At the close of the
second day the movers found themselves still nine miles from their
journey's end. A consultation was held as to what was best to do. To
go on in the darkness of the night, made darker by the tops of the
trees, many of which were evergreens, was a thing not to be thought
of. Equally impracticable would be the idea of trying to reach the
only house on the road, which was all of two miles ahead. There
seemed to be no other way than to become "gipsies" for one night, at
least. They decided to make a good fire, and draw the wagon up
around it, then tie the horses and cattle to trees, feed them some
hay, a number of bundles of which had been secured at a farmhouse,
ten or twelve miles back, and get themselves some supper, and then
put in the night as best they could.
With people of
energy, action is apt to follow decision. So it was in this case.
Every one went to work, and in a short time everything was arranged
for "the night in the woods," a term by which this incident was
designated in after years.
Every one seemed
disposed to do a reasonable share toward making the occasion not
only bearable, but enjoyable as well.
After Mrs. Myrtle and
Mary had cleared away the tea things, and the two elder men had
indulged in their "after supper smoke," as, I am sorry to say, they
were in the habit of doing, the whole company sat down around the
blazing fire. Some sat on logs, and others sat down on the leaves,
and leaned themselves against the trees. When all was quiet, William
Briars spoke and said, "Squire Myrtle, I don't remember that I ever
heard you tell a story. Can you tell us some incident in your past
experience to help to pass away the time?"
"Oh, as to that,"
said the Squire, "I am not much good at story-telling. As a
magistrate, I have to deal with hard, stubborn facts so much that I
have about lost all relish for fiction of all kinds."
"We don't want
fiction," said Will; "I could furnish enough for the whole company,
if that were needed. And as for romance, we need not go far for
that. Our position to-night is romantic enough for anybody. But give
us some of the hard facts, Squire, and we will be thankful,"
"About the funniest
case that I ever had on my hands," said Squire Myrtle, "was the case
of a man who was a firm believer in witches. He came to me with a
complaint against one of his neighbors, and said the neighbor was a
wizard. He said, `The man is in the habit of coming in the night; he
steals me out of bed, takes me to the stable, puts a saddle and
bridle on me, turns me into a horse, goes into the barn, fills one
of my own bags with wheat, puts it on my back, gets on top of it,
rides away to the mill, leaves the grist, and then rides me back
"When he first came,
I thought he had gone out of his mind, for I knew the man very well,
and I always looked on him to be a man of more than average
intelligence. I tried to put him off, but he still adhered to his
statement, and insisted on having a trial. To please him, I
appointed a time to hear the case, sent a summons to the accused
party, and gave directions about witnesses.
"In the meantime, I
felt a good deal of curiosity to know how this thing was going to
end. I knew the accused party to be a man of a low type
intellectually and socially. But I knew nothing against his
morality. How he would take it was a matter of some importance. If
he had been of a higher intellectual cast, he would likely enjoy it
as a joke. But how he would feel and act must be seen when the time
"When the trial came
on, all the parties were on hand.
testified positively to the statements made in the charge. And no
amount of cross-examination could shake his testimony in the least.
"His wife testified
that on several occasions her husband had gone to bed at the usual
time, all right apparently: that on waking up in the night she found
him gone, and he could not be found; that he would come home about
daylight, complain of being very tired, go to sleep, and sleep till
"Two of the older
children corroborated the statement of their mother. So did a young
man who made his home at the place.
The accused, its a
matter of course, denied having any knowledge of the affair from
first to last.
Just at this juncture
the miller, to whose mill the man-horse was said to have been
driven, appeared on the scene and requested to be sworn. On being
examined as a witness, he said: 'On hearing this morning of this
strange case, I felt it my duty to come here, as I think I can throw
some light on the subject. On different occasions, on going to the
mill in the morning, I have found a bag of wheat standing just
outside the door, and having the name of the complainant written on
the bag with black ink. I do not know who left it there. But I made
up my mind that, in some way, there was a mystery behind the affair,
and resolved to keep my own counsel, and await further discoveries.
Two or three times, when the owner of the name on the bags has been
to the mill with other bags, I have been on the point of telling him
about them. But I felt sure that he could not clear up the mystery.
So I concluded to wait a little longer. There are six bags of good
wheat safely put away in one corner of the mill. The owner can have
them any time he calls for them.'
"The matter began to
wear a serious aspect. The evidence established two very important
points. First, the absence from home of the complainant; and
secondly, the fact that his bags were in some mysterious manner
conveyed to the mill in the night. The case seemed to be getting
more and more mystified. I don't know how the matter might have
ended, had it not been that my wife had visitors that afternoon. Two
women came on a visit. They lived on the road leading from the
complainant's place to the mill. On my wife's telling them that I
had a case on hand that afternoon, they naturally inquired what it
was about, and who were the parties. My wife told them what she knew
about it. Then one of them said, 'I think that, perhaps, I might
give some information that would be of use.'
"My wife brought the
woman into the room saying, `Here is an important witness for you.'
"I asked her two or
three questions, and then told her she must testify, which she did,
brother lives on the lot next to ours. He has been sick for more
than a year. We are often called in the night to go to him. On two,
or perhaps three occasions, we have met Mr. Crabtree going towards
the mill, with a bag full of some sort of grain on his shoulder. He
always seemed to be in a hurry. We thought it was very strange, but
knowing him to be an honest man we said nothing about it.'
"Light now began to
dawn on the minds of all present. `Sleep-walking,' was whispered
from one to another, until the room was in a perfect buzz. Presently
some one started laughing. This went like a contagion until the
court became a scene of boisterous merriment. The finishing touch
was given to the picture by Mr. Crabtree running across to Mr.
Thistledown and, taking his hand, asked him if he could ever forgive
this ridiculous blunder.
"We will let this
pass,' said Mr. Thistledown. "I thought you were acting more like a
child than anything else. But I believed that you were honest in
your fancies, and I hoped that you would find out your mistake some
time. I am glad that you are satisfied.'
"Court is dismissed
without costs, and verdict reserved,' said I, as the two men went
"Well, Squire," said
Will, "that is an interesting story, and we are thankful to you for
"This is a good place
for witch stories," said Moses.
"With the moon
shining down through the tree tops making shadows, and the fire
shining up through the tree tops making shadows, we have such a
combination and interlacing of shadows, as are very well adapted to
give hiding places to witches."
"I move for an
adjournment," said Mrs. Myrtle, who was somewhat wearied, and a good
deal shaken up by the long ride, over the rough roads, on a lumber
unanimously," said the Squire, in response to his wife's motion.
Will and Moses
decided that they would stay up and keep a good fire while the rest
lay down to sleep on some temporary beds, fixed under the waggons.
After Mr. Bushman had
offered a prayer for divine protection, they all retired for the
night, except the two young men. They faithfully fulfilled their
Next morning the two
young men had a good deal to say about Squire Myrtle's nasal powers
as a first-class snorer, and John's ability as a nocturnal ox
driver. They claimed that the one could snore loud enough to wake up
a sleeping earthquake, and the other could holla loud enough to
frighten a young tornado.
After a lunch had
been enjoyed, and a prayer offered by Mr. Myrtle, they hitched up
the teams and started.
In less than an hour
they carne to the house of their nearest neighbor, it being seven
miles from their own place. Here John was warmly received by the
family where he had got his bread and butter the year before.
On inquiry they
learned that Mr. Root and his men were to move out of John's house
either that day or the next. They had already waited a week for John
to come, as they did not like to leave the place till he was there.
On learning this it
was thought best for John to go forward as fast as he could, and let
Mose and Will drive the cattle, and the whole party to follow as
fast as they could get on, over the new rough road.
John reached the
place about ten o'clock, and was just in time to met his old friends
before a part of them went away. They gave him a warm greeting.
Harry Hawthorn especially became almost boisterous in his reception
of an old friend.
After the first
salutations were over, the first question asked of John was,
"Where's your wife?"
John answered, "She
is coming on behind, along with some other friends, with three wagon
loads of stuff:" At this intelligence, the men began to hurrah for
Mrs. Bushman, until the woods echoed in all directions, hurrah,
Mr. Root here said,
"Boys, I move that we don't move a foot until Mrs. Bushman and her
friends come on. I want to see a living woman once more before I go
ten miles further into the bush."
"Shure, and oinh
seconds that; come, boys, we can all afford to take a half a day or
so, for the sake of welcoming the leddy, who will be after presiding
over Sylvan Lodge," said the exuberant Harry.
"Let us give the lady
a short address of welcome, to the backwoods," said Mr. Beach.
"1 propose that our
respected `boss' be appointed to give Mrs. Bushman an address of
welcome, when she comes," said John Brushy.
"All right, boys,"
said Mr. Root; "we will see what can be done."
Then turning to John,
he said, "I have had two reasons for staying here till you came. One
is, I did not want to go and leave the house alone; another is, I
got a lot of hay and other things in by the sleighing, and I find
that I have more than I shall need, and want you to take it off my
"All right," said
John; "what are the articles you want to dispose of?"
"There is about a ton
of hay, and some hams of pork, and some flour, and a few bushels of
potatoes," was the answer.
"Very well," said
John. "I will not only take them, but I will be glad to get them, as
I shall need them. I have four head of cattle to feed, and I shall
have two men besides myself and wife to board, besides comers and
goers; and if I am not much mistaken, there will be plenty of the
latter for the next year or two."
"Here are the waggons
coining now, the first that have ever been seen on this road," said
As the teams came up,
the men stood out in front of the house, and gave three cheers for
the first white woman that ever stood in Rockland Township, as they
Mary and her mother
came forward, and were introduced to the company by John. When all
had gone into the house, Mr. Root handed Mary the key of the door,
"Mrs. Bushman, by the
appointment of the gentlemen who have with me, occupied this house
during the past winter, I now present to you the keys of Sylvan
Lodge. We are sorry that we could not present it to you in a more
tidy condition, but we have done the best we could. And, in honor of
my men, I wish to say to you, that during our stay in this house I
have not heard a word said that might not have been properly spoken
in your presence. We look upon you as the first white woman that
ever came to reside in this township. You will feel lonesome,
perhaps, at first, but let me say, you will not be long alone."
"During the week that
we have been waiting for your husband's return we have assisted Mr.
Beach to put up a house on the lot next to this, and within three
months he expects to have his family settled there.
"Also, Mr. Hawthorn
has sent home funds to bring out his family. His lot is just over
the boundary, and he intends to settle there in two or three months.
I think that by the first of September you will have a warm-hearted
Irishwoman and a true-hearted Englishwoman for near neighbors. And
it is not improbable that next summer I may bring to the locality
the best American woman in the State of Michigan, Mrs. Root. May you
long live to be the presiding genius of Sylvan Lodge, and an angel
of mercy in the settlement."
The whole company
cheered Mr. Root as he sat down. "Mrs. Bushman" was called for.
Mary, covered with
blushes, for the first time in her life attempted to make a speech.
She said: "Mr. Root, and gentlemen, I thank you sincerely for your
kind wishes, and for the cheering information you have given me. And
I want to say to all of you, that if at any time any of you find the
need of rest or refreshments, don't pass by this place. The door of
this house will never be closed in the face of either the hungry or
"These are truly
spoken words, brave little woman," said John to his wife. "And I
will stand by you in this thing Mary, as long as we have a shelter
over our heads or a crumb on our table."
"Trust in the Lord,
and do good, and thou shalt dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt
be fed.'This,' said Mrs. Myrtle, "is an old promise, made centuries
ago, but thousands have proved it to be true. You may do the same."
The wagons were soon
unloaded, and an invitation to wait for some dinner gladly accepted
by Mr. Root and his men. After this was over the road-makers took
their leave, after extorting a promise from Mr. Bushman and Squire
Myrtle to make them a visit at their shanty before returning to
After the risen went
away all parties were busy in examining the place. John's father and
father-in-law were greatly taken up with the land and timber. They
also gave John credit for the neat and tasty way in which the house
was built. In fact, they expressed satisfaction with the appearance
of everything they saw.
Mary and her mother,
with the help of Will Briars, were not long in setting things up in
the house. 'There were no stoves to be put up in those days, but an
old-fashioned fireplace answered the same purpose. With its lug-pole
and trammel hooks, and flagstone hearth, sooty chimney, and its bed
of hot coals, on which sets the old-time bake-kettle, with its big
loaf of bread in it, and its shovelful of coals on the top, seems to
the memory like a fading picture of the long ago. But fading and
fanciful as this picture may seem to the housekeepers of to-day, it
represents what was a domestic reality two generations back in this
Ontario of ours in thousands of homes.
Mary's mother had
provided the wide and shallow bake-kettle, with its iron lid, and
the long-handled frying-pan as its accompaniment, these being among
the indispensables in the backwoods.
When the things were
all placed, the house was far from being an uncomfortable one. It
was divided into three rooms by rough board partitions. In one
corner was the ladder, by which the "loft" or upper part of the
house was reached.
The "upstairs" of a
log house is an indescribable place. If the reader has ever seen the
upper room of a log house, no description of mine is needed. If he
has never seen it, no description could make him fully appreciate
the reality. It would pay him to travel fifteen or twenty miles,
climb up a ladder eight or ten feet, and look around him. If he does
this he will soon see that the place, like a bachelor's hall.
Is a store-house of
Things that have never been neighbors before.
He will likely see
all sorts of things, ranging from a baby's cast-of shoe to a
high-post bedstead, with curtains of glazed cambric in bright
Before night the
premises had been pretty thoroughly explored. Mary and her mother
were delighted with the beautiful little lake, with its evergreen
surroundings. And right there and then John had to give them a
promise that he would not cut away the pretty Canadian balsam trees
that stood a little back from the water, and threw their cone-like
shadows upon the mirror-like surface of the lake.
When the two fathers
and John took a walk around the lake, they all agreed that it would
be folly to cut down the trees of cedar, spruce and balsam that so
completely environed it.
"Thin them out,
John," said his father, "by cutting out the underbrush, and clean
off the rubbish. Then seed it down. In a year or two you will have
one of the finest retreats that could be desired for cattle in the
hot summer days."
"Don't think of
cutting them down, John," said the Squire, "not for years to come,
at all events—not until their increased size makes it dangerous to
leave them standing."
When they came around
to the house again, Mary said to John, "What are those tall trees
away off over the lake? They stand so high above the other trees,
that they seem to be looking down on all their neighbors."
"Yes, little wife,"
said he laughing, "that is what they are doing. I hope that you will
never get so high and lofty, that you will look down on any person
of good character. These trees are the aristocrats of the forest.
They are pines. The oak is stronger, the maple is hardier, and the
cedar is more durable, but none of them can compare with the pine in
height. These trees are on my land, and are the tallest among a
pinery of about fifteen acres."
Night came on and
sent the company into the house, where they spent a couple of hours
in friendly chat, and retired, after prayers by Mr. Bushman. Will
and Moses slept up stairs and the rest below.