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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XX The Squaw Saved

Alfred and Martin brought in the wolf which Emma had killed, but it was frozen so hard, that they could not skin it. Poor little Trim was also carried in, but the ground was too hard frozen for them to bury the body, so they put it into the snow until the spring, when a thaw would take place. As for the wolf, they said nothing about it, but they remained up when the rest of the family retired, and after the wolf had been some time before the fire, they were able to take off the skin.

On the following morning, when the hunters went out, they were particularly desired to shoot a wild turkey if they could, as the next day was Christmas-day.

“Let us take Oscar with us,” said Alfred; “he is very swift, and may run them down; we never can get up with them in our snow-shoes.”

“I wonder whether they will get a turkey,” said Emma, after the hunting party had left.

“I think it will be difficult,” said Mrs Campbell; “but they will try all they can.”

“I hope they will; for Christmas-day without a turkey will be very un-English.”

“We are not in England, my dear Emma,” said Mr Campbell; “and wild turkeys are not to be ordered from the poulterer’s.”

“I know that we are not in England, my dear uncle, and I feel it too. How was the day before every Christmas-day spent at Wexton Hall! What piles of warm blankets, what a quantity of duffel cloaks, flannels, and worsted stockings were we all so busy and so happy in preparing and sorting to give away on the following morning, that all within miles of us should be warmly clothed on that day. And, then, the housekeeper’s room with all the joints of meat, and flour and plums and suet, in proportion to the number of each family, all laid out and ticketed ready for distribution. And then the party invited to the servants’ hall, and the great dinner, and the new clothing for the school-girls, and the church so gay with their new dresses in the aisles, and the holly and the mistletoe. I know we are not in England, my dear uncle, and that you have lost one of your greatest pleasures—that of doing good, and making all happy around you.”

“Well, my dear Emma, if I have lost the pleasure of doing good, it is the will of Heaven that it should be so, and we ought to be thankful that, if not dispensing charity, at all events, we are not the objects of charity to others; that we are independent, and earning an honest livelihood. People may be very happy, and feel the most devout gratitude on the anniversary of so great a mercy, without having a turkey for dinner.”

“I was not in earnest about the turkey, my dear uncle. It was the association of ideas connected by long habit, which made me think of our Christmas times at Wexton Hall; but, indeed, my dear uncle, if there was regret, it was not for myself so much as for you,” replied Emma, with tears in her eyes.

“Perhaps I spoke rather too severely, my dearest Emma,” said Mr Campbell; “but I did not like to hear such a solemn day spoken of as if it were commemorated merely by the eating of certain food.”

“It was foolish of me,” replied Emma, “and it was said thoughtlessly.”

Emma went up to Mr Campbell and kissed him, and Mr Campbell said, “Well, I hope there will be a turkey, since you wish for one.”

The hunters did not return till late, and when they appeared in sight, Percival, who had descried them, came in and said that they were very well loaded, and were bringing in their game slung upon a pole.

Mary and Emma went out of the door to meet their cousins. That there was a heavy load carried on a pole between Martin and Alfred was certain, but they could not distinguish what it consisted of. As the party arrived at the palisade gates, however, they discovered that it was not game, but a human being, who was carried on a sort of litter made of boughs.

“What is it, Alfred!” said Mary.

“Wait till I recover my breath,” said Alfred, as he reached the door, “or ask Henry, for I’m quite knocked up.”

Henry then went with his cousins into the house, and explained to them that as they were in pursuit of the wild turkeys, Oscar had stopped suddenly and commenced baying; that they went up to the dog, and, in a bush, they found a poor Indian woman nearly frozen to death, and with a dislocation of the ankle, so severe that her leg was terribly swelled, and she could not move. Martin had spoken to her in the Indian tongue, and she was so exhausted with cold and hunger, that she could just tell him that she belonged to a small party of Indians who had been some days out hunting, and a long way from where they had built their winter lodges; that she had fallen with the weight which she had to carry, and that her leg was so bad, she could not go on with them, that they had taken her burden, and left her to follow them when she could.

“Yes,” continued Alfred; “left the poor creature without food, to perish in the snow. One day more, and it would have been all over with her. It is wonderful how she can have lived through the two last nights as she was. But Martin says the Indians always do leave a woman to perish in this way, or recover as she can, if she happens to meet with an accident.”

“At all events, let us bring her in at once,” said Mr Campbell. “I will first see if my surgical assistance can be of use, and after that we will do what we can for her. How far from this did you find her?”

“About eight miles,” replied Henry; “and Alfred has carried her almost the whole way; Martin and I have relieved each other, except once, when I took Alfred’s place.”

“And so you perceive, Emma, instead of a wild turkey, I have brought an Indian squaw,” said Alfred.

“I love you better for your kindness, Alfred,” replied Emma, “than if you had brought me a waggon-load of turkeys.”

In the meantime, Martin and Henry brought in the poor Indian, and laid her down on the floor at some distance from the fire, for though she was nearly dead with the cold, too sudden an exposure to heat would have been almost equally fatal. Mr Campbell examined her ankle, and with a little assistance reduced the dislocation. He then bound up her leg and bathed it with warm vinegar, as a first application. Mrs Campbell and the two girls chafed the poor creature’s limbs till the circulation was a little restored, and then they gave her something warm to drink. It was proposed by Mrs Campbell that they should make up a bed for her on the floor of the kitchen. This was done in a corner near to the fireplace, and in about an hour their patient fell into a sound sleep.

“It is lucky for her that she did not fall into that sleep before we found her,” said Martin; “she would never have awoke again.”

“Most certainly not,” replied Mr Campbell. “Have you any idea what tribe she is of, Martin?”

“Yes, sir; she is one of the Chippeways; there are many divisions of them, but I will find out when she wakes again to which she belongs; she was too much exhausted when we found her, to say much.”

“It appears very inhuman leaving her to perish in that way,” observed Mrs Campbell.

“Well, ma’am, so it does; but necessity has no law. The Indians could not, if they would, have carried her, perhaps, one hundred miles. It would have, probably, been the occasion of more deaths, for the cold is too great now for sleeping out at nights for any time, although they do contrive with the help of a large fire to stay out sometimes.”

“Self-preservation is the first law of nature, certainly,” observed Mr Campbell; “but, if I recollect right, the savages do not value the life of a woman very highly.”

“That’s a fact, sir,” replied Martin; “not much more, I reckon, than you would a beast of burden.”

“It is always the case among savage nations,” observed Mr Campbell; “the first mark of civilisation is the treatment of the other sex, and in proportion as civilisation increases, so are the women protected and well used. But your supper is ready, my children, and I think after your fatigue and fasting you must require it.”

“I am almost too tired to eat,” observed Alfred. “I shall infinitely more enjoy a good sleep under my bear skins. At the same time I’ll try what I can do,” continued he, laughing, and taking his seat at table.

Notwithstanding Alfred’s observation, he contrived to make a very hearty supper, and Emma laughed at his appetite after his professing that he had so little inclination to eat.

“I said I was too tired to eat, Emma, and so I felt at the time; but as I became more refreshed my appetite returned,” replied Alfred, laughing, “and notwithstanding your jeering me, I mean to eat some more.”

“How long has John been away?” said Mr Campbell.

“Now nearly a fortnight,” observed Mrs Campbell; “he promised to come here on Christmas-day. I suppose we shall see him to-morrow morning.”

“Yes, ma’am; and old Bone will come with him, I dare say. He said as much to me when he was going away the last time. He observed that the boy could not bring the venison, and perhaps he would if he had any, for he knows that people like plenty of meat on Christmas-day.”

“I wonder whether old Malachi is any way religious,” observed Mary. “Do you think he is, Martin?”

“Yes, ma’am; I think he feels it, but does not shew it. I know from myself what are, probably, his feelings on the subject. When I have been away for weeks and sometimes for months, without seeing or speaking to anyone, all alone in the woods, I feel more religious than I do when at Quebec on my return, although I do go to church. Now old Malachi has, I think, a solemn reverence for the Divine Being, and strict notions of duty, so far as he understands it—but as he never goes to any town or mixes with any company, so the rites of religion, as I may call them, and the observances of the holy feasts, are lost to him, except as a sort of dream of former days, before he took to his hunter’s life. Indeed, he seldom knows what day or even what month it is. He knows the seasons as they come and go, and that’s all. One day is the same as another, and he cannot tell which is Sunday, for he is not able to keep a reckoning. Now, ma’am, when you desired Master John to be at home on the Friday fortnight because it was Christmas-day, I perceived old Malachi in deep thought: he was recalling to mind what Christmas-day was; if you had not mentioned it, the day would have passed away like any other; but you reminded him, and then it was that he said he would come if he could. I’m sure that now he knows it is Christmas-day, he intends to keep it as such.”

“There is much truth in what Martin says,” observed Mr Campbell; “we require the seventh day in the week and other stated seasons of devotion to be regularly set apart, in order to keep us in mind of our duties and preserve the life of religion. In the woods, remote from communion with other Christians, these things are easily forgotten, and when once we have lost our calculation, it is not to be recovered. But come, Alfred, and Henry, and Martin must be very tired, and we had better all go to bed. I will sit up a little while to give some drink to my patient, if she wishes it. Good night, my children.”

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