That afternoon, prompt at two o’clock,
a whistle sounded beyond the point and, shortly afterwards,
the steamboat Siwash, north bound, entered
Jake and I were waiting at the end
of the wharf, seated in a large, wide-beamed, four-oared
boat, with Mike, the dog, still eyeing me
suspiciously, crouching between his master’s
We had a raft and half a dozen small
rowing boats of all shapes and conditions, strung
out, Indian file, from our stern. Every available
thing in Golden Crescent Bay that could float, down
to a canoe and an old Indian dug-out, we borrowed
or requisitioned for our work. And, with this
long procession in tow, we pulled out and made for
the steamer, which came to a standby in the deep water,
three hundred yards from the shore.
The merchandise was let down by slings
from the lower deck, and we had to handle the freight
as best we could, keeping closely alongside all the
A dozen times, I thought one or another
of the boats would be overturned and its contents
emptied into the Bay. But luck was with us.
Jake spat tobacco juice on his hands every few minutes
and sailed in like a nigger. Our clothes were
soon moist through and through, and the perspiration
was running over our noses long before our task was
completed. But finally the last package was lowered
and checked off by the mate and myself, a clear receipt
given; and we (Jake and I) pushed for the shore, landing
exhausted in body but without mishap to the freight.
Jake fetched some fresh clams to my
kitchen for convenience and, after slapping half a
plug of tobacco in his cheek, he started in and cooked
us a savoury concoction which he called “chowder,”
made with baked clams mixed in hot milk, with butter
and crumbled toast; all duly seasoned: while
I smoked my pipe and washed enough dishes to hold our
food, and set the table for our meal.
Already, I had discovered that dish-washing
was the bugbear of a kitchen drudge’s existence,
be the kitchen drudge female or male. I had
only done the job three or four times, but I had got
to loathe and abhor the operation. Not that
I felt too proud to wash dishes, but it seemed such
a useless, such an endless, task. However, I
suppose everything in this old world carries with
it more or less of these same annoyingly bad features.
At any rate, I never could make up
my mind to wash a dish until I required it for my
next and immediate meal.
We dined ravenously, and throughout
the proceeding, Mike sat in the doorway, keeping close
watch that I did not interfere with the sacred person
of his lord and master, Jake Meaghan.
Rested and reinvigorated, we set-to
with box-openers, hammers and chisels, unpacking and
unpacking until the thing became a boring monotony.
Canned milk, canned beef, canned beans,
canned salmon, canned crabs, canned well-nigh-everything;
bottled fruits, bottled pickles, bottled jams and
jellies, everything bottled that was not canned; bags
of sugar, flour, meal, potatoes, oats and chicken
feed; hardware galore, axes, hammers, wedges, peevies,
cant hoops, picks, shovels, nails, paints, brooms,
brushes and a thousand other commodities and contrivances
the like of which I never saw before and hope never
to see again.
Never, in all my humble existence,
did I feel so clerky as I did then.
I checked the beastly stuff off as
well as I could, taking the Vancouver wholesalers’
word for the names of half the things, for I was quite
sure they knew better than I did about them.
With the assistance of Jake, as “hander-up,”
I set the goods in a semblance of order on the shelves
and about the store.
We worked and slaved as if it were
the last day and our eternal happiness depended on
our finishing the job before the last trump sounded
its blast of dissolution.
By the last stroke of twelve, midnight,
we had the front veranda swept clean of straw, paper
and excelsior, and all empty boxes cleared away; just
in time to welcome the advent of my first Sabbath day
in the Canadian West.
Throughout our arduous afternoon and
evening, what a surprise old Jake was to me!
Well I knew that he was hard and tough from years
of strenuous battling with the northern elements;
but that he, at his age and with his record for hard
drinking, should be able to keep up the sustained
effort against a young man in his prime and that he
should do so cheerfully and without a word of complaint, save
an occasional grunt when the steel bands around some
of the boxes proved recalcitrant, and an explosive,
picturesque oath when the end of a large case dropped
over on his toes, was, to me, little short
Already, I was beginning to think
that Mr. K. B. Horsfal had erred in regard to his
man and that it was Jake Meaghan who was twenty-four
If any man ever did deserve two breakfast
cups brimful of whisky, neat, before turning in, it
was old, walrus-moustached, weather-battered, baby-eyed,
sour-dough Jake, in the small, early hours of that
I slept that night like a dead thing,
and the sun was high in the heavens before I opened
my eyes and became conscious again of my surroundings.
I looked over at the clock.
Fifteen minutes past ten! I threw my legs over
the side of the bed, ashamed of my sluggardliness.
Then I remembered, it was Sunday morning.
Oh! glorious remembering! Sunday, –with
nothing to do but attend to my own bodily comforts.
I pulled my legs back into the bed
in order to start the day correctly. I lay and
stretched myself, then, very leisurely, always
remembering that it was the Sabbath, I
put one foot out and then the other, until, at last,
I stood on the floor, really and truly up and awake.
Jake had been around. I could
see traces of him in the yard, though he was nowhere
visible in the flesh.
After I had breakfasted and made my
bed (I know little Maisie Brant, who used to make
my bed away back over in the old home little
Maisie who had wept at my departure, would have laughed
till she wept again, had she seen my woful endeavours
to straighten out my sheets and smooth my pillow.
But then, she was not there to see and laugh and I
was quite satisfied with my handiwork and satisfied
that I would be able to sleep soundly in the bed when
the night should come again) I hunted the
shelves for a book.
Stevenson, Poe, Scott, Hugo, Wells,
Barrie, Dumas, Twain, Emerson, Byron, Longfellow,
Burns, which should it be?
Back along the line I went, and chose oh,
well! an old favourite I had read many
I hunted out a hammock and slung it
comfortably from the posts on the front veranda, where
I could lie and smoke and read; also where I could
look away across the Bay and rest my eyes on the quiet
scene when they should grow weary.
Late in the afternoon, when I was
beginning to grow tired of my indolence, I heard the
thud, thud of a gasoline launch as it came up the
Bay. It passed between Rita’s Isle and
the wharf, and held on, turning in to Jake Meaghan’s
I wondered who the visitor could be,
then I went back to my reading.
Not long after, a shadow fell across
my book and I jumped up.
“Pray, don’t let me disturb
you, my son,” said a soft, well-modulated, masculine
voice. “Stay where you are. Enjoy
your well-earned rest.”
A little, frail-looking, pale-faced,
elderly gentleman was at my elbow.
He smiled at me with the smile of
an angel, and my heart went out to him at once, so
much so that I could have hugged him in my arms.
“My name is William Auld,”
he continued. “I am the medical missionary.
What is yours, my son?”
He held out his hand to me.
“George Bremner,” I replied, gripping
his. “Let me bring you a chair.”
I went inside, and when I returned
he was turning over the leaves of my book.
“So you are a book lover?”
he mused. “Well, I would to God more men
were book lovers, for then the world would be a better
place to live in, or rather, the men in it would be
better to live among.
“Victor Hugo, ’Les
Misérables’! ” he went
on. “To my mind, the greatest of all novelists
and the greatest of all novels.”
He laid the book aside, and sought
my confidences, not as a preacher, not as a pedagog,
but as a friend; making no effort to probe my past,
seeking no secrets; but all anxiety for my welfare;
keen to know my ambitions, my aspirations, my pastimes
and my habits of living; open and frank in telling
me of himself. He was a man’s man, with
the experience of men that one gets only by years
of close contact.
“For twenty years it has been
God’s will to allow me to travel up and down
this beloved coast and minister to those who need me.”
“You must like the work, sir,” I ventured.
“Like it! oh! yes,
yes, –I would not exchange my post
for the City Temple of London, England.”
“But such toil must be arduous,
Mr. Auld, for you are not a young man and you do not
look altogether a robust one.”
He paused in meditation. “It
is arduous, sometimes; to-day I have talked
to the men at eight camps and I have visited fourteen
families at different points on my journey.
But, if I were to stop, who would look after my beloved
people in the ranches all up the coast; who would
care for my easily-led, simple-hearted brethren in
the logging camps, every one of whom knows me, confides
in me and looks forward to my coming; not one of whom
but would part with his coat for me, not one who would
harm a hair of my head. I shall not stop, Mr.
Bremner, I have no desire to stop, not
till God calls me.
“I see you have been making
changes even in your short time here,” he said,
pointing to the store.
“Yes! I think Jake and
I did fairly well yesterday,” I answered, not
a little proudly.
“Splendidly, my boy! And,
do you know, your coming here means a great
deal. It is the commencement of a new departure,
for your store is going to prove a great boon to the
settlers. They have been talking about it and
looking forward to it ever since it was first mooted.
“But it will not be altogether
smooth sailing for you, for you must keep a close
rein on your credit.”
It struck me, as he spoke, that he
was the very man I was desirous of meeting regarding
what I considered would prove my stumbling block.
“Can you spare me half an hour,
sir, and have tea with me?” I asked.
“Yes! gladly, for my day’s
service is over, all but one call, and a
cup of tea is always refreshing.”
I showed him inside and set him in
my cosiest chair. While I busied with the table
things, washing some dishes as a usual preliminary, I
approached the subject.
“Mr. Auld, I wished
to ask your advice, for I am sure you can assist me.
My employer, Mr. Horsfal, has given me a free hand
regarding credit to the settlers. I know none
of them and I am afraid that, without guidance, I
may offend some or land the business in trouble with
others. Will you help me, sir?”
“Why of course, I’ll help.”
He took a sheet of paper from his
pocket and commenced to write, talking to me as he
“You know, if times are at all
good, you can trust the average man who owns the ranch
he lives on to pay his grocery bills sooner or later.
Still, if I were you, I wouldn’t let any of them
get into debt more than sixty or seventy dollars,
for they do not require to, and, once they get in
arrears, they have difficulty in getting out.
“It is the floating population, the
here-to-day-and-away-to-morrow people who should not
be given credit. And, Mr. Bremner,
if you desire to act in kindness to the men themselves,
do not allow the loggers, who come in here, to run
up bills for themselves personally. Not that
they are more dishonest than other people, far
from it. I find it generally the other way round, but
they are notoriously improvident; inclined, God
bless them, to live for the fleeting moment.
“In many ways they are like
children in their simplicity and their waywardness, and
their lot is not one of roses and honeysuckle.
They make good money and can afford to pay as they
go. If they cannot pay, they can easily wait
for what they want until they can, for they are well
fed and well housed while in the camps.”
We sat down at the table together.
“There is a list, George.
May I call you George? It is so much more friendly.”
I nodded in hearty approval.
“It is not by any means complete,
but it contains the principal people among your near-hand
neighbours. You can trust them to pay their last
cent: Neil Andrews, Semple, Smith, Johannson,
Doolan, MacAllister and Gourlay.
“Any others who may call, make
them pay; and I shall be glad to inform you about
them when I am this way again.”
“How often do you come in here, Mr. Auld?”
“I try to make it, at least,
once in two weeks, but I am not always successful.
I like to visit Jake Meaghan. Poor, old, faithful,
plodding Jake, how I tried, at first, to
extract the thorn from his flesh the accursed
drink! I talked to him, I scolded him, I threatened
him, but, poor Jake, he and his
whisky are one, and nothing but death will ever separate
Suddenly his face lit up and his eyes
seemed to catch fire.
“And who are we to judge?”
he said, as if denying some inward question.
“What right have we to think for a moment that
this inherent weakness shall deprive Jake Meaghan
of eternal happiness? He is honest; he does
good in his own little sphere; he harms no one but
himself, for he hasn’t a dependent in the world.
He fills a niche in God’s plan; he is still
God’s child, no matter how erring he may be.
He is some mother’s son. George, I
am fully persuaded that my God, and your God, will
not be hard on old Jake when his time comes; and,
do you know, sometimes I think that time is not very
We sat silent for a while, then the
minister spoke again:
“Tell me, George, have
you met any of your neighbours yet?”
“Only two,” I said, “Jake, and Rita
He raised his white, bushy eyebrows.
“So you have met Rita!
She’s a strange child; harboured in a strange
He sighed at some passing thought.
“It’s a queer world, or
rather, it’s a good world with queer people in
it. One would expect to find love and harmony
in the home every time away up here, but it does not
always follow. Old Margaret Clark is the gentlest,
dearest, most patient soul living. Andrew Clark
is a good man in every way but one, but
in that one he is the Rock of Gibraltar itself, or,
to go nearer the place of his birth, Ailsa Craig, that
old milestone that stands defiantly between Scotland
and Ireland. Andrew Clark is immovable.
He is hard, relentless, fanatical in his ideas of
right and wrong; cruel to himself and to the woman
he vowed to love and cherish. Oh! he
sears my heart every time I think of him. Yet,
he is living up to his idea of what is right.”
The white-haired old gentleman, bearer
of the burdens of his fellows, did not
confide in me as to the nature of Andrew Clark’s
trouble, and it was not for me to probe.
“As for Rita,” he pursued,
“poor, little Rita! she is no relative
of either Margaret or Andrew Clark. She is a
child of the sea. Hers is a pitiful story, and
I betray no confidences in telling you of it, for it
is common property.
“Fourteen years ago a launch
put into the Bay and anchored at the entrance to Jake’s
cove. There were several ladies and gentlemen
in her, and one little girl. They picnicked
on the beach and, in the evening, they dined aboard,
singing and laughing until after midnight. Jake
was the only one who saw or heard them, and he swears
they were not English-spoken. Though they were
gay and pleasure-loving, yet they seemed to be of
a superior class of people.
“He awoke before daylight, fancying
he heard screams in the location of The Ghoul Rock.
He got up and, so certain was he that he had not been
mistaken, he got into his boat and rowed out and round
The Ghoul, for the night was calm, but
everything was quiet and peaceful out there.
“Next morning, while Joe Clark
was scampering along the shore, he came across the
unconscious form of a little girl about four years
old, clad only in a nightdress and roped roughly to
an unmarked life-belt. Joe carried her in to
his grandfather, old Andrew, who worked over her for
more than an hour; and at last succeeded in bringing
“All she could say then was,
“Rita, Rita, Rita,” although, about a year
afterwards, she started to hum and sing a little Spanish
dancing song. A peculiar reversion of memory,
for she certainly never heard such a song in Golden
“Jake swears to this day that
she belonged to the launch party, who must have run
sheer into The Ghoul Rock and gone down.
“Little boy Joe pleaded with
his grandfather and grandmother to keep the tiny girl
the sea had given them, and they did not need much
coaxing, for she was pretty and attractive from the
“Inquiries were set afoot, but,
from that day to this, not a clue has been found as
to her identity; so, Rita Clark she is and Rita Clark
she will remain until some fellow, worthy of her I
hope, wins her and changes her name.
“I thought at one time, Joe
Clark would claim her and her name would not be changed
after all, but since Joe has seen some of the outside
world and has been meeting with all kinds of people,
he has grown patronising and changeable with women,
as he is domineering and bullying with men.
“He treats Rita as if he expected
her to be continually at his call should he desire
her, and yet he were at liberty to choose when and
where he please.”
“But, does Rita care for him?” I asked.
“Seems so at times,” he
answered, “but of late I have noticed a coldness
in her at the mention of his name; just as if she resented
his airs of one-sided proprietorship and were trying
to decide with herself to tolerate no more of it.
“I tried to veer round to the
subject with Joe once, but he swore an oath and told
me to mind my own affairs. What Joe Clark needs
is opposition. Yet Joe is a good fellow, strong
and daring as a lion and aggressive to a degree.”
I was deeply interested as the old
minister told the story, and it was like bringing
me up suddenly when he stopped. I had no idea
how fast the time had been passing.
Well I could understand now why this
Rita Clark intuitively hated The Ghoul Rock.
Who, in her place, would feel otherwise?
The Rev. William Auld rose from the table.
“I must go now, my son, for
the way is long. Thanks so much for the rest
and for your hospitality. My only exhortation
to you is, stand firm by all the principles you know
to be true; never lose hold of the vital things because
you are here in the wilds, for it is here the vital
things count, more than in the whirr of civilisation.”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll
try,” I said. “You will come again,
“Certainly I shall. Even
if you did not ask me, for that is my duty.
“If you accompany me as far
as Jake’s cove, where my launch is, I think
I can furnish you with a paper from your countryside.
I have friends in the city, in the States and in
England, who supply me, every week, with American
and Old Country papers. There are so many men
from both lands in the camps and settled along the
coast and they all so dearly love a newspaper.
I generally try to give them what has been issued
nearest their own home towns.”
I rowed Mr. Auld over to his launch
and wished him good-bye, receiving from his kindly
old hands a copy of The Northern Examiner, dated
three days after I had left Brammerton.
It was like meeting with an old friend,
whom I had expected never to meet again. I put
it in my inside pocket for consideration when I should
get back to my bungalow with plenty of time to enjoy
I dropped in to Jake’s shack,
for I had not seen him all the sleepy day. I
found him sitting in perfect content, buried up over
the eyes in a current issue of The Northern Lights, a
Dawson newspaper, which had been in existence since
the old Klondike days and was much relished by old-timers.
The dog was curled up near the stove,
sleeping off certain effects; Jake was at his second
cup of whisky. I left them to the peace and
sanctity of their Sabbath evening and rowed back to
“Paradise Regained,” as I had already
christened my bungalow.
I sat down on the steps of the veranda,
to peruse the home paper which the minister had left
with me, and it was not long before I was startled
by a flaring headline. The blood rushed from
my face to my heart and seemed as if it would burst
that great, throbbing organ:
“SUDDEN DEATH OF THE EARL OF BRAMMERTON AND
My eyes scanned the notice.
“News has been telegraphed that
the Earl of Brammerton and Hazelmere died suddenly
of heart failure at his country residence, Hazelmere.
His demise has caused a profound sensation, as it occurred
on the eve of a House Party, arranged in celebration
of the engagement of his son, Viscount Harry Brammerton,
Captain of the Coldstream Guards, to the beautiful
Lady Rosemary Granton, daughter of the late General
Frederick Granton, who was the companion and dearest
friend of the late Earl of Brammerton in the early
days of their campaigning in the Crimea and India.”
A long obituary notice followed, concluding
with the following paragraph:
“It is given out that the marriage
of the present Earl with Lady Granton has been postponed
and that, after the necessary business formalities
have been attended to, Captain Harry will join his
regiment in Egypt for a short term.
“Lady Rosemary Granton has gone
to New York, at the cabled invitation of some old
“It is understood that the Hon.
George Brammerton, second and only other son of the
late Earl, is presently on a long walking tour in
Europe. His whereabouts are unknown and he is
still in ignorance of his father’s death.”
The pain of that sudden announcement,
so soon after I had left home and right on the eve
of my new endeavours, no one shall ever know.
My dear old father! Angry at
my alleged eccentricities sometimes, but ever ready
to forgive, was gone: doubtless, passing
away with a message of forgiveness to me on his lips.
And, after the pain of it, came the conflict.
Had what I had done caused or in any
way hastened my father’s death? Admitting
that Harry’s fault was great and unforgiveable,
would it not have been better had I allowed it to
remain in obscurity, at least for a time? Was
the keeping of the family name unsullied, was the
untarnished honour of our ancient family motto, “Clean, within
and without,” of greater importance than my
father’s life? Was it my duty to be an
unintentional and silent partner to the keeping of
vital intelligence from the fair Lady Rosemary?
Over all, had I done right or wrong?
What did duty now demand of me?
Should I hurry home and face the fresh problems there
which were sure to arise now that Harry had succeeded
to the titles and estates? Should I remain by
the post I had accepted from the hands of Mr. K. B.
Horsfal and test thoroughly this new and exhilarating
life which, so far, I had merely tasted?
I had no doubts as to what my inclinations
and desires were. But it was not a question
of inclinations and desires: it was simply
one of duty.
All night long, I sat on the veranda
steps with my elbows on my knees and my head in my
upturned hands, fighting my battle; until, at last,
when the grey was creeping up over the hills behind
me and touching the dark surface of the sea in front
here and there with mellow lights, I rose and went
in to the house, my conscience clear as
the breaking day, my mind at rest like the rose-coloured
tops of the mountains.
I had no regrets. I had done
as a true Brammerton should. I had done the
I would not go back; not
yet. I would remain here for a while in my obscurity,
testing out the new life and executing as faithfully
as I knew how the new duties I had voluntarily assumed.
Further, for my peace of
mind, so long as I remained in Golden Crescent,
I decided I would not cast my eyes over the columns
of any newspaper coming from the British Isles.
If I were to be done with the old life, I must be
done with it in every way.