First thing in the morning I wrote a letter to my friend, Dr. John McRuer. I wrote it in time so that Shannon could get in the post today and so that Annie couldn’t try to read it, if I left the letter lying around.
Since I was staying for the night at the Lodge, I decided to make myself useful. The day was cold and overcast but it was a good day for working in the garden. The chance of frost was pretty much past, so it was fine to plant the rest of the garden. Earlier in the spring, Annie had started about two dozen tomato seedlings inside the lodge. The seedlings were strategically placed on the window sills around the rooms, including the guest rooms. It was now time for the mass exodus of the tomato seedlings. I helped Annie bring them out back to plant. Shannon was with the horses going to the station to deliver the mail and to pick up guests, if any. Annie knew better than to track him down afterwards for help because all he would do is tell Annie that she was doing it wrong and order her around. Annie knew that I just did the work and didn’t say too many words. I never had too much to say about my paintings, and no need to waste my breath on tomato plants.
While I was working in the garden, Mark Robinson came by for a surprise visit. At first I though it odd that he would come down outside of his normal routine and unannounced. I thought it was about my canoe up by Joe Lake, He knew I’d pick it up today, it wasn’t missing so I was a bit mystified on what the business was.
“I need to check the bush phone lines. I’m sure a moose got them down somewhere along the track, I need to find the break and report it. Do you want to come”
What Mark was really looking for was a friend to accompany him on a walk. I was more than happy to oblige. I just needed a few more moments to put the tomato plants in line and I was ready to go.
“Sure. Let me finish the plants, first.”
Once the gardening operation was complete, we started to walk toward Canoe Lake Station. When we were well out of earshot of anyone and anything, Mark began, “Tom, I need to ask you a few things”
Not unusual for Mark to request something of me.
“”Tom, you shouldn’t have disappeared with Fannie, yesterday. Bartlett wanted to ask you something. He asked me to relay the request, but only if you can promise the utmost secrecy.
Now this was an unusual request.
“Bartlett’s been talking to Sam Hughes again. Hughes and Bartlett are Orange Lodge Brothers.” Mark said. “Remember before the War, the Canadian Corps of Guides that got disbanded. He wants to start another Corps, but a modern intelligence unit. A Secret Ranger Corps.”
Sam Hughes was fired by PM Borden last fall. He was the Minister of Militia and Defence, but after the Ross Rifle failure and other shenanigans to undermine Borden in Britain, he was forced to resign. Hughes was now a back-bencher spending his time between Ottawa and his home town in Lindsay. In Lindsay, it was hoped, that Hughes would have nothing better to do. But it was inevitable that he was hatching some other dubious military equipment scheme. It looked like there was yet another scheme afoot.
Immediately, I recalled that visit back in March I had in the Shack in Toronto. I wondered if the two were connected. As Mark described Hughes’ scheme, I’m became convinced it was.
“Bartlett has sworn me to secrecy with my job on the line. Hughes wants to start up a Secret Ranger Corps, like the Corps of Guides,. He wants to set it up first in the Park. It’ll start as a secret affiliate of the Lindsay Orange Lodge.”
I had heard Samuel Hughes was becoming unhinged, but this was taking the cake. Besides, I never had much time for the Orange Lodge, or the Masons for that matter. It also sounded too much like the Episkopon that John McRuer told me about at Trinity in Toronto.
“Not really interested Mark, why are you telling me this?”
Mark replied, “They need a secret seal made, and your name came up. They want you to draw it.”
I paused for a moment, “What’s the motto?”. Every secret organization worth its salt has a motto. I never dreamed I would get a commercial art job in the middle of the wilderness for an upstart secret society. But it was intriguing.
“Revelat Naturam Honorem.”, Mark replied, “Nature reveals honour”
“OK, I’ll think about it. What about the image? An All Seeing Eye on the top of an eastern white pine?”
Mark laughed, but then he turned serious.
“Yep. But don’t tell Shannon. He’s Catholic. Bartlett doesn’t want any Catholics involved. It’s my job on the line, remember?”
Typical Orange Lodge, pressure and control tactics, I thought. That was the end of the conversation for now. We walked along the rail line and found the break in the telephone line. It wasn’t a moose after all. It looked like one of the glass insulators broke and the wires got grounded. A heavy wind or a lightning strike.
“Tell Bartlett, the Germans took the line down. Tell him we saw them running away.”
Mark smiled and we began the walk back to Joe Lake. I picked up my canoe and Mark went up to the Joe Lake Station Master to report the location of the break.
On the way back, I found a crop of new mushrooms that sprouted up overnight on a bed of dead hemlocks. Thriving on darkness and death – just like a secret society.
“Nature Reveals Honour.” Nature reveals dishonour too.