CANADA, MY FOSTERLAND
Five years ago the writer of this article could not understand a word of English. He mastered the tongue while mastering cold, hunger and hardship. What did Canada do for him to warrant his allegiance? As a new Canadian he tells us.
"A LETTER from His Majesty the King?” Yes, that is what it says on the envelope: “On His Majesty’s Service.” But where is the Knight, the King’s messenger, who brought it; the Knight in his heavy armor and helmet with sword and lancet? Is he waiting on his horse outside for my reply to the King’s message? Where is the crowd of children, women and men watching him, and where is he who brought this mysterious letter? He is gone.
Those were the days of yore, when there was ceremony attached to the delivery of a royal message. In our prosaic time His Majesty sends his message through the mail, and the courier does not wait for a reply.
What does the letter say?
“I have the honor to enclose herewith Oath of Allegiance to be taken by you in connection with your application for naturalization under Section 2 of the Naturalization Acts 1914 and 1920. This Oath should be written in your handwriting, sworn before a Commissioner, a Notary Public or Justice of the Peace, and returned forthwith to this department. Upon receipt of same your Certificate will be forwarded to the Clerk of the Court without anyundue delay, who will in turn transmit it to you. “Your Obedient Servant, (Signature) .............
Well, if the letter is not exactly from the King, it is signed by one of the King’s officers; a bit disappointing, of course, but the contents of the letter are j ust as serious as if it were signed by the King himself. I will read it again. It has come to the taking of the Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty King George V.
Can I do it? Can I?
A Two.Sided Responsibility
IT IS, indeed, an important oath. The A question of naturalization deserves a great deal of consideration by the country which is to adopt one, and by the person who is to take the oath. The country takes precautions, and justifiably so. It is over five months since I filed my application for citizenship, during which time the authorities have made investigations as to my
character and behavior, and thereby, as far as possible, safeguarded the country’s interests in the matter. The application has now been granted, and all that remains to be done is the actual signing of the Oath of Allegiance.
Do I really and truly wish to become a British Subject? Often do my thoughts go back to the old land; often, but particularly
this evening, when I, for the last time, consider the question: Do I
really and truly wish to become a British Subject? The answer is arrived at through another question: What have I discovered in Canada during the five years since my arrival in Montreal? It does not seem long since I kissed my mother good-by, and her trembling lips whispered: “God be with you, my boy.”
Over the waves, the spitting, sneering waves of the Atlantic, the ship was rolling and dipping, now raised to view, then dumped to hiding, working its way towards the so-called new world. As I stood at the stern gazing in the direction of the land we had left behind, long ago out of sight, nothing could be seen but the water, the shrieking sea-gulls, the log and the path, the long, white path of the ship. I had heard of a new world, more beautiful and richer in wonders and secrets, a world which had a far greater attraction to me, the land of my destination—Canada. My thoughts were full of doubts, eager as I was, to know, to turn the leaves of the great book and learn what was awaiting me ahead. But the waves could not tell me that; instead they seemed to say: “Worry not, my friend. Think of those who went ahead of you, found the way for you, cleared it of doubts and dangers at the risk of their lives, for you and others to come.” Who were they, those heroes? I wondered, and the waves told me:
“Do you not recall that in the year 1,000 the Norseman, the Vikings, sailed their daring way to what is now Newfoundland and Labrador? That Eric the Red had found and named Greenland? That Lief, sonof Eric, venturing further West, reached the grim fringe of a new continent and called it Vinland? That Thorvald, brother of Lief, followed him and perished with a native arrow in his heart? That those who sought his body came later to form the first real colony in that strange land—sixty diking men, five women, bringing cattle? That they stayed three years in the vicinity of what is now called Hope Bay, Rhodes Island, and that there was born Snorre, the first white child of the soil of America?
“Those were the first pioneers,” the waves went on. “But many were those, before them and after them, who succumbed to the lure of the unknown. Many mis-
calculated the strength of their ships; ships of stout timbers but less than a hundred feet of length, and with scant tonnage to battle angry seas and fields of crunching ice; ships propelled by the arms of men; ships with defiant prows reverently encased with purest gold. Many the Viking ship which set forth valiant in adventure, never to be heard from again. Yet always there followed others, manned by unconquerable spirits determined to reach that world across the seas.”
A sea-gull brushed me with her wings and interrupted
the conversation. For
hours I had been standing
there, listening. The moon
was shining now. A faint
music reached my ears.
People were running about chatting excitedly; there was something extraordinary going on.
“What’s all the fuss about?” I asked a bystander.
“Oh, don’t you know?
There is a dance to-night.”
Still thinking of the story of the waves I left the stern and mingled with the rest of the pleasure seekers. A tall, blonde young man passed me.
He was dancing with a beautiful Canadian girl, who looked at him frankly with her large, blue and sparkling eyes. To the tunes of the orchestra, they were humming:
“Lazy, I want to be lazy.”
Frozen Ears in Montreal
'T'HE waves were not quite right when they told me that the problems which I had to face in the New World would be easy and simple. I had not expected them to be. I realized the true situation the very first day of my arrival in Montreal, the city of my destination. It was in
the beginning of January, and bitterly cold—thirty-two degrees below zero. I did not then know the temperature, nor did I care, and went along St. Catherine Street dressed in a black Prince Albert coat, bowler hat and thin kid gloves, nonchalantly swinging a cane, as I had recently promenaded in Copenhagen and London. After half an hour’s inspection of the sights, a young lady and an elderly gentleman approached
“Your ears are frozen,” he said.
“What does he mean?” I wondered in my native Danish, unable to utter a word.
“Vos oreilles son (¡ele, monsieur," he tried again.
I suppose I just opened my mouth yet wider, and when the man finally dragged me in front of a mirror, which happened to be in a store window near by, and made me look at myself while he pointed at my ears, I thought he was crazy. I had never had my ears inspected by anyone but my mother, and that was when I was just a little boy. Besides, looking at them now in the mirror, they seemed particularly clean. But the moment I touched them I knew what was the matter. He was a very kind old gentleman. He rendered me all possible assistance, rubbed my ears with snow and, pointing at a street car, smilingly advised me to hurry home.
That was my first contact with a Canadian. He was patient with me, interested, kind and obliging. Through that incident I realized how utterly helpless I was when it came to conversing in English, yet I was glad it had happened. It showed me, that, though alone in a strange country, I was among people whose hearts were in the proper place.
Something had to be done. Money going out and none coming in soon saw the end of the very little capital I had possessed when landing Either I would have to improve my English so that I could get a decent situation, or I would have to take any sort of a job. The last, of course, proved—if not the choice—the thing to do. Setting out one morning with the alternative of getting work or starving, I did succeed in the former. That day I joined a section gang shovelling snow at Windsor Station. It was hard work, but it was clean and honest work. Later I was “promoted” to an easier job, that of sweeping the platforms and picking up papers between the tracks, carrying a basket on a string around my neck and a cane with a 3harp point with which to pick up the paper. Having no working clothes, I still wore the Brince Albert, but the bowler hat was replaced by a cap, nicely lined with rabbit fur and pulled far down over my ears; the cane—it was a different kind of cane I carried now. I did not swing it quite so nonchalantly as the old one. One day I bored it through the heart of the rose on a package tobacco. I still have the package. When I look at it to-day, I think of those great days, for they were great days They were
days when I learned what it means to work and work hard for every coin received, learned the true value of money.
I had taken lodging with a French family at two
dollars a week and was to pay on pay-day; but there was
a longtime till pay-day, as I had started to work only the day after one.
“Ah, but there are only three days now, and I still have fifty cents.”
Those days I did my own cooking and became quite an expert at porridge. Oats and bread were what I bought. I did have butter, but when that had gone I made oatmeal sandwiches, using cold porridge instead of butter, and they tasted as well at that time as the best chicken sandwich I now occasionally enjoy. When the last day came, however, oats and bread gone, I went to work without my lunch.
“It’s only for a day, for to-morrow is pay-day.”
When noon came and
that gang rushed to the shanty for lunch, my eyes watered, for they were eating raw onions, and my mouth watered at the sight of the delicious sandwiches which their Italian wives had made. For I was hungry. The foreman, a splendid and goodhearted fellow, noticed that I was without my lunch and said that I could go to the lunch-counter at the station. I thought that I had better go, and felt the relief of being
alone. It was not pleasant to watch others eat. A colonist train had just arrived from Halifax with
immigrants. It was cold,
so I entered the empty train, and Fortune smiled upon me. I got my lunch there. On a seat was left half a tin of strawberryjam, part of a loaf of bread, a tin of sardines, a package of shredded wheat and a box with a few pieces of chocolate. What a treasure! What a feast! The chocolates had melted.
Yet, though I had tasted better candy, candy never tasted better.
And “to-morrow is payday.”
To-morrow. The moment came when the gang went off to the pay-master.
Then: “It’s no use your going, Harry,” the foreman said. They called me Harry there. “You can’t get yours until next payday. Company always keeps back two weeks’ pay.”
T did not then make out all he said, but I did understand that I could not get my money. It was a very serious situation. “What shall I do? What in the world can I do? I must have my money. Must.
Oh, why can’t I get it when I have earned it and need it.”
Charlie—that was the foreman’s name — evidently read my thoughts.
“It’s no use, Harry. Are you broke?” If I never understood the meaning of that word before, I did
now, and in its truest sense. “Yes,” I said. He was kindhearted, Charlie, good old Charlie. There was another man with his heart in the right place. He handed me ten dollars with the words:
“You pay me back next pay-day, Harry. It’s alright. It’s alright, you are welcome.” He knew I was grateful, though I could say nothing. Tears rolled slowly down my cheeks and froze to ice before they dropped; tears, perhaps not so much because of the disappointment as because of the joy in realizing that Charlie was a friend, and one who understood.
For another month I continued the same kind of work, until I one day was introduced to a gentleman who gave me the one chance which everybody prays for. That day was a turning point in my life. He needed an assistant at some particular work for which he was responsible in a department of the Canadian National Railways. I was given the chance on three days probation. “No ill feelings, of course, if you should be unable to do the work and I obliged to let you go,” he added, but I was given a desk besides his in the office, and he helped me along, spending hours and hours of his own spare time for my benefit, and not only he, but everyone in the department, showed a willingness to make things easier for me and make me feel at home.
Of course I made mistakes, and many of them. One day, for instance, the chief of the department called me on the telephone and invited me to come up to his house the following evening for supper and later a dance. “I shall be obliged to, sir,” I said. Of course I meant to say “delighted to.” To make things even worse, I discovered the error even while the horrible word was on my lips, yet too late to prevent it from being pronounced, and scolding myself, I blushingly uttered “dammit,” not realizing that the chief still was at the other end of the wire, astonished, I suppose, by that most extraordinary acceptance of an invitation.However, nothing was ever said about it. But by making mistakes and by the teachings of my fellow workers in the office, I learned not only to improve day by day, but to know Canadians as they are, a patient, generous, big-hearted people.
THOUGH I am with the same department to-day, I was away for a period of eighteen months, in which
time I explored the western provinces and northern Ontario to Hudson’s Bay. Having arrived in Winnipeg on the harvest excursion train, in company with a McGill student I had met on the train, we secured tickets for employment as farm laborers at the local Government Employment Agency, and set off for the place, located
somewhere in Saskatchewan. At a small junction we
were to change trains, but missed our connection. The next train would be two days later. The hotel was filled, as was the floor of the station waiting room, so John and I walked around looking for a place to sleep. It was not easy, and we thought of many a scheme, till we at last noticed the little church. The door was open and we tip-toed down in the basement and enjoyed a very peaceful night. The next night the door was locked. Then I thought of a load of hay standing on the road in front of a barn. The barn was locked, so we bored ourselves down in the hay and slept. John had hayfever next morning, but the train finally came and took us to our destination.
GOOD morning. Good morning,” sounds from every corner of the farm. The rooster is first up. His voice calls to life all who sleep in the neighborhood. The horses in the stable stamp and scrape in the ground. The cows have come home from the pasture. The sun is just peeping over the horizon. It’s a glorious morning. A sweet scent comes from the clover field just outside the fence. Like a beautiful carpet it
is spread out, designed with millions of pink and white flowers, and as the sun rises, they raise their heads and stretch their leaves toward her. Myriads of dew-drops on leaves and grass-tips sparkle like diamonds. Just a touch of one’s clothing, just a puff of the wind, and they fall to earth and vanish; but the delicacy only increases their beauty, and even if they do fall, well— it’s part of life, and to-morrow there will be others, and the morning after, others still.
There is Peter now; just up, rubbing his eyes. He is away to feed his “children.” And the sun rises and rises.
It’s all so glorious. It is not just a puff in the reed. It’s life.
After breakfast I went out in the harvest field and commenced stooking.
Peter, the farmer, was a young fellow around twenty-eight. He used to be a linotype operator in the city, but four years before he had commenced farming, and without any previous experience, had made a great success of it. He had a considerable stock of cattle already, and twice had taken first Drize for his wheat in competition open to all the western provinces. A great deal of the credit for his success he owed to his wife, who was a wonderful cook.
Peter and I were friends, and a little incident, or rather accident, which took place later, proved that he was a friend worth having. When the turn came to us to have the threshers, Peter asked me to shoot a steer for him. I took the gun, and together we went to the pasture. He pointed the steer out to me. He was grazing among the other cattle, sheep and horses. I placed myself right in front of him, had my eyes fixed on him, just waiting till he would raise his head and look at me. When he did so, I raised the rifle, aimed and fired. And there he stood, chewing as unconcerned as ever, while a heifer right behind him dropped dead on the spot, hit by the bullet between the eyes. 1 stood dumbfounded. Peter, too, was silent for a moment. Then: “It can’t be helped. She’s dead. Makes a better roast anyway for the threshers.” I knew that a heifer was worth at least fifty dollars more than a steer, but he never mentioned it He knew that I did not do it intentionally, and while skinning the animal, he laughed and joked as if nothing had happened.
That is the type of the Canadian farmer. I can see him yet, as many an evening he walked with his wife in the harvest field. Peace rested over all. The glow of the sun, far below the horizon colored the sky, and the faint sound of the vi'iage church bell could he heard in the distance. His every movement, the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he smoked, the way he stopped and looked at it all, expressed a feeling of happiness, a pure joy of being destined to perform his duties 'n such colorful, artistical surroundings. And, it was all his, everything around him, below and above him. How I envied him.
For three months I was on Peter’s farm. Then, when the freeze-up came Peter and I parted.
The Call of the North
ON ARRIVAL in Winnipeg I was fortunate enough to secure immediate employment with the Hudson’s Bay Company. The following spring, in that company’s service I started out to Moose Factory on James’ Bay.
From Mattice, a little station on the Canadian National Railways in Northern Ontario, three Indians took me in their canoe at a rapid rate down the swift current of the Missinabi River. After about eight hours paddling we came to a wild rapid called Hell’s Gate, and a portage was necessary. A hundred feet or so past the falls, we loaded again and shot out; but to get clear of some rocks we had I to paddle back towards the falls. When midstream, about fifty feet from the fool ¡ oí the falls, the mighty force oi the water hurled the canoe against a submerged rock, and we sank. We managed to get ashore after an hour’s struggle; but the canoe and our belonging? we;e lost.
“How far is it to Mattice?” I asked the guide.
“Just thirty miles.”
“And no trail?”—•
“No, but we will make one.”
With the guide ahead we proceeded to force ourselves through the wild and entangled bush. Over stock and stone we
went, climbing rocks and hills, sliding, rolling or falling down, wading through the muddy swamps and creeks. Perverted thorny bushes and branches unmercifully tore the clothes and skin, and battalions of mosquitoes attacked our bloody faces and hands. After ten hours’ continuous walk we had covered one third of the way, and then darkness added to the difficulties. Yet, on and on, we strove.
“There are Kettle Falls now. We are half way to Mattice.”
The rapids nagged the stones and sneered and roared.
Slowly, very slowly, we did what the river had dene to begin with. We made our own path. Night passed, next day passed and darkness once again enveloped us; but next morning early we reached Mattice, too tired to sleep, too hungry to eat; yet, what a comfort to rest.
On reaching Winnipeg to report the accident, I was impressed by the sportsmanship of the Company officials, who gave me full compensation for my loss, though I had made the trip on my own risk We got a new outfit ready, and the second trip was successful.
Alter a year of business, combined with fishing, hunting, snow-shoeing, dogsleighdriving and trapping, I made the trip back to civilization, taking thirteen days from Moose Factory to Mattice.
It happened the last night of the trip we camped at “Hell’s Gate,” the fatal rapid of our first trip. We sat around the fire, smoking a peaceful pipe of tobacco. What a difference in the scenery.
Within a few weeks I was again in the Canadian National Railways. Up to the present time I have been engaged mostly on outside work and have had the opportunity of seeing many parts of Canada, even as far as the Pacific Coast.
Canada— My Country
IN THE five years which have passed since my arrival in Montreal, I have discovered Canada—Yinland—to be possessed of far greater attractions than I had ever dared to hope for. When I think of all I have learned, how I have been helped along by Canadian friends, how they have taken me to their homes and treated me as one of their own, then a desire is born, the one great desire to be one of them, to be a citizen of “Vinland” and share their pride and joy in calling Canada “My country.”
And now one of the most serious moments of my life has come, namely that of taking the Oath of Allegiance. As an officer in the Danish army I know so well the significance of that oath. Someone might ask: “But don’t you love your own country?” Would it be worth while answering him? If a man can cease to love his native land, the land where he was born and raised, the land which holds and protects his home with all the memories of childhood, his mother and father, sisters and brothers; if he can cease to lové the language his mother taught bim and in which she writes to her boy, thinks of him and prays for him to-day, if he can cease to love the flag and the King to whom he has sworn to be true—then he has ceased to live, for he has lost his very soul.
No. my love for my Motherland and my loyalty to King Christian the Tenth will never, never cease.
Then there is perhaps another question: “Can one be loyal to and serve two masters?”
But there is only one Master. King Christian and King George are coworkers in his service. For many years the British Empire has stood for protection of the smaller rations and—as my native land—for righteousness and justice. Their mottos are the same: “Peace over earth.”
Loyalty to one is loyalty to the other. So, when the great moment comes, and this is the very moment, it is a joy and comfort to know, that though my love and loyalty to my Motherland lives till the end of my last day. I can fulfil my desire and with a clean conscience take the pen and write:
‘T swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to His Majesty King George the Fifth, his Heirs and Successors according to law So help me God.”