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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XII John's Education


The Campbells remained for some time on the shore of the lake watching the receding bateaux until they turned round the point and were hidden from their sight, and then they walked back to the house. But few words were exchanged as they returned, for they felt a sensation of loneliness from having parted with so many of their own countrymen; not that they were, with the exception of Captain Sinclair, companions, but that, accustomed to the sight of the soldiers at their labour, the spot now appeared depopulated by their departure. Martin, too, and John, were both absent; the latter had been two days away, and Martin, who had not yet found time to ascertain where old Malachi Bone had fixed his new abode, had gone out in search of it, and to mention to him Mr Campbell’s wishes as to John’s visits to him, which were becoming more frequent and more lengthened than Mr Campbell wished them to be.

When they entered the house, they all sat down, and Mr Campbell then first spoke.

“Well, my dearest wife, here we are at last, left to ourselves and to our own resources. I am not at all doubtful of our doing well, if we exert ourselves, as it is our duty to do. I grant that we may have hardship to combat, difficulties to overcome, occasional disappointments, and losses to bear up against; but let us recollect how greatly we have, through Providence, been already assisted and encouraged, how much help we have received, and how much kindness we have experienced. Surely we ought to feel most grateful to Heaven for blessings already vouchsafed to us, and ought to have a firm and lively faith in Him who has hitherto so kindly watched over us. Let us not then repine or feel dispirited, but with grateful hearts do our duty cheerfully in that state of life to which it has pleased Him to call us.”

“I agree with you, my dear husband,” replied Mrs Campbell; “nay, I can say with sincerity, that I am not sorry we are now left to our own exertions, and that we have an opportunity of proving that we can do without the assistance of others. Up to the present, our trial has been nothing; indeed, I can fancy to myself what our trials are to be. Come they may, but from what quarter I cannot form an idea: should they come, however, I trust we shall shew our gratitude for the past blessings, and our faith derived from past deliverances, by a devout submission to whatever the Almighty may please to try or chasten us with.”

“Right, my dear,” replied Mr Campbell; “we will hope for the best; we are as much under His protection here in the wilderness, as we were at Wexton Hall; we were just as liable to all the ills which flesh is heir to when we were living in opulence and luxury as we are now in this log-house; but we are, I thank God, not so liable in our present position to forget Him who so bountifully provides for us and in His wisdom ordereth all our ways. Most truly has the poet said, ‘Sweet are the uses of adversity.’”

“Well,” observed Emma, after a pause, as if to give a more lively turn to the conversation, “I wonder what my trials are to be! Depend upon it, the cow will kick down the pail, or the butter won’t come!”

“Or you’ll get chapped fingers in the winter time, and chilblains on your feet,” continued Mary.

“That will be bad; but Captain Sinclair says that if we don’t take care we shall be frost-bitten and lose the tips of our noses.”

“That would be hard upon you, Emma, for you’ve none to spare,” said Alfred.

“Well, you have, Alfred, so yours ought to go first.”

“We must look after one another’s noses, they say, as we cannot tell if our own is in danger; and if we see a white spot upon another’s nose, we must take a bit of snow and rub it well; a little delicate attention peculiar to this climate.”

“I cannot say that I do not know what my trials are to be,” said Alfred—“that is, trials certain; nor can Henry, either. When I look at the enormous trunks of these trees, which we have to cut down with our axes, I feel positive that it will be a hard trial before we master them. Don’t you think so, Henry?”

“I have made up my mind to have at least two new skins upon my hands before the winter comes on,” replied Henry; “but felling timber was not a part of my university education—”

“No,” replied Alfred; “Oxford don’t teach that. Now, my university education—”

“Your university education!” cried Emma.

“Yes, mine; I have sailed all over the universe, and that I call a university education; but here come Martin and John. Why, John has got a gun on his shoulder! He must have taken it with him when he last disappeared.”

“I suppose that by this time he knows how to use it, Alfred,” said Mrs Campbell.

“Yes, ma’am,” replied Martin, who had entered; “he knows well how to use and how to take care of it and take care of himself. I let him bring it home on purpose to watch him. He has fired and loaded twice as we came back, and has killed this wood-chuck,” continued Martin, throwing the dead animal on the floor. “Old Malachi has taught him well, and he has not forgotten his lessons.”

“What animal is that, Martin; is it good to eat?” said Henry.

“Not very good, sir; it’s an animal that burrows in the ground, and is very hurtful in a garden or to the young maize, and we always shoot them when we meet with them.”

“It’s a pity that it’s not good to eat.”

“Oh! you may eat it, sir; I don’t say it’s not fit to eat, but there are other things much better.”

“That’s quite sufficient for me, Martin,” said Emma, “I shall not taste him; at all events not this time, whatever I may have to do by-and-bye.”

“I spoke to old Bone, sir, and he says it’s all right; that he won’t keep him more than a day without first sending him to you to ask leave.”

“That’s all I require, Martin.”

“They have been out these two days, and had only just come home when I arrived there. The game was still in the wood.”

“I shot a deer,” said John.

“You shot a deer, John!” said Alfred; “why, what a useful fellow you will be by-and-bye.”

“Yes, sir; old Malachi told me that the boy had shot a deer, and that he would bring it here to-morrow himself.”

“I’m glad of that, for I wish to speak with him,” said Mr Campbell; “but, John, how came you to take the rifle with you without leave?”

“Can’t shoot without a gun,” replied John.

“No, you cannot; but the rifle is not yours.”

“Give it me, and I’ll shoot everything for dinner,” replied John.

“I think you had better do so, father,” said Henry, in a low voice; “the temptation will be too strong.”

“You are right, Henry,” replied Mr Campbell, aside. “Now, John, I will give you the rifle, if you will promise me to ask leave when you want to go, and always come back at the time you have promised.”

“I’ll always tell when I go, if mamma will always let me go, and I’ll always come back when I promise, if I’ve killed.”

“He means, sir, that if he is on the track when his leave is out, that he must follow it; but as soon as he has either lost his game, or killed it, he will then come home. That’s the feeling of a true hunter, sir, and you must not baulk it.”

“Very true; well then, John, recollect that you promise.”

“Martin,” said Percival, “when are you to teach me to fire the rifle?”

“Oh, very soon now, sir; but the soldiers are gone, and as soon as you can hit the mark, you shall go out with Mr Alfred or me.”

“And when are we to learn, Mary,” said Emma.

“I’ll teach you, cousins,” said Alfred, “and give a lesson to my honoured mother.”

“Well, we’ll all learn,” replied Mrs Campbell.

“What’s to be done to-morrow, Martin?” said Alfred.

“Why, sir, there are boards enough to make a fishing-punt, and if you and Mr Henry will help me, I think we shall have one made in two or three days. The lake is full of fish, and it’s a pity not to have some while the weather is so fine.”

“I’ve plenty of lines in the store-room,” said Mr Campbell.

“Master Percival would soon learn to fish by himself,” said Martin, “and then he’ll bring as much as Master John.”

“Fish!” said John with disdain.

“Yes, fish, Master John,” replied Martin; “a good hunter is always a good fisherman, and don’t despise them, for they often give him a meal when he would otherwise go to sleep with an empty stomach.”

“Well, I’ll catch fish with pleasure,” cried Percival, “only I must sometimes go out hunting.”

“Yes, my dear boy, and we must sometimes go to bed; and I think it is high time now, as we must all be up to-morrow at daylight.”

The next morning, Mary and Emma set off to milk the cows—not, as usual, attended by some of the young men, for Henry and Alfred were busy, and Captain Sinclair was gone. As they crossed the bridge, Mary observed to her sister, “No more gentlemen to attend us lady milkmaids, Emma.”

“No,” replied Emma; “our avocation is losing all its charms, and a pleasure now almost settles down to a duty.”

“Alfred and Henry are with Martin about the fishing-boat,” observed Mary.

“Yes,” replied Emma; “but I fancy, Mary, you were thinking more of Captain Sinclair than of your cousins.”

“That is very true, Emma; I was thinking of him,” replied Mary, gravely. “You don’t know how I feel his absence.”

“I can imagine it, though, my dearest Mary. Shall we soon see him again?”

“I do not know; but I think not for three or four weeks, for certain. All that can be spared from the fort are gone haymaking, and if he is one of the officers sent with the men, of course he will be absent, and if he is left in the fort, he will be obliged to remain there; so there is no chance of seeing him until the haymaking is over.”

“Where is it that they go to make hay, Mary?”

“You know they have only a sufficiency of pasture round the fort for the cattle during the summer, so they go along by the borders of the lake and islands, where they know there are patches of clear land, cut the grass down, make the hay, and collect it all in the bateaux, and carry it to the fort to be stacked for the winter. This prairie was their best help, but now they have lost it.”

“But Colonel Forster has promised papa sufficient hay for the cows for this winter; indeed, we could not have fed them unless he had done so. Depend upon it, Captain Sinclair will bring the hay round, and then we shall see him again, Mary; but we must walk after our own cows now. No one to drive them for us. If Alfred had any manners he might have come.”

“And why not Henry, Emma?” said Mary, with a smile.

“Oh! I don’t know; Alfred came into my thoughts first.”

“I believe that really was the case,” replied Mary. “Now I’m even with you; so go along and milk your cows.”

“It’s all very well, miss,” replied Emma, laughing; “but wait till I have learnt to fire my rifle, and then you’ll be more cautious of what you say.”

On their return home, they found the old hunter with a fine buck lying before him. Mr Campbell was out with the boys and Martin, who wished his opinion as to the size of the punt.

“How do you do, Mr Bone?” said Mary. “Did John shoot that deer?”

“Yes; and shot it as well as an old hunter, and the creature can hardly lift the gun to his shoulder. Which of you is named Mary?”

“I am,” said Mary.

“Then I’ve something for you,” said old Malachi, pulling from out of his vest a small parcel, wrapped up in thin bark, and, handing it to her; “it’s a present from the Strawberry.”

Mary opened the bark, and found inside of it a pair of mocassins, very prettily worked in stained porcupines’ quills.

“Oh! how beautiful, and how kind of her! Tell her that I thank her, and love her very much. Will you?”

“Yes; I’ll tell her. Where’s the boy?”

“Who, John? I think he’s gone up the stream to take some trout; he’ll be back to breakfast, and that’s just ready. Come, Emma, we must go in with the milk.”

Mr Campbell and those who were with him soon returned.

Malachi Bone then stated that he had brought the buck killed by John; and that, if it suited, he would carry back with him a keg of gunpowder and some lead; that he wished Mr Campbell to calculate what he considered due to him for the property, and let him take it out in goods, as he required them.

“Why don’t you name your own price, Malachi?” said Mr Campbell.

“How can I name a price? It was given to me and cost nothing. I leave it all to you and Martin Super, as I said before.”

“You shew great confidence in me, I must say. Well Bone, I will not cheat you; but I am afraid you will be a long while before you are paid, if you only take it out in goods from my store-house.”

“All the better, master; they will last till I die, and then what’s left will do for the boy here,” replied the old hunter, putting his hand upon John’s head.

“Bone,” said Mr Campbell, “I have no objection to the boy going with you occasionally; but I cannot permit him to be always away. I want him to come home on the day after he has been to see you.”

“Well, that’s not reasonable, master. We go out after the game; who knows where we may find it, how long we may look for it, and how far it may lead us? Must we give up the chase when close upon it, because time’s up? That’ll never do. I want to make the boy a hunter, and he must learn to sleep out and do everything else as concerns a hunter to do. You must let him be with me longer, and, if you please, when he comes back keep him longer; but if you wish him to be a man, the more he stays with me the better. He shall know all the Indian craft, I promise you, and the winter after this he shall take beavers and bring you the skins.”

“I think, sir,” observed Martin, “it’s all in reason, what the old man says.”

“And so do I,” said Alfred; “after all, it’s only sending John to school. Let him go, father, and have him home for the holidays.”

“I’ll always come to you, when I can,” said John.

“I am more satisfied at John’s saying that than you might imagine,” said Mrs Campbell; “John is an honest boy, and does not say what he does not mean.”

“Well, my dear, if you have no objection, I’m sure I will not raise any more.”

“I think I shall gain more by John’s affection than by compulsion, my dear husband. He says he will always come when he can, and I believe him; I have, therefore, no objection to let him stay with Malachi Bone, at all events, for a week or so at a time.”

“But his education, my dear.”

“He is certain to learn nothing now that this fever for the woods, if I may so call it, is upon him. He will, perhaps, be more teachable a year or two hence. You must be aware that we have no common disposition to deal with in that child; and however my maternal feelings may oppose my judgment, it is still strong enough to make me feel that my decision is for his benefit. We must not here put the value upon a finished education which we used to do. Let us give him every advantage which the peculiarity of his position will allow us to do; but we are now in the woods, to a certain degree returned to a state of nature, and the first and most important knowledge is to learn to gain our livelihoods.”

“Well, my dear, I think you are correct in your views on the subject, and therefore, John, you may go to school with Malachi Bone; come to see us when you can, and I expect you to turn out the Nimrod of the west.”

Old Malachi stared at the conclusion of this speech; Alfred observed his surprise, and burst into a fit of laughter. He then said, “The English of all that is, Malachi, that my brother John has my father’s leave to go with you, and you’re to make a man of him.”

“He who made him must make a man of him,” replied Bone: “I can only make him a good hunter, and that I will, if he and I are spared. Now, master, if Martin will give me the powder and lead, I’ll be off again. Is the boy to go?”

“Yes, if you desire it,” replied Mrs Campbell; “come, John, and wish me good-bye, and remember your promise.” John bade farewell to the whole party with all due decorum, and then trotted off after his schoolmaster.


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