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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter VI Martin, the Trapper


The next day the Surveyor-General called, bringing with him Martin Super, the trapper.

“Mr Campbell,” said the surveyor, “this is my friend Martin Super; I have spoken to him, and he has consented to take service for one year, and he will remain, if he is satisfied. If he serves you as well as he has served me when I have travelled through the country, I have no doubt but you will find him a valuable assistant.”

Martin Super was rather tall, very straight-limbed, shewing both activity and strength. His head was smaller than usually is the case, which gave him the appearance of great lightness and agility. His countenance was very pleasing, being expressive of continual good humour, which was indeed but corresponding to his real character. He was dressed in a sort of hunting-coat of deer-skin, blue cloth leggings, a cap of racoon’s skin, with a broad belt round his waist, in which he wore his knife.

“Now, Martin Super, I will read the terms of the agreement between you and Mr Campbell, that you may see if all is as you wish.”

The Surveyor-General read the agreement, and Martin Super nodded his head in acquiescence.

“Mr Campbell, if you are satisfied, you may now sign it; Martin shall do the same.”

Mr Campbell signed his name, and handed the pen to Martin Super, who then for the first time spoke.

“Surveyor, I don’t know how my name is spelt; and if I did, I couldn’t write it, so I must do it Indian fashion, and put my totem to it?”

“What is your name among the Indians, Martin?”

“The Painter,” replied Martin, who then made, under Mr Campbell’s signature, a figure like—saying, “There, that’s my name as near as I can draw it.”

“Very good,” replied the Surveyor-General; “here is the document all right, Mr Campbell. Ladies, I fear I must run away, for I have an engagement. I will leave Martin Super, Mr Campbell, as you would probably like a little conversation together.”

The Surveyor-General then took his leave, and Martin Super remained. Mrs Campbell was the first who spoke:

“Super,” said she, “I hope we shall be very good friends, but now tell me what you mean by your—totem, I think you called it?”

“Why, ma’am, a totem is an Indian’s mark, and you know I am almost an Indian myself. All the Indian chiefs have their totems. One is called the Great Otter; another the Serpent, and so on, and so they sign a figure like the animal they are named from. Then, ma’am, you see, we trappers, who almost live with them, have names given to us also, and they have called me the Painter.”

“Why did they call you the Painter.”

“Because I killed two of them in one day.”

“Killed two painters?” cried the girls.

“Yes, miss; killed them both with my rifle.”

“But why did you kill the men?” said Emma; “was it in battle?”

“Kill the men, miss; I said nothing about men; I said I killed two painters,” replied Martin, laughing, and showing a row of teeth as white as ivory.

“What is a painter, then, Super?” inquired Mrs Campbell.

“Why, it’s an animal, and a very awkward creature, I can tell you, sometimes.”

“The drawing is something like a panther, mamma,” exclaimed Mary.

“Well, miss, it may be a panther, but we only know them by the other name.”

Mr Farquhar then came in, and the question was referred to him; he laughed and told him that painters were a species of panther, not spotted, but tawny-coloured, and at times very dangerous.

“Do you know the part of the country where we are going to?” said Henry to Super.

“Yes, I have trapped thereabouts for months, but the beavers are scarce now.”

“Are there any other animals there?”

“Yes,” replied Martin, “small game, as we term it.”

“What sort are they?”

“Why, there’s painters, and bears, and cat-a’-mountains.”

“Mercy on us I do you call that small game? Why, what must the large be, then?” said Mrs Campbell.

“Buffaloes, missus, is what we call big game.”

“But the animals you speak of are not good eating, Super,” said Mrs Campbell; “is there no game that we can eat?”

“Oh, yes, plenty of deer and wild turkey; and bear’s good eating, I reckon.”

“Ah! that sounds better.”

After an hour’s conversation, Martin Super was dismissed; the whole of the family (except Alfred, who was not at home) very much pleased with what they had seen of him.

A few days after this, Martin Super, who had now entered upon service, and was very busy with Alfred, with whom he had already become a favourite, was sent for by Mr Campbell, who read over to him the inventory of the articles which they had, and inquired of him if there was anything else which might be necessary or advisable to take with them.

“You said something about guns,” replied Martin, “what sort of guns did you mean?”

“We have three fowling-pieces and three muskets, besides pistols.”

“Fowling-pieces—they are bird-guns, I believe—no use at all; muskets are soldiers’ tools—no use; pistols are pops, and nothing better. You have no rifles; you can’t go into the woods without rifles. I have got mine, but you must have some.”

“Well, I believe you are right, Martin; it never occurred to me. How many ought we to have?”

“Well, that’s according—how many be you in family?”

“We are five males and three females.”

“Well, then, sir, say ten rifles; that will be quite sufficient. Two spare ones in case of accident,” replied Martin.

“Why, Martin,” said Mrs Campbell, “you do not mean that the children and these young ladies and I are to fire off rifles?”

“I do mean to say, ma’am, that before I was as old as that little boy,” pointing to John, “I could hit a mark well; and a woman ought at least to know how to prime and load a rifle, even if she does not fire it herself. It is a deadly weapon, ma’am, and the greatest leveller in creation, for the trigger pulled by a child will settle the business of the stoutest man. I don’t mean to say that we may be called to use them in that way, but it’s always better to have them, and to let other people know that you have them, and all ready loaded too, if required.”

“Well, Martin,” said Mr Campbell, “I agree with you, it is better to be well prepared. We will have the ten rifles, if we can afford to purchase them. What will they cost?”

“About sixteen dollars will purchase the best, sir; but I think I had better choose them for you, and try them before you purchase.”

“Do so, then, Super. Alfred will go with you as soon as he comes back, and you and he can settle the matter.”

“Why, Super,” observed Mrs Campbell, “you have quite frightened us at the idea of so many firearms being required.”

“If Pontiac was alive, missus, they would all be required, but he’s gone now; still there are many out-lying Indians, as we call them, who are no better than they should be; and I always like to see rifles ready loaded. Why, ma’am, suppose now that all the men were out in the woods, and a bear should pay you a visit during our absence, would it not be just as well for to have a loaded rifle ready for him; and would not you or the young misses willingly prefer to pull the trigger at him than to be hugged in his fashion?”

“Martin Super, you have quite convinced me; I shall not only learn to load a rifle but to fire one also.”

“And I’ll teach the boys the use of them, ma’am, and they will then add to your defence.”

“You shall do so, Martin,” replied Mrs Campbell; “I am convinced that you are quite right.”

When Super had quitted the room, which he did soon afterwards, Mr Campbell observed—“I hope, my dear, that you and the girls are not terrified by the remarks of Martin. It is necessary to be well armed when isolated as we shall be, and so far from any assistance; but it does not follow, because we ought to be prepared against danger, that such danger should occur.”

“I can answer for myself, my dear Campbell,” replied his wife; “I am prepared, if necessary, to meet danger, and do what a weak woman can do; and I feel what Martin says is but too true—that, with a rifle in the hand, a woman or a child is on a par with the strongest man.”

“And I, my dear uncle,” said Mary Percival, “shall, I trust, with the blessing of God, know how to do my duty, however peculiar the circumstances may be to a female.”

“And I, my dear uncle,” followed up Emma, laughing, “infinitely prefer firing off a rifle to being hugged by a bear or an Indian, because of two evils one should always choose the least.”

“Well, then, I see Martin has done no harm; but, on the contrary, he has done good. It is always best to be prepared for the worst, and to trust to Providence for aid in peril.”

At last all the purchases were completed, and everything was packed up and ready for embarkation. Another message from the Governor was received, stating that in three days the troops would be embarked, and also informing Mr Campbell that if he had not purchased any cows or horses, the officer at Fort Frontignac had more cattle than were requisite, and could supply him; which, perhaps, would be preferable to carrying them up so far. Mr Campbell had spoken about, but not finally settled for, the cows, and therefore was glad to accept the Governor’s offer. This message was accompanied with a note of invitation to Mr Campbell, the ladies, and Henry and Alfred, to take a farewell dinner at Government House the day before their departure. The invitation was accepted, and Mr Campbell was introduced to the officer commanding the detachment which was about to proceed to Fort Frontignac, and received from him every assurance of his doing all he could to make them comfortable. The kindness of the Governor did not end here; he desired the officer to take two large tents for the use of Mr Campbell, to be returned to the fort when the house had been built, and they were completely settled. He even proposed that Mrs Campbell and the Misses Percival should remain at Government House until Mr Campbell had made every preparation to receive them; but this Mrs Campbell would not consent to, and, with many thanks, she declined the offer.


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