Catharine Parr Traill.

In the Forest Or, pictures of life and scenery in the woods of Canada online

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Produced by Juliet Sutherland, John R. Bilderback, Charles
Franks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. This
file was produced from images generously made available
by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions.

Editorial note:
This book is essentially identical to LADY MARY AND HER NURSE,
by Mrs. Traill, Project Gutenberg EBook #6479, but the two come
from different sources.






[Illustration: A NARROW ESCAPE]

The Flying Squirrel - Its Food - Story of a Wolf - Indian Village - Wild

Sleighing - Sleigh Robes - Fur Caps - Otter Skins - Old Snow-Storm - Otter
Hunting - Otter Slides - Indian Names - Remarks on Wild Animals and their

PART I - Lady Mary reads to Mrs. Frazer the First Part of the History
of the Squirrel Family

PART II - Which tells how the Gray Squirrels fared while they remained on
Pine Island - How they behaved to their poor Relations, the Chipmunks - And
what happens to them in the Forest

PART III - How the Squirrels got to the Mill at the Rapids - And what
happened to the Velvet-paw

Squirrels - The Chipmunks - Docility of a Pet One - Roguery of a Yankee
Pedlar - Return of the Musical Chipmunk to his Master's Bosom - Sagacity
of a Black Squirrel

Indian Baskets - Thread Plants - Maple Sugar Tree - Indian Ornamental
Works - Racoons

Canadian Birds - Snow Sparrow - Robin Redbreast - Canadian Flowers - American

Indian Bag - Indian Embroidery - Beaver's Tail - Beaver Architecture - Habits
of the Beaver - Beaver Tools - Beaver Meadows

Indian Boy and his Pets - Tame Beaver at Home - Kitten, Wildfire - Pet
Racoon and the Spaniel Puppies - Canadian Flora

Nurse tells Lady Mary about a Little Boy who was eaten by a Bear in
the Province of New Brunswick - Of a Baby who was carried away but taken
alive - A Walk in the Garden - Humming Birds - Canadian Balsams

Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, most frequently seen in northern
Climates - Called Merry Dancers - Rose Tints - Tintlike Appearance - Lady
Mary frightened

Strawberries - Canadian Wild Fruits - Wild Raspberries - The Hunter and
the Lost Child - Cranberries - Cranberry Marshes - Nuts

Garter snakes - Rattle-snakes - Anecdote of a Little Boy - Fisherman
and Snake - Snake Charmers - Spiders - Land Tortoise

Ellen and her Pet Fawns - Docility of Fan - Jack's Droll Tricks -
Affectionate Wolf - Fall Flowers - Departure of Lady Mary - The End.

List of Illustrations.





"Nurse, what is the name of that pretty creature you have in
your hand? What bright eyes it has! What a soft tail - just like a gray
feather! Is it a little beaver?" asked the Governor's little daughter,
as her nurse came into the room where her young charge, whom we shall
call Lady Mary, was playing with her doll.

Carefully sheltered against her breast, its velvet nose just peeping
from beneath her muslin neckerchief, the nurse held a small gray-furred
animal, of the most delicate form and colour.

"No, my lady," she replied, "this is not a young beaver; a beaver is
a much larger animal. A beaver's tail is not covered with fur; it is
scaly, broad, and flat; it looks something like black leather, not
very unlike that of my seal-skin slippers. The Indians eat beavers'
tails at their great feasts, and think they make an excellent dish."

"If they are black, and look like leather shoes, I am very sure I should
not like to eat them; so, if you please, Mrs. Frazer, do not let me
have any beavers' tails cooked for my dinner," said the little lady,
in a very decided tone.

"Indeed, my lady," replied her nurse, smiling, "it would not be an
easy thing to obtain, if you wished to taste one, for beavers are not
brought to our market. It is only the Indians and hunters who know
how to trap them, and beavers are not so plentiful as they used to

Mrs. Frazer would have told Lady Mary a great deal about the way
in which the trappers take the beavers, but the little girl interrupted
her by saying, "Please, nurse, will you tell me the name of your pretty
pet? Ah, sweet thing, what bright eyes you have!" she added, caressing
the soft little head which was just seen from beneath the folds of
the muslin handkerchief to which it timidly nestled, casting furtive
glances at the admiring child, while the panting of its breast told
the mortal terror that shook its frame whenever the little girl's hand
was advanced to coax its soft back.


"It is a flying squirrel, Lady Mary," replied her nurse; "one of my
brothers caught it a month ago, when he was chopping in the forest.
He thought it might amuse your ladyship, and so he tamed it and sent
it to me in a basket filled with moss, with some acorns, and
hickory-nuts, and beech-mast for him to eat on his journey, for the
little fellow has travelled a long way: he came from the beech-woods
near the town of Coburg, in the Upper Province."

"And where is Coburg, nurse? Is it a large city like Montreal or

"No, my lady; it is a large town on the shores of the great Lake

"And are there many woods near it?"

"Yes; but not so many as there used to be many years ago. The forest
is almost all cleared, and there are fields of wheat and Indian corn,
and nice farms and pretty houses, where a few years back the lofty
forest grew dark and thick."

"Nurse, you said there were acorns, and hickory-nuts, and beech-mast
in the basket. I have seen acorns at home in dear England and
Scotland, and I have eaten the hickory-nuts here; but what is
beech-mast? Is it in granaries for winter stores; and wild ducks
and wild pigeons come from the far north at the season when the
beech-mast fall, to eat them; for God teaches these, His creatures,
to know the times and the seasons when His bounteous hand is open to
give them food from His boundless store. A great many other birds and
beasts also feed upon the beech-mast."

"It was very good of your brother to send me this pretty creature,
nurse," said the little lady; "I will ask Papa to give him some

"There is no need of that, Lady Mary. My brother is not in want; he
has a farm in the Upper Province, and is very well off."

"I am glad he is well off," said Lady Mary; "indeed, I do not see so
many beggars here as in England."

"People need not beg in Canada, if they are well and strong and can
work; a poor man can soon earn enough money to keep himself and his
little ones."

"Nurse, will you be so kind as to ask Campbell to get a pretty cage
for my squirrel? I will let him live close to my dormice, who will be
pleasant company for him, and I will feed him every day myself with
nuts and sugar, and sweet cake and white bread. Now do not tremble and
look so frightened, as though I were going to hurt you; and pray, Mr
Squirrel, do not bite. Oh! nurse, nurse, the wicked, spiteful creature
has bitten my finger! See, see, it has made it bleed! Naughty thing!
I will not love you if you bite. Pray, nurse, bind up my finger, or it
will soil my frock."

Great was the pity bestowed upon the wound by Lady Mary's kind attendant,
till the little girl, tired of hearing so much said about the bitten
finger, gravely desired her maid to go in search of the cage and catch
the truant, which had effected its escape, and was clinging to the
curtains of the bed. The cage was procured - a large wooden cage, with
an outer and an inner chamber, a bar for the little fellow to swing
himself on, a drawer for his food, and a little dish for his water.
The sleeping-room was furnished by the nurse with soft wool, and a
fine store of nuts was put in the drawer; all his wants were well
supplied, and Lady Mary watched the catching of the little animal with
much interest. Great was the activity displayed by the runaway squirrel,
and still greater the astonishment evinced by the Governor's little
daughter at the flying leaps made by the squirrel in its attempts to elude
the grasp of its pursuers. "It flies! I am sure it must have wings. Look,
look, nurse! it is here, now it is on the wall, now on the curtains!
It must have wings; but it has no feathers!"

"It has, no wings, dear lady, but it has a fine ridge of fur that covers
a strong sinew or muscle between the fore and hinder legs; and it is
by the help of this muscle that it is able to spring so far and so
fast; and its claws are so sharp, that it can cling to a wall or any
flat surface. The black and red squirrels, and the common gray, can
jump very far and run up the bark of the trees very fast, but not so
fast as the flying squirrel."

At last Lady Mary's maid, with the help of one of the housemaids,
succeeded in catching the squirrel and securing him within his cage. But
though Lady Mary tried all her words of endearment to coax the little
creature to eat some of the good things that had been provided so
liberally for his entertainment, he remained sullen and motionless at the
bottom of the cage. A captive is no less a captive in a cage with gilded
bars and with dainties to eat, than if rusted iron shut him in, and kept
him from enjoying his freedom. It is for dear liberty that he pines and is
sad, even in the midst of plenty!

"Dear nurse, why does my little squirrel tremble and look so unhappy?
Tell me if he wants anything to eat that we have not given him. Why
does he not lie down and sleep on the nice soft bed you have made for
him in his little chamber? See, he has not tasted the nice sweet cake
and sugar that I gave him."

"He is not used to such dainties, Lady Mary. In the forest he feeds
upon hickory-nuts, and butternuts, and acorns, and beech-mast, and
the buds of the spruce, fir and pine kernels, and many other seeds
and nuts and berries that we could not get for him; he loves grain
too, and Indian corn. He sleeps on green moss and leaves, and fine
fibres of grass and roots, and drinks heaven's blessed dew, as it lies
bright and pure upon the herbs of the field."

"Dear little squirrel! pretty creature! I know now what makes you sad.
You long to be abroad among your own green woods, and sleeping on the
soft green moss, which is far prettier than this ugly cotton wool.
But you shall stay with me, my sweet one, till the cold winter is past
and gone, and the spring flowers have come again; and then, my pretty
squirrel, I will take you out of your dull cage, and we will go to
St. Helen's green island, and I will let you go free; but I will put
a scarlet collar about your neck before I let you go, that if any one
finds you, they may know that you are my squirrel. Were you ever in
the green forest, nurse? I hear papa talk about the 'Bush' and the
'Backwoods;' it must be very pleasant in the summer to live among the
green trees. Were you ever there?"

"Yes, dear lady; I did live in the woods when I was a child. I was born in
a little log-shanty, far, far away up the country, near a beautiful lake
called Rice Lake, among woods, and valleys, and hills covered with
flowers, and groves of pine, and white and black oaks."

"Stop, nurse, and tell me why they are called black and white; are the
flowers black and white?"

"No, my lady; it is because the wood of the one is darker than the
other, and the leaves of the black oak are dark and shining, while
those of the white oak are brighter and lighter. The black oak is a
beautiful tree. When I was a young girl, I used to like to climb the
sides of the steep valleys, and look down upon the tops of the oaks
that grew beneath, and to watch the wind lifting the boughs all glittering
in the moonlight; they looked like a sea of ruffled green water. It
is very solemn, Lady Mary, to be in the woods by night, and to hear
no sound but the cry of the great wood-owl, or the voice of the
whip-poor-will, calling to his fellow from the tamarack swamp, or,
may be, the timid bleating of a fawn that has lost its mother, or the
howl of a wolf."

"Nurse, I should be so afraid; I am sure I should cry if I heard the
wicked wolves howling in the dark woods by night. Did you ever know any
one who was eaten by a wolf?"

"No, my lady; the Canadian wolf is a great coward. I have heard the
hunters say that they never attack any one unless there is a great
flock together and the man is alone and unarmed. My uncle used to go
out a great deal hunting, sometimes by torchlight, and sometimes on
the lake, in a canoe with the Indians; and he shot and trapped a great
many wolves and foxes and racoons. He has a great many heads of wild
animals nailed up on the stoup in front of his log-house."

"Please tell me what a stoup is, nurse?"

"A verandah, my lady, is the same thing, only the old Dutch settlers
gave it the name of a stoup, and the stoup is heavier and broader,
and not quite so nicely made as a verandah. One day my uncle was crossing
the lake on the ice; it was a cold winter afternoon, he was in a hurry
to take some food to his brothers, who were drawing pine-logs in the
bush. He had, besides a bag of meal and flour, a new axe on his shoulder.
He heard steps as of a dog trotting after him; he turned his head,
and there he saw, close at his heels, a big, hungry-looking gray wolf;
he stopped and faced about, and the big beast stopped and showed his
white sharp teeth. My uncle did not feel afraid, but looked steadily
at the wolf, as much as to say, 'Follow me if you dare,' and walked
on. When my uncle stopped, the wolf stopped; when he went on, the beast
also went on."

"I would have run away," said Lady Mary.

"If my uncle had let the wolf see that he was afraid of him, he would
have grown bolder, and have run after him and seized him. All animals
are afraid of brave men, but not of cowards. When the beast came too
near, my uncle faced him and showed the bright axe, and the wolf then
shrank back a few paces. When my uncle got near the shore, he heard
a long wild cry, as if from twenty wolves at once. It might have been
the echoes from the islands that increased the sound; but it was very
frightful and made his blood chill, for he knew that without his rifle
he should stand a poor chance against a large pack of hungry wolves.
Just then a gun went off; he heard the wolf give a terrible yell, he
felt the whizzing of a bullet pass him, and turning about, saw the
wolf lying dead on the ice. A loud shout from the cedars in front told
him from whom the shot came; it was my father, who had been on the
look-out on the lake shore, and he had fired at and hit the wolf when
he saw that he could do so without hurting his brother."

"Nurse, it would have been a sad thing if the gun had shot your uncle."

"It would; but my father was one of the best shots in the district,
and could hit a white spot on the bark of a tree with a precision that
was perfectly wonderful. It was an old Indian from Buckhorn Lake who
taught him to shoot deer by torchlight and to trap beavers."

"Well, I am glad that horrid wolf was killed, for wolves eat sheep
and lambs; and I daresay they would devour my little squirrel if they
could get him. Nurse, please to tell me again the name of the lake
near which you were born."

"It is called Rice Lake, my lady. It is a fine piece of water, more
than twenty miles long, and from three to five miles broad. It has
pretty wooded islands, and several rivers or streams empty themselves
into it. The Otonabee River is a fine broad stream, which flows through
the forest a long way. Many years ago, there were no clearings on the
banks, and no houses, only Indian tents or wigwams; but now there are
a great many houses and farms."

"What are wigwams?"

"A sort of light tent, made with poles stuck into the ground in a circle,
fastened together at the top, and covered on the outside with skins
of wild animals, or with birch bark. The Indians light a fire of sticks
and logs on the ground, in the middle of the wigwam, and lie or sit
all round it; the smoke goes up to the top and escapes. Or sometimes,
in the warm summer weather, they kindle their fire without, and their
squaws, or wives, attend to it; while they go hunting in the forest,
or, mounted on swift horses, pursue the trail of their enemies. In
the winter, they bank up the wigwam with snow, and make it very warm."

[Illustration: INDIAN WIGWAMS]

"I think it must be a very ugly sort of house, and I am glad I do not
live in an Indian wigwam," said the little lady.

"The Indians are a very simple folk, my lady, and do not need fine
houses like this in which your papa lives. They do not know the names
or uses of half the fine things that are in the houses of the white
people. They are happy and contented without them. It is not the richest
that are happiest, Lady Mary, and the Lord careth for the poor and
the lowly. There is a village on the shores of Rice Lake where the
Indians live. It is not very pretty. The houses are all built of logs,
and some of them have gardens and orchards. They have a neat church,
and they have a good minister, who takes great pains to teach them
the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The poor Indians were Pagans until
within the last few years." "What are Pagans, nurse?"

"People, Lady Mary, who do not believe in God and the Lord Jesus Christ,
our blessed Saviour."

"Nurse, is there real rice growing in the Rice Lake? I heard my governess
say that rice grew only in warm countries. Now, your lake must be
very cold if your uncle walked across the ice."

"This rice, my lady, is not real rice. I heard a gentleman tell my
father that it was, properly speaking, a species of oats [Footnote:
Zizania, or water oats] - water oats, he called it; but the common name
for it is wild rice. This wild rice grows in vast beds in the lake
in patches of many acres. It will grow in water from eight to ten or
twelve feet deep; the grassy leaves float upon the water like long
narrow green ribbons. In the month of August, the stem that is to bear
the flower and the grain rises straight up above the surface, and light
delicate blossoms come out of a pale straw colour and lilac. They are
very pretty, and wave in the wind with a rustling noise. In the month
of October, when the rice is ripe, the leaves torn yellow, and the
rice-heads grow heavy and droop; then the squaws - as the Indian women
are called - go out in their birch-bark canoes, holding in one hand
a stick, in the other a short curved paddle with a sharp edge. With
this they bend down the rice across the stick and strike off the heads,
which fall into the canoe, as they push it along through the rice-beds.
In this way they collect a great many bushels in the course of the
day. The wild rice is not the least like the rice which your ladyship
has eaten; it is thin, and covered with a light chaffy husk. The colour
of the grain itself is a brownish-green, or olive, smooth, shining,
and brittle. After separating the outward chaff, the squaws put by
a large portion of the clean rice in its natural state for sale; for
this they get from a dollar and a half to two dollars a bushel. Some
they parch, either in large pots, or on mats made of the inner bark
of cedar or bass wood, beneath which they light a slow fire, and plant
around it a temporary hedge of green boughs closely set, to prevent
the heat from escaping; they also drive stakes into the ground, over
which they stretch the matting at a certain height above the fire.
On this they spread the green rice, stirring it about with wooden paddles
till it is properly parched; this is known by its bursting and showing
the white grain of the flour. When quite cool it is stowed away in
troughs, scooped out of butter-nut wood, or else sewed up in sheets
of birch bark or bass-mats, or in coarsely-made birch-bark baskets."

"And is the rice good to eat, nurse?"

"Some people like it as well as the white rice of Carolina; but it does
not look so well. It is a great blessing to the poor Indians, who boil it
in their soups, or eat it with maple molasses. And they eat it when
parched without any other cooking, when they are on a long journey in the
woods, or on the lakes. I have often eaten nice puddings made of it with
milk. The deer feed upon the green rice. They swim into the water and eat
the green leaves and tops. The Indians go out at night to shoot the deer
on the water; they listen for them, and shoot them in the dark. The wild
ducks and water-fowls come down in great flocks to fatten on the ripe rice
in the fall of the year; also large flocks of rice buntings and red wings,
which make their roosts among the low willows, flags, and lilies, close to
the shallows of the lake."

"It seems very useful to birds as well as to men and beasts," said little
Lady Mary.

"Yes, my lady, and to fishes also, I make no doubt; for the good God
has cast it so abundantly abroad on the waters, that I daresay they
also have their share. When the rice is fully ripe, the sun shining
on it gives it a golden hue, just like a field of ripened grain.
Surrounded by the deep-blue waters, it looks very pretty."

"I am very much obliged to you nurse, for telling me so much about
the Indian rice, and I will ask mamma to let me have some one day for
my dinner, that I may know how it tastes."

Just then Lady Mary's governess came to bid her nurse dress her for
a sleigh-ride, and so for the present we shall leave her; but we will
tell our little readers something more in another chapter about Lady
Mary and her flying squirrel.



Nurse, we have had a very nice sleigh-drive. I like sleighing very
much over the white snow. The trees look so pretty, as if they were
covered with white flowers, and the ground sparkled just like mamma's

"It is pleasant, Lady Mary, to ride through the woods on a bright sunshiny
day, after a fresh fall of snow. The young evergreens, hemlocks, balsams,
and spruce-trees, are loaded with great masses of the new-fallen snow;
while the slender saplings of the beech, birch, and basswood (the lime or
linden) are bent down to the very ground, making bowers so bright and
beautiful, you would be delighted to see them. Sometimes, as you drive
along, great masses of the snow come showering down upon you; but it is so
light and dry, that it shakes off without wetting you. It is pleasant to
be wrapped up in warm blankets, or buffalo robes, at the bottom of a
lumber-sleigh, and to travel through the forest by moonlight; the merry
bells echoing through the silent woods, and the stars just peeping down
through the frosted trees, which sparkle like diamonds in the moonbeams."

"Nurse, I should like to take a drive through the forest in winter.
It is so nice to hear the sleigh-bells. We used sometimes to go out
in the snow in Scotland, but we were in the carriage, and had no bells."

"No, Lady Mary; the snow seldom lies long enough in the old country
to make it worth while to have sleighs there; but in Russia and Sweden,
and other cold Northern countries, they use sleighs with bells."

Lady Mary ran to the little bookcase where she had a collection of
children's books, and very soon found a picture of Laplanders and Russians
wrapped in furs.

"How long will the winter last, nurse?" said the child, after she had
tired herself with looking at the prints, "a long, long time - a great
many weeks? - a great many months?"

"Yes, my lady; five or six months."

"Oh, that is nice - nearly half a year of white snow, and sleigh-drives
every day, and bells ringing all the time! I tried to make out a tune,
but they only seemed to say, 'Up-hill, up-hill! down-hill, down-hill!'
all the way. Nurse, please tell me what are sleigh-robes made of?"

"Some sleigh-robes, Lady Mary, are made of bear-skins, lined with red
or blue flannel; some are of wolf-skins, lined with bright scarlet

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Online LibraryCatharine Parr TraillIn the Forest Or, pictures of life and scenery in the woods of Canada → online text (page 1 of 10)