Page images
PDF
EPUB

LITTLE MADAM NA-MURA

BY KATE SIMPSON-HAYES

The name of Kate Simpson Hayes is a new one to the readers of the Overland Monthly. In this issue she is introduced to our readers in "Little Madame NaMura." This story is a sermon. It is a rebuke to the white man and woman. It spells a tale of sorrow. In the end all comes out well for Madam Na-Mura, as far as this world is concerned. Let us hope that in some Great Beyond she may again meet her Lord.-EDITOR OVERLAND MONTHLY.

[graphic]

ITTLE MADAM Na

Mura sailed over the wide sea with her lord and master, leaving the land of the chrysanthemum, and her mother-in-law, smiling through tears. Only little madam wept. With her lord, slant-eyed Na-Mura, the three brown babies and a heart big with hope, she took up life in the new land. Her small shack in Shanghai Alley in Vancouver having no strip of earth wherein to make a garden, she set out a broken bowl on the small window sill, and therein she set a wonderful bulb, watching with anxious eyes for the first sign of green to come. At first they got along well. Na-Mura in his own country might have become a teacher, but in the new land he was compelled, by reason of three hungry mouths, and two plaintive eyes just the height of his own anxious ones, to take the first job which offered. It was driving a scavenger's cart, and he undertook the work without complaint.

Then came the time of "the riots." That is the only date fixed in the mind of little Madam. She can't forget it because that was the time her lord and master came home one dreadful day with his head broken open. He had gone out to his work with a light heart in the morning, only asking to be permitted to do his workhe only wanted one man's "job"-only asked one man's pay-one man's chance; but the Vancouver bullies yelled "Down with the yeller men!" "Down with the

Japs!" and though he had hindered no man, and gave offense to no man, the bullies spied him perched on the high wagon; they saw he was small and weak and alone, and they set upon him, seeing no policeman in sight. Amid the flying debris which Na-Mura tried to dodge while directing his horse along, was a huge stone; this went with direct aim, and spt! over went the little Jap, the life knocked out of him, and not a breath left to tell he was living! This was more than the bullies wanted. They only meant to scare him from taking a white man's job.

Little Madam Na-Mura waited all day and waited all night in her small shack for the coming of her husband. She watched the window all the next day; and the next she ventured forth to the great highway; but the riots were still on, and wherever she went she met the evil looks and the evil words sounded in her terrified ears: "Down with the Japs!" Within the small shack she remained, singing to her brown brood the wonderful tale of how "Daddy had gone to get a rabbit-skin." Told it in her own language, just as any white mother might, and she smiled at her little ones while her heart froze with the fear that lay there unuttered. Then, there being no more rice in the house, the babies refused to listen to the tale of the "rabbit-skin." They wanted food; so little Madam Na-Mura went forth again.

From one familiar place she went to another, searching, asking; but every countryman she met either had a cracked head or fled at the approach of any one,

[ocr errors]

expecting it. Man would give her no help, so she drifted into the Joss-House on Jackson avenue, and there lighting the Joss sticks, she prayed to her people's gods-just as you or I might do-weeping silently the while; then she turned her homewards once again. When she arrived at her little shabby home a miracle had happened; a green shoot came from the brown earth in the small window-potgarden. Her heart gave a wild bound. She would find her husband now-there was no doubt about it! By some strange happening (which neither you nor I can understand), she found her lord, just as she knew she would, lying in a near-by alley. He was unconscious and still bleeding, though bandaged roughly. How he got there he never could tell how the little wife got him home again she never could tell. She only knows it was the green shoot from the lily did it all; and his first conscious words were "all will be well." This he spoke in his own language, and they wept for very joy that they were together again.

Then followed a time which it were well not to speak about-for the credit of Canada. The bullies won the fight against Japanese labor, backed by certain political views (all highly edifying and "patriotic") and Na-Mura, still bandaged, one arm bruised, three ribs broken and his head "queer," set out, under the shelter of "The Nippon Contracting Company," to clear away the right-of-way for the Canadian Pacific Railway on Vancouver Island. This was work the bullies did not want to do. It was hard work, killing work, "good enough for Japs," so they were allowed to do it without being beaten. That night, before leaving his wife and babies, NaMura watched the bulb bursting into bloom. He said: "I will send for you when the blossom comes!" So that was the sign. The new world was very kind after all. He was to receive $1.75 per day for his labor, that and his passage paid. Why, seven cents a day would keep him alive and fat. A giant might grow rich on such a wage! With work found, now, the mother of the three brown babes might sing all day long; sing and watch the lily arrive at perfection.

Na-Mura went. His heart was big with a great happiness, his mind full of

a great hope. Perhaps there were no bullies in the new place! At home the lily was growing-ere it burst into full bloom he would have his wife and babes. Three months went by; the lily blossomed and died. Madam watched for the letter, so long coming, and she set the dead flower away where she might not see it and remember. Then one day she received a letter. It told her a check had been sent through the Nippon Company a month before. "Why," it asked, "had she not come to Na-Mura ?" No wonder the lily faded at once! In a pigeon-hole of the company's desk lay the time card of NaMura; it had been overlooked; she might have had it weeks ago had she known; but with thankful hands she received it, prostrating herself before the coarse-eyed paymaster, who said: "Get out; that's all now!"

So off they set, the three loved babes and the newly-hopeful wife of brokenboned Na-Mura. boned Na-Mura. They arrived at night by stage, and so changed, so altered, so starved of flesh was the father of the little flock that the babes screamed with fright when they saw his face. But Madam took him to her sore heart, saying: "We are together again; all is well!" She said this in her own language, but with sinking heart. Na-Mura was rather a hindrance than a help on the work of clearing the right-of-way. The foreman wanted to hear the stroke of the axe as well as see the felled timbers. By reason of his maimed arm, Na-Mura's stroke was weak and the swing of the axe slow; it was the stroke of a child, but he stuck to the work manfully. manfully. The Vancouver bullies had broken the bones of Na-Mura, but his spirit they failed to break. All because there were four mouths to feed now, and "the fear" came upon the man when his weeping wife whispered the tidings that another mouth to fill would come in time.

Next morning poor Na-Mura went out to the forest determined to work like the others. He went at the first tree, a giant cedar, six feet across, and he made the chips fly merrily. This made the men stare it also made the woods ring with echoes. Na-Mura had the strength of two men in his heart now, for, down in the leaf-hung forest, within a tiny log

hut, sounded something sweeter than bird song: it was the brave-hearted little wife singing her native songs to the brown brood about her knee. She sang while she waited, sang while she worked, sang while she watched for the coming of the babe's father. He no longer frightened the babes by his wild eyes, his gaunt and sharpened features. Little Madam discovered he was starving that he might save for his little ones. His diet of rice boiled in water was changed now. He

had fried fish; aye, and berries picked in the wood day after day. It was little, brave-hearted Madam starved now that her lord might grow strong, and that they might save against "the time" coming. The fear hung like a cloud over the cabin, notwithstanding the song.

Then came a sad day. Na-Mura went out in the morning feeling a great strength of heart and limb. First was heard the sound of the axe; merrily the chips flew— then was heard another sound, the crash of a fallen tree-a giant of the forest lay prone, but beneath its interlacing and powerful branches lay poor Na-Mura, pinned to the earth and bleeding! He uttered no moan, but those who saw ran to him just in time to see his slant eyes look their last look upon a world which had been hard, too hard for one little brown man named Na-Mura. The fight for bread, the fight for his brown babes, the fight for wife and home, had been too much for one pair of maimed hands. He had them clenched over his brave heart when they picked him up-picked him up and bore him to the little cabin where, through the cedars, drifted the sweet homeland songs of far-away Japan. This was the last sound poor Na-Mura heard as his soul went out to the great Beyond. Little Madam didn't die. How could she? The babes needed some one to work for and to care for them. There was money to earn and food to get, for the whole world was now a fearsome forest, and the wolf, Hunger prowled every

where.

It was only a "Jap" camp. They were only a right-of-way gang; yellow men every one of them, save the rough foreman, he who had been so hard on the light

stroke of poor Na-Mura-but his heart was kind when he looked at the fatherless brood and thought of them just as if they were white, like your child or mine. The little brown-faced men understood it all just as if they were white, like you and I; they whispered together at the funeral of poor Na-Mura, and when the wife returned from the quiet burial scene in the quiet woods of fair Vancouver Island, Yen, the cook, handed to her the saucepans and the pot hook, much as he might have handed a crown were he an abdicating king, saying: "You missy-bossy camp now! Vely hungly mans eat all a-time-plenty wolk-plenty money. Me go make wolk anunla camp-me no babies glood bye!"

Then the foreman came along, swaggering in gait, and, losing his high-pitched tone, said in his rough way: "See here, you look over this camp, ma'am; fill up the boys three times a day; you're on the pay-roll now, and every d one of the kids has to turn out in the mornin' and do his day's work. They are on the payroll too. Nippon & Co. can stand it, I guess, and there ain't no law can make me swear t the ages of men on this work, eh ?"

Then the new baby came, and the camp went down on its knees, so to say. Yen appeared, as if by magic, and took over the sauce-pans and the pot-hook again, saying: "Missy-bossy wolk vely much ha'd-mens eat vely much meat-babybossy vely much naked now," and he emptied a pouch which he had stowed away somewhere, into a pan, and all the little brown men emptied the pouches they had stowed away somewhere, into the pan, and the jingle woke the new baby, just as the big foreman (who emptied his pockets, all of 'em), said with a big, round oath: "See here, boys; the new man goes on the pay-roll today. He's engaged by Nippon & Co. from this hour. His stroke ain't much stronger than his father's was, I guess, but he's one of the gang just the same, and (looking round him fiercely) "every d- one of ye's got t' do another hour's work, f'r I have me soul t' save, so I have, though Nippon & Co. won't believe it!"

BY IVY KELLERMAN

Miss Ivy Kellerman is an old friend of Overland Monthly readers. She is known to us as a writer of exquisitely humorous verse, but never before in these pages has she been exhibited as a prose writer. In "Out of the Unknown" she gives us a fine touch of sarcasm. The story is well told, and may serve to explain to many of our readers many mysterious messages conveyed to them from "spirit land."

AM WAITING. Remember your promise."

That was the message given to Catherine Elston by the slate-writing medium, and she she meditated wonderingly upon it as she rode homeward. She had accepted her invitation to be present at this investigation of a young woman's mediumistic powers, without much further purpose than to be courteous to the friends who had invited her. She had long known of their interest in spiritualistic phenomena, but had always avoided talking upon the subject, with a half-fearful dislike of meddling with things supernatural. But to be in this rather distinguished assemblage of physicians and psychologists, and to see their investigation of what was said to be really remarkable ability in this dreamyeyed young woman, this was an opportunity not to be lightly cast aside.

She had watched and listened with increasing interest. Perhaps it was the subdued light and the general air of excitement in the room; perhaps it was the timidity she felt before the noted scientists in whose presence she sat; whatever the cause, she began to realize definitely the vicinity of the supernatural. Her scepticism gradually gave way at the apparent accuracy and intelligibility of the messages, and she noticed with amazement how entirely reasonable they seemed.

Suddenly she paled with nervous anticipation as she heard the words: "This seems to be for you, Miss Elston," and became aware that on the slate appeared the words of a half-jesting promise made to her three months ago. For Leonard had said:

EDITOR OVERLAND MONTHLY.

"In our next incarnation, then, if you refuse absolutely to marry me in this one."

And he had carried out his whimsical fancy by asking her to agree that whichever one passed first into "the undiscovered country" should in some fashion remind the other of this compact. He had even gone so far as to suggest what the words of the message should be. She had promised and had said farewell to him, bravely sending away the eager lover who was so dear to her, but with whom marriage was out of the question because of her duty to the younger brothers and sisters dependent upon her. She had forbidden him to write to her, so that she might be able to put away more completely the thought of the happiness which had come almost within her reach, and was yet so tantalizingly withheld by a fate equally cruel to them both. She knew she could not forget him, but she would make the effort in spite of his expostulations.

Now these words of Leonard's, coming to her thus on the medium's slate, had shocked and startled her inexpressibly. They meant that this genial, lovable man was no longer living. He had no relatives, and no friends who knew of his acquaintance with her, so the news of his death had never reached her. Catherine's lips trembled as she whispered to herself the message he had sent her from beyond the borders of the real:

"I am waiting. Remember your prom

[graphic]

ise."

*

But not five hundred miles away, Leonard, very much alive and very much in earnest, was pleading impetuously at that moment: "Nellie, I love you as I never in all my life have loved a woman! Surely you must care for me a little! Look up and tell me so, dearest!"

MAN'S REDEEMING VICES

BY JOHN L. COWAN

In "Man's Redeeming Vices," Mr. John L. Cowan, in picturesque and forceful language, tells the story of humanity. Incidentally he, although he may not have known it himself, preaches the text that to be endurable to one's-self man must be thoroughly human; that no man is perfect and that the basis of true living is never to shirk responsibility, to be frank, to be charitable and to be true to one another. There is every probability that, before another hundred years, man will have solved the problem of life in so far that he will not with malice prepense make of existence a task. By that time it will be a pleasure to exist, and vice, which Mr. Cowan seems to think is a sort of necessary evil, will have no part in the general philosophy of existence. It is more than probable that mankind will look upon mankind through entirely different spectacles than those worn by Mr. Cowan in his dissertation on "Man's Redeeming Vices." Out of the Pessimistic Age the Optimist is hewing out a beautiful future time. The sermonette is presented because it will stir the risibilities of some, the bile of others, and because, in addition, it is a departure from the cut and dried mental pabulum dished up by the asleep-in-the-rut magazine editor of the day.-EDITOR OVERLAND MONTHLY.

ORD MONBODDO had a diverting, if not very convincing, theory concerning tails. He believed that the tail was an appendage as natural to the human animal as to any other species, but that the reprehensible practice of sitting upon it had resulted in the atrophy of that useful and ornamental organ.

Physically, then, man seems condemned to go on down through the ages tailless. Spiritually, however, he wags his tail as gaily as of yore. The spiritual tail of man is vice. For vice to govern the man is as unnatural and offensive as for the tail to wag the dog; but the man without a fair complement of the redeeming vices is as pathetic as a dog deprived of even the stump of a tail with which to wag. joyous greeting to his master, or express satisfaction with a welcome bone. If such a man there be, he is deformed and monstrous, as truly as though possessed of horns or minus ears. Nothing exists without its opposite; so that but for the blessing of vice, virtue would be unthinkable. We cannot conceive of vice among the beasts; and quite naturally and inevitably, the beasts possess no more virtue

than is found among pumpkins or cabbages.

Nevertheless, our vices, though more than precious and more to be desired

either money or brains, must be curbed, controlled and kept within reasonable bounds. Even unbridled godliness is altogether intolerable: much more so is unbridled license; both vice and virtue must be moderate, temperate and decorous-in short, not man's masters, but his servants. Otherwise he becomes a bore and a nuisance, deserving social ostracism. An Anthony Comstock is a moral pervert, just as truly as was Salome, and the daughter of Herodias. It would be difficult to determine which kind of a pervert -a Comstock or a Salome-is capable of working the greater evil.

Vice is the carbonic acid gas that gives effervescence to the wine of life, and prevents it from becoming as flat, tasteless and insipid as stale beer. History, biography, poesy, romance, literature, art, even religion, would have no meaning were the concept, vice, obliterated from human powers of understanding. What a commonplace character Edward VII would be in his decorous and regenerated old age, but for the halo of youthful and unforgotten vices around his kingly head, and the knowledge of his redeeming rec

[graphic]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »