Among the Forrest Trees Chapter XXIV - More
Two or three evenings
after the conversation reported in the last chapter, as the men were
sitting around a good fire, some one proposed that Mr. Rushvalley,
the surveyor, be invited to take the floor to fulfil the conditions
of the compact which required each one to take his turn in
entertaining the company, as his name stood next on the list.
Mr. Ru>hvalley came
forward promptly, and said: "I will take up none of your time in
needless prelirninaries, but I will forewarn you that the incidents
that I am about to relate, as illustrating some of the trials of
pioneer life, are sad and touching in a high degree, and I shall
give them as they were told to me by those who were acquainted with
the facts, so that there need be no doubt as to the truthfulness of
"To one of the back
townships, some few years after the city of Hamilton became a
village, and before the city of Guelph was ever thought of, there
came from the old country three immigrants. There were two brothers
and a sisterall of them were single. The sister was older than her
brothers, and she was their housekeeper.
"The young men
secured each of them a hundred acres of good land and started life
in the bush. Every thing went well with them for some time. They
built a shanty on each one's lot; a part of the time they worked
separately,, and at other times they worked together.
"Meanwhile the sister
managed both shanties, going from the one to the other, as often as
she found it necessary, and at any time most convenient for herself.
She had provided herself with a bed in each shanty, so that she
could stay at either place as long as she liked. Sometimes she would
be a couple of days at one place, and then as long a time at the
"One morning she
started to go from one place to the other. By some means she got out
of the path that led through a piece of wood from shanty to shanty.
The brother to whose place she started did not know she was coming,
and the one from the place she left did not know that she had failed
to reach her destination. Consequently she was not missed until the
next morning. She had been in the woods twenty-four hours before her
brothers found out that she was lost.
"The first thing that
the young men did was to start in opposite directions among the
scattered settlers, to find out if any person had seen their lost
"In going along the
only public road in that locality one of the brothers saw a woman's
track in the soft ground. From the size and shape of the track, as
well as from some particular marks, he knew his sister had been
there, and she was going right away from home and into the dense
"Now they became very
much alarmed. It was evident that the lost one had got bewildered,
so that she did not know which way she was going. Neighbors were few
and far between, but through the energetic efforts of the brothers,
with the kindly help of others, every house within a radius of ten
miles was visited in hopes of gaining some intelligence of the lost
girl, but no tidings of her could be got. Those who know anything
about the fraternity of feeling that always exists in new
settlements, need not be told of the excitement that ran from house
to house, as the news was carried by fleet-footed messengers to the
people. Every family was made sad, and a cloud seemed to settle over
"'Go and help to find
her, William," said the young wife of the latest settler to her
husband, as the sad intelligence was conveyed to their shanty.
"'Why, Sarah,' said
he," how can I go and leave you here all start alone? Beside that,
if I go now I could not come home to-night."
"Never mind. I am not
afraid to stay in such a case. Only think. The poor girl, already
two days and two nights in the woods alone. I would be a most
selfish creature if I should refuse to let you go and help to find
her. Old Turk will stay with me. You go and stay till she is found,
if it takes a week."
"We need not say that
William went. Nor need I say that the young wife simply spoke the
sentiments of all the women in the settlement.
"Over hills and
through the valleys, among the swamps and along the creeks, all day
the hunt went on, but no trace of the missing woman could be found.
The track in the mud, where she crossed the road, was the only thing
that gave an intimation of the direction she had gone.
"As night was coming
on the weary and disheartened hunters came in in groups of twos and
threes until the shanty from which she had gone sixty hours before
was surrounded by forty or fifty men. Disappointrnent and sorrow was
visible on every face. For it while the men talked among themselves
in undertones. Then an elderly man addressed the company as follows:
" My friends, this is
a sad day for all of us, but we must neither relinquish our efforts
nor abandon hope. The lost girl is somewhere, and she must be found.
Dead or alive we must find her. Now I have a proposition to make,
and I want your opinion upon it.
"Some twelve or
fourteen miles up the river there is a camp of Indians. As my home
is in that direction, I propose to start at break of day for the
camp, and, if possible, I will bring one or more of them here by
nine o'clock to-morrow, and see if they cannot help us in the hunt.
"The company at once
fell in with the arrangement. By the time mentioned the man came,
and with him came an elderly Indian, who was called Stooping Eagle.
The track in the mud was shown to the Indian. He got down and
examined it very closely; then he rose up, and said to those around:
"Three suns since urn
was here, but red man will find the white squaw."
"He looked carefully
around, examining the size of the track and the length of the steps
that could be very plainly seen in the soft ground. Then he started
slowly to move in the same direction that the track seemed to point.
Three or four men went with him; the rest went off in other
directions to join in the search. For a mile or more the Indian kept
on nearly a straight line. Then he took a short turn, and went on a
short distance, then another turn. Where the white man could see no
trace he seemed to follow the track with the instinct of a
bloodhound. After a while he said, `White squaw much afraid. Dark.
Um couldn't see to go. Here um lay and sleep,' he said, as he
pointed to an upturned tree, by the side of which could be seen dim
impressions on the leaves, as if something had pressed them down.
All the afternoon the Indian kept the trail. But the track became
very crooked. It frequently came around in a circle, crossing and
recrossing itself. Then short turns and acute angles marked its
course. Still he kept on until they carne to where the Indian said
another night had been spent by the lost one. This was under the
branches of a newly-fallen tree. Here the Indian picked up some
thorn-apples that had been left; and as he did so he said, `White
squaw been eat these. Um much hungry.'
"Not far from this
night came upon them. They had with them the means of kindling a
fire. They gathered a lot of dry brush and sticks, and prepared for
a night in the woods. They had some food with them, and after
partaking of some of that they lay down to sleep, and it was not
long before they were lost to all earthly cares and anxieties until
the sun was up next morning.
"They got up and
started on the trail again. The Indian walked a few steps in advance
of the others. Every now and then he would speak to the men. At
length he stopped, and said, `Poor white squaw, no gone long way
from here. She much tired, and much hungry, and much afraid. She no
far off dis place.'
They went forward a
few hundred yards, and there, with her back against a large tree,
they found the poor girl `dead.' Cold and hunger and fright and
exhaustion had been too much for her powers of endurance. She had
apparently been dead for several hours.
"Word was immediately
sent to those who had remained behind. Preparations were soon made
for conveying the body to the home of one of the brothers. The next
day was the funeral, and a sad and touching one it was."
"That is a sad
narrative," said the President. "Yes, indeed," said two or three of
"I have a shorter
one, but I think it is a sadder one," said Rushvalley. "Will you
hear it now, or wait till my turn comes again?"
"Oh, let us have it
now," chimed in half a dozen at at once.
"All right. I will
make it as short as I can," was his answer.
"In one of the back
townships there lived a man and his wife and two small children.
They had been there two or three years. Their nearest neighbors
lived half a mile distant, and through the woods. One day, when the
man was going out from dinner, his wife said, 'I wish you would take
the children out with you, and let them stay with you till I call
for them. I want to go to Mrs. Raspberry's on an errand. I will be
back in a couple of hours.'
"'All right; I will
take care of them, and mind you don't get lost in going through the
bush,' he answered.
I will be careful not to get off' the path,' she said. They little
thought that these were to be the last words that would ever pass
between them in this world.
"He went to his work
and took the children with him. The afternoon passed away, and
tea-time came. But the woman did not call for the children. The man
took them to the house, expecting to find their mother there. But to
his surprise and disappointment there was nothing to be seen of her
about the house. She had not returned.
"Full of fearful
forebodings, the man took one child in his arms and the other by the
hand and started to meet his wife. He hastened on until he came to
the house that she started to go to. But on asking for his wife, he
was told that she had not been there. He now became greatly alarmed.
"It was quite clear
she had missed the way. But in what direction had she gone? The path
by which she was expected to go passed near the border of a large,
thick swamp, through which a very heavy stream ran. Being more than
a mile wide, and five or six miles long, this swamp would be a
terrible place to be lost inespecially for one who was not in a
state of health to bear up under a heavy pressure of anxiety, or to
stand a great amount of fatigue, or to endure much very wearisome
"Mr. Summerside and
Mr. Raspberry at once started out to hunt for the lost woman,
leaving the children with Mrs. Raspberry.
"They went among the
few neighbors who were within reach. But no one had seen or heard
anything of the absent woman.
"Night came on, and
not the slightest trace of her could be found.
"By torchlight and
lantern light the hunt was kept up until morning. But the search was
a fruitless one.
"As the news spread
out over an ever-widening circle, the numbers engaged in the hunt
steadily increased until all the men on a territory of ten or twelve
miles square were scouring the woods in all directions in search of
the lost woman. The excitement became intense as two days and two
nights passed off without a single trace of the missing one.
"Every man and woman
seemed to be in a torture about their lost neighbor. Every woman
seemed to be saying to herself, 'I may be the next one to be lost.'
Every man seemed to try to realize how he would feel, if it was his
wife that was in the swamp, exposed to the bears and wolves, or
perhaps to fall into the river and be drowned. No one thought of
work or business until the fate of the lost wife and mother should
"On the third day, in
the densest part of the swamp, and some distance from her home, the
lifeless body of the poor woman was found leaning against a fallen
cedar, with the feet in a pool of water, and a dead infant wrapped
in part of her garments and folded in her arms."
"Well, Mr. Rushvalley,"
said the President, "you have told us two very touching stories. And
if you should live to tell them to your children's children they
will listen to you with as much attention as we have to-night, for
such stories never grow out of date."
"That is so," said
Mr. Root, "and it will be well if, in the coming years, the people
of this country respect the memory of the toiling, suffering
pioneers, and duly appreciate the comfortable homes left to them by
those heroic men and women."
"I think," said Mr.
Rushvalley, "that I have talked long enough for this time. Let us go
to bed, or else let some one else talk for awhile."
"I am for going to
bed," said Dusticoat.
"Agreed" said two or
"Before we adjourn,"
said the President, "I want to say that Mr. Chipmaker is the next on
the roll; so to-morrow evening, if all be well, we will hear from
Next evening, as the
teen were sitting around a good blazing fire, Little Jack Pivot
called out, "Now for the man that makes the chips."
"Hear, hear," said
commenced by saying, "I have no apologies to make, and no excuses to
offer. But I wish to say that my talk will be very fragmentary. I
shall just relate some incidents that are small in themselves, but
when put together they help to give variety to our entertainments.
"Not long since, in
conversation with an old man, he related to me an incident in his
boy life, that may be worth repeating. His mother was a widow. He
was the eldest boy. They had to go several miles to a blacksmith. In
those days it was necessary, in some cases, to shoe the oxen as well
as the horses. One time John was sent to get the oxen shod. He
started before daylight. Most of the distance was woods. In the
middle of the darkest part of a thick pinery he had to pass a place
where a man had been killed by a falling tree.
"The place was said
to be haunted by the ghost of the victim of the accident. John never
once thought of the haunted locality until he (rot within a few rods
of the spot. Then it came into his mind about the ghost. He became
very nervous. In fact, he got into a perfect panic. What to do he
did not know. To turn around and go back he thought would be too
babyish. And to go forward among the weird shadows of the pine trees
that the full moon threw out in all directions over the snow-covered
ground, seemed to him very much like walking right into a whole
regiment of the very ugliest and meanest kind of ghosts. Finally he
stopped the oxen and scrambled up on the back of Old Buck. He said,
in telling me the incident, if you have never tried it you cannot
believe how independent a boy can feel when he is on the broad back
of a good old ox. I snapped my fingers at the ghostly shadows,
cracked my whip at the oxen, and went on, trying to whistle to the
tune of 'See, the conquering hero comes."'
"Very good," said the
President. "What is your next story to be?"
"About another boy
that had trouble with a ghost. But not in the same way," said Mr.
"In a very new
settlement there were two shanties about half a mile apart. Nearly
all the distance between them was solid bush. In going from one to
the other the path led through a small ravine shaded by a clump of
hemlock trees. In the night this was a very dark place.
"One summer this
'gully' got the name of being haunted. Different people who had
occasion to pass that way after night-fall, reported that strange,
unearthly sounds were to be heard right in the densest of the
darkness. And two or three men, who mustered courage to look around,
said that they had seen the dim outline of some large object, but
not with sufficient distinctness to say much about its size or
"Now the boy that I
am to tell about had heard these reports. In fact, the neighborhood
was full of stories about the haunted gully.
"On one occasion,
Joe, as the lad was called, went for his mother on an errand to the
next neighbor's. And, as a matter of course, he had to pass the
haunted gully. But he expected to return before night. No one had
seen or heard anything in the day time.
"Joe got with another
boy, and forgot how fast the sun was going down. The first shades of
night came on, and he had not, as yet, done his errand. But now he
made all the haste he could. But in spite of all he could do, it was
quite dark when he started for home. He walked on with a firm step,
and whistled to keep his courage up, until he got into the darkest
part of the gully. He heard a noise. He stopped and listened. He
heard a sound that seemed like a compound of snarling dog and crying
baby. He looked, and by the root of a large tree he saw a dark
object that to him looked as big as a cow.
"Now, Joe was one of
those boys that have a good deal of fight in them and who are not
good to scare. The temper of the boy got roused. He hunted round
till he found a stone the size of a goose-egg. Then he crept as near
to the object as he felt safe in doing. Then poising the stone and
taking the best aim he could he let it fly with all his might. A
perfect storm of grunts and squeals told Joe that he had hit the
mark. And a large, black hog, that belonged to a man in the
settlement, ran off snorting into the woods, it being a great deal
more frightened than Joe was. It was said that some of the men who
had been scared by the ghost, looked a little sheepish when they
learned that the problem of the haunted gully had been solved by a
"I like stories that
come out like that," said Dusticoat.
"Nine-tenths of the
wonderful stories of ghosts could be as easily unravelled as that,
if those who see or hear them could keep cool heads and steady
nerves, so as to investigate as determinedly as the boy did," said
"Joe might have made
a mistake if it had been a bear," put in Little Jack.
"Yes," said Mr.
Chipmaker. "But it was not a bear. It was only an overgrown hog. So
Joe made no mistake. It was the other people that made the mistake
about the ghost in the haunted gully."
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