Among the Forrest Trees Chapter XIV - Mary
finds a Friend
FROM the latter part of
April till the middle of September, Mary had been as completely
isolated from companionship with her sex, as though she had been the
only woman in the world. Her connection with womankind had been only
by memory. The last female face she had looked upon was when,
through tears, she looked into the sad face of her mother on the
morning that her parents and John's father started for their
To say that she was
not lonesome would not be true. But to say that she was discontented
or unhappy would be equally untrue. There are longings, however,
that can only be satisfied by association with those of one's own
sex and age. Old men enjoy the society of old men, old women like to
talk with old women. Young men and young women are the same. Mary
had felt the want of company, but she had made no complaint; she
solaced herself by the thought that a change, in this respect, could
not be very long delayed. But nearly five months had elapsed since
she had seen one of her own sex. And John and his companions had
frequently spoken to each other about it. They admired the quiet and
uncomplaining manner in which Macy had borne the deprivation. They
had said nothing about it to her for fear of harrowing up her
the morning of the second Sabbath of September, about nine o'clock,
a rap at the door gave notice that some one wanted admittance. Mary
was nearest to and she hastened to open the door. When she did so
she found herself face to face with a strange young man. But a few
feet behind him stood a young and beautiful woman.
For a moment Mary stood as if
confounded. Then, rushing past the man, she threw her arms around
the woman's neck and kissed her, over and over, as fondly as though
she had found a long-lost sister. The strange woman, at first,
seemed to be somewhat confused. But when Mary got a little calm, she
said, "O, I am so glad to see you, I have not seen a woman's face
before for five long months. Don't think me rude, for really I was
so rejoiced to see you that I hardly knew what I was doing, I could
not help it." The strangers carne into the house and sat down, being
made welcome by John.
The man then said, "I hope we shall not
be intruders. We heard from Mr. Crautmaker that you are in the habit
of having religious service here on Sabbath mornings; my wife and I
concluded to come across and see if we could join with you. My name
is Richard Greenleaf. We are going to settle on the lot that corners
with your back hundred. We are, at present, staying in Mr.
Crautmaker's shanty till we can get up one of our own."
"We are pleased, I am sure, to make your
acquaintance, Mr. and Mrs. Greenleaf," said John. "And as for taking
part in our little meeting, as we call it, you are not only welcome
to join us, but we shall be very much pleased to have you do so."
By this time Mr. Crautmaker and his sons
came in, and Mr. Woodbine Caine to join in the exercises. The
presence of the Master was in the midst of the little company in
that humble backwoods dwelling on that autumn Sabbath morning. For
the first time in his life, Moses Moosewood led the meeting. He and
all present were refreshed and strengthened.
After the services were over, Mary said
to her newfound friend:
"You and your husband must take dinner
with us to-day. I cannot be put off in this matter. I have never
seen a woman at my table since my mother left me, and you must stay
am willing, if Richard is," said Mrs. Greenleaf.
Mary stepped across the room to where
John and Mr. Greenleaf were, and asked the latter if he would
consent to the arrangement that she and his wife were making.
"Any arrangement that you make with
Martha I will consent to," said he; "she is to have her way half of
the time, and this is one of her days to rule, so you see it will be
Going back to the woman, Mary said, "You are to stay, and I am so
glad that you are, I hope it will often be your day to rule when you
come here to meeting."
"As to ruling," said Martha, "I never
heard of any arrangement until now. I don't want to rule. But I will
tell Richard about it sometimes, to keep him in mind of what he said
soon had the dinner on the table. She never did much cooking on the
Sabbath. Everything that could be done on Saturday was done, so as
to avoid, as far as possible, the necessity for work on the day of
dinner was over, the two women walked out around the place. Mrs.
Greenleaf was very much pleased with what she saw. The pretty lake,
and its border of evergreens, and the ducks and geese swimming on it
(and there was quite a flock of them now), gave the place a homelike
aspect not often seen on a new farm. Then the calves and other
cattle, and the stacks of oats and wheat were things of interest in
the eyes of farmers' daughters, as both of those young women were.
"I am pleased to find so nice a home and
so large a clearing in this back place; I did not expect anything
like this," said Martha.
"When my husband came here one year ago
last April, there was not a tree cut down within seven miles of
here, and there were only two houses within twenty miles or more.
Now I am told there are ten or twelve houses and shanties on a
territory of three miles square," remarked Mrs. Bushman.
"Did Mr. Bushman come in here alone?"
"Yes, he came all alone, and did all
this chopping and got up this house last year. He got the men that
opened out these two roads to help him raise the house, or he could
never have put it up then," answered Mary.
"Well," said Martha, "we expected to be
the first settler except Mr. Crautmaker. This road that goes from
here over past our place is partly cut out for twenty miles. We came
in on that road and we had left the last house fifteen miles behind
us when we came to our lot, which is just on the other side of the
road from Mr. Crautmaker's."
"Were you acquainted with that family
before you came here?" asked Mary.
"O, yes, well acquainted; I was born and
brought up within sight of the farm they have lived on for ten
years. They are an honest, industrious and prosperous family. The
old people are a little awkward in their mode of expressing
themselves, but they are all right at heart," said Martha.
"I thought as much by what I have seen
of the old man and the boys," said Mary.
These two women were about the same age,
and not unlike in personal appearance. They were a little below the
medium size, for that day, but they would be fully up to the average
of our times in size. Their personal appearance was as near
faultless as the generality of young women can claim to be. Their
complexion may be described as a mixture of the blonde and brunette.
In Mary the blonde met the brunette a little more than half way. And
in Martha the brunette predominated a little over the blonde. This
made a couple of shades of difference in their complexion. But this
difference was not sufficiently marked to necessitate much
divergence, either in the features, or the color of eyes°or hair.
This complexion was quite often met with in Canadian girls of the
Mary's hair was a shade lighter than
brown, and a little darker than blonde. Her eyes were of that clear,
deep, expressive blue that indicates kindness of heart, without
softness, and firmness of character without unreasoning
Martha's eyes were of a dark brawn, almost black. Her hair was the
color of her eyes. The hair of both was somewhat inclined to curl, a
fact that sometimes gave them some trouble to keep their heads in a
These two women presented a fair type of
the average girl of Upper Canada sixty years ago. A close observer
might have said of the two, that they were not likely to fade
prematurely for want of sunlight and exercise, nor to fret
themselves into an early grave, or into a peevish, sickly or unhappy
acquaintance and friendship of these two women lasted long, and, as
the years rolled on and the burdens of life increased, and the cares
of life multiplied, their attachment for each other seemed to grow
stronger. And it may be said, by way of anticipation, that the high
moral tone that characterized that neighborhood, in after years, was
greatly augmented by the influence and example of these two young
women, who were the pioneer white women in a large tract of country.
The month of September that year was a
dry one. About the middle of the month John said to Will and Mose
one morning, "Boys, can you stay and help me to-day?"
"Yes, if you want us. But what are you
going to do?" they said in concert.
"Two things," said he. "I want to make a
cart, for one thing, and I want to burn off the stubble, for another
thing. It is or now, and it will burn well."
"How are you going to make a cart, and
why do you want it just now?" asked Will.
"I want the cart to go to mill, and we
will make it of elm logs, sawed short, for wheels, and an ironwood
pole for an axle-tree," was John's answer.
"All right," said the boys; "go ahead,
and we will follow your directions."
They took the cross-cut saw, and went to
the fallow, to a large water-elm, and from that they cut two
sections of six inches, measured lengthwise of the tree. Through the
centre of these they made holes large enough for the arms of the
axle. Then they fitted the pole and put it in, and made a tongue to
it, and fixed a box on it. Now they had what was called, in
backwoods parlance, "a pair of trucks." This made a very good
substitute for a two-wheeled cart, while it lasted. The water-elm
will not check in the sun, like harder wood, and it will not split
like the harder and firmer rock elm.
About eleven o'clock they suspended the
work of cart-building, and went to see about burning the stubble.
The wind was blowing away from the house and stacks, but they went
to work and carried up a few pails of water, so as to have it handy
in case of emergency.
After dinner they started the fire,
thinking that it would take the afternoon to burn the field over.
But when they saw the flames jump from place to place before the
wind, they became frightened. But now it was too late to stop it. On
and on it went, as fast as a man could walk. In ten minutes the
whole field looked like a solid mass of smoke and flame. And in ten
minutes more the smoke and flame was nearly gone, and the ground was
as black as a full-blooded African's face, and dander from the fire
was all past.
"That is quick work, boys," said Mose, as with his foot he commenced
to scrape over the ground.
"Yes," said John, "that is turned black
sooner than I expected to see it. But, though it has been a short
job, it is decidedly a good one."
"I say, John," said Will, "why would not
this do for fall wheat? After this burn it will be just as clean as
a piece of ground can be. And it can't be exhausted by only one
can find a bag or two of fall wheat, I will do so, when I go to
Mapleton to mill. And I will sew it on the best part of this ground,
and see, how it will do. I have heard that if you can get a good
burn, the second crop may be as good as the first."
The next morning John hitched up to his
new cart, and started for Mapleton for some flour and wheat for
seed. He could not take time then to fix a floor and thresh some of
his own wheat, so he concluded to buy some flour for the time being.
Will said to him before he started, "You
will need to keep that go-gig well greased, or it will make such a
squealing along the road that you will frighten all the horses out
of the fields, and all the sheep out of the pastures, as if a pack
of wolves were coming."
"O, yes," said John, "I forgot to grease
it. Mary, can you let me have some butter or tallow to grease my
grease was soon provided by Mary, and with a little help from Will
and Mose the axles were soon well lubricated.
Having got everything ready John started
for the two days' trip. His oxen walked off with the trucks as
proudly as though they had a hundred-dollar waggon behind them. He
reached Mapleton in time to do his business before dark. He got the
flour at the only mill in the village. He was also fortunate enough
to find a bag and a half of nice clean fall wheat. He took some oat
sheaves along to feed the team.
The miller made John stay all night with
him, saying that after coming all that distance he and his oxen
deserved to be well taken care of for the night, and so they were.
The miller and his genial wife gave John a good supper and a good
bed. He was much pleased to make the acquaintance of Mr. Whitewood,
the miller, and his kind-hearted wife.
Next morning he started home with his
flour-bags of flour and three bushels of seed wheat. The load
impeded the progress of the oxen, so that it was after sundown when
he arrived at Sylvan Lake.
John had a good deal to tell about the
changes that had taken place since they came into the bush; but the
most important thing of all was a letter for Mary and one each for
Will and Mose. He found them in Greenbush P. O., where they had been
for a month. Mary's letter was from Betsy Bushman. It was a general
family letter, speaking of the affairs of both families. And since
neither the writer nor the reader has any right to meddle with other
people's private affairs, we will leave the owners of these letters
to do as they think best with them.
John told of new settlers along the line
from there to Mapleton. A number of shanties were built, and others
were in course of erection. Three or four good-sized houses were
raised, but not yet finished. People were preparing, in considerable
numbers, to move in on the following spring. Young men were making a
start for themselves. Men with families were making homes for them,
and all were hopeful and cheerful.
Among the single men was a medical
doctor, who had concluded to try his fortune in the bush. He was Dr.
Ashgrove. John stopped to feed his oxen and eat his own cold dinner
just in front of the doctor's shanty. He found a man of about thirty
years of age, with a sharp, piercing black eye and a determined
look. On asking the man how he liked bush life, he answered,
"I have not been here Iong enough yet to
get used to it. But I am trying hard to believe that I shall like it
after I get my sinews and muscles seasoned to the hard work, and my
hands toughened to the axe-handle. Look at them now, stranger," said
the doctor, as he held out his blistered hands for John to examine.
"Your hands are very sore, my friend. I
think you have not been accustomed to hard work," said John.
"That is so," said the doctor. "I have
never done a dozen hard days' work in my life. My father was an
English gentleman. He gave me a medical education. He died at last,
after having lost his property in an unfortunate speculation,
leaving me to my own resources. I came to this country to seek my
fortune. That fortune I have found here in the shape of two hundred
acres of good bush land. I don't like the medical profession, and
will not practise it, so I am going to be a farmer."
"Well," said Bushman, "it is a big
undertaking for a man who has no practical knowledge of life in a
new country, but patience and perseverance will secure the same
success to you that it has done to many in this land."
"What others have done under the same
circumstances I can do. At any rate, I am going to try."
The fall wheat that John brought from
Mapleton was sown and nicely harrowed in the same week that he got
it. The potatoes were dug out, and they proved to be an excellent
crop both as to quantity and quality.
They now had more than enough of produce
for their next year's supplies. This was considered to be a very
good beginning for John and Mary.
Arrangements were now to be made for
next year's operations. John got Will and Mose and Harry Hawthorn to
help him to log off the rest of the twelve acres' chopping, so that
it might be ready for the next spring's sowing. Harry was a little
anxious to help Bushman for two reasons. He wanted to get a little
practice at that kind of work, and he wanted John's help with his
oxen to clear off a spot around his shanty, so that it might have a
sort of home-like appearance when 'Biddy and the children " should
come the next spring. Harry was somewhat awkward at first, but being
willing to be taught, and quick to learn, he soon got to be a very
fair hand at the work.
It did not take many days to do the job.
Then all hands went to help Harry clear off the spot around the
shanty, to make it ready for the coming of Harry's wife and
this time old Mr. Crautmaker was ready to move his family into their
new home. He left the boys to work on the place, and he went to
bring in the rest of the family. The month of October was a
beautiful month, and the settlers improved it by making preparation
for the approaching winter. None of them had as yet spent a winter
there, and many conjectures were indulged in and expressed with
regard to what winter in the backwoods would be like.
Among the various kinds of work at this
time of the year was "underbrushing," and every man who intended to
stay on his lot through the winter was engaged in this work, because
it was not possible, when the snow was on the ground, to cut the
undergrowth and saplings close enough to the ground to make it
practicable to harrow in the grain. Whatever was intended to be
chopped through the winter must be underbrushed in the fall.
John Bushman had measured off six acres
to be chopped through the winter. This, along with threshing his
grain, and doing the many nameless chores always to be found on a
new place, was a pretty large calculation for one man. Will and Mose
were going out to the old settlement for the winter, so that John
and Mary expected to be alone. John was generally moderate in his
expectations, and cautious and careful in laying his plans, and what
he set out to do he, as a rule, accomplished.
As winter approached, those who were
intending to go away made arrangements for doing so. And those who
expected to stay tried to make the best preparations they could to
meet the rigors of winter among the forest trees. Mr. Beach had got
his house ready for use. But, like Harry, he had deferred
moving into it until the next spring, having been offered a good
winter's work at fair wages elsewhere. Will Briars had not put up a
house, as it was settled that he and Betsy could stay with John and
Mary until one could be built next spring.
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