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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 frontier homes.

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 feelings.

On 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 for dinner."

"I 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 all right."

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 to you."

Mary 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 rest.

When the 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 last generation.

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 stubbornness.

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 presentable condition.

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 old age.

The 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 crop."

"If I 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 waggon?"

The 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 children.

By 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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