Frederick Marryat.

Poor Jack; and The settlers in Canada online

. (page 51 of 58)
Online LibraryFrederick MarryatPoor Jack; and The settlers in Canada → online text (page 51 of 58)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

half-pay ; in fact, so many chances are there which are hidden
from us and come upon us so unexpectedly, that it is im-
possible to say what may take place. And if, after waiting
patiently for some time, none of these chances do turn up,
you have yet another in your favour."

" And what is that, Mary ? "

" That, perhaps, I may be tired of waiting myself," replied
Mary, with a smile.

" Upon that chance, then, I will live in hope," replied
Captain Sinclair ; " if you will only reward me when you con-
sider that my faithful service demands it, I will serve as long
as Jacob did for Rachel."

" Do so, and you shall not be deceived at the end of your
services, as he was," replied Mary; "but now let us return
to the house."

Captain Sinclair departed the day afterward, quite satisfied
with Mary's resolution.




Henry had predicted, during the autumn the whole
family were fully employed. The stock had increased very
much, they had a large number of young calves and heifers,
and the sheep had lambed down very favourably. Many of
the 'stock were now turned into the bush, to save the feed
on the prairies. The sheep with their lambs, the cows which
were in milk, and the young calves only were retained. This
gave them more leisure to attend to the corn harvest, which
was now ready, and it required all their united exertions from
daylight to sunset to get it in, for they had a very large
quantity of ground to clear. It was, however, got in very
successfully, and all stacked in good order. Then came the
thrashing of the wheat, which gave them ample employment ;
and as soon as it could be thrashed out, it was taken to the
mill in a waggon, and ground down, for Mr. Campbell had
engaged to supply a certain quantity of flour to the fort
before the winter set in. They occasionally received a visit
from Captain Sinclair and the Colonel, and some other officers,
for now they had gradually become intimate with many of
them. Captain Sinclair had confided to the Colonel his
engagement to Mary Percival, and in consequence the Colonel
allowed him to visit at the farm as often as he could, con-
sistently with his duty. The other officers who came to see
them, perceiving how much Captain Sinclair engrossed the
company of Mary Percival, were very assiduous in their
attentions to Emma, who laughed with and at them, and
generally contrived to give them something to do for her
during their visit, as well as to render their attentions
serviceable to the household. On condition that Emma
accompanied them, they were content to go into the punt
and fish for hours ; and indeed, all the lake-fish which were
caught this j^ear were taken by the officers. There were
several very pleasant young men among them, and they were
always well received, as they added very much to the society
at the farm.



Before the winter set in the flour was all ready and sent
to the fort, as were the cattle which the Colonel requested,
and it was very evident that the Colonel was right when he
said that the arrangement would be advantageous to both
parties. Mr. Campbell, instead of drawing money to pay,
this year for the first time received a bill on the government
to a considerable amount for the flour and cattle furnished to
the troops ; and Mrs. Campbell's account for fowls, pork, &c.,
furnished to the garrison, was by no means to be despised.
Thus, by the kindness of others, his own exertions, and a
judicious employment of his small capital, Mr. Campbell
promised to be in a few years a wealthy and independent
man. As soon as the harvest was in, Malachi and John, who
were of no use in thrashing out the corn, renewed their
hunting expeditions, and seldom returned without venison.
The Indians had not been seen by Malachi during his excur-
sions, nor any trace of their having been in the neighbour-
hood ; all alarm, therefore, on that account was now over,
and the family prepared to meet the coming winter with all
the additional precautions which the foregoing had advised
them of. But during the Indian summer they received
letters from England, detailing, as usual, the news relative to
friends with whom they had been intimate ; also one from
Quebec, informing Mr. Campbell that his application for the
extra grant of land was consented to ; and another from
Montreal, from Mr. Emmerson, stating that he had offered
terms to two families of settlers who bore very good char-
acters, and if they were accepted by Mr. Campbell, the
parties would join them at the commencement of the ensuing

This was highly gratifying to Mr. Campbell, and as the
terms were, with a slight variation, such as he had proposed,
he immediately wrote to Mr. Emmerson, agreeing to terms,
and requesting that the bargain might be concluded. At
the same time that the Colonel forwarded the above letters,
he wrote to Mr. Campbell to say that the interior of the fort
required a large quantity of plank for repairs, that he was
authorised to take them from Mr. Campbell, at a certain
price, if he could afford to supply them on these terms, and
have them ready by the following spring. This was another
act of kindness on the part of the Colonel, as it would now



give employment to the saw-mill for the winter, and it was
during the winter, and at the time that the snow was on
the ground, that they could easily drag the timber after it
was felled to the saw-mill. Mr. Campbell wrote an answer,
thanking the Colonel for his offer, which he accepted, and
promised to have the planks ready by the time the lake was
again open.

At last the winter set in with its usual fall of snow.
Captain Sinclair took his leave for a long time, much to the
sorrow of all the family, who were warmly attached to him.
It was arranged that the only parties who were to go on the
hunting excursions should be Malachi and John, as Henry
had ample employment in the barns ; and Martin and Alfred,
in felling timber, and dragging up the stems to the saw-mill,
would, with attending to the mill as well, have their whole
time taken up. Such were the arrangements out of doors,
and now that they had lost the services of poor Percival, and
the duties to attend to in doors were so much increased, Mrs.
Campbell and the girls were obliged to call in the assistance
of Mr. Campbell whenever he could be spared from the
garden, which was his usual occupation. Thus glided on the
third winter in quiet and security ; but in full employment,
and with so much to do and attend to, that it passed very

It was in the month of February, when the snow was very
heavy on the ground, that one day Malachi went up to the
mill to Alfred, whom he found alone attending the saws,
which were in full activity ; for Martin was squaring out the
timber ready to be sawed at about one hundred yards'

" I am glad to find you alone, sir," said Malachi, " for I
have something of importance to tell you of, and I do not
like at present that anybody else should know anything
about it."

" What is it, Malachi ? " inquired Alfred.

"Why, sir, when I was out hunting yesterday, I went
round to a spot where I had left a couple of deer-hides last
week, that I might bring them home, and I found a letter
stuck to them with a couple of thorns."

" A letter, Malachi ! "

"Yes, sir, an Indian letter. Here it is." Malachi then


produced a piece of birch bark, of which the underneath
drawing is a facsimile.

"Well," said Alfred, "it may be a letter, but I confess it
is all Greek to me. I certainly do not see why you wish to
keep it a secret. Tell me."

" Well, sir, I could not read one of your letters half so well
as I can this; and it contains news of the greatest import-
ance, It's the Indian way of writing, and I know also whom

it comes from. A good action is never lost, they say, and I
am glad to find that there is some gratitude in an Indian."

" You make me very impatient, Malachi, to know what it
means ; tell me from whom do you think the letter comes ? "

" Why, sir, do you see this mark here ? " said Malachi,
pointing to one of the lowest down on the piece of bark.

" Yes ; it is a foot, is it not ? "

" Exactly, sir ; now, do you know whom it comes from ? "

"I can't say I do."

"Do you remember two winters back our picking up the



Indian woman, and carrying her to the house, and your
father curing her sprained ankle ? "

" Certainly ; is it from her ? "

" Yes, sir ; and you recollect she said that she belonged to
the band which followed the Angry Snake."

" I remember it very well ; but now, Malachi, read me the
letter at once, for I am very impatient to know what she can
have to say."

" I will, Mr. Alfred ; now, sir, there is the sun more than
half up, which with them points out it is the setting and not the
rising sun ; the setting sun therefore means to the westward."

"Very good, that is plain, I think."

"There are twelve wigwams, that is, twelve days' journey
for a warrior, which the Indians reckon at about fifteen miles
a day. How much does fifteen times twelve make, sir?"

"One hundred and eighty, Malachi."

" Well, sir, then that is to say that it is one hundred and
eighty miles off, or thereabouts. Now the first figure is a
chief, for it has an eagle's feather on the head of it, and the
snake before it is his totem, ' the Angry Snake,' and the other
six are the number of the band ; and you observe, that the
chief and the first figure of the six have a gun in their hands,
which is to inform us that they have only two rifles among

" Very true ; but what is that little figure following the
chief with his arms behind him ? "

" There is the whole mystery of the letter, sir, without
which it were worth nothing. You perceive that little figure
has a pair of snow-shoes over it."

" Yes, I do."

" Well, that little figure is your brother Percival, whom
we supposed to be dead."

" Merciful heavens ! is it possible ? " exclaimed Alfred ;
" then he is alive ? "

" There is no doubt of it, sir," replied Malachi ; " and now
I will put the whole letter together. Your brother Percival
has been carried off by the Angry Snake and his band, and
has been taken to some place one hundred and eighty miles
to the westward, and this information comes from the Indian
woman who belongs to the band, and whose life was pre-
served by your kindness. I don't think, Mr. Alfred, that



any white person could have written a letter more plain and
more to the purpose."

" I agree with you, Malachi ; but the news has so over-
powered me, I am so agitated with joy and anxiety of mind,
that I hardly know what to say. Percival alive ! we'll have
him, if we have to go one thousand miles and beat two
thousand Indians. Oh, how happy it will make my mother !
But what are we to do, Malachi ? tell me, I beseech you."

" We must do nothing, sir," replied Malachi.

" Nothing, Malachi !" replied Alfred with surprise.

" No, sir ; nothing at present, at all events. We have the
information that the boy is alive, at least it is presumed so ;
but of course the Indians do not know that we have received
such information ; if they did, the woman would be killed
immediately. Now, sir, the first question we must ask our-
selves is, why they have carried off the boy ; for it would be
no use carrying off a little boy in that manner without some

" It is the very question that I was going to put to you,

"Then, sir, I'll answer it to the best of my knowledge
and belief. It is this : the Angry Snake came to the settle-
ment, and saw our stores of powder and shot, and everything
else. He would have attacked us last winter if he had found
an opportunity and a chance of success. One of his band
was killed, which taught him that we were on the watch,
and he failed in that attempt : he managed, however, to
pick up the boy when he was lagging behind us, at the time
you were wounded by the painter, and carried him off, and
he intends to drive a bargain for his being restored to us.
That is my conviction."

" I have no doubt but that you are right, Malachi," said
Alfred, after a pause. "Well, we must make a virtue of
necessity, and give him what he asks."

" Not so, sir ; if we did, it would encourage him to steal

" What must we do then ? **

" Punish him, if we can ; at all events, we must wait at
present, and do nothing. Depend upon it we shall have
some communication made to us through him that the boy
is in their possession, and will be restored upon certain con-

209 o


ditions probably this spring. It will then be time to con-
sider what is to be done."

"I believe you are right, Malachi."

" I hope to circumvent him yet, sir," replied Malachi ;
" but we shall see."

" Well ; but, Malachi, are we to let this be known to any-
body, or keep it a secret ? "

" Well, sir, I've thought of that ; we must only let Martin
and Strawberry into the secret ; and I would tell them,
because they are almost Indians, as it were ; they may have
some one coming to them, and there's no fear of their telling.
Martin knows better, and as for the Strawberry, she is as
safe as if she didn't know it."

" I believe you are right ; and still what delight it would
give my father and mother ! "

" Yes, sir, and all the family too, I have no doubt, for the
first hour or two after you had told them ; but what pain it
would give them for months afterward. ' Hope deferred
maketh the heart sick,' as my father used to read out of the
Bible, and that's the truth, sir. Only consider how your
father, and particularly your mother, would fret and pine
during the whole time, and what a state of anxiety they
would be in ; they would not eat or sleep. No, no, sir ; it
would be a cruelty to tell them, and it must not be. No-
thing can be done till the spring, at all events, and we must
wait till the messenger comes to us."

" You are right, Malachi ; then do as you say, make the
communication to Martin and his wife, and I will keep the
secret as faithfully as they will."

" It's a great point oar knowing whereabouts the boy is,"
observed Malachi ; " for if it is necessary to make a party to
go for him, we know what direction to go in. And it is also
a great point to know the strength of the enemy, as now we
shall know what force we must take with us in case it is
necessary to recover the lad by force or stratagem. All this
we gained from the letter, and shall not learn from any
messenger sent to us by the Angry Snake, whose head I
hope to bruise before I've done with him."

" If I meet him, one of us shall fall," observed Alfred.

" No doubt, sir, no doubt," replied Malachi, " but if we
can retake the boy by other means, so much the better. A



man, bad or good, has but one life, and God gave it to him.
It is not for his fellow-creatures to take it away unless from
necessity. I hope to have the boy without shedding of

" I am willing to have him back upon any terms, Malachi ;
and, as you say, if we can do it without shedding of blood,
all the better ; but have him I will, if I have to kill a
hundred Indians."

" That's right, sir, that's right ; only let it be the last
resort ; recollect the Indian seeks the powder and ball, not
the life of the boy ; and recollect if we had not been so
careless as to tempt him with the sight of what he values so
much, he never would have annoyed us thus."

" That is true ; well then, Malachi, it shall be as you
propose in everything."

The conversation was here finished; Alfred and all those
who were possessed of the secret never allowed the slightest
hint to drop of their knowledge. The winter passed away
without interruption of any kind. Before the snow had
disappeared the seed was all prepared ready for sowing ; the
planks had been sawed out, and all the wheat not required
for seed had been ground down and put into flour-barrels,
ready for any further demand from the fort. And thus ter-
minated the third winter in Canada.


J.T was now April, and for some days Malachi and John had
been very busy, assisted by the Strawberry ; for the time had
come for tapping the maple trees, to make the maple-sugar,
and Mrs. Campbell had expressed a wish that she could be
so supplied with an article of such general consumption, and
which they could not obtain but by the bateaux which went
to Montreal. In the evening, when Malachi and John were,
as usual, employed in cutting small trays out of the soft
wood of the balsam-fir, and of which they had already pre-
pared a large quantity, Mrs. Campbell asked Malachi how the
sugar was procured.

" Very easily, ma'am : we tap the trees."


" Yes, so you said before ; but how do you do it ? Explain
the whole affair to me."

"Why, ma'am, we pick out the maple trees which are
about a foot wide at the bottom of the trunk, as they yield
most sugar. We then bore a hole in the trunk of the tree,
about two feet above the ground, and into that hole we put
a hollow reed, just the same as you would put a spigot in a
cask. The liquor runs out into one of these trays that we
have been digging out."

" Well, and then what do you do ? "

" We collect all the liquor every morning till we have
enough to fill the coppers, and then we boil it down."

" What coppers will you use, then ? "

"There are two large coppers in the store-room, not yet
put up, which will answer our purpose very well, ma'am.
They hold about a hogshead each. We shall take them
into the woods with us, and pour the liquor into them, and
boil them down as soon as they are ready. You must come
and see us on the boiling-day, and we can have a frolic in
the woods."

te With all my heart," replied Mrs. Campbell. " How
much liquor do you get from one tree ? "

" A matter of two or three gallons," replied Malachi ;
"sometimes more and sometimes less. After we have
tapped the trees and set our trays, we shall have nothing
more to do for a fortnight. The Strawberry can attend to
them all, and will let us know when she is ready."

" Do you tap the trees every year ? "

"Yes, ma'am, and a good tree will bear it for fifteen or
twenty years ; but it kills them at last."

" So I should suppose, for you take away so much of the
sap of the tree."

" Exactly, ma'am ; but there's no want of sugar-maples in
these woods."

" You promised us some honey, Malachi," said Emma,
" but we have not seen it yet. Can you get us some ? "
" We had no time to get it last autumn, miss, but we will
try this autumn what we can do. When John and I are
out in the woods, we shall very probably find a honey tree,
without going very far. I did intend to have looked out for
some, if you had not mentioned it."



" 1 know one," said Martin, " I marked it a fortnight ago,
but I quite forgot all about it. Since the mill has been in
hand, I have had little time for anything else. The fact is,
we have all plenty to do just now."

" That we certainly have," replied Henry, laughing ; " I
wish I could see the end of my work in the barn ; I doubt if
I shall be able to get out with my rifle this winter."

" No, sir, you must leave the woods to John and me,"
replied Malachi. " Never mind, you shan't want for venison.
Do you require the sledge to-morrow, Mr. Alfred ?"

Malachi referred to a small sledge which they had made in
the winter, and which was now very useful, as they could,
with one horse, transport things from place to place. It was
used by Alfred for bringing down to the storehouse the sacks
of flour as fast as they were ground in the mill.

" I can do without it for a day. What do you want it
for ? "

"To bring all the honey home," said Emma, laughing.

"No, miss, to take the coppers out into the woods,"
replied Malachi, "that they may be ready for the liquor.
As soon as we have tapped the trees, we will look for the

"Did you send your skins down to Montreal by the
bateaux?" inquired Mr. Campbell.

" Yes, father," replied Alfred ; " Mr. Emmerson took
charge of them, and promised to deliver them to the agent ;
but we have not so many this year as we had last. John has
the largest package of all of us."

" Yes, he beats me this year," said Malachi ; " he always
contrives to get the first shot. I knew that I should make a
hunter of the boy. He might go out by himself now, and do
just as well as I do."

The next morning Malachi went out into the woods,
taking with him the coppers and all the trays on the sledge :
during that day he was busy boring the trees and fitting the
reed-pipes to the holes. Strawberry and John accompanied
him, and by sunset their work was complete.

The next morning when they went out, only Malachi and
John took their axes with them, for John could use his very
well for so young a lad. They first went to the tree which
Martin had discovered ; he had given a description where to



find it. They cut it down, but did not attempt to take the
honey till the night, when they lighted a fire, and drove
away the bees by throwing leaves upon it, and making a
great smoke ; they then opened the tree, and gained about
two pails full of honey, which they brought in just as the
family were about to go to bed. When they went out the
next morning, they found a bear very busy at the remains of
the comb, but the animal made off before they could get a
shot at him.

Every morning the Strawberry collected all the sap which
had run out of the trees, and poured it into the coppers which
had been fixed up by Malachi, ready for a fire to be lighted
under them. They continued their search, and found three
more hives of bees, which they marked and allowed to remain
till later in the season, when they could take them at their
leisure. In a fortnight, they had collected sufficient liquor
from the trees to fill both the coppers to the brim, besides
several pails. The fires were therefore lighted under the
coppers, and due notice given to Mrs. Campbell and the girls,
that the next day they must go out into the woods and see
the operation ; as the liquor would, toward the afternoon, be
turned into coolers, which were some of the large washing-
tubs then in use, and which had been thoroughly cleansed
for the purpose.

As this was to be a holiday in the woods, they prepared a
cold dinner in a large basket, and gave it in charge of Henry.
Mr. Campbell joined the party, and they all set off' to the spot,
which was about two miles distant. On their arrival, they
examined the trees and the trays into which the juice first
ran, the boilers in which the liquor was now simmering over
the fire, and asked questions of Malachi, so that they might,
if necessary, be able to make the sugar themselves, after
which the first cooler was filled with the boiling liquor, that
they might see how the sugar crystallised as the liquor
became cold. They then sat down under a large tree and
dined. The tree was at some distance from the boilers, as
there was no shade in the open spot where Malachi had
placed them, and the afternoon was passed very agreeably in
listening to Malachi's and Martin's stories of their adventures
in the woods. While they were still at dinner, Oscar and the
other dogs which had accompanied them had strayed to about



a hundred yards distant, and were soon very busy scraping and
barking at a large hole.

" What are the dogs after ? " said Alfred.

"Just what the Strawberry wants, and told me to get for
her," replied Malachi ; "we'll dig him out to-morrow."

" What is it, Strawberry ? " said Mary.

The Strawberry pointed to her moccasins, and then put
her finger on the porcupine-quills with which they were

" I don't know the English name," said she softly.

" A porcupine you mean," said Mary, " the animal those
quills come from."

" Yes," replied the Strawberry.

"Is there a porcupine there, Malachi?" said Mrs.Campbell.

" Yes, ma'am, that is certain ; the dogs know that well
enough, or they would not make such a noise. If you like,
we will go for the shovels and dig him out."

"Do, pray; I should like to see him caught," said Emma,
"it shall be our evening's amusement."

Martin got up and went for the shovels ; during his absence
the dinner was cleared away, and the articles replaced in the
basket ; they then all adjourned to where the dogs were still
barking and scratching.

It was more than an hour before they could dig out the

Online LibraryFrederick MarryatPoor Jack; and The settlers in Canada → online text (page 51 of 58)