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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XXXV John's Danger

Martin was right when he stated that he perceived the form of the Angry Snake under the shade of the trees. The chief was then watching what occurred, and had been witness to the capture of his emissary, and, following those who had the Young Otter in charge, saw him conveyed to the fort. In the meantime, Malachi, Martin, and Alfred went home, without any suspicion being raised among the other branches of the family of what had occurred. This gave them great satisfaction.

“Well, Malachi,” said Alfred the next morning, as they were all busily employed getting the seed into the cleared land, “what do you imagine will be the steps now taken by the Angry Snake?”

“It’s hard to say, sir,” replied Malachi; “for he well deserves the name of a snake, if, as the Scripture says, it is the subtlest thing on earth: he will try all he can, you may be sure; and if it were not that he is afraid of us, he would attack us immediately; but that I have no idea that he will venture upon.”

“No, for your letter says that he has only two rifles in his band, which are not enough to give him any chance of success.”

“Very true, sir. I hear that the bateaux are coming from the fort for the plank and flour.”

“Yes, to-morrow, if there is not so much wind as there is to-day; it blows very fresh. Where is John?”

“I left him with the Strawberry, sir; they were busy with the sugar.”

“By-the-bye, how much have you got, Malachi?”

“About three or four hundred pounds, sir, as near as I can reckon; quite as much as madam will require.”

“Yes, I should think so; now we shall have preserves of all sorts and the fruit for nothing; the wild raspberries are nearly ripe, and so are the cherries; my cousins want John to help to gather them.”

“Well, sir, I dare say he will do so, although I believe that he would rather do anything else. He said he was going to fish this morning.”

“The water is too rough, and he will not be able to manage the punt by himself.”

“Then that’s the very reason why he’ll go out,” replied Malachi; “he doesn’t like easy jobs like picking raspberries. Is it true, Mr Alfred, that we are to have some more settlers come here?”

“Yes, I believe so; my father is very anxious to have them; he thinks it will be a great security, and he has offered them very advantageous terms. You won’t much like that, Malachi?”

“Well, sir, I dare say you may think so, but it is not the case; if any one had told me, two years ago, that I could have remained here, I would have said it was impossible; but we are all creatures of habit. I had been so used to my own company for so long a time that when I first saw you I couldn’t bear the sight of you; no, not even that of your pretty cousins, Miss Mary and Emma, although, Heaven knows, they might tame a savage; but now, sir, I feel quite changed; I have first borne with company because I fancied the boy, and then I felt no dislike to it, and now I like it. I believe that in my old age I am coming back to my feelings as a boy, and I think very often of my father’s farm, and the little village that was close to it; and then I often fancy that I should like to see a village rise up here, and a church stand up there upon the mount; I think I should like to live on till I saw a church built, and God worshipped as He ought to be.”

“This is indeed a change, Malachi; well, I hope you will see a church on the mount, and live many years afterwards to be present at the weddings and christenings.”

“As it pleases God, sir. There’s one thing, Mr Alfred, that has given me great content, and more than anything, perhaps, reconciled me to my new way of living; and that is, that the Strawberry, by the blessing of God and the labour of your mother and cousins, has become a good Christian; you don’t know how pleased I am at that.”

“She’s an excellent little creature, Malachi; everyone is fond of her, and I believe Martin is very strongly attached to her.”

“Yes, sir, she’s a good wife, for she never uses her tongue, and obeys her husband in all things. I think Martin has now become quite steady, and you might send him to Montreal, or anywhere else, without fear of his getting into the prison for making a disturbance... I see that a bear has been over into the maize-field last night.”

“What! did he climb the snake-fence?”

“Yes, sir, they climb anything; but I have got his tracks, and this night I think that I shall get hold of him, for I shall lay a trap for him.”

Malachi and Alfred continued to work for two or three hours, when they were summoned by Emma to go in to dinner. “I cannot find John,” said Emma, as they walked home; “Strawberry says that he left her some time back, and went to fish; have you seen him pass by the river’s, side?”

“No,” replied Alfred; “but, Malachi, you said that he was going to fish in the punt, did you not?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you see the punt on the beach, Emma?”

“No, I do not,” replied Emma; “but it may be behind the point.”

“Nor can I; I hope he has not been carried away by the wind, for it blows very hard; I’ll run down, and see if he is there.”

Alfred ran down to the beach; the punt was gone from the shore, and after looking for some time to leeward, which was to the eastward, in the direction of the rapids, Alfred thought that he perceived something like a boat at a distance of three or four miles; but the water of the lake was much raffled by the strong wind, and it was not easy to distinguish.

Alfred hastened back, and said to Emma, “I really am afraid that John is adrift. I think I see the boat, but am not sure. Emma, go in quietly and bring out my telescope, which is over my bed-place. Do not let them see you, or they will be asking questions, and your aunt may be alarmed.”

Emma went to the house, and soon returned with the telescope. Alfred and Malachi then went down to the beach, and the former distinctly made out that what he had seen was the punt adrift, with John in it.

“Now, what is to be done?” said Alfred. “I must take a horse and ride off to the fort, for if they do not see him before he passes he may not be picked up.”

“If he once gets into the rapids, sir,” said Malachi, “he will be in great danger, for he may be borne down upon one of the rocks and upset in a minute.”

“Yes, but he is some way from them yet,” replied Alfred.

“Very true, sir; but with this strong wind right down to them, and helping the current, he will soon be there. There is no time to be lost.”

“No; but I’ll go in to dinner, and as soon as I have taken a mouthful, just to avoid creating any alarm, I will slip out, and ride to the fort as fast as I can.”

“Just so; you will be there in good time, for he is now three miles above the fort; indeed, he cannot well pass it without their seeing him.”

“Yes he can, now that the water is so rough,” replied Alfred; “recollect that they are soldiers in the fort, and not sailors, who are accustomed to look on the water. A piece of drift timber and a punt is much the same to their eyes. Come, let us go in to dinner.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll follow you,” replied Malachi; “but, before I come in I’ll catch the horse and saddle him for you. You can tell Miss Emma to hold her tongue about it.”

Alfred rejoined Emma, whom he cautioned, and then they went in to their dinner.

“Where’s John?” said Mr Campbell; “he promised me some lake-fish for dinner, and has never brought them in; so you will not have such good fare as I expected.”

“And where’s Malachi?” said Alfred.

“I daresay he and John are out together somewhere,” observed Henry, who, with Martin, had come in before Alfred.

“Well he will lose his dinner,” said Mrs Campbell.

“That’s what I cannot afford to do, mother,” said Alfred; “I am very hungry, and I have not more than five minutes to spare, for that seed must be put in to-night.”

“I thought Malachi was with you, Alfred,” said Mr Campbell.

“So he was, father,” replied Alfred, “but he left me. Now, mother, please to give me my dinner.”

Alfred ate fast, and then rose from the table and went away from the house. The horse was all ready, and he mounted and rode off for the fort, telling Malachi that his father and mother thought John was with him; and that, therefore, he had better not go in to dinner, but keep out of the way.

“Yes, sir, that will be best, and then they can ask no questions. Be quick, sir, for I am not at all easy about the boy.”

Their plans, however, to conceal the danger of John did not succeed; for Mrs Campbell, after the loss of poor little Percival, had become more than ever solicitous about John, and, a minute or two after Alfred had left the house, she rose from the table and went to the door, to see if she could perceive Malachi and John coming in. As it happened, Alfred had just set off in a gallop, and she saw him, as well as Malachi standing by himself and watching Alfred’s departure. The very circumstance of Alfred’s mysterious departure alarmed her. He had never said that he was going to the fort, and that John was not with Malachi was certain. She went into the cottage, and, sinking back into her chair, exclaimed—“Some accident has happened to John!”

“Why should you say so, my dear?” said Mr Campbell.

“I’m sure of it,” replied Mrs Campbell, bursting into tears. “Alfred is riding away to the fort. Malachi is standing by himself outside. What can it be?”

Mr Campbell and all the others ran out immediately, except Mary Percival, who went to Mrs Campbell. Mr Campbell beckoned to Emma, and from her obtained the real state of the case.

“It will be better to tell her at once,” said Mr Campbell, who then went to his wife, telling her that John was adrift, and that Alfred had ridden to the fort to pick him up in one of the bateaux, but there was no danger to be apprehended.

“Why should they conceal it, if there was no danger, Campbell?” replied his wife. “Yes; there must be danger now the water is so rough. My child, am I to lose you as well as my poor Percival!” continued Mrs Campbell, again sobbing.

Every attempt was made to console her and assuage her fears, but with indifferent success, and the afternoon of this day was passed in great concern by all, and in an extreme state of nervous anxiety on the part of Mrs Campbell. Towards the evening, Alfred was seen returning on horseback at full speed. The whole of the family were out watching his arrival, with beating hearts; poor Mrs Campbell in almost a fainting state. Alfred perceived them long before he had crossed the prairie, and waved his hat in token of good tidings.

“All’s well, depend upon it, my dear,” said Mr Campbell. “Alfred would not wave his hat if there was any disaster.”

“I must have it from his own mouth,” said Mrs Campbell, almost breathless.

“Safe?” cried out Martin to Alfred, as he approached.

“Safe, quite safe!” cried Alfred, in return.

“Thank Heaven!” cried Mrs Campbell, in a low voice, clasping her hands in gratitude.

Alfred leaped off his saddle, and hastened to communicate the news. John, trusting too much to his own powers, had gone out into the punt, and soon found out that he could not manage it in so strong a wind. He attempted to get back to the beach, but was unsuccessful, and had, as we have said, been carried away by the wind and current down towards the rapids; but it so happened, that before Alfred had arrived at the fort, Captain Sinclair had observed the punt adrift, and, by the aid of a telescope, ascertained that John was in it, exerting himself very vigorously, but to no purpose. Captain Sinclair, having reported it to the Commandant and obtained permission, had launched one of the bateaux, manned by the soldiers, and had brought John and the punt on shore, about four miles below the fort, and not until they had arrived in the strong current of the rapids, which in another hour would have, in all probability, proved fatal. Alfred, from the fort, had seen Captain Sinclair gain the shore, with John and the punt in tow, and, as soon as he was satisfied of his brother’s safety, had ridden back as fast as he could, to communicate it.

This intelligence gave them all great delight, and now that they knew that John was safe, they waited his return with patience.

Captain Sinclair arrived, with John behind him, on horseback, about two hours afterwards, and was greatly welcomed.

“Indeed, Captain Sinclair, we are under great obligations to you. Had you not been so active, the boy might have been lost,” said Mrs Campbell. “Accept my best thanks.”

“And mine,” said Mary, extending her hand to him.

“John, you have frightened me very much,” said Mrs Campbell; “how could you be so imprudent as to go on the lake in such a high wind? See, what a narrow escape you have had.”

I should have been at Montreal to-morrow morning,” said John, laughing.

“No, never; you would have been upset in the rapids long before you could get to Montreal.”

“Well, mother, I can swim,” replied John.

“You naughty boy, nothing will make you afraid.”

“Well, ma’am, it’s a good fault, that of having confidence in yourself, so don’t check it too much,” replied Malachi. “It saves many a man who would otherwise be lost.”

“That’s very true, Malachi,” observed Alfred; “so, now that he is safe back, we won’t scold John any more. He will know better than to go out in such rough weather again.”

“To be sure I shall,” said John; “I don’t want to go down the rapids.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear you say that,” replied Mrs Campbell.

Captain Sinclair remained with them that night. Before daylight, the family were alarmed by the report of a gun, and it was immediately supposed that some attack had been made on the lodge occupied by Malachi, Martin, and his wife. Captain Sinclair, Alfred, Henry, and John sprang out of bed, and were clothed in a minute. As soon as they had armed themselves, they opened the door cautiously, and, looking well round, went through the passage to the sheep-fold where the lodge was built. Everything, however, appeared to be quiet, and Alfred knocked at the door. Malachi answered to the inquiry, “What is the matter?”

“We heard the report of a gun close to the house just now, and we thought something might have happened.”

“Oh!” cried Malachi, laughing, “is that all? Then you may all go to bed again. It’s my trap for the bear—nothing more. I forgot to tell you last night.”

“Well, as we are up, we may as well go and see,” said Alfred. “The day is breaking.”

“Well, sir, I am ready,” said Malachi, coming out with his deer-skin jacket in one hand and his rifle in the other.

They walked to the maize-field on the other side of the river, and found that the trap had been successful, for a large bear lay dead at the foot of the snake-fence.

“Yes, sir, I’ve got him,” said Malachi. “But what was the trap,” said Henry. “You see, sir, I tracked the brute over the rails by his broad foot-mark, and as I knew he would come the same way, I fixed the rifle with a wire to the trigger, so that, as he climbed up, he must touch the wire with his fore-paws, and the muzzle, pointed a little downwards, would then about reach his heart when the gun went off. You see, sir, it has happened just as I wished it, and there’s another good skin for Montreal.”

“It is a she-bear,” said Martin, who had joined them, “and she has cubs; they can’t be far off.”

“That’s true,” replied Malachi; “so now you had better all go back again. Martin and I will hide, and I’ll answer for it, in an hour, we will bring the cubs home with us.”

The rest of the party returned to the house. The Strawberry had already made known to Mr and Mrs Campbell the cause of the report. About an hour before breakfast, Malachi and Martin came in, each with a cub of a few weeks old. The little animals had come in the track of the mother in search of her, and were pawing the dead body, as if trying to awaken her, when Malachi and Martin secured them.

“What a charming pet!” said Emma. “I will rear it for myself.”

“And I’ll have the other,” said John.

No objection was raised to this, except that Mr Campbell observed that, if they became troublesome as they grew up, they must be parted with, which was agreed to. Emma and John took possession of their pets, and fed them with milk, and in a few days they became very tame; one being chained up near the house, and the other at Malachi’s lodge. They soon grew very playful and very amusing little animals, and the dogs became used to them, and never attempted to hurt them; indeed, very often Oscar and the bear would be seen rolling about together, the best friends in the world. But in a few months they became too large for pets, and too trouble some; so one was despatched by a bateau going to Montreal, as a present to Mr Emmerson, and the other was taken to the fort by Captain Sinclair, and became a great favourite of the soldiers.

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