A NUMBER of men were on
their way to lay out some townships in the unsurveyed parts of Upper
Canada. While passing through the rear range of the surveyed
townships one day about noon, they came to a beautiful spring of
water that issued in streams of refreshing coolness out of a ledge
of rocks that arose on one side of a valley through which ran a
large creek, whose waters were snaking their way to Lake Ontario.
Being weary and
hungry, they stopped for dinner.
Shaded by the thick
branches of the hemlock, which spread over there like a protecting
canopy, and resting on the dried leaves that passing seasons had
left behind them, making a couch that was by no means uninviting to
weary limbs and jaded bodies, they betook themselves to the task of
demolishing the food before them as only hungry backwoodsmen can do,
They were too intent on taking their dinners to spend any time in
The stillness that reigned around was
only broken by the murmuring sounds that came from the creek that
ran but a short distance from them, and the gentle rippling of the
spring that issued from rocks just beside them.
While they were busily engaged in
satisfying the demands of appetite, they were startled by the sound
of an axe not far from where they were.
"What is that?" came from two or three
at once. They all listened. Sure enough, there was distinctly heard
the blows of a roan chopping. Every doubt was soon removed by the
falling of a tree in the direction of the sound of the axe.
Although they were seven or eight miles
from any settlement, it was evident that some one was working near
by. They resolved to find out what he was doing, and who he was.
Accordingly they went to the place. There they found a young man of
about twenty-one or two years of age, with his coat off and his
sleeves rolled up, swinging an axe with as much dexterity as though
he had been accustomed to that sort of work all his life.
"What are you doing here?" said one of
the men, after a few friendly words had been spoken.
"Commencing life in the backwoods," was
his quick reply. "I have no house, as yet, to invite you into, nor
have I any chair to offer you. But both the house and the chair are
on the list of things that I hope for in the not very distant
future. But, in the meantime, make yourselves as comfortable as
possible, and rest for awhile."
"How long have you been here, and where
did you come from?" asked the foreman of the company.
"I have been here just one week, and I
came from the vicinity of the "Falls."
"How much land have you here?"
"Two hundred acres. One hundred I got as
a grant from the Government, and the other my father bought and gave
it to me."
it all good land?"
"Yes; there is not an acre of useless
land on the two hundred acres."
"Do you think that you shall enjoy this
sort of life?" was asked by one of the men.
"A man can enjoy almost any sort of life
that is not degrading nor sinful, if he makes up his mind to do so,"
said the young man, as he took a small stone from his vest pocket,
and began to whet his axe with it.
"That seems like sound philosophy," said
the foreman. "But have you made an estimate of what it costs to hew
out a homestead in the wilderness? Do you know that to chop an acre
of this heavily- timbered land means six days of hard work, and to
clear it off means three days more, and to fence it, two days more,
and another day to sow and harrow in the seed, so that every acre
you put into crop will cost two weeks of hard work."
"Yes," replied the other, "my father has
told me all of that. He cleared up the farm he still lives on in the
township of Pelham. He says that clearing land is hard work. But he
says, too, that not very much can be honestly got in this world
without hard work."
"Are you married?" This question was put
by a young man who had recently been "engaged," but whose marriage
had been deferred till the return of the surveying party.
Young Bushman colored up, and in an
emphatic manner said, "No; not yet. 'Build your cage before you
catch your bird,' is old advice; but it is good, and I intend to act
"Where do you sleep and take your meals?" was asked.
"I have a small wigwam or shanty not far
away, where, like Robinson Crusoe, 'I am monarch of all I survey,'
and where I live, much as that far-famed gentleman did, only I have
no man `Friday' to help while away the time. Will you come and see
consented to go. He led them over a lot of fallen trees, and around
some "brush-heaps," and soon brought them to his shanty. It was made
of poles small enough for one man to handle. They were notched
together at the corners. The spaces between them were filled with
moss. It was covered with hemlock bark, such as is now sold by the
cord at the tanneries. The doorway was just wide enough for a man to
pass in and out, and a couple of cedar slabs answered for a door.
There was nothing very inviting about this little substitute for
something better. But plenty of men in this Canada of ours have
lived for months in just such humble homes.
But in the surroundings were found such
a scene of wild-wood beauty as is seldom met with.
Just in front of the shanty was a
miniature lake of clear spring water. It was about an acre in
extent, and it was as round as a hoop. It was surrounded by a fringe
of beautiful spruce and cedar trees that grew right clown to the
water's edge. On the opposite side, in the distance, were a number
of upland pines, raising their cone-like heads far above the forest
of beech and maple trees around them, that seemed to be lifting
their branches in homage to those giants that had defied the storms
of fifty decades, appealing to them for protection against the
woodman's axe. A little to the right a nice brook flowed out of the
lake, and ran oft' toward the creek before spoken of.
All of them agreed that it was a lovely
spot. But the engaged young man became poetical. Standing on a log
in front of the shanty, and pointing out over the lake, he broke out
in the following:
What beauteous mirror here is found
Set in a fringe of evergreen
On whose smooth surface may be seen
The tops of all the trees around.
Were I commissioned from above
To find some spot of earthly bliss,
I'd want no nicer place than this
To spend my days with one I love."
"There," said young Bushman, pointing to
the lake, "is the future Mrs. Bushman's duck-pond."
The transition from the poetical to the
practical was so sudden, that the whole company saw the incongruity
of sentiment as expressed by the two young men, and indulged in a
"My friend," said the foreman, "I wish, before leaving you, to
congratulate you on the beauties of your home on the border of
Sylvan Lake, and I hope that under the guiding hand of our kind and
good Father above, the coming years may bring to you all the
prosperity and happiness that your manly courage and your fearless
"Thank you for your kindly and
encouraging words," said the young man in a somewhat trembling
voice, "and if ever you come this way again don't forget Sylvan
Lake. You will find a welcome here at any time."
They shook hands and parted, and young
Bushman was left alone. [In the Township of Elma was a man by the
name of Twamley, who for two months never saw a human face. One day
he heard some men talking. He ran after them and persuaded them to
stop with him for a day and night, and then they went on their way.
He told the writer that he never was so much pleased to see any one
before. They were entire strangers to him.]
"That young fellow deserves to succeed,"
said the foreman, as the party walked away. "He has got the sort of
stuff in him of which true manhood is made up.
"Yes," said the poetic young man. "I
wish that I could face things with as much self-reliance as he seems
to do. But the bringing up, I suppose, makes the difference."
"Bringing up," replied the foreman, "has
a good deal to do with the formation of character; but no kind of
bringing up can make a real manly man out of a milksop, any more
than a blacksmith can make a good axe out of a piece of cast iron.
To develop a man you must have manly qualities to work upon. A sneak
or a coward may become a good man and a sincere Christian ; but to
make up a brave, manly man, you must have better material to work
upon than the kind of stuff' that sneaks and cowards are made of."
We will look into the shanty. In one
corner is a flat stone set up on its end, so that its sides touch
two sides of the wall, and its face for ins the diagonal of the
angle of the corner. An opening at the top, for the smoke to escape,
answers for a chimney. Here the cooking is done. In another corner
is a lot of hemlock boughs and some bedding. Here the sleeping is
done. Whatever may be said against this sort of couch, one thing can
be said in its favor, gout and rheumatism seldom torture the limbs
that repose on a bed of hemlock. In still another corner sits a very
large basket, which was lately bought from some Indians, and in
which Mr. Bushman keeps his supplies of provisions. He may as well
become reconciled to be called Mr., for in time to come that will be
a very familiar and a very popular name.
But what is in the basket? That is the
Well, here is a supply of good bread that was made by the wife of
the nearest settler, which is seven wiles distant. Then here is a
lot of boiled ham, good enough for a prince to eat, and a roll of
butter (we won't say anything about the butter, for fear of making a
mistake). Here is salt, pepper, mustard, and a lot of spices too
numerous to mention.
But what have we here so carefully clone
up in this clean white cloth? Well, as sure as anything, here is
half a dozen speckled trout. They are the same kind of fish that Dr.
Wild says the Ashurites used to carry to Jerusalem to sell on the
market. These, no doubt, are the product of Sylvan Lake.
We find the basket well filled, and we
conclude that a man in health would be a long while starving on such
substantial food, supplemented by such royal dainties.
In the other corner we see a rifle and
its accoutrements, some fishing tackle and an axe, ready for use,
and held in reserve in case the other one should break.
A covered box sitting against the wall
serves for a dish cupboard. Four crotched stakes, driven into the
ground with the forked end upward, represent the four posts of a
table. Two small poles are used for cross bars, and a couple of
cedar slabs make the top, and, altogether, make a substitute for a
dining-room table of the most fashionable class.
A couple of cedar blocks of convenient
size and length are the only chairs to be found in this
unpretentious home. But it is wonderful how men can adapt themselves
to their surroundings when strong motives for doing so are present.
John Bushman was a man of a strong will,
and much decision of character, and one not easily turned from his
purpose at any time. But he now had a powerful motive actuating hiin,
viz., a desire to have a home of his own, and to secure a competence
for those who might become, in after years, clearer to him than life
been thus minute in the description of Bushman's shanty for the
reason that we shall find many similar ones in filling out our story
of life among the forest trees, and we wish as much as possible to
avoid repetition. We let this description suffice for the class of
shanties of which this one is a fair representative.
The next day after the surveyors left
was the Sabbath. John Bushman resolved to observe the sacred clay in
accordance with its requirements, as far as it was possible to do so
in his lonely situation. He had been trained from childhood to
respect the claims of the Sabbath. But it was not simply the force
of habit with the young man, it was a matter of principle as well.
In early youth he had been converted, had joined the Church, and
pledged himself to a godly life. If there is any grander object in
this sinful world than an intelligent, earnest, devoted, manly young
Christian gentleman, will those who have seen such object please
tell where it may be found, for we have not yet seen it.
When he went out in the morning the air
was vocal with the song of birds, and sweet perfumes were floating
upon the morning breezes, that seemed to be speaking in gentle
whispers lest too soon nature's children should be awakened from
their restful slumbers.
The sun was already above the horizon,
and it was shooting its beams through the openings that here and
there were found in the fringe of evergreens that surrounded Sylvan
Lake. Wherever these golden sunbeams fell upon the surface of the
clear water, it looked as if a large diamond had exploded, and
scattered its fragments in all directions, like drops of incited
gold, and making the lake appear like a great overgrown mirror upon
whose face a hundred lamps were blazing.
To say that the young man enjoyed the
scene around him would be too tame an expression. He was fairly
entranced. Though his life had been spent almost entirely on a farm,
there was nothing of the rustic about him. He had enough of the
poetic element in his composition to place him in harmony with the
beautiful in nature or art. And although he was not, perhaps,
sufficiently schooled in metaphysical lore to be able to explain why
he was pleased, yet any one that could have looked on his beaming
face that morning could not for one moment doubt the fact that he
was highly gratified with what he saw around him.
He prepared and ate his breakfast in a
thoughtful mood. After he put things to rights in the shanty he took
one of his block-seats out, and placing, it under a cedar, he sat
down with his back against the tree and commenced to read Dr.
Blair's "Sermon on the Source of True Enjoyment." When he came to
the question, "Is the source of true enjoyment external, internal or
mixed?" he closed the book and began to reflect. To deny that things
outside of himself were a source of true enjoyment would be to
ignore the sensibility of taste and all the aesthetic emotions
awakened by the presence of beautiful objects of every kind.
On the other hand, to deny that there
are sources of enjoyment that are internal would be to dispute the
evidence of consciousness, "for," said he, "I know, `that being
justified by faith, I have peace with God.' And this knowledge must
be a source of enjoyment. So that both around inc and within me I
find that which jives enjoyment. I believe that it is true, that
religion puts a person in harmony with nature and with God."
Such were the reflections of John
Bushman on that beautiful morning, and in such a happy frame of mind
he spent his first Sabbath in his new home among the forest trees.