EVERY boy or man brought up on a farm doubtless has his
favourite memories and experiences, but to my mind there is nothing equal
to those associated with the sugar bush. What scene can be more inspiring
than the sugar camp on a glorious night in the springtime? With the camp
arranged with boughs and trees so as to form a perfect shelter from any
wind that might blow, and with such rough seats as the resourceful genius
of those accustomed to bush life could improvise, how glorious it was to
sit there and watch the flames mounting up around the coolers, while the
boiling sap fairly sang! What weird shadows one saw in the surrounding
darkness as the leaping flames sought to pierce it! And what strange
voices of the night disturbed the silence that reigned beyond the camp!
I once asked Auld Peggy where the young folks in the
earliest days of the settlement did their "sparking."
"Maun, Watty, lad," she replied, while her eyes seemed
to glisten and sparkle as long-forgotten memories shot across her mind, "hae
yeh no heered hoo thet
mair matches waur made aboot th’ camp-fire than at a’
ither times pit tegither! Why, Watty, me maun," she went on, "uf Ah wis
but tae rin ower th’ list richt here in this settlement, it wad surprise
ye. In th’ auld days whan folks aye lived in sma’ shanties wi’ but ane
room, there wisna h'
sma’st opportunity afforded th’ young lads an’ lassies tae dae ony coortin’
ava, an’ there wis nathin’ for ‘t but tae ‘tak’ tae th’ woods,’ as Muckle
Peter’s faither used tae pit it. An’ sae it cam’ aboot thet th’ maist o’
th’ sparkin’, an’ th’ majority o’ th’ match-makin’, wis aye dune aboot th’
camp-fire in th’ sugar bush. Ay, but it wis a braw place till spark," said
Auld Peggy, as her face lit up with the recollection of some special
courting event in which she was possibly one of the principals.
"Tell me, Peggy," I said, taking assurance from the old
body’s smile, "is that where you did your sparking, when you were a girl?"
"Weel, weel," answered Auld Peggy, with a droll
expression on her face, "Ah’ll no’ be denyin’ thet Ah did
ma share like th’ rest, but it wisna there thet Ah met th’
hulk wha sae basely deceived an’ deserted me, gaun aff tae Wast Constant
wi’ yoan bold strumpet an’ leavin’ me an’ th’ twa bairns tae mak’ oor way
alane thru th’ wand es best we could."
The recollection of her unfortunate nuptial alliance
caused Auld Peggy’s face to darken. All pleasant recollections about her
girlhood days and her sparkings in the sugar-bush seemed to give place to
darker and more gloomy thoughts, and she turned to go.
"Peggy," I said, moving towards her and placing a hand
kindly on her shoulder, "tell me, did you love him once?"
She gave me a surprised and excited look, and then she
exclaimed, while her features betokened her earnestness:
—"Love hum! love hum! Ay, Watty, lad, thet Ah
did! Hoo caun ye ask sicna queestion? In th’ lan’ frae whuch ye cam’,
there may be planty o’ people wha marry wi’oot lovin’, but in th’ lan’
frae whuch Ah sprung, whan a Scoatch lassie gies her hairt an’ her han’
tae a maun, it seldom happens thet she disna love hum wi’ her hale saul."
"Did your man’s affection begin to wane soon after
marriage?" I ventured.
"Hoot maun," answered Peggy, quickly, "th’ creature
naver hed ony affection! He wis aye a deceiver es Ah sune foond oot after
oor waddin’. Why, th’ maun fairly gied me a scunner th’ first year, be
tallin’ me Ah wis na huswife at a’ at a’; thet he hed been man-it afore,
an’ oor marriage wisna legeetimit. Ah didna believe yoan yarn, but Ah sune
hed abundant cause tae doot hum in ither ways, an’ afore Ah knew whaur Ah
wis, he hed rinned aff wi’ th’ hussy es Ah jist tell’t ye.
Ay, they men is worth a-watchin’, Ah can tall ‘e, Watty,
an’ whan aince they tak’ tae rinnin’ after strange women, weel, ye know
what Solomon said, an’ A’ve been given tae understaun thet he hed muckle
"Poor Solomon!" I remarked.
"Dinna ye no’ say puir Solomon tae me!" said Peggy,
with warmth. "What aboot a’ they women he wis aye flirtin’ aboot wi’? Dae
ye think he bed fu’ license tae trifle wi’ all their affections in th’ way
he did ?"
"But we are told, Peggy," I replied, "that he had a
hard time of it, after all."
"Weel, puir maun, p’r’aps he hed, an’ p’r’aps he
desarves oor sympathy; f’r mind ye, Watty, neither me nor ye iver knew
what it wis tae luve wi’ several hunner women at th’ same time. Some say
it’s hard eneuch tae luve wi’ ane, an’ it may be sae in a great mony
cases, an’ sae we musna be too hard on puir auld Solomon."
As Peggy was leaving I placed a shilling in her hand.
"May th’ Loard bless an’ prosper ye, Watty," she said, "an’ aye cause Hus
licht tae shine on ye. An’ noo, Ah guess Ah’ll jist be daunderin’ awa doon
tae hae a bit crack wi’ th’ wuddow, f’r I hear her boys is all gaun aff
tae th’ war."
It was always observed, when gifts were bestowed upon
Auld Peggy, that she was most lavish in distributing the blessings of
Providence. In this practice, she has usually had plenty of imitators.