the alien

The first great crisis

Carlyle Sinclair hadn’t bargained on this. His first day at school and only one pupil out of thirty-five appeared. How could he keep hauling the rest out of the trees? Then Ezra Shot-Close, the squash-nosed lay preacher, came up with an ingenious solution

W. O. MITCHELL October 1 1953
the alien

The first great crisis

Carlyle Sinclair hadn’t bargained on this. His first day at school and only one pupil out of thirty-five appeared. How could he keep hauling the rest out of the trees? Then Ezra Shot-Close, the squash-nosed lay preacher, came up with an ingenious solution

W. O. MITCHELL October 1 1953

The first great crisis

the alien

CHAPTER TWO

W. O. MITCHELL

Carlyle Sinclair hadn’t bargained on this. His first day at school and only one pupil out of thirty-five appeared. How could he keep hauling the rest out of the trees? Then Ezra Shot-Close, the squash-nosed lay preacher, came up with an ingenious solution

CARLYLE SINCLAIR, a university-trained schoolteacher, could neither quite forget nor fully acknowledge that his grandmother was a Blood Indian named Magdalene Amos-Amos. It was because of an incident arising out of this that he startled his fellow townspeople by declaring: “I have tried for six years to teach your children ... I would like to go on teaching them. I can’t . . . There are other children to whom I have a responsibility ... I am accepting a post on the Paradise Valley Reserve . . .” Then with his blond wife Grace, and their small son Hugh, he packed his belongings and moved into the strange world of the Peigan Indians—a world of primitive dwellings and primitive emotions; a world composed of simple, but dedicated white men, such as Sheridan, the Indian agent, and Rev. Mr. Dingle, the minister, and of easy-going, childlike natives with easygoing, childlike names like Prince Lefthand, John Roll-in-theMud and MacLean Powderface. Yet somehow the new life didn’t seem entirely strange. For in the campfires of his new neighbors, Carlyle Sinclair caught a faint whiff' of childhood memory: the pungent scent of wood smoke in the nostrils of a small boy pressing his face against the buckskin jacket of his halfbreed mother.

DURING THE AUGUST days that followed the Sinclairs’ arrival in Paradise Valley the pines seemed never still. Grace saw them always compelled by a gentle west wind, tip points swaying in shallow arcs against the mountain sky.

For herself Grace knew that the uncertain torment of their

last days in town was now completely erased. Their welcome by the Indians had done that for her: It seemed to have

helped Carlyle too. He seemed relaxed; there was not the brittle impatience and the tenseness she had known so well during most of their years together. Perhaps, she told herself several times, he had managed some sort of hurdle.

Now that they had been in Paradise Valley their first month, she was more sure than before that the change could be accepted as a definite milestone in Carlyle’s attitude toward his Indian blood as well as in his career as a teacher. If a mother’s and wife’s least common denominator of sleep and appetite meant anything at all, he was a contented man. Their valley life with its isolation must certainly have some spirithealing qualities; she could not tell for sure, of course, until the school term was under way and he had time to assess his work with the Indian children.

It would be nice if he had some of the stoic poise and acceptance of Old John, she thought one day, as she looked across the bridge and saw the councilor seated there on a rock in the sun. Most of the old Indian’s time was spent on that rock where the afternoon sun fell warmest. Elbows on his knees, hands hanging loose, he stirred only with the most economical of movements, to light a cigarette or the pale green-bowled pipe of stone with its willow stem. Otherwise he held himself quite motionless staring at the rock before him where orange fungus scaled its minute foliage, gazing down at the mesmeric drift of the water where perhaps a bull trout held on imperceptibly breathing fins, or drifting his tent-lidded eyes to the hills, the mountains, the skies. Did he save himself from melancholia, she wondered, achieve some mystic and relaxed oneness with eternity, a soothing erasure of all annoyance and irritations and fleshly pains. Just a primitive talent, atropism that blindly sought sun-warmed stupor where halfthoughts and pointless wonderings and fragment dreams shaded and faded against no time. Not at all different from the steers and the cows with absently moving jaws; it was silly of her to wish it for Carlyle or for herself.

Of all the Indian residents of Paradise Valley Ezra ShotClose was still her favorite: the squash-nosed lay preacher

with his black frock coat and his vibrant voice took the Sunday services in the absence of the Reverend Dingle, still away on summer leave. Mrs. Sheridan, the agent’s wife, had returned and both families rode up to the church and dance tent with MacLean Powderface, the stuttering Indian.

Grace and Carlyle found Ezra’s sermons fascinating hybrids of Christianity and paganism; the second Sunday of July, at the close of the second hymn, Ezra made the announcements: there would be a meeting of the Ladies’ Auxiliary in the tent of Judy Roll - in - the - Mud for the purpose of forming a Home and School Association; he was glad to see Lucy Baseball in church with her parents and not up in the bush where she might be if she had not listened to the voice of the

Lord. As he mentioned this there Continued on page 36

Sinclair slammed the door of the empty sehoolhouse. From high up in the trees came a giggle, then a whisper.

CONTINUED KROM PAGE 14

came a repressed snickering from a back corner of the tent; it was not much, an explosion of hardly noticeable softness. Ezra stopped and sent a stern eye in that direction. He went on with the announcements.

“Next Sunday there will be Sabbath

God willin’ or not. There will also be baptizing as the minister has asked me in a letter written to me personal. I want all your infants brought to church. I’m gonna baptize them. I’m gonna baptize them good — they’re gonna be sprinkled both ends.”

The Lord’s Prayer followed, then another hymn. Ezra stood up with a limp leather Bible in his hand.

“The Gospel accordin’ to Saint Mark,” his deep voice announced. “Chapter live—verses one to fourteen.” He opened the Bible at the place his thumb held, lowered his head.

‘And they came over unto the other side of the sea.’ ” He broke off —looked up. “That’s the Sea of Galilee.” His head lowered again. “ ‘. . . into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains.’ ”

Again he stopped to look out at the attentive congregation. “He was crazy in a graveyard.” Back to his text, “ ‘Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces; neither could any man tame him. And always night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.’ ”

Ezra lifted his eyes again from the Bible. “This man had entered into him the Wendigo—nobody’d have anything to do with him any time and that was because they were afraid of him and they knew the next thing that’d happen he’d be eatin’ them to feed the Wendigo. That was why they’d tried to picket him only he broke the picket chain and away he went with the peg draggin’. Can’t tie up the Wendigo.

“ ‘But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshiped him, and cried with a loud voice and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion; for we are many.’

“Wendigo talkin’ now. Wendigo worried now that he heard Jesus say to get out of there. Wendigo comfortable inside that warm belly there and don’t want to be spooked out of there, like steers outa buckbrush. So here’s what Wendigo said next outa this crazy man: ‘And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of th'e country. Now there was there, nigh unto the mountains, a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils’ —not one Wendigo—great bunch of Wendigos this man had inside him there—‘and all the devils besought Him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.’

“Well, Jesus obliged. ‘And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine; and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea (they were about two thousand) and were choked in the sea.’

“Two thousand—that man had inside him all the Jerusalem Wendigos till Jesus came ridin’ by. Jesus knew it. Jesus He climbed down and inside a minute He was talkin’ to the two thousand Wendigos. ‘Up outa there,’ he said. ‘HIY-YAH—now get outa that! I got My apostles with Me today! We’re herdin’ Wendigos outa the forest reserve this man’s soul. HAH-RAH-HOO now! Apostle drags an’ apostle swings an’ Me for the lead, we got the long lasso ropes with knots in their ends—WHAH-HAH-HOO you —out you get—move fast there now, for we don’t mind shrink and this man’s got the cross and crown on him and you got the runnin’ fork brand the devil on your flanks! HAH-HUHHAH-RIPPPPEEEEEEE!’ Out they come, leatherin’ both sides an’ belly to the ground—out they did come —cow devils an’ calf devils—and bel-

lowin’ an’ bawlin’—out they come with their tails up—out come the bull Wendigos an’ the steer Wendigos with their eyes blazin’ and their noses breathin’ brimstone an’ white fire like lightnin’ runnin’ round the mountain top! Some them started back in, but the apostles was there with their cuttin’ horses workin’ an’ their lassos flyin’, snakin’ ’em out by both feet. And into the swine they went on the full run, steers, and bulls and calves—twoand threeyear-olds—some of ’em crowdin’ three and four at a time into the same pig, then gettin’ shoved out and each findin’ his own pig for himself!

“Then the herd pigs stampeded —way they went in a cloud of dust, through buckbrush and jack pine, down the draws and over the side-hills, up to the belly in suckin’ muskeg with Jesus an’ the apostles hard after ’em. Till they come to this cut-bank at the edge the Sea Galilee. Hundred foot drop right into the sea. And over went the lead pig—straight down and into the water below—CHUH-MUCK ! And after him come the next one—CHUHMUCK!”

Seated beside Mrs. Sheridan Grace felt a thrill of appreciation course through her. CHUH-MUCK—what

onomatopoeic exactness! And she saw that Ezra too must have long ago recognized the rightness of CHUHMUCK for the demented Gadarene swine as their bodies dropped into the water. What a satisfying sound of completion, suggesting a rock or a portion of earth with grass, bush, roots and all, reluctantly leaving the parent bank to drop with a gulp into the river below.

“And the next—CHUH-MUCK!”

He wasn’t going to do the whole two thousand of them, surely!

“CHUH-MUCK!” Pause. “CHUHMUCK!” Pause. “CHUH-MUCK!”

She began to count, watching the spellbound listeners, fascinated with each succeeding CHUH-MUCK that meant more pork going to waste in the

Sea of Galilee. Ezra stayed with it for fifty CHUH-MUCKING pigs, then called for the next hymn.

When it was done, various members stood up one by one and spoke a few words in their own language; one woman seemed quite moved, starting out with faint audibility, her hand held cupped before her mouth; then as emotion seemed to rise in her, the voice became stronger and stronger, though still thin with a keening note. It was during one of these testimonials of faith or hope or grief that the soft snickering exploded again.

Ezra raised a hand to silence Judy Roll-In-The-Mud, then pointed a long arm toward the back of the tent where the interruption had its birth. “There is the devil’s corner,” he announced. Heads turned to the back. “Every church got one of these devil’s corners. So there it is and there’s his young people. Look upon the scoffers and the unbelievers and the hypo-pricks!”

The startled faces of the young boys he pointed out blushed and lowered in shame. Ezra nodded. “Go on now, Judy,” he said gently. “Finish up and then we’ll have Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet and that will be all for this service.”

A HIATUS settled over Paradise Valley during the next few weeks; under the sun the grass cured brown; many of the band had left for haying with the neighboring ranchers. There would be another two weeks until school opened. Almost daily Carlyle went fishing with Hugh, discovering a patience in himself that surprised him slightly.

The first day of the school term Carlyle walked over to the building, busied himself at his desk while he waited for the children to come. By ten o’clock he had one pupil: a shy

and speechless and therefore to him a nameless girl of ten or eleven. She sat in the last desk of the farthest corner. When he asked her where the other children were she dropped her head, black hair curtaining down so that all he had of her was the brilliant twinkle of rhinestone barrette, the pale crease of the hair part down the centre of her head. He turned away to the board to write down a few test sums, a line from the Grade Two reader to be copied for an evaluation of their writing and printing.

When he turned back,‘he caught the wild flick and dart of eyes before the head lowered again in excruciating embarrassment. It was then that he checked his watch, realized it was almost an hour since he had rung the hell. One child! Out of thirty-five —one only! What kind of setup was this! No one had told him to expect this—with all their gratuitous information—Sanders, Sheridan, Fyfe! Why hadn’t they told him? And what the hell did he do now! He couldn’t sit here and ridiculously wait for pupils who were obviously not coming! What was wrong with their parents; suKely there must be some of them with enough gumption to bring unwilling children to school! . Or was it the parents who were keeping them away? Where were they — at home in the tents? By God!

The door frame shook as he slammed from the school room. Halfway to the house he stopped, turned, looked to the south where the tepees were pitched above the Agency buildings. No point in going to Grace, having to explain to her—they weren’t coming to him. Well, he’d go to them! At the first tent his eye caught a flick of movement by the woodpile; he rounded it just in time to clutch the shoulder of a crouching boy.

“Why aren’t you at school! Where

are your—you any brothers! Sisters! Where’s your father—your mother!” Dark eyes refused to look into his face.

“Now—you get gojng—get to that schoolhouse as fast as you can go!” He gave the boy a push in the proper direction. The child made a few staggering steps, wheeled and catching balance ran with body half-bent and elbows pumping into pines behind the tepee. His breath still coming hard, Carlyle watched the disappearing boy, knew that he had gone about it wrong. The next one would be different.

At the neighboring tepee no child or adult was in sight. Nor at the next. Helplessly and fruitlessly angry, he strode over open pasture; without bothering to look for children outside he pulled aside the tent flap. He faced MacLean Powderface, seated cross-legged on a red-and-white cowhide, bare to the waist. He was in the act of rolling a cigarette, Mrs. Powderface stooping to put kindling on the fire, turned a startled, round fat face to him. Beyond the fire sat a child. “How old is he?”

“Suh-seven.” MacLean’s surprise had evidently shaken him free for the moment from the worst of his speech impediment.

“Why isn’t he at school?”

“He - huh - yuh - hah - huh - huh . . .” His jerking hands had ripped the halfrolled cigarette; his head twitched; saliva flew.

“Never mind! He’s supposed to be there! An hour ago!” Carlyle directed his eyes to the child. “Get up!”

The boy moved not a muscle.

“Then I take you!” He lifted the child to his feet, gave him a shove. The boy stumbled ahead a few steps; he backed up a ludicrously exact and equal number of steps. Carlyle, before the shocked eyes of the parents, grabbed a handful of denim shirt; with the other hand he took the boy by the faded seat of his pants. He marched him from the tent at a protesting angle, stiff-backed, then prancing across the pasture and down the rise, all the way to the school.

Still holding the thin shirt, he opened the door and pushed him inside. That made—that made two anyway. When he closed the door this time he latched it on the outside. As he turned away he was confronted by Ezra Shot-Close.

“Trouble, Mr. Sinclair?” The deep voice made the question, gently.

“Not now,” said Carlyle. “I’m rounding everyone of them up if it takes till dark!”

Ezra gave a slow and approving nod. “Be sure to look in the tepee.”

“I did—that’s where I got that one.” Again Ezra nodded. “But they won’t be in the tepee when you go back for more.”

“I’ll find them!”

“You will.” He fell into step with Carlyle.

“I can handle this myself.”

“Sure. Sure. I had another suggestion.”

“Yes?”

“Try the—don’t bust in on ’em. Go quiet like on a deer—use the bush—try the bush.” He stopped. “If the bush is no good—try the tree.”

It came to Ezra’s last suggestion in the end. The first part of the trees without branches thick enough for adult weight, was the worst. The children had evidently had selective practice in Dingle’s time scaling those spruces and pines that presented too great an obstacle for the minister’s old Methodist legs. Carlyle used the caution Ezra advised, but it was not his eyes that gave him first sight of a truant child; through the faint windwash of boughs he would hear a high giggle, a repressed snort, a carelessly

loud whisper. As he climbed, bark and twig, bits and needles would be frantically dislodged as a child tried to scramble down the other side of the trunk and away from him.

When he returned with his first brace, the Powderface child and the little girl were gone. He saw that they had made their escape through the south window. With hammer and nails from the supply room he made it fast, then went out for more students. By noon he had rounded up nineteen, including the Powderface boy and the little girl. He had done no teaching nor did he know what he could do with them now he had them all gathered together. It was one o’clock, an hour past lunch. He couldn’t release them for their meal; he couldn’t leave them there and go for his. The dilemma was resolved when Grace knocked; she had wondered what was keeping him. He explained and of course she found it highly amusing, suggested she would stay with them while he went home to his lunch. He should bring back with him, she said, bread and butter and jam and cocoa, feed them in the school room.

In a sense the plan worked. The children ate, and they did spend the rest of the school day within the confines of the room. But after Grace had left he did not get a single answer or response of any sort from any one of them. They sat at their desks, dark faces bland, the only communication with their teacher made by nineteen sets of sebaceous glands, a strange and oriental spice-sweat laced with the smoldering bitterness of willow smoke and the rawness of buckskin moccasins.

He had been unable to mark their attendance in the register, for he had not elicited a single name from them. When he let them go at four o’clock he was filled with a great tiredness, a spiritual as well as a physical exhaustion. But with it there was a stubborn resolve as well; he’d yank them out of every tepee on the reserve, climb every God-damned tree in the province! They’d come to his school and they’d put in their time in his school! He’d cast out the devils of stubbornness, dumbness and illiteracy just as surely as had Jesus into the Gadarene swine!

THE NEXT DAY he bagged thirteen; with three who had shown up more or less voluntarily, that made an attendance of sixteen. After the third successive morning of spooking children out of tents, woodpiles, trees and bushes he talked it over with Grace.

“I have a feeling Mr. Shot-Close might help you, Car.”

“Why? He’s one of them, isn’t he? It’s obvious few of them have any desire for their children to attend school.”

“I don’t know about that. When they welcomed us-—his prayer about teaching the children . . .”

“Is now an evident lot of eyewash!” “No—I think he’s sincere and in a way perhaps they are.”

“Well . . .” Carlyle sighed, “just how do you think he could help me?” “He gets them together for meetings —for church services. From the two we’ve attended, there’s been a suggestion that he exercises—that he has some sort of authority over them.”

“I doubt it.”

“You could ask him to hold another meeting. At least you’d get a chance to talk to the parents together—try to explain to them what you want to do. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?”

“Might be.”

“Pei'haps Mr. Sheridan could give you some help . . .”

“I don’t want it. He let me walk into it without warning. He . . .”

Carlyle broke off. “I did mention it to him last night.”

“Did you!”

“You don’t have to sound so surprised. He wasn’t. He said something about forgetting to mention it to me beforehand. When I told him I’d managed to get only fifteen to twenty into the school then he seemed mildly interested—said that was about three times more than Dingle ever got.”

Grace laughed. “Then we’re making progress.”

“It isn’t funny! And I’m not! Damn it—I haven’t got half their names—haven’t taught a lesson. It’s a school—not a bloody endurance contest!”

“I know, dear. We’ve got to . . .”

A tapping at the kitchen door interrupted her.

It was Ezra Shot-Close. With customary abruptness he stated his business.

“You aren’t gonna wear them kids out, Mr. Sinclair. I have come thither to see if I can aid you.”

“Thanks,” said Grace. “We wondered if you might.”

For a moment the broad face with its flaring nostrils showed pleasure. “That’s nice. Now at first I thought we might hold a meetin’ and Mr. Sinclair could talk to them. But Mr. Sinclair and Mrs. Sinclair, you can do a lot of talkin’ with these peqple and it don’t come to very much at all. Meetin’s was invented by the Indians. Already there’s a pedition goin’ around the Valley.”

“What about?” asked Carlyle.

“About you.' For handlin’ Gatine Powderface rough by the seat of the pants the first mornin’ of school. MacLean’s got sixty names.”

“Sixty names for what?” Carlyle felt his face flush hot.

“For you to leave and us to get another teacher.”

“No!” Grace’s voice was uncustomarily shrill with indignation.

“Hold on,” soothed Ezra, raising a hand. “I said Indians invented the meetin’—they didn’t invent the petition, they always got that natural. I said MacLean had sixty names on that pedition—well he has—he got Johnny Snow and the both of them signed down all the sixty names themselves. Most cf these Indians spend most their time goin’ to meetin’s or gettin’ up peditions—doesn’t mean . .

“You’re sure . . .”

“That’s right, Mr. Sinclair. The pedition come a little sooner than 1 thought, but it only proves what I think—you’re the teacher for Paradise Valley. Now,” his voice took on a new resolution, “I think I can help you work it so these kids come to your school. But not by talk or meetin’s. They expect a meetin’—they’ll go to a meetin’—they’ll listen to you. They’ll think in their souls right there they’ll send the kids to school—and they may a couple of times—but it isn’t natural ^

Air. Sinclair, for these children to go to a school—and these people they love their children, Air. Sinclair, and they hate to see these kids suffer, so they’ll kind of slip and backslide and you’ll end up just like—eh—like it was—you won’t have such a good attendance.”

“I can’t go on climbing trees five days a week!”

Ezra snorted; his small eyes glittered briefly. -¿¿‘That’s right. Now—I’m a little like you only worse-—these blanket marriages' and grabbin’ hold of girls. You try to get the kids into the school —I try to get the parents into the bonds holy wedlock. By climbin’ trees and lockin’ doors and windows, you’re doin’ about ten times better’n I’m doing—or Reverend Dingle. You got about twenty - five percent —we are lucky if we get five percent. Preachin’ hasn’t done so good—climbin’ trees works a little better—now you got to try the belly.”

“What!”

“One week they get paid treaty money. Week after that they get paid —some of them—more wood cheques —week after that there’s maybe some other kind of cheque—calf cheque— pension for the old folks stayin’ with the younger folks. All right.” He stopped, with an expectant look upon his face.

“You mean . . .”

“You mean hold back their cheques,” Carlyle cut in on Grace.

“Hey-uh.”

Both of them interpreted the sound, clipping off deep in the throat, to be assent.

“But can we . . .”

“Mr. Sinclair, I don’t know what kind of conscience the Heavenly Father put into you. Nobody’s got the right to hold back stuff from these Indians. Hasn’t got a thing to do with them sendin’ their kids to school. I don’t know. I don’t know the inside your head or your soul. I only know my own and these people.” He was silent, eyes unwavering in their steadiness on Carlyle’s face. When he spoke it was with a hand on the door knob. “You try the belly.” He pulled the door open.

“Just a moment.” Carlyle took a quick step toward Ezra. “How should —how would—Mr. Sheridan . . .”

“No.” Ezra shook his head. “You see Fyfe. Fyfe is Ottawa and Sheridan’s just Sheridan. Also you tell Fyfe to tell them this—about the cheques now—the new thing about the cheques they get and how it is tied to their children goin’ to the school regular. Don’t do it yourself. God be praised!”

He had left them.

(^ARLYLE was all for calling a halt ^to the farce of keeping the school open until the matter had been settled. Grace managed to convince him that he must continue as he was doing. He said nothing to Sheridan about his plans, and on the week end he drove to the city with the agent, went into the department offices and had a halfhour talk with Fyfe.

Fyfe asked him what attendance he had managed to date. When Carlyle told him, he nodded, sat back in his swivel chair for several silent moments.

“There’s no point in going on this way, Mr. Fyfe.”

The supervisor nodded again. i|j|AU don’t intend to,” said Carlyle.

i^What had you in mind?” fjgibrlyle explained Ezra’s suggested plan.

v'“That,” said Fyfe, “is entirely outsimfaJie power of the department. We have no right to withhold their cheques.”

“I know.”

Fyfe straightened up in his chair. He leaned across the desk, unnecessarily adjusted a calendar pad, picked

up a pencil. Idly he bounced the rubber end against the desk top. “Ah-hmmh.”

When that seemed all he was going to get, Carlyle said, “Nothing was said to me about the difficulty I’d have with attendance, Mr. Fyfe.”

“No—no.”

“I would have appreciated it had there been.”

“Yes. As a general rule, Mr. Sinclair, I am no great believer in the maxim that the desirable end justifies the unjust means.

“1 didn’t come here to discuss general rules or maxims!”

“And I sometimes have thought that in the whole matter of the administration of Indian affairs, the main trouble has been too great a paternalism. I really believe that this alone explains why we’re at least a generation behind our neighbors to the . . .” “Didn’t it enter your mind to mention the matter of possible attendance to me?” Carlyle knew that question was a stubbornly rude one, abruptly put.

“Yes. It did. Yes.”

“But you didn’t.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Are you comfortable there, Mr. Sinclair. Since coming in—you’ve been fidgeting . . .”

“I’m comfortable.” Even as he said it, he realized that Fyfe’s observation had been correct. “You haven’t answered my question.”

Suddenly Fyfe bared the tips of his dentures in the parsimonious smile Carlyle had first seen in the valley visit. “I did not—in spite of my conviction that no end justifies the means. I wanted you for that school badly, Mr. Sinclair, and I felt we must have you at any cost—even if I had to be a little—well—if T forgot to mention some of the harsher aspects of teaching on a reserve.” He dropped the pencil to the desk top, leaned back in the chair. “I’ll go along with you on the cheque business. I hope it will work. It ought to. How’s Mrs. Sinclair?” “She’s—she’s fine.” Now he felt that he had been truly rude and gauche, that he ought to—oh hell—“She’s fine.” “Ah-hmmmh.” Fyfe got up. “I’ll come down Monday—make the cheque announcement then. Mr. Sinclair, you have been uneasy throughout our visit.

1 -ub — I don’t like to seem indelicate but it wouldn’t hurt—precaution —when 1 first went onto a reserve—I —ah—found that a ring of green ointment around each ankle and each wrist made a perfect barrier . . .”

“What!”

“They’ll not cross it. And I am truly sorry that I neglected to mention the eventuality of—that eventuality to you.”

He was swarming with them, of course. Grace and Hugh had not yet picked anything up. Sheridan gave him the ointment from the dispensary.

Fyfe kept his promise; he made the announcement about the new policy on cheques; in the week following there was a voluntary attendance of fifteen, more or less. With Fyfe’s next trip and the actual withholding of cheques, their payment contingent on Carlyle’s attendance record for each family, there was not a single inexcusable absence. The battle of attendance from the tree-climbing skirmishes to the carrying out of Ezra’s belly strategy had been won in a short and decisive campaign.

Next issue: CHAPTER THREE The Lure of the Big Parade