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Forest, Lake and Prairie
Chapter XLIV
Midnight mass - Little Mary - Foot-races - Dog races, etc. - Reach my twentieth birthday - End of this book.


I FOUND that the Roman Catholics had a church built in the fort, and Mr. MacDonald and I went to the celebration of midnight mass on Christmas eve. . Our conduct was respectful and reverent. Indeed, graceless as I may have been, I always from early boyhood have respected the religious services of others. Often in the conjurer's camp, and at thirst and sun dances, I have preserved most perfect decorum and attention, and that night at Edmonton my friend and self behaved; but because someone saw MacDonald pass me a peppermint, it was noised abroad that we were mocking the passing of the wafer. Quite a furore was caused by this, and the Catholics came to the Chief Factor to demand our expulsion from the fort, but he very justly refused to interfere, and the storm passed away without hurting us. But I was amused and delighted with my friend, Mr. Woolsey. Said he to me, while drawing himself up and squaring off, "I never yet struck a man, but if I did, it would be a mighty blow."

Mr. Woolsey held service on Christmas morning, which was largely attended.

In the afternoon, Mr. Hardisty and myself went for a drive on the river with our dog- trains. Mr. Hardisty took the little daughter of the Chief Factor with him, and we drove up the river, but when turning to come home, his dogs took a sweep out into the river and left him, and the course the dogs took was dangerous. There was a long stretch of open current. There sat the child perfectly unconscious of her danger. Hardisty was winded, and he shouted to me to catch his dogs. 1 saw that if I drove mine after his it would make matters worse, for his dogs would run the faster; so I left mine and ran after his, and here the constant training of the season did me good service. I had both wind and speed, but the time seemed dreadful. The dogs were nearing the current, and if the cariole should swing or upset, the child was doomed. If ever I ran, it was then; if ever I was thankful to be able to run, it was then. Little Mary was a favorite of mine, and her peril filled me with keen anguish; but I have always been thankful that my whole being responded as it did. Steadily I came up, and presently, before the dogs knew it, I was on the back of the sleigh; then, gripping the ground lashing, I let myself drag as a brake, and with a mighty "Chuh!" which made the leader jump quickly to the left, then a loud stern "Marse!" straight out from the danger the strong train drew us.

After we came home, I felt weak and exhausted because of the nervous strain; but the reward of having been instrumental in saving the little darling's life was sweet to me.

The next day we had dog-races, and foot- races and football, and the fun was fast and furious. This social and pleasant intercourse with my fellowmen was especially agreeable to me after the isolation of the last few months. Then my new-found friends were exceedingly kind, and I was heartily glad Mr. Woolsey had brought me with him to Edmonton. The second day after Christmas was my birthday. I was then twenty years of age, and thus have reached the limit given to this book.

As the reader will have noticed, I began life on the frontier, and here, after twenty years, am to be found on the still farther frontier. Then it was lake-shore and forest, now it is highland and prairie.

Trusting the reader will have been interested sufficiently in this simple narrative to follow the author on into the more stirring recital of experiences on the plains during the "sixties,"

I remain,

Yours truly,

JOHN MCDOUGALL.


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