Among the Forrest Trees Chapter XVI - Visitors
ONE bright and cold
moonlight night in the last week in January, about eight o'clock,
John and Mary were sitting by a good fire in the room, that answered
to the name of kitchen, dining-room, sitting-room, parlor and
drawing-room, or in fact, any kind of room but bedroom. While
sitting by a good fire in this very accommodating room, they thought
they heard the tinkling of sleigh bells.
"What is that?" said
"It sounds like
bells. I will go out and see if I can hear anything out of doors,"
John said. But before he had time to reach it, they heard a sleigh
drive up to the door and people talking. The next moment Betsy,
closely followed by her mother, walked into the room.
After kissing Mary
and glancing around the room, Bet said, "John, you go out and take
care of the horses, and let father come in to the fire. He is nearly
frozen by coming to this awful cold country."
"Why, Betsy, how you
talk; father has not complained of the cold," said the mother.
"No, mother, he don't
complain; you know, he never complains. But I am in a hurry for him
to come in and see what a cozy little nest his first-born son has
got himself settled down into," said she, looking at John and
"Never mind about the
nest, Bet. If you find the bird all right. Your turn will come if
you only have patience to wait for it," said John, as he went out of
the door, just in time to escape the big ball that Bet had made by
rolling up her shawl to throw at him.
"What a wild girl you
are, Betsy," said her mother.
"Never mind, mother.
It is so long since I saw him, that I am dying for an old-fashioned
frolic with John. I almost wish that we were children again," she
Mr. Bushman brought a
heavy load of things. Between sheep, and sugar-kettles, and apples,
and pork, and dried fruit, and grass-seed, and a lot of things sent
to Mary by her mother, he had as much as his horses could get along
After the team was
put away and the sleigh was unloaded, the rest of the evening was
spent in telling what had taken place about the old home, and the
new one, since they last met.
John's father was
well pleased with what John told him about his crops. He also
commended John's course about sowing the fall wheat. That was just
the place to sow the Timothy seed that he had brought with him. And
the sheep would need a pasture field, and that was the quickest way
to get it.
"What will you do
with your sheep until you get a pasture field for them?" asked Betsy
of her brother.
He answered, "I will
keep them shut up in a pen and feed them on beaver-meadow hay and
green leaves or anything that they will eat, until the grass grows
in the meadow. Then I will cut grass and feed them. For this first
year I must do the best I can with them. After that I can have a
suitable place for them."
"Mary, can you card
and spin?" inquired Mrs. Bushman.
"Yes. Mother taught
me how to do both," she replied.
"There is a Scotchman
settling on the lot opposite to Will Briar's lot, who is a weaver,
and he is going to bring his loom with him when he moves in here. We
will be able to get weaving done near home," said John.
granny," said Bet. "Have you forgotten already, that you have a
sister who can weave?"
"O, dear me. Now I
have done it," said John, in a half whining tone. "I have passed by
the prospective Mrs. B 's, and gone to a Scotch weaver to get some
cloth made. But let it pass this time, sister dear, and the next
will be brought to you."
"Well, of all things,
but you are the provoking tease. I won't touch your nasty old yarn,"
she said, pretending to be out of temper. Then turning to Mary, she
said, "For your sake, Mary, I will do your weaving when everything
is in readiness."
"No matter for whose
sake it is done, so long as it is well done," said John.
Next morning, when
Mrs. Bushman and Betsy could look around and see the place they were
delighted with it. The lake and the evergreens that surrounded it,
with the white snow everywhere showing itself among the leaves and
branches, made a picture of rural beauty not often seen. But when
the sun got up, so that its rays struck the water at an angle of
about forty-five or fifty degrees, the beauty of the scene was
greatly increased. The sun-light, as it touched the rippling surface
of the water, seemed to plant luminous centres all over, and from
those centres there went out, in all directions, what looked like
streams of yellow light, and these, falling upon the snow, partly
hidden among the evergreen branches, gave it the appearance of lumps
of amber, so that the mingling of light and shade, and the mixing of
so many different shades of color, gave to the lake a stamp of
beauty seldom met with anywhere. After they had been looking at the
scene before them, Ms. Bushman turned to John, and said, "It would
be worth a trip from our place to this, if it was only to see that
one sight; it is so charming."
"I am glad you like
it mother," said John. "I often think of the bright world beyond the
storms of life, when I look at Sylvan Lake in its gayest dress."
"John," you have made
a good hit by coming to the bush just when you did," said Mr.
Bushman next day, looking around the place.
"I think so, too,
father," John answered.
"Yes, there is no
doubt of it. I see that some twelve or fifteen settlers have made
beginnings along the road this side of Mapleton since we were here
last spring," was the father's answer.
When they went into
the house, John said, "Mother, would you like a ride on an ox-sled?"
"Well, John, it would
not be the first one, for I can remember when we had to ride on the
ox-sled or walk," she answered.
"Well, then, for the
sake of old associations, you ought to have such a ride. I propose
to take you all on a visit to our only neighbors, Mr. Crautmaker's
and Mr. Greenleaf's. We have plenty of prospective neighbors, but as
yet we have not many real neighbors. What do you all say? Will you
"We might as well get
acquainted with the people around here," said Mr. Bushman; "and I
think we had better go."
"All right, then;
that is settled," said John.
"Will you let me and
Rover keep house?" put in Betsy. "I am afraid of those big Dutchmen
"Now, Bet, none of
your nonsense. Do you think that because Will Briars has been soft
enough to try and captivate you, therefore no other young man can be
where you are without trying to catch you?" said John.
"Well, if you are not
the most impudent biped that I know of, my name ain't Betsy. But,
"I know a man who
feels so big
Because he has a clever wife
To cook his meat and clean his knife,
That he is saucy as a pig.
But if I had that
I'd tell him plumply to his face
That he must learn to keep his place,
Or I would smash the dinner pot."
"There, now, you have
got my opinion about you," Betsy said, as she waved her hand toward
the door, as an intimation that he should get the sled and oxen
"Well, of all things,
Betsy," said her mother.
"Mother," said John,
"I like it. Mary is so still, I can't get any nonsense from her, and
you know Bet and I were always bantering each other. And yet we
never had a quarrel, or anything like it in our lives."
"I was only joking,"
said Betsy. "I want to see Katrina, for I am pretty sure that Mose
is more than half in love with her already."
"Katrina is a nice
girl," put in Mary.
All was ready in a
short time, and away through the woods they started. As on the
former occasion, John took his rifle along. They went to Mr.
Crautmaker's first, and spent a pleasant time with that family.
conversation, John asked his father if he knew the name of the old
man who was called Old Hickory.
"Yes," said Mr.
Bushman. "I was a witness to the deed when he bought the farm where
he lives. His name is William Hedge. Why, what made you think of him
now?" he asked.
Mr. Crautmaker spoke,
and said: "I once had a brother-in-law by that name, my first wife's
brother. He lost his wife and. only child by small-pox over thirty
years ago. He seemed all broken up, and went off no one knew where,
and the family lost all trace of him."
"What age would this
man be, and how long have you known him?"
years, I think, and he is about seventy years of age, I should say.
We have not been much acquainted with him, as he always kept out of
society," was answered.
"I have a portrait of
mother, and I will let you see if there is any resemblance to the
old man in it," said John Crautmaker, who had been a very intense
listener to the conversation.
The portrait was
examined by Mr. and Mrs. Bushman. They both thought that they saw a
striking resemblance, making allowance for difference in age and
"See here," said Mr.
Bushman to the young man. "If you will let me take that picture with
me, I will show it to the old man, and see if he will recognize it."
"I will willingly do
it if you will give yourself the trouble to go and show it to him,
and let me know what he says about it," said he.
"I will gladly do
that, and let you know the result. When William Briars and Moses
Moosewood come back in the spring, I will send the picture to you by
them," Mr. Bushman said.
arrangement was made the visiting-party left, and went across to
Richard Greenleaf's. Here they were warmly received by Martha, who
had often heard Mary speak of them. After spending a pleasant
afternoon with this interesting young couple, the party went home,
in time to attend to the chores.
When they came within
sight of the place, they heard Rover barking fiercely. They hurried
on to see what was the matter, for he never barked like that unless
there was some cause for it.
When they got around
to the stable, they saw that Rover had a man treed on the hen-house,
and was barking at him. The man looked frightened when he saw them
come into the yard.
John called the dog
off, and then went up to the man, and asked him what he was doing
"I am here," said the
man, "by the order of your policeman that, it seems, you left to
take care of the place. I made a mistake. But he would not take any
explanations. He has kept me here for four or five hours."
"What did you do?"
"I will tell you,"
said the man. "I am on my way to a settlement some twenty-five or
thirty miles from here. I was told that a new road had been cut
through the country, and it is the shortest and best way to go to
where I am going. When I came this far I felt hungry, and I thought
that I would go in and see if I could get something to eat. I went
to the house and found no one there. The dog watched me very
closely, but he did not molest me. I thought that I would look into
the stable, and see what was there. That is where I made the
mistake. I had only put my hand on the stable door, when the dog
took hold of me, and to get away from him I got upon the hen-pen,
where he has kept me till now."
"Well, my man," said
John, "I am sorry that you have been detained by the dog. But I
can't blame the do; for doing as he did. You can't go on any further
to-night, so come in and content yourself till morning. We will give
you your supper, and bed, and breakfast, as a sort of compromise for
your forced detention by the dog."
"All right; I shall
be thankful for your kindness," said he, as he walked toward the
house, the dog keeping close to him.
Next morning, after
breakfast, the strange man started on his journey, as he said, to
the next settlement, saying that when he carne back he hoped to be
able to make some suitable return for their kindness.
When he had gone
away, Mary said, "I am not at all anxious for his return, or for
remuneration. I don't like the looks of him, and I would not trust
"I agree with you,
Mary," said Mrs. Bushman, "about that man. I would be afraid to
trust him. And yet I could hardly tell why. He seemed civil enough.
But I feel that I would be unsafe if I put confidence in him so far
as in any way to put myself in his power."
"That is a little
strange," said John. "That you should both have the same opinion
about him is what I can't understand, and yet you may be right."
"I would almost be
willing to vouch for it, that they are right," said John's father.
"On what grounds,
father?" asked John.
"On the ground that
women are seldom, if ever, wrong in the estimate they form of the
character of a strange man," he said.
"Are they better
judges than men are on this subject?" inquired John.
"Yes, decidedly so;
only in their case it is not judgment, but it is instinct, or
intuition, that governs their conclusions."
"I don't think that I
understand your meaning," said John.
"Probably not. But I
will explain. We get all the information we can about a man, and we
mentally take his measure. After we have gained all the facts that
we can in regard to the man, we base our judgment on the ascertained
qualities of the man, and form our estimate of him accordingly. But
with women the process is entirely different. When a true woman
comes into the presence of a strange man, if she will note the first
impression that arises in her mind, and governs herself by that, she
will seldom, if ever, make a mistake in estimating men."
"Well, I never heard
of that before," said he.
"I suppose not. I
don't know that we ever had any talk on the subject before. But
Mary's remarks about that man brought the matter up. One thing I do
know; in my own experience I have, on different occasions, been
saved from loss through taking your mother's advice about strangers,
even when she had no other reason to give for her fears than simply,
'I don't like the looks of him.' And, on the other hand, in some
cases where I have acted on my own judgment, and gone against her
advice, I have found, in every instance, that her estimate of the
person was the correct one."
"Good for you, father
Bushman," said Mary. "That will count one for my side, won't it?"
"I suppose it will,"
"Father," said John,
"how do you account for what you say is a fact about women's reading
of men's character?"
"I suppose we may say
it arises from the law of compensation that is said to run
throughout animated nature. By this law the balance or equilibrium
of creation is kept up. Where there may be weakness and inferiority
in some respects, there is always a compensating strength and
superiority in some other respect.
"For instance, those
creatures that are easily destroyed have the power of rapid
increase. So that, although they are individually weak, they are
numerically strong. On the other hand, the strong and ferocious
animals increase slowly, so that, though they are individually
strong, they are numerically weak. Compare the power of increase of
the lion and the tiger with that of rabbits and rats, and you see
where this compensation comes in.
illustration. You tell about Moses' dog and the porcupine. Now, the
little porcupine could not run as fast as the dog, nor could it
resist his strength. But nature, or rather the God of nature,
compensated the porcupine by surrounding it with a coat of mail,
made up of a thousand barbed arrows, any one of which might kill the
dog if it pierced him in a vital part. While the dog was swifter and
stronger than the porcupine, he had no such weapon for self-defence
as the weaker and slower creature had.
"Now for the answer
to your question. A man relies for self-protection on the force of
his will, the clearness of his intellect, and the strength of his
arm. But woman was not made to fight, nor to defend herself by acts
of prowess. Her strength is found in the correctness of her
intuitions, the quickness of her instincts, and the strength of her
moral perceptions. With these in their normal condition, she is
comparatively safe. But when these are overpowered she becomes like
a ship on a strong sea without a rudder or a pilot, driven before
the gale and as likely to be dashed upon the rocks or among the
breakers, as to reach the safe and quiet haven." Mr. Bushman spoke
And Milton does no
violence to nature, when he makes Mother Eve trample on her own
instinctive feeling, and lay a suicidal hand upon her intuitions and
moral perceptions, by parleying with the devil, before she yielded
to temptation. "And that the woman who parleys with temptation is
lost," has been true from the days of Eve, till the year of grace
1888. And I will venture to repeat Mr. Bushman's statement, and
endorse it, that if a woman will be guided by her first impressions
in regard to a strange man, she never need to be deceived by that
"Father," said John,
"will you show me how to make a sap trough before you start for
home? Sugar-making will soon be here, and I want to have everything
ready when it commences."
"Don't you know how
to make a sap-trough?" said the father.
"No; I never saw one
made. I have seen them after they were done, but I never saw any of
"Well, we will go
this afternoon, and see what we can do. You have some nice pine
trees out behind the lake, that are just the thing to make them of,"
said Mr. Bushman.
They made some thirty
troughs that afternoon, and John learned how to do it so well, that
by the time the sap began to run he had about two hundred troughs
made and put in place at the roots of the trees in what he intended
for the "sap-bush."
The next morning
after the sap-troughs were made Mr. Bushman said to John, "What
arrangements have you for storing the sap that you get, until you
can boil it?"
"I have no
arrangements as yet," said he.
"Do you know how to
make a store-trough?"
"No; I don't think I
do. How do they make them? Could you help me to make one?" said
"Yes. We will go at
it right away, for you know I must start home after one day more."
They went to the
pinery and selected a tree of the right size, which was about thirty
inches across. They felled it, and after taking off a few feet of
the butt-end for fear of "shakes," they measured up some thirty feet
as the length from end to end. They left about two feet at each end
that they did not dig out. The rest of the log they dug out with
axes and carpenter's adze, until they had a shell that would hold
some sixty or seventy pails of sap. They got done at sundown. Mr.
Bushman said, "There, John, you have a store-trough good enough for
old King George himself, if he were here."
"Yes, father;" said
John, "I am very much obliged to you for helping me to make it. If I
need any more, I think now that I can manage to make them myself."
The time appointed
for Mr. Bushman and his wife and daughter to start for home carne
round, and as punctuality characterized the Bushman family, they
started next day for home.
John jibed Betsy a
little, telling her to be sure and come back before the berries were
all gone, so that there would be nothing but briars left. She told
him to mind his business and they started for home.
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