To Him That Hath by Ralph Connor
Chapter IX. The Day Before
Business was suspended for the day in Blackwater. That is, men went through their accustomed movements, but their thoughts were far apart from the matters that were supposed to occupy their minds during the working hours of the day. In the offices, in the stores, in the shops, on the streets, in the schools, in the homes the one, sole topic of conversation, the one mental obsession was The Great Game. Would the Maitland Mill Hockey Team pull it off? Blackwater was not a unit in desiring victory for the Maitland Mill team, for the reason that the team's present position of proud eminence in the hockey world of Eastern Ontario had been won by a series of smashing victories over local and neighbouring rival teams. They had first disposed of that snappy seven of lightning lightweights, the local High School team, the champions in their own League. They had smashed their way through the McGinnis Foundry Seven in three Homeric contests. This victory attracted the notice of the Blackwater Black Eagles, the gay and dashing representatives of Blackwater's most highly gilded stratum of society, a clever, hard-fighting, never-dying group of athletes who, summer and winter, kept themselves in perfect form, and who had moved rapidly out of obscurity into the dazzling spotlight of championship over their district. For the sake of the practice in it and in preparation for their games in the Eastern Ontario Hockey League, they took on the Maitland Mill team.
It took the Black Eagles a full week to recover sufficient control to be able to speak intelligibly as to the "how" and "why" of that match. For the Mill team with apparent ease passed in thirteen goals under and over and behind and beside the big broad goal stick of Bell Blackwood, the goal wonder of the League; and the single register for the Eagles had been netted by Fatty Findlay's own stick in a moment of aberration. During the week following the Black Eagle debacle the various Bank managers, Law Office managers and other financial magnates of the town were lenient with their clerks. Social functions were abandoned. The young gentlemen had one continuous permanent and unbreakable engagement at the rink or in preparation for it. But all was in vain. The result of the second encounter was defeat for the Eagles, defeat utter, unmistakable and inexplicable except on the theory that they had met a superior team. Throughout the hockey season the Maitland Mill maintained an unbroken record of victory till their fame flew far; and at the close of the season enthusiasts of the game had arranged a match between the winners of the Eastern Ontario Hockey League, the renowned Cornwall team and the Maitland Mill boys. To- day the Cornwalls were in town, and the town in consequence was quite unfit for the ordinary duties of life. The Eagles almost to a man were for the local team; for they were sports true to type. Not so however their friends and following, who resented defeat of their men at the hands of a working class team.
Of course it was Jack Maitland who was responsible for their humiliation. It was he who had organised his fellow workmen, put them through a blood and iron discipline, filled them with his own spirit of irresistible furious abandon in attack which carried them to victory.
It was an old game with Jack Maitland. When a High School boy he had developed that spirit of dominating and indomitable leadership that had made his team the glory of the town. Later by sound and steady grinding at the game he had developed a style and plan of team play which had produced a town team in the winter immediately preceding the war that had won championship honors. Now with his Mill team he was simply repeating his former achievements.
It had astonished his friends to learn that Captain Jack was playing hockey again. He had played no game except in a desultory way since the war. He had resisted the united efforts of the Eagles and their women friends to take the captaincy of that team. The mere thought of ever appearing on the ice in hockey uniform gave him a sick feeling at his heart. Of that noble seven whom he had in pre-war days led so often to victory four were still "over there," one was wandering round a darkened room. Of the remaining two, one Rupert Stillwell was too deeply engrossed in large financial affairs for hockey. Captain Jack himself was the seventh, and the mere sight of a hockey stick on a school boy's shoulder gave him a heart stab.
It was his loyal pal Patricia Templeton, who gave him the first impulse toward the game again. To her pleading he had yielded so far as to coach, on a Saturday afternoon, her team of High School girls to victory. But it was the Reverend Murdo Matheson who furnished the spur to conscience that resulted in the organising of the Maitland Mill team.
"You, John Maitland, more than any of us and more than all of us together can draw these lads of yours from the pool rooms and worse," the Reverend Murdo had said one day in early winter.
"Great Scott, Padre"--the Reverend Murdo had done his bit overseas-- "what are you giving me now?"
"You, more than any or all of us, I am saying," repeated the minister solemnly. "For God's sake, man, get these lads on the ice or anywhere out-of-doors for the good of their immortal souls."
"Me! And why me, pray?" Captain Jack had asked. "I'm no uplifter. Why jump on me?"
"You, because God has bestowed on you the gift to lead men," said the minister with increasing solemnity. "A high gift it is, and one for which God will hold you responsible."
That very night, passing by the Lucky Strike Pool Rooms, Captain Jack had turned in to find a score and more of youths--many of them from the mills--flashing their money with reckless freedom in an atmosphere thick with foul tobacco-smoke and reeking with profane and lewd speech. On reaching his home that night Maitland went straight to the attic and dug up his hockey kit. Before he slept he had laid his plans for a league among the working lads in the various industries in the town.
It was no easy task to force these men into training habits, to hold them to the grind, to discipline them into self-control in temper and in desire. It was of vast assistance to him that three of his seven were overseas men, while some dozen or so of the twenty in the club were returned soldiers. It was part of his discipline that his team should never shirk a day's work for the game except on the rare occasions when they went on tour. Hence the management in the various mills and factories, at first hostile and suspicious, came to regard these athletic activities on the part of their employees with approval and finally came to give encouragement and support to the games.
To-day was a half holiday for the Maitland Mills and the streets were noticeably full of the men and their sweethearts and wives in their Sunday clothes. Not the team, however. Maitland knew better than that. He took his men for a run in the country before noon, bringing them home in rich warm glow. Then after a bath and a hard rubdown they dined together at the mill and then their Captain ordered them home to sleep, forbidding them the streets till they were on their way to the game.
On his way home Captain Jack was waylaid by his admirer and champion, Patricia. She, standing in front of his car, brought him to a halt.
"I have not even seen you for a whole week," she complained, getting in beside him, "and your phone is always busy in the evening. Of course no one can get you during the day. And I do want to know how the team is. Oh! do tell me they are fit for the game of their lives! Are they every one fit?"
"Fit and fine."
"And will they win?"
"Sure thing," said Captain Jack quietly.
"Oh, I hope you are right. But you are so sure," exclaimed his companion. "The Cornwalls are wonderful, Rupert says."
"Oh! I forgot you don't think much of Rupert," sighed Patricia.
"I haven't time, you see," answered Captain Jack gravely.
"Oh, you know what I mean. It is a pity, too, for he is really very nice. I mean he is so good to me," sighed Patricia again.
"Don't sigh, Patsy, old girl. It really isn't worth it, you know. How is the supply of choc's keeping up?"
"Now you are thinking me a pig. But tell me about your men. Are they really in form?"
"Absolutely at the peak."
"And that darling Fatty Findlay. I do hope he will not lose his head and let a goal in. He is perfectly adorable with that everlasting smile of his. I do hope Fatty is at the peak, too. Is he, really?" The anxiety in Patricia's tone was more than painful.
"Dear Patsy, he is right at the pinnacle."
"Captain Jack, if you don't win to-night I shall--well, I shall just weep my eyes out."
"That settles it, Pat. We shall win. We can't--I can't spare those lovely eyes, you know," said Captain Jack, smiling at her.
One by one Captain Jack's team were passed in review--the defence, Macnamara and "Jack" Johnson, so called for his woolly white head; "Reddy" Hughes, Ross, "Snoopy" Sykes, who with Captain Jack made the forward line, all were declared to be fit to deliver the last ounce in their bodies, the last flicker in their souls.
"Do you know, Captain Jack," said Patricia gravely, "there is one change you ought to make in your forward line."
"Yes! What is that, Pat?" asked Captain Jack, with never a suggestion of a smile.
"I would change Snoopy for Geordie Ross. You know Geordie is a little too careful, and he is hardly fast enough for you. Now you and Snoopy on left wing would be oh! perfectly wonderful."
"Patsy, you are a wizard!" exclaimed Captain Jack. "That very change has been made and the improvement is unbelievable. We are both left-handers and we pull off our little specialties far more smoothly than Geordie and I could. You have exactly hit the bull. You watch for that back of the goal play to-night. Well, here we are. You have good seats, I understand."
"Oh, yes. Rupert, you see, as patron of the Eagles was able to get the very best. But won't you come in and see mother? She is really quite worked up over it, though of course she couldn't bear to go."
Captain Jack checked the refusal on his lips.
"Yes, I will go in for a few minutes," he said gravely. "No! Your mother would not--could not come, of course."
There flashed before his mind a picture from pre-war days. The rink packed with wildly excited throngs and in a certain reserved section midway down the side the Templeton-Maitland party with its distinguished looking men and beautiful women following with eager faces and shining eyes the fortunes of their sons in the fight before them. The flash of that picture was like a hand of ice upon his heart as Captain Jack entered the cosy living room.
"Here he is, Mamma!" cried Patricia as she ushered her hero into the room with a sweeping gesture. "And he brings the most cheering news. They are going to win!"
"But how delightful!" exclaimed Adrien coming from the piano where she had been playing, with Rupert Stillwell turning her music for her.
"I suppose upon the best authority," said Stillwell, grinning at Patricia.
"We are so glad you found time to run in," said Mrs. Templeton. "You must have a great deal to say to your team on the last afternoon."
"I'm glad I came too, now," said Captain Jack, holding the fragile hand in his and patting it gently. "I am afraid Patricia is responsible for my coming in. I don't really believe I could have ventured on my own."
A silence fell on the company which none of them seemed able to break. Other days were hard upon them. In this very room it was that that other seven were wont to meet for their afternoon tea before their great matches.
Mrs. Templeton, looking up at Jack, found his eyes fixed upon her and full of tears. With a swift upward reach of her arms she caught him and drew his head to her breast.
"I know, Jack dear," she said, with lips that quivered piteously. For a moment or two he knelt before her while she held him in a close embrace. Then he gently kissed her cheek and rose to his feet.
"Give him some tea, Adrien," she said, making a gallant struggle to steady her voice, "a cup of tea--and no cake. I remember, you see," she added with a tremulous smile.
Adrien came back quickly from the window.
"Yes! a fresh cup!" she cried eagerly, "and a sandwich. You, Pat, get the sandwiches. No cake. We must do nothing to imperil the coming victory."
"You have a wonderful team, Jack, I hear," said her mother. "Come and sit here beside me and tell me about them. Patricia has been keeping me informed, but she is not very coherent at times. Of course, I know about your wonderful goal keeper Findlay, is it not?" And the gentle little lady kept a stream of conversation going, for she saw how deeply moved Maitland was. It was his first visit to the Rectory since he had taken up the game again, and the rush of emotion released by the vivid memory of those old happy days when that jolly group of boys had filled this familiar room with their noisy clatter wellnigh overcame him.
For a minute or two he fussed with the tea things till he could master his voice, then he said very quietly:
"They are very decent chaps--really very good fellows and they have taken their training extraordinarily well. Of course, Macnamara and Johnson were in my old company, and that helps a lot."
"Yes, I remember Macnamara quite well. He is a fine big Irishman."
"Fancy you remembering him, Mrs. Templeton," said Captain Jack.
"Of course, I remember him. He is one of our boys."
"Let's see, he is one of your defence, isn't he?" said Stillwell, who had felt himself rather out of the conversation. Maitland nodded. The presence of Stillwell in that room introduced a painful element. Once he had been one of the seven and though never so intimately associated with the Rectory life as the others, yet at all team gatherings he had had his place. But since the war Maitland had never been able to endure his presence in that room. To-day, with the memory of those old thrilling days pressing hard upon his heart, he could not bear to look upon a man, once one of them, now forever an outsider. The tea coming in brought to Maitland relief.
"Ah, here you are," he cried anticipating Stillwell in relieving Adrien of part of her load. "You are a life saver. Tea is the thing for this hour."
"Three lumps, is it not?" said the girl, smiling at him. "You see, I remember, though you really don't deserve it. And here is Pat with the sandwiches."
"Yes! a whole plate for yourself, Captain Jack," said Patricia. "Come and sit by me here."
"No indeed!" said her sister with a bright glow on her cheeks. "Jack is going to sit right here by the tea-pot, and me," she added, throwing him a swift glance.
"No! you are both wrong, children," said their mother. "Jack is coming to sit beside me. He's my boy this afternoon."
"Mother, we will all share him," said Patricia, placing chairs near her mother. "I must talk about the match, I simply must."
A shadow for a moment wiped the brightness from the face and eyes of the elder sister, but yielding to her mother's appeal, she joined the circle, saying to Maitland,
"I don't believe you want to talk about the match, do you? That is not supposed to be good psychology before a match. What you really want is a good sleep. Isn't that right?"
"He has just sent his men off to bed, I know," said Patricia, "and we will send him off when he has had his tea."
"I am so glad you are playing again," said Mrs. Templeton to Maitland as he sat down by her side. "You need more recreation than you have been taking, I believe."
A shadow crossed Maitland's face.
"I don't believe I need recreation very much, but these chaps of mine do," he said simply.
"The workmen, you mean!"
"Yes. They lead rather a dull life, you know. Not much colour. A pool room on the whole has rather a rotten effect upon a chap who has been nine or ten hours indoors already and who sticks at the same thing day in and day out for months at a time."
"Ah, I see. You mean you took up hockey for--ah--to help--"
"Well, I don't want to pose as a workingman's advocate and that sort of thing. But really he has a slow time."
"Then, why doesn't he get busy and do something for himself," broke in Stillwell, impatiently. "The Lord knows he is getting most of the money these days and has more spare time than anyone else in the community."
But Maitland ignored him, till Patricia intervened.
"Tell me about that," she demanded.
"Look here!" said her sister. "You are not going to get Jack into a labour controversy this afternoon. But I would just like to ask you, Pat, how keen you'd be on organising and conducting a Literary and Debating Society after you had put in not five and a half hours' lessons, but eight or nine hours'! It would take some doing, eh? But let's cut out the labour trouble. It is nearly time for his sleep, isn't it?"
"Is it, Captain Jack? If so, we won't keep you a minute," said Patricia anxiously. "No, mother! you must not keep him. He must be on tip-toe to-night."
Captain Jack rose. "Patricia would make an ideal trainer," he said. "I fear I must really go. I am awfully glad to have come in and seen you all. Somehow I feel a whole lot better."
"And so do we, Jack," said the old lady in a wistful voice. "Won't you come again soon?"
Maitland hesitated a moment, glancing at Adrien.
"Oh, do!" said the girl, with a little colour coming into her face. "It has been a little like old times to see you this way."
"Yes, hasn't it?" said Stillwell. "Awfully jolly."
Maitland stiffened and turned again to the old lady whose eyes were turned on him with sad entreaty.
"Yes, I shall come to see you," said Maitland, bowing over her hand in farewell.
"We shall expect you to come and see us to-night at the match, remember, Captain Jack," said Patricia, as he passed out of the room. "Now be sure to go and have your sleep."
But there was no sleep that afternoon for Captain Jack. On his way through the town he was halted by McNish.
"The boys want to see you," he said briefly.
"What boys? What do you mean, McNish?"
"At the rooms. Will you come down now?"
"Now? I can't come now, McNish. I have to be on the ice in three hours and I must get a little rest. What's up, anyway? Tell them I'll see them to-morrow."
"No! they want you now!" said McNish firmly. "I would advise that you come."
"What do you mean, McNish? Well, get in here and I'll go to see them." McNish got into the car. "Now, what's all the mystery?"
"Better wait," said McNish, grimly.
"Well, it is a dog's trick," said Maitland wrathfully, "to get on to a chap before a big match like this."
In the Union Committee rooms a group of men were awaiting them, among them Mr. Wigglesworth and the little cockney who had made himself so obnoxious at the public meeting.
"What's all this tomfoolery, Wigglesworth?" demanded Captain Jack, striding in among them.
"(H)excuse me," said the little cockney. "You are a member of the Woodworkers' Union I (h)understand."
"Who the devil are you, may I ask?" said Maitland in a rage.
"(H)allow me," said Mr. Wigglesworth. "Mister Simmons, Mr. Maitland--Mr. Simmons is our new secretary, (h)elected last meetin'."
"Well, what do you want of me?" demanded Maitland. "Don't you know I am tied up this afternoon?"
"Tied (h)up?" asked Simmons coolly, "'ow?"
"With the match, confound you."
"Oh, the match! And w'at match may that be? (H)Anythin' to do with your Union?"
Maitland glared at him, too dumfounded to speak.
"You see, Mr. Maitland," began Mr. Wigglesworth in a hurried and apologetic manner.
"'Ere! you keep aht o' this," said Simmons sharply, "this 'ere's my job. I shall tell Brother Maitland all that is necessary."
"I was only going to (h)explain--" began Mr. Wigglesworth.
"Naw then! Is this your job or mine? Was you (h)appointed or was I? When I find myself (h)unable to discharge my dooty to the Union I might per'aps call on you, Brother Wigglesworth; but until I find myself in that situation I 'ope you will refrain from shovin' in your 'orn." Brother Simmons' sarcasm appeared to wither Brother Wigglesworth into silence.
"Naw then, Brother Maitland, we shall get (h)on."
Maitland glanced round on the group of half a dozen men. Some of them he knew; others were strangers to him.
"I don't know what the business is, gentlemen," he said, curbing his wrath, "but I want to know if it can't wait till to-morrow? You know our boys are going on the ice in a couple of hours or so--"
"Goin' on the (h)ice! Goin' on the (h)ice! W'at's that to do with Union business?" snarled Simmons. "This 'ere's no silly kids' gaime! It's a man's work we ave in 'and, if you don't want to do the business to w'ich you are (h)appointed w'y just say so and we shall know 'ow to (h)act. There 'as been too much o' this gaime business to suit me. If we are men let us (h)act like men."
"Better get on wi' it," said McNish curtly.
"I shall get on w'en I am good and ready, Brother McNish," answered Simmons.
"All r-r-right, brother, but A doot ye're oot o' order. Who is the chairman o' this Committee?" asked McNish calmly.
"Brother Phillips," answered two or three voices.
"All right. I suggest you proceed regularly and call the meeting to order," said McNish quietly. Simmons, recognising that it was Greek meeting Greek, agreed to this.
Clumsily and hesitatingly Brother Phillips began stating the business of the Committee. He had not gone far before Simmons interrupted.
"Mr. Chairman, with your permission I would just like to say that the resolution passed at the representative joint meetin' of the Maitland Mills and Box Factory (h)employees last night will sufficiently (h)explain the (h)object of this meetin' 'ere." Brother Simmons' tone suggested infinite pity for the lumbering efforts of the chairman.
"Yes, I guess it will," said the chairman, blushing in his confusion. Brother Phillips was new to his position and its duties.
"I would suggest that that resolution be read," said Brother Simmons, the pity in his tone hardly veiling his contempt.
"Yes! Yes! Of course!" said Brother Phillips hurriedly. "Eh-- would you please read it, Mr.--that is--Brother Simmons?"
With great show of deliberation and of entire mastery of the situation Mr. Simmons produced a Minute Book and began:
"Mr. Chairman and brothers, I may say that this 'ere resolution was passed at a joint representative meetin' of all the (h)employees of the Maitland Company--"
"There is no sich company, Mr. Chairman," said McNish. "A say let us hear the resolution. We'll hear the speech afterwards if we must." It was again Greek meeting Greek, and the little man turned with a sarcastic smile to McNish.
"I suppose Brother McNish is (h)anxious to get ready for this gaime we've bin 'earing abaht. I should just like to remind 'im that we 'ave a bigger gaime on 'and, if 'e wants to get into it. Personally I don't 'ave no use for these 'ere gaimes. I 'ave seen the same kind of capitalistic dodge to distract the workin' man's (h)attention from 'is real gaime in life. These circumventions--"
"Maister Chair-r-man! A rise--"
"Mr. Chairman, I 'ave the floor and if Brother McNish knows (h)anythink abaht constitootional proceedin's--"
"Maister Chair-r-man--Maister-r Chair-r-r-man!" Brother McNish's Doric was ominously rasping. "A rise tae a pint of or-r-de-r-r. And Brother Simmons, who claims to be an expert in constitutional law and procedure knows I have the floor. Ma pint of order is this, that there is no business before the meeting and as apparently only aboot half the members are absent--"
"And 'oo's fault is that? 'E was to get them 'isself," shouted Mr. Simmons.
"A searched the toon for them but cudna find them, but as A was sayin'--as the secretary has no business tae bring before the meeting but a wheen havers, A move we adjourn tae tomorrow at 12:30 p. m. in this place, and I believe that as Brither Maitland is also a member o' this committee he will second the motion."
Maitland, not knowing in the least what the whole thing was about, but seeing a way out of the present mix-up, promptly seconded the motion.
"Mr. Chairman!" shouted Simmons. "I am prepared to--"
"Maister Chair-r-man, A need not remind you that there is no discussion on a motion to adjourn."
"That is quite right," said the chairman, in whose memory by some obscure mental process this fact seemed to have found a lodging.
"It is moved that this committee do now adjourn."
"Mr. Chairman! I protest," shrieked Brother Simmons frantically.
"Ay, he's a grand protester!" said Brother McNish.
The motion was carried by a majority of one, Brothers Wigglesworth, McNish and Maitland voting in the affirmative.
"Traitors!" shrieked Brother Simmons. "Capitalistic traitors!"
"Hoot mon! Ye're no in Hyde Park. Save yere breath for yere porritch the morn--" said McNish, relaxing into a grim smile as he left the rooms.
"We'll get 'im," said Simmons to his ally and friend. "'E's in with that there young pup. 'E knows 'ow to work 'im and 'e'd sell us all up, 'e would." Brother Simmons' brand of profanity strongly savoured of the London pavements in its picturesque fluency.
"Get in here, McNish," said Maitland, who was waiting at the door. With some hesitation McNish accepted the invitation.
"Now, what does this mean?" said Maitland savagely, then checking his rage, "but I ought to thank you for getting me out of the grip of that frantic idiot. What is this fool thing?"
"It's nae that," said McNish shortly. "It is anything but that. But I grant ye this was no time to bring it on. That was beyond me. A doot yon puir cratur had a purpose in it, however. He disna--does not think much of these games of yours. But that's anither--another"--McNish was careful of his speech--"matter."
"But what in--"
"I am just telling you. There is a strong, a very strong movement under way among the unions at present."
"A movement? Strike, do you mean?"
"It may be, or worse." McNish's tone was very grave. "And as a good union man they expect your assistance."
"Ay, and condeetions and the like."
"But it is not six months since the last agreement was signed and that agreement is running still."
"Ay, it is, but condeetions, conditions have changed since that date," said McNish, "and there must be readjustment--at least, there is a feeling that way."
"Readjustment? But I have had no hint of this in our meetings. This has not come up for discussion."
A gentle pity smiled from the rugged face of the man beside him.
"Hardly," he said. "It's no done that way."
They came to McNish's door.
"Will you come in?" he said courteously. A refusal was at Maitland's lips when the door was opened by an old lady in a white frilled cap and without being able to explain how it came about he found himself in the quaintly furnished but delightfully cosy living-room, soaking in the comfort of a great blazing fire.
"This is really solid comfort," he said, spreading his hands to the glowing pine slabs.
"Ay, ye need it the day. The fire cheers the heart," said the old lady.
"But you don't need it for that, Mrs. McNish," said her visitor, smiling at the strong, serene face under the white frilled cap.
"Do I not then? An' what aboot yersel'?" The keen grey eye searched his face. Maitland was immediately conscious of a vast dreariness in his life. He sat silent looking into the blazing fire.
"Ay," continued the old lady, "but there are the bright spots tae, an' it's ill tae glower at a cauld hearth stone." Maitland glanced quickly at the shrewd and kindly face. What did she know about him and his life and his "cauld hearth stone"? So he said nothing but waited. Suddenly she swerved to another theme.
"Malcolm," she said, "have ye secured the tickets for the match?"
"Aw, mither, now it is the terrible auld sport ye are. She drags me out to all these things." His eyes twinkled at Maitland. "I can't find time for any study."
"Hoots ye and ye're study. A doot a rale heartening scramble on the ice wad dae ye mair guid than an oor wi' yon godless Jew buddie."
"She means Marx, of course," said McNish, in answer to Maitland's look of perplexity. "She has no use for him."
"But the tickets, Malcolm," insisted his mother.
"Well, mither, A'll confess I clean forgot them. Ye see," he hurried to say, "A was that fashed over yon Committee maitter--"
"Committee maitter!" exclaimed the old lady indignantly. "Did I not tell ye no to heed yon screamin' English cratur wi' his revolutionary nonsense?"
"She means Simmons," interjected Malcolm with a little smile. "He means well, mither, but A'm vexed aboot the tickets."
"Mrs. McNish," said Maitland, "I happen to have two tickets that I can let you have." For an instant she hesitated.
"We can find a way in, I think, Mr. Maitland," said Malcolm, forestalling his mother's answer. But with simple dignity his mother put him aside.
"A shall be verra pleased indeed to have the tickets, provided you can spare them, Mr. Maitland. Never mind, noo, Malcolm. A ken well what ye're thinkin'. He's gey independent and his mind is on thae revolutionary buddies o' his. A'm aye tellin' him this is nae land for yon nonsense. Gin we were in Rooshie, or Germany whaur the people have lived in black slavery or even in the auld land whaur the fowk are haudden doon wi' generations o' class bondage, there might be a chance for a revolutionary. But what can ye dae in a land whaur the fowk are aye climbin' through ither, noo up, noo down, noo maister, noo man? Ye canna make Canadians revolutionaries. They are a' on the road to be maisters. Malcolm is a clever loon but he has a wee bee in his bonnet." The old lady smiled quizzically at her big, serious-faced son.
"Noo, mither, ye're just talkin' havers," he said. "My mother is as great a Socialist as I am."
"Ay, but A keep ma heid."
"That ye do, mither. Ye're gey cannie," replied her son, shaking his head, and so they passed the word to and fro, and Maitland sat listening to the chat. The delightful spirit of camaraderie between mother and son reminded him of a similar relationship between mother and sons in his own home in pre-war days. He could not tear himself away. It was well on to his dinner hour before he rose to go.
"You have given me a delightful hour, Mrs. McNish," he said as he shook hands. "You made me think of my own home in the old days,--I mean before the war came and smashed everything." The old lady's eyes were kindly scanning his face.
"Ay, the war smashed yere hame?" Maitland nodded in silence.
"His brither," said Malcolm, quietly.
"Puir laddie," she said, patting his hand.
"And my mother," added Maitland, speaking with difficulty, "and that, of course, meant our home--and everything. So I thank you for a very happy hour," he added with a smile.
"Wad ye care to come again?" said the old lady with a quiet dignity. "We're plain fowk but ye'll be always welcome."
"I just will, Mrs. McNish. And I will send you the tickets."
"Man! I wish ye grand luck the night. A grand victory."
"Thank you. We are going to make a try for it," said Maitland. "You must shout for us."
"Ay, wull I," she answered grimly. And she kept her word for of all the company that made up the Maitland party, none was more conspicuously enthusiastic in applause than was a white-haired old lady in a respectable black bonnet whose wild and weird Doric expletives and exclamations were the joy of the whole party about her.