty lucky man, eh! I’ll bet you are proud to-night. Have you seen the paper?”
“No,” replied Jan, “no time have I had to read the paper to-night. Why am I so lucky?”
“Why, didn’t you know Martin had won the scholarship for the whole inspectorate? Say, Jan, that boy’s a wonder. I’ve always heard that he was the smartest boy in the school here but I had no idea he was as good as this. I’ll tell you if he was a son of mine I’d be a mighty proud man to-night.”
Jan sat down in bewilderment while a series of emotions swept across his mind, and he gazed stupidly at his neighbor who rattled on without noticing.
“It’s only yesterday, it seems, I used to see him trudging aiong to school on those short legs of his, and now he is a big febow ready for high school. You’ll be sending him off in September, I suppose, to train him for something? The whole district will be mighty pleased at his record and everybody will be round to congratulate him and you. We all expect to—why, Jan what’s the trouble? You don’t look well. Are you sick?”
Jan’s face had gone dead white and great drops of sweat stood out on his brow. What was Anderson saying? “High school —proud of him—the whole district —” Proud of a son who had defied him, flouted his authority, dared to oppose his father’s plans? What sort of people were these, anyway? What did a little thing like that matter? Why should anyone be proud of it or want to congratulate him? Then, with an effort he collected his thoughts.
“No, to high school he will not go. He will work at home for me; he has wasted much time already.”
“Wasted time! you must be crazy. If anybody else in this district had a son like that, he’d starve to send him to school. Shame on you! Shame on you, Parazyl! You think work and land is all that matters,” and exhausted by his vehemence, Anderson sank back in his chair.
Jan did not know quite what to say or think, and looked to Joe as if seeking some inspiration, but Joe only shifted uneasily in his chair. Then he turned to Anderson.
“Other plans had I for Martin, and see not the good of so much school. Is it not better that he stay at home to work for his father? Some day he will get his share of the homestead and, when we are together working, I would not have to work so hard. The boys will do ; that is why we do have children; they must work for us. Always in my country the boys worked to help the father.”
“Well, Jan,” and Anderson leaned forward fixing his eyes on his neighbor’s face, “I don’t see why you need him at home; you are able to hire men if you need them—everybody knows that you are not a poor man. Even at that, Martin would be home for haying and most of the harvest. He would not refuse to help you. I’ve watched him, Jan, and he is a good little worker, who has done a man’s work for you already. You speak as if he was something you had bought, and had to get your money’s worth from it; you seem to think that you would lose him or -lose money if you sent him to school. He’s your son, man, not your horse. This may not be the way things were done in your country, but you left it because you thought you would be better off here, didn’t you? Tell me, could you have the land, the stock, the money there, that you have here? Did you like the army, the police, the hunger? Did you want to work for someone all your life?”
“No that be right, Mr. Anderson. All I get for mine own I get here. Mine boys have a better time here in Canada, but what is wrong with this country—here the kids know more than the father; they
do want never to do what he say; they do not respect him at all.”
“I think you are wrong there. Martin does respect you, but, because you are his father, have you any right to plan his whole life and force him to do only as you want? There is another thing, too. Martin is a Canadian. This is his country and he will help to make this country some day. There will be a time when all differences of race are gone in Canada and all men will be Canadians only. You and I who came from Europe are not the ones who will be great here, but our children will.”
“But,” stammered Jan, “I have plans. I come to buy your farm, and to work it I need Martin. I pay you five thousand dollar, cash—a deposit now and the rest with the deed.” He drew his cheque book from his pocket.
Anderson hesitated. He saw a chance to go away, to get doctors; he saw health and strength returning, pain forever gone. It was irresistible.
“It’s yours, Jan. We can draw up the papers to-morrow and then I’m off. Don’t forget what I have said, though, about Martin.”
Jan filled out the cheque and handed it to Anderson, and before more could be said, was gone with Joe at his heels. They drove off in silence and Joe wondered what had come over Jan, who was now so quiet, but not a word was spoken until they drew up at Jan’s barn.
“Take the team, Joe, and I’ll send the boys for it in the morning.” Joe drove away home.
LEFT alone, Jan went slowly into the J house, undressed and got into bed. The joy he had expected to feel seemed to lack something.
He felt that he had been too harsh. Martin, after all, had rarely displeased him in any way and he felt impelled to go to the boy’s bed, take him up in his arms, and tell he might go to high school for one year anyway. But, how could he retract all he had said without weakening the discipline he had striven to maintain? Yet Martin had brought honor and respect to the family and that was something.
Jan sat up in bed and stared at the wall. He wished he had taken time to think of that before he had spoken the night before, and before he had bought the farm, but now it was too late for regrets.
Martin had come in so happy, so overjoyed at his success, so eager to share his triumph with the whole family, and Jan realized now that it was a great success. When his son, his Martin, had brought honor to him, he had refused to accept it. He should have been first to praise the boy. WThat a fool he had been!
He covered his face with his hands and, in agony of spirit, repented the injustice he had done the lad. If he could only undo it all!
He slipped out of bed and tiptoed into the silent kitchen, across the creaking floor, into Martin’s room. The sun was well above the horizon now. and the morning light came in through the open window in floods of gold. A fresh, little breeze was blowing the curtain about, causing strange contrasts of light and shadow to pass across the room and over the boy’s face. Jan noted the tear-stained cheeks and the flush which burned beneath the tear stains.
He bent over his sleeping son, and the lad’s eyes suddenly opened wide and stared sleepily into the father’s face. A look of fear came into them, and they slowly filled with tears as he turned away his head and buried it in the pillow. Jan’s voice trembled and there was a trace of tears in it, too, as he spoke.
“Martin, I was wrong. You will go to
high school as you —as—as I--Oh! son,
The boy turned again to his father, slowly, as if he had not heard aright, and gazed, while bewilderment, surprise and joy fled across his tear-stained face.
“Papa, you mean it? I am not dreaming—you mean I may go to high school? You—you—” and he choked as he saw a tear stealing slowly down his father’s sunburnt cheek.
“Yes, Martin, you may go. Sorry am I, for what I did. Will you forgive”—but the boy’s arms went around his father’s neck and choked any further speech.
Jan held his boy fast in his arms and pressed him close. Each knew that, never again, would there be any misunderstanding between them. The old world had blended with the new.