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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XI Visit to Malachi's Wife

We must pass over six weeks, during which the labour was continued without intermission, and the house was raised of logs, squared and well fitted; the windows and doors were also put in, and the roof well covered in with large squares of birch-bark, firmly fixed on the rafters. The house consisted of one large room, as a dining-room, and the kitchen, with a floor of well-beaten clay, a smaller room, as a sitting-room, and three bed-rooms, all of which were floored; one of the largest of them fitted all round with bed-places against the walls, in the same way as on board of packets; this room was for the four boys, and had two spare bed-places in it. The others, which were for the two girls and Mr and Mrs Campbell, were much smaller. But before the house was half built, a large outhouse adjoining to it had been raised to hold the stores which Mr Campbell had brought with him, with a rough granary made above the store-room. The interior of the house was not yet fitted up, although the furniture had been put in, and the family slept in it, rough as it was, in preference to the tents, as they were very much annoyed with mosquitoes. The stores were now safe from the weather, and they had a roof over their heads, which was the grand object that was to be obtained. The carpenters were still very busy fitting up the interior of the house, and the other men were splitting rails for a snake-fence, and also selecting small timber for raising a high palisade round the premises. Martin had not been idle. The site of the house was just where the brushwood joined to the prairie, and Martin had been clearing it away and stacking it, and also collecting wood for winter fuel. It had been decided that four cows, which had been driven round from the fort, should be housed during the winter in a small building on the other side of the stream, which had belonged to Malachi Bone, as it was surrounded with a high snake-fence, and sufficiently large to hold them and even more. The commandant had very kindly selected the most quiet cows to milk, and Mary and Emma Percival had already entered upon their duties: the milk had been put into the store-house until a dairy could be built up. A very neat bridge had been thrown across the stream, and every morning the two girls, generally attended by Henry, Alfred, or Captain Sinclair, crossed over, and soon became expert in their new vocation as dairy-maids. Altogether, things began to wear a promising appearance. Henry and Mr Campbell had dug up as fast as Martin and Alfred cleared away the brushwood, and the garden had already been cropped with such few articles as could be put in at that season. The commandant had some pigs ready for the settlers as soon as they were ready to receive them, and had more than once come up in the boats to ascertain their progress, and to offer any advice that he might consider useful.

We must not, however, forget Malachi Bone. The day after Bone had come to Mr Campbell, Emma perceived him going away into the woods with his rifle, followed by her cousin John; and being very curious to see his Indian wife, she persuaded Alfred and Captain Sinclair to accompany her and Mary to the other side of the stream. The great point was to know where to cross it, but as John had found out the means of so doing, it was to be presumed that there was a passage, and they set off to look for it. They found that, about half a mile up the stream, which there ran through the wood, a large tree had been blown down and laid across it, and with the assistance of the young men, Mary and Emma passed it without much difficulty; they then turned back by the side of the stream until they approached the lodge of old Malachi. As they walked towards it, they could not perceive any one stirring; but at last a dog of the Indian breed began to bark; still nobody came out, and they arrived at the door of the lodge where the dog stood; when, sitting on the floor, they perceived the Indian girl whom they were in search of. She was very busy sewing a pair of mocassins out of deer leather. She appeared startled when she first saw Alfred; but when she perceived that the young ladies were with him, her confidence returned. She slightly bowed her head, and continued her work.

“How very young she is,” said Emma; “why she cannot be more than eighteen years old.”

“I doubt if she is so much,” replied Captain Sinclair.

“She has a very modest, unaffected look, has she not, Alfred?” said Mary.

“Yes, I think there is something very prepossessing in her countenance.”

“She is too young a wife for the old hunter, at all events,” observed Alfred.

“That is not unusual among the Indians,” said Captain Sinclair; “a very old chief will often have three or four young wives; they are to be considered more in the light of his servants than anything else.”

“But she must think us very rude to talk and stare at her in this manner; I suppose she cannot speak English.”

“I will speak to her in her own language, if she is a Chippeway or any of the tribes about here, for they all have the same dialect,” said Captain Sinclair.

Captain Sinclair addressed her in the Indian language, and the Indian girl replied in a very soft voice.

“She says her husband is gone to bring home venison.”

“Tell her we are coming to live here, and will give her anything she wants.”

Captain Sinclair again addressed her, and received her answer.

“She says that you are beautiful flowers, but not the wild flowers of the country, and that the cold winter will kill you.”

“Tell her she will find us alive next summer,” said Emma; “and, Captain Sinclair, give her this brooch of mine, and tell her to wear it for my sake.”

Captain Sinclair gave the message and the ornament to the Indian girl, who replied, as she looked up and smiled at Emma, “That she would never forget the beautiful Lily who was so kind to the little Strawberry-plant.”

“Really her language is poetical and beautiful,” observed Mary; “I have nothing to give her—Oh! yes, I have; here is my ivory needle-case, with some needles in it. Tell her it will be of use to her when she sews her mocassins. Open it and shew her what is inside.”

“She says she will be able to work faster and better, and wishes to look at your foot, that she may be grateful; so put your foot out, Miss Percival.”

Mary did so; the Indian girl examined it, and smiled and nodded her head.

“Oh, Captain Sinclair, tell her that the little boy who is gone with her husband is our cousin.”

Captain Sinclair reported her answer, which was, “He will be a great hunter and bring home plenty of game by-and-bye.”

“Well, now tell her that we shall always be happy to see her, and that we are going home again! and ask her name, and tell her our own.”

As Captain Sinclair interpreted, the Indian girl pronounced after him the names of Mary and Emma very distinctly.

“She has your names you perceive; her own, translated into English, is the Strawberry-plant.”

They then nodded farewell to the young Indian, and returned home. On the second evening after their visit, as they were at supper, the conversation turned upon the hunter and his young Indian wife, when John, who had, as usual, been silent, suddenly broke out with “Goes away to-morrow!”

“They go away to-morrow, John; where do they go to?” said Mr Campbell.

“Woods,” replied John.

John was correct in his statement. Early the next morning, Malachi Bone, with his rifle on his shoulder and an axe in his hand, was seen crossing the prairie belonging to Mr Campbell, followed by his wife, who was bent double under her burden, which was composed of all the property which the old hunter possessed, tied up in blankets. He had left word the night before with Martin that he would come back in a few days, as soon as he had squatted, to settle the bargain for his allotment of land made over to Mr Campbell. This was just before they had sat down to breakfast, and then they observed that John was missing.

“He was here just before prayers,” said Mrs Campbell. “He must have slipped away after the old hunter.”

“No doubt of that, ma’am,” said Martin. “He will go with him and find out where he puts up his wigwam, and after that he will come back to you; so there is no use sending after him; indeed, we don’t know which way to send.”

Martin was right. Two days afterwards, John made his appearance again, and remained very quietly at home during the whole week, catching fish in the stream or practising with a bow and some arrows, which he had obtained from Malachi Bone; but the boy appeared to be more taciturn and more fond of being alone than ever he was before; still he was obedient and kind towards his mother and cousins, and was fond of Percival’s company when he went to take trout from the stream.

It was of course after the departure of the old hunter, that his log-hut was taken possession of, and the cows put into the meadow in front of it.

As the work became more advanced, Martin went out every day, accompanied either by Alfred or Henry, in pursuit of game. Mr Campbell had procured an ample supply of ammunition, as well as the rifles, at Quebec. These had been unpacked, and the young men were becoming daily more expert. Up to the present, the supply of game from the fort, and occasional fresh beef, had not rendered it necessary for Mr Campbell to have much recourse to his barrels of salt-pork, but still it was necessary that a supply should be procured as often as possible, that they might husband their stores. Martin was a certain shot if within distance, and they seldom returned without a deer slung between them.

The garden had been cleared away and the pigsties were finished, but there was still the most arduous portion of the work to commence, which was the felling of the trees to clear the land for the growing of corn. In this they could expect no assistance from the garrison; indeed, from the indulgence of the commandant, they had already obtained more than they could have expected. It was in the last days of August, and the men lent from the garrison were about to be recalled; the houses were completed, the palisade had been raised round the house and store-house, and the men were now required at the fort. Captain Sinclair received several hints from the commandant that he must use all convenient despatch, and limit his absence to a few days more, which he trusted would be sufficient. Captain Sinclair, who would willingly have remained in society which he so much valued, and who had now become almost one of the family, found that he could make no more excuses. He reported that he would be ready to return on the 1st of September, and on the morning of that day the bateauxarrived to take back the soldiers, and bring the pigs and fowls which had been promised. Mr Campbell settled his account with Captain Sinclair, by a draft upon his banker at Quebec, for the pay of the soldiers, the cows, and the pigs.

The Captain then took leave of his friends with mutual regret, and many kind adieux, and, accompanied by the whole of the family to the beach, embarked with all his men and pulled away for the fort.

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