After a little while, Mrs. Frazer thought it better to put Lady Mary to bed, as she had been up much longer than usual, and Miss Campbell was afraid lest the excitement should make her ill; but the child did not soon fall asleep, for her thoughts were full of the strange and glorious things she had seen that night.
[Footnote: Singularly splendid exhibitions of Aurora Borealis were visible in the month, of August, 1839; in August, 1851; and again on the 21st February, 1852. The colours were rosy red, varied with other prismatic colours.
But the most singular feature was the ring-like circle from which the broad streams of light seemed to flow down in a curtain that appeared to reach from heaven to earth. In looking upwards, the sky had the appearance of a tent narrowed to a small circle at the top, which seemed to be the centre of illimitable space.
Though we listened with great attention, none of the crackling sounds that some Northern travellers have declared to accompany the Aurora Borealis could be heard; neither did any one experience any of the disagreeable bodily sensations that are often felt during thunder-storms. The atmosphere was unusually calm, and in two of the three instances warm and agreeable.]
STRAWBERRIES—CANADIAN WILD FRUITS—WILD RASPBERRIES—THE HUNTER AND THE LOST CHILD—CRANBERRIES-CRANBERRY MARSHES—NUTS.
One day Lady Mary's nurse brought her a small Indian basket, filled with ripe red strawberries.
"Nurse, where did you get these nice strawberries?" said the little girl, peeping beneath the fresh leaves with which they were covered. "I bought them from a little Indian squaw, in the street; she had brought them from a wooded meadow, some miles off, my lady. They are very fine; see, they are as large as those that the gardener sent in yesterday from the forcing-house, and these wild ones have grown without any pains having been bestowed upon them."
"I did not think, nurse, that wild strawberries could have been so fine as these; may I taste them?"
Mrs. Frazer said she might. "These are not so large, so red, or so sweet as some that I have gathered when I lived at home with my father," said the nurse. "I have seen acres and acres of strawberries, as large as the early scarlet that are sold so high in the market, on the Rice Lake plains. When the farmers have ploughed a fallow on the Rice Lake plains, the following summer it will be covered with a crop of the finest strawberries. I have gathered pailsful day after day; these, however, have been partly cultivated by the plough breaking up the sod; but they seem as if sown by the hand of nature. These fruits, and many sorts of flowers, appear on the new soil that were never seen there before. After a fallow has been chopped, logged, and burnt, if it be left for a few years, trees, shrubs and plants will cover it, unlike those that grew there before."
"That is curious," said the child. "Does God sow the seeds in the new ground?"
"My lady, no doubt they come from Him; for He openeth his hand, and filleth all things living with plenteousness. My father, who thought a great deal on these subjects, said that the seeds of many plants may fall upon the earth, and yet none of them take root till the soil be favourable for their growth. It may be that these seeds had lain for years, preserved in the earth, till the forest was cleared away, and the sun, air, and rain caused them to spring up. Or the earth may still bring forth the herb of the field, after its kind, as in the day of the creation; but whether it be so or not, we must bless the Lord for his goodness and for the blessings that He giveth us at all times."
"Are there many sorts of wild fruits fit to sat, nurse, in this country? Please, will you tell me all that you know about them?"
"There are so many, Lady Mary, that I am afraid I shall weary you before I have told you half of them."
"Nurse, I shall not be tired, for I like to hear about fruits and flowers very much; and my dear mamma likes you to tell me all you know about the plants, trees, birds and beasts of Canada."
"Besides many sorts of strawberries, there are wild currants, both black and red, and many kinds of wild gooseberries," said Mrs. Frazer: "some grow on wastes by the roadside, in dry soil, others in swamps; but most gooseberries are covered with thorns, which grow not only on the wood, but on the berries themselves."
"I would not eat those disagreeable, thorny gooseberries; they would prick my tongue," said the little girl.
"They cannot be eaten without first being scalded. The settlers' wives contrive to make good pies and preserves with them by first scalding the fruit and then rubbing it between coarse linen cloths; I have heard these tarts called thornberry pies, which, I think, was a good name for them. When emigrants first come to Canada, and clear the backwoods, they have little time to make nice fruit-gardens for themselves, and they are glad to gather the wild berries that grow in the woods and swamps to make tarts and preserves, so that they do not even despise the thorny gooseberries or the wild black currants. Some swamp-gooseberries, however, are quite smooth, of a dark red colour, but small, and they are very nice when ripe. The blossoms of the wild currants are very beautiful, of a pale yellowish green, and hang down in long, graceful branches; the fruit is harsh, but makes wholesome preserves: but there are thorny currants as well as thorny gooseberries; these have long, weak, trailing branches; the berries are small, covered with stiff bristles, and of a pale red colour. They are not wholesome; I have seen people made very ill by eating them; I have heard even of their dying in consequence of having done so."
"I am sure, nurse, I will not eat those wild currants," said Lady Mary; "I am glad you have told me about their being poisonous."
"This sort is not often met with, my dear; and these berries, though they are not good for man, doubtless give nourishment to some of the wild creatures that seek their food from God, and we have enough dainties, and to spare, without them.
"The red raspberry is one of the most common and the most useful to us of the wild fruits. It grows in abundance all over the country, by the roadside, in the half-opened woods, on upturned roots, or in old neglected clearings; there is no place so wild but it will grow, wherever its roots can find a crevice. With maple sugar, the farmers' wives never need lack a tart, nor a dish of fruit and cream. The poor Irish emigrants' children go out and gather pailsful, which they carry to the towns and villages to sell. The birds, too, live upon the fruit, and, flying away with it to distant places, help to sow the seed. A great many small animals eat the ripe raspberry, for even the racoon and great black bear come in for their share."
"The black bears! Oh, nurse, oh, Mrs. Frazer!" exclaimed Lady Mary, in great astonishment. "What! do bears eat raspberries?" "Yes, indeed, my lady, they do. Bears are fond of all ripe fruits. The bear resembles the hog in all its tastes very closely; both in their wild state will eat flesh, grain, fruit, and roots. There is a small red berry in the woods that is known by the name of the bear-berry, [Transcriber's Note: Lengthy footnote moved to end of chapter.] of which they say the young bears are particularly fond."
"I should be afraid of going to gather raspberries, nurse, for fear of the bears coming to eat them too."
"The hunters know that the bears are partial to this fruit, and often seek them in large thickets, where they grow. A young gentleman, Lady Mary, once went out shooting game, in the province of New Brunswick, in the month of July, when the weather was warm, and there were plenty of wild berries ripe. He had been out for many hours, and at last found himself on the banks of a creek. But the bridge he had been use to cross was gone, having been swept away by heavy rains in the spring. Passing on a little higher up, he saw an old clearing full of bushes; and knowing that wild animals were often to be met in such spots, he determined to cross over and try his luck for a bear, a racoon, or a young fawn. Not far from the spot, he saw a large fallen swamp elm-tree, which made a capital bridge. Just as he was preparing to cross, he heard the sound of footsteps on the dry crackling sticks, and saw a movement among the raspberry bushes; his finger was on the lock of his rifle in an instant, for he thought it must be a bear or a deer; but just as he was about to fire, he saw a small, thin, brown hand, all red and stained from the juice of the ripe berries, reaching down a branch of the fruit; his very heart leaped within him with fright, for in another moment he would have shot the poor little child that, with wan, wasted face, was looking at him from between the raspberry bushes. It was a little girl, about as old as you are, Lady Mary. She was without hat or shoes, and her clothes were all in tatters; her hands and neck were quite brown and sun-burnt. She seemed frightened at first, and would have hid herself, had not the stranger called out gently to her to stay, and not to be afraid; and then he hurried over the log bridge, and asked her who she was, and where she lived. And she said 'she did not live anywhere, for she was lost.' She could not tell how many days, but she thought she had been seven nights out in the woods. She had been sent to take some dinner to her father, who was at work in the forest; but had missed the path, and gone on a cattle track, and did not find her mistake until it was too late; when she became frightened, and tried to get back, but only lost herself deeper in the woods. The first night she wrapped her frock about her head, and lay down beneath the shelter of a great upturned root. She had eaten but little of the food she had in the basket that day, for it lasted her nearly two; after it was gone, she chewed some leaves, till she came to the raspberry clearing, and got berries of several kinds, and plenty of water to drink from the creek. One night, she said, she was awakened by a heavy tramping near her, and looking up in the moonlight, saw two great black beasts, which she thought were her father's oxen, and so she sat up and called, 'Buck,' 'Bright,'— for these were their names,—but they had no bells, and looked like two great shaggy black dogs; they stood on their hind legs upright, and looked at her, but went away. These animals were bears, but the child did not know that, and she said she felt no fear—for she said her prayers every night before she lay down to sleep, and she knew that God would take care of her, both sleeping and waking." [Footnote: The facts of this story I met with, many years ago, in a provincial paper. They afterwards appeared in a Canadian sketch, in Chambers' Journal, contributed by me in 1838.]
"And did the hunter take her home?" asked Lady Mary, who was much interested in the story.
"Yes, my dear, he did. Finding that the poor little girl was very weak, the young man took her on his back,—fortunately he happened to have a little wine in a flask, and a bit of dry biscuit in his knapsack, and this greatly revived the little creature; sometimes she ran by his side, while holding by his coat, talking to her new friend, seemingly quite happy and cheerful, bidding him not to be afraid even if they had to pass another night in the wood; but just as the sun was setting, they came out of the dark forest into an open clearing.
"It was not the child's home, but a farm belonging to a miller who knew her father, and had been in search of her for several days; and he and his wife were very glad when they saw the lost child, and gladly showed her preserver the way; and they rejoiced much when the poor little girl was restored safe and well to her sorrowing parents."
"Nurse," said Lady Mary, "I am so glad the good hunter found the little girl. I must tell my own dear mamma that nice story. How sorry my mamma and papa would be to lose me in the woods."
The nurse smiled, and said, "My dear lady, there is no fear of such an accident happening to you. You are not exposed to the same trials and dangers as the children of poor emigrants; therefore, you must be very grateful to God, and do all you can to serve and please Him; and when you are able, be kind and good to those who are not as well off as you are."
"Are there any other wild fruits, nurse, besides raspberries and strawberries, and currants and gooseberries?"
"Yes, my dear lady, a great many more. We will begin with wild plums: these we often preserve; and when the trees are planted in gardens, and taken care of, the fruit is very good to eat. The wild cherries are not very nice; but the bark of the black cherry is good for agues and low fevers. The choke-cherry is very beautiful to look at, but hurts the throat, closing it up if many are eaten, and making it quite sore. The huckleberry is a sweet, dark blue berry, that grows on a very delicate low shrub, the blossoms are very pretty, pale pink or greenish white bells, the fruit is very wholesome; it grows on light dry ground, on those parts of the country that are called plains in Canada. The settlers' children go out in parties, and gather great quantities, either to eat or dry for winter use. These berries are a great blessing to every one, besides forming abundant food for the broods of young quails and partridges; squirrels, too, of every kind eat them. There are blackberries also, Lady Mary; and some people call them thimbleberries."
"Nurse, I have heard mamma talk about blackberries."
"The Canadian blackberries are not so sweet, I am told, my lady, as those at home, though they are very rich and nice tasted; neither do they grow so high. Then there are high bush cranberries, and low bush cranberries. The first grow on a tall bush, and the fruit has a fine appearance, hanging in large bunches of light scarlet, among the dark green leaves; but they are very, very sour, and take a great deal of sugar to sweeten them. The low bush cranberries grow on a slender trailing plant; the blossom is very pretty, and the fruit about the size of a common gooseberry, of a dark purplish red, very smooth and shining; the seeds are minute, and lie in the white pulp within the skin; this berry is not nice till it is cooked with sugar. There is a large cranberry marsh somewhere at the back of Kingston, where vast quantities grow. I heard a young gentleman say that he passed over this tract when he was hunting, while the snow was on the ground, and that the red juice of the dropped berries dyed the snow crimson beneath his feet. The Indians go every year to a small lake called Buckhorn Lake, many miles up the river Otonabee, in the Upper Province, to gather cranberries, which they sell to the settlers in the towns and villages, or trade away for pork, flour, and clothes. The cranberries, when spread out on a dry floor, will keep fresh and good for a long time. Great quantities of cranberries are brought to England from Russia, Norway, and Lapland, in barrels, or large earthern jars, filled with brine; but the fruit thus roughly preserved must be drained, and washed many times, and stirred with sugar, before it can be put into tarts, or it would be salt and bitter. I will boil some cranberries with sugar, that you may taste them; for they are very wholesome."
Lady Mary said she should like to have some in her own garden.
"The cranberry requires a particular kind of soil, not usually found in gardens, my dear lady; for as the cranberry marshes are often covered with water in the spring, I suppose they need a damp, cool soil, near lakes or rivers; perhaps sand, too, may be good for them. But we can plant some berries, and water them well; in a light soil they may grow, and bear fruit, but I am not sure that they will do so. Besides these fruits, there are many others, that are little used by men, but are of great service as food to the birds and small animals. There are many kinds of nuts, too— filberts, with rough prickly husks, walnuts, butternuts, and hickory-nuts; these last are large trees, the nuts of which are very nice to eat, and the wood very fine for cabinet-work, and for firewood; the bark is used for dyeing. Now, my dear, I think you must be quite tired with hearing so much about Canadian fruits."
Lady Mary said she was glad to learn that there were so many good things in Canada, for she heard a lady say to her mamma, that it was an ugly country, with nothing good or pretty in it.
"There is something good and pretty to be found everywhere, my dear child, if people will but open their eyes to see it, and their hearts to enjoy the good things that God has so mercifully spread abroad for us and all his creatures to enjoy. But Canada is really a fine country, and is fast becoming a great one."
[Relocated Footnote: Arbutus ursursi—"Kinnikinnick," Indian name.
There is a story about a bear and an Indian hunter, which will show how bears eat berries. It is from the Journal of Peter Jacobs, the Indian Missionary:—
"At sunrise, next morning," he says, "we tried to land, but the water was so full of shoals, we could not without wading a great distance.
"The beach before us was of bright sand, and the sun was about, [Footnote: We find some curious expressions in this Journal, for Peter Jacobs is an Indian, writing not his own, but a foreign language.] when I saw an object moving on the shore; it appeared to be a man, and seemed to be making signals of distress. We were all weary and hungry, but thinking it was a fellow-creature in distress, we pulled towards him. Judge of our surprise when the stranger proved to be an enormous bear.
"He was seated on his hams, and what we thought his signals were his raising himself on his hind legs to pull down the berries from a high bush, and, with his paws full sitting down again to eat them at his leisure.
"Thus he continued daintily enjoying his ripe fruit in the posture some lapdogs are taught to assume while eating. On we pulled, and forgot our hunger and weariness; the bear still continued breakfasting.
"We got as close on shore as the shoals would permit, and John, (one of the Indians,) taking my double-barrelled gun, leaped into the water, gun in hand, and gained the beach. Some dead brushwood hid the bear from John's sight, but from the canoe we could see both John and the bear.
"The bear now discovered us, and advanced towards us; and John, not seeing him for the bush, ran along the beach towards him. The weariness from pulling all night, and having eaten no food, made me lose my presence of mind, for I now remembered that the gun was only loaded with duck-shot, and you might as well meet a bear with a gun loaded with peas.
"John was in danger, and we strained at our paddles to get to his assistance; but as the bear was a very large one, and as we had no other firearms, we should have been but poor helps to John in the hug of a wounded bear. The bear was at the other side of the brush-heap: John heard the dry branches cracking, and he dodged into a hollow under a bush. The bear passed, and was coursing along the sand, but as he passed by where John lay, bang went the gun.—The bear was struck.
"We saw him leap through the smoke to the very spot where we had last seen John. We held our breath; but instead of the cry of agony we expected to hear from John, bang went the gun again—John is not yet caught. Our canoe rushed through the water.—We might yet be in time; but my paddle fell from my hand with joy as I saw John pop his head above the bush, and with a shout point to the side of the log on which he stood, 'There he lies, dead enough.' We were thankful indeed to our Great Preserver."—Peter Jacob's Journal.
Though fruit and vegetables seem to be the natural food of the bear, they also devour flesh, and even fish,—a fact of which the good Indian Missionary assures us; and that being new to my young readers, I shall give them in his own words:—
"A few evenings after we left the 'Rock,' while the men were before me 'tracking,' (towing the canoe,) by pulling her along by a rope from the shore, I observed behind a rock in the river, what I took to be a black fox. I stole upon it as quietly as possible, hoping to get a shot, but the animal saw me, and waded to the shore. It turned out to be a young bear fishing. The bear is a great fisherman. His mode of fishing is very curious. He wades into a current, and seating himself upright on his hams, lets the water come about up to his shoulders; he patiently waits until the little fishes come along and rub themselves against his sides, he seizes them instantly, gives them a nip, and with his left paw tosses them over his shoulder to the shore. His left paw is always the one used for tossing ashore the produce of his fishing. Feeling is the sense of which Bruin makes use here, not sight.
"The Indians of that part say that the bear catches sturgeon when spawning in the shoal-water; but the only fish that I know of their catching, is the sucker: of these, in the months of April and May, the bear makes his daily breakfast and supper, devouring about thirty or forty at a meal. As soon as he has caught a sufficient number, he wades ashore, and regales himself on the best morsels, which are the thick of the neck, behind the gills. The Indians often shoot him when thus engaged."—Peter Jacob's Journal, p. 46_]
GARTER-SNAKES—RATTLESNAKES—ANECDOTE OF A LITTLE BOY—FISHERMAN AND SNAKE—SNAKE CHARMERS—SPIDERS—LAND-TORTOISE.
"Nurse, I have been so terrified. I was walking in the meadow, and a great snake—so big, I am sure"—and Lady Mary held out her arms as wide as she could—"came out of a tuft of grass. His tongue was like a scarlet thread, and had two sharp points; and, do you know, he raised his wicked head, and hissed at me; I was so frightened that I ran away. I think, Mrs. Frazer, it must have been a rattlesnake. Only feel now how my heart beats" —and the little girl took her nurse's hand, and laid it on her heart.
"What colour was the snake, my dear?" asked her nurse.
"It was green and black, chequered all over; and it was very large, and opened its mouth very wide, and showed its red tongue. It would have killed me if it had bitten me, would it not, nurse?"
"It would not have harmed you, my lady or even if it had bitten you, it would not have killed you. The chequered green snake of Canada is not poisonous. It was more afraid of you than you were of it, I make no doubt."
"Do you think it was a rattlesnake, nurse?"
"No, my dear; there are no snakes of that kind in Lower Canada, and very few below Toronto. The winters are too cold for them, but there are plenty in the western part of the province, where the summers are warmer, and the winters milder. The rattlesnake is a dangerous reptile, and its bite causes death, unless the wound be burnt or cut out. The Indians apply different sorts of herbs to the wound. They have several plants, known by the names of rattlesnake root, rattlesnake weed, and snake root. It is a good thing that the rattlesnake gives warning of its approach before it strikes the traveller with its deadly fangs. Some people think that the rattle is a sign of fear, and that it would not wound people, if it were not afraid they were coming near to hurt it. I will tell you a story, Lady Mary, about a brave little boy. He went out nutting one day with another boy about his own age; and while they were in the grove gathering nuts, a large black snake, that was in a low tree, dropped down and suddenly coiled itself round the throat of his companion. The child's screams were dreadful; his eyes were starting from his head with pain and terror. The other, regardless of the danger, opened a clasp-knife that he had in his pocket, and seizing the snake near the head, cut it apart, and so saved his friend's life, who was well-nigh strangled by the tight folds of the reptile, which was one of a very venomous species, the bite of which generally proves fatal."
"What a brave little fellow!" said Lady Mary. "You do not think it was cruel, nurse, to kill the snake?" she added, looking up in Mrs. Frazer's face.
"No, Lady Mary, for he did it to save a fellow-creature from a painful death; and we are taught by God's word that the soul of man is precious in the sight of his Creator. We should be cruel were we wantonly to inflict pain upon the least of God's creatures; but to kill them in self-defence, or for necessary food, is not cruel; for when God made Adam, He gave him dominion, or power, over the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and every creeping thing. It was an act of great courage and humanity in the little boy, who perilled his own life to save that of his helpless comrade, especially as he was not naturally a child of much courage, and was very much afraid of snakes; but love for his friend overcame all thought of his own personal danger. [Footnote: A fact related to me by an old gentleman from the State of Vermont, as an instance of impulsive feeling overcoming natural timidity.]
"The large garter-snake, that which you saw, my dear lady, is comparatively harmless. It lives on toads and frogs, and robs the nests of young birds, and the eggs also. Its long forked tongue enables it to catch insects of different kinds; it will even eat fish, and for that purpose frequents the water as well as the black snake.
"I heard a gentleman once relate a circumstance to my father that surprised me a good deal. He was fishing one day in a river near his own house, but, being tired, seated himself on a log or fallen tree, where his basket of fish also stood; when a large garter-snake came up the log, and took a small fish out of his basket, which it speedily swallowed. The gentleman, seeing the snake so bold as not to mind his presence, took a small rock-bass by the tail, and half in joke held it towards him, when, to his great surprise, the snake glided towards him, took the fish out of his hand, and sliding away with its prize to a hole beneath the log, began by slow degrees to swallow it, stretching its mouth and the skin of its neck to a great extent; till, after a long while, it was fairly gorged, and then slid down its hole, leaving its neck and head only to be seen."
"I should have been so frightened, nurse, if I had been the gentleman, when the snake came to take the fish," said Lady Mary.
"The gentleman was well aware of the nature of the reptile, and knew that it would not bite him. I have read of snakes of the most poisonous kinds being tamed and taught all manner of tricks. There are in India and Egypt people that are called snake-charmers, who will contrive to extract the fangs containing the venom from the Cobra capella, or hooded snake; which then become quite harmless. These snakes are very fond of music, and will come out of the leather bag or basket that their master carries them in, and will dance or run up his arms, twining about his neck, and even entering his mouth. They do not tell people that the poison-teeth have been extracted, so that it is thought to be the music that keeps the snake from biting. The snake has a power of charming birds and small animals by fixing its eye steadily upon them, when the little creatures become paralysed with fear, either standing quite still, or coming nearer and nearer to their cruel enemy, till they are within his reach. The cat has the same power, and can by this art draw birds from the tops of trees within her reach. These little creatures seem unable to resist the temptation of approaching her, and, even when driven away, will return from a distance to the same spot, seeking, instead of shunning, the danger which is certain to prove fatal to them in the end. Some writers assert that all wild animals have this power in the eye, especially those of the cat tribe, as the lion and tiger, leopard and panther. Before they spring upon their prey, the eye is always steadily fixed, the back lowered, the neck stretched out, and the tail waved from side to side; if the eye is averted, they lose the animal, and do not make the spring."
"Are there any other kinds of snakes in Canada, nurse," asked Lady Mary, "besides the garter-snake?"
"Yes, my lady, several; the black snake, which is the most deadly next to the rattlesnake, is sometimes called the puff-adder, as it inflates the skin of the head and neck when angry. The copper-bellied snake is also poisonous. There is a small snake of a deep grass green colour sometimes seen in the fields and open copse-woods. I do not think it is dangerous; I never heard of its biting any one. The stare-worm is also harmless. I am not sure whether the black snakes that live in the water are the same as the puff or black adder. It is a great blessing, my dear, that these deadly snakes are so rare, and do so little harm to man. Indeed, I believe they would never harm him, were they let alone; but if trodden upon, they cannot tell that it was by accident, and so put forth the weapons that God has armed them with in self-defence. The Indians in the north-west, I have been told, eat snakes, after cutting off their heads. The cat also eats snakes, leaving the head; she will also catch and eat frogs, a thing I have witnessed myself, and know to be true. [Footnote: I saw a half grown kitten eat a live green frog, which she first caught and brought into the parlour, playing with it like a mouse.] One day a snake fixed itself on a little girl's arm and wound itself around it; the mother of the child was too much terrified to tear the deadly creature off, but filled the air with cries. Just then a cat came out of the house, and quick as lightning sprang upon the snake, and fastened on its neck, which caused the reptile to uncoil its folds, and it fell to the earth in the grasp of the cat; thus the child's life was saved, and the snake killed. Thus you see, my dear, that God provided a preserver for this little one when no help was nigh; perhaps the child cried to Him for aid, and He heard her and saved her by means of the cat."
Lady Mary was much interested in all that Mrs. Frazer had told her; she remembered having heard some one say that the snake would swallow her own young ones, and she asked her nurse if it was true, and if they laid eggs.
"The snake will swallow her young ones," said Mrs. Frazer. "I have seen the garter-snake open her mouth and let the little ones run into it when danger was nigh; the snake also lays eggs: I have seen and handled them often; they are not covered with a hard, brittle shell, like that of a hen, but with a sort of whitish skin, like leather; they are about the size of a blackbird's egg, long in shape, some are rounder and larger. They are laid in some warm place, where the heat of the sun and earth hatches them; but though the mother does not brood over them, as a hen does over her eggs, she seems to take great care of them, and defends them from their many enemies by hiding them out of sight in the singular manner I have just told you. This love of offspring, my dear child, has been wisely given to all mothers, from the human mother down to the very lowest of the insect tribe. The fiercest beast of prey loves its young, and provides food and shelter for them; forgetting its savage nature to play with and caress them. Even the spider, which is a disagreeable insect, fierce and unloving to its fellows, displays the tenderest care for its brood, providing a safe retreat for them in the fine silken cradle she spins to envelope the eggs, which she leaves in some warm spot, where she secures them from danger; some glue a leaf down, and overlap it, to ensure it from being agitated by the winds, or discovered by birds. There is a curious spider, commonly known as the nursing spider, who carries her sack of eggs with her, wherever she goes; and when the young ones come out, they cluster on her back, and so travel with her; when a little older, they attach themselves to the old one by threads, and run after her in a train."
Lady Mary laughed, and said she should like to see the funny little spiders all tied to their mother, trotting along behind her.
"If you go into the meadow, my dear," said Mrs. Frazer, "you will see on the larger stones some pretty shining little cases, quite round, looking like grey satin."
"Nurse, I know what they are," said Lady Mary; "last year I was playing in the green meadow, and I found a piece of granite with several of these satin cases. I called them silk pies, for they looked like tiny mince-pies. I tried to pick one off, but it stuck so hard that I could not; so I asked the gardener to lend me his knife, and when I raised the crust, it had a little rim under the top, and I slipped the knife in, and what do you think I saw? The pie was full of tiny black shining spiders, and they ran out, such a number of them,—more than I could count, they ran so fast. I was sorry I opened the crust, for it was a cold, cold day, and the little spiders must have been frozen out of their warm air-tight house."
"They are able to bear a great deal of cold, Lady Mary—all insects can; and even when frozen hard, so that they will break if any one tries to bend them, yet when spring comes again to warm them, they revive, and are as full of life as ever. Caterpillars thus frozen will become butterflies in due time. Spiders, and many other creatures, lie torpid during the winter, and then revive in the same way as dormice, bears, and marmots do."
"Nurse, please will you tell me something about tortoises and porcupines?" said Lady Mary.
"I cannot tell you a great deal about the tortoise, my dear," replied her nurse. "I have seen them sometimes on the shores of the lakes, and once or twice I have met with the small land-tortoise, in the woods on the banks of the Otonabee river. The shell that covers these reptiles is black and yellow, divided into squares—those which I saw were about the size of my two hands. They are very harmless creatures, living chiefly on roots and bitter herbs: perhaps they eat insects as well. They lie buried in the sand during the long winters, in a torpid state: they lay a number of eggs, about the size of a blackbird's, the shell of which is tough and soft, like a snake's egg. The old tortoise buries these in the loose sand near the water's edge, and leaves them to be hatched by the heat of the sun. The little tortoise, when it comes out of the shell, is about as big as a large spider—it is a funny-looking thing. I have heard some of the Indians say that they dive into the water, and swim, as soon as they are hatched; but this I am not sure of. I saw one about the size of a crown-piece that was caught in a hole in the sand; it was very lively, and ran along the table, making a rattling noise with its hard shell as it moved. An old one that one of my brothers brought in he put under a large heavy box, meaning to feed and keep it; but in the morning it was gone: it had lifted the edge of the box and was away, nor could he find out how it had contrived to make its escape from the room. This is all that I know about the Canadian land-tortoise."
ELLEN AND HER PET FAWNS—DOCILITY OF FAN—JACK'S DROLL TRICKS— AFFECTIONATE WOLF—FALL FLOWERS—DEPARTURE OF LADY MARY—THE END.
One day Lady Mary came to seek her nurse in great haste, to describe to her a fine deer that had been sent as a present to her father by one of his Canadian friends. She said the great antlers were to be put up over the library-door.
"Papa called me down to see the poor dead deer, nurse, and I was very sorry it had been killed; it was such a fine creature. Major Pickford laughed when I said so, but he promised to get me a live fawn. Nurse, what is a fawn?"
"It is a young deer, my lady."
"Nurse, please can you tell me anything about fawns? Are they pretty creatures, and can they be tamed; or are they fierce, wild little things?"
"They are very gentle animals; and if taken young, can be brought up by sucking the finger like a young calf or a pet lamb. They are playful and lively, and will follow the person who feeds them like a dog. They are very pretty, of a pale dun or red colour, with small white spots on the back like large hailstones; the eyes are large and soft, and black, with a very meek expression in them; the hoofs are black and sharp: they are clean and delicate in their habits, and easy and graceful in their movements."
"Did you ever see a tame fawn?" asked Lady Mary.
"I have seen several, my dear. I will tell you about a fawn that belonged to a little girl whom I knew many years ago. A hunter had shot a poor doe, which was very wrong, and contrary to the Indian hunting law; for the native hunter will not, unless pressed for hunger, kill the deer in the spring of the year, when the fawns are young. The Indian wanted to find the little one after he had shot the dam, so he sounded a decoy whistle, to imitate the call of the doe, and the harmless thing answered it with a bleat, thinking no doubt it was its mother calling to it. This betrayed its hiding-place, and it was taken unhurt by the hunter, who took it home, and gave it to my little friend Ellen to feed and take care of."
"Please, Mrs. Frazer, will you tell me what sort of trees hemlocks are? Hemlocks in England are poisonous weeds."
"These are not weeds, but large forest trees—a species of pine. I will show you some the next time we go out for a drive—they are very handsome trees."
"And what are creeks, nurse."
"Creeks are small streams, such as in Scotland would be termed 'burns,' and in England rivulets."
"Now, nurse, you may go on about the dear little fawn; I want you to tell me all you know about it."
"Little Ellen took the poor timid thing, and laid it in an old Indian basket near the hearth, and put some wool in it, and covered it with an old cloak to keep it warm; and she tended it very carefully, letting it suck her fingers dipped in warm milk, as she had seen the dairy-maid do in weaning young calves. In a few days it began to grow strong and lively, and would jump out of its basket, and run bleating after its foster-mother: if it missed her from the room, it would wait at the door watching for her return.
"When it was older, it used to run on the grass plot in the garden; but if it heard its little mistress's step or voice in the parlour, it would bound through the open window to her side; and her call of 'Fan, Fan, Fan!' would bring it home from the fields near the edge of the forest; but poor Fan got killed by a careless boy throwing some fire-wood down upon it, as it lay asleep in the wood-shed. Ellen's grief was very great, but all she could do was to bury it in the garden near the river-side, and plant lilac bushes round its little green-sodded grave."
"I am so sorry, nurse, that this good little girl lost her pretty pet."
"Some time after the death of 'Fan,' Ellen had another fawn given to her. She called this one Jack,—it was older, larger, and stronger, but was more mischievous and frolicsome than her first pet. It would lie in front of the fire on the hearth, like a dog, and rub its soft velvet nose against the hand that patted it very affectionately, but gave a good deal of trouble in the house: it would eat the carrots, potatoes, and cabbages, while the cook was preparing them for dinner; and when the housemaid had laid the cloth for dinner, Jack would go round the table and eat up the bread she had laid to each plate, to the great delight of the children, who thought it good fun to see him do so.
"Ellen put a red leather collar about Jack's neck, and some months after this he swam across the rapid river, and went off to the wild woods, and was shot by some hunters, a great many miles away from his old home, being known by his fine red collar. After the sad end of her two favourites, Ellen would have no more fawns brought in for her to tame."
Lady Mary was much interested in the account of the little girl and her pets. "Is this all you know about fawns, nurse?"
"I once went to call on a clergyman's wife who lived in a small log-house near a new village. The youngest child, a fat baby of two years old, was lying on the rug before a large log-fire, fast asleep; its little head was pillowed on the back of a tame half-grown fawn that lay stretched on its side, enjoying the warmth of the fire, as tame and familiar as a spaniel dog. This fawn had been brought up with the children, and they were very fond of it, and would share their bread and milk with it at meal times; but it got into disgrace by gnawing the bark of the young orchard-trees, and cropping the bushes in the garden; besides, it had a trick of opening the cupboard, and eating the bread, and drinking any milk it could find; so the master of the house gave it away to a baker who lived in the village; but it did not forget its old friends, and used to watch for the children going to school, and as soon as it caught sight of them, it would trot after them, poking its nose into the basket to get a share of their dinner, and very often managed to get it all."
"And what became of this nice fellow, nurse?"
"Unfortunately, my lady, it was chased by some dogs, and ran away to the woods near the town, and never came back again. Dogs will always hunt tame fawns when they can get near them, so it seems a pity to domesticate them only to be killed in so cruel a way. The forest is the best home for these pretty creatures, though even there they have many enemies beside the hunter. The bear, the wolf, and the wolverine kill them. Their only means of defence lies in their fleetness of foot. The stag will defend himself with his strong horns; but the doe and her little fawn have no such weapons to guard them when attacked by beasts of prey. The wolf is one of the greatest enemies they have."
"I hate wolves," said Lady Mary; "wolves can never be tamed, nurse."
"I have heard and read of wolves being tamed and becoming very fond of their masters. A gentleman in Canada once brought up a wolf puppy, which became so fond of him that when he left it to go home to England, it refused to eat, and died of grief at his absence. Kindness will tame even fierce beasts, who soon learn to love the hand that feeds them. Bears and foxes have often been kept tame in this country, and eagles and owls; but I think they cannot be so happy shut up, away from their natural companions and habits, as if they were free to go and come at their own will."
"I should not like to be shut up, nurse, far away from my own dear home," said the little girl, thoughtfully. "I think, sometimes, I ought not to keep my dear squirrel in a cage—shall I let him go?"
"My dear, he has now been so used to the cage, and to have all his daily wants supplied, that I am sure he would suffer from cold and hunger at this season of the year if he were left to provide for himself, and if he remained here the cats and weasels might kill him."
"I will keep him safe from harm, then, till the warm weather comes again; and then, nurse, we will take him to the mountain, and let him go, if he likes to be free, among the trees and bushes."
It was now the middle of October; the rainy season that usually comes in the end of September and beginning of October in Canada was over. The soft hazy season, called Indian summer, was come again; the few forest leaves that yet lingered were ready to fall—bright and beautiful they still looked, but Lady Mary missed the flowers.
"I do not love the fall—I see no flowers now, except those in the greenhouse. The cold, cold winter will soon be here again," she added sadly.
"Last year, dear lady, you said you loved the white snow, and the sleighing, and the merry bells, and wished that winter would last all the year round."
"Ah! yes, nurse; but I did not know how many pretty birds and flowers I should see in the spring and the summer; and now they are all gone, and I shall see them no more for a long time."
"There are still a few flowers, Lady Mary, to be found; look at these."
"Ah, dear nurse, where did you get them? How lovely they are!"
"Your little French maid picked them for you, on the side of the mountain. Rosette loves the wild flowers of her native land."
"Nurse, do you know the names of these pretty starry flowers on this little branch, that look so light and pretty?"
"These are asters; a word, your governess told me the other day, meaning starlike; some people call these flowers Michaelmas daisies. These lovely lilac asters grow in light dry ground; they are among the prettiest of our fall flowers. These with the small white starry flowers crowded upon the stalks, with the crimson and gold in the middle, are dwarf asters."
"I like these white ones, nurse; the little branches look so nicely loaded with blossoms; see, they are quite bowed down with the weight of all these flowers."
"These small shrubby asters grow on dry gravelly banks of lakes and rivers."
"But here are some large dark purple ones."
"These are also asters; they are to be found on dry wastes, in stony barren fields, by the corners of rail-fences; they form large spreading bushes, and look very lovely, covered with their large dark purple flowers. There is no waste so wild, my lady, but the hand of the Most High can plant it with some blossom, and make the waste and desert place flourish like a garden. Here are others, still brighter and larger, with yellow disks, and sky-blue flowers; these grow by still waters, near milldams and swampy places. Though they are larger and gayer, I do not think they will please you so well as the small ones that I first showed you; they do not fade so fast, and that is one good quality they have."
"They are more like the china asters in the garden, nurse, only more upright and stiff; but here is another sweet blue flower—can you tell me its name?"
"No, my dear, you must ask your governess."
Lady Mary carried the nosegay to Miss Campbell, who told her the blue flower was called the Fringed Gentian, and that the gentians and asters bloomed the latest of all the autumn flowers in Canada. Among these wild flowers, she also showed her the large dark blue bell flowered gentian, which was indeed the last flower of the year."
"Are there no more flowers in bloom now, nurse?" asked the child, as she watched Mrs. Frazer arranging them for her in a flower-glass.
"I do not know of any now in bloom but the golden rods and the latest of the ever-listings. Rosette shall go out, and try to get some of them for you. The French children make little mats and garlands of them to ornament their houses, and to hang on the little crosses above the graves of their friends, because they do not fade away like other flowers."
Next day, Rosette, the little nursery-maid, brought Lady Mary an Indian basket full of Sweet-scented everlastings. This flower had a fragrant smell; the leaves were less downy than some of the earlier sorts, but were covered with a resinous gum, that caused it to stick to the fingers; it looked quite silky, from the thistledown, which, falling upon the leaves, were gummed down to the surface.
"The country folks," said Mrs. Frazer, "call this plant Neglected everlasting, because it grows on dry wastes by road-sides, among thistles and fireweed; but I love it for its sweetness; it is like a true friend— it never changes. See, my dear, how shining its straw-coloured blossoms and buds are, just like satin flowers."
"Nurse, it shall be my own flower," said the little girl, "and I will make a pretty garland of it, to hang over my own dear mamma's picture. Rosette says she will show me how to tie the flowers together; she has made me a pretty wreath for my doll's straw hat, and she means to make her a mat and a carpet too."
The little maid promised to bring her young lady some wreaths of the festoon pine; a low-creeping plant, with dry, green chaffy leaves, that grows in the barren pine woods, of which the Canadians make Christmas garlands, and also some of the winter berries, and spice berries, which look so gay in the fall and early spring, with berries of brightest scarlet, and shining dark green leaves, that trail over the ground on the gravelly hills and plains.
Nurse Frazer brought Lady Mary some sweetmeats, flavored with an extract of the spicy winter green, from the confectioner's shop; the Canadians being very fond of the flavor of this plant. The Indians chew the leaves, and eat the ripe mealy berries, which have something of the taste of the bay-laurel leaves. The Indian men smoke the leaves as tobacco.
One day, while Mrs. Frazer was at work in the nursery, her little charge came to her in a great state of agitation—her cheeks were flushed, and her eyes were dancing with joy; she threw herself into her arms, and said, "Oh! dear nurse, I am going home to dear old England and Scotland. Papa and mamma are going away from Government House, and I am to return to the old country with them; I am so glad, are not you?"
But the tears gathered in Mrs. Frazer's eyes and fell fast upon the work she held in her hand. Lady Mary looked surprised, when she saw how her kind nurse was weeping.
"Nurse, you are to go too; mamma says so; now you need not cry, for you are not going to leave me."
"I cannot go with you, my dearest child," whispered her weeping attendant, "much as I love you; for I have a dear son of my own. I have but him, and it would break my heart to part from him;" and she softly put aside the bright curls from Lady Mary's fair forehead, and tenderly kissed her. "This child is all I have in the world to love me, and when his father, my own kind husband, died, he vowed to take care of me, and cherish me in my old age, and I promised that I would never leave him; so I cannot go away from Canada with you, my lady, though I dearly love you."
"Then, Mrs. Frazer, I shall be sorry to leave Canada; for when I go home, I shall have no one to talk to me about beavers, and squirrels, and Indians, and flowers, and birds."
"Indeed, my lady, you will not want for amusement there, for England and Scotland are finer places than Canada. Your good governess and jour new nurse will be able to tell you many things that will delight you; and you will not quite forget your poor old nurse, I am sure, when you think about the time you have spent in this country."
"Ah, dear good old nurse, I will not forget you," said Lady Mary, springing into her nurse's lap, and fondly caressing her, while big bright tears fell from her eyes.
There was so much to do, and so much to think about before the Governor's departure, that Lady Mary had no time to hear any more stories, nor to ask any more questions about the natural history of Canada; though, doubtless, there were many other curious things that Mrs. Frazer could have related; for she was a person of good education, who had seen and noticed as well as read a great deal. She had not always been a poor woman, but had once been a respectable farmer's wife, though her husband's death had reduced her to a state of servitude; and she had earned money enough while in the Governor's service to educate her son, and this was how she came to be Lady Mary's nurse.
Lady Mary did not forget to have all her Indian curiosities packed up with some dried plants and flower seeds, collected by her governess; but she left the cage, with her flying squirrel, to Mrs. Frazer, to take care of till the following spring, when she told her to take it to the mountain, or St. Helen's Island, and let it go free, that it might be a happy squirrel once more, and bound away among the green trees in the Canadian woods.
When Mrs. Frazer was called in to take leave of the Governor and his lady, after receiving a handsome salary for her care and attendance on their little daughter, the Governor gave her a sealed parchment, which, when she opened, was found to contain a Government deed for a fine lot of land, in a fertile township in Upper Canada.
It was with many tears and blessings that Mrs. Frazer took leave of the good Governor's family; and, above all, of her beloved charge, Lady Mary.