Frederick Marryat.

Poor Jack; and The settlers in Canada online

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"That's what I would have said, Mary ; but we must go in,
and practise the new air for the guitar which Henry brought
us from Montreal. We promised him that we would. Here
comes Alfred to spend his idleness upon us."

" His idleness, Emma ; surely you don't mean that ; he's
seldom if ever unemployed."

" Some people are very busy about nothing/' replied

" Yes ; and some people say what they do not mean,
sister," replied Mary.

" Well, Alfred, here is Emma pronouncing you to be an
idle body."

" 1 am not likely to be that, at all events," replied Alfred,
taking off his hat and fanning himself. " My father proposes
to give me enough to do. What do you think he said to me
this morning before breakfast ? "

" I suppose he said that you might as well go to sea again
as remain here," replied Emma, laughing.

" No, indeed ; I wish he had ; but he has proposed that
your prophecy should be fulfilled, my malicious little cousin.
He has proposed my turning miller."

Emma clapped her hands and laughed.

" How do you mean ?" said Mary.

"Why, he pointed out to me that the mill would cost
about two hundred and fifty pounds, and that he thought as
my half-pay was unemployed, that it would be advisable that
I should expend it in erecting the mill, offering me the sum
necessary for the purpose. He would advance the money,
and I might repay him as I received my pay. That, he
said, would be a provision for me, and eventually an inde-

" I told you that you would be a miller," replied Emma,
laughing. " Poor Alfred ! "

"Well, what did you reply, Alfred ?" said Mary.

"\ said yes, I believe, because I did not like to say no."

" You did perfectly right, Alfred," replied Mary. " There



can be no harm in your having the property, and had you
refused it, it would have given pain to your father. If your
money is laid out on the mill, my uncle will have more to
expend upon the farm ; but still it does not follow that you
are to become a miller all your life."

"I should hope not," replied Alfred; "as soon as Emma
meets with that long black gentleman we were talking of,
I'll make it over to her as a marriage portion."

" Thank you, cousin," replied Emma, " I may put you in
mind of your promise ; but now Mary and I must go in
and astonish the soldiers with our music ; so good-bye, Mr.
Campbell, the miller."

The soldiers had now been at work for more than two
months, a large portion of the wood had been felled and
cleared away. With what had been cleared by Alfred and
Martin and Henry the year before, they had now more than
forty acres of corn land. The rails for the snake-fence had
also been split, and the fence was almost complete round the
whole of the prairie and cleared land, when it was time for
the grass to be cut down and the hay made and gathered up.
This had scarcely been finished when the corn was ready for
the sickle and gathered in ; a barn had been raised close to
the sheep-fold as well as the lodge for Malachi, Martin, and
his wife. For six weeks all was bustle and hard work, but
the weather was fine, a^d everything was got in safe. The
services of the soldiers were now no longer required, and Mr.
Campbell having settled his accounts, they returned to the

"Who would think," said Henry to Alfred, as he cast his
eyes over the buildings, the stacks of corn and hay, and the
prairie stocked with cattle, " that we had only been here so
short a time ? "

" Many hands make light work," replied Alfred ; " we
have done with the help from the fort what it would have
taken us six years to do with our own resources. My father's
money has been well laid out, and will bring in good

" You have heard of the proposal of Colonel Forster, about
the cattle at the fort ? "

" No ; what is it ? "

" He wrote to my father yesterday, saying, as he had only



the means of feeding the cows necessary for the officers of
the garrison, that he would sell all the oxen at present at the
fort at a very moderate price."

" But even if we have fodder enough for them during the
winter, what are we to do with them ? "

" Sell them again to the fort for the supply of the troops/'
replied Henry, "and thereby gain good profit. The com-
mandant says that it will be cheaper to government in the
end than being compelled to feed them."

"That it will, I have no doubt, now that they have nothing
to give them ; they trusted chiefly to our prairie for hay ; and
if they had not had such a quantity in store, they could not
have fed them last winter."

" My father will consent, I know ; indeed he would
be very foolish not to do so, for most of them will be
killed when the winter sets in, and will only cost us the

a We are fortunate in finding such friends as we have
done," replied Alfred. " All this assistance would not have
been given to perhaps any other settlers."

"No, certainly not; but you see, Alfred, we are indebted
to your influence with Captain Lumley for all these advan-
tages, at least my father and mother say so, and I agree with
them. Captain Lumley's influence with the Governor has
created all this interest about us."

" I think we must allow that the peculiar position of the
family has done much toward it. It is not often that they
meet with settlers of refined habits and cultivated minds,
and there naturally must be a feeling toward a family of
such a description in all generous minds."

"Very true, Alfred," replied Henry; "but there is our
mother waiting for us to go in to dinner."

"Yes; and the Strawberry by her side. What a nice
little creature she is !"

"Yes; and how quickly she is becoming useful. She has
almost given up her Indian customs, and is settling down
quietly into English habits. Martin appears very fond
of her."

" And so he ought to be," replied Henry ; " a wife with a
smile always upon her lips is a treasure. Come, let us
go in."


Another fortnight passed away, when an incident occurred
which created some uneasiness. Mr. Campbell was busy
with Martin and Alfred clearing out the store-room and
arranging the stores. Many of the cases and packages had
been opened to be examined and aired, and they were
busily employed, when, turning round, Mr. Campbell, to his
great surprise, beheld an Indian by his side, who was earnestly
contemplating the various packages of blankets, &c., and
cases of powder, shot, and other articles, which were opened
around him.

" Why, who is this ? " exclaimed Mr. Campbell, starting.

Martin and Alfred, who had their backs to him at the
time of Mr. Campbell's exclamation, turned round and beheld
the Indian. He was an elderly man, very tall and muscular,
dressed in leggings and deerskin coat, a war-eagle's feather,
fixed by a fillet, on his head, and a profusion of copper and
brass medals, and trinkets round his neck. His face was not
painted, with the exception of two black circles round his
eyes. His head was shaved, and one long scalp-lock hung
behind him. He had a tomahawk and a knife in his belt,
and a rifle upon his arm. Martin advanced to the Indian
and looked earnestly at him.

" I know his tribe," said Martin ; " but not his name ; but
he is a chief and a warrior."

Martin then spoke to him in the Indian tongue. The
Indian merely gave an " ugh " in reply.

" He does not choose to give his name," observed Martin ;
"and, therefore, he is here for no good. Mr. Alfred, just
fetch Malachi ; he will know him, I dare say."

Alfred went to the house for Malachi ; in the meantime
the Indian remained motionless, with his eyes fixed upon
different articles exposed to view.

" It's strange," observed Martin, " how he could have
come here ; but, to be sure, neither Malachi nor I have been
out lately."

Just as he had finished his remark, Alfred returned with
Malachi. Malachi looked at the Indian and spoke to

The Indian now replied in the Indian language.

" I knew him, sir," said Malachi, " the moment I saw his
back. He's after no good, and it's a thousand pities that he



has come just now and seen all this," continued Malachi ;
"it's a strong temptation."

"Why, who is he ?" said Mr. Campbell.

" The Angry Snake, sir," replied Malachi. " I had no
idea that he would be in these parts before the meeting of
the Indian council, which takes place in another month, and
then I meant to have been on the look-out for him."

" But what have we to fear from him ? "

"Well, that's to be proved; but this I can say, that he
has his eyes upon what appears to him of more value than all
the gold in the universe ; and he's anything but honest."

" But we have nothing to fear from one man," observed

" His party ain't far off, sir," said Malachi. " He has
some followers, although not many, and those who follow him
are as bad as himself. We must be on the watch."

Malachi now addressed the Indian for some time ; the
only reply was an " ugh."

" I have told him that all the powder and ball that he sees
are for our rifles, which are more than are possessed by his
whole tribe. Not that it does much good, but at all events
it's just as well to let him know that we shall be well pre-
pared. The crittur's quite amazed at so much ammunition ;
that's a fact. It's a pity he ever saw it."

"Shall we give him some?" said Mr. Campbell.

" No, no, sir ; he would only make use of it to try to get
the rest ; however, I believe that he is the only one of his
party who has a rifle. The best thing is to close the doors,
and then he will go."

They did as Malachi requested, and the Indian, after waiting
a short time, turned round on his heel, and walked away.

"He is a regular devil, that Angry Snake," observed
Malachi, as he watched him departing; "but nevermind, I'll
be a match for him. I wish he'd never seen all that ammuni-
tion, nevertheless."

" At all events, we had better not say a word in the house
about his making his appearance," said Mr. Campbell. " It
will only alarm the women, and do no good."

"That's true, sir. I'll only tell the Strawberry," said
Martin ; " she's an Indian, and it will put her on the look-



"That will be as well, but caution her not to mention it
to Mrs. Campbell or the girls, Martin."

" Never fear, sir," replied Malachi ; " I'll watch his motions,
nevertheless ; to-morrow I'll be in the woods and on his trail.
I'm glad that he saw me here, for he fears me ; I know that."

It so happened that the Indian was not seen by Mrs.
Campbell or any of them in the house, either upon his
arrival or departure ; and when Mr. Campbell and the others
returned to the house, they found that no one there had
any idea of such a visit having been paid. The secret was
kept, but it occasioned a great deal of anxiety for some days.
At last the alarm of Mr. Campbell gradually subsided.
Malachi had gone out with John, and had discovered that
all the Indians had come down near to them, to meet in
council, and that there were many other parties of them in
the woods. But although the visit of the Angry Snake might
have been partly accidental, still Malachi was convinced that
there was every prospect of his paying them another visit, if
he could obtain a sufficient number to join him, so that he
might obtain by force the articles he had seen and so much


I. CAMPBELL acceded to the offer made by the com-
mandant of the fort, and purchased of him, at a moderate
price, eighteen oxen, which were all that remained of the
stock at the fort, except the cows. He also took six
weaning calves to bring up. The cattle were now turned
into the bush to feed, that they might obtain some after-
grass from that portion of the prairie on which they had
been feeding. The summer passed quickly away, for they
all had plenty of employment. They fished every day in
the lake, and salted what they did not eat, for winter pro-
vision. Martin now was a great part of his time in the woods,
looking after the cattle, and Malachi occasionally accompanied
him, but was oftener out hunting with John, and always
returned with game. They brought in a good many bear-
skins, and sometimes the flesh, which, although approved of by
Malachi and Martin, was not much admired by the rest. As



soon as the after-grass had been gathered in, there was not so
much to do. Henry and Mr. Campbell, with Percival, were
quite sufficient to look after the stock, and as the leaves
began to change, the cattle were driven in from the woods,
and pastured on the prairie. Everything went on in order;
one day was the counterpart of another. Alfred and Hemy
threshed out the corn, in the shed, or rather open barn,
which had been put up by the soldiers in the sheep-fold, and
piled up the straw for winter-fodder for the cattle. The oats
and wheat were taken into the store-house. Martin's wife
could now understand English, and spoke it a little. She was
very useful, assisting Mrs. Campbell and her nieces in the
house, and attending the stock. They had brought up a
large number of chickens, and had disposed of a great many
to the Colonel and officers of the fort. Their pigs also had
multiplied exceedingly, and many had been put up to fatten,
ready to be killed and salted down. The time for that occu-
pation was now come, and they were very busy curing their
meat ; they had also put up a small shed for smoking their
bacon and hams. Already they were surrounded with com-
fort and plenty, and felt grateful to Heaven that they had
been so favoured.

The autumn had now advanced, and their routine of daily
duty was seldom interrupted ; now and then a visit was paid
them from the fort by one or other of the officers or the
commandant. The Indians had held their council, but the
English agent was present, and the supply of blankets and
other articles sent to the chiefs for distribution had the effect
of removing all animosity. It is true that the Angry Snake
and one or two more made very violent speeches, but they
were overruled. The calumet of peace had been presented
and smoked, and all danger appeared to be over from that
quarter. Malachi had gone to the council, and was well re-
ceived. He had been permitted to speak also as an English
agent, and his words were not without effect. Thus every-
thing wore the appearance of peace and prosperity, when an
event occurred which we shall now relate.

What is termed the Indian summer had commenced, dur-
ing which there is a kind of haze in the atmosphere. One
morning, a little before dawn, Mary and Emma, who hap-
pened to be up first, went out to milk the cows, when they



observed that the haze was much thicker than usual. They
had been expecting the equinoctial gales, which were very
late this year, and Mary observed that she foresaw they were
coming on, as the sky wore every appearance of wind ; yet
still there was but a light air, and hardly perceptible at the
time. In a moment after they had gone out, and were taking
up their pails, Strawberry came to them from her own lodge,
and they pointed to the gloom and haze in the air. She
turned round, as if to catch the wind, and snufied for a little
while ; at last she said, " Great fire in the woods." Alfred
and the others soon joined them, and having been rallied by
Emma at their being so late, they also observed the unusual
appearance of the sky. Martin corroborated the assertion of
the Strawberry, that there was fire in the woods. Malachi
and John had not returned that night from a hunting ex-
pedition, but shortly after daylight they made their appear-
ance ; they had seen the fire in the distance, and said that it
was to northward and eastward, and extended many miles ;
that they had been induced to leave the chase and come
home in consequence. During the remainder of the day,
there was little or no wind, but the gloom and smell of fire
increased rapidly. At night the breeze sprang up and soon
increased to a gale from the north-east, the direction in
which the fire had been seen. Malachi and Martin were up
several times in the night, for they knew that if the wind
continued in that quarter, without any rain, there would be
danger ; still the fire was at a great distance, but in the
morning the wind blew almost a hurricane, and before
twelve o'clock on the next day, the smoke was borne clown
upon them, and carried away in masses over the lake.

" Do you think there is any danger, Martin, from this
fire ?" said Alfred.

" Why, sir, that depends upon circumstances ; if the wind
were to blow from the quarter which it now does, as hard as
it does, for another twenty-four hours, we should have the
fire right down upon us."

" But still we have so much clear land between the forest
and us, that I should think the house would be safe."

" I don't know that, sir. You have never seen the woods
afire for miles as I have ; if you had, you would know what
it was. We have two chances : one is, that we may have

177 M


torrents of rain come down with the gale, and the other is,
that the wind may shift a point or two, which would be the
best chance for us of the two."

But the wind did not shift, and the rain did not descend,
and before the evening set in, the fire was within two miles
of them, and distant roaring rent the air ; the heat and
smoke became more oppressive, and the party were under
great alarm.

As the sun set the wind became even more violent, and
now the flames were distinctly to be seen, and the whole air
was filled wilh myriads of sparks. The fire bore down upon
them with resistless fury, and soon the atmosphere was so
oppressive, that they could scarcely breathe ; the cattle
galloped down to the lake, their tails in the air, and lowing
with fear. There they remained, knee-deep in the water,
and huddled together.

"Well, Malachi," said Mr. Campbell, "this is very awful.
What shall we do?"

" Trust in God, sir ; we can do nothing else," replied

The flames were now but a short distance from the edge of
the forest ; they threw themselves up into the air in high
columns ; then, borne down by the wind, burst through the
boughs of the forest, scorching here and there on the way the
trunks of the large trees ; while such a torrent of sparks and
ignited cinders was poured down upon the prairie, that, added
to the suffocating masses of smoke, it was impossible to remain
there any longer.

"You must all go down to the punt, and get on board,"
said Malachi. " There's not a moment for delay ; you will
be smothered if you remain here. Mr. Alfred, do you and
Martin pull out as far into the lake as is necessary for you to
be clear of the smoke and able to breathe. Quick, there
is no time to be lost, for the gale is rising faster than

There was, indeed, no time to be lost. Mr. Campbell took
his wife by the arm ; Henry led the girls, for the smoke was
so thick that they could not see the way. Percival and
Strawberry followed. Alfred and Martin had already gone
down to get the boat ready. In a few minutes they were in
the boat, and pushed off from the shore. The boat was



crowded, but, being flat-bottomed, she bore the load well.
They pulled out about half a mile into the lake, before they
found themselves in a less oppressive atmosphere. Not
a word was spoken until Martin and Alfred had stopped

"And old Malachi and John, where are they?" said Mrs.
Campbell, who, now that they were clear of the smoke,
discovered that these were not in the boat.

" Oh, never fear them, ma'am," replied Martin, " Malachi
stayed behind to see if he could be of use. He knows ho\y
to take care of himself, and of John too."

"This is an awful visitation," said Mrs. Campbell, after a
pause. " Look, the whole wood is now on fire, close down to
the clearing. The house must be burned, and we shall save

" It is the will of God, my dear wife ; and if we are to be
deprived of what little wealth we have, we must not murmur,
but submit with resignation. Let us thank Heaven that our
lives are preserved."

Another pause ensued ; at last the silence was broken by

" There is the cow-house on fire I see the flames bursting
from the roof."

Mrs. Campbell, whose hand was on that of her husband,
squeezed it in silence. It was the commencement of the
destruction of their whole property all their labours and
efforts had been thrown away. The winter was coming on,
and they would be houseless what would become of them !

All this passed in her mind, but she did not speak.

At this moment the flames of the fire rose up straight to
the sky. Martin perceived it, and jumped up on his feet.

"There is a lull in the wind," said Alfred.

" Yes," replied Martin, and continued holding up his hand,
" I felt a drop of rain. Yes, it's coming ; another quarter of
an hour and we may be safe."

Martin was correct in his observation ; the wind had lulled
for a moment, and he had felt the drops of rain. This pause
continued for about three or four minutes, during which the
cow-house burned furiously, but the ashes and sparks were
no longer hurled down on the prairie ; then suddenly the
wind shifted to the south-east, with such torrents of rain as



almost to blind them. So violent was the gust, that even
the punt careened to it ; but Alfred pulled its head round
smartly, and put it before the wind. The gale was now
equally strong from the quarter to which it had changed ; the
lake became agitated and covered with white foam, and
before the punt reached the shoi'e again, which it did in a
few minutes, the water washed over its two sides, and they
were in danger of swamping. Alfred directed them all to
sit still, and raising the blades of the oars up into the air, the
punt was dashed furiously through the waves, till it grounded
on the beach.

Martin and Alfred jumped out into the water and hauled
the punt further before they disembarked ; the rain still
poured down in torrents, and they were wet to the skin ; as
they landed, they were met by Malachi and John.

" It's all over, and all is safe ! " exclaimed Malachi, " it was
touch and go, that's sartin ; but all's safe, except the cow-
house, and that's easily put to rights again. You all had
better go home as fast as you can, and get to bed."

" Is all quite safe, do you think, Malachi ? " said Mr.

" Yes, sir, no fear now ; the fire hasn't passed the stream,
and even if it had, this rain would put it out, for we only
have the beginning of it ; but it was a near thing, that's

The party walked back to the house, and as soon as
they had entered, Mr. Campbell kneeled down and thanked
Heaven for their miraculous preservation. All joined heartily
in the prayer, and, after they had waited up a few minutes,
by which time they were satisfied that the flames were fast
extinguishing and they had nothing more to fear, they took
off their wet clothes, and retired to bed.

The next morning they rose early, for all were anxious to
ascertain the mischief which had been occasioned by the fire.
The cow-house, on the opposite side of the stream, was the
only part of the premises which had severely suffered ; the
walls were standing, but the roof was burned. On the side
of the stream where the house stood, the rails and many
portions of the buildings were actually charred, and, had it
not been for the providential change of the wind and the fall-
ing of the rain, must in a few minutes have been destroyed.



The prairie was covered with cinders, and the grass was burned
and withered. The forest on the other side of the stream,
to a great extent, was burned down ; some of the largest
trees still remained, throwing out their blackened arms,
now leafless and branchless, to the sky, but they were
never to throw forth a branch or leaf again. It was a
melancholy and desolate picture, and rendered still more
so by the heavy rain which still continued to pour down
without intermission.

As they were surveying the scene, Malachi and Martin
came to them.

" The stock are all right, sir," said Martin ; " I counted
them, and there is not one missing. There's no harm done
except to the cow-house ; on the contrary, the fire has proved
a good friend to us."

" How so, Martin ? " asked Mr. Campbell.

" Because it has cleared many acres of ground, and saved
us much labour. All on the other side of the stream is now
cleared away, and next spring we will have corn between

Online LibraryFrederick MarryatPoor Jack; and The settlers in Canada → online text (page 48 of 58)