Among the Forrest Trees Chapter XIX - And Still
Do not holloa until you
are out of the woods," means, I suppose, keep your mouths shut until
the woods are taken out of your way, or until you get through it,
and come out on the other side.
Well, the people
about Sylvan Lake would have to go a long way to go through the
woods that shut them in on the north and west and east. And they
were not likely to undertake the task.
They could find
places to bathe in and to drown their surplus kittens without going
to the far-off waters of Lake Huron or the Georgian Bay. They could
find cool, shady places to rest themselves when wearied, without
seeking repose where the Indian dogs chase the chipmunk and squirrel
among the shadowy recesses and caverns of the limestone mountain
that frowns upon the marshy quagmires, that breed musquitoes and
French luxuries in the shape of green-frogs, around Owen Sound. And
if they wanted to get a supply of the hunter's or the fisher's
productions, they did not need to go on a whole week's journey to
where they could catch the speckled trout in the lazy waters of the
sluggish Tees-water creek, or steal the red-deer and the rabbit from
the Indians along the sloping banks of the Saugeen river.
These people must
accept the other alternative. They must wait until the woods
disappear before they holloa—that is, if they do as the proverb
But the prospect of
an early realization of a thing so desirable was made very much
brighter between the first of April and the first of September, in
the year one thousand eight hundred and something. Settlers came
pouring in from all directions. During June, July and August, John
Bushman and his wife entertained more or less people in their house,
not less than four nights in a week on an average.
One morning, after an
unusual number had staid overnight, and Mary had almost covered the
floor with shake-downs, John said to her, "Are you not getting tired
of this thing, Mary?"
"Well, John," said
she, you know there are different ways of looking at a thing. Now,
if this was a matter of speculation, and a mere question of money, I
should soon be tired of it. But it is not a matter of money—it is a
question of duty, arising no less from the claims of humanity than
from the teaching and dictates of Christianity."
"I am glad that you
take that view of it, Mary," said John. "No money could tempt me to
see you put about as you are sometimes. But people come here tired
and worn out, by long and tedious journeys, and many of them women
and children. They ask for shelter. They will he content with
anything, only give them shelter. I could not refuse them; I would
rather take a blanket and go out and sleep by the side of the
haystack, than to refuse them shelter."
"How glad we would
have been to find a shelter that night that we staid in the woods
when we were moving in here. I shall never forget that night," she
said. "I knew that mother was very tired, and I would have given
anything, or done anything if I could only have secured for her a
good supper and a comfortable bed. But it could not be got. I then
and there made up my mind that hospitality should characterize our
home." And, coloring a little, she continued, "If we ever have any
children I want them to be able to say, when we are gone, that the
door of their home was never shut in the face of weariness or
John stooped and
kissed her, saying, "God bless you, Mary. You have the heart of a
true woman; such a woman is a jewel in the home of any man."
Among the new corners
was Mr. Angus Woodbine, the Scotchman spoken of in a former chapter.
He brought with him a wife and a lot of children. They went into the
shanty that he built the previous season, but the team that brought
them was taken to John Bushman's for the night, along with the man
that owned it. He was an elderly man, and a native of the Province.
He had himself settled in the bush some thirty years back, and had
experienced some strange vicissitudes.
As they were sitting
around a table, on which sat a couple of lighted candles, Moses
asked the stranger for some incidents of backwoods life in the
locality from which he came.
"Well, I have no
objection to comply with your request, so far as I am able," said
the man. "Settlements did not form as rapidly forty or fifty years
ago as they do at the present time. Sometimes it would be years
before all the land in a locality would be taken up; and sometimes
settlers would commence on a lot, and make a little clearing, and
then go away; some for one reason, and some for another. These
vacated clearings would become berry patches in a few years, and the
briars would grow so tall and thick that they would furnish lurking
places for various wild animals, and the black bear was no uncommon
occupant of the prickly recesses.
"One of these berry
patches was not far from where I live. There were two neighbor women
who used to go there to pick berries. One afternoon they went; one
of them had with her two children, one about three years old, and
the other a few months. They picked berries till about sundown, then
they started to their homes, only half a mile distant.
"In going through a
small strip of bush that was between the berry patch and the
clearing they were attacked by a large black bear. One of the women
dropped her berries and ran as fast as she could, leaving the other,
with her two little ones, to the cruel ferocity of the bear.
"The mother took both
children in her arms and tried to run, but the bear would head her
off every time. At last, as if he was tired of this, he made a dash
and took the little boy out of his mother's arms, and ran off in the
great swamp, that covered nearly half of a township.
"The screams of the
woman was heard by two men who were working on the back end of the
farms. They ran as fast as possible to the place, being sure that
something terrible was taking place. On coming up to the woman they
found her frantic with fright and grief. The only thing she could
say was, ' O, the bear has got my child; the bear has got my child.'
"They could get no
information from her as to which direction the bear had gone. She
seemed to pay no attention to their questions—she seemed to have no
other words of utterance but the cry, `The bear has got my child.'
"The one woman ran
screaming across the fields toward her home. Her husband and the
husband of the other woman came to her. She told them as well as she
could the story of meeting the bear. They ran with all their might
to the place. When they came up the other two men were still trying
to learn from the poor heart-broken mother which direction the bear
"When she saw her
husband she ran up to him, and pointed towards the swamp, saying,
`The cruel bear has got our boy,' and fell fainting to the ground
with her infant in her arms. She soon rallied, and was tenderly
taken to her home. For some weeks she trembled on the borders of
insanity, and it was feared her reason would take its flight
"One of the men who
first went to her said, some months after the sad event, that the
woman's cry, `The bear has got my boy,' had been ringing in his ears
ever since. There was such a burden of real hopeless despair and
unutterable anguish, and such a wail of crushing, heart-rending woe
in that one short sentence, that he hoped he might never hear the
like of it again.
"By ten o'clock next
morning not less than fifty men, with guns, were scouring that swamp
in all directions. But no trace of the bear or its victim could be
found. A gloom rested on that community for months after this tragic
Moses thanked the
stranger for telling the story; although, as he said, it was one
that nervous people would be better not to hear.
"I can give you
another story about the bear in a berry patch that is a complete
contrast to that," said the man.
"Let us hear it,
please," said Mary, who was wishing for something to change the
current of her feelings.
"On a new farm, in
one of the back townships, there lived an English family. They had
only been a short time in this country. There was a large patch of
thimble-berries on the rear of the farm. One day the woman and some
children went to pick berries. The bushes were loaded with fine ripe
and beautiful fruit.
"After a while the
woman heard the bushes rustle as if something was violently shaking
them. She thought that possibly the cattle had got into the field,
and that some of them were among the bushes. She went to where she
could see what it was that disturbed the bushes.
"When she got there
she saw a large black bear eating berries. He was resting on his
haunches, and with his fore-paws he brought the bushes together, and
ate the berries off them, as a cow eats the twigs off trees or
shrubs. The woman stood and watched him for a few minutes. The bear
once turned his head and looked at her for a moment, and then went
on with eating as though he was perfectly satisfied with his
surroundings. She said to him, 'Ah, Bruin, you like berries too, it
seems, as well as I do; well, I will make a bargain with you, Bruin.
If you leave me alone, I will leave you alone.' And she went and
called the children, and left the bear in full possession of the
Spicewood," said John, "that woman either had an unusual amount of
nerve or she was ignorant of the character of the bear. Which do you
think it was?
"Some of both,"
answered he. "She had a good deal of nerve—or perhaps courage would
be the better term in this connection. She knew enough about the
bear to be cautious about going too near to him, but she had never
heard such of his strength or ferocity."
The next morning Mr.
Spicewood took his leave. He was well pleased with the unpretending
hospitable way in which he had been entertained by John and Mary.
They were equally pleased with their guest.
About the middle of
the forenoon Mrs. Greenleaf and Katrina Crautmaker were coming to
John's for a short call. They saw a man who asked the distance to
the next settlement north. They could not tell him anything about
it. He said he had got a grant of land to put up a mill, and he was
trying to find his way to it. He came in on the road from the east,
and from what he had been told he thought he ought to be somewhere
near the place.
They asked him if he
knew the name of any one in the vicinity of his land. He said he had
the name of one man. He was the first settler, and his name was John
"O," said they, "we
are acquainted with him. We are now going to his place. This is his
land on our left-hand side. You made a mistake about the settlement
being to the north. It is west. We are only half a mile from Mr.
"Well," said the man,
"my mistake came about in this way. My land is north of this road,
and I naturally supposed that the settlement in which it lay would
be to the north also."
When they had gone a
little further they came in sight of John's house and Sylvan Lake;
the stranger stopped and looked around, and asked the women to whom
this pretty place belonged.
They told him that
this was Mr. Bushman's.
"This," said he, "is
one of the most beautiful spots for a new place that I have yet
seen. What a lovely landscape picture might be drawn right from
where we stand. That charming little lake, with its border of
evergreen trees, the sloping field with the house standing in the
middle of it. Then the tall forest trees in the distance, standing
like faithful sentinels to guard the sacredness of this happy rural
The women were amused
by his enthusiasm, and pleased with his earnest manner. He made
friends of them at once.
They all went on
together. Mary was busy with her work, John was at work preparing
for the haying, Mose Moosewood was just hitching up John's oxen to
go to the woods for a load of shingle bolts, as he had agreed to
make the shingles to cover the barn that John intended to build.
The stranger went to
John and told him what he wanted. He said:
"My name is Matthew
Millwood. I came from the township of Creekland. I have secured from
Government a mill privilege, and from what I have been told it can't
be very far from here."
"What number of lot,
and in what township is your privilege," John inquired.
"Lot one and
concession one in the township of Riverbend," said the man.
"My lot is the corner
lot of the township of Rockland," said John, "your property corners
on to mine: There are four townships that corner each other there."
Then pointing north, he said: "The lot over the line there belongs
to Mr. Beech. About the middle of his lands two good-sized creeks
form a junction. A little distance from that there is a good water
privilege. Then going on a little farther the stream passes over on
your lot, about fifty rods from the corner. The river comes around
with a bend and describes a quadrant of about twenty acres, or so,
and then it goes across into the land belonging to Mr. Hawthorn.
Here it comes around with another bend, and cuts off about forty
acres from Hawthorn's lot. Then it crosses the boundary again, and
comes into my lot forty rods from the south side of it; making one
more turn, it describes another quadrant off my lot of some eight or
ten acres, then it runs through the two lots south on an almost
straight line. Beyond I have not traced it, so that I can't say
"I am very much
obliged for all this information," said the stranger; "I think that
I understand the lay of the locality now as well as if I had hired a
surveyor to draw out a map of it for me."
"There is no map that
can equal actual observation," was John's reply. "You observe that
in its windings the creek touches four townships in the distance of
a lot and a half, and in that distance there are at the least six or
seven good water privileges."
"What is the names of
the other two townships that corner here?" asked the stranger.
"The one north of
this is Limeridge, and the other his Ashdown."
"Would you have time
to go and show me the place, and give me your opinion as to where
would be the best place to build a grist and saw mill?"
"Most willingly; but
it is nearing dinner-time, and we will wait until after dinner, and
then go," John answered.
They went into the
house, where John introduced Mr. Millwood to Mary and the other
women, as a prospective neighbor of more than ordinary importance."
Mrs. Greenleaf asked
John if he knew how far off the gentleman's property was.
"Yes," said he, "it
is right here at the cross roads."
"Richard has often
said that lot would not be long vacant, for there is such good water
privileges on it," she answered.
After the dinner was
over the two men went to look at the property. Mr. Millwood was
delighted with the situation of the place, and the excellent water
privilege he found right near the road. "But," said he, "it is about
as near as possible what my partner described it to be."
"You have a partner,
then, it seems?" said John Bushman.
"Yes, there are two
of us. We have four hundred acres here in a block. It is a grant
from the Government. We have bound ourselves to erect, within two
years, a grist and saw mill, and keep them running for ten years."
"That is a good thing
for this section of the country, and, in the long run, it will be a
good investment for you," John said.
"That is what Mr.
Root said," he replied.
"What!: is John Root
the partner you speak of?" asked John, with considerable
"Yes, he is the man.
Do you know him?"
"Why, yes; he and his
men helped me to build my home."
"He is my partner,
and more than that, he is my brother-in-law. His wife and mine are
"Why, I certainly
took you for Canadian."
"So I am, but I got
my wife in the States, for all that."
"All this is a
pleasant surprise to me, and I hope you may have grand success in
the enterprise," was John's answer.
When they came to the
crossing of the roads, Mr. Millwood said that he wanted to go by the
way of Mapleton, and he intended to get as far as Ashcroft's that
night. He bade John good-bye, saying that he would hear more from
them by the middle of August, as they intended to have the sawmill
ready for operation by the next spring.
When John went to the
house, and told the rest of theme what he had learned from the
stranger, they were as much surprised and pleased as he was.
And the settlers were
all delighted at the prospect of having a grist and saw mill so
John and Mary were
especially pleased that Mr. Root was one of the men who were to own
and run the mills. They decided to defer the building of a barn till
the next summer, and then to build a frame one. Will Briars threw up
his hat and shouted, "Hurrah for Riverbend Mills and the men who
Moses Moosewood was
now a regular visitor to Mr. Crautmaker's. He and Katrina had got to
be very friendly, to say the least of it. The old gentleman would
say, sometimes: "Dot young Moosewood ish werry sweet on mine
Katrina, and I does not be sure certain dot she ish not a leetle
sweet on him. But I vas young vonce mineself, and so vas de old
vooman, so I cand say too much apout 'em, don't you see."
I suppose the young
folks would call that straight, good sense, expressed in crooked
That seemed to be the
old man's views, at all events, and we are not going to say that he
was very far astray.
The old lady would
give him a punch in the ribs, and say, "Well, well, my old man, you
can think straight, if you can't talk straight."
Will Briars and Betsy
were ready to go into their new home, as soon as Mr. Bushman should
come with Betsy's things. He was expected in a few days, and until
he came the young people were, as a Frenchman would say, on the qui
John and Mary were
kept busy in looking after their stock and other things about the
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.