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Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter IV - A Partner Found


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 settlement."

'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 one—not 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 his father's.

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 well."

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 and gone.

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 from childhood.
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 questions?"

"Most certainly, sister mine, if you will hold your tongue and your temper for a few minutes.

"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.

Nobody's garden 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 welcome visitor.

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., 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 he.

"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 Polly Thorntree."

"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."


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