BY GEORGINA FRASER NEWHALL.
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
"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
"That is so," said the great-grandfather goose;
"perhaps it would be good for me too. It might take the stiffness out of
"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,
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
"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
"It is the silver Saskatchewan."
"What are those which come up to us like soft grey
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 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-
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'."
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
"It looks bad," replied his friend. "We maun see what
the session say aboot this."