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