Page images
PDF
EPUB

Herself—to leave her here who had been so much to him : As true as the Sun she worshipped, her eyes had never lingered on another man since she came to his lodge; and, to her mind, she was as truly sacredly married to him as though a thousand priests had spoken or a thousand medicine men had made their incantations. She was his woman and he was her man. As he chatted to her, telling her of much that he had done that day, and wondering how he could tell her of all he had done, he kept looking round the lodge, his eye resting on this or that ; and everything had its own personal history, had become part of their lodge life, because it had a use as between him and her and not a conventional domestic place. Every skin, every utensil, every pitcher, and bowl, and pot, and curtain, had been with them at one time or another, when it became of importance and renowned in the story of their days and deeds. How could he break it to her—that he was going to visit his own people, and that she must be alone with her mother all winter, to await his return in the spring. His return ? As he watched her sitting beside him, helping him to his favourite dish, the close, companionable trust and gentleness of her, her exquisite clearness and grace in his eyes, he asked himself if, after all, it was not true that he would return in the spring. The years had passed without his seriously thinking of this inevitable day. He had put it off and off, content to live each day as it came and take no real thought for the future; and yet, behind all, was the warning fact that he must go one day, and that Mitiahwe could not go with him. Her mother must have known that, when she let Mitiahwe come to him. Of course; and, after all, she would find another mate, a better mate, one of her own people ! But her hand was in his now, and it was small and very warm, and suddenly he shook with anger at the thought of one like Breaking Rock taking her to his wigwam ; or Lablache—this roused him to an inward fury; and Mitiahwe saw, and guessed the struggle that was going on in him, and she leaned her head against his shoulder, and once she raised his hand to her lips, and said, “My chief l’ Then his face cleared again, and she got him his pipe and filled it, and held a coal to light it; and, as the smoke curled up, and he leaned back contentedly for the moment, she went to the door, drew open the curtains, and, stepping outside, raised her eyes to the horse-shoe. Then she said softly to the sky, “O Sun, great father, have pity on me, for I love him, and would keep him. And give me bone of his bone, and one to nurse at my breast that is of him. O Sun, pity me this night, and be near me when I speak to him, and hear what I say.” ‘What are you doing out there, Mitiahwe ?’ Dingan cried; and when she entered again, he beckoned her to him. “What was it you were saying 7 Who were you speaking to ?’ he asked. “I heard your voice.” “I was thanking the Sun for his goodness to me—I was speaking for the thing that is in my heart, that is life of my life,” she added vaguely. ‘Well, I have something to say to you, little girl,” he said, with an effort. She remained erect before him waiting for the blow—outwardly calm, inwardly crying out in pain. “Do you think you could stand a little parting 2 he asked, reaching out and touching her shoulder. ‘I have been alone before—for five days,’ she answered, quietly. “But it must be longer this time.” ‘How long 2 she asked, with eyes fixed on his. “If it is more than a week, I will go too.” ‘It is longer than a month,’ he said. “Then I will go.” ‘I am going to see my people,’ he faltered. “By the Ste. Anne He nodded. ‘It is the last chance this year; but I will come back—in the spring.’ As he said it, he saw her shrink, and his heart smote him. Four years such as few men ever spent, and all the luck had been with him, and the West had got into his bones | The quiet, starry nights, the wonderful days, the hunt, the long journeys, the life free of care, and the warm lodge; and here, the great couch— ah, the cheek pressed to his, the lips that whispered at his ear, the smooth arm round his neck. It all rushed upon him now. His people ! His people in the East who had thwarted his youth, vexed and cramped him, saw only evil in his widening desires, and threw him over when he came out West—the scallywag they called him, who had never wronged a man or—or a woman 2 Never— wronged—a—woman 2 The question sprang to his lips now. Suddenly he saw it all in a new light. White or brown or red, this heart and soul and body before him were all his, sacred to him— he was in very truth her ‘Chief.” Untutored as she was, she read him, felt what was going on in him. She saw the tears spring to his eyes. Then, coming close to him she said softly, slowly, ‘I must go with you if you go, because you must be with me when—oh, hai-yai, my chief, shall we go from here 2 Here in this lodge wilt thou be with thine own people—thine own, thou and I and—thine to come /* The great passion in her heart made the lie seem very truth. With a cry he got to his feet, and stood staring at her for a moment, scarcely comprehending; then, suddenly, he clasped her in his arms. ‘Mitiahwe–Mitiahwe, oh, my little girl ' ' he cried. “You and me—and our own—our own people !' Kissing her, he drew her down beside him on the couch. ‘Tell me again—is it so at last 2' he said ; and she whispered in his ear once more. In the middle of the night he said to her, “Some day, perhaps, we will go East, some day, perhaps.” “But now she asked softly. “Not now—not if I know it,” he answered. “I’ve got my heart nailed to the door of this lodge.’ As he slept, she got quietly out, and, going to the door of the lodge, reached up a hand and touched the horse-shoe. “Be good Medicine to me,’ she said. Then she prayed. ‘O Sun, pity me that it may be as I have said to him. O pity me, great father l’

In the days to come Swift Wing said that it was her Medicine —when her hand was burned to the wrist in the dark ritual she had performed with the Medicine Man that night when Mitiahwe fought for her man—but Mitiahwe said it was her Medicine the horse-shoe, which brought one of Dingan's own people to the lodge, a little girl with Mitiahwe's eyes and form, and her father's face. Truth has many mysteries, and the faith of the woman was great ; and so it was that, to the end, Mitiahwe kept her man. But truly she was altogether a woman, and had good fortune.

FRANCIS THOMASON'S CRICKET VERSES.

To the readers of the memoir of the late Francis Thompson which was printed just after his death in ‘The Athenaeum' for November 23, 1907, and which stands as preface to the volume of his ‘Selected Poems ’ just published, it must have come as a surprise to learn that this rapt celebrant of the soul was, if not himself a cricketer, a very keen student of the game. They would have felt surprise not because there is anything irreconcileable between the life spiritual and this noble pastime, but because one naturally falls into the habit of thinking of men in one direction only and Thompson's name carried with it the idea rather of midnight visions than of the sunlit pitch. But literary genius and love of cricket have joined hands before. Cowper at Westminster was eager for the game. Byron played for Harrow against Eton. Mr. Meredith, whose cricket enthusiasm flushes through his novels, was, he has told me, an alert fieldsman at the point of the bat; while Mr. Barrie, it is well known, goes so far as to possess a team of his own whose merits he has described in an illustrated brochure which is at once the joy of those who own it and the despair of those who do not. Two instances of what I may call wholly unexpected cricketers may be added. Mr. Lang, by whose cradle the muse of the game, benignantly smiling, most assuredly stood with gifts in her hand, has just discovered that Cuchulainn, the Irish hero, played, and naturally excelled, at cricket in its most primitive form about 200 A.D., while (and here we come nigher the poet of ‘The Hound of Heaven') if you look in Mr. Philip Norman's fascinating history of the West Kent Cricket Club you will find the name and fame of one H. E. Manning, afterwards Cardinal. None the less it was a surprise to many persons, as I say, to find that Francis Thompson was a devotee too; and to those who had seen him in the flesh (and in the ulster which he did not don until the swallows were with us nor doff until they had flown) the surprise must have been greater still, since from such an exterior it would require a reader of men of supernatural acumen to deduce a love of open-air sport. For of all men Francis Thompson was to the casual observer least like a cricketer. It was not only this inverted affection for his overcoat; it was the whole effect, the ensemble, as Whitman would say. If ever a figure seemed to say ‘Take me any where in the world so long as it is not to a cricket match,” that was Francis Thompson's. And his eye supported it. His eye had no brightness: it swung laboriously upon its object; whereas the enthusiasts of St. John's Wood dart their glances like birds. But Francis Thompson was born to baffle the glib inference. With his heart warmed by the very presence of God he could sell matches at Charing Cross. The world, which at every turn seemed to have crushed him beneath its cold weight, he had mastered and disdained while still a youth. Fate might beat against his frame, but within blossomed the rose. He carried consolation about him. Latterly he went seldom to Lord's. His memories were too sad. It was indeed from this sadness, this regret for the past and unwillingness to recall it too vividly, that was born the poem a stanza of which was printed in ‘The Athenaeum,’ and which, with other verses on the game, I am now permitted to print in full here. The poem is not dated, but it is recent. As I understand the case, Thompson had been invited to Lord's to see Middlesex and Lancashire, and had agreed to go; but as the time drew near he found he could not face the ordeal. Such a mood imports a new note into cricket poetry. Cricket poetry hitherto has been descriptive, reflective, rapturous, gay, humorous. It has never before to my knowledge been made a vehicle for a lament for the past of profoundest melancholy. Everyone knows the sadness of the backward look—everyone has lost friends both of kin and of the soul. But the cricket enthusiast (and this applies to other spectacular games and sports too), whether he plays or merely watches, has had two pasts, two chances of bereavement—his own private losses, and the losses that have been suffered by the game. It is impossible for a quite ordinary enthusiast to see one match without thinking of an earlier: how much more then must a poet do so? The simplest and most prosaic of us, whose lives have been fortunate, cannot go to Lord's and regret no missing face upon the field. How have we, for example, yearned for Mr. Stoddart these many seasons past ! But Thompson . Francis Thompson was Lancashire born; as a boy he haunted the Old Trafford ground. Then came the realities of life, which in many cases were too much for him : his body was frail, he suffered almost constant pain, he was unfitted doubly—physically and

« PreviousContinue »