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Frederick Marryat.

Poor Jack; and The settlers in Canada online

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us should be warmly clothed on that day. And, then, the
housekeeper's room with all the joints of meat and flour, and
plums and suet, in proportion to the number of each family,
all laid out and ticketed ready for distribution. And then
the party invited to the servants' hall, and the great dinner,
and the new clothing for the schoolgirls, and the church so
gay, with their new dresses in the aisles, and the holly and
the mistletoe. I know we are not in England, my dear uncle,
and that you have lost one of your greatest pleasures that of
doing good, and making all happy around you."

" Well, my dear Emma, if I have lost the pleasure of doing
good, it is the will of Heaven that it should be so, and we
ought to be thankful that, if not dispensing charity, at all
events, we are not the objects of charity to others ; that we
are independent, and earning an honest livelihood. People

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may be very happy, and feel the most devout gratitude on
the anniversary of so great a mercy, without having a turkey
for dinner."

"I was not in earnest about the turkey, my dear uncle.
It was the association of ideas connected by long habit,
which made me think of our Christmas times at Wexton
Hall ; but, indeed, my dear uncle, if there was regret, it was
not for myself so much as for you/' replied Emma, with tears
in her eyes.

ee Perhaps I spoke rather too severely, my dearest Emma,"
said Mr. Campbell ; " but I did not like to hear such a solemn
day spoken of as if it were commemorated merely by the
eating of certain food."

"It was foolish of me," replied Emma, "and it was said
thoughtlessly."

Emma went up to Mr. Campbell and kissed him, and Mr.
Campbell said, " Well, I hope there will be a turkey, since
you wish for one."

The hunters did not return till late, and when they
appeared in sight, Percival, who had descried them, came in
and said that they were very well loaded, and were bringing
in their game slung upon a pole.

Mary and Emma went out of the door to meet their
cousins. That there was a heavy load carried on a pole
between Martin and Alfred was certain, but they could not
distinguish what it consisted of. As the party arrived at the
palisade gates, however, they discovered that it was not game,
but a human being, who was carried on a sort of litter made
of boughs.

"What is it, Alfred ?" said Mary.

" Wait till I recover my breath," said Alfred, as he reached
the door, "or ask Henry, for I'm quite knocked up."

Henry then went with his cousins into the house, and
explained to them that as they were in pursuit of the wild
turkeys, Oscar had stopped suddenly and commenced baying ;
that they went up to the dog, and, in a bush, they found a
poor Indian woman nearly frozen to death, and with a dislo-
cation of the ankle so severe, that her leg was terribly swelled,
and she could not move. Martin had spoken to her in the
Indian tongue, and she was so exhausted with cold and hunger
that she could just tell him that she belonged to a small

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party of Indians who had been some days out hunting, and a
long way from where they had built their winter lodges ; that
she had fallen with the weight which she had carried, and
that her leg was so bad, she could not go on with them ; that
they had taken her burden, and left her to follow them when
she could.

"Yes," continued Alfred; "left the poor creature without
food, to perish in the snow. One day more, and it would
have been all over with her. It is wonderful how she can
have lived through the two last nights as she has. But Martin
says the Indians always do leave a woman to perish in this
way or recover as she can, if she happens to meet with an
accident."

" At all events, let us bring her in at once," said Mr. Camp-
bell. " I will first see if my surgical assistance can be of use,
and after that we will do what we can for her. How far
from this did you find her ? "

"About eight miles," replied Henry; "and Alfred has
carried her almost the whole way ; Martin and I have relieved
each other, except once, when I took Alfred's place."

" And so you perceive, Emma, instead of a wild turkey I
have brought an Indian squaw," said Alfred.

"I love you better for your kindness, Alfred," replied Emma,
" than if you had brought me a waggon-load of turkeys."

In the meantime Martin and Henry brought in the poor
Indian, and laid her down on the floor at some distance from
the fire, for though she was nearly dead with the cold, too
sudden an exposure to heat would have been almost equally
fatal. Mr. Campbell examined her ankle, and with a little
assistance reduced the dislocation. He then bound up her
leg and bathed it with warm vinegar, as a first application.
Mrs. Campbell and the two girls chafed the poor creature's
limbs till the circulation was a little restored, and then they
gave her something warm to drink. It was proposed by Mrs.
Campbell that they should make up a bed for her on the
floor of the kitchen. This was done in a corner near the
fireplace, and in about an hour their patient fell into a sound
sleep.

" It is lucky for her that she did not fall into that sleep
before we found her/' said Martin ; " she would never have
awoke again."

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"Most certainly not," replied Mr. Campbell. "Have you
any idea what tribe she is of, Martin ? "

" Yes, sir ; she is one of the Chippeways ; there are many
divisions of them, but I will find out when she awakes again
to which she belongs ; she was too much exhausted when we
found her to say much."

" It appears very inhuman leaving her to perish in that
way," observed Mrs. Campbell.

" Well, ma'am, so it does ; but necessity has no law. The
Indians could not, if they would, have carried her, perhaps
one hundred miles. It would have probably been the occa-
sion of more deaths, for the cold is too great now for sleeping
out at nights for any time, although they do contrive, with the
help of a large fire, to stay out sometimes."

" Self-preservation is the first law of nature, certainly,"
observed Mr. Campbell ; (e but, if I recollect right, the savage
does not value the life of a woman very highly."

"That's a fact, sir," replied Martin; "not much more, I
reckon, than you would a beast of burden."

" It is always the case among savage nations," observed
Mr. Campbell ; "the first mark of civilisation is the treatment
of the other sex, and in proportion as civilisation increases, so
are the women protected and well used. But your supper is
ready, my children, and I think after your fatigue and fasting
you must require it."

" I am almost too tired to eat," observed Alfred. " I shall
infinitely more enjoy a good sleep under my bearskin. At
the same time I'll try what I can do," continued he, laughing,
and taking his seat at table.

Notwithstanding Alfred's observation, he contrived to make
a very hearty supper, and Emma laughed at his appetite after
his professing that he had so little inclination to eat.

" I said I was too tired to eat, Emma, and so I felt at the
time; but as I became more refreshed my appetite returned,"
replied Alfred, laughing, " and notwithstanding your jeering
me, I mean to eat some more."

" How long has John been away ? " said Mr. Campbell.

" Now nearly a fortnight," observed Mrs. Campbell ; " he
promised to come here Christmas-day. I suppose we shall
see him to-morrow morning."

' Yes, ma'am ; and old Bone will come with him, I dare
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say. He said as much to me when he was going away the
last time. He observed that the boy could not bring the
venison, and perhaps he would if he had any, for he knows
that people like plenty of meat on Christmas-day."

" I wonder whether old Malachi is any way religious,"
observed Mary. " Do you think he is, Martin ? "

" Yes, ma'am ; I think he feels it, but does not show it.
I know from myself what are, probably, his feelings on the
subject. When I have been away for weeks and sometimes
for months, without seeing or speaking to any one, all alone
in the woods, I feel more religious than I do when at Quebec
on my return, although I do go to church. Now old Malachi
has, I think, a solemn reverence for the Divine Being, and
strict notions of duty, so far as he understands it, but as he
never goes to any town or mixes with any company, so the
rites of religion, as I may call them, and the observances of
the holy feast, are lost to him, except as a sort of dream of
former days, before he took to his hunter's life. Indeed, he
seldom knows what day or even what month it is. He knows
the seasons as they come and go, and that's all. One day is
the same as another, and he cannot tell which is Sunday,
for he is not able to keep a reckoning. Now, ma'am, when
you desired Master John to be at home on the Friday
fortnight because it was Christmas-day, I perceived old
Malachi in deep thought : he was recalling to mind what
Christmas-day was ; if you had not mentioned it, the day
would have passed away like any other ; but you reminded
him, and then it was that he said he would come if he could.
I'm sure that now he knows it is Christmas-day, he intends
to keep it as such."

"There is much truth in what Martin says," observed
Mr. Campbell ; " we require the seventh day in the week and
other stated seasons of devotion to be regularly set apart, in
order to keep us in mind of our duties and preserve the life
of religion. In the woods, remote from communion with
other Christians, these things are easily forgotten, and when
once we have lost our calculation, it is not to be recovered.
But come, Alfred and Henry and Martin must be very tired,
and we had better all go to bed. I will sit up a little while
to give some drink to my patient, if she wishes it. Good-
night, my children."

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CHAPTER XXI

i_yHRISTMAS-DAY was indeed a change, as Emma had
observed, from their former Christmas; but although the
frost was more than usually severe, and the snow filled the
air with its white flakes, and the north-east wind howled
through the leafless trees as they rasped their long arms
against each other, and the lake was one sheet of thick ice
with a covering of snow which the wind had in different
places blown up into hillocks, still they had a good roof over
their heads, and a warm, blazing fire on the hearth : and they
had no domestic miseries, the worst miseries of all to contend
against, for they were a united family, loving and beloved ;
showing mutual acts of kindness and mutual acts of forbear-
ance ; proving how much better was " a dish of herbs where
love is, than the stalled ox with hatred therewith." Moreover
they were all piously disposed ; they were sensible that they
owed a large debt of gratitude to Heaven for all its daily
mercies in providing them with food and raiment, for warding
off from them sickness and sorrow, and giving them humble
and contented hearts ; and on this day, they felt how little
were all worldly considerations, compared with the hopes
which were held out to them through the great sacrifice
which the goodness and mercy of God had made for them
and all the world. It was, therefore, with cheerful yet
subdued looks that they greeted each other when they met
previous to the morning prayers.

Mr. Campbell had already visited his patient and readjusted
the bandage : her ankle was better, but still very much
swelled ; the poor creature made no complaints, she looked
grateful for what was done and for the kindness shown to her.
They were all arrayed in their best Sunday dresses, and as
soon as prayers were over had just wished each other the con-
gratulations so general, so appropriate, and yet too often so
thoughtlessly given upon the anniversary, when Malachi Bone,
his little squaw the Strawberry, and .John, entered the door of
the hut, laden with the sports of the forest, which they laid
down in the corner of the kitchen, and then saluted the party.

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" Here we are altogether on Christmas-day/' said Emma,
who had taken the hand of the Strawberry.

The Indian girl smiled, and nodded her head.

"And, John, you have brought us three wild turkeys; you
are a good boy, John," continued Emma.

" If we only had Captain Sinclair here now," said Martin
to Emma and Mary Percival, who was by Emma's side shaking
hands with the Strawberry.

Mary coloured up a little, and Emma replied, " Yes, Martin,
we do want him, for I always feel as if he belonged to the
family."

" Well, it's not his fault that he's not here," replied
Martin ; " it's now more than six weeks since he has left,
and if the Colonel would allow him, I'm sure that Captain
Sinclair "

"Would be here on this day," said Captain Sinclair, who
with Mr. Gwynne, his former companion, had entered the
door of the house without being observed ; for the rest of
the party were in conversation with Malachi Bone and
John.

" Oh, how glad I am to see you," cried Emma ; " we only
wanted you to make our Christmas party complete ; and I'm
very glad to see you too, Mr. Gwynne," continued Emma, as
she held out a hand to each.

" We had some difficulty in persuading the Colonel to
let us come," observed Captain Sinclair to Maiy ; " but
as we have heard nothing further about the Indians, he
consented."

" You have nothing more to fear from the Indians this
winter, Captain, and you may tell the Colonel so from me,"
said Malachi. " I happened to be on their hunting ground
yesterday, and they have broken up and gone westward, that
is, Angry Snake and his party have ; I followed their track
over the snow for a few miles just to make sure ; they have
taken everything with them, but somehow or other, I could
not find out that the squaw was with them, and they had
one in their party. They carried their own packs of fur, that
I'll swear to, and they had been thrown down several times;
which would not have been the case, if they had not been
carried by men ; for you see, the Injun is very impatient
under a load, which a squaw will carry the whole day without

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complaining. Now that party is gone, there is no other
about here within fifty miles, I'll be bound for."

" I'm very glad to hear you say so," replied Captain
Sinclair.

"Then, perhaps, this poor woman whom you succoured,
Alfred, is the squaw belonging to the party," observed Mr.
Campbell. Mr. Campbell then related to Malachi Bone what
had occurred on the day before ; how the hunting party had
brought home the woman, whom he pointed to in the corner
where she had remained unnoticed by the visitors.

Malachi and the Strawberry went up to her; the Straw-
berry spoke to her in the Indian tongue in a low voice, and
the woman replied in the same, while Malachi stood over
them and listened.

"It's just as you thought, sir; she belongs to the Angry
Snake, and she says that he has gone with his party to the
westward, as the beaver were very scarce down here ; I could
have told him that. She confirms my statement, that all
the Indians are gone, but are to meet at the same place in
the spring, to hold a council."

" Is she of the same tribe as the Strawberry ? " inquired
Henry.

" That's as may be," replied Malachi ; " I hardly know
which tribe the Strawberry belongs to."

" But they speak the same language."

" Yes ; but the Strawberry learned the tongue from me,"
replied Malachi.

" From you ! " said Mrs. Campbell ; " how was that ? "

" Why, ma'am, it's about thirteen or fourteen years back,
that I happened to come in upon a skirmish which took place
on one of the small lakes between one of the tribes here and
a war party of Hui'ons who were out. They were surprised
by the Hurons, and every soul, as far as I could learn, was
either scalped or carried away prisoner. The Hurons had
gone about an hour or two, when I came up to the place
where they fought, and I sat down looking at the dead bodies,
and thinking to myself what creatures men were to deface
God's image in that way, when I saw under a bush two little
sharp eyes looking at me ; at first, I thought it was some
beast, a lynx, mayhap, as they now call them, and I pointed
my rifle toward it ; but before I pulled the trigger, I thought

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that perhaps I might be mistaken, so I walked up to the
bush, and there I discovered that it was an Indian child,
which had escaped the massacre by hiding itself in the bush.
I pulled it out ; it was a girl about two years old, who could
speak but a few words. I took her home to my lodge, and
have had her with me ever since, so I don't exactly know
what tribe she belongs to, as they all speak the same tongue.
I called her the ' Strawberry/ because I found her under a
bush close to the ground, and among strawberry plants which
were growing there."

"And then you married her," said Percival.
" Married her ! no, boy, I never married her ; what has an
old man of near seventy to do with marrying ? They call her
my squaw, because they suppose she is my wife, and she does
the duty of a wife to me ; but if they were to call her my
daughter, they would be nearer the mark, for I have been a
father to her."

" Well, Malachi, to tell you the truth, I did think that she
was too young to be your wife," said Emma.

" Well, miss, you were not far wrong," replied the old man.
" I do wish I could find out her tribe, but I never have been
able, and indeed, from what I can learn, the party who were
surprised came a long way from this, although speaking the
same language ; and I don't think there is any chance now,
for even if I were to try to discover it, there have been
so many surprises and so much slaughter within these last
twenty years, that it's scarcely possible the search would be
attended with success."

" But why do you wish to find out her tribe ?" said Mary.
" Because I'm an old man, miss, and must soon expect to
be gathered to my fathers, and then this poor little girl will
be quite alone, unless I can marry her to some one before I
die : and if I do marry her, why then she will leave me alone ;
but that can't be helped, I'm an old man, and what ddes it
matter ? "

"It matters a great deal, Malachi," said Mr. Campbell;
" I wish you would live with us ; you would then be taken
care of if you required it, and not die alone in the wil-
derness."

" And the Strawberry shall never want friends or a home,
while we can offer her one, Malachi," said Mrs. Campbell ;

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" let what will happen to you, she will be welcome to live
here and die here, if she will remain."

Malachi made no reply ; he was in deep thought, resting
his chin upon his hands, which held his rifle before him.
Mrs. Campbell and the girls were obliged to leave to prepare
the dinner. John had sat down with the Strawberry and
the Indian woman, and was listening to them, for he now
understood the Chippeway tongue. Alfred, Sinclair, and the
other gentlemen of the party, were in conversation near the
fire, when they were requested by Mrs. Campbell to retreat
to the sitting-room, that the culinary operations might not be
interfered with. Malachi Bone still continued sitting where
he was, in deep thought. Martin, who remained, said to the
Miss Percivals in a low voice

" Well, I really did think that the old man had married
the girl, and I thought it was a pity," continued he, looking
toward the Strawberry, " for she is very young and very hand-
some for a squaw."

" I think," replied Mary Percival, "she would be considered
handsome everywhere, Martin, squaw or not; her features
are very pretty, and then she has a melancholy smile, which
is perfectly beautiful ; but now, Martin, pluck these turkeys,
or we shall not have them ready in time."

As soon as the dinner was at the fire, and could be left to
the care of Martin, Mrs. Campbell and the Misses Percival
went into the sitting-room. Mr. Campbell then read the
morning service of the day, Henry officiating as clerk in the
responses. Old Malachi had joined the party, and was pro-
foundly attentive. As soon as the service was over, he said

" All this puts me in mind of days long past, days which
appear to me as a dream, when I was a lad and had a father
and a mother, and brothers and sisters around me ; but many
summers and many winters have passed over my head since
then."

" You were born in Maine, Malachi, were you not ? "

" Yes, ma'am, half way up the White Mountains. He was
a stern old man, my father ; but he was a righteous man. I
remember how holy Sunday was kept in our family ; how my
mother cleaned us all, and put on our best clothes, and how
we went to the chapel or church, I forget which they called
it ; but no matter, we went to pray."

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"Was your father of the Established Church, Malachi?"

" I can't tell, ma'am ; indeed, I hardly know what it
means ; but he was a good Christian and a good man, that
I do know."

" You are right, Malachi ; when the population is crowded,
you find people divided into sects, and, what is still worse,
despising, if not hating each other, because the outward forms
of worship are a little different. Here, in our isolated position,
we feel how trifling are man)' of the distinctions which divide
religious communities, and that we could gladly give the right
hand of fellowship to any denomination of Christians who
hold the main truths of the Gospel. Are not all such agreed
in things essential, animated with the same hopes, acknow-
ledging the same rule of faith, and all comprehended in the
same divine mercy which was shown us on this day ? What
do all sincere Christians believe but that God is holy, great,
good, and merciful, that His Son died for us all, and that
through His merits and intercession if we conform to His
precepts whether members of the Church of England, or any
other communion we shall be saved and obtain the blessed-
ness of heaven ? We may prefer, and reasonably prefer, our
own mode of worship, believing it to be most edifying ; but
we have no right to quarrel with those who conscientiously
differ from us about outward forms and ceremonies which do
not involve the spirit of Christianity."

After a pause, Mary Percival said, " Malachi, tell us more
about your father and your family."

" I have little to tell, miss ; only that I now think that
those were pleasant days which then I thought irksome. My
father had a large farm and would have had us all remain
with him. In the winter we felled timber, and I took quite
a passion for a hunter's life ; but my father would not allow
me to go from home, so I stayed till he died, and then I went
away on my rambles. I left when I was not twenty years old,
and I have rtever seen my family since. I have been a hunter
and a trapper, a guide and a soldier, and an interpreter : but
for the last twenty-five years I have been away from towns
and cities, and have lived altogether in the woods. The more
man lives by himself the more he likes it, and yet now and
then circumstances bring up the days of his youth, and make
him hesitate whether it be best or not to live alone."

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" I am glad to hear you say that, Malachi," said Mr.
Campbell.

" I little thought that I should ever have said it," replied
the old man, " when I first saw that girl by the side of the
stream (looking at Emma), then my heart yearned toward
the boy ; and now this meeting to praise God and to keep
Christmas-day all has helped."

" But do you not pray when you are alone ? " said Mary.

" Yes, in a manner, miss ; but it's not like your prayers ;
the lips don't move, although the heart feels. When I lie
under a tree watching for the animals, and I take up a leaf
and examine it, I observe how curious and wonderful it is, I
then think that God made it, and that man could not. When
I see the young grass springing up, and how, I know not,
except that it does so every year, I think of God and His
mercy to the wild animals in giving them food ; and then the
sun reminds me of God ; and the moon, and the stars, as I
watch, make me think of Him ; but I feel very often that
there is something wanting, and that I do not worship exactly
as I ought to do. I never have known which is Sunday,
although I well recollect how holy it was kept at my father's
house ; and I never should have known that this was Christmas-
day, had it not been that I had met with you. All days are
alike to a man who is alone and in the wilderness, and that
should not be I feel that it should not."

"So true is it," observed Mr. Campbell, "that stated times



Online LibraryFrederick MarryatPoor Jack; and The settlers in Canada → online text (page 44 of 58)