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Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter XXII - A Boarding House Wanted


Two weeks from the day that Harry Hawthorn's children were buried Mr. Root and his men came to Sylvan Lake, or, as the place was now more frequently called, Riverbend. There were ten of them, including the two proprietors. They brought a strong force, for a new country, because the conditions on which they obtained the property enjoined upon them to build on a somewhat extensive scale. So, between carpenters, millwrights and laborers, the number of men brought was not any too large.

When this addition was made to the population of the place a question of importance presented itself, Where could all these men find board and lodging? There were not spare beds enough in the whole settlement to lodge them. They might be fed; but where could they sleep? that was the question.

Mr. Root and his partner could be accommodated at John Bushman's, two of the others might be crowded in at William Briars'. Beyond this there was not a house in the whole community where boarders could be taken with any prospect of being made moderately comfortable. Here was a difficulty, and how was it to be met? The nights were too cool to sleep out of doors on the ground.

"Why not build a house at once to live in?" said Bushman to the two proprietors.

"Could it be done without throwing us too much behind with the work on the mills?" inquired Mr. Root.

"Set all hands to work, and get what help you can from the neighbors, and you can have a good-sized log cabin ready to live in within a week, and among us all we can arrange some way for the men for that length of time."

"That would be quick work, and I only wish it could be done," said Millwood.

"It can be done," said John. "There is no reason why you may not have a house of your own, on your own lot in one week, if things are properly managed."

"Well, let us hear your plan," said Root.

"Set two men to work with the whipsaw, send two more to cut shingle bolts, and put two more to make shingles. Let two more cut and haul half a dozen saw-logs for the lumber. Set the rest at clearing a place for the house and cutting the logs and getting everything ready. When everything is done the neighbors will come and help to raise it. In the meantime one of yourselves can take a team and go out for nails and glass."

"I think," said Mr. Root to his companion, "that Bushman's plan is feasible. At all events, I believe we would do well to try it."

"All right. It looks to me like a sensible proposition; and if we succeed, which I feel confident we shall do, it will help us out of our difficulty," said the other.

"But if none of our men can handle the whipsaw or make the shingles, what will we do?" said Millwood.

"In that case," said John, "I and William Briars will saw your lumber, and you can get Moses Moosewood and one of the Crautmaker boys to make your shingles."

"That is very kind of you, I am sure," replied Mr. Root, and we will not forget your generous offer, whether we have to accept of it or not. If any of our men can do the work we will set them to do it; but if they cannot do it, we shall be very much pleased to get the help you kindly suggest."

Next day work was commenced, and in seven days the house was ready for occupancy.

After the house was finished, Mr. Root said to John and Mary, as they sat at the supper table, "I do not know where we are going to find a cook. Neither ourselves nor any of our men know anything about cooking."

"I think," said John, "that I can tell you of one who, if you can get him, would just suit you."

"Who is it, and where does he live?" asked Mr. Root.

"It is young Mr. Timberline, who lives only one lot from here. I have heard him tell of cooking in a lumber shanty down in Nova Scotia. He has no one but himself to look after, and no cattle or horses to care for. So I think it quite likely that he might be willing to hire out for a while. And if he will do so, I am very sure that he will suit you as a cook," was John's answer.

"Would you mind going with me to see him?" said Mr. Root.

"Not at all. We can go this evening, as it is good moonlight, and we will find him in the house," was John's answer.

They found Mr. Timberline at home, and after a short conversation the subject of their visit was introduced. At the first the young man hesitated, but after a little urging by John Bushman, he agreed to go and try it for one month, and if everything was satisfactory, then he would stay longer. He was to commence the next day.

As they were going along, on the way home, Mr. Root said to John, "It seems that you are always equal to the emergency, Bushman, no matter what that may be. Here you have helped us out of another difficulty that we could not see our way through. Do you never find yourself in a fix that you can't get out of?"

"Sometimes; but not often, and for two reasons. I never commence a thing until I think that I see my way through it. And I never give up to defeat until I am compelled to do so. The result is that I generally succeed in what I undertake to do," was John's reply.

The work on the mills now was started in earnest. Some were working at the dam, while others were getting out timber and framing it for the saw-mill, which was to be built first, so they would be able to cut their own lumber for the grist-mill.

The saw-mills of that time were very simple in their mechanism. Two or three wheels, an upright saw, fixed in a square frame, that moved up and down with every stroke of the saw, driven by a crank and pitman, along with a carriage for the lobs, made up about the sum total of the machinery of an old-time saw-mill. The fast-running circular saws were not known in this country at the time of which we are writing.

Everything went on smoothly with the work, and the saw-mill was ready for operation by the time the snow came in sufficient quantity to make sleighing. And the work on the grist-mill was in a forward state before the winter set in.

Everything was going well with the settlement at Riverbend, and the people were prospering, and as comfortable as people in a new country could be. Everybody was everybody's friend, and nobody was anybody's enemy. The people were all hard at work, to do the best in their power to get an honest living, and to provide themselves with homes of their own. Those of them that were not devoutly pious, were strictly honest, truthful and sober. In fact, so far as character goes, the Riverbend settlement might very properly be called a model community. Up till the time of which we speak nothing had occurred to divide public opinion, or to interfere with the fraternal feelings of the various families which composed the neighborhood.

But in this respect nearly all new settlements are more or less alike. If you want to find real, genuine, honest friendship, go among the people in the backwoods. There you may see society in its every-day attire, where there is no starchy stiffness, nor wilted limberness. There are no strained relations between leading families. There are no instances of empty nothingness trying to assume the aspect and act the part of solid something. There the cheek of beauty depends not on the painter's brush for the harmonies of color, and the hard-handed toilers in the forest and fields do not long for official dignity to push them up into the elevated region of real manhood. There things are, as a rule, what they appear to be. There genuine manhood and womanhood are appreciated for all they are worth, and rascality and fraud are at a wonderful discount.

But, dear me, where am I wandering to? I am not writing a satire on frauds and shams, nor an eulogy on truth and honesty; but simply speaking of the process of developing life and its appliances among the forest trees and in the new settlements.

Mr. Timberline proved himself to be a good cook and a very passable housekeeper, so that Messrs. Root & Co. were well pleased with their boarding-house venture. In fact, the boarding-house soon became the most noted place in the settlement in some respects. There were more people in it, and its inmates represented such a great diversity of talent, and such a variety of trades, that the associations of the place became very interesting indeed to a student of character.

The names of some of the more prominent of the boarders, were, in themselves, a subject of amusement to anyone who heard them for the first time. And some of them were very expressive, and others were suggestive. For instance:-

Joseph Chipmaker, was the name of the "boss" carpenter. There is nothing in the name that is either euphonious or musical. But once the name was heard in connection with the man, and in his presence, it could not be easily forgotten. Whenever one who had become familiar with the name and the man it belonged to, saw a chip in the workshop or on the woodpile, he at once would think of about one hundred and seventy pounds of masculine humanity; with a large head covered with brown curly hair; a broad, good-natured face, a little inclined to ruddiness; an expansive forehead, that a judge might covet; a clear, blue eye, with now and then a shade of sternness in it, and a mouth that became the index to either sweetness of temper or fixedness of purpose just as it received its expression from the present state of its owner's mind.

Another one of the men worthy of notice was Mr. Sledgeswinger, the stonemason. His name is a little more musical than that of his neighbor, Chipmaker, but no more suggestive. He was a large raw-boned man in middle life. His manner was more pleasing than his appearance. His features were coarse and stiff, his hands were hard and bony. But his heart was softer than either his features or his hands would seem to indicate. On the whole, we are safe in setting it down that Mr. Sledgeswinger was an amiable and kind-hearted man without a tinge of malice or meanness in his composition.

Then there was Jack Pivot, the machinist, who must not be left unnoticed. He was a little red-headed man. He had an eye like an eagle, and he was as smart as a steel trap. He would not weigh over a hundred and thirty pounds. But there was not a man in the company that could jump as far, or run as fast, as Little Jack, as they called him. This little man had one peculiarity. Though he was generally pleasant and good-natured, yet when lie was laying out his work he was as explosive as dynamite. Whoever was so thoughtless as to ask Jack any question when he was busy with his drawings, would find the little fellow as prickly as a chestnut burr in the month of October, and as ready to fight as a Scotch terrier that has been robbed of his dinner. But on the whole, Little Jack was not a bad sort of a man to get along with. He was like a great many other men, he wanted to be left alone at certain times and under some circumstances.

There was also Mr. Dusticoat, the miller, who, in his way, was an honorable and useful individual. He was of a peculiar build. He might be called a big little man, without involving any contradiction. He was not more than five feet eight inches in perpendicular altitude. But his greatest diameter was about forty-four inches, and his ponderosity a Iittle over two hundred pounds avordupois.

Handling many bags, and lifting many heavy loads had given him great strength of back and arms, so that as an elevator of weighty parcels, he was about as good as a two horse-power engine. Talking long and loud with many people, amid the clatter of machinery, had developed a very coarse, heavy, deep voice that, with proper training, might have furnished bass enough for a whole cathedral choir without any help.

Mr. Dusticoat was a little inclined to braggadocio; but whenever he became somewhat animated in self-laudation, some of the others would put up the little machinist to take the wind out of his conceit, which would generally take Jack about two minutes and a half, when the miller would quietly subside into his normal condition, which was by no means a dangerous or disagreeable one.

One more character is worthy of note among Root & Co.'s employees, that was Mr. Springboard, the sawyer. He was a tall, slim man, of about thirty years of age. He stood six feet high and weighed about a hundred and fifty pounds. The men nicknamed him Sawgate, because of the manner in which he would heave himself up and down when he was walking, which motion was not altogether unlike that of the slow-up-and-down motion of an old-time upright saw.

This man was the literary character of the company. He made short speeches and quoted poetry. He was fond of discussion and argument. He strengthened his position by logical syllogisms, and adorned his discourse with flowers of rhetoric; and when he failed to convince an opponent by his logic, or to charm him by his rhetoric, he would bury him under a mountain of facts and historical quotations. Mr. Springboard was an interesting element in the little backwoods community of which he formed a part. More of this further on.

One day when Mr. Root came into his dinner he startled the company a little by asking them if they had heard the news. They all looked at him, and "No" came from half a dozen places at once.

"The wolves have been at work last night, and this morning Mr. Beech finds one of his cows dead and half eaten up, and John Bushman finds nine of his sheep killed and partly devoured. For the first time since he got them, they were left out of the pen last night, and this morning he found them dead in the field."

"There must have been a great number of them to make such destruction, and eat up so much of what they killed," said one of the men.

"A hungry wolf is something like a hungry snake, he can swallow nearly his own weight in food when he gets a chance," said Root.

"A wolf," said Mr. Springboard, "is one of the carnivora, or flesh-eating animals, and it belongs to the genus canis, and is therefore a half-brother to the dog. "I wonder if that is the reason that the old dog at Bushman's had nothing to say while his half-brothers were destroying his master's sheep," said Mr. Dusticoat.

"Mrs. Briars expected to be alone last night, as William went to Mapleton with a grist, and did not know as he would get home. She came towards even-in, and took old Rover home with her for the night. The old dog is in no way to be charged with neglecting his duty in the matter," said Mr. Root.

"It seems more like conspiracy on the part of his master," said Mr. Pivot. " First he sent away the sheep's protector, and then exposed them to unnecessary danger by not shutting them in the pen as has been his custom. But there is no mistake, it is a heavy loss for both Mr. Bushman and Mr. Beech. I thought the wolves had left this part of the country since so many settlers have come in."

"The wolves are not so easily got out of the way," said Mr. Root; "they have only been away on the track of the deer. When a place begins to settle up, the deer go further back into the forest, and the wolves follow them up.

"As long as a wolf can get a supply of venison and rabbit meat, and other wild game, he will not be so troublesome among the sheep and cattle of the settlers. He is a natural coward. And it is only after hunger has got the better of his fears that he will take the risk of seeking his dinner within hearing of the woodman's axe or where he can get the smell of gunpowder."

"The wolf is not only a coward, but he is a sneak," put in Mr. Springboard. "He has not enough honesty in his composition to look a game rooster in the eye. He always hunts in darkness, and never faces anything if he can come behind it. If a man was got up on the plan of the wolf he might do for a spy or a detective, but he would never do for a policeman or a soldier.

"Gerard, the French hunter, says the lion is a coward until either hunger or anger prompts him to be brave. And the Rev. Walter Ingles, a returned missionary, says of the lion in Africa, that if you meet him in the day time just act as if you are hunting for him, and are glad to find him, and he will sneak off like a whipped cur. But both of these men agree that if the lion becomes roused in any way he will face anything," said Mr. springboard.

"Well," said one of the men, "if the lion is a coward, what right has he to be called the king of beasts?"

"As to that," answered Mr. Springboard, "he is only like other animals. He is less cowardly than others, and can claim the crown of royalty on that ground, for no animal is entirely free from fear. Perhaps the bull-dog comes the nearest to being destitute of that thing called fear, of any animal that we know of."

"He don't know enough to be afraid," put in Little Jack, "for of all the great variety of dogs, the bull-dog it seems to me, is the most stupid and senseless of the whole family."

"The bull-dog is good to hang on when he takes hold of anything," said Mr. Dusticoat.

"He is like some men in that," said Mr. Root. "There are men who will get hold of an idea, and whether it be right or wrong they will hold to it. And even though they should suffer for it they, bull-dog like, will stick to it till the end of life."

"Is it for the hang-on that is in him that the typical Englishman is called John Bull?" inquired Little Jack.

"The question," said Mr. Dusticoat, who felt called upon to defend everything English, even to the froth on a snug of beer:-

"I say the question is a personal insult to every Englishman, and I want Mr. Pivot to take it back at once."

"Don't make a fool of yourself, Dusty," replied Little Jack. "You know as well as any of us that the terra `John Bull' has been used for generations past to represent the dogged stubbornness of Englishmen. I think it is something to be proud of instead of a thing to get mad about. I never hear the term used but I wish myself an Englishman. On a hundred battlefields John Bull has shown his right to the title."

"All right, Jack. That will do, I am satisfied," said Dusticoat.


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