"That's true, Captain," observed Martin, "and I will go myself and put him on his guard."
"But, will they not attack him before they attack us?" said Alfred.
"Why should they?" replied Sinclair. "He is as much an Indian almost as they are, and is well known to most of them. Besides, what would they gain by attacking him? These straggling parties, which you have to fear, are in quest of booty, and will not expect to find anything in his wigwam except a few furs. No, they will not venture near his rifle, which they fear, when there is nothing to be obtained by so doing. I mention this to you, Alfred, that you may be prepared, and keep a sharp look-out. It is very possible that nothing of the kind may occur, and that the winter may pass away without any danger, and I mention it to you and Martin, as I consider that the probabilities are not sufficient to warrant your alarming the other members of the family, especially the female portion of it. How far you may consider it advisable to communicate what has now passed to your father and Henry, it is for you to decide. As I said before, I do not imagine you have much to fear from a general attack; it is too late in the year, and we know that the councils broke up without coming to any decision. You have only to fear the attempts of small parties of marauders, and I think you are quite strong enough, both in numbers and in the defences of your habitation, to resist them successfully, if you are not suddenly surprised. That is all that you have to fear; and now that you are warned, half the danger is over."
"Well, Captain, I'll leave you now," said Martin, "I shall go over to old Malachi's to-night; for it occurs to me that any attack is more likely to be made between the fall of the leaf and the fall of the snow than afterwards; so the sooner I put Malachi on his guard the better. Good evening, sir."
Captain Sinclair and Alfred continued on their way to the fort. They had contracted a strong friendship, and were unreserved in their communication with each other.
"You have no idea, Alfred," said Captain Sinclair, "how the peculiar position of your family occupies my thoughts. It really appears almost like madness on the part of your father to bring out your mother and cousins to such a place, and expose them to such privations and dangers. I can hardly sleep at night when I reflect upon what might happen."
"I believe," replied Alfred, "that if my father had known exactly what his present position would have been, he would have decided upon not leaving England; but you must remember that he came out with much encouragement, and the idea that he would only have to surmount the hardships of a settler in clearing his land. He fancied, at least, I'm sure we all did, that we should be surrounded by other farmers, and have no particular danger to incur. When at Quebec, he found that all the good land near to civilisation was bought up or possessed by the French Canadians; he was advised to come further westward by those who ought to have been aware of what he would have to encounter by so doing, but who probably considered that the danger we now apprehend no longer existed; and he has followed that advice, which I have no doubt was conscientiously given. I think myself, even now, that the advice was good, although we are accompanied by females who have been brought up in so different a sphere, and for whose welfare such anxiety is shown; for observe now, Sinclair, suppose, without having made our acquaintance, you had heard that some settlers, men and women, had located themselves where we have done; should you have considered it so very rash an undertaking, presuming that they were merely farmers and farmers' wives?"
"I certainly should have troubled myself very little about them, and perhaps not thought upon the subject."
"But supposing that the subject had been brought up at the fort, and you heard that the parties had a stockaded house and four or five good rifles to depend upon, with the fort to fall back upon if necessary?"
"I admit that I should most probably have said that they were in a position to protect themselves."
"Most assuredly, and therefore we are equally so; your feelings of interest in us magnify the danger, and I therefore trust that in future you will not allow our position to interfere with your night's rest."
"I wish I could bring myself to that feeling of security Alfred. If I were only with you, to assist in protecting them, I should sleep sound enough."
"Then you would not be of much use as a watch," replied Alfred, laughing. "Never fear, Sinclair, we shall do well enough," continued he, "and if we require assistance, we will apply for you and a party of soldiers."
"There would be much difficulty about that, Alfred," replied Captain Sinclair; "if there were sufficient danger to make that demand upon the commandant, the same danger would require that he should not weaken his force in the fort; no, you would have to retreat to the fort, and leave your farm to the mercy of the Indians."
"It certainly would be the wisest plan of the two," replied Alfred; "at all events, we could send the women. But the Indians have not come yet, and we must hope that they will not."
The conversation was then changed, and in half-an-hour more they arrived at the fort.
Alfred was welcomed at the fort by Colonel Forster, with whom he was a great favourite. The Colonel could not refrain from expressing his opinion that Mr Campbell and his family were in a position of some danger, and lamenting that the female portion of the family, who had been brought up with such very different prospects, should be so situated. He even ventured to hint that if Mrs Campbell and the two Misses Percival would pass the winter in the fort, he would make arrangements to accommodate them. But Alfred at once replied that he was convinced no inducement would persuade his mother or cousins to leave his father; they had shared his prosperity, and they would cling to him in his adversity; that they all were aware of what they would have to risk before they came out, and his father preferred a life of honourable independence attended with danger, to seeking the assistance of others.
"But still I cannot perceive any reason for the ladies remaining to encounter the danger."
"The more we are, the stronger we are to repel danger."
"But women, surely, will only be an incumbrance!"
"I think differently," replied Alfred. "Young and delicate as my cousins are, they will not shrink any more than my mother when their services are required. They now can all of them use a rifle, if required, and to defend a house, a determined woman is almost as effective as a man. Depend upon it, if it comes to the necessity, they will do so. You see, therefore, Colonel, that by taking away our ladies, you will weaken our force," continued Alfred, laughing.
"Well, I will press it no more. Only recollect that I shall always be ready to send you any assistance when required."
"I have been thinking, Colonel Forster, that, as we have no horses at present, if you have any rockets, they might be useful in such a case. At the distance we are from you a rocket would be seen immediately if fired at night, and I promise you, that it shall not be fired without great necessity."
"I am glad that you have mentioned it, Alfred; you shall have a dozen to take with you. You go back with the boats that carry the hay to-morrow morning, do you not?"
"Yes; I shall take that opportunity, to save wearing out my shoes, as we have no cobbler near to us. I presume it will be the last trip made by the boats this season."
"Yes," replied the Colonel, "the frost will soon set in now. In another fortnight we shall probably be visited with a heavy fall of snow, and the ground will then be covered till the spring. But I suppose we shall see or hear from you occasionally?"
"Yes; as soon as I can push along in my snow-shoes, I will pay you a visit," replied Alfred, "but I have that art to learn yet."
The following morning the sky was clear and the day brilliant. The sun shone upon the dark scarlet-tinged foliage of the oaks, and through the transparent yellow leaves of the maple. A slight frost had appeared for two or three mornings about a month back, and now they were enjoying what was termed the Indian summer, which is a return of fair and rather warm weather for a short time previous to the winter setting in. The soldiers were busy carrying the hay down to the bateaux, and, before noon, Alfred bade farewell to Colonel Forster and the other officers of the fort, and, accompanied by Captain Sinclair, went down to embark. All was ready, and Alfred stepped into the boat; Captain Sinclair being on duty and not able to accompany him back.
"I shall not fail to give directions to the sentries about the rockets, Alfred," said Captain Sinclair, "and so tell your mother and cousins; and mind to shew them how to fire them off from out of the barrel of a musket. Good-bye; God bless you, my dear fellow."
"Good-bye," replied Alfred, as the boats pulled from the shore.
LETTERS FROM ENGLAND.
After Alfred's return from the fort, a few days passed away without any incident: Martin had paid a visit to Malachi Bone, who had promised that he would be on the look-out and would give immediate information and assistance in case of any hostile measures on the part of the Indians. He told Martin, that in a few days he would discover what had taken place and what might be looked forward to. When Martin returned with this communication, Alfred was satisfied, and did not acquaint anybody except his brother Henry with the information which he had received from Captain Sinclair.
The monotony of their life was, however, broken in upon by the arrival of a corporal from the fort, who was the bearer of the first dispatches which they had received since their arrival at the settlement. Letters, yes, letters, not only from Quebec but from England, were announced. The whole house was in confusion, all crowding round Mr Campbell while he unsealed the large packet. First a bundle of English newspapers from the Governor of Quebec—these were laid aside; a letter from Mr Campbell's agent at Quebec—this was on business and could wait his leisure; then the letters from England—two long well-filled double letters from Miss Paterson to Mary and Emma; another from Mr Campbell's agent in England, and a large one on foolscap paper with "On His Majesty's Service," directed to Mr Alfred Campbell. Each party seized upon their letters, and hastened on one side with them. Mrs Campbell being the only one who had no correspondent, anxiously watched the countenance of Alfred, who, after a hasty glance, cried out, "I am confirmed to my rank, my dear mother; I am a lieutenant in his Majesty's service—huzza! Here's a letter inclosed from Captain Lumley; I know his handwriting." Alfred received the congratulations of the whole party, handed the official letter to his mother, and then commenced the perusal of the one from Captain Lumley. After a short silence, during which they were all occupied with their correspondence, Mr Campbell said, "I also have good news to communicate to you; Mr H. writes to me to say, that Mr Douglas Campbell, on finding the green-houses and hot-houses so well stocked, considers that he was bound to pay for the plants; that they have been valued at seven hundred pounds, and that he has paid that money into my agent's hands. This is extremely liberal of Mr Douglas Campbell, and I certainly did not expect, as I found plants there on my taking possession, that I was entitled to any remuneration for what I left. However, I am too poor to refuse his offer from any feelings of delicacy, and shall therefore write and thank him for his generous behaviour." Alfred had read the letter from Captain Lumley, which made him very thoughtful. The fact was, that his promotion and the observations in Captain Lumley's letter had brought back all his former regret at having quitted the service, and he was very melancholy in consequence; but as his cousins read their letters aloud, he gradually recovered his spirits.
At last, all the letters were read, and then the newspapers were distributed. No more work was done that day, and in the evening they all sat round the kitchen fire and talked over the intelligence they had received until long after their usual time of retiring to bed.
"I have been thinking, my dear Emily," said Mr Campbell the next morning, before they quitted their sleeping-room, "what a very seasonable supply of money this will be. My funds, as you have seen by the account of my Quebec agent, were nearly exhausted, and we have many things yet to procure. We shall require horses next year, and we must increase our stock in every way; indeed, if we could have another man or two, it would be very advantageous, as the sooner we clear the ground, the sooner we shall be independent."
"I agree with you, Campbell; besides, we shall now have Alfred's half-pay, poor fellow, which will help us very much; I have been thinking more of him than anything else this night: I watched him when he read Captain Lumley's letter, and I well understood the cause of his seriousness for some time afterwards; I almost feel inclined to let him return to his profession; it would be painful parting with him, but the sacrifice on his part is very great."
"Still it's his duty," replied Mr Campbell, "and, moreover, absolutely necessary at present, that he should remain with us. When we are more settled and more independent of his assistance we will talk over the subject."
In the meantime, Mary and Emma had gone out as usual to milk the cows. It was a beautiful clear day, but there was a bracing air which cheered the spirits, and the sunshine was pleasantly warm in situations sheltered from the winds; one of the few fine days just before the rushing in of winter. They had milked their cows, and had just turned them out again, when they both sat down with their pails before them on a log, which was in front of Malachi's lodge, now used as a cow-house.
"Do you know, Mary," said Emma, after a pause, "I'm almost sorry that I have received a letter from Miss Paterson."
"Indeed, dear Emma!"
"Yes, indeed, it has unsettled me. I did nothing but dream all last night. Everything was recalled to my mind—all that I most wished to forget. I fancied myself again engaged in all the pursuits of our much-loved home; I was playing the harp, you were accompanying on the piano as usual; we walked out in the shrubberies; we took an airing in the carriage; all the servants were before me; we went to the village and to the almshouses; we were in the garden picking dahlias and roses; I was just going up to dress for a very large dinner-party, and had rung the bell for Simpson, when I woke up, and found myself in a log-hut, with my eyes fixed upon the rafters and bark covering of the roof, thousands of miles from Wexton Hall, and half-an-hour longer in bed than a dairy-maid should be."
"I will confess, my dear Emma, that I passed much such a night; old associations will rise up again when so forcibly brought to our remembrance as they have been by Miss Paterson's letters, but I strove all I could to banish them from my mind, and not indulge in useless repining."
"Repine, I do not, Mary, at least, I hope not, but one cannot well help regretting; I cannot help remembering, as Macduff says, that 'such things were.'"
"He might well say so, Emma; for what had he lost? his wife and all his children, ruthlessly murdered; but what have we lost in comparison? nothing—a few luxuries. Have we not health and spirits? Have we not our kind uncle and aunt, who have fostered us—our cousins so attached to us?
"Had it not been for the kindness of our uncle and aunt, who have brought us up as their own children, should we, poor orphans, have ever been partakers of those luxuries which you now regret? Ought we not rather to thank Heaven that circumstances have enabled us to shew some gratitude for benefits heaped upon us? How much greater are these privations to my uncle and aunt now that they are so much more advanced in years, and have been so much longer accustomed to competence and ease; and shall we repine or even regret, unless it is on their account? surely, my dear Emma, not on our own."
"I feel the truth of all you say, Mary," replied Emma; "nay, all that you have now said passed in my own mind, and I have argued to myself in almost the same words, but I fear that I am not quite so much of a philosopher as you are; and, acknowledging that what you say is correct, I still have the same feeling—that is, I wish that I had not received the letter from Miss Paterson."
"In that wish there can be no harm, for it is only wishing that you may not be tempted to repine."
"Exactly, my dear Mary; I am a daughter of Eve," replied Emma, laughing, and rising from her seat; "I will put away Miss Paterson's letter, and I daresay in a day or two shall have forgotten all about it. Dear Alfred, how glad I am that he is promoted; I shall call him Lieutenant Campbell till he is sick of it. Come, Mary, or we shall be keeping my uncle waiting; come, Juno."
Emma's calling Juno to follow her, reminds me that I have not yet introduced the dogs to my little readers, and as they will have to play their parts in our history, I may as well do so at once. Captain Sinclair, it may be remembered, had procured five dogs for Mr Campbell from the officers of the fort,—two terriers, which were named Trim and Snob; Trim was a small dog and kept in the house, but Snob was a very powerful bull-terrier, and very savage; a fox-hound bitch, the one which Emma had just called Juno; Bully, a very fine young bull-dog, and Sancho, an old pointer. At night, these dogs were tied up; Juno in the store-house; Bully and Snob at the door of the house within the palisade; Trim indoors, and old Sancho at the lodge of Malachi Bone, where the cows were put in at night. Mr Campbell found it rather expensive at first feeding these dogs, but as soon as Martin and his companions brought home game, there was always plenty for them all. They were all very sharp and high-couraged dogs, for they had been born in the fort and had been brought up to hunting every kind of game indiscriminately; and I need hardly add that they were excellent watch-dogs, and considered by Mr Campbell as a great protection. For the next two days, the family remained rather unsettled; there was so much news in the newspapers; so many recollections brought up by their perusal; so much to talk about and discuss, that very little work was done. The weather, however, was now becoming much colder, and, for the last two days the sun had not shone. The sky was of one uniform murky solemn grey; and everything announced that the winter was close at hand. Martin who had been hunting, when he came home bid them prepare for an immediate change in the weather, and his prediction was speedily verified.
It was on the Saturday evening, when they had all assembled round the fire, for it was more cold than it had hitherto been, that the moaning of the wind among the trees of the forest announced a gale of wind from the northward.
"We shall have it soon," observed Martin, "winter mostly comes in with a gale."
"Yes; and this appears as if it would be a strong gale," replied Alfred. "Hark! how the boughs of the trees are sawing and cracking against each other."
"I reckon we may get our snow-shoes out of the store-house, John," said Martin, "and then we shall see how you can get over the ground with them when you go out hunting. You have not shot a moose yet."
"Is the moose the same as the elk, Martin?" said Henry.
"I do not think it is, sir; yet I've heard both names given to the animal."
"Have you ever shot any?" said Mrs Campbell.
"Yes, ma'am; many a one. They're queer animals; they don't run like the other deer, but they trot as fast as the others run, so it comes to the same thing. They are very shy, and difficult to get near, except in the heavy snow, and then their weight will not allow them to get over it, as the lighter deer can; they sink up to their shoulders, and flounder about till they are overtaken. You see, Master Percival, the moose can't put on snow-shoes like we can, and that gives us the advantage over the animal."
"Are they dangerous animals, Martin?" inquired Mary.
"Every large animal is more or less dangerous when it turns to bay, miss. A moose's horns sometimes weigh fifty pounds, and it is a strong animal to boot; but it can't do anything when the snow is deep. You'll find it good eating, at all events, when we bring one in."
"I'll bring one," said John, who was cleaning his rifle.
"I daresay you will, as soon as you can manage your snow-shoes," replied Martin. "The wind is getting up higher. I guess you'll not find your way back to Malachi's lodge, Master John, as you thought to do to-morrow morning."
"It is certainly a dreadful night," observed Mrs Campbell; "and I feel the cold very sensibly."
"Yes, ma'am; but as soon as the snow is down, you'll be warmer."
"It is time to go to bed," observed Mr Campbell, "so put away your work; and, Henry, give me down the bible."
During that night the gale increased to almost a hurricane; the trees of the forest clashed and crackled, groaned and sawed their long arms against each other, creating an unusual and almost appalling noise; the wind howled round the palisades and fluttered the strips of bark on the roof, and as they all lay in bed, they could not sleep from the noise outside, and the increased feeling of cold. It was also the first trial of this new house in severe weather, and some of the wakeful party were anxiously watching the result. Towards the morning the storm abated, and everything was again quiet. In consequence of the restless night which they had passed they were not so early as usual. Emma and Mary, when they came out of their room, found Martin and Alfred up and very busy with shovels; and, to their astonishment, they perceived that the snow was at least three feet deep on the ground, and in some places had been drifted up higher than their heads.
"Why, Alfred!" cried Emma; "how shall we be able to go after the cows this morning? This is, indeed, winter come on with little warning."
"It still snows," observed Mary; "not much, indeed, but the sky is very black."
"Yes, miss, we shall have some more of it yet," observed Martin. "Mr Campbell and Mr Henry have gone to the store-house for more shovels, for we must work hard, and clear a footpath, and then get the snow up against the palisades."
"What a sudden change," said Emma; "I wish the sky would clear, and then I should not care."
"It will to-morrow, Miss Emma, I dare say; but the snow must come down first."
Martin and Alfred had only time to clear a path to the store-house. Mr Campbell and Henry returned with more shovels, and as soon as breakfast was over, they commenced work. As for Mary and Emma going to milk the cows, that was impossible. Martin undertook that task until they had cleared a pathway to the hunter's lodge, in which the animals were shut up every night.
By the advice of Martin, the snow next the palisades was piled up against the palings like a wall, as high as they could reach or throw it, by which means they got rid of the snow about the house, and at the same time formed a barrier against the freezing winds which they had to expect. All worked hard; Percival and John were of great use, and even Mrs Campbell and the girls assisted collecting the remainder of the snow, and clearing it off the window-sills and other parts. By noon the snow left off falling, the sky cleared up, and the sun shone bright, although it gave out but little warmth.
After dinner they renewed their labours, and commenced clearing away a path to the lodge, where the cows were locked in, and before nightfall they had accomplished their task as far as the bridge over the stream, which was about half-way.
It had been a day of great fatigue, and they were glad to retire to rest. Mrs Campbell and the girls had put an additional supply of blankets and skins upon the beds, for the cold was now intense, and the thermometer stood far below the freezing point.
The following morning they resumed their task; the sky was still unclouded, and the sun shone out clear and bright. By dinnertime the path to the cow-house had been completed; and the men then employed themselves in carrying as much firewood as they could, before it was dark, within the palisades.
"Well," observed Alfred, "now things may go on as usual within doors; and what have we to do out, Martin?"
"You must first get on your snow-shoes, and learn to walk in them," observed Martin; "or, otherwise, you'll be a prisoner as well as the ladies. You see, John, you're not at Malachi's lodge."
"Go to-morrow," replied John.
"No; not to-morrow, for I must go with you," said Martin; "I cannot trust you for finding your way; and I cannot go to-morrow nor the next day either. We must kill our beef to-morrow; there's no fear but it will keep all the winter now, and we shall save our hay."
"My larder is but poorly furnished," observed Mrs Campbell.
"Never mind, ma'am, we'll soon have something in it, which will save our beef. In another week you shall have it well stocked."
"John," said Mr Campbell, "recollect you must not go away without Martin."
"I won't," replied John.
All the game in the larder having been consumed, they sat down to salt-pork and some of the fish which had been cured. The latter was pronounced to be excellent.
"What is the name of this fish, Martin?"
"It is called the white-fish," replied Martin, "and I have heard gentry from the old country say that they have none better, if any so good."
"It is certainly most excellent," replied Mr Campbell, "and we will not forget to have a good provision for next winter, if it pleases God to spare our lives."
"Where were you born, Martin?" said Henry as they were sitting round the kitchen fire, as usual in the evening.
"Why, Mr Henry, I was born at Quebec. My father was a corporal in the army under General Wolfe, and was wounded in the great battle fought between him and the Frenchman Montcalm."
"In which both generals were killed, but the victory was to us."
"So I've heard, sir," replied Martin. "My mother was an Englishwoman, and I was born about four years after the surrender of Quebec. My mother died soon afterwards, but my father was alive about five years ago, I believe. I can't exactly say, as I was for three or four years in the employ of the Fur Company, and when I returned, I found that he was dead."
"And you have been a hunter all your life?"
"Not all my life, and not exactly a hunter. I call myself a trapper, but I still am both. I first was out with the Indians when I was about fourteen, for you see my father wanted to make me a drummer, and I could not stand that; so I said to him, 'Father, I won't be a drummer.' 'Well,' says he, 'Martin, you must help yourself, for all my interest lies in the army.' 'So I will,' says I; 'father, I'm off for the woods.' 'Well,' says he, 'just as you like, Martin.' So one fine day I wished him good-bye, and did not see him again for more than two years."
"Well, and what took place then?"
"Why, I brought home three or four packages of good skins, and sold them well. Father was so pleased, that he talked of turning trapper himself, but, as I told the old man, a man with a lame leg—for he had been wounded in the leg, and halted—would not make his livelihood by hunting in the woods of Canada."
"Was your father still in the army?"
"No, ma'am, he was not in the army; but he was employed in the storekeeper's department; they gave him the berth on account of his wound."
"Well; go on, Martin."
"I haven't much more to say, ma'am. I brought home my furs, sold them, and father helped me to spend the money as long as he was alive, and very welcome he was to his share. I felt rather queer when I came back from the Fur Company and found that the old man was dead, for I had looked forward with pleasure to the old man's welcome, and his enjoying his frolic with me as usual."
"I'm afraid those frolics were not very wise, Martin."
"No, sir, they were very foolish, I believe; but I fear it will always be the case with us trappers. We are like sailors, we do not know what to do with money when we get it; so we throw it away, and the sooner the better, for it is our enemy while we have it. I assure you, sir, that I used to feel quite happy when all my money was gone, and I was setting off to the woods again. It is a hard life, but a life that unfits me for any other; a life which you become very fond of. I don't mind being here with you by way of a change; indeed, as long as there is hunting, it is almost as good as if I were in the woods, but else I think I shall die a trapper."
"But, Martin," said Mr Campbell, "how much more wise it would be to put your money by, and after a time purchase a farm and settle down a steady man with property, perhaps married and the father of a family."
"Perhaps it might be; but if I do not like it so well as trapping, I don't see why I should do so; it would be changing my life to please others and not myself."
"That's very true, Martin," said Alfred, laughing.
"Perhaps Martin may change his mind before he is an old man," replied Mrs Campbell. "Dear me! what noise was that?" exclaimed Mrs Campbell, as a melancholy howl was heard without.
"Only a rascally wolf, ma'am," said Martin: "we must expect the animals to be about us now that the snow has fallen, and the winter has set in."
"A wolf! are they not dangerous, Martin?" inquired Mary Percival.
"That depends, miss, how hungry they may be; but they are not very fond of attacking a human being; if we had any sheep outside, I fancy that they would stand a bad chance."
The howl was repeated, when one or two of the dogs which had been admitted into the house and were stretched before the fire, roused up and growled.
"They hear him, ma'am, and if we were to let them out, would soon be at him. No, no, John, sit still and put down your rifle: we can't afford to hurt wolves; their skins won't fetch a half-dollar, and their flesh is not fit for a dog, let alone a Christian. Let the vermin howl till he's tired; he'll be off to the woods again before daylight."
"There is certainly something very melancholy and dreadful to me in that howl," said Emma; "it frightens me."
"What, Emma, afraid?" said Alfred, going to her; "why yes, really she trembles; why, my dear Emma, do you recollect how frightened you and Mary were at the noise of the frogs when you first came here; you got used to it very soon, and so you will to the howl of a wolf."
"There is some difference, Alfred," replied Emma, shuddering as the howl was repeated. "I don't know how it is," said she, rallying her spirits, "but I believe it was reading Little Red Riding Hood when I was a child, which has given me such a horror of a wolf; I shall get over it very soon, I have no doubt."
"I must say, that it does not create the most agreeable sensation in my mind," observed Mrs Campbell, "but I was aware of what we were to encounter when we came here, and if it is only to be annoyed with the cry of a wild beast, we may consider that we get off very cheaply."
"I should feel much more at ease, if all the rifles were loaded," said Mary Percival, in her usual quiet way.
"And I too," said Emma.
"Well, then, if that will at all relieve your minds, it is easily done," said Mr Campbell; "let us all load our rifles, and put them back in their rests."
"Mine's loaded," said John.
"And the rest soon shall be," said Alfred, "even the three appropriated for your use, mother and cousins. Now don't you feel some satisfaction in knowing that you can load and fire them yourselves? the practice you had during the fine weather has not been thrown away, has it, dear Emma?"
"No, it has not, and I am very glad that I did learn it; I am a coward in apprehension, Alfred, but, perhaps, if I were put to the test, I should behave better."
"That I really believe," replied Alfred; "a gale of wind at sea sounds very awful when down below jerking about in your hammock, but when on deck, you don't care a fig about it. Now the rifles are all loaded, and we may go to bed and sleep sound." They did retire to rest, but all parties did not sleep very sound; the howling of one wolf was answered by another; Emma and Mary embraced each other, and shuddered as they heard the sounds, and it was long before they forgot their alarm and were asleep.
SEASONS FOR CONTENTMENT.
The next morning was bright and clear, and when Emma and Mary went out, attended by Alfred, to go and milk the cows, although the cold was intense, everything looked so brilliant and sparkling in the sunshine that they regained their spirits. The lake was still unfrozen, and its waters, which were of an azure blue, contrasted with the whole of the country covered with snow, and the spruce firs with their branches loaded presented an alternate layer of pure white and of the darkest green. Birds there were none to be seen or heard. All was quiet, so quiet that as they stepped along the path which had been cleared away to the cow-house, they almost started at the sound of their own voices, which the atmosphere rendered more peculiarly sonorous and ringing. Alfred had his rifle on his shoulder, and walked in front of his cousins.
"I have come to prove that all your fears are groundless, my dear Emma, and that you need not have any alarm about a skulking, cowardly wolf," said Alfred.
"Well, that may be," replied Emma, "but still we are very glad of your company."
They arrived at the cow-house without any adventure, let loose Sancho, who had been tied up, as it was decided that the dog should remain at home with the others, and proceeded to milk the cows. Having finished that task and supplied them with fodder, Mary Percival observed, as they were retracing their steps, "I must say that it would not only be more convenient, but more agreeable if the cows were kept nearer to the house."
"It would be, certainly," replied Alfred. "It is a pity that there is not a cow-shed within the palisades; but we have no means of making one at present. Next year, when my father has purchased his horses and his sheep, which he talks of doing, we are to build a regular yard and sheds for all the animals close to the house, and palisaded round as the house now is, with a passage from one palisade to the other. Then it will be very convenient; but 'Rome was not built in one day,' and we must, therefore, wait another winter."
"And be devoured by the wolves in the meantime," replied Emma, laughing.
"Why, you are getting over your fright already, Emma."
"Yes; I feel bold, now there is nothing to be afraid of." The remainder of the week was passed away in practising upon the snow-shoes by the males of the party, the women scarcely ever venturing out of doors, as the cold was very severe. Mary and Emma were accompanied by Alfred for the first three or four days; and after that, notwithstanding that the howling of the wolves was heard every night, they took courage when they found that the animals never made their appearance by daylight, and went as before to milk the cows by themselves. On the Saturday, they were in the hopes of seeing old Malachi Bone, but he did not make his appearance, and John, who could now get on very well in his snow-shoes, became very impatient. Alfred and Martin were also very anxious to see the old man, that they might ascertain if he had made any discoveries relative to the Indians. Sunday, as usual, was a day of rest from labour; the services were read by Mr Campbell, and the evening passed in serious conversation. Mr Campbell, although usually in good spirits, was certainly not so on that evening. Whether it was that the severity of the winter which had set in and the known long duration of it which they had to encounter had an effect upon his spirits, he was melancholy as well as serious. He more than once referred to their former residence when in England, which was a very unusual thing for him to do, and by degrees the conversation was turned in that direction, and, although no one said so, they all felt what a change there was in their present position from that which they had been forced to leave. Mrs Campbell, who perceived that a gloom was gathering over the whole party, made several remarks tending to reconcile them to their present lot, and, after a time Mr Campbell observed, "Perhaps, my dear children, it may be a divine mercy which has sent you here to this wilderness; true it is that we are removed from civilisation, and shut up here by a severe winter, deprived of the enjoyments and pleasures which were to be found in the society which we were compelled to leave; but let us also bear in mind that we are removed from the many temptations which might have there assailed us."
"But still, papa, you would be very glad if circumstances would permit us to return to England; would you not?" said Percival.
"Yes, my child, I should, and even if I had remained here so long as to have become attached to the place and to the isolation which at first is felt so irksome, I would still return to England and to society, if I had the means. As Christians, we are not to fly from the world and its temptations, but to buckle on our armour, and, putting our trust in Him who will protect us, fight the good fight; that is, doing our duty in that state of life to which it shall please God to call us."
"But if ever we were to return to England, there would be no chance of our living as we did before we left it, would there, papa?"
"I see none, my dear boy; but we never know what is in store for us. Should any of us ever return, I presume it would be to live in a more humble way; and for my part, I should prefer that it were so, for although I trust I did not greatly misuse that wealth which I so long supposed to be mine, I should not be sorry to have much less, and therefore less responsibility."
"Indeed, my dear Campbell, imperfect as we all are, I do not believe that many could have made a better use of it than you did."
"I thought so at the time, my dear," replied Mr Campbell, "but since it has been lost to me, I have often thought that I might have done more good with it. But the fact is, my dear children, there is nothing so dangerous to our eternal welfare as great wealth; it tends to harden the heart by affording the means of constant self-indulgence:—under such circumstances, man is apt to become selfish, easily satisfied with his own works, and too proud to see his errors. Did you observe in the Litany, which I read at this morning's service, how very appropriately is inserted the prayer for deliverance under the perils of wealth?
"'In all time of our tribulation, in all time of our wealth, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment, good Lord deliver us.'
"Examine this, my dear children: in all time of our tribulation,—that is in poverty and distress, and perhaps famishing from want (and in few positions are people so incited to crime), then in all time of our wealth, evidently and distinctly placing wealth as more dangerous to the soul's welfare than the extremest poverty and its accompanying temptations; and observe, only exceeded by the most critical of all dangerous positions, when all has been done and nothing can be undone,— the hour of death, followed by the day of judgment." Mr Campbell ceased speaking, and there was a pause for a minute or two in the conversation, when Mary Percival said, "What, then, my dear uncle, do you consider as the most enviable position in life?"
"I consider a moderate independence as the most enviable; not occupied in trade, as the spirit of barter is too apt to make us bend to that which is actually fraud. I should say, a country gentleman living on his own property and among his own tenants, employing the poor around him, holds a position in which he has the least temptation to do wrong, and the most opportunities of doing good."
"I agree with you, my dear Campbell," said his wife; "and yet how few are satisfied even with that lot."
"Because the craving after wealth is so strong, that everyone would have more than he hath, and few men will be content. This desire of aggrandisement overcomes and masters us; and yet, what can be more absurd than to witness the care and anxiety of those to gain riches, who have already more, perhaps, than is necessary for their wants,—thus 'heaping up riches, not knowing who may gather them,' and endangering the soul to obtain that which they must leave behind them when they die. Others amass wealth, not actuated by the avarice of hoarding it up, but by the appetite for expending it; who collect unjustly that they may lavish profusely; these are equally foolish, and how important is that lesson given in the Scriptures." Mr Campbell opened the Bible which lay before him and read—
"'And he spake a parable unto them. The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully.
"'And he said, What shall I do? because I have no room where to bestow my fruits.
"'And he said: This will I do; I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
"'And I will say to my soul: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry.
"'But God said unto him: Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.'"
After a short silence, Mr Campbell observed, "I have often reflected since I have been here upon what might have been our position had we decided upon remaining in England. We might at this moment have been in the greatest distress, even wanting a meal; and I have, therefore, often thanked God that he left us the means of coming here and providing for ourselves as we have done, and as I have no doubt shall, with His blessing, continue to do. How much better off are we at this moment than many thousands of our countrymen who remain in England? How many are starving? How many are driven into crime from want? while we have a good roof over our heads, sufficient clothing and more than sufficient food. We have, therefore, great reason to thank God for the mercies He has vouchsafed to us; He has heard our prayer, 'Give us this day our daily bread.' Yes," continued Mr Campbell, "'Give us this day our daily bread,' is all that we are taught to ask for; and it comprehends all; and yet how heartlessly is this pronounced by many of those who do repeat their daily prayers. So is the blessing asked at meals, which is by too many considered as a mere matter of form. They forget, that He who gives can also take away; and in their presumption, suppose their own ability and exertion to have been the sole means of procuring themselves a daily supply of food; thanking themselves rather than the Giver of all good. How many thousands are there who have been supplied with more than they require from their cradle down to their grave, without any grateful feeling towards Heaven; considering the butcher and baker as their providers, and the debt cancelled as soon as the bills are paid. How different must be the feeling of the poor cottager, who is uncertain whether his labour may procure him and his family a meal for the morrow, who often suffers privation and hunger, and, what is more painful, witnesses the sufferings of those he loves. How earnest must be his prayer when he cries, 'Give us this day our daily bread.'"
This conversation had a very strong effect upon the party, and when they retired to rest, which they did shortly after, they laid their heads upon their pillows not only with resignation, but with thankfulness for the mercies which had been vouchsafed to them, and felt that in the wilderness, they were under the eye of a watchful and gracious Providence.
ATTACKED BY A WOLF.
On the Monday morning, Alfred and Martin went to the cow-house, and slaughtered the bullock which they had obtained from the commandant of the fort. When it was skinned it was cut up, and carried to the store-house, where it was hung up for their winter consumption.
As the party were sitting down to dinner, they were greeted by Captain Sinclair and a young lieutenant of the garrison. It hardly need be said that the whole family were delighted to see them. They had come overland in their snow-shoes, and brought some partridges, or grouse, as they are some times called, which they had shot on their way. Captain Sinclair had obtained leave from the commandant to come over and see how the Campbells were getting on. He had no news of any importance, as they had had no recent communication with Quebec or Montreal; all was well at the fort, and Colonel Forster had sent his compliments, and begged, if he could be useful, that they would let him know. Captain Sinclair and his friend sat down to dinner, and talked more than they ate, asking questions about everything.
"By-the-bye, Mr Campbell, where have you built your pigsties?"
"Inside the palisade, next to the fowl-house."
"That is well," replied Captain Sinclair, "for otherwise you may be troubled by the wolves, who are very partial to pork or mutton."
"We have been troubled with them," replied Emma; "at least with their howlings at night, which make me tremble as I lie awake in bed."
"Never mind their howling, Miss Emma; we have plenty of them round the fort, I can assure you; unless attacked, they will not attack you, at least I never knew an instance, although I must confess that I have heard of them."
"You will, of course, sleep here to-night?"
"Yes, we will, if you have a bear or buffalo skin to spare," replied Captain Sinclair.
"We will manage it, I have no doubt," said Mr Campbell.
"And if you could manage, Captain Sinclair," said Emma, somewhat archly, "as you say that they are not dangerous animals, to bring us in a few skins to-night, it would make the matter easy."
"Emma, how can you talk such nonsense?" cried Mary Percival. "Why should you ask a guest to undertake such a service? Why have you not proposed it to Alfred or Henry, or even Martin?"
"We will both try, if you please," replied Alfred.
"I must put my veto on any such attempts, Alfred," said Mr Campbell. "We have sufficient danger to meet, without running into it voluntarily, and we have no occasion for wolves' skins just now. I shall, however, venture to ask your assistance to-morrow morning. We wish to haul up the fishing-punt before the ice sets in on the lake, and we are not sufficiently strong-handed."
During the day, Captain Sinclair took Alfred aside to know if the old hunter had obtained any information relative to the Indians. Alfred replied, that they expected him every day, but as yet had not received any communication from him. Captain Sinclair stated that they were equally ignorant at the fort as to what had been finally arranged, and that Colonel Forster was in hopes that the hunter would by this time have obtained some intelligence.
"I should not be surprised if Malachi Bone were to come here to-morrow morning," replied Alfred. "He has been away a long while, and, I am sure, is as anxious to have John with him as John is impatient to go."
"Well, I hope he will; I shall be glad to have something to tell the Colonel, as I made the request upon that ground. I believe, however, he was very willing that I should find an excuse for coming here, as he is more anxious about your family than I could have supposed. How well your cousin Mary is looking."
"Yes; and so is Emma, I think. She has grown half a head since she left England. By-the-bye, you have to congratulate me on my obtaining my rank as Lieutenant."
"I do indeed, my dear fellow," replied Captain Sinclair. "They will be pleased to hear it at the fort. When will you come over?"
"As soon as I can manage to trot a little faster upon these snow-shoes. If, however, the old hunter does not come to-morrow, I will go to the fort as soon as he brings us any news."
The accession to their party made them all very lively, and the evening passed away very agreeably. At night, Captain Sinclair and Mr Gwynne were ushered into the large bedroom where all the younger male portion of the family slept, and which, as we before stated, had two spare bed-places.
The next morning, Captain Sinclair would have accompanied the Misses Percival on their milking expedition, but as his services were required to haul up the fishing-punt, he was obliged to go down, with all the rest of the men, to assist; Percival and John were the only ones left at home with Mrs Campbell. John, after a time, having, as usual, rubbed down his rifle, threw it on his shoulder, and, calling the dogs which lay about, sallied forth for a walk, followed by the whole pack except old Sancho, who invariably accompanied the girls to the cow-house.
Mary and Emma tripped over the new-beaten snow-path to the cow-house, merry and cheerful, with their pails in their hands, Emma laughing at Captain Sinclair's disappointment at not being permitted to accompany them. They had just arrived at the cow-house, when old Sancho barked furiously, and sprang to the side of the building behind them, and in a moment afterwards rolled down the snow heap which he had sprung over, holding on and held fast by a large black wolf. The struggle was not very long, and during the time that it lasted the girls were so panic-struck, that they remained like statues within two yards of the animals. Gradually the old dog was overpowered by the repeated snapping bites of the wolf, yet he fought nobly to the last, when he dropped under the feet of the wolf, his tongue hanging out, bleeding profusely and lifeless. As soon as his adversary was overpowered, the enraged animal, with his feet upon the body of the dog, bristling his hair and showing his powerful teeth, was evidently about to attack the young women. Emma threw her arm round Mary's waist, advancing her body so as to save her sister. Mary attempted the same, and then they remained waiting in horror for the expected spring of the animal, when of a sudden the other dogs came rushing forward, cheered on by John, and flew upon the animal.
Their united strength soon tore him down to the ground, and John coming up, as the wolf defended himself against his new assailants, put the muzzle of his rifle to the animal's head, and shot it dead.
The two sisters had held up during the whole of this alarming struggle; but as soon as they perceived the wolf was dead and that they were safe, Mary could stand no longer, and sank down on her knees, supporting her sister, who had become insensible.
If John showed gallantry in shooting the wolf, he certainly showed very little towards his cousins. He looked at Mary, nodded his head towards the wolfs body, and saying "He's dead," shouldered his rifle, turned round and walked back to the house.
On his return, he found that the party had just come back from hauling up the punt, and were waiting the return of the Misses Percival to go to breakfast.
"Was that you who fired just now, John?" said Martin.
"Yes," replied John.
"What did you fire at?" said Alfred.
"A wolf," replied John.
"A wolf! where?" said Mr Campbell.
"At the cow-lodge," replied John.
"The cow-lodge!" said his father.
"Yes; killed Sancho!"
"Killed Sancho! why, Sancho was with your cousins!"
"Yes," replied John.
"Then, where did you leave them?"
"With the wolf," replied John, wiping his rifle very coolly.
"Merciful Heaven!" cried Mr Campbell, as Mrs Campbell turned pale; and Alfred, Captain Sinclair, Martin, and Henry, seizing their rifles, darted out from the house, and ran with all speed in the direction of the cow-house.
"My poor girls!" exclaimed Mr Campbell.
"Wolfs dead, father," said John.
"Dead! Why didn't you say so, you naughty boy?" cried Mrs Campbell.
"I wasn't asked," replied John.
In the meantime the other party had gained the cow-house; and, to their horror, beheld the wolf and dog dead, and the two young women lying on the snow, close to the two animals; for Mary had fainted away shortly after John had walked off. They rushed towards the bodies of the two girls, and soon discovered that they were not hurt. In a short time they were recovered, and were supported by the young men to the house.
As soon as they arrived, Mrs Campbell took them into their room, that they might rally their spirits, and in a quarter of an hour returned to the party outside, who eagerly inquired how they were.
"They are much more composed," replied Mrs Campbell; "and Emma has begun to laugh again; but her laugh is rather hysterical and forced; they will come out at dinnertime. It appears that they are indebted to John for their preservation, for they say the wolf was about to spring upon them when he came to their assistance. We ought to be very grateful to Heaven for their preservation. I had no idea, after what Martin said about the wolves, that they were so dangerous."
"Why, ma'am, it is I that am most to blame, and that's the fact," replied Martin. "When we killed the bullock I threw the offal on the heap of snow close to the cow-lodge, meaning that the wolves and other animals might eat it at night, but it seems that this animal was hungry, and had not left his meal when the dog attacked him, and that made the beast so rily and savage."
"Yes; it was the fault of Martin and me," replied Alfred. "Thank Heaven it's no worse!"
"So far from its being a subject of regret, I consider it one of thankfulness," replied Mr Campbell. "This might have happened when there was no one to assist, and our dear girls might have been torn to pieces. Now that we know the danger, we may guard against it for the future."
"Yes, sir," replied Martin; "in future some of us will drive the cows home, to be milked every morning and evening; inside the palisade there will be no danger. Master John, you have done well. You see, ma'am," continued Martin, "what I said has come true. A rifle in the hands of a child is as deadly a weapon as in the hands of a strong man."
"Yes, if courage and presence of mind attend its uses," replied Mr Campbell. "John, I am very much pleased with your conduct."
"Mother called me naughty," replied John rather sulkily.
"Yes, John, I called you naughty, for not telling us the wolf was dead, and leaving us to suppose that your cousins were in danger; not for killing the wolf. Now I kiss you, and thank you for your bravery and good conduct."
"I shall tell all the officers at the fort, what a gallant little fellow you are, John," said Captain Sinclair; "there are very few of them who have shot a wolf, and what is more, John, I have a beautiful dog, which one of the officers gave me the other day in exchange for a pony, and I will bring it over, and make it a present to you for your own dog. He will hunt anything, and he is very powerful—quite able to master a wolf, if you meet with one. He is half mastiff and half Scotch deerhound, and he stands as high as this," continued Captain Sinclair, holding his hand about as high as John's shoulder.
"I'll go to the fort with you," said John, "and bring him back."
"So you shall, John, and I'll go with you," said Martin, "if master pleases."
"Well," replied Mr Campbell, "I think he may; what with Martin, his own rifle, and the dog, John will, I trust, be safe enough."
"Certainly, I have no objection," said Mrs Campbell, "and many thanks to you, Captain Sinclair."
"What's the dog's name?" said John.
"Oscar," replied Captain Sinclair. "If you let him walk out with your cousins, they need not fear a wolf. He will never be mastered by one, as poor Sancho was."
"I'll lend him sometimes," replied John.
"Always; when you don't want him yourself, John."
"Yes, always," replied John, who was going out of the door.
"Where are you going, dear," said Mrs Campbell.
"Going to skin the wolf," replied John, walking away.
"Well, he'll be a regular keen hunter," observed Martin. "I dare say old Bone has taught him to flay an animal. However I'll go and help him, for it's a real good skin." So saying, Martin followed John.
"Martin ought to have known better than to leave the offal where he did," observed Captain Sinclair.
"We must not be too hard, Captain Sinclair," said Alfred. "Martin has a contempt for wolves, and that wolf would not have stood his ground had it been a man instead of two young women who were in face of him. Wolves are very cunning, and I know will attack a woman or child when they will fly from a man. Besides, it is very unusual for a wolf to remain till daylight, even when there is offal to tempt him. It was the offal, the animal's extreme hunger, and the attack of the dog—a combination of circumstances—which produced the event. I do not see that Martin can be blamed, as one cannot foresee everything."
"Perhaps not," replied Captain Sinclair, "and 'all's well that ends well.'"
"Are there any other animals to fear?" inquired Mrs Campbell.
"The bear is now safe for the winter in the hollow of some tree or under some root, where he has made a den. It will not come out till the spring. The catamount or panther is a much more dangerous animal than the wolf; but it is scarce. I do think, however, that the young ladies should not venture out, unless with some rifles in company, for fear of another mischance. We have plenty of lynxes here; but I doubt if they would attack even a child, although they fight when assailed, and bite and claw severely."
The Misses Percival now made their appearance. Emma was very merry, but Mary rather grave. Captain Sinclair, having shaken hands with them both, said—
"Why, Emma, you appear to have recovered sooner than your sister!"
"Yes," replied Emma; "but I was much more frightened than she was, and she supported me, or I should have fallen at the wolf's feet. I yielded to my fears; Mary held up against hers; so, as her exertions were much greater than mine, she has not recovered from them so soon. The fact is, Mary is brave when there is danger, and I am only brave when there is none."
"I was quite as much frightened as you, my dear Emma," said Mary Percival; "but we must now help our aunt, and get dinner ready on the table."
"I cannot say that I have a wolfish appetite this morning," replied Emma, laughing; "but Alfred will eat for me and himself too." In a few minutes dinner was on the table, and they all sat down without waiting for Martin and John, who were still busy skinning the wolf.
THE ANGRY SNAKE.
"Here come Martin and John at last," said Mr Campbell, after they had been about a quarter of an hour at table.
But he was mistaken; instead of Martin and John, Malachi Bone made his appearance, and, to their surprise, he was accompanied by his young squaw, the Strawberry-Plant.
Everyone rose to welcome them, and the Misses Percival went to their little female acquaintance, and would have made her sit down with them, but she refused, and took her seat on the floor near the fire.
"She an't used to chairs and stools, miss; let her be where she is," said old Bone, "she'll be more comfortable, and that's what you want her to be, I'm sure. I brought her with me, because I could not carry all the venison myself, and also to shew her the way in and out of the house, and how it is fastened, in case of sending a message by night."
"Of sending a message by night," said Mrs Campbell, with surprise, "why, what possible occasion could there be for that?"
Captain Sinclair and Alfred, who perceived that the old hunter had said too much, were quite at a loss what to say.
They did not like to frighten Mrs Campbell and the girls about the Indians, especially as they had just been so much alarmed with the accident of the morning. At last Alfred replied, "The fact is, my dear mother, that 'forewarned is being forearmed,' as the saying is; and I told Martin to request Malachi Bone, if he should hear of any Indians being about or near us, to let us know immediately."
"Yes, ma'am, that is the whole story," continued Malachi. "It's the best plan when you're in the woods always to have your rifle loaded."
Mrs Campbell and the girls were evidently not a little fluttered at this fresh intimation of danger. Captain Sinclair perceived it, and said, "We have always spies on the look-out at the fort, that we may know where the Indians are and what they are about. Last month, we know that they held a council, but that it broke up without their coming to any determination, and that no hostile feeling was expressed so far as we could ascertain. But we never trust the Indians, and they, knowing that we watch them, have been very careful not to commit any outrages; they have not done so for a long while, nor do I think they will venture again. At the same time, we like to know where they are, and I requested Alfred to speak to Malachi Bone, to send us immediately word if he heard or saw anything of them: not, however, that I intended that the ladies should be wakened up in the middle of the night," continued Captain Sinclair, laughing; "that was not at all necessary."
Malachi Bone would have responded, but Alfred pinched his arm; the old man understood what was meant, and held his tongue; at last he said, "Well, well, there's no harm done; it's just as well that the Strawberry should know her way about the location, if it's only to know where the dogs are, in case she comes of a message."
"No, no," replied Mr Campbell, "I'm glad that she is come, and hope she will come very often. Now, Malachi, sit down and eat something."
"Well, but about the Indians, Captain Sinclair," said Mrs Campbell;—"that you have not told us all I am certain, and the conviction that such is the case, will make me and the girls very uneasy; so pray do treat us as we ought to be treated; we share the danger, and we ought to know what the danger is."
"I do not think that there is any danger, Mrs Campbell," replied Captain Sinclair, "unless Malachi has further information to give us. I do, however, perfectly agree with you, that you ought to know all that we know, and am quite ready to enter upon the subject, trifling as it is."
"So I presume it must be, my dear," observed Mr Campbell, "for I have as yet known nothing about the matter. So pray, Captain Sinclair, instruct us all."
Captain Sinclair then stated what he had before mentioned to Alfred, and having so done, and pointed out that there was no occasion for alarm, he requested Malachi Bone would say if he had any further information.
"The Injuns did meet as you say, and they could not agree, so they broke up, and are now all out upon their hunting and trapping for furs. But there's one thing I don't exactly feel comfortable about, which is that the 'Angry Snake,' as he is called, was at the 'talk,' and was mighty venomous against the English, and has squatted for the winter somewhere about here."
"The Angry Snake," said Captain Sinclair. "Is that the chief who served with the French, and wears a medal?"
"The very same, sir. He's not a chief, though; he was a very good warrior in his day, and the French were very partial to him, as he served them well; but he is no chief, although he was considered as a sort of one from the consequence he obtained with the French. He is an old man now, and a very bitter one. Many's the Englishman that he has tied to the stake, and tortured during the war. He hates us, and is always stirring up the Injuns to make war with us; but his day is gone by, and they do not heed him at the council now."
"Then, why are you uncomfortable about him?" said Mr Campbell.
"Because he has taken up his quarters for the winter hunting not far from us, with six or seven of the young warriors, who look up to him, and he is mischievous. If the Injun nation won't make war, he will do something on his own account, if he possibly can. He's not badly named, I can tell you."
"Will he attack you?"
"Me! no, no; he knows better. He knows my rifle well; he has the mark on his body; not but that he would if he dared, but I am Injun myself, and know Injun craft. Then you see, these people have strange ideas. During the whole war they never could even hit me with their rifles, and they think I am not to be hurt—that's their superstition—and my rifle, they think, never misses (they're almost right there, for it does not once in a hundred times), so what with this and that, they fear me as a supernatural, as we call it. But that's not the case with you all here; and if the Snake could creep within these palisades, he might be mischievous."
"But the tribes know very well that any attack of this kind would be considered as a declaration of hostilities," said Captain Sinclair, "and that we should retaliate."
"Yes; but you see the Snake don't belong to these tribes about us; his nation is much farther off,—too far to go for redress; and the tribes here, although they allow him to join the 'talk' as an old warrior who had served against the English and from respect to his age, do not acknowledge him or his doings. They would disavow them immediately and with truth, but they cannot prevent his doing mischief."
"What, then, is the redress in case of his doing any mischief?" said Henry.
"Why, upon him and his band, whenever you can find them. You may destroy them all, and the Injuns here won't say a word, or make any complaint. That's all that can be done; and that's what I will do; I mean to tell him so, when I meet him. He fears me, and so do his men; they think me medicine."
"Medicine! What is that?" said Henry.
"It means that he has a charmed life," replied Captain Sinclair. "The Indians are very superstitious."
"Yes, they be; well, perhaps, I'll prove medicine; and I'll give them a pill or two out of my rifle," said Malachi, with a grim smile. "Howsomever, I'll soon learn more about them, and will let you know when I do. Just keep your palisade gates fast at night and the dogs inside of them, and at any time I'll give you warning. If I am on their trail the Strawberry shall come, and that's why I brought her here. If you hear three knocks outside the palisade at any hour of the night, why it will be her, so let her in."
"Well," said Mrs Campbell, "I'm very glad that you have told me all this; now I know what we have to expect I shall be more courageous and much more on my guard."
"I think we have done wisely in letting you know all we knew ourselves," said Captain Sinclair. "I must soon take my leave, as I must be at the fort before sunset. Martin and John are to come with me, and bring back the dog."
"An't the boy going with me?" said Malachi.
"Yes; to-morrow morning he may go, but after his return from the fort it will be too late."
"Well, then, I may as well stay here," replied Malachi. "Where is he?"
"He is gone to skin a wolf, which he shot this morning," replied Alfred. "He will soon be here."
Mrs Campbell shortly related to Malachi the adventure of the wolf. The old hunter listened in silence, and then gave a nod of approbation.
"I reckon he'll bring home more skins than that this winter," said he.
The party then rose just as Martin and John made their appearance. Captain Sinclair conversed with the Misses Percival, while the old hunter spoke to the Strawberry-Plant in her own dialect; the others either went out or were busy in clearing the table, till Captain Sinclair took his departure with John and Martin, each armed with a rifle.
"Well, this has been an exciting day," observed Mr Campbell, a little before they retired to bed. "We have much to thank God for, and great reason to pray for His continued protection and assistance. God bless you all, my children; good night."
EMMA SHOOTS A WOLF.
The next morning, a little after daybreak, Martin and John made their appearance, leading the magnificent dog which Captain Sinclair had given to John. Like most large dogs, Oscar appeared to be very good-tempered, and treated the snarling and angry looks of the other dogs with perfect contempt.
"It is, indeed, a noble animal," said Mr Campbell, patting its head.
"It's a fine creature," observed Malachi, "a wolf would stand no chance against him, and even a bear would have more on its hands than it could well manage, I expect; but, come here, boy," said the old hunter to John, leading the way outside of the door.
"You'd better leave the dog, John," said Malachi, "the crittur will be of use here, but no good to us."
John made no reply, and the hunter continued, "I say it will be of use here, for the girls might meet with another wolf, or the house might be attacked; but good hunters don't want dogs. Is it to watch for us, and give us notice of danger? Why that's our duty, and we must trust to ourselves, and not to an animal. Is it to hunt for us? Why no dog can take a deer so well as we can with our rifles; a dog may discover us when we wish to be hidden; a dog's track will mark us out when we would wish our track to be doubted. The animal will be of no utility ever to us, John, and may do us harm, 'specially now the snow's on the ground. In the summer-time, you can take him and teach him how to behave as a hunter's dog should behave; but we had better leave him now, start at once."
John nodded his head in assent, and then went indoors.
"Good-bye," said John, going up to his mother and cousins; "I shall not take the dog."
"Won't take the dog! well, that's very kind of you, John," said Mary, "for we were longing to have him to protect us."
John shouldered his rifle, made a sign to Strawberry-Plant, who rose, and looking kindly at Mrs Campbell and the girls, without speaking, followed John out of the hut. Malachi certainly was not very polite, for he walked off, in company with John and the squaw, without taking the trouble to say "Good-bye." It must, however, be observed that he was in conversation with Martin, who accompanied them on the way.
The winter had now become very severe. The thermometer was twenty degrees below freezing point, and the cold was so intense, that every precaution was taken against it. More than once Percival, whose business it was to bring in the firewood, was frost-bitten, but as Mrs Campbell was very watchful, the remedy of cold snow was always successfully applied. The howling of the wolves continued every night, but they were now used to it, and the only effect was, when one came more than usually close to the house, to make Oscar raise his head, growl, listen awhile, and then lie down to sleep again. Oscar became very fond of the girls, and was their invariable companion whenever they left the house.
Alfred, Martin, and Henry went out almost daily on hunting excursions; indeed, as there were no crops in the barn, they had little else to do. Mr Campbell remained at home with his wife and nieces; occasionally, but not very often, Percival accompanied the hunters; of Malachi and John they saw but little; John returned about every ten days, but although he adhered to his promise, his anxiety to go back to Malachi was so very apparent, and he was so restless, that Mrs Campbell rather wished him to be away, than remain at home so much against his will.
Thus passed away the time till the year closed in; confined as they were by the severity of the weather, and having little or nothing to do, the winter appeared longer and more tedious than it would have done if they had been settled longer, and had the crops to occupy their attention; for it is in the winter that the Canadian farmer gets through all his thrashing and other work connected with his farm, preparatory for the coming spring. This being their first winter, they had, of course, no crops gathered in, and were, therefore, in want of employment. Mrs Campbell and her nieces worked and read, and employed themselves in every way that they could, but constantly shut up within doors, they could not help feeling the monotony and ennui of their situation. The young men found occupation and amusement in the chase; they brought in a variety of animals and skins, and the evenings were generally devoted to a narration of what occurred in the day during their hunting excursions, but even these histories of the chase were at last heard with indifference. It was the same theme, only with variations, over and over again, and there was no longer much excitement in listening.
"I wonder when John will come back again," observed Emma to her sister, as they were sitting at work.
"Why he only left two days ago, so we must not expect him for some time."
"I know that. I wonder if Oscar would kill a wolf, I should like to take him out and try."
"I thought you had had enough of wolves already, Emma," replied Mary.
"Yes, well, that old Malachi will never bring us any more news about the Indians," continued Emma, yawning.
"Why I do not think that any news about them is likely to be pleasant news, Emma, and therefore why should you wish it."
"Why, my dear Mary, because I want some news; I want something to excite me, I feel so dull. It's nothing but stitch, stitch, all day, and I am tired of always doing the same thing. What a horrid thing a Canadian winter is, and not one-half over yet."
"It is very dull and monotonous, my dear Emma, I admit, and if we had more variety of employment, we should find it more agreeable, but we ought to feel grateful that we have a good house over our heads, and more security than we anticipated."
"Almost too much security, Mary; I begin to feel that I could welcome an Indian even in his war-paint, just by way of a little change."
"I think you would soon repent of your wish, if it were gratified."
"Very likely, but I can't help wishing it now. When will they come home? What o'clock is it? I wonder what they'll bring, the old story I suppose, a buck; I'm sick of venison."
"Indeed, Emma, you are wrong to feel such discontent and weariness."
"Perhaps I am, but I have not walked a hundred yards for nearly one hundred days, and that will give one the blues, as they call them, and I do nothing but yawn, yawn, yawn, for want of air and exercise. Uncle won't let us move on account of that horrid wolf. I wonder how Captain Sinclair is getting on at the fort, and whether he is as dull as we are."
To do Emma justice, it was seldom that she indulged herself in such lamentings, but the tedium was more than her high flow of spirits could well bear. Mrs Campbell made a point of arranging the household, which gave her occupation, and Mary from natural disposition did not feel the confinement as much as Emma did; whenever, therefore, she did shew symptoms of restlessness or was tempted to utter a complaint, they reasoned with and soothed, but never reproached her.
The day after this conversation, Emma, to amuse herself, took a rifle and vent out with Percival. She fired several shots at a mark, and by degrees acquired some dexterity; gradually she became fond of the exercise, and not a day passed that she and Percival did not practise for an hour or two, until at last Emma could fire with great precision. Practice and a knowledge of the perfect use of your weapon gives confidence, and this Emma did at last acquire. She challenged Alfred and Henry to fire at the bull's-eye with her, and whether by their gallantry or her superior dexterity, she was declared victor. Mr and Mrs Campbell smiled when Emma came in and narrated her success, and felt glad that she had found something which afforded her amusement.
It happened that one evening the hunters were very late; it was a clear moonlight night, but at eight o'clock they had not made their appearance; Percival had opened the door to go out for some firewood which had been piled within the palisades, and as it was later than the usual hour for locking the palisade gates, Mr Campbell had directed him so to do. Emma, attracted by the beauty of the night, was at the door of the house, when the howl of a wolf was heard close to them; the dogs, accustomed to it, merely sprang on their feet, but did not leave the kitchen fire; Emma went out, and looked through the palisades to see if she could perceive the animal, and little Trim, the terrier, followed her. Now Trim was so small, that he could creep between the palisades, and as soon as he was close to them, perceiving the wolf, the courageous little animal squeezed through them and flew towards it, barking as loud as he could. Emma immediately ran in, took down her rifle and went out again, as she knew that poor Trim would soon be devoured. The supposition was correct, the wolf instead of retreating closed with the little dog and seized it. Emma, who could now plainly perceive the animal, which was about forty yards from her, took aim and fired, just as poor Trim gave a loud yelp. Her aim was good, and the wolf and dog lay side by side. Mr and Mrs Campbell, and Mary, hearing the report of the rifle, ran out, and found Percival and Emma at the palisades behind the house.
"I have killed him, aunt," said Emma, "but I fear he has killed poor little Trim; do let us go out and see."
"No, no, my dear Emma, that must not be; your cousins will be home soon, and then we shall know how the case stands; but the risk is too great."
"Here they come," said Percival, "as fast as they can run."
The hunters were soon at the palisade door and admitted; they had no game with them. Emma jeered them for coming back empty-handed.
"No, no, my little cousin," replied Alfred, "we heard the report of a rifle, and we threw down our game, that we might sooner come to your assistance if you required it. What was the matter?"
"Only that I have killed a wolf, and am not allowed to bring in my trophy," replied Emma. "Come, Alfred, I may go with you and Martin."
They went to the spot, and found the wolf was dead, and poor Trim dead also by his side. They took in the body of the little dog, and left the wolf till the morning, when Martin said he would skin it for Miss Emma.
"And I'll make a footstool of it," said Emma; "that shall be my revenge for the fright I had from the other wolf. Come, Oscar, good dog; you and I will go wolf-hunting. Dear me, who would have thought that I should have ever killed a wolf—poor little Trim!"
Martin said it would be useless to return for the venison, as the wolves had no doubt eaten it already; so they locked the palisade gate, and went into the house.
Emma's adventure was the topic of the evening, and Emma herself was much pleased at having accomplished such a feat.
"Well," said Martin, "I never knew but one woman who faced a wolf except Miss Emma."
"And who was that, Martin?" said Mrs Campbell.
"It was a wife of one of our farmers, ma'am; she was at the outhouse doing something, when she perceived a wolf enter the cottage-door, where there was nobody except the baby in the cradle. She ran back and found the wolf just lifting the infant out of the cradle by its clothes. The animal looked at her with his eyes flashing; but having its mouth full, it did not choose to drop the baby, and spring at her; all it wanted was to get clear off with its prey. The woman had presence of mind enough to take down her husband's rifle and point it to the wolf, but she was so fearful of hurting the child, that she did not put the muzzle to its head, but to its shoulder. She fired just as the wolf was making off, and the animal fell, and could not get on its feet again, and it then dropped the child out of its mouth to attack the mother. The woman caught the child up, but the wolf gave her a severe bite on the arm, and broke the bone near the wrist. A wolf has a wonderful strong jaw, ma'am. However, the baby was saved, and neighbours came and despatched the animal."
"What a fearful position for a mother to be in!" exclaimed Mrs Campbell.
"Where did that happen?"
"On the White Mountains, ma'am," replied Martin. "Malachi Bone told me the story; he was born there."
"Then he is an American."
"Well, ma'am, he is an American because he was born in this country, but it was English when he was born, so he calls himself an Englishman."
"I understand," replied Mrs Campbell, "he was born before the colonies obtained their independence."
"Yes, ma'am, long before; there's no saying how old he is. When I was quite a child, I recollect he was then reckoned an old man; indeed, the name the Indians gave to him proves it. He then was called the 'Grey Badger.'"
"But is he so very old, do you really think, Martin?"
"I think he has seen more than sixty snows, ma'am; but not many more; the fact is, his hair was grey before he was twenty years old; he told me so himself, and that's one reason why the Indians are so fearful of him. They have it from their fathers that the Grey Badger was a great hunter, as Malachi was more than forty years ago; so they imagine as his hair was grey then, he must have been a very old man at that time back, and so to them he appears to live for ever, and they consider him as charmed, and to use their phrase 'great medicine.' I've heard some Indians declare that Malachi has seen one hundred and fifty winters, and they really believe it. I never contradicted them, as you may imagine."
"Does he live comfortably?"
"Yes, ma'am, he does; his squaw knows what he wants, and does what she is bid. She is very fond of the old man, and looks upon him, as he really is to her, as a father. His lodge is always full of meat, and he has plenty of skins. He don't drink spirits, and if he has tobacco for smoking, and powder and ball, what else can he want?"
"Happy are they whose wants are so few," observed Mr Campbell. "A man in whatever position in life, if he is content, is certain to be happy. How true are the words of the poet:—
"Man wants but little here below, Nor wants that little long!"
"Malachi Bone, is a happier man than hundreds in England who live in luxury. Let us profit, my dear children, by his example, and learn to be content with what Heaven has bestowed upon us. But it is time to retire. The wind has risen, and we shall have a blustering night. Henry, fetch me the book."
THE SQUAW SAVED.
Alfred and Martin brought in the wolf which Emma had killed, but it was frozen so hard, that they could not skin it. Poor little Trim was also carried in, but the ground was too hard frozen for them to bury the body, so they put it into the snow until the spring, when a thaw would take place. As for the wolf, they said nothing about it, but they remained up when the rest of the family retired, and after the wolf had been some time before the fire, they were able to take off the skin.
On the following morning, when the hunters went out, they were particularly desired to shoot a wild turkey if they could, as the next day was Christmas-day.
"Let us take Oscar with us," said Alfred; "he is very swift, and may run them down; we never can get up with them in our snow-shoes."
"I wonder whether they will get a turkey," said Emma, after the hunting party had left.
"I think it will be difficult," said Mrs Campbell; "but they will try all they can."
"I hope they will; for Christmas-day without a turkey will be very un-English."
"We are not in England, my dear Emma," said Mr Campbell; "and wild turkeys are not to be ordered from the poulterer's."
"I know that we are not in England, my dear uncle, and I feel it too. How was the day before every Christmas-day spent at Wexton Hall! What piles of warm blankets, what a quantity of duffel cloaks, flannels, and worsted stockings were we all so busy and so happy in preparing and sorting to give away on the following morning, that all within miles of us should be warmly clothed on that day. And, then, the housekeeper's room with all the joints of meat, and flour and plums and suet, in proportion to the number of each family, all laid out and ticketed ready for distribution. And then the party invited to the servants' hall, and the great dinner, and the new clothing for the school-girls, and the church so gay with their new dresses in the aisles, and the holly and the mistletoe. I know we are not in England, my dear uncle, and that you have lost one of your greatest pleasures—that of doing good, and making all happy around you."
"Well, my dear Emma, if I have lost the pleasure of doing good, it is the will of Heaven that it should be so, and we ought to be thankful that, if not dispensing charity, at all events, we are not the objects of charity to others; that we are independent, and earning an honest livelihood. People may be very happy, and feel the most devout gratitude on the anniversary of so great a mercy, without having a turkey for dinner."