Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

Series Editor’s Preface

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pp. vii-2

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Chapter I

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pp. 3-9

It all began with the rustle of silk.
When Helmi’s Aunt Lili came back to Finland for a visit, after six years of the crowded ways of life in America, the older womenfolk of her family regarded her with mingled feelings of awe, envy and reproach. Her elder sister, Helmi’s mother, said it was foolishness...

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Chapter II

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pp. 10-16

Margaret Kenny was wiping her hands on the bran-colored roller towel which hung behind the pantry door, preparatory to the opening of her sister’s letter, which lay on the drain board. Not for a moment did the elder Miss Kenny take her eye off the letter...

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Chapter III

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pp. 17-26

Meanwhile, Helmi washed the gold clover-leaf ironstone dishes at the Yale Hotel, made beds and carried trays and learned new words every day. English language in Helmi’s hands became a simple thing. She took no account of its idioms. She did not see why the man who brought the...

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Chapter IV

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pp. 27-33

Miss Abbie J. Moore lived in a neat little house in Chestnut Street, in an unimpeachable neighborhood, where everyone had a sleeping porch on the front of their house, with a square of grass at the back in the centre of which a clothes-line reel stood like a wind-inverted umbrella...

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Chapter V

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pp. 34-43

Young Methodist Church, though not set on a hill, was determined that it would not be hidden, in spite of that geographical handicap, and so resorted to the wholly worldly but nevertheless effective method of advertising. A black and gold signboard on the corner of Broadway and Balmoral...

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Chapter VI

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pp. 44-54

Helmi’s lessons went on. She could answer the telephone and explain in concise English that “Miss Moore is owett,” or “Would you please wait one minute,” followed by “Tank you very much.”
“A civil tongue, Helmi,” Miss Moore had told her, “may not take you...

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Chapter VII

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pp. 55-67

The newspapers the next morning carried startling headlines:—
“Sensational raid on a down-town opium den! Young white girl found in possession of the drug! Refuses to reveal identity! appears to understand no english! Spent the night in police...

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Chapter VIII

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pp. 68-81

The Girls’ Friendly Home stands on a hill overlooking the city, a great bare, white building with glittering windows, which in the rays of the setting sun burn like the bush that Moses saw, yet like the bush are not consumed.
It seemed to be ever looking down with its many eyes on the struggling...

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Chapter IX

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pp. 82-90

Girls! Oh, Girls!”
Mrs. Wymuth’s voice was fraught with terror and brought the girls from the common room in a panic.
“Oh, you wicked, wicked girl, Helmi! You have killed the best man the sun ever shone on! He is bleeding to death, his life is oozing away!” Her voice, which always had a rusty whine, now fairly...

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Chapter X

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pp. 91-100

Eva St. John had many terrifying moments when she thought of Helmi, and in so far as she was capable of feeling sorry she was truly repentant. “Poor kid,” she often said to herself, “if she weren’t so pretty it wouldn’t matter so much. Ugly women might as well be in jail anyway, for all the fun they can have...

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Chapter XI

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pp. 101-108

The hurried change of clothing in the motor car, the jumble of directions, and the excitement of her departure left Helmi breathless, but the quiet seclusion and security of the drawing-room soon restored her. She was here, the train was moving, she was entirely disguised in a new outfit of clothes, as far...

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Chapter XII

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pp. 109-115

When the train slowed its pace above the Eagle Mines, Helmi looked down on a valley which lay like a shallow saucer, broken jaggedly but fairly down the middle by the river, which ran jade green and foaming to the plains beyond. The rim of the saucer was fluted by short...

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Chapter XIII

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pp. 116-125

Spring had come with its carpet of flowers, its radiant days and velvety black nights, spangled with stars and musical with the sound of rushing waters, for the snow of the mountains filled the river’s course with a foaming flood, on whose surface logs rolled, and sometimes broken trees...

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Chapter XIV

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pp. 126-131

As the summer advanced through the hot days of July, redolent with sweet grass and wild roses, to the harvest haze of August, through which the sun shone with a golden glow of amber softness, the flowers began to show a bolder color. The timid blues, lavender and pinks of the small blossoms...

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Chapter XV

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pp. 132-138

Mrs. McMann and Bill Larsen, the bar-tender, having a common grievance, had become fellow-conspirators. They were consumed with one desire, though from widely different motives. Mrs. McMann feared the loss of the best girl she had ever had, and more than that, she resented...

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Chapter XVI

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pp. 139-147

That afternoon Helmi and Jack drove to Bannerman, eight miles away, to find someone to marry them. Helmi wore the black silk dress which she had worn on the train, with the lace collar, fastening the latter with the sun-burst which Jack had given her at Christmas...

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Chapter XVII

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pp. 148-155

The tops of the mountains still held the glow of sunset although the valley was filled with mountain darkness. The lights in the curtainless windows of the little houses made bright holes in the platinum curtain of night. Helmi lifted her eyes to the hill-tops for some sign of encouragement—the hills had...

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Chapter XVIII

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pp. 156-164

Jack had told Helmi that his partner had stayed in Edmonton to raise money to buy their outfit, which they would ship to Peace River. People were investing their money gladly, and paying five hundred dollars for a claim. Helmi tried to reconcile herself to Jack’s going, though she had no faith in the project. In her simple...

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Chapter XIX

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pp. 165-178

One day in August, when the train came in, the conductor ran into the station and shouted to the operator, “Say Ted, there’s a war in Europe! What do you know about that?”
Ted took his pipe from his mouth and spat at the red stove. “Quit your kiddin’,” he said briefly...

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Chapter XX

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pp. 179-189

It was in December that Helmi decided to delay no longer, she would go to the city. Jack had told her to go to his mine boss and get the two hundred dollars which was due on his wages. She had not needed it until now, and had felt it best to leave it where it was. She had hoped her Jack would be home to her before this, and...

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Chapter XXI

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pp. 190-201

Dead gardens, littered with stocks from which the life had fled and the bright blooms had departed, with all the sadness of the silent places where throbbing life had been, hummocked over with newly earthed graves where the potatoes and turnips now lie buried; dead fields cleared out, swept...

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Chapter XXII

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pp. 202-207

It was Christmas afternoon when Helmi awakened—Christmas afternoon, the very sound of which brings pictures of children playing with trains on living-room floors, satiated with turkey and candy, starry-eyed with presents, numb with surprises and joy. Christmas afternoon! Of all the spicy, perfumed, sparkling glorious...

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Chapter XXIII

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pp. 208-221

Helmi stayed on in Number 18, taking her meals with the Corbetts, and trying to pay for their kindness by cleaning up their congested suite and making clothes for Rosie and Danny, who had become the baby’s devoted attendants. Mrs. Corbett was full of encouragement when she heard Helmi’s whole...

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Chapter XXIV

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pp. 222-235

It was at Fort Simpson, in November, on his way out, that Jack Doran heard of the war. They had floated down the Nehanni River on a moose-skin barge to the Liard, and down the Liard to the MacKenzie on a spruce scow, arriving in Fort Simpson one raw November day when an icy wind from the North gave warning...

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Chapter XXV

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pp. 236-242

Not so pleasantly did the night pass with Jack Doran, who sat in the station waiting for No. 8 and listening to the wires telling their never-ending story—a dull, gray station, dusty even when the snow had covered all the dust. A red stove in the middle of the floor, egg-shaped, fluted, and...

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Chapter XXVI

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pp. 243-253

Mrs. Kalinski and Mrs. Corbett were having a cup of tea in the latter’s big room one afternoon when Mrs. Corbett had finished her duties as janitor’s wife who could be got by the hour to “do out” rooms for the tenants...

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Chapter XXVII

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pp. 254-259

Dr. St. John lay one evening on the chesterfield in his den, before a cheerful wood fire. Eva was entertaining her Wednesday night “Bridge,” and tinkles of laughter, high-pitched and nervous, shot through the velvety murmurs of conversation...

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Chapter XXVIII

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pp. 260-266

The people of Bannerman have not forgotten April 25th, 1915. The day began peacefully enough, with only a reddish tinge in the sunshine to mark it from other days, and that blinding heat which seems more oppressive in April than in July. The Spring had come early in Northern Alberta and now the...

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Chapter XXIX

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pp. 267-275

Helmi reached her own house that morning before the people of Eagle Mines were stirring. It was a sweet morning, without a trace of the storm of the night before, only that the air was washed clean and tasted cool in the mouth like a drink of spring water. She walked with her old...

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Chapter XXX

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pp. 276-283

Vehemoor German prison camp, known also as Cellelager Six, was built on a peat bog from which the peat had been removed, leaving a sour, raw mud, on which not even a plank or log was laid. When the prisoners stepped out of the door they went to their knees in the indescribable muck. The...

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Chapter XXXI

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pp. 284-291

It was a hot night in London in the early spring. The lights shone ghostly blue through their painted globes, and across the starless night search-lights stretched their spectral fingers, crossing, passing, converging, crossing again. Through the streets, in spite of the sombre gloom and the dangers of the night, an endless stream of...

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Conclusion

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pp. 292-296

At Arthur Warner’s bungalow the flowers were blooming. Hollyhocks stood straight and tall against the house, with their quaint, old-fashioned rosettes in prim rows on the stalks, crimson and cream and white. Arthur had planted them, but had not seen them bloom. The walk from the house was...

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Afterword

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pp. 297-323

In the second volume of her two-part autobiography, The Stream Runs Fast: My Own Story (1945),¹ Nellie L. McClung describes the process by which she came to write Painted Fires. While serving as a Liberal member of the provincial legislature in Alberta from 1921 to 1926, she spent “many pleasant hours in the...

Books in the Early Canadian Literature SeriesPublished by Wilfrid Laurier University Press

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p. 324