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Forest, Lake and Prairie
Chapter IV
Move to Rama - I go to college - My chum - How I cure him - Work in store in Orillia - Again attend college - Father receives appointment to "Hudson's Bay" - Asks me to accompany him.


AFTER six years of great toil, and a good deal of privation, father was moved to Rama, and now a bright new field was opening before me, for father had determined to send me to Victoria College. I was now nearly fourteen years old, and would have been better suited at some good public school, but father had great faith in "Old Victoria," and at that time there was a preparatory department in connection with the college. So, soon after we were settled at Rama, I went on to Cobourg.

I was early, and it was several days before college opened. Oh, how lonesome I was, completely lost in those strange surroundings. I had a letter to Dr. Nelles, and because of my father he received me graciously, and I felt it was something to have a grand, good father, such as I had; but it was days before I became in any way acquainted with the boys.

I was looked upon as an Indian; in fact, I was pointed out by one boy to another as the "Indian fellow." " Oh," said the other boy, "where does he come from?" and to my amazement and also comfort, for it revealed to me that these very superior young gentlemen did not know as much as I gave them credit for, the other said, "Why, he comes from Lake Superior at the foot of the Rocky Mountains;" and yet this boy was about voicing the extent of general knowledge of our country in those days.

I was given a chum, and he was as full of mischief and conceit as boys generally are in the presence of one not so experienced as they are.

My father thought I might be able to go through to graduation, and therefore wanted me to take up studies accordingly.

Latin was one of the first I was down for; this was in Professor Campbell's room.

We filed in the first morning, and he took our names, and said he was glad to see us, hoped we would have a pleasant time together, etc., and then said, "Gentlemen, you can take the first declension for to-morrow."

What was the first declension, what did you do with it, how learn it, how recite it? My, how these questions bothered me the rest of the day! I finally found the first declension. I made up my mind that I would be the first to be called on to-morrow. Oh, what a stew I was in! I dared not ask anybody for fear of "ridicule," and thus I was alone. I staid in my room, I pored over that page of my Latin gram- mar, I memorized the whole page. I could have repeated it backwards. It troubled me all night, and next day I went to my class trembling and troubled; but, to my great joy, I was not called upon, and without having asked anyone, I saw through the lesson, and a load went off my mind.

After that first hour in the class-room, I saw then that after all I was as capable as many others around me, and was greatly comforted. But my rascal of a chum, noticing that I stuck to my Latin grammar a great deal, one day when I was out of the room, took and smeared the pages of my lesson with mucilage and shut the book, and destroyed that part for me, and put me in another quandary.

However, I got over that, and "laid low" for my chum, for soon he was again at his tricks. This time he knotted and twisted my Sunday clothes, as they hung in the room.

And now my temper was up, and I went out on to the playground, and found him among a crowd, and caught him by the throat and tripped him up and got on him, and said, "You villain You call me an Indian; I will Indian you, I will—scalp you!" And with this, with one hand on his throat, I felt for my knife with the other, when he began to call "Murder!" The boys took me off, and I laid my case before them, and showed them how the young rascal had treated me. And now the crowd took my part, and I was introduced.

After that everybody knew me, and I had lots of friends.

Before long I cleaned out the crowd in running foot-races, and was no slouch, as the boys said, at "long jump" and "hop, step and jump." This made me one of the boys, and even my chum began to be proud of me.

But my greatest hardship was lack of funds, even enough to obtain books, or paper and pencils. Once I borrowed twenty-five cents from one of the boys, and after a few days he badgered inc for it, and kept it up until I was in despair and felt like killing him. Then I went to one of the "Conference students" and borrowed the twenty-five cents to give to my persecutor; and then daily I wended my way to the post-office, hoping for a remittance, but none came for weeks, and when one came, it had the great sum of "one dollar" in it. How gladly I paid my twenty-five cents debt, and carefully hoarded the balance of my dollar. Christmas came, and most of the boys went home; but though I wanted to go home and my parents wanted inc very much, and though it took but a few dollars to go from Cobourg to Barrie, the few were not forthcoming, and my holidays were to go back to Alan-wick amongst my fathers old friends, those with whom he had worked during his time under Elder Case, and who received me kindly for my father's sake.

Soon the busy months passed, and then convocation and holidays, and I went back to Rama and enjoyed a short holiday by canoeing down to Muskoka, having as my companions my cousin Charles and my brother David.

We had a good time, and when we came home I engaged to work for Thomas Moffatt, of Orillia, for one year, for $5.00 per month and my board.

My work was attending shop, and one part especially was trading with the Indians.

Of these we had two classes—those who belonged to the reserve at Rama, and the pagans who roamed the "Muskoka country." Having the language and intimate acquaintance with the life and habits of these people, I was as "to the manner born," and thus had the advantage over many others.

Many a wild ride I have had with those "Muskoka fellows." If we heard of them coming, I would go to meet them with a big team and sleigh, and bring them and their furs to town, and after they had traded would take them for miles on their way.

While in town we would try and keep them from whiskey, but sometimes after we got started out some sly fellow would produce his bottle, and the drinking would begin, and with it the noise and bluster; and I would be very glad when I got them out of my sleigh and had put some distance between us.

Right across from us was another store, the owner of which had been a "whiskey trader" the greater part of his life.

One morning I was taking the shutters off our windows, when a man galloped up in great haste and told me he was after a doctor, that there was someone either freezing or frozen out on the ice in the bay, a little below the village; and away he flew on his errand.

"The old whiskey trader" happened just then to come to the door of his store, and I told him what I had heard. With a laugh and an oath he said, "John, I'll bet that is old Torn Bigwind, the old rascal. (Poor Tom, an Indian, was the victim of drunkenness, and this man had helped to make him so.) He owes me, and I suppose he owes you also. Well, I will tell you what we will do; you shall take his old squaw, and I will take his traps."

My boyish blood was all ablaze at this, but as he was a "white-headed old man," I turned away in disgust.

I then went in to breakfast, and when I came out I had an errand down the street, and presently met the "Old Trader," all broken up and crying like a child. I said," What is the matter?" and he burst out, "Oh, it is George! Poor George!" "What George?" said I; and he said, "My son! my son!" And then it flashed upon me—for I knew his son, like "Old Torn," the Indian, had become a victim of the same curse.

Ah! thought I, this is retribution quick and now.

I went on down to the town hail, into which the lifeless body had been brought, and there, sure enough, was poor George's body, chilled to death out on the ice while drunk!

One of the gentlemen present said to me, "John, you must go and break this sad event to his wife."

I pleaded for someone else to go, but it was no use. I was acquainted with the family, had often received kind notice from this poor woman who now in this terrible manner was widowed, and with a troubled heart I went on my sad errand.

What had spoken to her? No human being had been near the house that morning, and yet, with blanched face, as if in anticipation of woe, she met me at the door.

I said, "Be calm, madam, and gather your strength," and I told her what had happened. It seemed to age me to do this; what must it have been to this loving wife to listen to my tale! She sat as dead for a minute, and then she spoke. "John, I will go with you to my husband;" and, leaning and tottering on my arm, I took her to where her dead husband lay.

It is awful to stand by the honorable dead when suddenly taken from us while in the prime and vigor of life, but this seemed beyond human endurance. No wonder I hate this accursed traffic.

I was very busy and happy during my stay in Orillia. My employer and his good wife were exceedingly kind, and I became acquainted with many whose friendship I value and esteem today. At the end of the year I had saved all but $10 of my $60 salary, and with this to the good and with father's hearty encouragement, I stared for college once more.

This time I was at borne at once. Even the old halls and class-rooms seemed to welcome me. Dr. Nelles took me by the hand in a way which, in turn, took my heart. I received great kindness from Dr. Harris and Dr. Whitlocke, Mr. (now Dr.) Burwash and Mr. (now Dr.) Burns. I had these grand men before me as ideals, and I strove to hold their friendship.

That year at college, 1859-60, is a green spot in my memory. It opened to me a new life; it gave me the beginnings of a grip of things; it originated, or helped to, within me a desire to think for myself. Everywhere—on the play- ground, in the class-rooms, in the college halls, in the students' room—I had a good time. I was strong and healthy, and, for my age, a more than average athlete. I could run faster and jump farther than most of the students or town- boys. I knew my parents were making sacrifices to keep me at college, and I studied hard to make the most of my grand opportunity.

Thus the months flew almost too quickly, and college closed and I went home; and, being still but a young boy, was glad to see my mother and brothers and sisters, and to launch the canoe and fish by the hour for bass and catfish, and even occasionally a maskinonge.

Why, even now I seem to feel the thrill of a big black bass's bite and pull.

What excitement, what intense anxiety, and what pride when a big fellow was safely landed in my canoe.

One day I was lazily paddling around Limestone Point. The lake was like a mirror. I was looking into the depths of water, when presently I saw some dark objects. I slowly moved my canoe to obtain a right light, so as to see what this was, when to my surprise I made out the dark things to be three large catfish.

Quietly I baited my hook and dropped it down, down, near the mouth of one. They seemed to be sleeping. I gently moved my baited hook, until I tickled the fellow's moustache. Then he slowly awoke and swallowed my hook. I pulled easily, and without disturbing the others put him in my canoe, and repeated this until the trio were again side by side.

This was great sport—this was great luck for our table at home.

In a little while Conference sat, and my father was appointed to Norway House, Hudson's Bay.

This news came like a clap of thunder into our quiet home at Rama. Hudson's Bay—we had a very vague idea where that was; but Norway House, who could tell us about this?

Now, it so happened that we were very fortunate, for right beside us lived Peter Jacobs. Peter had once been a missionary, and had been stationed at Norway House and Lac-la-Pliue; therefore to Peter I went for information. He told me Norway House was north of Lake Winnipeg, on one of the rivers which flow into the Nelson; that it was a large Hudson's Bay Company's fort, the head post of a large isict; that our mission was within two miles of the fort; that the Indians were quiet, industrious, peaceable people; "in fact," said he, "the Indians at Norway House are the best I ever saw."—

All this was comforting, especially to mother. But as to the route to be travelled, Peter could give but little information.

He had come and gone by the old canoe route, up the Kaministiqua and so on, across the height of land down to Lake Winnipeg.

We were to go out by another way altogether. I began to study the maps. This was somewhere I had not been told anything about at school.

In the meantime father came home. And though I did hope to work my way through college, when my father sail, "My son, I want you to go with me," that settled it, and we began to make ready for our big translation.


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