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Fraser's Scottish Annual
"The Soul of Every Living Thing"


THE goose Parliament was over."Honk Honk!" shouted Prince Gander and all his followers flapping their wings loudly, shouted, "honk! honk!" which meant, "hear, hear." It was time to fly south. There was not a dissenting vote. Really, the great- grandmother goose had said, it would be impossible to tell when she would get over the chill of that morning's bath. To be sure it was time to fly South each little group agreed, and at the thought of the long flight over prairies and lakes, over cities and villages, over rivers and hills they stretched and stretched their wings until it became a matter of wonderment as to how they were ever again going to fold them up small enough to carry snug and close at their sides.

"Did you hear my poor old wings crack?" asked the great-grandfather goose. "I am afraid this will be my last flight." He shook his head mournfully while all the other geese kept a respectful silence.

"I should like to come back," he went on in a feeble aged way. It should not like to die dowxi there."

"We ought really to give the young ones gymnastic exercises," suggested a mother goose, who believed greatly in physical culture.

"That is so," said the great-grandfather goose; "perhaps it would be good for me too. It might take the stiffness out of my wings."

"Ah, the South!" said the Princess Branta to Prince Gander, "the beautiful, beautiful South. I am glad we are going at last." She laid her smooth, glossy throat against his, for they were lovers and were to have a nest of their own among the cool green reeds, when they should come back in the Spring. "Is it not far more beautiful than this?"

Prince Gander. turned his keen eyes away from the grey clouds that drifted overhead and looked over the yellowing prairie. He walked slowly down to the water, plunged deep under its surface,— where the long, green waterweeds waved upwards frarn the depths of the lake,—splashed his strong wings until little drops of water glistened all over him like diamonds; then he thought of the green nest which was to be built in the Spring, in the heart of the reeds, and coming back to where his little wild love swam gently about, he stroked her gently with his bill, making a tender, twittering sound in his throat and said,
It is more beautiful than this, but not so dear—for this is HOME."

Then, for a week or two, on the shores of the lake, which is so far away to the northward that the "merry dancers," (for so the Scotch people call the Northern Lights), watch in it for their reflections as they practice a mirror dance of their own—there was nothing but flapping and flying, exercising and manoeuvring that all might be ready when the order should come to float away into the ever-warm, the ever-beautiful, the ever-verdant South.

"Remember," said the mother goose who believed in physical culture, "remember, we always fly in the form of a harrow; see that you young ones keep in a row; and don't try to fly ahead of your elders. Some goslings are so forward and pushing, as if it were not as great a thing to be capable of obeying as of issuing orders. I can always tell a well-brought up gosling by the way it flies. The Prince will lead, and the Princess will come next."

"Stretch your wings this way," commanded the Master of Ceremonies. "One—two--three,—that is better."

"Always keep your eye on the goose in front of you so as to keep in line."

"Now, five flaps all together to strengthen your wings."

And one day—when there was a little rim of ice all about the edge of the lake, when every little spear of grass and every bulrush lance was sheathed in silver frost,—when the musk-ox, as he stole from his lair in the morning, was hoary with his own breath which the wind blew backward and froze upon him; when the waters of the lake were so piercingly cold that the green water-grasses, stealing upward through the water to catch a little gleam of sunlight, shivered back again to the bosom of their mother earth—on such day,—the geese flew south.

"What is that," asked the smallest gosling of them all, which lies so black for miles and miles beneath us?

"Those are the spruce forests," said the mother goose; "do you not smell them?"

"What is that which glitters like a shining water-snake?"

"It is the silver Saskatchewan."

"What are those which come up to us like soft grey plumes?"

"The smoke from the Indian camp fires."

Away they swept towards the South; the goslings panting and struggling but growing stronger with every day's flight. Even the great-grandfather had ceased to complain, and beating the air lightly and steadily as the rest felt that he had been foolish to speak of old age and the nearness of death.

The grey clouds gathering in the east scurried round to the west and north; flights of vagrant leaves flew in all directions, and far below on the seemingly, silent earth, people said, "Winter is coming; did you see the wild geese flying south to-day?"

Riding on the wind, Prince Gander twittered tenderly to his little wild love, or screamed a cry of liberty and joy to all the fluttering flock who followed in his train. They were half way on their journey; they had reached a region where Indian summer lingered where golden pumpkins yet lay strewn about the fields, and fiery sumachs flickered like tongues of flame among the ash grey of the woods.

"I am tired," said the Princess Branta. "I am very tired. Let us rest by that lake. How lovely the water looks! I am dying for water."

"It is not safe," said Prince Gander sorrowfully. "Just a little farther—

"I am very tired" repeated the Princess, while all the goslings taking up the cry, vowed they could fly no longer. "Only let us rest down by the lake," they whimpered, "and we will all be so quiet; none of us will utter a sound."

"It is a great risk," said Prince Gander. "At least be ready to fly at a moment's notice."

"Try to descend more gracefully," scolded the Master of Cermonies, "half of you just flop down as if you had either no idea of elegance or no breath left."

"Hush-sh-sh-sh," hissed the grandmother goose, and all the nervous mother geese said, "sh-shsh" after her. But down where the alders dipped into the water, and where the shadows of evening already lay on the lake two men in a boat crouched low, silently watching the motions of the birds."

"They are Canada geese," whispered one to the other; "keep still as a mouse, for they are both cunning and timid."

Then the two men poked their guns through the boughs of the alder. "Bang, bang," said one gun after the other, and the terrified geese rising with wild shrieks, flew away into the darkness. All but one. His wing hanging torn and wounded by his side, his pretty greyish breast dabbled with blood, his wild bright eyes following with vain longing the departure of his followers, Prince Gander lay terror- stricken and alone among the reeds. Then as his captors approached, how madly lie fought for liberty! what fierce thrusts he made with his bill Biting, screaming, beating his wings in the faces of his foes, until at last, faint with his brave struggle, he lay still and despairing in the grasp of the smaller of the men.

"He's a beauty, Jack; he will make you a fine Thanksgiving dinner," said the taller of the two."

"Not a bit of it; he's not much hurt; I'll doctor him up a bit; the wife will be wanting him for a mate for the goose she has at home."

"A wild goose mate with a barnyard fowl! You'll wait a long time!" the tall man laughed scornfully. Prince Gander dazed and stupid, listening with half -deaf ears, heard him, too, with scorn and loathing.

"I'll try him. Sometimes they will and sometimes they won't," answered the small man cheerfully. So sitting by the roaring fire in his kitchen that night he and his wife bound up Prince Gander's wounds doing their best to put him on the road to recovery. The next day after having a stout sting tied to his leg, he was thrust into the goose pen. There was only one other occupant of the pen—a small barnyard goose, shabbier, dirtier, and smaller even than most of her kind. She shrank away in terror from the newcomer, choosing the corner of the pen farthest away. Sick and sullen, Prince Gander viewed her with contempt, hissing fiercely whenever she ventured to move.

The farmer's wife threw some food into the pen, but it lay untouched all that day, for the barnyard goose, crushed tightly up against the farthest wall of the pen dared not venture past her fierce, wild companion, and he sick from his wounds and maddened by his captivity wished only to be left alone that he might die in peace.

The long, long day he strained at his bonds; the long, long day and night he moved restlessly about seeking relief from the pain and fever. Ah, for water! Wounds like these he had got before, beating some alien goose away from that part of his northern lake which had been claimed as especially the haunt of himself and his followers. But those wounds he had cooled in the crystal waters of the lake; that thirst and fever had been allayed as he lay in the shadows of the marshes. Water! water! Was that Lake Sipi-wesk which be saw through his glazing eyes, and which he could not reach because something had held him down to earth? Was it the falling of Wahsitchewan which seemed to murmur in his ears?

Upon the second day of Prince Gander's captivity the little barnyard goose rustled wildly past him; hunger and thirst had driven her to act courageously. The farmer's wife stood at the fence. " Lan's sake, Josh," she called to her husband, "them poor birds h'aint had no water." She filled the pan anddashed some of the water over Prince Gander. It cooled the fever in his wounds. Struggling to his feet he hobbled over to where the water glistened in the pan and drank and drank again. The barnyard goose, as if hospitably inclined, poked some appleskins toward him.

"The gray goose is coming round all right," said the farmer to his wife, and they talked of what they should do when he had mated with the barnyard goose and they should have a flock of twenty.

"Mate with that vulgar-looking goose," thought the Prince contemptuously, "what hideous yellow legs she has." He remembered his little wild love with her pretty dark feet and legs and her breast which was close and glossy as the breast of a grebe. But the barnyard goose heard what the farmer and his wife said with a flutter of pleasure. "He is the most beautiful bird I ever saw," she thought, and in the morning she poked more food towards him with her gay yellow bill.

"I call these very comfortable quarters," she remarked at last in an affable manner, after nearly a month had passed since Prince Gander had become her companion. Comfort without liberty? Prince Gander felt a new contempt for his companion. Then, partly, because of a yearning for sympathy, and partly to sting her out of the callousness of her content, he told her of his wild brave life in the northern solitudes ; of the matchless lakes of his north land; of his little wild love and the nest that was to have been built in the reeds, The barnyard goose listened with mingled compassion and grief. How silly she had been she thought to herself to fancy that a princely goose like this should care to mate with a shabby, vulgar-looking little bird like herself; for several weeks she was very sad and silent; she even omitted to push any more dainty bits in the way of Prince Gander, for where, thought she, was the use of acquiring a habit of self-sacrifice, if she were not to be mated. But after a while she said to her herself, " Ali, well, those days of which he tells are all past and gone. He is a prisoner now; he will never get back to his pretty wild love." So she again became gay and chatty. One day—these were April days by this time—for the long dreary winter had dragged itself away, she said hopefully, "there is a beautiful lake behind the barn. Come and look through this crack and you will see it. If you will not try to get away perhaps they will let us swim in it." Prince Gander said nothing. Not try to escape! Only give him the chance he thought. But alas, no chance came to him, for even when they were permitted to swim in the pond he had only a longer rope tied to his leg to allow him to swim. It is a funny lake," he said to the barnyard goos. "Was that mud puddle what she called a lake?" He shook the filthy water from his wings; and breast, his shining breast, of which he had been so proud. Even as he stood there looking at the barnyard goose dabbling her dirty plumage in the dirtier water a shrill, familiar cry fell upon his years. Almost before it had ceased he had screamed a rapturous reply. Far away from the southward he could see them coming nearer and nearer. They were all there. That was the Master of Ceremonies flying first, the Princess close to him on the right, and the grandfather goose returning with the rest and flying as well as ever. Again and again he screamed until the shrill cry pierced the heights and reached the ears of the wild geese flying north.

"Do not pay any attention," said the Master of Ceremonies, "it is only another trick of that beast man. It was here Prince Gander was killed last fall." So quickening their flight the flock passed out of sight, Prince Gander's screams changed from delight to despair; his heart swelled until it almost burst. He dragged himself over to the barn and crouched down in the shade. He wished he were dead. He wished he had been killed at that Thanksgiving time, which had followed close upon his capture. Now, at least, he should die; the insufferable stench from the barnyard must kill him. Away in the north land to which his comrades were winging their swift flight the air would be spicy with the new green plumes of the spruce, and the odorous buds of the cottonwood tree; a myriad purple and blue anemones, in too great haste to greet the Spring to wait for their slow leaves, would even now have rushed into bloom and would be flinging their sweetness upon the unfettered wind. How well he knew the way northward Always northward! Past the marshes of the Red River; past Manitoba and Winnepegosis; over the sand dunes, high above the buffalo wallows; resting by silent pools; rioting in crystal rivers; breasting the chill, pure winds which fluttered from out the caverns of the north.

The farmer, passing by the barn, kicked furiously at Prince Gander, "Get out of here, you sulky brute," he said, flinging his pitchfork at the bird. The poor bird hobbled painfully closer to the barn to lie there unmolested and forlorn for the rest of the day, while the barnyard goose dabbled and splashed in cheerful enjoyment of the longed- for water.

There's something the matter with the wild goose, Josh," said the farmer's wife. "I know it," he replied ruefully. "I guess I broke his leg to-day when I threw my fork at him."

"What a pity," said the woman. "Anyway I guess he aint agoing to fancy the white goose for a mate;" so the next time she went to town she brought home a large and very important-looking barnyard gander who speedily made friends with the little white goose. By-and-bye when she went to swim in the pond at the back of the barn she had a flock of soft little yellow goslings floating behind her; after that being deeply occupied with her large family and her husband she had not much time to give to poor Prince Gander. He was left entirely to himself to mope as much as he pleased. Sometimes the new gander from town would give him a fierce dig with his bill as he passed or viciously drove him away from the feeding pan; and the goslings as they grew big, following their father's example, vied with each other in their persecutions. Even the little barnyard goose, I am sorry to say, looking on complacently, thought," How well they know how to fight their way in the world; it is mostly by trampling on others that we get the best for ourselves."

So the seasons went past and the Prince had been a prisoner for three years. Spring and Fall, he had seen his comrades fly alternately north and south, but he had cried to them no more. He who was crippled and degraded, he, who was battered and filthy in plumage and humilated in mind, what had he to do with the gay, the beautiful, and free? So he only watched them with a dull yearning and a memory of past joys which was growing fainter and fainter with every succeeding year, Then, one day, the little barnyard goose waddled swiftly towards him from the feeding pan, where she had been gorging herself with dainties. "You are to be killed," she said breathlessly; "you are to be killed and sent to market. I heard them talking about it." How changed he was! He who was once such a grand bird with perfect, brown wings, had become both spare and draggled l A great pity filled once more the heart of the little barnyard goose. She plucked at the ragged rope which season after season had bound him to the region of the barn. Some way,—perhaps, it was already loose, for the farmer and his wife had grown careless of their wild and unprofitable captive—the rope yielded Prince Gander was free. Now go; fly away—as fast as you can; fly, fly,"—and more to escape her flaps and thrusts than for any other reason—for indeed he was yet too bewildered to realize that he was free, he attempted to fly. Ah, breath of his life! was this freedom again? Was this he who was mounting, mounting, feebly and heavily, perhaps at first, but climbing steadily toward the blue vault of heaven! Northward! Honk! honk!" he screamed. People looking up from earth said," How strange to see a wild goose flying north at this time of the year." His flight was slow and heavy; part of the rope which had held him captive, still hung upon his leg; his wings were stiff and weak from disuse, and he was soon weary. But even his slow flight brought him at last to the prairies of his Canadian home. Like scarlet coral were the wild rose hips; the pea grasses had turned red; the pools set in the prairies had frames of saffron-colored reeds and golden uriopsis. He stopped to dabble once more in the Falls of the Wahsitchewan, and lurked for days beside the Rhiiielike waters of the greater Churchill.

The sun was sinking low, only its topmast rim being visible above the horizon, as Prince Gander reached the lake of his memories. The black bear and the moose peeped out from woody coverts at the lone bird flying overhead. Through the stillness of evening, Prince Gander heard loud gabbling; the joyous splashing of wings, little cries, too, of friendship and love, and peace and liberty. Between him and the lake stood a tall pine; so tall it almost pierced the clouds; gaunt and scraggy and grey, with branches twisted and gnarled until they looked like claws of an ogre. Blinded by fatigue, and flying unsteadily, Prince Gander blundered in his flight and flung himself against the demon-tree. He uttered a scream of agony. The startled flock upon the lake, ceasing their frolics and their clamor, turned their shrewd eyes upon the newcomer. Then with one swtft impulse they swirled upward, through the air, towards their long-forgotten leader; full of all the fury and fierceness of their kind; eager to beat him with their wings, to strike him with their bills, to pluck his ragged plumage from his breast. But the claw of the demon-tree had struck deep: Prince Gander faltered, fell—down through the screaming flock of geese, down through the amber air of sunset,—down among the sedges,—dying,—dead, upon the margin of the lake he had loved and remembered so well. One by one his old companions, recovering from their alarm, stole close to where he lay, gazed at him solemnly, pushed at his body with their bills, then left him unknown and forgotten among those very reeds where he had thought to nest.

Out of the forests stole darkness and silence, hand-in-hand and creeping down upon the lake cast their drowsy spell abroad, till nothing stirred in all the great lone land but the phantom, soundless dancers of the northern skies.

"Dae ye ken this?" said one old Scotchman to another as they walked along from church. "I do believe that oor minister's in the habit o' gemblin'."

"Sharely no,' replied his friend.

"Weel, I hope no, but it's unco suspicious. Last Sunday, what dae ye think he saidin his prayer?"

"I have no idea."

"Weel, instead of 'O Thou who hast the hearts of kings in Thy hands,' he prayed 'O Thou who hast the king of hearts in Thy hands.'"

"It looks bad," replied his friend. "We maun see what the session say aboot this."

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