When Mac brought the mail down one Saturday evening, he laid a key with a tag on it beside the letters. "That", said he, "is the front door key of Alex's house. His tenants left it in our P.O.Box; they seem to have found a cheaper place to live. I was told, too, that the back door was open." When Alex and Jessie returned to Toronto, after the First War started, I did not know what their plans were in regard to their home in Fort George, and I don't think that Mac knew either, nor would I ask any questions, but if their house was open, I felt it our duty to see whether it had been rifled.
On the following afternoon, Sunday, we went up to Alex's place and I took some long paper to make a list of the contents, room by room, which I later sent to Jessie, keeping a copy for myself. Mac knew that house, he had built most of it and lived in it for a year, so, after looking around, he said there was a clothes wringer missing. The backdoor to the outbuilding was gone and the attic was open.
Jessie and Alex had left for Toronto, taking with them their personal clothing only. When she acknowledged my letter and the list, she asked about some heavy blankets which were not listed, and which she had lent to friends before she left; they were to have been returned to the tenants. I suggested that Jessie write to the friends and let them clear the matter up, since neither the late tenant not I knew anything about the blankets.
For the next six years, that property was a bugbear to me. Why I ever bothered with it, I can't explain, but I found new tenants, collected and remitted rent, got rid of tenants and sold furniture, re-rented and sent a new lease to Jessie. Then packed and shipped all her pictures, books, linens, dishes, and precious things, which had been moved to my place for convenience in packing.
When I wrote to Mac that everything was on the way to Toronto, he wired me, "Pack a bag and come up here for a few days." which I did. He was at Alberda then, with a maintenance crew, and his Commissary car had two beds in one end of it. After the First War was well over, there was a change in the trains, they went east in the evening and west in the morning. On this trip, I left at 7.30 a.m. going east.
When supper was called that night, the smell of the food in the dining car made me hungry, Mac had forgotten to warn me that there was preservative in the meat they used, and that night I nearly died. He dressed hurriedly and roused the telegrapher in the station to try and get a doctor who might catch the train east or west, or send medicine to relieve me. When a travelling clergyman called at the car next morning, not knowing there was a woman in it, Mac, knowing him, told what had happened, and without warning me, brought the stranger into the room where I lay ill, introducing him as Reverend., and I nearly fainted with shock. I though Mac somewhat premature about his arranging the last rites!
The friendly parson looked after the settlers along the railway, and the families of the track-walkers. He would come up the main line from the Blue River, on one side of the Cariboo Range, to Mount Robson, and down on our side of the same Mountains, to McBride, sometimes farther either way. It takes an understanding soul to be welcomed in the homes of lonely, isolated people, especially women and children; the men see more of their own kind, they are not so shy. Medicine from east and west arrived and put me on my feet.
The wife of the foreman-engineer called to see me and invited me to tea. She and her husband had a real housekeeping car, very complete and comfortable but she did not have much fun, waving to the passengers looking out of the windows going past, watching Mount Robson's cloud cap, and listening to the swishing waters of the Fraser in the foreground. It is a lonely life for one woman to be cut off from her own sex.
I only stayed for four days with Mac, and I was expecting the boys home for the Fall school term, and I knew that they would not have a clean garment between them. I packed my little bag, the train going west was flagged, and I slept in my own bed that night. I did not worry about Paddy when I went to Alberda, I knew that he had a habit of visiting Harry Ewing's camp every day, and he was lying on the verandah when I reached home.
Three mornings later was wakened by the frantic ringing of the telephone. It was Murray, He was at the station, just in from Hazelton and he had an infected hand. What did I want him to do? I told him to see our doctor at once and call me afterwards, which latter he did. Our doctor, was on his way to Vancouver, driving, so I told Murray to get Dr. L. and ask him too come up and see me.
They arrived by the time I was dressed. Poor Murray looked terrible, so did the hand; he had been suffering for days, and should have had attention before. I kissed him, told him not to worry, that Dr. L. just loved that sort of job and would fix him up, then I motioned Murray back to the car and beckoned Dr. L. over. He and I respected each other's opinions, and I knew him for a clever surgeon Said I, "Now, Dr.L., I want you to give Murray a general anaesthetic and dig deep. That is a nasty job, but don't you come back to me and tell me my son has to lose a thumb, or a hand or an arm. Do you understand?" "Yes," said he, "And you won't have any complaint." "Thank you, Dr.L." I said, more cheerfully, and I knew that I could trust him.
The operation was all over before noon, and Dr.L. telephoned to say that Murray was in good condition. As soon as the doctor and Murray left for the Hospital, I telephoned to the Prince George Telegraph Office, and gave them a message for my husband at Alberda. I asked that they please get it off at once, so that he could get the first train coming west.
Mac and I did not play favourites with our family at any time. Both our boys were precious, and it had always been our ambition, to bring them up to twenty-one years in perfect health; body and mind, if possible. Mac caught a freight which brought him home before the passenger train arrived. I hoped he might be in time for supper, and was in the kitchen when I heard Paddy barking at a strange man outside the gate. When I reached the door I didn't blame the dog for barking. Mac had shaved his moustache off, and I had never seen him without it. I advised him to let it grow again, for his naked lip did not flatter him.
We went down to see Murray that evening, and we saw Dr. L., who assured us that Murray would be all right; nothing to worry about. Mac had some business down town next morning, and after noon dinner at home, he took a double-bitted axe to clear some of the undergrowth near our garden, He tripped on a tough vine, fell on the axe, and I met him at the door with a bad gash in the left hand, streaming like a hose.
By the time Dr.L. arrived, the flow had stopped. I told him that I had washed the cut with an antiseptic, and he decided not to open the bandage I had put on. Mac returned to camp that evening. Later in the month, I received a bill from Dr.L. for two calls. I paid him for the one he made, Fortunately, Murray's illness came under the Railway Liability.
On the next afternoon, when I went down to see Murray, he was quite cheerful, and very much relieved to have it over. Murray was the only surgical case in the hospital at the time, and he had plenty of care. He knew the nurses, had danced with them, and they kept up the flow of hot fomentations day and night, to draw the poison out of the hand and arm. That treatment, plus the rubber drainage tubes, I could understand and appreciate.
School opened while Murray was still in hospital and, of course, he began to fuss lest he lose too much time. Four days after he was discharged from hospital, with instructions for me to continue the dressings, he insisted on going back to school. Just two days later he collapsed in class. He had been growing, working, and playing beyond his strength, and a further rest, with a course of build-up medication was the order of the doctor.
It was a crisp, leaf-falling day, when I received a message to say that there was need of a layette, across the Nechako, about four miles up the river from the end of the wooden bridge, and could I look after it? Fortunately, I had finished, washed and pressed a full layette a few days before, so it was ready for the call.
With the precise directions given me, I could not miss the cabin, so Paddy and I started out immediately after lunch. It was quite a big bundle, and I took my "22", hoping to get a rabbit or a bird, going or coming. That was just wishful thinking. I found that, with the dog along, he was getting all the fun; Paddy wasn't trained to hunting, so I hid the gun behind a tree. t was a long four miles, but I found the cabin and a sweet-faced Scottish girl with her two-year old, a fine little lassie. The husband was at work a bit farther west.
Despite my protest, Mrs. C. hurried at once to get me a cup of tea. Her cabin was perfumed with new bread, and I must sample that also, but to my regret she would not accept the layette. Mrs. C. had a letter from her sister in Vancouver, to say that she was sending everything that would possibly be needed and the parcel could be at the Express Office already. I begged her to keep my bundle also; she might have twins and really need it, but she laughed at that and held to her refusal, said it would not be honest, and someone else could use my outfit. Mrs. C. was expecting to go to the hospital soon, and a friend in town would take care of wee Jeanie.
The mother deplored the trouble I had taken, and the long walk "for nothing" but I assured her that I had enjoyed the walk, and I had met her and Jeanie, that was something! I wished her and her family the best of luck, as I started for home with the unwanted bundle. In that clay-floored cabin, she had offered her hospitality as graciously as a lady of the manor, she had her pride of family, and had kept her independence. I admired her, though the bundle and the gun were twice as heavy on the road home.
When I heard that Mr. George Hammond was in town, I had Mac find and bring him home for dinner. I had not met Mr. Hammond before. He represented the Company which had given Fort George its name, and head fired the imagination of countless thousands from 1906 on. I have always admired people of vision, History has justified them, but the rainbow faded in Fort George, and that is set down as, "just one of those things" taken over by fate.
Mr. Hammond and his agent were going over the properties he was interested in, and he wanted the Red Cross to have the contents of the little, old hospital on Central Avenue, so he left the key with me. When our local President, Mrs. Burden, and I went to examine the gift, a day or so later, the place had been looted. Some persons must have worked fast, as they had taken everything but the drug and medical supplies. We tried to sell those locally, but the offer was too low, so we shipped everything to the Red Cross Headquarters at Vancouver, and they sent us back a credit-memo of between four and five hundred dollars. The drugs and other supplies were all pre-War of the highest quality, and we had suggested that the Military Hospitals be given preference in the use of them.
Among the people attracted to the newly-opened land in British Columbia, were two young English lads, close friends, and before leaving England, they had bought from an agent there, a choice lot in Fort George Townsite. After their arrival, they had a neat little cottage built on their property, and occupied it comfortably, enjoying their bachelor ability, to look after their own housekeeping. Like many other new-comers, they were irked by the delay in the development in the district, and their money was going out, with nothing coming in. One cannot live on fresh air and rugged scenery. Then came the explosion of the World War, and a complete halt to all the plans for the developing of that part of our Country.
When a Medical Recruiting Officer arrived in Prince George, in the winter of 1914-1915, the two English lads determined to enlist, and go together. One of the boys was what he called a hundred per cent fit, but the other was not as clear. He had a slight varicose condition, due to strain from school sport. They had sent in their names, and were to be notified with date of examination. The Recruiting Officer was registered at the new Alexandra Hotel, Prince George, and the lads were able to reserve a room next to him.
On the evening of the medical check, the lad with the faulty leg, had arranged for his friend to keep him supplied with two large buckets of ice water, in which he soaked his leg, and he expected to be called early. Maybe the Officer was tired that evening. Maybe he had been dining with some old friends from the "Outside". In any case, when the examination was completed, the anxious one had passed like a breeze. Those lovely, white, nearly-frozen legs told no tale.
The lads had no difficulty in renting their cottage, at a satisfactory rate, and when the time came for the recruits to move off, the two young English men were with them. Four years later, those two English lads returned to Fort George, without a scratch. They had been advised of the stalemate condition in The Georges, and all they wanted to do, was to sell out and leave the district.
Old Mr. Yeats had heard they were back, and as he had served them with vegetables, before they went away to the War, he called to see if they needed anything. On that day the lads had sold their property and furnishings, had the money in their pockets, and a bottle of Scotch on the table. They were just raising their glasses, in congratulations on the Sale, and a hope for the future, when the old man tapped at the open door. Of course, the boys explained matters, they were leaving on the evening train, and they invited Mr. Yeats to have a drink. He thanked them courteously, but declined, and he wished them good luck.
Now, Mr. Yeats was Scotch, and few Scotchmen refuse a drink, but the old man had his pride. He was not a friend of those young men, his arrival was just an accident. The boys, naturally, were gentlemen in their offer, but he could not accept. He, too, was a gentleman.
As Alan came in from school one afternoon, near supper time, he heard a childish voice calling, "Auntie, when is Ah-wen coming home?" His eyes were like saucers when he saw the beautiful, blue-eyed girl of two and a half years, who was "helping" me in the kitchen. I introduced him to Mary Helen
Dugan, daughter of a friend who, on short notice, had to enter hospital for a couple of weeks. Her doctor had asked if I could help out; the Daddy was away, and Mummy knew that Alan and I were alone at the time. I had told the baby that my boy would be home soon, and that his name was Alan, so she thought he might be a playmate, and so he was.
She was a good child, well trained and easy to entertain. While she was with us, I noticed that Alan arrived earlier from school, at which time Mary Helen just took possession of him, and he loved it. In the morning when she wakened, she would call him until he answered her, then she would say on a wheedling note, "Ah-wan, I love you!" and he would growl back, "Well, you needn't tell everybody!" Alan was going on fifteen and his voice was changing.
Mary Helen's Daddy had been away to the War, and he was a stranger when he came back. Then he resumed his work with the Railway Company, When Daddy Dugan came to take her home at the end of two weeks, Mary Helen wasn't so sure she should go with him, so I went with them to meet Mummy, and that left the family together and happy, but Alan and I missed her bright prattle around the house.
That winter we kept one of the covered barrels in a corner of the boys' room, for bath and laundry water. Into it went all the big icicles with formed along the roof-edges, supplemented with clean snow when, one of us would think of the chore. I hadn't seen Paddy since morning, and I had just brought in two tubs of snow. Outside, there was a windless, deadly cold, that made one catch a breath behind the hand. As I hung up my coat and scarf, I heard Paddy clawing at the storm door to be admitted, and he pranced around excitedly. His thick liver and silver coat glistened, and I noticed some drops of frozen blood, clinging like rubies to his hair. I examined him carefully but found no wound, so it was the other fellow's gore he was wearing. Frequently I had seen twenty to thirty dogs parading single file up the Nechako, and I planned to keep Paddy at home for a day or so, but next morning he got away when the boys left for school, and it was thirty below zero.
We did not see Paddy again until the next afternoon. I was alone when he scratched the outer door, and when he came in, he rubbed his head against my knee. He had a hole in his right cheek, that I could push an egg through, and gangrene had developed, I telephoned someone for advice and was told not to tamper with it; he should be shot, but that was not the advice I wanted.
First, I gave my dog some food; then I made up a linseed meal for poultice. I sewed a hot poultice around Paddy's cheek, and he never made any attempt to tear it off. I put another hot one on before I went to bed. The boys were warned not to touch or go near him. In the morning I had two dozen swabs ready and a fairly strong solution of formalin, left from moth killing. I used that frequently, burning each swab after using it, and at the end of the fourth day, the dead flesh fell off and I put it in the fire. The slit in the cheek healed up rapidly. My friend still said I was crazy to take the risk, but I am always careful and I keep my fingers crossed.