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Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter XXV - More Glimpses of Bush Life


"Who is to do the talking to-night?" asked Little Jack.

"Mr. Greenbush is the next name on the list. But as I forgot to give him notice of the fact at the proper time, I hardly think it would be fair to ask him," said the President.

"What say you, Mr. Greenbush?"

"Well, sir, so far as I am concerned it makes but little difference about the notice. I am not much of a talker, at best. But the little that I have to say can be said one time as well as another," was his reply.

"Bravo," said Little Jack, "that is the kind of stuff that orators and soldiers are made of. Ready, always ready."

Mr. Greenbush commenced by saying, "I do not, by any means, intend to make light of religion or religious worship, in relating the following incident, which occurred in one of the back townships:-

"The Methodists were having a fellowship meeting. As was often the case in these meetings, religious fever ran high, and many of the participants in the service became somewhat demonstrative in their expressions and actions.

"After awhile there was a sort of short interval in the speaking. Near the door there sat a tall, sharp-featured, rawboned man with a piercing black eye, and a very prominent nose. He deliberately rose to his feet, commencing to speak as soon as he began to get up, and at the same time he took a large quid of well-chewed tobacco from his mouth, and placing it in his hand started for the stove, which stood in the middle of the room. He spoke with some difficulty until he emptied his hand and his mouth into the fire. Then he said with emphasis, `Brethering and sisters, I am glad to tell you what has been done for poor unworthy me. When the Lord saved me, there was no patchwork about it, glory be to His holy name.

I used to lie, and swear and cheat, and get drunk and fight. My, how I would fight. I wouldn't steal, for I thought that was mean. I wouldn't backbite my neighbors, for I thought that was cowardly. But I would do almost anything else that was bad. But the Lord took me in hand. He turned me upside down and inside out. He converted me all through and through. Now, you can take my word and you can trust me. Now, a child can lead me. Now, I do not swear nor get drunk. Yes, bless the Lord, I am converted and I know it.'

"The man went back to his seat, while `Amen, bless the Lord,' could be heard in several places.

"I thought to myself that it was a pity that his mouth was not converted too, so that it would not hold such a pond of tobacco juice for his tongue to swim in."

"No doubt but the man was sincere," said the President, "but as the light that shines on the path of duty increases, it is likely the good brother will see the propriety of letting the tobacco go along with the lying, and the swearing, and the whiskey drinking, and the fighting. The path of the just shines brighter and brighter unto the perfect day."

"My next story will be about a strange time-piece, or rather a novel way of keeping account of the days of the week.

"A man went some miles into the woods and commenced life alone. He put up his shanty and began to clear off his land. Having no one to talk with, his time passed without much change in the mode of spending it. What he did one day he did the next, so that the exercise of each day was only a repetition of the one that went before it. Being his own cook, and having a good supply of provisions on hand, he had but little intercourse with the outside world. He had been some time in the bush. He thought one day that he would go out to the settlement and see how things were going on in the neighborhood. He thought it was Sunday; but when he came out to the house of his nearest neighbour, he found them at work as on ordinary days. He was surprised at this. He went into the field and asked the man if he and his family did not keep the Sabbath. `Yes, to be sure we do,' said he, `but this is Monday.'

"'You don't mean that, do you?' said the other.

"'Yes, of course, I mean it. Yesterday was the Sabbath.'

Well, if I have not made a great mistake, you may call me a Dutchman,' said he. `Here I have been working all day yesterday, supposing that it was Saturday. And I have been doing the same for at least three Sabbaths. I have lost track of the week. But it won't be so any more, I will see to that.'

"The man went away to a store and bought seven plates of different sizes. He took them home, and named them for the seven days of the week. The largest one he called Sunday, the next largest he called Monday, and so on down to the smallest one, which he called Saturday. He put them in a pile. He would use one plate each day, and next day he would take another. When he got to the little one he knew that it was Saturday. Then he would take the large one next day, which he knew was Sunday. In this simple way he could always tell the day of the week, and he no more worked on Sunday."

Mr. Greenbush continued, "If I was going to give a name to my next little story, I should call it, 'A Big Scare in a Berry Patch.' It was like this: A man started one day to go to a neighbor's house some two miles from his home. In going he passed a very large patch of black thimbleberries. It was at the time when these were ripe. The bushes were bending under their load of tempting fruit. Mr. Toothsome went into the field to help himself. The bushes were tall and close together. Mr. Toothsome had not been there long before he heard a rustling among the briars. He concluded that he was not the only berry-picker in the field. Being curious to know who or what was there, he pushed his way through the thick bushes toward the noise. Presently he found himself face to face with a large black bear. For one or two minutes they eyed each other closely, both being surprised at the unexpected meeting. Then the bear raised himself up on his hind feet and prepared to give his interviewer the usual bearish hug.

"Mr. Toothsome was not just ready to have his hones crushed in so rough a mill as a bear's mouth. He turned and ran with the fleetness of a race-horse. The hear, being unwilling to be cheated out of a wrestle, and not unwilling to try a race, he started in pursuit as fast as his four black footlifters could carry him. Mr. Toothsome headed towards the neighbor's house, to which he had started to go. For a mile or more the race kept on, until the loud barking of a dog told bruin that he was coming dangerously near to where another bear had got into serious trouble through taking too much liberty with the pigs. He seemed to think that life, to him, was worth more than a dinner, and he turned and ran in another direction. Mr. Toothsome got his friend to load his gun and go with him on his homeward trip. In the soft ,round they could see the track of the man and the bear. Each of them had covered more than his length at every jump. When asked why he did not climb a tree, he answered, `The old robber was so close upon me that I had no time to do so."'

"That reminds me," said the President, "of a young man that was chased by wolves."

"Tell us about it," said Mr. Greenbush, "and while you are doing so I will try and think of some other incident of life in the backwoods."

"Well," said the President, "it was customary then, as it is now, and I suppose will always be, for young men sometimes to go courting. Not that they went where lawyers talk, and juries get befogged, and judges give doubtful decisions. Young men can learn mischief fast enough without visiting such places. But, in plain English, they went to see the girls.

"Well, the young man of whom I speak had spent a part of the night with a sweetheart. Some time during the `wee sma' hours' that the Scotchmen talk about, he concluded to start for home.

"But a question now presented itself to his mind. To go by the road would be about six miles, but to go across lots he was within one and one-half miles of home. Part of the way was clearing, and the rest of the way was thick hemlock woods. But there was a footpath through the bush. The full moon was shining very brightly, and out in the clearing it was almost as light as day. The young man decided to no the nearest way.

"When he got to the woods he found it darker than he had expected to find it. In the middle of the woods he had to cross a large beaver-meadow.

"When he got nearly over that he heard a rustling in the tall grass. On looking around, he saw four or five wolves within a dozen yards of where he stood. To take in the situation was but the work of a moment. It was to be a race for life. But how many chances to lose in the race. A sprain of the ankle, a stub of the toe, or a brush to strike him in the eye, would be a very serious affair in a race like this. But there was no time to speculate as to the chance of failure. Prompt action was the only thing that could meet the case.

"He started for the clearings at a rate of speed that would do credit to a trotting-horse. The wolves were willing to try their speed and join in the race. They were three or four rods behind at the start, but slowly and steadily they lessened the distance. On and on the young man went, feeling that every bound strengthened his cause, and gave increasing hope of reaching home uneaten by the ferocious pack that thirsted for his blood.

"Presently he glanced his eye to the right. There he saw a wolf, among the streaks of moonlight, within thirty feet of him. He looked to the left, and there he saw another, about the same distance from him. Now, it was evident that the wolves were closing in around him. He felt that a very short time would decide whether or not he was to become wolf-meat.

"A few rods more and he would be to the fence. But could he get to it and get over it before the brutes would have hold of him? Just then it occurred to him that two large dons were within call. He called loudly for the dogs, as he ran. They heard him, and responded to his call by coming with all speed to the rescue.

"He came to the fence at last, and, placing his hand on the top rail, he bounded over just as a wolf was on each side of him, and another behind him, and only a few feet from him.

"The dogs barked through the fence at the wolves, but they were not willing to go in among them. The wolves gave a howl of disappointment and ran off into the forest; and the young man concluded that in future, so far as that road was concerned, he would act in harmony with the old saying, that `The farthest way round is the surest way home.'"

"Thank you, Mr. President, for that interesting story. It has given me time to think," said Mr. Greenbush, "and it is a better one than I could tell.

"I will tell now of a woman who killed a wild-cat with a water-pail.

"One of the families in a new settlement had a lot of hens that roosted up in the loft of the barn. Some-thin;, at length, bean to steal the hens from their perch at, night. For some time this went on, until more than half the flock had disappeared. No one ever got sight of the thief. Whether it was owl or hawk, or something else, no one could tell. At different times the owner of the barn had got up in the night and gone out, when he thought that he heard a noise among the chickens; but he could not find anything.

"One day the mistress of the house took a large wooden pail and went to a spring, some little distance from the house, to get some water. She was followed by a medium-sized dog—a mixture of bull-dog and Scotch terrier—a mixture of canine nature that is very hard to scare, and not easy to conquer.

"As the woman was going along she saw, lying in the path before her, what she at first took to be a wolf. But on further inspection she concluded that it was not large enough for a wolf. But she had but little time to speculate as to what it was that was intercepting her way.

"The dog had got his eye on it, and determined to test the fighting qualities of the stranger. In a moment the two were in a life or death struggle. The woman watched them for a moment. She soon saw that with all his pluck and activity, her don was getting the worst of it. He evidently had got more than his match. She resolved to become a participant in the contest. She had in her hand a heavy wooden pail, with an iron hoop around the bottom of it, such as coopers used to make. With this for a weapon, she went to the rescue of her dog. Swinging the pail above her head, she brought it down with all force upon the bead of the wild-cat. With the blow she broke in his skull, and left him dead upon the ground. The dog was badly scratched up. The cat was a very bid; one—enough to whip almost any dog. But there was no more hen-stealing after the woman killed the big wild-cat with a water-pail.

"Now, Mr. President, I think that I have done my share for to-night," said Greenbush.

"Who comes next on the list?" inquired Little Jack. "Mr. Root comes next, and is the last one on the roll," said the President.

"Mr: Root will be on hand to-morrow night, if all be well."

Next evening, after the supper table was set away, the men gathered around the fire to listen to what "Boss Root," as they called him, had to say.

Mr. Root commenced by saying: "You all know that I have not always lived in Canada. But I was in Canada at one time when I would have been glad to be out of it; and when the time came for me to leave it, I soon made tracks for home. I refer now to the time of the war. At the battle of Lundy's Lane I witnessed an exhibition of pluck that lifted the Canadian militia to a high place in my estimation.

"I was in a regiment of Americans, who were commanded by Colonel Scott (now General Scott).

"As we came around a small rise of ground, we came upon a company of Canadians that seemed to be cut off from the rest of the Canadian forces. They were huddled together as if they were consulting what to do. Colonel Scott called to them to surrender. The answer that came from them was a short, emphatic `Never!' Then the colonel asked for an officer to step forward for a parley. They said, 'We have no officers left.'

'Where are your officers?' inquired Colonel Scott. "'They are among the killed, wounded, and missing,' said the men.

"Well,' said the colonel, `you see you are not half as numerous as we are, and you are without officers. Don't you think it would be better to surrender than to be shot like dogs?'

'We won't surrender, and we won't be shot like dogs,' they answered.

"'What are you going to do, then?' inquired the colonel.

"'We are going to do what we have been doing—tight the Yankees,' was their reply.

"Colonel Scott turned to some of his officers to ask for advice: Just then we saw a lot of British red-coats coming in quick time on our flank. We had enough to do to take care of ourselves then. I don't know what became of the men that had no officers, or whether they did any more fighting or not that day.

"But the conclusion that we all came to was this, It is going to be hard work to conquer such men as these. And we did not conquer them very much," said Mr. Root, with characteristic honesty.

"Well, that story is well told, if it is by an American," said the President. "But you know the Americans, as a rule, are brave men, and such can appreciate bravery, even though it be found in an enemy."

"That is true," said Dusticoat, " there are no braver men in the world than Hin ;lismen. And there is no country in the world where bravery is more honored than it is in Hingland."

"You mean Hingland without the haitch, don't you Mr. Dusty?" said Little Jack.

"Look 'ee here," said Dusticoat, testily, "if 'ee was as big as I am 'ee would get some of the himpudence shaken out on "Never mind, he is more funny than impudent," said the President. " Now for a story from Air. Root."

"I will tell of a sad affair that took place during the war, and in which a man was killed, and his young wife made a widow.

"A young farmer, who was a Mennonite, and hence a non-combatant, was living with his wife on a farm along one of the most public roads in the country. One day he left his borne to go and carry a part of a pig to his sister, who lived a dozen miles from his place. He was on a very fine horse, and one that was quick and active.

He went on all right for a number of miles. Then he was met by a company of Indians. They were of the Canadian Indians, and were under arms under the British. They were only half-civilized, and they made but little difference between friends and foes, so far as robbery and plunder were concerned.

"They stopped him and took hold of his horse. Then they tried to take the meat from him. To this he objected, and held on to the article with a determined grasp. The Indians kept him thus for some time. A woman, standing in the door of her house, saw the whole transaction.

"Knowing the man, she called to him in the German tongue, which he understood, and advised him to let them have the meat.

"But he still refused to do so.

"After a while they seemed to give up. They let go of the horse and stepped back. They talked a little in their own language. He could not understand them. Then the head Indian motioned to the man to go on. He put spurs to his horse and it bounded away with all its might. But he had not gone more than half-a-dozen jumps when eleven bullets brought the retreating horseman dead to the ground.

"The Indians took not only the meat, but the horse also. They went away, and left their victim lying in the road where he had fallen."

"These Indians were dangerous customers at anytime," said the President; "but in the war-time they paid but little regard to the rights of property or the value of life."

"Is it not a very wrong thing for Christian nations to employ such savages in civilized warfare?" asked one of the men.

"It seems like it," said the President. "But we must not forget that there is no Christianity in war. That can originate only in the savage part of man's nature. These Indians being in a state of savagery, war is almost their normal condition. And the difference between killing men on the battle-field or killing them off the battle-field is so small that the eye of Christianity can't detect it, and the Gospel never describes it."


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