JOHN BUSHMAN had been
so absorbed since coming to the backwoods that he had scarcely
thought of the old home and its surroundings. He believed that he
was not forgotten there. He felt confident that he was often carried
to the Great Helper of the needy on the wings of a mother's prayers
and a father's faith. And lie fully believed that in some mysterious
way he was benefited by those prayers.
But he had now been
away from home for seven months, and his life among the forest trees
had been such a busy one, that attention to present duties had so
fully occupied his mind that he may be truly said to have taken no
thought for to-morrow.
But now, as he
journeyed homeward on foot, for this, was before the time of
railroads, he had time to think. His first thoughts were about the
loved ones at home. He had not heard from there since he left them
in the spring. There were no post offices then in the back country.
He would ask himself
many questions as he walked along. "Were they all alive and well or
should he find an empty seat, and if so, whose seat would it be?
Would it be baby Littie's? How sad it would be if the little
prattler should be gone. Or would it be one of the older members of
the family? " Just then a startling thought crossed his mind: "What
if mother should be gone to come back no more?" The very thought
made him almost sick. He felt a sinking at his heart and a dizziness
in his head. He never, till that moment, realized the strength of
his attachment to his mother. But he tried to dismiss such
unpleasant thoughts and think of something not so gloomy.
He wondered if sister
Betsy had accepted the offer of young William Briers to become his
wife. He believed that she was more than half inclined to do so
before he left. But he was not certain, for Bet was such a queer
girl, that no one but mother could ;et anything out of her. He said
to himself, "I do wish she would have him, for Will is a rood
fellow; and I think more of him than any other young man in the
'I'hinking of his
sister and her lover started a new train of ideas. He thought of the
house so recently built, called by the men Sylvan Lodge. Who was to
be its mistress in the days to come?
John Bushman was by
no means what is called a lady's man. He had never shown any
particular partiality to any of the young women of his acquaintance;
and, though he was on good terms with all of their, he would not
acknowledge, even to himself, that he had ever been in love with any
of them. He flattered himself that he had not been touched by any of
the darts from the bow of the sly god. No, no; Cupid had lost his
.arrows if any of them had been shot at him. And he straightened
himself up, and stepped along with the feeling of perfect composure
and complete satisfaction on the score of his being an entirely
unpledged young man. But something told him to look down into his
heart, and when he had done so, he made a discovery that might upset
a man of less self-control than he had.
Down deep in his
heart he saw the picture of a face, not a pretty one, perhaps, but
it was a very attractive oneónot a dashing, saucy, bewitching face,
but a modest, thoughtful, honest one, and, moreover, he seemed to
hear a gentle voice softly whispering, "I am here, John. You fancied
that your heart was unoccupied, but I am here; I found it empty and
crept into it years ago, when we were only children, and I don't
want to be turned out now."
John knew the face.
It was that of an old playmate and school-mate. When he came to
realize the state of the case he was not displeased, though he was
somewhat surprised. He said to himself, "I did not know that the
little witch was there, but when did she get there, and how? I don't
remember ever showing her any more attention than I gave to other
girls, and I am sure that she has not been more friendly to me than
the other young women; in fact, I have thought of late that she
seemed cold and offish. But no matter how she got there, I now see
that she has the strongest hold on my affections, and if I can get
her consent to go with hue to my new country home, little Mary
Myrtle shall be the future mistress of Sylvan Lodge."
Young Bushman was no
blusterer, and there was not a particle of the braggart in his
composition; but when he made up his mind to do a thing, he called
to his assistance a will that was unbending, and an energy that was
most unyielding. So, having settled in his own mind the question as
to who should be the chosen one to brighten his home with her
presence, he resolved to let the matter rest until he could have an
opportunity to mention the thing to the young lady herself, and find
out if her views and feelings harmonized with his.
After three days'
travel, made doubly tiresome by the soreness of blistered feet, he
carne into the neighborhood of home. He looked in the direction of
his father's house and he could see the tops of the chimneys with
the blue smoke curling up towards the calm cerulean sky. He thought
that smoke never seemed so beautiful before. He almost fancied that
it spread itself out like loving arms to encircle him and give him
words of welcome.
The first person that
he met was a blunt old Yorkshireman, who lived on a farm adjoining
When the old man
carne up he took the young man's hand with a grip that fairly made
him wince, as he said, "A Jock, beest this you? How hast thee been
sin' ye left us last spring?"
"I have been well,
Mr. Roanoak," said John, "but how are they at home? Do you know that
I have not heard from home since I went away last April?"
"Well," answered the
Englishman, "your mother be'ant very blissom sin' you went off to
the woods to live on bear's meat. The rest of them are hearty and
After a few more
words with his old friend whom he had known from his boyhood, John
went on to the old home, where so many happy days to him had come
As he came to the
door he listened before going in. He heard his father asking God's
blessing on their food. Thgey were just sitting down to tea.
Presently he heard
his sister say in a bantering sort of way, "Mother, cheer up, for I
believe that John is on the way home. I have felt like it all day."
"I dreamed last
night," said the mother, "that he came home tired and hungry, and
asked me to give him some dinner."
The father spoke and
said: "He will be here before many days. The winter must have set in
back where he is, and he promised to come home before Christmas to
help me butcher the pigs. If he is alive and well he will soon be
here, for John always was a truthful boy.
John could wait no
longer, but giving a rap on the door, he opened it and went in, at
the same time saying, "Mother, where is my plate? I'm as hungry as a
bear in the month of March."
We will gently close
the door and retire, as it is not seemly to intrude upon the privacy
of family reunions.
The people in the
neighborhood were all pleased to see young Bushman looking so strong
and healthy, after his summer in the bush. He was a general favorite
among his acquaintances.
The old people liked
John because they had always found him truthful and honest, even
The young people liked him because he never put on any airs of
superiority, or assumed any authority over them; and he always
showed himself to be the sincere friend of all his young companions
and schoolmates. Their mode of expressing themselves was, "We like
John Bushman, because he always treats us as his equals, and we can
always trust him."
The children liked
him because he always spoke cheerfully and kindly to them, and he
never passed them on the road without letting them know that he saw
them. He seemed to understand the truism that "kind words cost
nothing," and he acted upon it. But when kind words are bestowed
upon children, they are like precious seed scattered on a fertile
soil, they yield a rich harvest in calling out the affections, and
in gaining the confidence of the little ones.
John had to answer a
great many questions in regard to his lonely life among the forest
trees. What degree of success had attended his efforts? Was he going
back in the spring? Was the land and water good? How far off was his
nearest neighbor? What was the soil and timber? What were the
prospects of an early settlement of the country? These and many
other questions he had to answer to the best of his ability, which
he did cheerfully and satisfactorily.
One evening as the
family sat by the large fire that was blazing in the old-fashioned
Dutch fire-place, John told about having killed the wolves; and he
showed them the bounty money that he got for the scalps in the
village of Hamilton, as he was on his way home.
"Are you not afraid,
John, that the wolves will catch you alone sometime without your
pun, and tear you to pieces?" asked his mother.
He answered, "I never
go away from the house without either the gun or the axe in my hand.
Wolves are great cowards, and will very seldom attack a man in day
time. It is only at night, when they can sneak up behind in the
darkness, that they are at all dangerous to human kind."
"What did you do with
the skins of the wolves? Are they good for anything? What color are
they, and how big are they?" asked his sister.
"There Bet," said he,
with a laugh, "that is just like a girl. They want to know
everything at once. Here you have been shooting questions at me so
fast that I had no time to answer one of them; and they come so
swiftly that a fellow has no chance to dodge them. Please hold on a
while, and give me time to think."
"Humph: you think
everything is like shooting since you shot the wolves," shouted
Betsy, "but will the great hunter condescend to answer my girlish
sister mine, if you will hold your tongue and your temper for a few
"Firstly, then, I got
my nearest neighbor, who is something of a tanner, to dress them,
with the hair on, and I spread them on my block seats for cushions;
and they are, in this way, both ornamental and useful.
"Your second question
is answered in the first one. "Thirdly, they are gray, with dark
stripes running through them, making them a sort of brindle.
"Fourthly, a wolf is a good bit larger than a fox, and something
smaller than a bear. His skin is just big enough to cover him from
nose to tail. Will that do, Sis?"
"Well," said she, "I
am wonderfully enlightened on the subject. How should I know the
size of a fox or a bear, since I never saw either."
"A full-grown wolf,"
said John, "is as tall as a large dog, but he is not so heavy, nor
so strongly built. He is more like a greyhound than anything else
that I know of, unless it is another wolf. That is all that I can
say about him."
The father here
spoke, saying, "it is time to change the subject for the present. We
will have some more talk about wolves at another time. But I think
it would be well to be on the look-out for a good, strong, resolute
dog for John to take with him to the bush, when he goes back to his
place next spring. He will want a dog to guard his place, as I
intend to give him a yoke of oxen, a cow and half a dozen sheep as
soon as he can get anything to feed them."
"I am very thankful
to you, father," said John, "for your intended gift. And as for
feed, I can get that as soon as it is needed, for I have five or six
acres of splendid beaver-meadow on my lot, and I can cut hay enough
there to keep a number of cattle and sheep."
"Squire Myrtle has
got just the sort of a dog that you ought to have, John;" so said
his younger brother, William.
At the mention of
that name the young man started and his face flushed up for moment.
He soon regained his equilibrium, and no one but his mother noticed
his perturbation. Her sharp eyes saw it, and trifling as the
incident was in itself, she drew her own conclusion from it. She
said to herself, "I have his secret now. There is more than a dog at
Squire Myrtle's that he would like to take with him to the bush."
During the Christmas
week John paid a visit to the homestead of Squire Myrtle. It was one
of the oldest farms in the vicinity of the Short Hills On it was a
very large orchard, mostly of seedling fruit. But the greater part
of it was of a good quality.
The fields were
beautified by numerous second-growth chestnut, shell bark hickory,
and black-walnut trees. But there were two things that Squire Myrtle
especially doted on. These were his horses and his garden. The
latter took up much of his time in summer, and the same may be said
of the horses in winter.
produced better vegetables than did his; and nobody's team stepped
off more lively, nor with longer strides than the Squire's. And, on
a clear, cold night in winter, his sleigh-bells could be heard for
two miles or more, as he drove home from mill or from market.
The young man was
received with a warmth of greeting by Mr. and Mrs. Myrtle that ought
to have convinced him that he was a little more than a merely
After the usual
enquiries as to the health of himself and family at home, he had
many questions to answer about the back country.
What were the
prospects of success in farming and fruit growing? How far from lake
navigation? Were there any churches and schools within reach, etc.,
He told then that his
place was some thirty-five miles from Lake Ontario. The nearest
church or school, so far as he knew, was twenty miles, and the
nearest doctor or magistrate was twenty-five miles from where he had
located. "The soil is, I think, good for grain and the hardier kinds
of fruit. But it has not yet been tested by actual experiment," said
"Dear me, John, you
have gone a long way back. Could you not have found land to settle
on without going so far ?" said Ms. Myrtle.
John answered, "It is
to be sure, a long way back now, but it will not always be so. Some
persons have to be pioneers, and I am willing to take my place among
them. I believe that I can stand the rough and tumble of bush life
as well as others."
"I can remember,"
said the Squire, "when young couples had to come all the way from
Long Point on Lake Erie to get married. There was only one minister
in all this part of the province that was authorized to marry."
"Yes," said his wife,
"and you know what a trip we made on horseback when we got married,
And I can never forget how old Mr. Greenhedge laughed when we told
where we came from and what we wanted. It seems to me that I can see
him yet, as he pronounced the benediction on William Myrtle and
"Mr. and Mrs.
Myrtle," said John, with a shaky voice, "I have an important
question to ask you, and I may as well do it now as to put it off'
till another time. Are you both willing that I should try and
persuade your Mary to go with me to the bush as my wife."
They looked at each
other for a moment. Then Mr. Myrtle said, "John, I know you are
truthful and honest. You may try, and all I say now is, success to
you." He did succeed. After John was gone, Mrs. Myrtle said, "I am
glad of this, for I know she likes him."