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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XIX Emma Shoots a Wolf

The next morning, a little after daybreak, Martin and John made their appearance, leading the magnificent dog which Captain Sinclair had given to John. Like most large dogs, Oscar appeared to be very good-tempered, and treated the snarling and angry looks of the other dogs with perfect contempt.

“It is, indeed, a noble animal,” said Mr Campbell, patting its head.

“It’s a fine creature,” observed Malachi, “a wolf would stand no chance against him, and even a bear would have more on its hands than it could well manage, I expect; but, come here, boy,” said the old hunter to John, leading the way outside of the door.

“You’d better leave the dog, John,” said Malachi, “the crittur will be of use here, but no good to us.”

John made no reply, and the hunter continued, “I say it will be of use here, for the girls might meet with another wolf, or the house might be attacked; but good hunters don’t want dogs. Is it to watch for us, and give us notice of danger? Why that’s our duty, and we must trust to ourselves, and not to an animal. Is it to hunt for us? Why no dog can take a deer so well as we can with our rifles; a dog may discover us when we wish to be hidden; a dog’s track will mark us out when we would wish our track to be doubted. The animal will be of no utility ever to us, John, and may do us harm, ’specially now the snow’s on the ground. In the summer-time, you can take him and teach him how to behave as a hunter’s dog should behave; but we had better leave him now, start at once.”

John nodded his head in assent, and then went indoors.

“Good-bye,” said John, going up to his mother and cousins; “I shall not take the dog.”

“Won’t take the dog! well, that’s very kind of you, John,” said Mary, “for we were longing to have him to protect us.”

John shouldered his rifle, made a sign to Strawberry-Plant, who rose, and looking kindly at Mrs Campbell and the girls, without speaking, followed John out of the hut. Malachi certainly was not very polite, for he walked off, in company with John and the squaw, without taking the trouble to say “Good-bye.” It must, however, be observed that he was in conversation with Martin, who accompanied them on the way.

The winter had now become very severe. The thermometer was twenty degrees below freezing point, and the cold was so intense, that every precaution was taken against it. More than once Percival, whose business it was to bring in the firewood, was frost-bitten, but as Mrs Campbell was very watchful, the remedy of cold snow was always successfully applied. The howling of the wolves continued every night, but they were now used to it, and the only effect was, when one came more than usually close to the house, to make Oscar raise his head, growl, listen awhile, and then lie down to sleep again. Oscar became very fond of the girls, and was their invariable companion whenever they left the house.

Alfred, Martin, and Henry went out almost daily on hunting excursions; indeed, as there were no crops in the barn, they had little else to do. Mr Campbell remained at home with his wife and nieces; occasionally, but not very often, Percival accompanied the hunters; of Malachi and John they saw but little; John returned about every ten days, but although he adhered to his promise, his anxiety to go back to Malachi was so very apparent, and he was so restless, that Mrs Campbell rather wished him to be away, than remain at home so much against his will.

Thus passed away the time till the year closed in; confined as they were by the severity of the weather, and having little or nothing to do, the winter appeared longer and more tedious than it would have done if they had been settled longer, and had the crops to occupy their attention; for it is in the winter that the Canadian farmer gets through all his thrashing and other work connected with his farm, preparatory for the coming spring. This being their first winter, they had, of course, no crops gathered in, and were, therefore, in want of employment. Mrs Campbell and her nieces worked and read, and employed themselves in every way that they could, but constantly shut up within doors, they could not help feeling the monotony and ennui of their situation. The young men found occupation and amusement in the chase; they brought in a variety of animals and skins, and the evenings were generally devoted to a narration of what occurred in the day during their hunting excursions, but even these histories of the chase were at last heard with indifference. It was the same theme, only with variations, over and over again, and there was no longer much excitement in listening.

“I wonder when John will come back again,” observed Emma to her sister, as they were sitting at work.

“Why he only left two days ago, so we must not expect him for some time.”

“I know that. I wonder if Oscar would kill a wolf, I should like to take him out and try.”

“I thought you had had enough of wolves already, Emma,” replied Mary.

“Yes, well, that old Malachi will never bring us any more news about the Indians,” continued Emma, yawning.

“Why I do not think that any news about them is likely to be pleasant news, Emma, and therefore why should you wish it.”

“Why, my dear Mary, because I want some news; I want something to excite me, I feel so dull. It’s nothing but stitch, stitch, all day, and I am tired of always doing the same thing. What a horrid thing a Canadian winter is, and not one-half over yet.”

“It is very dull and monotonous, my dear Emma, I admit, and if we had more variety of employment, we should find it more agreeable, but we ought to feel grateful that we have a good house over our heads, and more security than we anticipated.”

“Almost too much security, Mary; I begin to feel that I could welcome an Indian even in his war-paint, just by way of a little change.”

“I think you would soon repent of your wish, if it were gratified.”

“Very likely, but I can’t help wishing it now. When will they come home? What o’clock is it? I wonder what they’ll bring, the old story I suppose, a buck; I’m sick of venison.”

“Indeed, Emma, you are wrong to feel such discontent and weariness.”

“Perhaps I am, but I have not walked a hundred yards for nearly one hundred days, and that will give one the blues, as they call them, and I do nothing but yawn, yawn, yawn, for want of air and exercise. Uncle won’t let us move on account of that horrid wolf. I wonder how Captain Sinclair is getting on at the fort, and whether he is as dull as we are.”

To do Emma justice, it was seldom that she indulged herself in such lamentings, but the tedium was more than her high flow of spirits could well bear. Mrs Campbell made a point of arranging the household, which gave her occupation, and Mary from natural disposition did not feel the confinement as much as Emma did; whenever, therefore, she did shew symptoms of restlessness or was tempted to utter a complaint, they reasoned with and soothed, but never reproached her.

The day after this conversation, Emma, to amuse herself, took a rifle and vent out with Percival. She fired several shots at a mark, and by degrees acquired some dexterity; gradually she became fond of the exercise, and not a day passed that she and Percival did not practise for an hour or two, until at last Emma could fire with great precision. Practice and a knowledge of the perfect use of your weapon gives confidence, and this Emma did at last acquire. She challenged Alfred and Henry to fire at the bull’s-eye with her, and whether by their gallantry or her superior dexterity, she was declared victor. Mr and Mrs Campbell smiled when Emma came in and narrated her success, and felt glad that she had found something which afforded her amusement.

It happened that one evening the hunters were very late; it was a clear moonlight night, but at eight o’clock they had not made their appearance; Percival had opened the door to go out for some firewood which had been piled within the palisades, and as it was later than the usual hour for locking the palisade gates, Mr Campbell had directed him so to do. Emma, attracted by the beauty of the night, was at the door of the house, when the howl of a wolf was heard close to them; the dogs, accustomed to it, merely sprang on their feet, but did not leave the kitchen fire; Emma went out, and looked through the palisades to see if she could perceive the animal, and little Trim, the terrier, followed her. Now Trim was so small, that he could creep between the palisades, and as soon as he was close to them, perceiving the wolf, the courageous little animal squeezed through them and flew towards it, barking as loud as he could. Emma immediately ran in, took down her rifle and went out again, as she knew that poor Trim would soon be devoured. The supposition was correct, the wolf instead of retreating closed with the little dog and seized it. Emma, who could now plainly perceive the animal, which was about forty yards from her, took aim and fired, just as poor Trim gave a loud yelp. Her aim was good, and the wolf and dog lay side by side. Mr and Mrs Campbell, and Mary, hearing the report of the rifle, ran out, and found Percival and Emma at the palisades behind the house.

“I have killed him, aunt,” said Emma, “but I fear he has killed poor little Trim; do let us go out and see.”

“No, no, my dear Emma, that must not be; your cousins will be home soon, and then we shall know how the case stands; but the risk is too great.”

“Here they come,” said Percival, “as fast as they can run.”

The hunters were soon at the palisade door and admitted; they had no game with them. Emma jeered them for coming back empty-handed.

“No, no, my little cousin,” replied Alfred, “we heard the report of a rifle, and we threw down our game, that we might sooner come to your assistance if you required it. What was the matter?”

“Only that I have killed a wolf, and am not allowed to bring in my trophy,” replied Emma. “Come, Alfred, I may go with you and Martin.”

They went to the spot, and found the wolf was dead, and poor Trim dead also by his side. They took in the body of the little dog, and left the wolf till the morning, when Martin said he would skin it for Miss Emma.

“And I’ll make a footstool of it,” said Emma; “that shall be my revenge for the fright I had from the other wolf. Come, Oscar, good dog; you and I will go wolf-hunting. Dear me, who would have thought that I should have ever killed a wolf—poor little Trim!”

Martin said it would be useless to return for the venison, as the wolves had no doubt eaten it already; so they locked the palisade gate, and went into the house.

Emma’s adventure was the topic of the evening, and Emma herself was much pleased at having accomplished such a feat.

“Well,” said Martin, “I never knew but one woman who faced a wolf except Miss Emma.”

“And who was that, Martin?” said Mrs Campbell.

“It was a wife of one of our farmers, ma’am; she was at the outhouse doing something, when she perceived a wolf enter the cottage-door, where there was nobody except the baby in the cradle. She ran back and found the wolf just lifting the infant out of the cradle by its clothes. The animal looked at her with his eyes flashing; but having its mouth full, it did not choose to drop the baby, and spring at her; all it wanted was to get clear off with its prey. The woman had presence of mind enough to take down her husband’s rifle and point it to the wolf, but she was so fearful of hurting the child, that she did not put the muzzle to its head, but to its shoulder. She fired just as the wolf was making off, and the animal fell, and could not get on its feet again, and it then dropped the child out of its mouth to attack the mother. The woman caught the child up, but the wolf gave her a severe bite on the arm, and broke the bone near the wrist. A wolf has a wonderful strong jaw, ma’am. However, the baby was saved, and neighbours came and despatched the animal.”

“What a fearful position for a mother to be in!” exclaimed Mrs Campbell.

“Where did that happen?”

“On the White Mountains, ma’am,” replied Martin. “Malachi Bone told me the story; he was born there.”

“Then he is an American.”

“Well, ma’am, he is an American because he was born in this country, but it was English when he was born, so he calls himself an Englishman.”

“I understand,” replied Mrs Campbell, “he was born before the colonies obtained their independence.”

“Yes, ma’am, long before; there’s no saying how old he is. When I was quite a child, I recollect he was then reckoned an old man; indeed, the name the Indians gave to him proves it. He then was called the ‘Grey Badger.’”

“But is he so very old, do you really think, Martin?”

“I think he has seen more than sixty snows, ma’am; but not many more; the fact is, his hair was grey before he was twenty years old; he told me so himself, and that’s one reason why the Indians are so fearful of him. They have it from their fathers that the Grey Badger was a great hunter, as Malachi was more than forty years ago; so they imagine as his hair was grey then, he must have been a very old man at that time back, and so to them he appears to live for ever, and they consider him as charmed, and to use their phrase ‘great medicine.’ I’ve heard some Indians declare that Malachi has seen one hundred and fifty winters, and they really believe it. I never contradicted them, as you may imagine.”

“Does he live comfortably?”

“Yes, ma’am, he does; his squaw knows what he wants, and does what she is bid. She is very fond of the old man, and looks upon him, as he really is to her, as a father. His lodge is always full of meat, and he has plenty of skins. He don’t drink spirits, and if he has tobacco for smoking, and powder and ball, what else can he want?”

“Happy are they whose wants are so few,” observed Mr Campbell. “A man in whatever position in life, if he is content, is certain to be happy. How true are the words of the poet:—

“Man wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long!”

“Malachi Bone, is a happier man than hundreds in England who live in luxury. Let us profit, my dear children, by his example, and learn to be content with what Heaven has bestowed upon us. But it is time to retire. The wind has risen, and we shall have a blustering night. Henry, fetch me the book.”

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