CHAPTER I BEACH DAYS When a soldier's watch, with its luminous face,Loses its light and grows dim and black,He holds it out in the sun a spaceAnd the radiance all comes back;And that is the reason I'm thinking to-dayOf the glad days now long past;I am leaving my heart where the sunbeams play:I am trying to drive my fears away:I am charging my soul with a spirit gay,And hoping that it will last!
We were the usual beach crowd, with our sport suits, our silk sweaters, our Panama hats, our veranda teas and week-end guests, our long, lovely, lazy afternoons in hammocks beside the placid waters of Lake Winnipeg. Life was easy and pleasant, as we told ourselves life ought to be in July and August, when people work hard all year and then come away to the quiet greenness of the big woods, to forget the noise and dust of the big city.
We called our cottage "Kee-am," for that is the Cree word which means "Never mind"—"Forget it"—"I should worry!" and we liked the name. It had a romantic sound, redolent of the old days when the Indians roamed through these leafy aisles of the forest, and it seemed more fitting and dignified than "Rough House," where dwelt the quietest family on the beach, or "Dunwurkin" or "Neverdunfillin" or "Takitezi," or any of the other more or less home-made names. We liked our name so well that we made it, out of peeled poles, in wonderful rustic letters, and put it up in the trees next the road.
Looking back now, we wonder what we had to worry about! There was politics, of course; we had just had a campaign that warmed up our little province, and some of the beachites were not yet speaking to each other; but nobody had been hurt and nobody was in jail.
Religion was not troubling us: we went dutifully every Sunday to the green-and-white schoolhouse under the tall spruce trees, and heard a sermon preached by a young man from the college, who had a deep and intimate knowledge of Amos and Elisha and other great men long dead, and sometimes we wished he would tell us more about the people who are living now and leave the dead ones alone. But it is always safer to speak of things that have happened long ago, and aspersions may be cast with impunity on Ahab and Jezebel and Balak. There is no danger that they will have friends on the front seat, who will stop their subscriptions to the building fund because they do not believe in having politics introduced into the church.
The congregations were small, particularly on the hot afternoons, for many of our people did not believe in going to church when the weather was not just right. Indeed, there had been a serious discussion in the synod of one of the largest churches on the question of abolishing prayers altogether in the hot weather; and I think that some one gave notice of a motion that would come up to this effect at the annual meeting. No; religion was not a live topic. There were evidently many who had said, as did one little girl who was leaving for her holidays, "Good-bye, God—we are going to the country."
One day a storm of excitement broke over us, and for a whole afternoon upset the calm of our existence....