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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter IX At the Settlement

The party were so refreshed by once more sleeping upon good beds, that they were up and dressed very early, and shortly after seven o’clock were all collected upon the rampart of the fort, surveying the land which was indeed very picturesque and beautiful. Before them, to their left, the lake was spread, an inland sea, lost in the horizon, now quite calm, and near to the shores studded with small islands covered with verdant foliage, and appearing as if they floated upon the transparent water. To the westward, and in front of them, were the clearings belonging to the fort, backed with the distant woods: a herd of cattle were grazing on a portion of the cleared land; the other was divided off by a snake-fence, as it is termed, and was under cultivation. Here and there a log building was raised as a shelter for the animals during the winter, and at half a mile’s distance was a small fort, surrounded by high palisades, intended as a place of retreat and security for those who might be in charge of the cattle in case of danger or surprise. Close to the fort, a rapid stream, now from the freshets overflowing its banks, poured down its waters into the lake, running its course through a variety of shrubs and larches and occasional elms which lined its banks. The sun shone bright—the woodpeckers flew from tree to tree, or clung to the rails of the fences—the belted kingfisher darted up and down over the running stream—and the chirping and wild notes of various birds were heard on every side of them.

“This is very beautiful, is it not?” said Mrs Campbell; “surely it cannot be so great a hardship to live in a spot like this?”

“Not if it were always so, perhaps, Madam,” said Colonel Forster, who had joined the party as Mrs Campbell made the observation. “But Canada in the month of June is very different from Canada in January. That we find our life monotonous in this fort, separated as we are from the rest of the world, I admit, and the winters are so long and severe as to tire out our patience; but soldiers must do their duty whether burning under the tropics, or freezing in the wilds of Canada. It cannot be a very agreeable life, when even the report of danger near to us becomes a pleasurable feeling from the excitement it causes for the moment.

“I have been talking, Mr Campbell, with Captain Sinclair, and find you have much to do before the short summer is over, to be ready to meet the coming winter; more than you can well do with your limited means. I am happy that my instructions from the Governor will permit me to be of service to you. I propose that the ladies shall remain here, while you, with such assistance as I can give, proceed to your allotment, and prepare for their reception.”

“A thousand thanks for your kind offer, Colonel—but no, no, we will all go together,” interrupted Mrs Campbell; “we can be useful, and we will remain in the tents till the house is built. Do not say a word more, Colonel Forster, that is decided; although I again return you many thanks for your kind offer.”

“If such is the case, I have only to observe that I shall send a fatigue party of twelve men, which I can well spare for a few weeks, to assist you in your labours,” replied Colonel Forster. “Their remuneration will not put you to a very great expense. Captain Sinclair has volunteered to take charge of it.”

“Many thanks, sir,” replied Mr Campbell; “and as you observe that we have no time to lose, with your permission we will start to-morrow morning.”

“I certainly shall not dissuade you,” replied the commandant, “although I did hope that I should have had the pleasure of your company a little longer. You are aware that I have the Governor’s directions to supply you with cattle from our own stock, at a fair price. I hardly need say that you may select as you please.”

“And I,” said Captain Sinclair, who had been in conversation with Mary Percival, and who now addressed Mr Campbell, “have been making another collection for you from my brother-officers, which you were not provided with, and will find very useful—I may say absolutely necessary.”

“What may that be, Captain Sinclair?” said Mr Campbell.

“A variety of dogs of every description. I have a pack of five; and although not quite so handsome as your pet dogs in England, you will find them well acquainted with the country, and do their duty well. I have a pointer, a bull-dog, two terriers, and a fox-hound—all of them of good courage, and ready to attack catamount, wolf, lynx, or even a bear, if required.”

“It is, indeed, a very valuable present,” replied Mr Campbell, “and you have our sincere thanks.”

“The cows you had better select before you go, unless you prefer that I should do it for you,” observed Colonel Forster.

“They shall be driven over in a day or two, as I presume the ladies will wish to have milk. By-the-bye, Mr Campbell, I must let you into a secret. The wild onions which grow so plentifully in this country, and which the cattle are very fond of, give a very unpleasant taste to the milk. You may remove it by heating the milk as soon as it has been drawn from the cows.”

“Many thanks, Colonel, for your information,” replied Mr Campbell, “for I certainly have no great partiality to the flavour of onions in milk.”

A summons to breakfast broke up the conversation. During the day, Henry and Alfred, assisted by Captain Sinclair and Martin Super, were very busy in loading the two bateaux with the stores, tents, and various trunks of linen and other necessaries which they had brought with them. Mr and Mrs Campbell, with the girls, were equally busy in selecting and putting on one side articles for immediate use on their arrival at the allotment. As they were very tired, they went to bed early, that they might be ready for the next day’s re-embarkation; and after breakfast, having taken leave of the kind commandant and the other officers, they went down to the shore of the lake, and embarked with Captain Sinclair in the commandant’s boat, which had been prepared for them. Martin Super, Alfred, and Henry, with the five dogs, went on board of the two bateaux, which were manned by the corporal and twelve soldiers, lent by the commandant to Mr Campbell. The weather was beautifully fine, and they set off in high spirts. The distance by water was not more than three miles, although by land it was nearly five, and in half-an-hour they entered the cove adjoining to which the allotment lay.

“There is the spot, Mrs Campbell, which is to be your future residence,” said Captain Sinclair, pointing with his hand; “you observe where that brook runs down into the lake, that is your eastern boundary; the land on the other side is the property of the old hunter we have spoken of. You see his little log-hut, not much bigger than an Indian lodge, and the patch of Indian corn now sprung out of the ground which is inclosed by the fence. This portion appears not to be of any use to him, as he has no cattle of any kind, unless indeed they have gone into the bush; but I think some of our men said that he lived entirely by the chase, and that he has an Indian wife.”

“Well,” said Emma Percival, laughing, “female society is what we never calculated upon. What is the man’s name?”

“Malachi Bone,” replied Captain Sinclair. “I presume you expect Mrs Bone to call first?”

“She ought to do so, if she knows the usage of society,” replied Emma; “but if she does not, I think I shall waive ceremony and go and see her. I have great curiosity to make acquaintance with an Indian squaw.”

“You may be surprised to hear me say so, Miss Emma, but I assure you, without having ever seen her, that you will find her perfectly well-bred. All the Indian women are; their characters are a compound of simplicity and reserve. Keep the boat’s head more to the right, Selby, we will land close to that little knoll.”

The commandant’s boat had pulled much faster, and was a long way ahead of the bateaux. In a few minutes afterwards they had all disembarked, and were standing on the knoll, surveying their new property. A portion of about thirty acres, running along the shore of the lake, was what is termed natural prairie, or meadow of short fine grass; the land immediately behind the meadow was covered with brushwood for about three hundred yards, and then rose a dark and impervious front of high timber which completely confined the landscape. The allotment belonging to the old hunter, on the opposite side of the brook, contained about the same portion of natural meadow, and was in other respects but a continuation of the portion belonging to Mr Campbell.

“Well,” said Martin Super, as soon as he had come up to the party on the knoll, for the bateaux had now arrived, “I reckon, Mr Campbell, that you are in luck to have this piece of grass. It would have taken no few blows of the axe to have cleared it away out of such a wood as that behind us. Why, it is as good as a fortune to a new settler.”

“I think it is, Martin,” replied Mr Campbell.

“Well, sir, now to work as soon as you please, for a day is a day, and must not be lost. I’ll go to the wood with fire or six of the men who can handle an axe, and begin to cut down, leaving you and the captain there to decide where the house is to be; the other soldiers will be putting up the tents all ready for to-night, for you must not expect a house over your heads till next full moon.”

In a quarter of an hour all were in motion. Henry and Alfred took their axes, and followed Martin Super and half of the soldiers, the others were busy landing the stores and pitching the tents, while Captain Sinclair and Mr Campbell were surveying the ground, that they might choose a spot for the erection of the house. Mrs Campbell remained sitting on the knoll, watching the debarkation of the packages, and Percival, by her directions, brought to her those articles which were for immediate use. Mary and Emma Percival, accompanied by John, as they had no task allotted to them, walked up by the side of the stream towards the wood.

“I wish I had my box,” said John, who had been watching the running water.

“Why do you want your box, John?” said Mary.

“For my hooks in my box,” replied John.

“Why, do you see any fish in this small stream?” said Emma.

“Yes,” replied John, walking on before them.

Mary and Emma followed him, now and then stopping to pick a flower unknown to them: when they overtook John, he was standing immovable, pointing to a figure on the other side of the stream, as fixed and motionless as himself.

The two girls started back as they beheld a tall, gaunt man, dressed in deer-hides, who stood leaning upon a long gun with his eyes fixed upon them. His face was bronzed and weather-beaten—indeed so dark that it was difficult to say if he were of the Indian race or not.

“It must be the hunter, Emma,” said Mary Percival; “he is not dressed like the Indians we saw at Quebec.”

“It must be,” replied Emma; “won’t he speak?”

“We will wait and see,” replied Mary. They did wait for a minute or more, but the man neither spoke nor shifted his position.

“I will speak to him, Mary,” said Emma at last. “My good man, you are Malachi Bone, are you not?”

“That’s my name,” replied the hunter in a deep voice; “and who on earth are you, and what are you doing here? Is it a frolic from the fort, or what is it, that causes all this disturbance?”

“Disturbance!—why we don’t make a great deal of noise, no, it’s no frolic; we are come to settle here, and shall be your neighbours.”

“To settle here!—why, what on earth do you mean, young woman? Settle here!—not you, surely.”

“Yes, indeed, we are. Don’t you know Martin Super, the trapper? He is with us, and now at work in the woods getting ready for raising the house, as you call it.—Do you know, Mary,” said Emma in a low tone to her sister, “I’m almost afraid of that man, although I do speak so boldly.”

“Martin Super—yes, I know him,” replied the hunter, who without any more ceremony threw his gun into the hollow of his arm, turned round, and walked away in the direction of his own hut.

“Well, Mary,” observed Emma, after a pause of a few seconds, during which they watched the receding form of the hunter, “the old gentleman is not over-polite. Suppose we go back and narrate our first adventure?”

“Let us walk up to where Alfred and Martin Super are at work, and tell them,” replied Mary.

They soon gained the spot where the men were felling the trees, and made known to Alfred and Martin what had taken place.

“He is angered, miss,” observed Martin; “I guessed as much; well, if he don’t like it he must squat elsewhere.”

“How do you mean squat elsewhere?”

“I mean, miss, that if he don’t like company so near him, he must shift and build his wigwam further off.”

“But, why should he not like company? I should have imagined that it would be agreeable rather than otherwise,” replied Mary Percival.

“You may think so, miss, but Malachi Bone thinks other, wise; and it’s very natural; a man who has lived all his life in the woods, all alone, his eye never resting, his ear ever watching; catching at every sound, even to the breaking of a twig or the falling of a leaf; sleeping with his finger on his trigger and one eye half open, gets used to no company but his own, and can’t abide it. I recollect the time when I could not. Why, miss, when a man hasn’t spoken a word perhaps for months, talking is a fatigue, and, when he hasn’t heard a word spoken for months, listening is as bad. It’s all custom, miss, and Malachi, as I guessed, don’t like it, and so he’s rily and angered. I will go see him after the work is over.”

“But he has his wife, Martin, has he not?”

“Yes; but she’s an Indian wife, Master Alfred, and Indian wives don’t speak unless they’re spoken to.”

“What a recommendation,” said Alfred, laughing; “I really think I shall look after an Indian wife, Emma.”

“I think you had better,” replied Emma. “You’d be certain of a quiet house,—when you were out of it,—and when at home, you would have all the talk to yourself, which is just what you like. Come, Mary, let us leave him to dream of his squaw.”

The men selected by the commandant of the fort were well used to handle the axe; before dusk, many trees had been felled, and were ready for sawing into lengths. The tents had all been pitched: those for the Campbells on the knoll we have spoken of; Captain Sinclair’s and that for the soldiers about a hundred yards distant; the fires were lighted, and as the dinner had been cold, a hot supper was prepared by Martin and Mrs Campbell, assisted by the girls and the younger boys. After supper they all retired to an early bed; Captain Sinclair having put a man as sentry, and the dogs having been tied at different places, that they might give the alarm if there was any danger; which, however, was not anticipated, as the Indians had for some time been very quiet in the neighbourhood of Fort Frontignac.

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