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Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter VIII - Preparing to Move


"Look here, Bet," said John to his sister one day, as they were alone together, "I wish that you and Will Briars would hurry up and get married before Mary and I move away to the bush, so that we could be at the wedding."

"Who told you that Will Briars wanted me, and what makes you think that I would have him if he did?" said the girl, as she gave him a look that was intended to demolish inquisitiveness.

"Now, Bet, none of your feminine artfulness, if you please, for it would be lost on me," said the brother with a laugh, "for I have the best of reasons for believing that he wants you. He told me so himself. And equally good are my reasons for thinking that you intend to have him, for mother told me so."

"Feminine artfulness; O dear:" said Betsy, with a look of feigned sadness. "Can it be that modest-looking little Mrs. Bushman has been giving my poor brother such severe lessons in 'feminine artfulness' that he has become a disbeliever in his own loving sister's truthfulness and sincerity."

"What is the matter with you, Bet? You look as sorry as a patch of beans on a frosty morning," said he. "But come, now, let us begin to talk a little sober sense."

"What kind of stuff is sober sense?" said she, demurely.

"O you incorrigible primp; will you never get over your old trick of trying to head a fellow off when he is doing his best to come to a safe conclusion about any matter."

"What weighty matter are you trying to conclude now, brother mine?" said she, with provoking coolness.

"I am wanting to find out if a certain couple with whom I am acquainted are going to be married before myself and wife will be obliged to flit to our cabin home, on the banks of Sylvan Lake, among the forest trees."

She answered:

You want to know, then, if the pair
Will likely be made one
Before the time when you must tear
Yourself away from home?

Now, I'll be honest, brother dear,
For Will and I have said,
We will not marry till one year
Has passed; and then we'll wed."

"Bravo Betsy. Why, you can be poetical as well as pert, when you like, can't you?" said the brother. "And now, since you have broken silence on the subject, tell all about your plans, won't you, Sis?" John had been in the habit of calling her "Sis," when he wished to please her, ever since they were children.

"We are engaged," said Betsy, "and we did intend to be married this spring; but no time was fixed upon. This is all changed now, and it will be a year, at least, before we will be married."

"What has changed your plans so soon and so much?" asked John.

"Yourself has had more to do with it than any one else," she replied.

"How have I been the means of changing your arrangement?" said he.

She answered, "When you came home and told about the fine land and water and timber there is back in the new country, Will was greatly taken up with it. And the more he heard about it, the more he has been charmed by your descriptions. He has fully made up his mind to go out with you and take up land in the bush, instead of settling on the fifty acres that he has here. Do you think that he is acting wisely?"

"Yes; decidedly so," answered John. "It is the best thing that he ever did. Will is just the right sort of man for a new country—hardy and steady, and not afraid of work. He will succeed by the help of the Lord, and no one, you know, can do so without that help."

"You don't believe in the doctrine of old Hickory, the miser, do you? He says, 'Help yourself, and ask no favors from God or Ivan."'

"Old Hickory is a wicked old sinner, and as mean as dirt, or he would not talk like that. But then, a man that will rob his own sister, and she a widow, is bad enough to do anything," said John, with a good deal of energy.

Then, turning to his sister, he said, mirthfully, "Won't you make a fine wife for a backwoodsman. You are strong, and tough, and fearless—exactly the woman for the bush. I fancy that I can see you now as you will look then,

"With face begrimed with soot and ashes,
With hands besmeared with smoke and rust
With eyes that seem as though their lashes
Were lost in clouds of charcoal dust."

"My, how smart we can be when we try, can't we, Bub?" said she. "And now let me try,—

"Say, how about your loving Mary
Will she be like some little fairy,
With visage bright, and garments airy,
Presiding over Sylvan Lodge?

Or, will you make the poor girl sorry
For having wed in such a hurry
A roan who keeps her in a worry
By flinging clubs she cannot dodge?"

"How will that do, Johnnie, dear?" said Betsy, laughing.

"Now, let us drop the poetical and take up the practical," said he.

You say Will is going out with us; I am glad of that. If it has not been taken up since I came away, the lot next to mine on one side is vacant. Would it not be a good thing for Will to send in an application for that lot at once? There will be a big rush there next summer. I will do all that I can to help him make a start, if he goes, and he can make our house his home till he gets one of his own."

"Where do they go to get the land ?" she asked.

"They go, or send, to the land office at Little York. Squire Myrtle has had a good deal to do with business of this kind no doubt he will help Will in the matter, if he asks him to do so. But if he wants to get land near to mine, there is no time to be lost: that section will fill up very rapidly. The line of road that runs by my place will be a leading line of travel between the front and rear settlement. And besides this, the locality is so situated that it must, in the nature of things, become the centre of a large settlement in the near future. Two large and rapid streams form a junction near the corner of my lot and there are a number of first-class mill sites within a short distance of the road. I expect some day to see a village, perhaps a town, on that spot."

"Well," said .Betsy, "I think you had better tell Will to see Squire Myrtle, and get him to send in an application at once; I don't like to speak to him about it myself."

When dinner was over that day, .John went to see William Briars. He found him in the barn, threshing oats with a flail. After a few commonplace words, .John said, "Will, I am told by one who ought to know, that you are thinking of going to the bush with me. Is that so?"

"Yes; I have made up my mind to go to the new country, and try my lot as a pioneer," said William.

"My father-in-law has had a good deal of experience in connection with land operations," said John. "Suppose we go and ask him to write away and see what can be done for you; I think you are entitled to one hundred acres for services in the militia the last year of the war."

"When I joined the Flankers," said Will, "I was told that I would have a claim for two hundred acres —one hundred for head right, and another hundred for `Flanker' right."

"O yes; you were a `Flanker,' sure enough; you are entitled to the two hundred acres; I had not thought of that. You are all right. We will go right of and see Squire Myrtle, and have him send in your certificate and get a location ticket for the lot next to mine."

The young men found the Squire at home, and told him what they wanted. He took the matter in hand for Will, and he succeeded so well, that by the time that John and Mary were ready to move, the papers came to hand, and William Briars was granted the two hundred acre lot that joined John Bushman's two hundred acres.

As the first of April was now here, and as the middle of that month was the time set for starting to the new home of John and Mary, both their families were making preparations for helping them in their undertaking.

As has already been stated, old Mr. Bushman had procured a yoke of oxen for John. Besides these he gave him a cow and half a dozen sheep. But it was understood that the sheep were to be left where they were for a year, or until John could have a suitable place for them, so as to save them from the wolves.

Mary's father gave her a cow and such an outfit as would enable them to start housekeeping in a new settlement with a fair share of comfort.

As the time carne near when they were to start for their new home in the wilderness, the young people seemed to realize the importance of the step they were about to take. They were going to shoulder life's burdens and face life's difficulties; and that, too, in a new country where, in the nature of things, many privations would have to be endured, and many discouragements would have to be met and overcome.

But neither John Bushman nor his young wife were hot-house plants. They had both been brought up to industry and economy. They had stood face to face with life's realities all their days. Mary's mother was a woman of good sense, and she had trained her daughter for usefulness, rather than for helplessness, and had taught her to understand that God's arrangement is that "drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags," and that "an idle soul" (whether man or woman) "shall suffer hunger." The woman who, in those old-fashioned times, was called a good housekeeper, was as proud of the title as her granddaughter is proud of being called the belle of the town. But although Mary was not much past twenty years of age, she was a good housekeeper. She knew how to do her own work, and she intended, while health permitted her, to do it. She had no notion to flit over the journey of life on the gaudy pinions of the short-lived butterfly.

There are three kinds of women in relation to life's duties and its burdens. There are those who help their husbands; there are those who hinder him by making him spend his time in helping them; and there are those who are like a handful of clean chips in a pot of soup—they do neither good nor harm.

Mary Bushman was anion; the first class, and, consequently, she was one of the best. Such a woman is a blessing to any man. Such a woman is fit to adorn life in a log but or in a marble palace. Such a woman was the wife of John Bushman. Happy is the man who finds such a wife. "Her husband shall be known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land." Prov. xxxi. 23.

John, too, had been taught that work is respectable, and that it is a part of God's arrangements concerning men in the present state of existence. He learned to view a life of honest industry, based on Christian principles, and wrought out on the line of duty as laid down in God's Word, as being the highest type of noble manhood. And from a boy it had been his ambition to present to the world such a character. How far he succeeded in doing so the future will tell.

Such were the two young people who, on a bright morning about the middle of April, in one of the years that compose the first quarter of this century, started out from the parental domiciles to hew out a home for themselves among the forest trees of their native Province.

These are but the counterparts of thousands of honest couples who have, at different times, none into the wilderness and made homes for themselves and their children. And to-day, all over this fair land, are found the monuments of their toils and their successes.

The magnificent homesteads, in the shape of splendid farms and princely dwellings, that adorn the landscape in all directions, are the outcome of the toils of the past, or the rapidly passing, generation. Thee people have left behind them, for the good of the country at large, an untarnished naive and a virtuous example.

These people have left to their children an inheritance that is often too lightly appreciated by them, for it is frequently the case that the sons and daughters of the hard-wrought pioneers refuse to work the fields that have been cleared and fenced by those who went before theme. They become too proud, or too indolent, to till the soil that has been enriched by the sweat-drops of their parents. Farms, that cost long years of toil to make them what they are, are being mortgaged for means to engage in some kind of speculation that in a few years collapses, leaving the would-be speculator penniless, and with the regrets that must chase him, like a restless spirit, through all the rest of his life, torturing him in his hours of wakefulness, and troubling him in his nightly dreams.

One of the most bloomy outlooks that can be seen in this year of grace, 1888, is the fact that so many of the younger portion of our population are learning to look with contempt upon the agricultural part of our national industries. They are too ready to exchange the healthy exercise, and independent position of the owner and cultivator of the soil, for the doubtful chances of commercial life, or the uncertain prospects of some town or city enterprise. How few there are who have common sense enough to know when they are well off in this world.

But it is time to return to the affairs of John Bushman and his friends.

About a week before the time for starting, a sort of family consultation was held at Squire Myrtle's, when final arrangements were made.

It was decided that Mr. Bushman and the Squire should each of them take a load—the one of provisions, and the other household stuff. William Briars was to go along and drive the cows. John was to borrow a wagon from Mr. Roanoke, the Yorkshire neighbor, and with his oxen take a load of seed grain and potatoes. The waggon was to be sent back by tying it behind his father's, on the return journey. Mary's mother insisted on going along to see what sort of a place her daughter was to live in. The bad roads and the long distance had no terrors for her that were sufficient to make her give up the idea. So it was decided that she was to go.

The other mother would have been very willing to go, too, but she could not do so then. But she told the young people that she would come and see them when the sleighing came again.

The time and manner of their exit being fixed upon, it only remained that the articles needed be collected and ready at the time. There was not much trouble, however, in gathering up all that was wanted, or at least all that they could find room for in the loads.

The people, who had known John and Mary from their infancy, were very much attached to both of them, and now that they were going away, everybody seemed disposed to show them kindness and to do them favors.

One farmer gave John a couple of bags of seed spring wheat; another sent a lot of seed oats; and still another brought him half a bushel of millet to sow. Mr. Blueberry, an old and highly respected Quaker, brought one day a bar of pink-eye potatoes to John, for seed, and after presenting them, he gave him a small parcel, done up in a bit of grey cloth, saying, "Here, my friend, I have brought thee a lot of apple seeds to plant. If thee will put them in good ground, and when they grow to be as tall as thyself, set them out in an orchard, by the time thee has children big enough to pick up apples, thee will have plenty of apples for them. I have always liked thee, John, and I have liked thy wife since she was a little midget of a girl, and I hope she and thee will do well. Fare thee well."

The old man's reference to children picking up apples, awakened some new thoughts in John's grind. He fancied himself some twenty years older. It was in the fall of the year, He stood in the door of a nice frame house, looking through an orchard of well loaded fruit trees toward Sylvan Lake, on the clear waters of which were playing flocks of geese and ducks. Among the trees, gathering apples, were boys and girls, ranging from the pretty miss of eighteen, down to the rollicking youngster of eight, all of them working and playing by turns, but riving the largest share of the time to playing.

"John," said a soft and pleasant voice behind. He turned suddenly with a start; he stood and looked in a sort of dreamy way at the speaker. It was Betsy. "What have you been thinking about that is so very interesting that you can't hear me call you to dinner. Three times I called you, and then I had to come after you. What is it, John?" said his sister.

"Never mind, Bet," said he; "in about twenty years from this I will tell you, if we are alive, and perhaps show you, too, what I was thinking about; but to-day I can't."

When John went to ask Mr. Roanoak for his waggon, the ready and cheerful manner in which the good-natured Englishman gave his consent would make it seem as though he had been anxiously waiting for an opportunity to oblige his young friend.

"Aye, Jock; tho beest welcome to tak the wagin, and, mayhap, tho'lt need sumut else from among my fixins. If tho do, say what it mought be, Jock, and tho'lt bet it, if it beest anything but the old ooman."

John thanked him for his kindness, and said he would not need anything besides the waggon. As he was starting away, the other called him back and said,—

"Jock, when tho cooins for the wvag;iu, fetch a sack \vie thee, and I will fill it up vie English bull's-eye potatoes for seed. If tho'lt plant un on new land, tho'lt grow them as lei`; as turnips, and as mealy as Hour."

The white English bull's-eyes were in vogue fifty years ago.

As John walked homeward, after this interview, he began to question himself as to the reason of all the kindness that was being shown hiiii by his old neighbors. John did not think of the many eyes that had been watching him all these years, as he had passed from infancy- up to manhood. He did not know that his character had been highly appreciated for some years past. He did not know how often one had said to another, in their friendly intercourse, '`That boy of neighbor Bushman's is a noble lad, so true and honest, and obedient." He had not yet learned that a truthful, honest and thoughtful boy, brought up in any community, is not only a comfort to his parents and an honor to his friends, but he is also a blessing to the neighborhood where he lives, by his example and his influence over other boys.

John Bushman had been such a boy, and the people all remembered it to his credit now that he was leaving the old home for a new one.

But while the farmers around were showing so much kindness to John, their women folks were equally forward in helping Mary. And their presents were not, like many of the wedding gifts of to-day, an unwilling offering at the shrine of fashion, rather than the honest expression of sincere friendship.

A number of articles of utility in housekeeping were given to Mary during her last week in the old home. One old lady gave her a pair of beautiful ducks, and another gave her a pair of beautiful geese, to swim, as they said, on Sylvan Lake, but not for "fox feed."

An old playmate of hers brought her half a dozen hens and a rooster, "to lay eggs for custard pies for John and Mary, and to crow in the morning to wake them up in time," as she said.

Besides all these, many dishes and napkins and sheets and blankets were added to the store provided by the two mothers of the departing couple. But the most unexpected and most valuable of these presents carne from a quarter that surprised every one.

The night before their departure old Hickory, the miser, came to bid them good-bye. Before leaving he said to Mary, "May I call you once more by the name that I used to do when you were a little girl? I may not see you any more; will you let me just this once call you by the old, pretty name of long ago?"

'There seemed to be a pathetic ring in the old man's voice that none could understand, and yet it touched every heart.

Then, turning to the rest of the company, the old man said, "I will explain the reason for my strange conduct, for I know you think it strange."

"Long years ago I had a loving and lovely wife, and one sweet little angel girl. They were everything to rue. O how near to my heart that woman and her baby got. But the small-pox came and took them both. With her little head lying on my arm, nay baby died at night, and my precious wife followed it the next morning. The world to me, since then, has had no charms; and, as I turned from the grave that held the remains of my wife and child, I made a vow that nothing human should ever touch my heart again.

"I travelled far by sea and land; I worked at whatever would pay the best; I gathered wealth, I hardly knew what for, but its acquisition crave a semblance of rest to my weary heart.

"Nineteen years ago I was passing along the road on a hot summer day; being thirsty, I cane to this same house to ask for a drink. As I carne along the path I saw a little girl playing with some pebbles; when I saw the little one I stopped as if spellbound to the spot. For a moment I fancied myself looking down a vista, and seeing at the other end the identical child that thirty years before I had laid in the grave with its mother in an Old England graveyard. My first thought was, Can it be that, after all, the old Hindoos are right about the transmigration of souls ? Of the child before me, and my own long-lost darling, it might with truth be said that sameness could go no further without becoming identity.

"As I came up to her I said, Will you let me call you 'my little bright eyes?"

She looked at me for a moment, and said, in her childish way, 'Oo may tall me what oo yikes, if oo won't hurt yittle Mary.' The identical name, too, I said to myself. How strange it seems.

Well, that little child got nearer my heart than any human being had done in thirty years. It seemed whimsical, but I could not help it; I resolved to settle in this locality, where this one little ray of light might occasionally shine upon my darkened pathway." Then, looking Mary in the face, he said to her, "May I call you by the old, sweet name that I gave my darling so long ago?"

"Yes, poor heart-sore old pilgrim, call me what you like," she said, with tears in her eyes.

Putting his hand in his pocket, he took out a number of shining gold coins. He placed them in Mary's hand, as he said, "Here, little bright eyes, take these as some slight compensation for the good you have done to a lonely, friendless man." Then turning to the young husband, he said, "John Bushman, my little bright eyes is an angel. Your little bright eyes is a woman. See to it that you never, never, never use her badly. Good-bye, and may Heaven's blessings attend you both."

As the old man walked away, Mary said, with much earnestness, "O, I am so sorry that I did not know of this before; there are so many ways in which I might have helped the poor old man."


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