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Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter XXVIII - Twenty Years of Progress


To say that uninterrupted prosperity had attended the efforts of John Bushman and his fellow-pioneers, would be to go beyond what is strictly true. There had been many drawbacks. Sometimes the crops would be light from the effects of drought. Sometimes the summer frost would partly ruin some of their prospects. Sometimes the rust would strike the wheat, or the blight and mildew would injure their other grains. Sometimes accidents would happen to their stock. Cattle would get killed by the fall of a tree, or die with some disease. The pigs would go too far into the woods hunting the beechnuts, and the bears would find them and eat them. And the sheep would be left out at night, and the wolves would destroy them. The hawks and owls would carry off the chickens; and the foxes would steal the geese and ducks.

And besides all this, they had to contend with sickness in their families, the same as the inhabitants of older localities, and in the case of sickness among them, they had to be their own doctors. No medical man was within reach, so that the people were obliged to exercise their ingenuity and their judgment, and do the best they could for themselves and for each other. And it would surprise the people of the present day could they hear some of these old-fashioned doctors prescribing for the sick. For a cathartic, they would give a tea made of butternut bark. If the children were troubled with worms, they would be given the ashes of dried wormwood, mixed with maple syrup. If any one needed an emetic, they would give him lobelia tea. If a child had colic, it was doctored with sage or thyme tea, in which milk and sugar played an important part. For a sprain, the application of wormwood, steeped in hot vinegar, was the best mode of treament. If baby got the sprew, or other sore mouth, it was cured by using a wash made by steeping gold-thread in water. If a healing and drawing salve was needed, they took bitter-sweet bark, bairn of gilead buds, a plant called life-everlasting, and pine turpentine, fried up in mutton tallow. If anybody caught cold, they would sweat him over a Iot of hemlock boughs steeped in hot water.

For almost every complaint that backwoods flesh was heir to, somebody in the neighborhood would think of a remedy, and it was wonderful what success attended the use of these simple cures.. The absence of all kinds of luxurious living and dissipation among the people, taken in connection with their industrious and frugal habits, gave them an inherent power to throw off disease that others do not enjoy. The law of compensation carne in here. If these people were destitute of medical assistance, they did not often need such help.

But other difficulties had to be encountered. The want of a market for their surplus grain and other produce was a serious drawback to them.

Imagine a man who clears his land, sows his seed, harvests the wheat, threshes it out with a flail, cleans it with a hand-fan, carries it from twenty to fifty miles with an ox team, and then sells it for less than fifty cents a bushel, and you have an idea of what many a man has done in the good Province of Ontario.

Think of a woman who makes her butter and, along with her eggs, carries it on her arm ten or twelve miles to the store, and sells the butter for a York sixpence, or six and one-fourth cents per pound, and the eggs at the rate of four dozen for a quarter of a dollar, and you will have an idea of what the mothers and grandmothers of some of our aristocratic families have done. Tons of maple sugar, made by these early settlers, have been sold for six cents per pound. And these prices were not paid in money. Store goods, at high prices, was the exchange given for the produce of the farm, the dairy, the sugar-bush, and the poultry yard. If men could get money to pay their taxes, and a small amount for pocket money, they had to be contented or take the difference out in fruitless grumbling.

They knew that in this struggle circumstances were against them, and it takes a strong arm to control circumstances. They accepted of the inevitable, and bravely wrestled with their toilsome lot. And through all these hardships and discouragements these hardy pioneers worked their way to competence, and some of them to wealth.

In the space of two years after the erection of the mills not less than twelve families came to reside at Riverbend, and each family built a house to live in. There were no tenement houses there to be rented. Then there was the meeting-house, the store, the mills, and a blacksmith's shop—all of these together gave the place quite the appearance of a village. The land at the four corners was all cleared, but the stumps remained to tell the new-corner how thickly timbered the land had been.

John Bush man's buildings and those of Mr. Beech, as well as Harry Hawthorn's shanty and stable, could all be seen from the corners. These all added their quota to the general appearance of the landscape. And there is a sort of charm around a back-country village that Iarger towns and cities do not possess. The charm of freshness and the contrast between the neat, new buildings and their surroundings, can only be found among the forest trees or in the stumpy field. Where the houses seem to spring up like the mushroom, and occupy the ground recently covered by trees of the forest, there the effects of the backwoodsman's energy and pluck shows itself in the most striking and emphatic manner. The rapid development of some of our back-country towns has been a source of wonderment to visitors of all descriptions. Nowhere, perhaps, except in the United States, have villages and towns and cities had such hurried growth.

The most eccentric person about Riverbend was Mr. Sylvanus Yardstick, the merchant-poet. He was subject to great depressions of spirit, followed by wonderful ebullitions of feeling. He would sometimes be entirely disheartened, then again he would be as cheerful as a sunbeam and buoyant as the fleecy clouds that float upon the evening zephyrs in the month of June.

Whenever one of his cheerful spells came over him, he would mount his Pegasus, and fly off into the regions of poesy. On such occasions, whatever object had last made an impression on his mind, would give direction to his thoughts and stamp itself upon his verse.

On one occasion, a couple of his lady customers, who lived eight or ten miles distant, came to the store. One of them had a basket of eggs, and the other had a crock of butter. The women were tired, and Sylvanus had been very busy all the morning, and he was somewhat jaded and felt a little peevish. When he told the women that, since their last visit, butter had gone down one cent per pound and eggs two cents per dozen, they were sorely displeased. One of them let her tongue loose on him, and said some very tantalizing words about grinding the face of the poor and growing rich on the hard work of other people.

When she stopped, Sylvanus started. He had just got to the middle of a very unsoothing sentence when John Bushman came in at the door. Feeling ashamed of what he had been saying, Sylvanus turned to Bushman, and said, "These women have been abusing me because I can't give them more for their butter and eggs than they are worth in the outside market."

"Tut, tut, Sylvanus," said John, "surely you would not quarrel with good customers about a few cents."

Both parties seemed mollified, and there was no more contention about prices. But after the women were gone the poetic spirit came upon Mr. Yardstick, and he got off the following, and posted it up where everybody might see it:-

"The women they came with their eggs and their butter,
And will not be contented until they are sold;
But sometimes they set me all into a flutter,
When they get out of temper and turn to and scold.

"I hate to be scolded—I don't know who likes it,
It is worse than a whipping the little ones say;
E'en a dog will get angry if anyone strikes it,
So I loose my temper and ugly things say.

"But still I am prospering, and traffic gets better
As people grow richer and abler to pay;
My tongue in the future I will keep in a fetter,
And try to grow pleasanter every day."

It is now five years since John Bushman cut the first tree on his place. During these years many changes have taken place. And we have seen the early settlers overcome one difficulty after another, so that now the necessaries of life and some of its luxuries are within their reach.

While it would be pleasant to keep in the company of such a fine lot of people as those are in and about Riverbend, we must, for want of space to record their doings, leave them to themselves for a number of years. But we shall make them a short visit at a proper time in the future. And in the meantime we will solace ourselves with the hope that their future may be less toilsome than the past has been, and no less successful. Cherishing this hope we bid these people good-bye for fifteen years, and commend them to the protection and guidance of Him "whose eye never slumbers, and whose tender mercies are over all His works."

VISIT TO OLD-TIME FRIENDS.

An old-fashioned stage-coach, drawn by four spirited horses, was slowly moving toward the north from the town of Mapleton. It was crowded with passengers. The mud was very deep, and in places very sticky. This was why the horses were going so slowly. As is often the case in this world of change and contingencies, they could not help themselves.

As the stage started out from the Half-way House, an elderly lady asked the driver the name of the next stopping-place. He answered, "Our next stop will be at the town of Riverbend, ten miles ahead. There we stop for supper and change of horses."

"What sort of hotel accommodation can be found there?" inquired a rather dandyish-looking young man, as he pulled out of his side pocket an old English bull's-eye watch, and held it up so that everyone could see it.

"The accommodation is all right, if you can do without whiskey," said the driver.

"What! is there no liquor to be got there?" asked the somewhat astonished passenger.

"Plenty of liquid or Iiquor, if that suits you better. But there is no wet groceries—nothing that will make drunk come, only what is kept in the drug-store for medicine," was the answer.

"Well," said the dandy, "it must be a dogged, dull, doleful, domain of dunces."

"You were never more mistaken in your life, my friend. It is the most go-ahead town in all the country; and a more wide-awake and energetic lot of people are not to be found anywhere," said the driver.

"Has there never been any liquor sold there?" inquired one of the passengers.

"Not legally. There may have been a little sold slyly, but none openly."

"That is a singular circumstance, surely," said the man with the big watch.

When the stage came to the town and drew up at one of the temperance hotels, the passengers were politely invited to enter. Two neatly furnished sitting-rooms—one for ladies and one for gentlemen—were nicely warmed and lighted for the comfort of the guests, until the ringing of the bell called them to the dining-room.

When they entered this room some of the passengers expressed their surprise at the ample spread before then. They had not expected to see such a display of table furnishings, and such a variety of wholesome and well cooked food as they now saw ready to satisfy their wants, both of hunger and thirst.

One of the men who came in on the stage was John Brushy, who the reader will remember as one of the men in Mr. Root's company of road-makers. As he took his seat at the table he said to the landlord, "Great changes have been effected here in twenty years."

"Yes, that is true no doubt. But I don't know much about what this place was like twenty years ago. I have been here only five years," said the host.

"I was here twenty years ago. I helped to open out this road, and I helped to raise the first house in the vicinity. We found a plucky young fellow in the woods all alone, and we helped him to build a house on his lot near a pretty little lake. I don't remember his name. I have often thought that I would like to know how he succeeded. He was a brave, determined young roan, and deserved success," said Mr. Brushy.

"He has succeeded grandly," said the host. "His name is John Bushman. He has one of the finest farms in the county. And he is one of the best men that I have ever met with."

"Who owns the mills here?" inquires some one.

"The mills belong to Messrs. Root & Millwood," was answered.

""I wonder," said Mr. Brushy, "if that could be the John Root that had the contract of opening out this road."

"The identical John Root that opened out the road," answered Mr. Redfern, the host. "He is an American by birth. But he has been in this country so long that he has become pretty thoroughly Canadianized."

"And who owns the lots on the other three corners?" asked Mr. Brushy.

"John Bushman owns the farm where the big store is on, and the one opposite to it belongs to Mr. Beech. The lot on this side belongs to Harry Hawthorn," was the answer.

"Beech and Hawthorn were the names of two men who worked with Root when I was with him. How are they getting along?" said Brushy.

"They are both doing well; but one would hardly believe that Harry is doing the best of the two. He is, however," said the host.

"Who keeps the large store on the corner?" inquired a white-haired old man, who had also come in on the stage.

"The store belongs to Mr. Sylvanus Yardstick."

"Yardstick, Yardstick. Where have I heard that name? It sounds familiar to me, and yet I fail to remember where or when I knew its owner. Do you know anything about his antecedents?" asked the stranger.

"Not much, but I have heard him say that his first visit to this place was with a party of surveyors, who passed through here some twenty years ago, and found John Bushman alone in the woods, seven or eight miles from any house."

"I have it all now," broke in the stranger. "I was one of the party. The surveyor's name was Rushvalley. The man we have been speaking of was one of the company. He was a little eccentric sometimes. He had a turn for poetry, if he got excited about anything. I remember how he looked as he swung his arm and reeled off poetry, when he stood on the border of the pretty little lake, near to which the young man Bushman was at work."

"He makes poetry yet, sometimes," replied Mr. Redfern. "He has a lot of his productions posted up in and around the store and the post-office; but, after all, he is a very honest and good man."

"And will you tell us where your home is now?" asked the landlord of John Brushy.

"My home is some seventy miles from here, on the shores of Lake Huron. There are but few white people there, but I believe the Government is intending to open up the country by making leading roads, and otherwise encouraging people to settle up that splendid tract of country," he answered.

We now turn our attention to some of the homes of the first settlers around Riverbend.

Mr. John Root is a magistrate, and one of three commissioners who manage the affairs of the township—exercising the power of a civil court and the prerogatives of a municipal council.

Harry Hawthorn has a fine home and an interesting; family growing up around him; but there is one spectre that has haunted both him and his wife ever since the loss of their two little ones so long ago. Whenever either of them sees an upturned tree, the sight is too much for them, and it sets them weeping.

Some wounds are hard to heal, and this is of that character.

Mr. Woodbine is an old man now. His family is off his hands. He is living with his aged wife in peace and comfort. Their eldest son fills the office of collector of taxes in their township.

The McWithys, by honest industry and strict economy, have made themselves a good home, and are in a fair way to become wealthy.

Old Mr. Crautmaker has been dead four or five years. The children are all married. The old lady lives on the old place with John, whose wife is a sister to Mrs. Greenleaf.

Richard Greenleaf has succeeded in making a good home for himself and his family. Five children gather around his table and share his affections. Mrs. Greenleaf and Mary Bushman are the two leading spirits in all good works and charities. Many blessings are invoked upon the heads of these unpretending, self-consecrated women.

Mr. Timberline, years ago, married Fretzina Crautmaker. They are living in comfort, if not in affluence. Three children help to keep the stillness of the place from making them lonesome.

Moses and Katrina Moosewood have a fine home. They work hard. They are careful not to allow more than two years to pass without the addition of a new name to the somewhat lengthy family record.

William and Betsy Briars have on the whole the most convenient arrangements in the settlement. The spring that issues out of the rock has been utilized in such an effectual way that water is carried from it in pipes into the kitchen, and to the watering troughs of the stables. William is the largest stock-raiser in the settlement, and it is said that his wife makes and sells more butter than any other woman in the four townships.

As John Bushman was the first one to appear on the scene of our descriptions, he shall be the last one to disappear at the close of our story.

He and Mary have made many warm and true friends, by their kind hospitality and their neighborly helpfulness. They are loved and honored by everybody, both old and young. Both of them begin to show that life's meridian has been reached: Here and there a white hair could be detected by a close observer, where it seemed to be trying to hide itself among its more youthful associates. But their step is just as elastic and their energies are just as unflagging as ever.

When the first baby made their home a visit, and let them know that it had come to stay, it will be remembered that Mary told John that she was afraid it would not be satisfied to remain alone. Her conjecture has been proved to be correct. Not only has the baby found one playmate, but another and another has come along, until no less than seven playmates of different acres can be seen about the Bushman home, or Sylvan Lodge, as it is sometimes called.

But the lob-house has disappeared, and its successor is a nice, tasty brick one.

The seeds that the old Quaker gave to John the day before he and Mary started for their backwoods home, were all planted and carefully tended. The result is a good orchard for himself, and a large number of trees, furnished to his neighbors.

One day in October Mrs Briars was in John's house talking with Mary; John came and looked in at the door, and said, "Come here, Bet, I want to show you something."

She came out into the yard to see what it was that he had for her to look at. He pointed to the orchard, where two young girls and two boys were picking up apples under the trees.

He said, "Do you remember the day that Mr. Blueberry gave me the apple seeds?"

"Yes; he told you to plant then and take care of them, and if you did so, by the time you had children big enough to gather fruit, there would be plenty of fruit for them to gather," she said.

"And that day you came out and found me in a deep study, and asked me what I was dreaming about. Do you remember it?"

"Yes, and you said, 'I see a picture. I cannot tell you now what it is like. But if we are both alive in about twenty years, I hope I will be able to show you the reality,"' she answered.

"Well," said John, "there is the realization of my dream/ Those youngsters gathering fruit. In imagination I saw them then; in reality I see them now."

"Well do I remember," said she, "that morning in April when, with your axe on your shoulder, and your little bundle done up in a cotton handkerchief, you shook hands with us at home and started off alone, to make a home for yourself in the wilderness. We all stood at the gate and watched you till you got over the hill and we could see you no more. We all felt badly. But mother took it harder than the rest of us. She went into the house to hide her tears.

"When we all went in, father said to her, 'We have always tried to teach our boy manliness and self-reliance. Now we should not complain at his first grand exhibition of those qualities that we have so often extolled in his presence.'

"'I know it,' said mother, `but it is hard for me to get my feelings to harmonize with our teachings in this respect. I am so much afraid he will get hopelessly lost in his wanderings among the forest trees.'


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