THE Reverend George MacLeish liked to drop in on the Mounted Police from time to time. Gaysbury was a small town in a country district and the detachment consisted of Lance-Corporal Logan and a constable. The police office was a compact wooden addition to the old house which Logan had rented when headquarters decided to place a detachment at Gaysbury. It was raining and the Union Jack hung limply from its staff over the door, and the enamelled RCMP plate on the wall was wet and shining. The police car was in view through the open door of the garage, which was the old barn of the property, and the dog Rory was lying, nose in paws, on the house veranda. There was, in fact, every indication that the police were at home on this wet September afternoon.
He found them in the postures they assumed automatically whenever chance gave them an hour indoors—Logan breasting a sea of letters and documents at his desk; Constable Quinn straddling a chair before the typewriter, pecking industriously at reports. There was a battered leatherette couch for visitors and a worn bit of carpet on the floor before the stove. Over the couch on varnished wooden brackets hung a pair of service Lee-Enfields, shining with oil and gaping at the breech; the bolts were kept in a locked drawer in Logan’s desk with the police revolvers.
They turned from their labors and hailed him, openly glad of an excuse to drop such irksome affairs, and the Reverend Mac took off his raincoat and shook the water from his hat. He sat at ease on the sofa and asked as usual, “What’s doing?”
“Nothing,” they answered of sheer habit. The district was law-abiding though a little careless about the game laws and, of course, there was always a bootlegger or two selling rotgut on the waterfront of the town. The war (we might as well call it the Second German War and be done with it) and the presence of an increasing swarm of naval patrol craft had put an end to liquor smuggling in bulk, after 20 prosperous years. The local bootleggers were reduced to home-brew of astonishing kinds. There was a bottle of dark liquid on the shelf behind the stove now, confiscated the night before.
“For treating visitors?” suggested the Reverend Mac humorously, stabbing a finger.
“For observation,” Logan grinned. “They ferment it from some kind of West Indian seed and call it ‘bee’ beer—why, I don’t know. It doesn’t sting, it kicks like an Army mule. All you need is a handful of seeds and a gallon of molasses and you’re in the bootleggin’ business. The seeds come north in the fish-tradin’ schooners and they’re easy to smuggle ashore—hence the bottle, hence a new crop of drunk-and-resistin’ charges.”
“Well, it gives you something to do,” murmured the parson wickedly.
The policemen looked at each other. Quinn cast a sad and cynical eye to the pile of forms beside the typewriter.
“Something to do!”
“Something to do,” echoed the lance-corporal slowly and through his teeth.
“Well?” hinted the Reverend Mac. He was bored with this rainy day and wanted a yarn.
“My good sir!” Logan snorted, sprawling six feet of boots, yellow-striped blue breeches and khaki jacket from floor to desk by way of the chair. The minister took out his pipe and began comfortably to fill it. The signs promised.
REVEREND sir, our Government, in its infinite wisdom and mercy, has given us somethin’ to do.”
“Hallelujah!” affirmed Constable Quinn piously. “Ottawa has decreed a numbering of the weapons of the people.”
“And a very timely decree,” suggested the parson, “in view of the war news.”
They nodded together grimly. Who will ever forget the summer’s news of 1940?
“Revolvers, of course, we’ve always registered. And pistols. But now we’re to register all other firearms.”
The lance-corporal sighed deeply.
“Reverend friend, there are 15,000 people in our district—three quarters of ’em scattered in small settlements along the shore and through the backwoods. It’s huntin’ country—moose, deer, bear, not to mention wild fowl and rabbits and such. These people have been hunters since Year One. The household god is the gun over the mantelpiece. They keep it oiled and polished and count the days from one shootin’ season to the next. And when in the course of time and progress the old gun goes out of fashion, they don’t throw it away or destroy it or ,sell it for two bits. They mount the new gun over the mantel and put the old one in the parlor corner, or up in the attic with the greatest of care and veneration. It’s a fetish. And that’s the point.”
“The old gun?”
“The old gun. Our orders say that all firearms, regardless of age or condition, must be registered. No loopholes, no evasions. But see what it means? It means every rifle, shotgun, musket, blunderbuss, or what-have-you in the whole bloomin’ county has got to be brought in here to the office before Sept. 15 in this year of grace 1940, for registration.”
“I don’t believe it, Logan.”
Quinn turned a delighted low-comedy smile on his superior. “He doesn’t believe it, Logan.”
“Neither did I—at first. Nor did the far-flung citizenry. We put up notices all over the district back in July and people began to trickle in with rifles and shotguns. I asked what other guns they had, and, of course, they said there was grandfather’s old percussion-cap gun that had gone weak in the spring, and a couple of flint-guns up in the attic—grinnin’ all over their faces—and I said they’d got to bring ’em in.
“They told me I was crazy. That was the first consequence—disrespect for the Force, by James! There was one old duck—What was his name, Quinn?”
“The retired schoolmaster? I dunno. He was from Coxville way.”
“Well, anyway, he came in here—drove the whole way in a rattletrap Model T Ford—with a shotgun and a Marlin rifle. I asked what others he had at home and he told me, and I said he’d, got to bring ’em in for registration. He flew right off the handle. Quoted Latin and Greek—it was Greek to me, anyhow—and told me in English that the law was seven kinds of an ass. He yelled, ‘There you are’—in a little old high voice that made me think I was back in school—‘with buffaloes on your brass buttons and the buffalo dead as the dodo; call yourselves Mounted Police and haven’t seen a saddle in years; and now. . . now you say I must register great-grandfather’s musket that’s got no flint and a busted trigger and hasn’t fired a charge since the village celebrated Victoria’s coronation. Young feller, you’re behind the times—you and your whole outfit.”
“What did you say?”
“Well, seein’ he was dishin’ out foreign quips of one sort or another I mentioned I’d got a motto beside the buffalo on my badges—‘Maintiens le Droit’—and if le Droit said, ‘Register all bows and arrows by Sunday morning,’ why, I would Maintiens if it meant yanking the whole county out of its Saturday night bath. But I wrote division headquarters, just to make sure. They said the law was perfectly plain. Register all firearms. Our job was to enforce it, not to question it. So here we are. Or are we?”
QUINN chuckled. “It’s been fun, in a way. They’ve been comin’ in cars, trucks, buggies, horse-wagons, ox-wagons, anything that’ll roll—loaded to the axles with men and boys, each with an armful of guns—good guns and busted guns, new guns, old guns, guns that you never saw in your life outside a museum. Believe it or not, we’ve registered over 8,000 so far and more comin’ in every day. Holy smoke!”
“Now, in ord’nary times,” Logan said, “they’d have laughed and let us try to ferret ’em out, all through the district, musket by musket. But we spread the word it’s to do with the war and they’re dead serious about it—obeyin’ the law like good boys.”
“And girls,” Quinn observed, staring out of the window. “Here’s a lady.”
The Reverend MacLeish turned on the couch and through the rain-blurred glass saw a horse and buggy with a girl at the reins. The horse was drenched and the buggy wheels plastered red with the mud of a back district somewhere beyond Osborn where the red clay belt began. An older woman, wearing a beret and a man’s oil-slicker and rubber boots, was standing at the back of it extracting something long and heavy from under the seat. It was carefully wrapped in a blanket but he could see the butts of three guns. She came up the walk with it clutched in her arms and Quinn opened the door for her.
“Guns,” she announced and set the bundle down carefully with butts on the floor.
Quinn took charge of it. The woman went out and came back with three more, also wrapped in a blanket.
“Makin’ an awful mess on your floor,” she observed, looking down at her boots.
“Won’t you sit down?” asked the Reverend MacLeish rising from the couch.
“Thanks, no. Been sittin’ all the way from home—36 miles. ’Twasn’t rainin’ much when we started.” Quinn slipped a form into his typewriter while Logan unwrapped the first bundle. The woman unbuckled her slicker and clasped a pair of strong brown hands before her. The hair straggling in damp wisps under her beret was grey as much as brown and her face looked as if she worked a good deal in the fields. Here eyes were a very dark brown, almost black, with a straight gaze like a man’s. When she spoke she had a fashion of lifting her upper lip and the men saw that her cheap false teeth had very red gums and did not fit very well. She might have been 45, perhaps 50.
“Item one,” called Logan to Quinn. Musket. Muzzle-loading. Flintlock, make, unknown, manufacturer’s number, ditto.” He turned to the woman. “I take it you’re registerin’ these guns for someone else, ma’am. What’s your name, please?”
“Rowland. Mrs. Simon Rowland. From Rowland’s Corner”—and with a smile—“Up in the backwoods I guess you’d call it. The guns belong to my men.”
“I see. Guns are s’posed to be registered by the owner, if possible. You’ll have to tell us who the gun belongs to in each case, ma’am, and any other information you have. Now, what about this one?”
She looked at the “musket, muzzle-loading, flintlock,” and smiled faintly. She had the air of a woman not naturally garrulous but with a lot to say. The minister guessed that life at Rowland’s Corner was lonely. He wondered what sort of men she had—the men who had let her and the girl drive so far in rain to register their guns.
“That gun there,” she said, “belonged to the first Rowland, the Old Rowland of All. I dunno his first name, I’m sorry. But I can tell you about him ’cause I heard it many a time from Grampa—that’s my husband’s father. He lives with me. My husband s dead.”
Logan was about to interrupt, but the woman had closed her eyes and stood there thinking on her feet, and talking.
“The Old Rowland of All, he come to Nova Scotia from one o’ the other colonies—Conne’ticut, I think—back in the seventeen-hundreds. Let me think. It was 1761. It was just after the French had been drove out o’ the country, and this Old Rowland had been up here fightin’ ’em, and seen what the country was like, and went back to fetch his fam’ly. A lot o’ them ol’ colonial sogers done the same. That’s his gun. His powder-horn’s home in the kitchen; it’s got his ’nitials and an Injun’s head carved on it. I dunno his first name ’cause he was an ungodly man and didn’t have a Bible to write it, in. Unsettled around here where this town is, first, hut didn’t like it too many people and not enough land. He figgered some day there’d he a road upcountry, clean through to Fundy waters, so he hit hack through the woods with an Injun and hunted up a good piece o’land where he reckoned the mail’d have to pass. Then he went hack for his fam’ly.
“He led the horse through the woods with the kids on its back and the woman walked behind. They had a hard time, then and after, I guess. They riz some corn and ’taters in the clearin’s, ’mongst the stumps, that first year. And in the fall, Rowland piled the old dry slash around the stumps and burned ’em, bit by bit, to the ground. He broke up the boulders in his fields the same way'—crackin’ the rock with fire and luggin’ the pieces off to build stone fences. You can see the red fire stain on the rocks yet, here and there in the stone fences when the scab moss gets knocked off.
“Ah, they worked, I tell you—Rowland and his woman, and their boys and girls too, when they got to workin’ size. Summer mornin’s when the fields is dew-wet and the sun ain’t riz enough to drink it up, there’s bright heads all along the stones o’ the field walls and sometimes I get a notion it’s just the old sweat workin’ out. Queer, how them notions come, ain’t it, by yourself and lonesomelike? Well, the Old Rowland of All, he caught fur in winter—beaver, mostly—and drug it to town on a hand-sled—36 miles, like I told you—and after a time he’d enough ahead to buy a cow for milk and a couple o’ little bulls for work-oxen, and he drove ’em home through the woods.
“He was old and dead and burrit before the road was cut through the woods to Fundy side—and then it passed 15 long miles east o’ the Rowland place. They burrit him on the hillside above the loghouse so he could look down across his fields to the brook and the water hole spotted with green lily pads where bears used to wallow afore he come, and the trail runnin’ off through the woods that he’d reckoned would be the Fundy road. When the hoys grew up, they got’em each a woman in the township and cut out farms for ’emselves along the hollow. But Eldred—that was the oldest son—he stayed on the home place and when the boys cut a lane out to join the new Fundy road, Eldred went to town and brought back a pair o’ stones and put a dam in the brook and made a grist mill.”
“Ma’am,” broke in Logan a little desperately, “I’d like to know the owner of the next gun, if you don’t mind.” He called over his shoulder to Quinn, “Musket. Muzzle-loadin’. Flintlock. Make—umph! Leave it blank. At a guess I’d say this was made somewhere this side the water.”
PROB’LY was,” the brown woman said. “I was comin’ to that. That gun belonged to Eldred Rowland though ’twasn’t his’n really; it come to him in the way o’ marriage. Eldred marrit a Keith from the township. She was the widder of a Loyalist in the old American War—DeLancey’s Regiment I think Grampa said. DeLanceys come to Nova Scotia after the Loyalists lost the war. This Keith got a ball in the lung in the war and died the first winter and was burrit somewhere down here in the township. Anyway, that’s his gun that come to Eldred Rowland with the widder. She was a nice-speakin’ woman and had education and taught the rest o’ the Rowlands how to read and write.
“She lived to be awful old—died in 1849—and pritty well run the Rowlands all that time. They thought a lot o’ her too and went to town when she died and got a gravestone with her name and dates and the ep’taph cut in the stone—the first real boughten gravestone in the whole no’thern district. The Old Rowland of All and the others had been burrit with plain hunks of stone stuck up at their head and feet—no more—’cause nobody had any learnin’ till Jessie Keith marrit Eldred, and there wasn’t such thing as a cold chisel in the no’thern district anyhow.
“The old lady writ her own ep’taph ’fore she died. A long one ’twas, all about bein’ born in New York, a subject o’ King George, and her sufferin’ and marriage durin’ the war; and it says—I know it by heart ’cause I go up to cut the grass and ten’ the graves every Sunday in summer—it says, ‘When New York became no longer the asylum of Loyalty she joined her husband on the wild shores of Nova Scotia.’ Sad, ain’t it? But strong, like the old lady herself.
“She’d no children by Keith and five by Eldred; but she treasured her memories o’ Keith to her dyin’ day and had herself burrit with a big locket at her throat that had his soger picture painted in, and a lock o’ his hair. But she’d put somethin’ o’ herself into the Rowland blood—somethin’ earth-stayin’ that offset the itchin’ foot they got from the Old Rowland of All. Her sons was good farmers and had the knack o’ tools. ’Twas her son Colin Rowland built a sawmill on the brook down below the settlement where it falls into the Gaysbury River. It only had one saw, one o’ those li’l oldfashioned saws that went up and down ’stead o’ round and round.
“After he got it goin’, the Rowlands one after another built frame houses and barns back on the ridge tops where there was a view, and let the old loghouses in the hollow go to rot. They built a school house too, and a bridge acrost the river, ’stead o’ crossin’ by the ford. That brought new settlers in from township-way some Scotch that took up land beyond Rowland’s at a place they called Scotsville, and some Irish that settled out beyond the Scotch, and called ’emselves New Erin. The road they cut joined ours in the hollow by the brook and that’s how our settlement come to be called Rowland’s Corner.”
“Very interestin’,” murmured Lance-Corporal Logan, Patience-on-a-monument at Quinn’s back. “Now, if you don’t mind cuttin’ it a bit short, ma’am, what about this one?” And to Quinn’s typewriter-pecking, “Rifle, Enfield, converted muzzle - loader, Snider’s patent, bore—umph—call it five-eights of an inch. Pattern, V.R., 1866.”
THAT,” Mrs. Rowland said, “was a militia gun. Belonged to John Rowland that marrit a MacMurdo from Scotsville. There wasn’t any Gov’ment at Ottawa then. I guess there wasn’t any Dominion, for that matter. Anyhow, Nova Scotia had her own Army. ’Twas the time o’ the Fenians. I dunno if I can tell you gentlemen much about ’em, but it seems there’d been a big war in the States and one side had ’listed a lot o’ Irishmen. After the war these Irish was all out o’ work and hangin’ about the cities in the no’thern States ripe for mischief when some fellers called Fenians come along and stirred ’em up to invade Canada.
“There was a lot of ’em—100,000, Grampa says—and they’d got money from somewhere, and guns, and all that, and they knew all about war and the ’Menean Gov’ment wasn’t doin’ much to stop ’em gatherin’ along the border, and tilings looked pritty black, England bein’ a long way off, and all. So the provinces got busy to defend ’emselves and in these parts every man ’tween 16 and 60 was gathered into the militia. They was issued with guns like that’n you got there and I’ve still got old Dan Rowland’s red coat and his li’l black shiny-peaked cap and the bayonet—mebbe I should ha’ brought that in?”
“Don’t,” implored Logan, “bring in anything more, ma’am, if you please.”
“Well, it’s a three-cornered nasty-lookin’ thing, but I polish it once in a while and keep a little grease on it ag’in the rust. Anyhow, a few thousand o’ these Fenians tried their hand, Canada-way, but the Ontario men and Quebeckers was ready for ’em, and after some fightin’ the Fenians skedaddled back acrost the border. Grampa says if they’d won the first fight or two we’d ’a had the whole jing-bang on our necks and no tellin’ where it might ’a ended. But they found the Canada woods full o’ men that could shoot awful straight so the Fenian notion petered out and there wasn’t any war at all. It all come o’ bein’ ready, Grampa says, and a mortal pity the next two generations didn’t profit by example.”
“Hear! Hear!” boomed the Reverend Mac. “And ‘old Dan Rowland’—is he Grampa by any chance?”
“No, that’s Great-Gramp. He lived to be awful old but died in '14—the year o’ the other German War. Along in '12 or '13 the Gov’ment took a notion to pay a bonus to the ol’ sogers o’ the Fenian time, them that was still livin’. And I can remember seein’ old gentlemen comin’ in from New Erin and Scotsville on their way to the bank at Gaysbury where the money was to be paid—old fellers with long white whiskers, that everybody thought’d been dead for years, sittin’ up smart in wagons and buggies and their sons and grandsons drivin’. Great-Grampa Rowland drove in with Simon—that was my husband—and it come up a rain, somethin’ like today and the old gentleman never did git rightly over the chill. But he lived to see the start o’ the other German War in ’14, and I remember him settin’ in his chair and lookin’ up at the ol’ Snider on the wall and sayin’, 'If I was 20 years younger I’d take the old gun and go.’ So Simon went. That’s Simon’s huntin’ rifle you’re handlin’ now, sir.”
Logan felt at home with the scratched and worn—but well-oiled—Winchester carbine in his hands. He called off details rapidly to Quinn.
“So Simon went,” prompted the Reverend MacLeish, ignoring Logan’s eye.
“Yes. I felt bad—a young wife with two little boys at my knees and Great-Grampa hardly burnt a month. ’Course, Grampa was home, still a vigorous man then, and the crops in, and the winter’s wood. I was a Beckitt from Poplar Ridge; never had much schoolin’ and hadn’t been a Rowland long enough to feel the way Great-Grampa and Grampa’d felt about Simon goin’. Said I couldn’t see the need—the war ’way off acrost the sea. But Simon he squeezed my shoulder hard and drawled the way the Rowlands always drawl when their mind’s made up to somethin’: ‘Lizzie, the place to fight a bush fire’s in the bush—not at your own back fence. That’s the way you got to look at this. I’m just off over the ridge somewhere, where the smoke is, with my axe and shovel, like, and some sundown I’ll be home ag’in with my clo’es all burnt to rags and roarin’ for somethin’ to eat.’ So I kissed him and let him go.”
“And?” the parson asked gently.
“He come back in '17 with a bullet in his foot. After a while he could limp around real smart and do the chores but he never got to huntin’ any more. Come huntin’ time, he’d laugh and say, ‘Guess I done all the shootin one man’s entitled to,’ but I think he’d ’a liked to pot a deer now and ag’in if his foot could ’a stood it. He used to go fishin’, though, down along the brook. That’s where we found him one day in ’32, layin’ in the sunshine on the bank with his rod beside him and the trout he’d caught. Heart give out on him, the doctor said. The women come in to help me cry but I couldn’t cry. I’d had a good life with Simon and and he’d looked sort o’ contented there in the sunshine by the pool. That’s the way I’d like to go when my time comes. Quick, like that, some time when I’m happy.”
THERE was another rifle in Logan’s hands now, a Savage, gleaming with oil from butt to foresight, with an oiled rag stuffed in the muzzle.
“That belongs to Harry, my oldest boy,” Mrs. Rowland announced.
“Why didn’t he bring it in himself?” said Logan sharply.
“He’s in England,” she answered in a mild voice, “with his reg’ment. Harry belonged to the militia before this war—used to go away to summer camp and all like that, and when the reg’ment was called up, he was off, bright and early his father all over. They camped in the exhibition buildin’s, over to Waterbridge, all last winter. They used to drill in the snow on the fairgrounds where the Ferris wheel and the fakirs’ tents used to be set up for a week every fall, exhibition-time. Sat’days, I used to drive over there with the minister—his boy’s an off’cer in the reg’ment—and I’d take along some o’ my cookin’ and a basket o’ apples out o’ the cellar, and Miriam, that’s Harry’s girl, who’s out there in the buggy now. They was to ’a been marrit this fall. When Harry’s bunch went overseas she come to live with me, both of us bein’ lonesomelike.”
“And this?” Logan asked, holding up a Winchester 30-30, well oiled like the other. There was a quaint relief on his face. It was the sixth and last of the weapons.
“That’s Tom’s—my youngest.”
“And why didn’t Tom bring it in?”
“Same reason,” simply. “On’y he’s in the Highlanders. Had a great hankerin’ to wear one o’ them li’l caps with the ribbons at the back—the MacMurdo in him, I guess. That’s his huntin’ rifle, bought with the first money he earnt. When they went away him and Harry both told me the same thing—keep their rifles oiled. Often say somethin’ about it in their letters, too—as if I’d forget!
"That young Tom’s the smartest hunter we ever had in the fam’ly, Grampa says. Listen to this. One mornin’ last fall before Tom enlisted I saw a deer in the cabbage patch. The sunrise was shinin’ on his horns and caught my eye; the fence was on’y a couple o’ jumps away, and beyond the fence, the woods. I called out—'Tom! Quick! There’s a fine buck in the cabbage patch,’ and young Tom come a-runnin’ jist in his shirt and trousers, and grabbed his rifle—that’n you got in your hand, sir—and slipped a ca’tridge into the britch. He opened the kitchen door easy but the buck heard the click o’ the old-fashioned latch and jumped for the woods. Young Tom jist threw that rifle to his shoulder, waited a second, and pulled and picked Mister Buck right behind the foreshoulder as he was clearin’ the top rail o’ the fence. A shot to the heart at nigh 200 yards.
‘Grampa always ’minds me o’ that when I git low in mind about the boys in the war. ‘They’re Rowlands,’ he says. ‘Let the Germans do the worryin’.’ You know, it riles me a bit—as if their mother bein’ a Beckitt didn't count for a thing. But,” she smiled her faint smile and sighed, “I s’pose I’m a Rowland myself now, one way or another, livin’ with Rowlands all these years and hearin’ Grampa’s everlastin’ talk o’ the old ones dead and gone.”
Quinn had risen from the typewriter and Logan took the forms over to his cluttered desk. “I’ll get you to sign these, Mrs. Rowland, if you please.”
She took the pen and signed her name slowly, with stiff careful strokes and MacLeish pictured her at night in the still farmhouse, over an oil lamp, writing letters for the overseas mail, telling the Rowland sons how she kept their Lares and Penates. When she was gone the three men stood at the window and watched the buggy roll away into the rain.
“Phew!” uttered Quinn, breaking the silence.
“Now,” Logan said, “you see what we’re up against.”
THE Reverend George MacLeish sucked his cold pipe. “Yes, I see. You know, the trouble with you and Quinn is that you’re from the West where everything was born yesterday. But that’s only half the country and less than a third of the population. This perennial nonsense about Canada being a ‘new’ country! The East has a settled history going back three centuries. You’re up against the fact that these people have roots going down out of sight out of your sight anyway—and they’re proud of their roots because they’ve clung to their own soil all this time. They don’t depend on books for their history; they’ve got it in their own heads, family tales passed carefully from one generation to the next, and a family pride as fierce as anything in Norman England. There’s an epic in that woman’s story.”
“Yes, yes, I know,” Logan said wearily. “And there’s the saga of the Swanscombes, which we heard this morning, and the Galbraiths, who came in with 14 assorted firearms just as we were sittin’ down to dinner.”
“And yesterday it was the Lumleys and the Pells and the Cowans, not to mention the Acklands and O’Hares,” added Quinn fiercely.
“We could go on for hours.” Logan affirmed.
“Of course you could. By Jove, it’s magnificent! It’s where the spirit of this country draws its breath. Old keepsakes, each with its tale. Look here, do you ever stop to consider the people who settled this country? It took a bold man to venture here and a steadfast woman to follow him. No attraction for the rich, no field for the merely clever, no ease for the sluggish, no security for the craven or the weak; nothing but danger and hardship and a chance of wringing a living out of the woods and streams and the sea. So they came—the bold and steadfast—and cut the woods and plowed the fields and fished the sea. They had to fight savages for a foothold and the climate for existence, and time and again they had to defend, with arms, the things they’d won from both. Struggle, struggle—that was the story, down through the years.
“Oh, there were some who got rich in one way or another but they mostly drifted off to a city somewhere. And there were those who grew tired of the struggle and went off to work in the cities for the rich. But there were always those who clung, like the Rowlands, because they’d the faith and courage and the imagination of that woman who saw the sweat of her forefathers in the dew on the pasture wall. She was pretty close to poetry when she said that but she didn’t know it. She’s a heroine but she doesn’t know that either and wouldn’t care if she did. She’s a Rowland. That’s all that matters—that, and the knowing she’s raised good Rowland sons and holds the Rowland soil in trust for their return from Rowland affairs.
“And it’s all summed up for her by the spinning wheel in the attic, the fire-stained rock at the edge of the field, the old gun in the parlor corner. You growl about the old gun I tell you there’s a weapon fit to beat all Nazidom. All the stored-up thrust of the past, the pressure of legions of the old bold spirits thronging out of the darkness, all the tenacity and fanatic courage that went into the making of the New World, all the instinct to defend a thing hard-won—that’s what’s behind us in this war—and the old gun is its badge and totem.”
“And that,” suggested Logan, “is why we’ve got to make a list of it?”
“No — Governments haven’t imagination enough for that. If they had they’d be writing epic poems, and maybe it’s just as well. You’ve no imagination either, Logan. That’s why you’re a policeman.”
There was a sound of brakes outside. A large motor truck drew up under the dripping trees, one of the powerful three-tonners that hauled pulp wood and pit props from the bush roads to the Gaysbury wharves. An old tarpaulin had been draped over its freight against the rain and it was rippling now like a stage sea, agitated by invisible heads and hands. At last it was thrown off and the heads and hands appeared. Haifa dozen elderly men, each bearded, each in a battered felt hat, each nursing a bundle of firearms bound with cords.
“Reverend,” said Quinn bitterly, “take a good grip on that imagination of yours. Here come the Pilgrim Fathers.”