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Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter XIX - And Still They Come


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 advises them.

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 hunger."

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 had gone.

"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 forever.

"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 event."

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 field."

"Well, Mr. 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 Bushman.

"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. Bushman's now."

"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 home."

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 about it."

"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 earnestness.

"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 sisters."

"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 soon.

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 build them."

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 language.

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 vive.

John and Mary were kept busy in looking after their stock and other things about the place.


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