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Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter V - An Old-Time Wedding


CLEVER men sometimes do silly things when they undertake to hunt a wife. A man may show good judgment in all the ordinary affairs of life, and yet he may act more like a lunatic than anything else when he goes courting.

The reason of this may be found in the false estimate which men sometimes make of woman's character and position. If a man looks upon a woman as being inferior to himself, he will likely assume an air of superiority over her, that will set her against him, and drive her from him.

And on the other hand, if he looks on her as an angel, done up in skirts and corsets, he will act the part of a cringing weakling, and in this way he calls out contempt where he wishes to gain esteem, and provokes aversion where he hopes to awaken love.

If this man would counsel with his mother or his sister they would tell him that a woman never can respect what she despises, nor love what she stands in dread of.

John Bushman was a sensible young man. He did not estimate woman to be either better or worse than himself. He simply treated her as his equal—nothing more, nothing less. As a natural consequence, he had the respect of his lady friends.

But there was one of the number that had a stronger feeling towards him than simple respect. This one was little Mary Myrtle, whose image John so unexpectedly discovered that day that he looked into his heart when on his way home. We call her little, not because she was so very small, but from a habit that nearly every one got into when Mary was a child. It was done to distinguish her from an aunt of the same name, who was a young woman when she was an infant.

John had not as yet said anything to her about becoming Mrs. Bushman, although, like an honest, manly man, he had asked her parents' consent to do so.

Mrs. Myrtle said to Mary the next morning after the interview recorded at the close of the last chapter, John Bushman asked your father and me if he might try and persuade you to go with him to the bush as his wife. What do you think of that?

"Did you tell hint he might? " demurely asked the young lady.

What else could we tell him? he is all right himself, and we cannot expect to keep you always. Will he have a very difficult task?" said the mother, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

"I do not think so," was the candid reply.

About a week after his visit to the Squire's, John made another call one afternoon. The old people were both away to Fort George on some business in connection with the estate of Mrs. Myrtle's father, who had died recently, leaving his business all in the hands of his daughter and son-in-law to settle.

Mary received him kindly enough, but without evincing any emotion. He thought at first that she seemed a little cool and distant; but on second thought he made up his mind that it was only his own fancy. He was conscious that his feelings towards her had been greatly intensified since his conversation with her parents, so that now, if she failed to respond fully to his warmth of manner, it was not because she was too frigid in her deportment, but it was because he had been too sanguine in his expectations.

After conversing for some time on a variety of topics, they stood in silence for a while. They both seemed to be a little embarrassed. Presently John broke the silence by saying, "Mary, I came here today to ask from you a great favor—such as men, as a rule, only ask once in a life-time, and one which, if granted, I hope you may never regret, and I pray that I may never have occasion to seek the like again. Mary, can you guess what that favor is? But, stay; I don't want you to guess it. I want to tell it to you in plain, honest English. Now, Mary, we have known each other from childhood. I know that you have too much modesty to be a coquette, and too much honesty to be a flirt. And I trust that I have too much true manhood in me to court either a coquette or a flirt. I intend, so far as I know how, by the help of God, to be a true man. I want a true woman. I believe that you are one. Will you be my wife?"

She looked for a moment into his honest face, and then said:

"Your outspoken, truthful honesty entitles you to expect the fullest candor from me. I will be just as frank with you as you have been with me. I have dreamed of this hour oftentimes in my sleep, and I have sometimes thought of it in my wakeful moments. But I hardly allowed myself to hope that it would ever come, and yet I could see no reason why it might not. I know that I love you, and I feel that I can trust you. Yes, I will be your wife."

One long, loving kiss, which was fully reciprocated, sealed the contract.

Just then they heard the noise of the Squire's lumber waggon rattling over the frozen (round. They looked out and saw him and his wife coming home from the chief town of the district, and they wondered where the afternoon had gone to.

The young man bid his affianced good-bye, and started for home. As he passed out at the bars he met the old people, and accosted them in a friendly, though somewhat timid manner. As he was passing on, Mary's father said, in a loud tone of voice, so that the girl, who was standing in the door, could hear:

"I say, John, have you a very hard time in finding some one to go with you to the bush?"

"No, sir," replied John; "the first one that I asked has consented to go."

"I wonder," said Mrs. Myrtle, "if he and Mary are engaged?"

"Very likely," was the only answer the Squire returned to his wife's query.

"I am afraid, after all, that you are not just satisfied to let him have Mary," said she thoughtfully.

"What objections can I have? The young man is all that I could wish.

"But the trouble with me is to get my feelings to harmonize with my judgment. It seems to me that in taking Mary from us, John will, in some way, do me an injury."

"Well," answered she, "I remember overhearing father talk like that to mother after we were engaged. Your words sound just like echoes of what he said about you. Probably men do fuel like that when some one takes away one of their pets. You know, it has been said that a man has three pets, viz.: the youngest child, the eldest daughter and the living wife."

"Well, I don't know how it is with other men, but I do know that my greatest pet is the living wife," said he, as he jumped out of the waggon and lifted her to the ground.

As John walked home that evening he felt that he was a highly favored man. The Myrtle family was among the most respectable in the township, and Mary was looked upon by all her acquaintances as being one of the best young women in the neighborhood.

That such a one should say that she loved him, and she could trust him with her life's happiness was, he thought, enough to make any young man imagine that the hard rough frozen road was as smooth as a flagstone pavement.

As he walked along he fancied that he heard a soft voice singing in sweet and soothing cadence

"John Bushman, who will be your wife,
And walk with you the path of life,
To help you in its toil and strife?
Sweet Mary Myrtle.

John Bushman, if in coining years,
Your eyes should be bedimined with tears,
Who then shall try to quell your fears?
Sweet Mary Myrtle.

John Bushman, when life's dream is past,
And darkness gathers round you fast,
Who will stand by you till the last?
Sweet Mary Myrtle."

Here the voice seemed to stop. The young man listened for a while, but he heard no more. Then, as he was musing by himself, he began in a low modulated voice to sing

"John Bushman, whom do you intend,
To honor cherish and defend,
And live with until life shall end?
Sweet Mary Myrtle."

"John," said a voice, "what is all this about Mary Myrtle?"

The young man was awakened from his reverie. The speaker was his sister. She was coining out for an armful of kindling just as he came into the woodshed, and she heard the concluding words of his little song.

He stood and looked at her for a moment, and then said

"I say, Bet, how would you like to dress up in white kid gloves, and other things to match, and stand by the side of a friend of mine, while she bets married?"

"You must be green, John, if you think that you can fool me by talking about kid gloves and white dresses. What have they got to do with the girl you were just now speaking about?" she asked.

"More than you think, little Sis. But never mind now; go in and get the supper, for I am hungry. I will tell you some other time," and the two went into the house together.

After the supper was over, and they were sitting around the cheerful fire, old Mr. Bushman said

"John, I have traded off one of the spare horses for a yoke of cattle for you to take with you to the bush; I might have given you a span of horses, but I know from my own experience, as well as from what others have told me, that, for the first few years in the new country, oxen are handier than horses. They are easier provided for, it costs less to keep them, there is less danger that they will stray off, and they are easier and more cheaply harnessed; and, besides all this, when they wear out you can turn them into beef."

"I am glad, father," said John, "that you are able to help me in this way, and I am grateful to you for being willing to do it. There are not many who go to the bush under as favorable circumstances as I shall be able to do through your generosity. I only hope that I may some day be able to make some return for all your kindness."

"The best return that you can make to your mother and me is to live a sober, honest, Christian life," said the father, with some signs of emotion; and "that you can do with the help of the Lord."

"And by the Lord's assistance I will, father," said the young man.

"You may well say that. You are highly favored in comparison with others. It is not quite forty years yet since your grandparents came to this country. They had good homes in Pennsylvania. The War of Independence came on: they sided with the mother country. The Americans were the victors. Their doctrine is, 'to the victors belong the spoils.' They acted upon it; they took everything that they could find, and sent the Loyalists through hundreds of miles of unbroken wilderness, to make their way as best they could to where the British flag still floated over the wild woods of Canada. My people and your mother's people came through the State of New York which was then mostly a wilderness. They brought a few articles with them, such as could be carried on pack-horses."

"Where did you first touch this country?" asked John.

"We crossed the river at the place where Black Rock is now. We swam the horses, and we got some Indians to bring us over in their bark canoes."

"Were you not afraid the canoes would tip over and let you all into the water?" asked Betsy.

"There was no use being afraid—there was no other way to get over. We did not load the crafts too heavily, and we were good sailors," was the reply. "Father," said John, "do you remember anything about that revolutionary war?"

"Yes, quite distinctly. You know I was near seventeen years old when we came to this place. My father belonged to the `Light Horse,' and he was away from home most of the time. I remember he came home one day to see how we were getting along. Some of the Americans found it out in some way; they resolved to take him prisoner. I remember my mother came into the house with a frightened look and said to father, `The Yankees are after you.'

"The floor was made of wide boards, and not nailed down very securely; mother took up a spade that stood in the corner and pried up one of the boards, saying, `Here, Joe, get down under the floor, it is your only chance.'

"He did as she said, and she had only got the board replaced when the parties were at the door.

"They came in without ceremony. Looking around the room, one of them said to mother, in a rough insulting way,

'Where is your husband?'

'He is not here,' she answered.

'Was he not here this morning?' said he sternly.

"'Yes; but he is not here now. Do you suppose that he would be such a fool as to stay here till you came after him? He knew you were coming, and he dodged you. That is all that I can tell you about him.'

'Look here, woman,' said he, lifting his gun in a menacing way and stepping toward her; `you know where he is; now tell me, or, by the powers above, I will run the bayonet through you.'

"I never will forget how mother looked just then. Her Teutonic blood was up.

"She looked him fully in the face, as she said, 'You think to scare me, do you? I will never tell you where he is. But you are a pretty man, are you not? You are a brave soldier, too, are you not, to threaten to kill a woman, because she refuses to betray her children's father into the hands of a panel of cut-throats?'

"That is the sort of stuff the women were made of, who gave to Canada and to Britain the 'United Empire Loyalists.'

"One of his companions called to the man, saying, `Come away, Bill; don't touch her. But you are playing a losing game.'

"At this, he struck the bayonet through the floor and fired off' his musket, with a terrible oath, saying, 'If I could only find the Tory, I would send an ounce of lead through his heart.'

"They went away without further molesting anything about the place.

"The bayonet and the contents of the dun passed through the floor within six inches of the man's head.

"Another incident that I heard of," continued Mr. Bushman, "was like this: A number of women and children of the Loyalists were concealed in a cave away in the woods, while the men were all away in the war. One day a boy, about fifteen years of age, was sent out to try and get some news about how things were doing on in the army. As he was returning, he was discovered by a company of the rebel scouts. They asked him where his people were concealed. He refused to tell them. They threatened to shoot him if he did not do it, but he persistently refused to comply. They then took and tied him to a tree, six men were placed a dozen yards from him, and ordered to prepare to shoot him. They pointed their (runs at him, and waited for the order to fire. The leader approached the boy and said, 'Will you tell us now where they are?' The boy answered, 'If I tell you, and you find them, you will kill them. It is better for one to die than for so many to die. I will not tell you ! You may shoot me if you will.' The leader turned to his men and said, `Hold on, boys. Don't shoot. It is too bad that such a little hero should be shot like a do". Untie him and let him go.' Some other time I will give some more reminiscences of the early times of our country."

The engagement between young John Bushman and Mary Myrtle gave entire satisfaction to both families. This was only what might be expected under the circumstances. The two families had been neighbors for a number of years. They had together battled with the hardships of pioneer life "among the forest trees." They were both Protestants, and attended the same meetings. And although the Bushman, were of German descent, and the Myrtles of English, yet five generation separated both families from their connection with either country. They were just the kind of people to commence to build up a distinct nationality—the right kind of seed from which to produce a national tree of vigorous growth—a tree that should strike its root so deep and firm in the virgin soil of the northern British territory, that the most bitter enemies of the Empire could neither uproot nor break it down.

The winter was rapidly passing away. February was almost (,one, and yet but little preparation for the approaching wedding had been made. The time fixed upon was the twenty-first of March, the time of the vernal equinox, when, as people used to say, "the sun crossed the line." John said that they selected that day because they thought it would be a good time to pass from the frigid, cloudy days of unmated winter, into the bright spring sunshine of matrimonial summer. Like thousands of others, he placed a higher value on the ideal future than on the actual present.

One serious question was, who should be got to perform the ceremony. The clergy of the Church of England and the ministers of the old Kirk of Scotland were the only reverend gentlemen in the Province allowed to marry. It was some years after this before Dissenters could legally marry people.

Magistrates did the marrying in many cases, and under certain conditions. These conditions existed in this case. Mary's father was a magistrate, and it was desired, after much consultation, that he would officiate. A notice was posted on the door of the only mill in the township, stating that "John Bushman and Mary Myrtle intended to enter the bonds of holy wedlock on the twenty-first of the ensuing month of March, in the house of William Myrtle, Esquire, at the hour of eleven o'clock in the forenoon;" and calling upon any persons who had legal objections to offer to present themselves at the time and place above-mentioned, or to "hold their peace forever after."

The approaching wedding became a thin(; of great interest in the neighborhood. The time came around at last. Nearly everybody, old and young, for miles around, were invited, and most of them came. The house was full of people. John's sister Betsy, and her affianced, William Friars, "stood up," to use the phrase then in vogue. Squire Myrtle soon mot through with his part, and Mary changed the name of Myrtle for that of Bushman.

One of the most striking features of an old-time wedding was its simplicity. There was no effort for mere display. There were no costly gifts by those who could ill afford it. No affected friendship where there was concealed aversion. But a genial atmosphere of friendship, and a healthy exercise of neighborly courtesies, along with a generous provision for the satisfying of hunger and thirst, constituted the leading features of the old-time weddings, such as prevailed among the early settlers in the time of our grandfathers.

The congratulations were hearty and sincere. Mirth and merriment pervaded the large assemblage, and none seemed more joyous than the two elderly gentlemen, one of whom had gained a son and the other one a daughter, by the day's proceedings.

The two mothers-in-law took things very coolly, and kept themselves from anything like noisy demonstration. But it was easy to see that neither regretted the fact that their children had been yoked together for a life-long work in the matrimonial harness. At an early hour of the evening, a short prayer for the happiness and prosperity of the newly-wedded pair was offered up by the oldest man in company; the people dispersed, and the nuptials of John Bushman and Mary Myrtle were things of the past.


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