Lights burned quite as late, however, in the Conservative committee room, where matters were being arranged to bark threateningly at the heels of victory next day. Victory looked like something that might be made to turn and parley. A majority of seventy was too small for finality. Her attention was called without twenty-four hours’ delay to a paragraph in the Elgin Mercury, plainly authoritative, to the effect that the election of Mr Murchison would be immediately challenged, on the ground of the infringement in the electoral district of Moneida of certain provisions of the Ontario Elections Act with the knowledge and consent of the candidate, whose claim to the contested seat, it was confidently expected, would be rendered within a very short time null and void.
“You can never trust an Indian,” said Mrs Murchison at the anxious family council. “Well do I remember them when you were a little thing, Advena, hanging round the town on a market-day; and the squaws coming to the back door with their tin pails of raspberries to sell, and just knowing English enough to ask a big price for them. But it was on the squaws we depended in those days, or go without raspberry preserves for the winter. Slovenly-looking things they were with their three or four coloured petticoats and their papooses on their backs. And for dirt—! But I thought they were all gone long ago.”
“There are enough of them left to make trouble all right,” said Alec. “They don’t dress up like they used to, and I guess they send the papooses to kindergarten now; but you’ll find plenty of them lying around any time there’s nothing to do but vote and get drunk.”
Allowing for the natural exaggeration of partisanship, the facts about the remaining red man of Moneida were much as Alec described them. On market-days he slid easily, unless you looked twice, into what the Express continues to call the farming community. Invariably, if you did look twice, you would note that his stiff felt hat was an inch taller in the crown than those worn generally by the farming community, the pathetic assertion, perhaps, of an old sovereignty; invariably, too his coat and trousers betrayed a form within, which, in the effort at adaptation, had become high-shouldered and lank of leg. And the brown skin was there to be noticed, though you might pass it by, and the high cheek-bones and the liquidly muddy eye. He had taken on the signs of civilization at the level which he occupied; the farming community had lent him its look of shrewdness in small bargains and its rakish sophistication in garments, nor could you always assume with certainty, except at Fox County fairs and elections, that he was intoxicated. So much Government had done for him in Fox County, where the “Reservation,” nursing the dying fragment of his race, testified that there is such a thing as political compunction. Out in the wide spaces of the West he still protects his savagery; they know an Indian there today as far as they can see him, without a second glance.