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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XXVII The Indian's Visit

“How cheerful and gay everything looks now,” observed Emma to Mary, a few mornings after the celebration of the marriage. “One could hardly credit that in a few months all this animated landscape will be nothing but one dreary white mass of snow and ice, and no sounds meeting the ear but the howling of the storm and the howling of the wolves.”

“Two very agreeable conditions, certainly,” replied Mary; “but what you observe was actually occurring to my own mind at the very moment.”

The scene was indeed cheerful and lively. The prairie on one side of the stream waved its high grass to the summer breeze; on the other the cows, horses, and sheep were grazing in every direction. The lake in the distance was calm and unruffled; the birds were singing and chirping merrily in the woods; near the house the bright green of the herbage was studded with the soldiers, dressed in white, employed in various ways; the corn waved its yellow ears between the dark stumps of the trees in the cleared land; and the smoke from the chimney of the house mounted straight up in a column to the sky; the grunting of the pigs, and the cackling of the fowls, and the occasional bleating of the calves, responded to by the lowing of the cows, gave life and animation to the picture. At a short distance from the shore the punt was floating on the still waters. John and Malachi were very busy fishing; the dogs were lying down by the palisades, all except Oscar, who, as usual, attended upon his young mistresses; and, under the shade of a large tree, at a little distance from the house, were Mr Campbell and Percival, the former reading while the other was conning over his lesson.

“This looks but little like a wilderness now, Mary, does it?” said Emma.

“No, my dear sister. It is very different from what it was when we first came; but still I should like to have some neighbours.”

“So should I; any society is better than none at all.”

“There I do not agree with you; at the same time, I think we could find pleasure in having about us even those who are not cultivated, provided they were respectable and good.”

“That’s what I would have said, Mary; but we must go in, and practise the new air for the guitar which Henry brought us from Montreal. We promised him that we would. Here comes Alfred to spend his idleness upon us.”

“His idleness, Emma! surely, you don’t mean that; he’s seldom, if ever, unemployed.”

“Some people are very busy about nothing,” replied Emma.

“Yes; and some people say what they do not mean, sister,” replied Mary.

“Well, Alfred, here is Emma pronouncing you to be an idle body.”

“I am not likely to be that, at all events,” replied Alfred, taking off his hat and fanning himself. “My father proposes to give me enough to do. What do you think he said to me this morning before breakfast?”

“I suppose he said that you might as well go to sea again as remain here,” replied Emma, laughing.

“No, indeed; I wish he had; but he has proposed that your prophecy should be fulfilled, my malicious little cousin. He has proposed my turning miller.”

Emma clapped her hands and laughed.

“How do you mean?” said Mary.

“Why, he pointed out to me that the mill would cost about two hundred and fifty pounds, and that he thought, as my half-pay was unemployed, that it would be advisable that I should expend it in erecting the mill, offering me the sum necessary for the purpose. He would advance the money, and I might repay him as I received my pay. That, he said, would be a provision for me, and eventually an independence.”

“I told you that you would be a miller,” replied Emma, laughing. “Poor Alfred!”

“Well, what did you reply, Alfred?” said Mary.

“I said ‘Yes,’ I believe, because I did not like to say ‘No.’”

“You did perfectly right, Alfred,” replied Mary. “There can be no harm in your having the property, and had you refused it, it would have given pain to your father. If your money is laid out on the mill, my uncle will have more to expend upon the farm; but still it does not follow that you are to become a miller all your life.”

“I should hope not,” replied Alfred; “as soon as Emma meets with that long black gentleman we were talking of, I’ll make it over to her as a marriage portion.”

“Thank you, cousin,” replied Emma, “I may put you in mind of your promise; but now Mary and I must go in and astonish the soldiers with our music; so good-bye, Mr Campbell, the miller.”

The soldiers had now been at work for more than two months; a large portion of the wood had been felled and cleared away. With what had been cleared by Alfred, and Martin, and Henry the year before, they now had more than forty acres of corn-land. The rails for the snake-fence had also been split, and the fence was almost complete round the whole of the prairie and cleared land, when it was time for the grass to be cut down and the hay made and gathered up. This had scarcely been finished when the corn was ready for the sickle and gathered in, a barn had been raised close to the sheep-fold, as well as the lodge for Malachi, Martin, and his wife. For six weeks all was bustle and hard work, but the weather was fine, and everything was got in safe. The services of the soldiers were now no longer required, and Mr Campbell having settled his accounts, they returned to the fort.

“Who would think,” said Henry to Alfred, as he cast his eyes over the buildings, the stacks of corn and hay, and the prairie stocked with cattle, “that we had only been here so short a time?”

“Many hands make light work,” replied Alfred; “we have done with the help from the fort what it would have taken us six years to do with our own resources. My father’s money has been well laid out, and will bring in a good return.”

“You have heard of the proposal of Colonel Foster, about the cattle at the fort?”

“No; what is it?”

“He wrote to my father yesterday, saying, as he had only the means of feeding the cows necessary for the officers of the garrison, that he would sell all the oxen at present at the fort at a very moderate price.”

“But even if we have fodder enough for them during the winter, what are we to do with them?”

“Sell them again to the fort for the supply of the troops,” replied Henry, “and thereby gain good profit. The Commandant says that it will be cheaper to government in the end than being compelled to feed them.”

“That it will, I have no doubt, now that they have nothing to give them; they trusted to our prairie for hay, and if they had not had such a quantity in store, they could not have fed them last winter.”

“My father will consent, I know; indeed, he would be very foolish not to do so, for most of them will be killed when the winter sets in, and will only cost us the grazing.”

“We are fortunate in finding such friends as we have done,” replied Alfred. “All this assistance would not have been given to perhaps any other settlers.”

“No, certainly not; but you see, Alfred, we are indebted to your influence with Captain Lumley for all these advantages, at least my father and mother say so, and I agree with them. Captain Lumley’s influence with the Governor has created all this interest about us.”

“I think we must allow that the peculiar position of the family has done much towards it. It is not often that they meet with settlers of refined habits and cultivated minds, and there naturally must be a feeling towards a family of such a description in all generous minds.”

“Very true, Alfred,” replied Henry; “but there is our mother waiting for us to go in to dinner.”

“Yes; and the Strawberry by her side. What a nice little creature she is!”

“Yes; and how quickly she is becoming useful. She has almost given up her Indian customs, and is settling down quietly into English habits. Martin appears very fond of her.”

“And so he ought to be,” replied Henry; “a wife with a smile always upon her lips is a treasure. Come, let us go in.”

Another fortnight passed, when an incident occurred which created some uneasiness. Mr Campbell was busy with Martin and Alfred clearing out the store-room and arranging the stores. Many of the cases and packages had been opened to be examined and aired, and they were busily employed, when, turning round, Mr Campbell, to his great surprise, beheld an Indian by his side, who was earnestly contemplating the various packages of blankets, etcetera, and cases of powder, shot, and other articles, which were opened around him.

“Why, who is this?” exclaimed Mr Campbell, starting.

Martin and Alfred, who had their backs to him at the time of Mr Campbell’s exclamation, turned round and beheld the Indian. He was an elderly man, very tall and muscular, dressed in leggings and deer-skin coat, a war-eagle’s feather, fixed by a fillet, on his head, and a profusion of copper and brass medals and trinkets round his neck. His face was not painted, with the exception of two black circles round his eyes. His head was shaved, and one long scalp-lock hung behind. He had a tomahawk and a knife in his belt, and a rifle upon his arm. Martin advanced to the Indian and looked earnestly at him.

“I know his tribe,” said Martin, “but not his name; but he is a chief and a warrior.”

Martin then spoke to him in the Indian tongue. The Indian merely gave an “Ugh” in reply.

“He does not choose to give his name,” observed Martin; “and, therefore, he is here for no good. Mr Alfred, just fetch Malachi; he will know him, I dare say.”

Alfred went to the house for Malachi; in the meantime the Indian remained motionless, with his eyes fixed upon the different articles exposed to view.

“It’s strange,” observed Martin, “how he could have come here; but to be sure neither Malachi nor I have been out lately.”

Just as he had finished his remark, Alfred returned with Malachi. Malachi looked at the Indian and spoke to him.

The Indian now replied in the Indian language.

“I knew him, sir,” said Malachi, “the moment I saw his back. He’s after no good, and it’s a thousand pities that he has come just now and seen all this,” continued Malachi; “it’s a strong temptation.”

“Why, who is he?” said Mr Campbell.

“The Angry Snake, sir,” replied Malachi. “I had no idea that he would be in these parts before the meeting of the Injun council, which takes place in another month, and then I meant to have been on the look-out for him.”

“But what have we to fear from him?”

“Well, that’s to be proved; but this I can say that he has his eyes upon what appears to him of more value than all the gold in the universe; and he’s anything but honest.”

“But we have nothing to fear from one man,” observed Alfred.

“His party an’t far off, sir,” said Malachi. “He has some followers, although not many, and those who follow him are as bad as himself. We must be on the watch.”

Malachi now addressed the Indian for some time. The only reply was an “Ugh.”

“I have told him that all the powder and ball that he sees are for our rifles, which are more than are possessed by his whole tribe. Not that it does much good, but, at all events, it’s just as well to let them know that we shall be well prepared. The crittur’s quite amazed at so much ammunition; that’s a fact. It’s a pity he ever saw it.”

“Shall we give him some?” said Mr Campbell.

“No, no, sir; he would only make use of it to try to get the rest; however, I believe that he is the only one of his party who has a rifle. The best thing is to close the doors and then he will go.”

They did as Malachi requested, and the Indian, after waiting a short time, turned round on his heel, and walked away.

“He is a regular devil, that Angry Snake,” observed Malachi, as he watched him departing; “but never mind, I’ll be a match for him. I wish he’d never seen all that ammunition, nevertheless.”

“At all events, we had better not say a word in the house about his making his appearance,” said Mr Campbell. “It will only alarm the women, and do no good.”

“That’s true, sir. I’ll only tell the Strawberry,” said Martin. “She’s an Indian, and it will put her on the look-out.”

“That will be as well, but caution her not to mention it to Mrs Campbell or the girls, Martin.”

“Never fear, sir,” replied Malachi; “I’ll watch his motions, nevertheless; to-morrow I’ll be in the woods and on his trail. I’m glad that he saw me here, for he fears me; I know that.”

It so happened that the Indian was not seen by Mrs Campbell or any of them in the house, either upon his arrival or departure; and when Mr Campbell and the others returned to the house, they found that no one there had any idea of such a visit having been paid. The secret was kept, but it occasioned a great deal of anxiety for some days. At last the alarm of Mr Campbell gradually subsided. Malachi had gone out with John, and had discovered that all the Indians had come down near to them, to meet in council, and that there were many other parties of them in the woods. But although the visit of the Angry Snake might have been partly accidental, still Malachi was convinced that there was every prospect of his paying them another visit, if he could obtain a sufficient number to join him, so that he might obtain by force the articles he had seen and so much coveted.

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