Outposts of Faith
This story won honorable mention in MacLean's Short Story Competition
ALBERTA C. TRIMBLE
YOUR ’usband is a lawyer, madam?”
The iceman—Pat had known immediately from his manner that he was “old country” French— spoke philosophically, and through the warp of her red rage at life in general and the oil stove in particular, ran a keen thread of amusement—his physical resemblance to Voltaire, his bland air was in such contrast to the latter’s malevolence.
“Yes, he is,” she snapped, “and look at me.”
Grime from head to foot ! Coal oil squashing up between her toes at every step she took ! Smudges all over her face. From trying to keep back that lock of hair, she was deciding angrily when he spoke again: “Even lawyers’ wives sometimes, madam,” bowing. “Probably this morning; ’owever, before you ’ave an entanglement with this stove ...”
This morning! How far back in the discard of time was this morning? Was it to-day she had awakened in such an optimistic mood—and, the Lord knew, optimistic moods had been rare since she had come to The Pas!—that she had got up avid to fly through her housework in order to settle down to the world’s masterpiece; at least, the great Canadian masterpiece? She had put on one of her “genius burns” smocks, white with blobby orange whirligigs and purply-black collar and cuffs, the latter expressly designed to set off her hands. Look at them now ! She had put on new white silk stockings and fairly new white kid pumps trimmed with black. Trimmed? They were elaborately decorated now! She had even brought out an easel, and opened up the card table in the living-room for her paints and brushes. Was that only this morning?
“Me, I like not these stoves, madam. Few years ago I ’ad one. It be’ave same; some day one burner no good, some day ’nother. So ’alf-breed come along and I say, ‘ ’Ere, take from me this little stove’.”
“Puzzle, find the half-breed,” she said sourly, yet trying to laugh.
He fitted the ice into the refrigerator and closed the door.
“You are from the city, per’aps, madam? You are accustomed to the electric stove, n’est-ce-pas?”
Accustomed to an electric stove? Accustomed to a well-trained maid? Tears stung her eyes at the thought of Pauline in her black satin dress, apron and cap. At home—this wasn’t home! — she’d be coming in at any moment with, only the Lord and herself knew, what lovely surprises in the way of sandwiches. No wonder that she and Pauline had agreed so beautifully, for in her own line the girl was an artist, too.
The kitchen was only as big as a minute, but, like Pat herself, it was coal oil from one end to the other. The trouble was that she had got too ambitious, planning to greet AÍ with a pie. She might have known something »would happen. It had. When she went to set the portable oven on, no two adjoining burners would do their stuff.
Feed pipes clogged, she had diagnosed it, and, in an endeavor to effect a cure, had dropped a knitting needle clear down one of them. Tweezers proving futile, she had turned the stove upside down, but, not being accustomed to the vagaries of oil stoves, second-hand ones at that, bought from a neighbor who guaranteed it to be the hottest stove on the market—at the recollection of the neighbor’s high pressure salesmanship Pat icily mentioned a region equally hot—she had not emptied the cup which held the tank; hence the mess.
“The knitting needle came out all right,” she concluded, “but still those two burners will not work.”
“Per’aps it is the main feed pipe, madam,” pointing to it. “I shall look in my wagon for a piece of ’ay-wire.”
A conjurer rather than philosopher. She glared at the main feed pipe. How—? This small cap at the end? She unscrewed it, standing in helpless disgust as a stream of dirty oil spurted to the floor.
“Tiens, madam! You should ’ave put a can there.”
He had conjured up some ’ay-wire at any rate, she observed.
“It couldn’t make the mess any worse”—defensively.
But it had; and the hay-wire, rising to the occasion nobly, added to the deposit of grit already there; and everywhere either of them stepped, she in her pumps or he in his spreading moccasins, the dirt apDarently incorporated itself with the linoleum.
However, the stove acted like a new being. Each of the four burners sent up a blast of heat that justified all its former owner’s claims. Pat thanked the friendly iceman tangibly—if beer may be said to be tangible; and stood in the doorway watching him shuffle along over the frozen muskeg to the corner where his wagon stood.
'T'HE First of May, yet north of fifty-three there was no sign of spring. Not another dwelling in sight. Nothing but spruce, spruce, spruce scraggly against the horizon, no matter where one turned. If anyone ever mentioned the exhilarating spruce air to her again, she would scream.
She was turning to go in when a sound smote her ear. One of the planes! It came into her line of vision at that moment, circling overhead . . . Now so high, it was just a speck against the sky. But she could still hear it. How did that exquisite poem of Sheila Locke begin? “High hope throbbing in empyrean blue ...” The planes fascinated her: “wild wings beating at the door of heaven.” She was one with them. When she could no longer hear it, she went in, feeling indescribably imprisoned by “the bars of solitude.”
One washing would not be enough, Pat realized as she leaned back on her heels and surveyed the small oasis of ivory-and-blue in the desert of pitch. Did floor ever take so much scrubbing? Al was right; she was a slave to the linoleum. But who wanted a mud-colored floor even if everyone tracked muskeg in on his feet? Al did not appreciate how vital to her well-being were beautiful surroundings; though no one could claim beauty for this two-by-four shack out at Land’s End— the end of the boardwalk, rather. Whoever had built that boardwalk out this far all those years ago was one fool optimist!
A chair in her way. She pushed it, jerking one of the bundles to the floor. Her washing which Mrs. Ledoux had brought home at noon. Only for sprinkling it, doing each kind of article in a separate newspaper bundle —Mrs. Ledoux might come to iron to-morrow and she might come next week!—she’d have been finished long ago. That, and the pie which was still only a creature of her imagination. A nightmare, she thought as she gathered up the laundry and carried it into the living-room out of her way.
It was bad enough without adding to the mess. Yesterday had been mail day; papers, magazines and letters still strewn about. Wouldn’t it be just her luck to have callers— that Mrs. Locke, for instance, about whom Al was so intent. Every evening the refrain, “Did Mrs. Locke call to-day?” Why? Because the Lockes were the village plutocrats? That was not Al’s style. “You’ll like Mrs. Locke, Pat.” Yes! fair, fat and forty. Mrs. Locke intended to call. She had told Pat so, casually; and just as casually, Pat had said, “Phone me first, won’t you, so that I’ll have my face washed.” “I’d like to see you with it not washed,” Mrs. Locke had laughed, adding: “Very well, I’ll ’phone. I suppose it is quite a distance to walk to find ‘not at home’ on the door.”
Of course, the real reason Pat had asked her to ’phone was, she felt sure, that the spirit was going to move her to take her brush in hand one of these days, and she did not wish to be caught flagrante delicto. “Oh, how pretty!” Pretty, mark you. “How aw-fully clev-er, Mrs. Way-ayne!” Or, “Wouldn’t you like me,” —giggles—“to pose as your model?”
She had told Al shortly after they came, that she hoped none of the women would feel it incumbent to call. What could they talk about that would interest her? “Perhaps,” he had retorted dryly, “you could talk about something that would interest them. You can, when you wish.”
“But I don’t wish. We’ve come up here to make a fortune so that we can go somewhere to live, and the only attraction I could see in this putrid place was the chance it gave me to sit and paint.”
“Oh, Al! You know what I mean. We always had so much company at home. Remember Kipling, ‘He travels the fastest who travels alone.’”
However, she thought, as she deposited the bundles on the chesterfield, re-wrapping in fresh paper the one that had fallen to the dirty floor, she had had a steady stream of callers. Less friendliness than curiosity. Coming to see a real live artist in its native haunts; to see if it wore arty clothes in its den, affected arty furnishings or arty ideas. She had told Al how she’d sat there day after day in her best bib-and-tucker, yessing everything they said, but she hadn’t dared to tell him of the bridge party where she’d deliberately played a rotten game—very shrewdly, too, she thought complacently—so that she’d never be asked to play again. No one would play with a person so easy to beat.
Above the chesterfield—Al’s idea of furniture—hung a copy of Mona Lisa—Al’s idea of art. Stodgy, cushiony chairs; and in art, nothing more modern than the Stone Age. Possibly one could learn something from the Old Masters; but art, as science, had made huge strides. Those hands, of course, and those eyes—Sticking out her tongue at the languid scorn of La Gioconda—she meant it for Al, too—she reached up and turned the picture about, face to the wall. “There,” she said returning triumphantly to the kitchen, ‘.‘look down on nothing for a change!”
The only room she’d ever had a free hand with—she sighed as she pulled up her skirt and got down on her knees again—was her studio at home. Ducky place. Walls orange with keen splashes of purply-black; lacquered black woodwork and floor; windows of pebbled glass, amethystine; wonderful odd furniture she’d had a retired ship’s carpenter make. “Why not have saw-horses and be comfortable?” Al had asked densely.
She’d given three studio teas, very smart, one to celebrate each magazine cover she’d sold. Three! Just beginning to feel her oats when Al had put a spoke in her wheel by casually announcing their flit to The Pas. Not a gleam since. The two covers on which she’d been working had been shot back without even a kind word. What inspiration was to be had in this godforsaken place, only three trains a week, absolutely cut off from civilization? Native spruce, muskeg, unpainted shacks, dogs—millions of them howling at all hours . . . At home she’d got all her ideas while sipping her coffee in bed; bringing them up, as it were, out of the subconscious. Now, no coffee, no ideas . . .
At last. Quite a handsome kitchen when its face was clean. But as she put the two chairs in their places, she noticed the time. Four-twenty. Heavens! Look at her! Quite handsome, too, when her face was clean.
She was reaching for the dipper with which to fill the kettle for her afternoon sponge, when the knock came at the door. Pat jumped, jerking the dipper, which fell with a loud clatter on the lid of the galvanized tank. At home? Very much so. Clenching her teeth, she picked her way around the card table to the front door.
Of course, Mrs. Locke; that “poor relation,” Mrs. Julian, towering behind, her voluminous widow’s weeds making a sombre frame for her cousin’s pudgy beige-clad figure.
Pat pushed a button and produced a smile. “Why, good afternoon! How nice of you to walk all this way to see me! Such a cold day, too!”
“Cold!” Mrs. Julian spread herself on the chesterfield which commanded a view of all four rooms. “Delightful day. Delightful walk. This spruce air— invigorating—one does not walk, one runs.”
Though smarting, Pat kept her finger on the button. These old-timers were certainly struck on their hole-in-theground. You’d think they made the climate themselves ; at least, had a private arrangement with the Big Boy. She stooped to open the draft of the heater.
“Weren’t you to phone, Mrs. Locke?” she asked in her sprightliest voice. “Of course,” she laughed, “if you really wished to see my face dirty—we aim to please. The oil stove had a bad attack of temperament. Still,” her fingers ostentatiously crossed, “I don't mind if you don’t.”
“I should have phoned,” Mrs. Locke admitted, “but I didn’t wish you to stay in purposely for me on such a lovely day . . .”
“Stay in!” Pier inflexion asked what there was to go out for. “Except to empty the dishpan I haven’t been out since we moved into The Shack.”
What a dear little cottage, Mrs. Julian was saying ; cute as a bug’s ear. Had anyone in the world ever talked so much and so fast ? Pat was overwhelmed with a desire to talk much and fast herself, as if the brightness of her conversation might mitigate the dullness of her appearance. Comfortable, too; nothing could beat overstuffed furniture. Overstuffed herself! What interesting-looking magazines—they must read a good deal. She hoped so, because there was some talk of forming a reading club next winter and . . . Why not this winter ? This was only May. As for a reading club, she did not care for Ethel M. Dell.
“Will you excuse me while I make a cup of tea ?” she said quickly. “I’ll have a headache if I miss my tea.”
She’d have a headache if she could not get out to wash. Her beautiful admired hands. “Mrs. Wayne’s artistic hands.” “I’d not let my wife do housework either if she had hands like Mrs. Wayne’s.” Now!... Her face too. Looking into the mirror, she almost laughed out, her face so dirty that it was funny. Mrs. Locke had got her wish with a vengeance. As she filled the basin she gave vent to a couple of cuss words under her breath.
Not ravishingly handsome, even with her face clean, her nose as shiny as a nigger’s heel. As for her hair, her chief pride—marcelled by just anyone, she gave no more evidence of talent, let alone genius, than, say, Mrs. Locke.
“Have you read ‘The Bridge of San Luis Rey,’ Mrs. Wayne ?” Mrs. Julian asked as Pat came in with the tray.
“No, I haven’t.” The old girl was a bridge fiend; was supposed to dress on her pickings. Probably thought Wilder’s book was a companion to Foster or Work. Pat set the tray on a stool. “I’ve heard so much about it, however, that I doubt if I wish to read it now.” “I guess,” snorted Mrs. Julian, “everyone has heard of it.”
“Mrs. Wayne and I are alike,” Mrs. Locke said smoothly. “We like to taste for ourselves and get the true flavor. Isn’t that it, Mrs. Wayne?”
It was Pat’s turn to snort, if inwardly. Judging from Mrs. Locke’s figure, her taste in literature was between the covers of a cook book. In another minute she’d be getting a favorite recipe for angel cake. As she arranged the cups and saucers, she informed them loftily that she was reading “The Romance if Leonardo Da Vinci”.
“Merejkowski,” stated Mrs. Locke. “Very able.”
Cliché, thought Pat, but said only: “Lemon or cream, Mrs. Locke?”
Now that her face was clean she felt more at ease, and her comfort increased as she sipped her tea and listened. Mrs. Julian was less voluble under the influence of tea-cakes, but still knew whereof she spoke. She and Mrs. Locke had read books Pat had heard of and had wished to read; and some she’d never heard of, but knew from the sound of the titles that they were books one read. Poetry, too, speaking as familiarly of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Humbert Wolfe as if they had known them personally.
Art also. Mrs. Locke discussed “The Group of Seven” as if it were her own personally conducted kindergarten. Pat hardly knew what it was herself. She knew only three of their names and nothing of their work. She had always been a bit scornful of them because she had a cousin in Toronto who was. He was really good, but he had never succeeded in getting hung because of their spite. So he painted Christmas cards. They were jam for his bread. Thank goodness, AÍ supplied her jam.
“Does art run in your family, Mrs. Wayne?” asked Mrs. Julian bluntly.
Pat wanted to say that her mother had done marvelous bulrushes on red felt door panels, but instead—something in Mrs. Locke’s face, something watchful, human, inspiring—she mentioned her grandmother’s two oil paintings in the Royal Museum, the “Lime Kiln in Grey County,” and “The Old Corduroy Road.”
As she said it, and saw her dear old grandmother’s smile, she was ashamed of herself; ashamed that with her pioneer forbears she could be such a poor sport. She noticed Mrs. Locke looking at the reversed “Mona Lisa,” but she did not explain or apologize. “Let her think I’m temperamental if she wishes.” Suddenly she felt something arresting, vital, in Mrs. Locke; and wished this dowdy little woman to like her.
“Mrs. Locke,” she said eagerly, “would you care to see the originals of the magazine covers I have sold? Al—Mr. Wayne —persuaded them to let us have them back, to frame. See!”
"DUT when Al came home to dinner, she was once more in the throes of self-pity. He saw that, she knew, because he brightened visibly.
“Hello, darling,” tossing his hat to a chair and dropping down beside her on the chesterfield. “Hear the latest? Official word that beginning with the twenty-first instant The Pas is to have a daily train. Good old C.N.R! I knew they’d come through. On to the Bay! We’ll be tripping over to Paris for the week-end soon.”
“Yes. When we’re forty.”
“Pooh! Long before that. Do you know how many people came in on the train yesterday?”
“No; and I’ve never been interested in statistics.”
“I could have sold The Shack today for two thousand; clear gain of five hundred. But we have to have a roof over our heads.”
She felt guilty at being a damper on his enthusiasm, but it took a lot of five hundreds to make a hundred thousand. She said so.
“Not so many, Pat. Real estate went up with a bang as soon as the railway made its announcement. When a factor as important as the C.N.R. demonstrates its faith . . . We’ve sold eight of our lots. Saw Tallman clearing his as I came home, there’s lumber piled in front of the third lot from here. Soon we’ll have to move to avoid the congestion. And those fellows wired from Winnipeg again, this time offering us double for that stock. Something fermenting there. But we didn’t sell, you bet. Cheer up, old girl! We’ll be able to live in Paris.”
“When we’re forty,” she repeated, sitting up and drawing away from him, moving the bundles of laundry over to her other side, between them. They’d enough mining stock certificates now to paper The Shack, she declared angrily before launching into a recital of the afternoon.
“Mrs. Locke, eh?” he interrupted. “Oh, Pat, that’s too bad. I hoped you’d like each other—fellow-artists, as I learned today.”
“Fellow artists !” peering at him. “Does -—does that fat little frump paint, too?” “Not with colors,” slowly. “With words. Poetry.”
“Poetry. Oh! One of these wouldbe poets. Rhymesters.”
“No, she publishes it in the best magazines. Didn’t she make you think of Sheila Locke at all?”
“Yes, she did,” caustically, “but only because she’s so different.”
“Well, she is Sheila Locke.”
No one had told her, none of her callers, not even that voluble Mrs. Julian. She had put herself on such a high pedestal that no one had told her. Waiting till she found out so that they could gloat.
“Then I hate her,” she flared. “She might have phoned. Snooping around to catch me. A lot you care too. Bringing me up here to . . .”
“You may not have a bad temper,” AÍ said with as little heat as if making a remark about the weather, “but you certainly have overdevelopment of the organs of self-pity.”
“DAT looked at the laundry distastefully, as if somehow it were to blame for being a higher barrier than it appeared. All these little rifts lately. She had been discontented ever since his casual announcement that they were pulling up stakes and moving to The Pas; as casual as a suggestion that they run into Winnipeg for the week-end. The discontent had merely crystallized into vocal definition. It had been different when they were staying in the hotel waiting for The Shack; optimists coming and going, men talking in millions. And it wasn’t The Shack’s fault. As Mrs. Julian had said, it was as cute as a bug’s ear. AÍ didn’t want to build a real house till he saw how the wind blew If she did not like it, he had promised that they would not stay more than two years.
Desolate with this new breach, the next two days seemed like two years. Saturday, about ten, AÍ phoned to say that he had to go to Sourdough Bay on business connected with the mine; would she like to go along? Like to! When she was dying to go up in a plane! But the cost. They were here to make money; not spend it. She declined, exaggerating the martyred air she had been wearing all week.
She watched the plane from the back door, but with a difference. “High hope throbbing in the empyrean blue.” Mrs Brandon Locke. Slamming the door, she went irresolutely into the livingroom. Nothing to do. No piano even; house dead without it. Paying storage on it at home; another grievance. She sagged to the chesterfield, glowering at her three pictures hung in the most prominent places in the room. She’d never paint again. Fate was conspiring with Ál against her.
A knock at the back-door—the waterman. She had meant to scald out the tank. Too late now. Lunch time. She went to her purse for a dime.
“I’ll have four pails,” she called out.
She glared at the water he spilled on her scrubbed floor, at the soft muskeg dirt dissolving in it; but he was quite oblivious.
“Hear about the fella killed in a plane jest now? Dropped clean outa it. Smashed like a punkin.”
The dime fell with a thud, spun on the linoleum. She was spinning, too; listening to all the horrible details, seeing AÍ crumpled, seeing the bundles of laundry she had stacked between them, hearing—oh, God!
“Who—who—?”she managed at last. “Didn’t hear. The kid what told me didn’t know. He said . . .”
The telephone interrupted his monologue. He picked up the coin and went out. Pat tried to call him back, to ask him to answer the phone for her. She couldn’t listen to—didn’t want to—
Al’s voice. He wasn’t coming to lunch. Big doings in town . . . he’d tell her at dinner time. Had she heard about the accident? Stranger from the States, poor chap. Splendid trip themselves . . . record time.
She lay on the chesterfield but her body seemed to be floating in space. Or was that her soul hovering above her? Never alone in her life before, suddenly brought face to face with herself, seeing under the skin, she was not sure that she liked what she saw. A small thing, quite a trivial soul. Just a smear of soulstuff on the inside of a pretty shell. No helpmate for AÍ. Making her art an excuse for her selfishness; accusing AÍ of jealousy when he was too big-souled for her comprehension. Nothing small about him. Her art—she looked at the three pictures. Good color and line but—had she ever seen them before? No vitality. Milk-and-water compared with Leonardo. She rose and turned the Mona Lisa around. At best her art was a makeshift; spurious cheap gesture. All to which she might attain was not worth one moment of dissension. She’d been dishonest with herself, too; the greatest sin against the Holy Ghost. She’d tell AÍ, make him understand. She formulated her speech, rehearsing it all afternoon, and was waiting at the door when he swung into view. Alive and safe! But when he came in, bringing the suit she had ordered from Winnipeg, she couldn’t say it. The barrier was too high, that barrier built day by day of imperceptible trifles held together by tension. She took the suit from the box, chattering of its color, its trimming, its lines; tried it on with her new hat.
“Quite gay, aren’t we?” he asked.
Yes, she was gay. But it wasn’t the suit. It was because he was alive and safe. His tolerant smile, suggesting that to keep her in good humor he must come bearing gifts, tied her tongue. She wanted to slip her hand in his and say. . . But she slipped back into her dress and served the dinner instead.
“Big doings in town to-day. Locke is forming a large corporation. A lot of financial big guns from New York and Montreal came in on this morning’s train. I had lunch with them. I hope it means . . . Mrs. Locke has the say in that house. If she likes a person . . . I’d been hoping that we’d get in on it. They want a lawyer in the firm, they said; but nothing definite. Very suave, Brandon Locke is.” He sighed. “It wasn’t merely the fees, but the inside dope. Tips. Chance to clean up big money.”
“Why didn’t you tell me, Al? I— might have tried. I—I guess I was a bit snooty when Mrs. Locke called.”
“Can’t be helped now,” he smiled across. “But if we had got it, one of these days our income tax would make an income for the lawyers back home.”
Her own words, when she’d nagged him about a trip to Paris. She had driven him to The Pas. No man with the least self-respect . . . He’d given up his office, his partners, his income, his home, his friends; had come to a makeshift office with no one to relieve him, to a shack where he got his own breakfast and helped with the dinner dishes, to a wife who hadn’t laughed for a month. And had his decision been so casual? There had been this mining boom, everyone going north or talking of it. It had sounded like opportunity. Now that she thought of it, hadn’t there been nights when he lay tossing? She seemed to recall wakeful coughings.
She couldn’t get it out of her mind all evening; waited up with hot chocolate and cinnamon toast. It haunted her dreams. Going to church in the morning, it superseded her satisfaction in her new suit.
rT'HEY sat directly behind the Lockes. L Mrs. Locke’s neck was pretty; her hair, too . . . How Pat would be hated for high-hatting Sheila Locke! She didn’t want to be hated. She did not want to sit in The Shack and paint. She wanted to be liked, to be invited to their parties, to exchange and discuss books with them, to have them drop in even if she was cleaning the oil stove at all hours. As AÍ had said when she bewailed leaving the old friends, “keep the old ones and make new.”
It was the first time they had been in the quaint little church, but its history was in the parish magazine. She turned to the page: “Henry Budd, the first
native convert in Rupert’s Land, inaugurated the work of the church in 1840. Four years later the Rev. Jas. Hunter baptized 400 Crees at this point . . . About 1845 a church was built and Sir John Richardson of the Franklin Relief Expedition, then wintering at Cumberland, sent two ship’s carpenters to assist. The pews, pulpit, and other furniture were built by them . .
Without having been told, one might have known that ship’s carpenters had carved them. The bold outline of the fleurs-de-lis capping the tall pew-ends suggested rolling decks and clean sweep of sea. First native convert—a tablet at each side of the altar with the Ten Commandments in Cree. She tried her tongue on the words, Kislayemik K'ootahwe menah ke kahwek ... In that unfamiliar tongue was the still small voice. Above all, around all, through all, a feeling of peace. The rector’s earnest tones and the light through the stained glass window merged in one comforting mellowness. The fleurs-de-lis flanking the aisle was a double row of sentries guarding the faith.
Reluctant to leave the exaltation behind, she loitered. Mr. Locke’s voice. They would think she was laying in wait for them. No! . . . Yet suddenly, more on her own behalf than on Al’s, she swung about in the vestibule and greeted Mrs. Locke, whose eyes twinkled with pleasure.
“Come to dinner tomorrow evening,” she said abruptly. “The men have business to discuss, and I,” stroking Pat’s arm though she smiled at AÍ, “want to know this young woman bettet. More to her than appears on the surface.”
Thinking of the smear of soul-stuff, Pat blushed, but laughed as she replied: “It might not be wise to scratch too deep, Mrs. Locke.”
Happier, now. And outside, the beauty of the scene took her breath. In the hollows of the banks there was still snow, but the wide sweep of the frozen Saskatchewan showed pools of iridescent water shimmering against lavender ice. On the far side, the many-colored houses of the Indian settlement clustered in the shadow of its church tower; and the natives added to the color scheme with their gaudy dress. Dog-teams— huskies, mostly wolf; an old-fashioned “jumper” hitched to a broncho with flashing eyes; a motor-car chugging along the winding uphill road; a blue monoplane poised on the ice, ready to take off. The bridge of the Hudson Bay Railway, connecting the older civilization with the unplumbed wealth of the northland . . .
The heady spruce air was stimulating. She did not want to walk; she did not want to run; she wanted to fly. She felt that she could of her own volition. Her soul was one of those gulls skimming over a transcendent lake, soaring in a new ether. The monoplane took off with a roar . . . circled . . . became a dot.
“High hope throbbing in the empyrean blue.” High hope throbbing within her. She was bursting with the magnitude of her longing to do new things. It was in her if only she could get it unlocked. Ideas with her coffee? Bah! secondhand ideas; hash. Merely feeble imitations of pictures fixed in her mind. But this—Leonardo trying to make a flying-machine.
The old and the new. Dog-teams and planes. Had she ever lived before where flying was the principal mode of transportation? The Pas was modern. Suddenly she was overwhelmed with a desire to settle down and watch the development of this new section of the country, to help it along, to become acquainted with prospectors and pioneers. The Pas—a population of ten thousand next year.
AÍ cleared his throat to speak.
“Opasquai—The Crossing. There’s your picture,” he said simply.
Opasquai—The Crossing. He saw it too. Tears gathered in her eyes. She bit her lip to keep back a sob. He saw pictures too.
“AÍ,” she said huskily, her lips puckering as she tried to smile. “Al, I ... I do love you.”