Frederick Marryat.

Poor Jack; and The settlers in Canada online

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the stumps ; and in autumn, after we have gathered in the
harvest, we will cut down and burn the trees which are now
standing. It has done a deal of good to the prairie also, we
shall have fine herbage there next spring."

" We have to thank Heaven for its mercy," said Mr. Camp-
bell ; "at one time yesterday evening I thought we were
about to be rendered destitute indeed, but it has pleased
God that it should be otherwise."

"Yes, sir," observed Malachi ; " what threatened your ruin
has turned out to your advantage. Next year you will see
everything green and fresh as before ; and, as Martin says,
you have to thank the fire for clearing away more land for
you than a whole regiment of soldiers could have done in
two or three years."

"But we must work hard and get in the corn next spring,
for otherwise the brushwood will grow up so fast, as to be-
come a forest again in a few years."

"I never thought of inquiring," said Mary, "how it was
that the forest could have taken fire."

" Why, miss," replied Malachi, " in the autumn, when
everything is as dry as tinder, nothing is more easy. The
Indians light their fire, and do not take the trouble to put it



out, and that is generally the cause of it ; but then it requires
wind to help it."

The danger that they had escaped made a serious impres-
sion on the whole party, and the following day, being Sunday,
Mr. Campbell did not forget to offer up a prayer of thankful-
ness for their preservation.

The roof of the cow-house was soon repaired by Alfred
and Martin, and the Indian summer passed away without any
further adventure.

The day after the fire a despatch arrived from the fort to
ascertain their welfare, and the Colonel and officers were
greatly rejoiced to learn that comparatively so little damage
had been done, for they expected to find that the family had
been burned out, and had made arrangements at the fort to
receive them.

Gradually the weather became cold and the fires were
lighted, and a month after the evil we have described the
winter again set in.


vyNCE more was the ground covered with snow to the depth
of three feet. The cattle were littered down inside the
enclosure of palisades round the cow-house ; the sheep were
driven into the enclosed sheep-fold, and the horses were put
into a portion of the barn in the sheep-fold which had been
parted off for them. All was made secure, and every pre-
paration was made for the long winter. Although there had
been a fall of snow, the severe frost had not yet come on.
It did, however, in about a fortnight afterward, and then,
according to the wishes of the Colonel, six oxen were killed
for the use of the fort, and taken there by the horses on a
sledge ; this was the last task that they had to fulfil, and
then Alfred bade adieu to the officers of the fort, as they did
not expect to meet again till the winter was over. Having
experienced one winter, they were more fully prepared for
the second ; and as Malachi, the Strawberry, and John were
now regular inmates of the house, for they did not keep a
separate table, there was a greater feeling of security, and



the monotony and dreariness were not so great as in the pre-
ceding winter : moreover, everything was now in its place,
and they had more to attend to, two circumstances which
greatly contributed to relieve the ennui arising from continual
confinement. The hunting parties went out as usual ; only
Henry, and occasionally Alfred, remained at home to attend
to the stock, and to perform other offices which the increase
of their establishment required. The new books brought by
Henry from Montreal, and which by common consent had
been laid aside for the winter's evenings, were now a great
source of amusement, as Mr. Campbell read aloud a portion
of them every evening. Time passed away quickly, as it
always does when there is a regular routine of duties and
employment, and Christmas came before they were aware of
its approach.

It was a great comfort to Mrs. Campbell that she now
always had John at home, except when he was out hunting,
and on that score she had long dismissed all anxiety, as she
had full confidence in Malachi ; but latterly Malachi and
John seldom went out alone ; indeed, the old man appeared
to like being in company, and his misanthropy had wholly
disappeared. He now invariably spent his evenings with the
family assembled round the kitchen fire, and had become
much more fond of hearing his own voice. John did not so
much admire these evening parties. He cared nothing for
new books, or indeed any books. He would amuse himself
making moccasins, or w r orking porcupine quills with the
Strawberry at one corner of the fire, and the others might
talk or read, it was all the same, John never said a word or
appeared to pay the least attention to what was said. His
father occasionally tried to make him learn something, but it
was useless. He would remain for hours with his book before
him, but his mind was elsewhere. Mr. Campbell, therefore,
gave up the attempt for the present, indulging the hope that
when John was older, he would be more aware of the advan-
tages of education, and would become more attentive. At
present, it was only inflicting pain on the boy without any
advantage being gained. But John did not always sit by the
kitchen fire. The wolves were much more numerous than in
the preceding winter, having been attracted by the sheep
which were within the palisade, and every night the howling



was incessant. The howl of a wolf was sufficient to make
John seize his rifle and leave the house, and he would remain
in the snow for hours till one came sufficiently near for him
to fire, and he had already killed several when a circumstance
occurred which was the cause of great uneasiness.

John was out one evening as usual, crouched down within
the palisades, and watching for the \volves. It was. a bright
starry night, but there was no moon, when he perceived one
of the animals, crawling along almost on its belly, close to
the door of the palisade which surrounded the house. This
surprised him, as, generally speaking, the animals prowled
round the palisade which encircled the sheep-fold, or else
close to the pig-sties which were at the opposite side from
the entrance door. John levelled his rifle and fired, when, to
his astonishment, the wolf appeared to spring up in the air
on his hind legs, then fall down and roll away. The key of
the palisade door was always kept within, and John deter-
mined to go in and fetch it, that he might ascertain whether
he had killed the animal or not. When he entered, Malachi
said, " Did you kill, my boy ? "

" Don't know," replied John ; " come for the key to see."

" I don't like the gate being opened at night, John," said
Mr. Campbell ; " why don't you leave it, as you usually do,
till to-morrow morning ; that will be time enough ? "

" I don't know if it was a wolf," replied John.

"What, then, boy, tell me ?" said Malachi.

" Well, I think it was an Indian," replied John ; who then
explained what had passed.

"Well, I shouldn't wonder," replied Malachi; "at all
events the gate must not be opened to-night, for if it was
an Indian you fired at, there is more than one of them ; we'll
keep all fast, John, and see what it was to-morrow."

Mrs. Campbell and the girls were much alarmed at this
event, and it was with difficulty that they were persuaded to
retire to rest.

" We will keep watch to-night at all events," said Malachi,
as soon as Mrs. Campbell and her nieces had left the room.
"The boy is right, I have no doubt. It is the Angry Snake
and his party who are prowling about, but if the boy has
hit the Indian, which I have no doubt of, they will make
off; however, it will be just as well to be on our guard,



nevertheless. Martin can watch here and I will watch
in the fold."

We have before observed that the lodge of Malachi,
Martin, and his wife, was built within the palisade of the
sheep-fold, and that there was a passage from the palisade
round the house to that which surrounded the sheep-fold,
which passage had also a palisade on each side of it.

"I will watch here," said Alfred; "let Martin go home
with you and his wife."

" I will watch with you," said John.

" Well, perhaps that will be better," said Malachi ; " two
rifles are better than one, and if any assistance is required,
there will be one to send for it."

" But what do you think they would do, Malachi ? " said
Mr. Campbell ; "they cannot climb the palisades."

" Not well, sir, nor do I think they would attempt it unless
they had a large force, which I am sure they have not ; no,
sir, they would rather endeavour to set fire to the house if
they could, but that's not so easy ; one thing is certain, that
the Snake will try all he can to get possession of what he
saw in your storehouse."

" That I do not doubt," said Alfred ; " but he will not find
it so easy a matter."

"They've been reconnoitring, sir, that's the truth of it,
and if John has helped one of them to a bit of lead, it will do
good ; for it will prove that we are on the alert, and make
them careful how they come near the house again."

After a few minutes' more conversation, Mr. Campbell,
Henry, and Percival retired, leaving the others to watch.
Alfred walked home with Malachi and his party to see if all
was right at the sheep-fold, and then returned.

The night passed without any further disturbance except
the howling of the wolves, to which they were accustomed.

The next morning, at daybreak, Malachi and Martin came
to the house, and, with John and Alfred, they opened the
palisade gate, and went out to survey the spot where John
had fired.

" Yes, sir," said Malachi ; " it was an Indian, no doubt of
it ; here are the dents made in the snow by his knees as he
crawled along, and John has hit him, for here is the blood.
Let's follow the trail. See, sir, he has been hard hit ; there



is more blood this way as we go on. Ha!" continued
Malachi, as he passed by a mound of snow, "here's the wolf-
skin he was covered up with ; then lie is dead or thereabouts,
and they have carried him off, for he never would have parted
with his skin, if he had had his senses about him."

" Yes," observed Martin, " his wound was mortal, that's

They pursued the track till they arrived at the foi'est, and
then, satisfied by the marks on the snow that the wounded
man had been carried away, they returned to the house, when
they found the rest of the family dressed and in the kitchen.
Alfred showed them the skin of the wolf, and informed them
of what they had discovered.

" I am grieved that blood has been shed," observed Mrs.
Campbell ; " I wish it had not happened. I have heard that
the Indians never forgive on such occasions."

" Why, ma'am, they are very revengeful, that's certain,
but still they won't like to risk too much. This has been a
lesson to them. I only wish it had been the Angry Snake
himself who was settled, as then we should have no more
trouble or anxiety about them."

" Perhaps it may be," said Alfred.

" No, sir, that's not likely ; it's one of his young men ; I
know the Indian customs well."

It was some time before the alarm occasioned by this event
subsided in the mind of Mrs. Campbell and her nieces ; Mr.
Campbell also thought much about it, and betrayed occasional
anxiety. The parties went out hunting as before, but those
at home now felt anxious till their return from the chase.
Time, however, and not hearing anything more of the
Indians, gradually revived their courage, ?.nd before the
winter was half over they thought little about it. Indeed,
it had been ascertained by Malachi from another band of
Indians which Le fell in with near a small lake where they
were trapping beaver, that the Angry Snake was not in that
part of the country, but had gone with his band to the west-
ward at the commencement of the new year. This satisfied
them that the enemy had left immediately after the attempt
which he had made to reconnoitre the premises.

The hunting parties, therefore, as we said, continued as
before ; indeed, they were necessary for the supply of so



many mouths. Percival, who had grown very much since his
residence in Canada, was very anxious to be permitted to join
them, which he never had been during the former winter.
This was very natural. He saw his younger brother go out
almost daily, and seldom return without having been success-
ful ; indeed, John was, next to Malachi, the best shot of the
party. It was, therefore, very annoying to Percival that he
should always be detained at home doing all the drudgeiy of
the house, such as feeding the pigs, cleaning knives, and
other menial work, while his younger brother was doing the
duty of a man. To Percival's repeated entreaties, objections
were constantly raised by his mother : they could not spare
him, he was not accustomed to walk in snow-shoes. Mr.
Campbell observed that Percival became dissatisfied and
unhappy, and Alfred took his part and pleaded for him.
Alfred observed very truly, that the Strawberry could occa-
sionally do Percival's work, and that if it could be avoided,
he should not be cooped up at home in the way that he was ;
and, Mr. Campbell agreeing with Alfred, Mrs. Campbell very
reluctantly gave her consent to his occasionally going out.

"Why, aunt, have you such an objection to Percival going
out with the hunters ? " said Mary. " It must be very trying
to him to be always detained at home."

" I feel the truth of what you say, my dear Mary," said
Mrs. Campbell, "and I assure you it is not out of selfishness,
or because we shall have more work to do, that I wish him
to remain with us ; but I have an instinctive dread that
some accident will happen to him, which I cannot overcome,
and there is no arguing with a mother's fears and a mother's

" You were quite as uneasy, my dear aunt, when John first
went out ; you were continually in alarm about him, but now
you are perfectly at ease," replied Emma.

" Very true," said Mrs. Campbell ; " it is, perhaps, a weak-
ness on my part which I ought to get over ; but we are all
liable to such feelings. I trust in God there is no real cause
for apprehension, and that my reluctance is a mere weakness
and folly. But I see the poor boy has long pined at being
kept at home ; for nothing is more irksome to a high-couraged
and spirited boy as he is. I have, therefore, given my
consent, because I think it is my duty ; still the feeling



remains; so let us say no more about it, my dear girls, for
the subject is painful to me."

" My dear aunt, did you not say that you would talk to
Strawberry on the subject of religion, and try if you could
not persuade her to become a Christian ? She is very serious
at prayers, I observe ; and appears, now that she understands
English, to be very attentive to what is said."

" Yes, my dear Emma, it is my intention so to do very
soon, but I do not like to be in too great a hurry. A mere
conforming to the usages of our religion would be of little
avail, and I fear that too many of our good missionaries, in
their anxiety to make converts, do not sufficiently consider
this point. Religion must proceed from conviction, and be
seated in the heart; the heart, indeed, must be changed,
not mere outward forms attended to."

"What is the religion of the Indians, my dear aunt?"
said Mary.

" One which makes conversion the more difficult. It is in
many respects so near what is right, that Indians do not
easily perceive the necessity of change. They believe in
one God, the fountain of all good ; they believe in a future
state and in future rewards and punishments. You perceive
they have the same foundation as we have, although they
know not Christ, and, having very incomplete notions of
duty, have a very insufficient sense of their manifold trans-
gressions and offences in God's sight, and consequently have
no idea of the necessity of a mediator. Now it is, perhaps,
easier to convince those who are entirely wrong, such as
worship idols and false gods, than those who approach so
nearly to the truth. But I have had many hours of reflec-
tion upon the proper course to pursue, and I do intend to
have some conversation with her on the subject in a very
short time. I have delayed because I consider it absolutely
necessary that she should be perfectly aware of what I say,
before I try to alter her belief. Now the Indian language,
although quite sufficient for Indian wants, is poor, and has
not the same copiousness as ours, because they do not require
the words to explain what we term abstract ideas. It is,
therefore, impossible to explain the mysteries of our holy
religion to one who does not well understand our language.
I think, however, that the Strawberry now begins to com-



prebend sufficiently for me to make the first attempt. I say
first attempt, because I have no idea of making a convert in a
week, or a month, or even in six months. All I can do is to
exert my best abilities, and then trust to God, who, in His
own good time, will enlighten her mind to receive His truth."
The next day the hunting party went out, and Percival,
to his great delight, was permitted to accompany it. As
they had a long way to go, for they had selected the hunting
ground, they set off early in the morning, before daylight,
Mr. Campbell having particularly requested that they would
not return home late.


JL HE party had proceeded many miles before they arrived
at the spot where Malachi thought that they would fall in
with some venison, which was the principal game that they
sought. It was not till near ten o'clock in the morning that
they stood on the ground which had been selected for the
sport. It was an open part of the forest, and the snow lay
in large drifts, but here and there on the hill-sides the grass
was nearly bare, and the deer were able, by scraping with
their feet, to obtain some food. They were all pretty well
close together when they arrived. Percival and Henry were
about a quarter of a mile behind, for Percival was not used
to the snow-shoes, and did not get on so well as the others.
Malachi and the rest with him halted, that Henry and
Percival might come up with them, and then, after they had
recovered their breath a little, he said

" Now, you see there's a fine lot of deer here, Master
Percival, but as you know nothing about woodcraft, and may
put us all out, observe what I say to you. The animals are
not only cute of hearing and seeing, but they are more cute
of smell, and they can scent a man a mile off if the wind
blows down to them ; so you see it would be useless to
attempt to get near to them if we do not get to the lee side
of them without noise and without being seen. Now, the
wind has been from the eastward, and as we are to the
southward, we must get round by the woods to the westward,



before we go upon the open ground, and then, Master
Percival, you must do as we do, and keep behind, to watch
our motions. If we come to a swell in the land, you must
not .run up, or even walk up, as you might show yourself;
the deer might be on the other side, within twenty yards of
you ; but you must hide yourself, as you will see that we
shall do, and when we have found them, I \vill put you in a
place where you shall have your shot as well as we. Do you
understand, Master Percival ? "

" Yes, I do, and I shall stop behind, and do as you
tell me."

" Well then, now, we will go back into the thick of the
forest till we go to the leeward, and then we shall see
whether you will make a hunter or not."

The whole party did as Malachi directed, and for more
than an hour they walked through the wood, among the
thickest of the trees, that they might not be seen by the
animals. *At last they arrived at the spot which Malachi
desired, and then they changed their course eastward toward
the more open ground, where they expected to find the deer.

As they entered upon the open ground, they moved forward
crouched to the ground, Malachi and Martin in the advance.
When in the hollows, they all collected together, but on
ascending a swell of the land, it was either Malachi or Martin
who first crept up, and, looking over the summit, gave notice
to the others to come forward. This was continually repeated
for three or four miles, when Martin having raised his head
just above a swell, made a signal to those who were below
that the deer were in sight. After a moment or two recon-
noitring, he went down and informed them that there were
twelve or thirteen head of deer scraping up the snow about
one hundred yards ahead of them upon another swell of the
land ; but that they appeared to be alarmed and anxious, as
if they had an idea of danger being near.

Malachi then again crawled up to make his observations,
and returned.

" It is sartin," said he, " that they are flurried about some-
thing ; they appear just as if they had been hunted, and yet
that is not likely. We must wait and let them settle a little,
and find out whether any other parties have been hunting



They waited about ten minutes, till the animals appeared
more settled, and then, by altering their position behind the
swell, gained about twenty-five yards of distance. Malachi
told each party which animal to aim at, and they fired nearly
simultaneously. Three of the beasts fell, two others were
wounded, the rest of the herd bounded off' like the wind.
They all rose from behind the swell, and ran forward to their
prey. Alfred had fired at a fine buck which stood apart from
the rest, and somewhat further off; it was evitlent that the
animal was badly wounded, and Alfred had marked the
thicket into which it had floundered ; but the other deer
which was wounded was evidently slightly hurt, and there
was little chance of obtaining it, as it bounded away after
the rest of the herd. They all ran up to where the animals
lay dead, and as soon as they had reloaded their rifles, Alfred
and Martin went on the track of the one that was badly
wounded. They had forced their way through the thicket
for some fifty yards, guided by the track of the animal, when
they started back at the loud growl of some beast. Alfred,
who was in advance, perceived that a puma (catamount, or
painter, as it is usually termed) had taken possession of the
deer, and was lying over the carcass. He levelled his rifle
and fired ; the beast, although badly wounded, immediately
sprang at him and seized him by the shoulder. Alfred was
sinking under the animal's weight and from the pain he was
suffering, when Martin came to his rescue, and put his rifle
ball through the head of the beast, which fell dead.

"Are you much hurt, sir?" said Martin.

"No, not much," replied Alfred; "at least I think not,
but my shoulder is badly torn, and I bleed freely."

Malachi and the others now came up, and perceived what
had taken place. Alfred had sunk down and was sitting on
the ground by the side of the dead animals.

"A painter!" exclaimed Malachi; "well, I didn't think
we should see one so far west. Are you hurt, Mr. Alfred ?"

" Yes, a little," replied Alfred faintly.

Malachi and Martin, without saying another word, stripped
off Alfred's hunting coat, and then discovered that he had
received a very bad wound in the shoulder from the teeth of
the beast, and that his side was also torn by the animal's



"John, run for some water/' said Malachi ; "you are
certain to find some in the hollow."

John and Percival both hastened in search of water, while
Malachi and Martin and Henry tore Alfred's shirt into strips
and bound up the wounds, so as to stop in a great measure
the flow of blood. As soon as this was done and he had
drunk the water brought to him in John's hat, Alfred felt

" I will sit 'down for a little longer," said he, "and then we
will get home as fast as we can. Martin, look after the game,
and when you are ready I will get up. What a tremendous
heavy brute that was ; I could not have stood against him for
a minute longer, and I had no hunting-knife."

"It's a terrible beast, sir," replied Malachi. "I don't
know that I ever saw one larger; they are more than a
match for one man, sir, and never should be attempted
single-handed, for they are so hard to kill."

Online LibraryFrederick MarryatPoor Jack; and The settlers in Canada → online text (page 49 of 58)