Roughing it in the Bush/Appendix C
[This chapter was originally intended by Mrs. Moodie for inclusion in the first edition of Roughing it in the Bush but was instead published in the periodical Bentley's Miscellany, in August 1852. It was later revised and included in the book Life in the Clearings versus the Bush by the same author.]
"Ah, human hearts are strangely cast,
Time softens grief and pain;
Like reeds that shiver in the blast,
They bend to rise again.
"But she in silence bowed her head,
To none her sorrow would impart;
Earth's faithful arms enclose the dead,
And hide for aye her broken heart!"
Our man James came to me to request the loan of one of the horses, to attend a funeral. M— was absent on business, and the horses and the man's time were both greatly needed to prepare the land for the fall crops. I demurred; James looked anxious and disappointed; and the loan of the horse was at length granted, but not without a strict injunction that he should return to his work the moment the funeral was over. He did not come back until late that evening. I had just finished my tea, and was nursing my wrath at his staying out the whole day, when the door of the room (we had but one, and that was shared in common with the servants) opened, and the delinquent at last appeared. He hung up the new English saddle, and sat down by the blazing hearth without speaking a word.
"What detained you so long, James? You ought to have had half an acre of land, at least, ploughed to-day."
"Verra true, mistress. It was nae fau't o' mine. I had mista'en the hour. The funeral didna' come in afore sun-down, and I cam' awa' directly it was ower."
"Was it any relation of yours?"
"Na, na, jist a freend, an auld acquaintance, but nane o' mine ain kin. I never felt sare sad in a' my life, as I ha' dune this day. I ha' seen the clods piled on mony a heid, and never felt the saut tear in my e'en. But, puir Jeanie! puir lass. It was a sair sight to see them thrown doon upon her."
My curiosity was excited; I pushed the tea-things from me, and told Bell to give James his supper.
"Naething for me the night, Bell—I canna' eat—my thoughts will a' rin on that puir lass. Sae young—sae bonnie, an' a few months ago as blythe as a lark, an' now a clod o' the earth. Hout we maun all dee when our ain time comes; but, somehow, I canna' think that Jeanie ought to ha' gane sae sune."
"Who is Jeanie Burns? Tell me, James, something about her."
In compliance with my request, the man gave me the following story. I wish I could convey it in his own words, but though I can perfectly understand the Scotch dialect when spoken, I could not write it in its charming simplicity: that honest, truthful brevity, which is so characteristic of this noble people. The smooth tones of the blarney may flatter our vanity, and please us for the moment; but who places any confidence in those by whom it is employed. We know that it is only uttered to cajole and decieve, and when the novelty wears off, the repetition awakens indignation and disgust; but who mistrusts the blunt, straightforward speech of the land of Burns—for good or ill, it strikes home to the heart.
"Jeanie Burns was the daughter of a respectable shoemaker, who gained a comfortable living by his trade in a small town in Ayrshire. Her father, like herself, was an only child, and followed the same vocation, and rought under the same roof that his father had done before him. The elder Burns had met with many reverses, and now helpless and blind, was entirely dependent upon the charity of his son. Honest Jock had not married until late in life, that he might more comfortably provide for the wants of his aged parent. His mother had been dead for some years. She was a meek, pious woman, and Jock quaintly affirmed, 'That it had pleased the Lord to provide a better inheritance for his dear auld mither than his arm could win, proud and happy as he would have been to have supported her when she was no longer able to work for him.'
"Jock's paternal love was repaid at last; chance threw in his way a cannie young lass, baith guid and bonnie: they were united, and Jeanie was the sole fruit of this marriage. But Jeanie proved a host in herself, and grew up the best natured, the prettiest, and the most industrious lass in the village, and was a general favourite both with young and old. She helped her mother in the house, bound shoes for her father, and attended to all the wants of her dear old grandfather, Saunders Burns; who was so much attached to his little handmaid, that he was never happy when she was absent.
"Happiness is not a flower of long growth in this world; it requires the dew and sunlight of heaven to nourish it, and it soon withers, removed from its native skies. The cholera visited the remote village. It smote the strong man in the pride of his strength, and the matron in the beauty of her prime; while it spared the helpless and the aged, the infant of a few days, and the parent of many years. Both Jeanie's parents fell victims to the fatal disease, and the old blind Saunders and the young Jeanie were left to fight alone a hard battle with poverty and grief. The truly deserving are never entirely forsaken. God may afflict them with many trials, but he watches over them still, and often provides for their wants in a manner truly miraculous. Sympathizing friends gathered round the orphan girl in her hour of need, and obtained for her sufficient employment to enable her to support her old grandfather and herself, and provide for them the common necessaries of life.
"Jeannie was an excellent sempstress, and what between making waistcoats and trousers for the tailors and binding shoes for the shoemakers, a business that she thoroughly understood, she soon had her little hired room neatly furnished, and her grandfather as clean and spruce as ever. When she led him into the kirk of a Sabbath morning, all the neighbours greeted the dutiful daughter with an approving smile, and the old man looked so serene and happy that Jeanie was fully repaid for her labours of love.
"Her industry and piety often formed the theme of conversation to the young lads of the village. 'What a guid wife Jeanie Burns will mak',' cried one. 'Aye,' said another, 'he need na complain of ill-fortin, who has the luck to get the like o' her.'
"'An' she's sae bonnie,' would Willie Robertson add with a sigh. 'I would na' covet the wealth o' the hale world an she were mine.'
"Willie was a fine active young man, who bore an excellent character, and his comrades thought it very likely that Willie was to be the fortunate man.
"Robertson was the youngest son of a farmer in the neighbourhood. He had no land of his own, and he was one of a very large family. From a boy he had assisted his father in working the farm for their common maintenance; but after he took to looking at Jeanie Burns at kirk, instead of minding his prayers, he began to wish that he had a homestead of his own, which he could ask Jeanie and her grandfather to share. "He made his wishes known to his father. The old man was prudent. A marriage with Jeanie Burns offered no advantages in a pecuniary view. But the girl was a good honest girl, of whom any man might be proud. He had himself married for love, and had enjoyed great comfort in his wife.
"'Willie, my lad,' he said, 'I canna' gi'e ye a share o' the farm. It is ower sma' for the mony mouths it has to feed. I ha'e laid by a little siller for a rainy day, an' this I will gi'e ye to win a farm for yersel' in the woods o' Canada. There is plenty o' room there, an' industry brings its ain reward. If Jeanie Burns lo'es you, as weel as yer dear mither did me, she will be fain to follow you there.'
"Willie grasped his father's hand, for he was too much elated to speak, and he ran away to tell his tale of love to the girl of his heart. Jeanie had long loved Robertson in secret, and they were not long in settling the matter. They forgot in their first moments of joy that old Saunders had to be consulted, for they had determined to take the old man with them. But here an obstacle occurred of which they had not dreamed. Old age is selfish, and Saunders obstinately refused to comply with their wishes. The grave that held the remains of his wife and son was dearer to him than all the comforts promised to him by the impatient lovers in that far foreign land. Jeanie wept—but Saunders, deaf and blind, neither heard nor saw her grief, and, like a dutiful child, she breathed no complaint to him, but promised to remain with him until his head rested upon the same pillow with the dead.
"This was a sore and great trial to Willie Robertson, but he consoled himself for his disappointment with the thought that Saunders could not live long, and that he would go and prepare a place for his Jean, and have everything ready for her reception against the old man died.
"'I was a cousin of Willie's,' continued James, 'by the mither's side, and he persuaded me to accompany him to Canada. We set sail the first day of May, and were here in time to chop a small fallow for a fall crop. Willie Robertson had more of this world's gear than I, for his father had provided him with sufficient funds to purchase a good lot of wild land, which he did in the township of M—, and I was to work with him on shares. We were one of the first settlers in that place, and we found the work before us rough and hard to our heart's content. But Willie had a strong motive for exertion—and never did man work harder than he did that first year on his bush-farm, for the love of Jeanie Burns.'
"We built a comfortable log-house, in which we were assisted by the few neighbours we had, who likewise lent a hand in clearing ten acres we had chopped for fall crop.
"All this time Willie kept up a constant correspondence with Jeanie Burns, and he used to talk to me of her coming out, and his future plans, every night when our work was done. If I had not loved and respected the girl mysel' I should have got unco' tired o' the subject.
"We had just put in our first crop of wheat, when a letter came from Jeanie bringing us the news of her grandfather's death. Weel I ken the word that Willie spak' to me when he closed that letter. 'Jamie, the auld man is gane at last—an', God forgi'e me, I feel too gladsome to greet. Jeanie is willin' to come whenever I ha'e the means to bring her out, an', hout man, I'm jist thinkin' that she winna' ha'e to wait lang.'
"Good workmen were getting very high wages just then, and Willie left the care of the place to me, and hired for three months with auld Squire Jones. He was an excellent teamster, and could put his hand to any sort of work. When his term of service expired he sent Jeanie forty dollars to pay her passage out, which he hoped she would not delay longer than the spring.
"He got an answer from Jeanie full of love and gratitude, but she thought that her voyage might be delayed until the fall. The good woman, with whom she had lodged since her parent's died, had just lost her husband, and was in a bad state of health, and she begged Jeanie to stay with her until her daughter could leave her service in Edinburgh and come to take charge of the house. This person had been a kind and steadfast friend to Jeanie in all her troubles, and had helped her nurse the old man in his dying illness. I am sure it was just like Jeanie to act as she did. She had all her life looked more to the comforts of others than to her ain. But Robertson was an angry man when he got that letter, and he said, 'If that was a' the lo'e that Jeanie Burns had for him, to prefer an auld woman's comfort, who was naething to her, to her betrothed husband, she might bide awa' as lang as she pleased, he would never trouble himsel' to write to her again.'
"I did na' think that the man was in earnest, an' I remonstrated with him on his folly an' injustice. This ended in a sharp quarrel atween us, and I left him to gang his ain gate, an' went to live with my uncle, who kept a blacksmith's forge in the village.
"After a while, we heard that Willie Robertson was married to a Canadian woman—neither young nor good-looking, and very much his inferior in every way, but she had a good lot of land in the rear of his farm. Of course I thought that it was all broken off with puir Jeanie, and I wondered what she would spier at the marriage.
"It was early in June, and our Canadian woods were in their first flush o' green—an' how green an' lightsome they be in their spring dress—when Jeanie Burns landed in Canada. She travelled her lane up the country, wondering why Willie was not at Montreal to meet her as he had promised in the last letter he sent her. It was late in the afternoon when the steam-boat brought her to C—, and, without waiting to ask any questions respecting him, she hired a man and cart to take her and her luggage to M—. The road through the bush was very heavy, and it was night before they reached Robertson's clearing, and with some difficulty the driver found his way among the logs to the cabin-door.
"Hearing the sound of wheels, the wife, a coarse ill-dressed slattern, came out to see what could bring strangers to such an out-o'-the-way place at that late hour. "Puir Jeanie! I can weel imagine the fluttering o' her heart when she spier'd of the woman for ane Willie Robertson, and asked if he was at hame?'
"'Yes,' answered the wife gruffly. 'But he is not in from the fallow yet—you may see him up yonder tending the blazing logs.'
"While Jeanie was striving to look in the direction which the woman pointed out, and could na' see through the tears that blinded her e'e, the driver jumped down from the cart, and asked the puir girl where he should leave her trunks, as it was getting late, and he must be off?
"'You need not bring these big chests in here,' said Mrs. Robertson, 'I have no room in my house for strangers and their luggage.'
"'Your house!' gasped Jeanie, catching her arm. 'Did ye na' tell me that he lived here?—and wherever Willie Robertson bides Jeanie Burns sud be a welcome guest. Tell him,' she continued, trembling all ower, for she told me afterwards that there was something in the woman's look and tone that made the cold chills run to her heart, 'that an auld friend from Scotland has jist come off a lang wearisome journey to see him.'
"'You may speak for yourself!' cried the woman angrily, 'for my husband is now coming down the clearing.'
"The word husband was scarcely out o' her mouth than puir Jeanie fell as ane dead across the door-step.
"The driver lifted up the unfortunate girl, carried her into the cabin, and placed her in a chair, regardless of the opposition of Mrs. Robertson, whose jealousy was now fairly aroused, and who declared that the bold huzzie should not enter her doors.
"It was a long time before the driver succeeded in bringing Jeanie to herself, and she had only just unclosed her eyes when Willie came in.
"'Wife,' he said, 'whose cart is this standing at the door, and what do these people want here?'
"'You know best,' cried the angry woman, bursting into tears; 'that creature is no acquaintance of mine, and if she is suffered to remain here, I will leave the house at once.'
"'Forgi'e me, gude woman, for having unwittingly offended ye,' said Jeanie, rising. 'But, merciful Father! how sud I ken that Willie Robertson, my ain Willie, had a wife? Oh, Willie!' she cried, covering her face in her hands to hide all the agony that was in her heart. 'I ha' come a lang way, an' a weary to see ye, an' ye might ha' spared me the grief—the burning shame o' this. Farewell, Willie Robertson, I will never mair trouble ye nor her wi' my presence, but this cruel deed of yours has broken my heart!'
"She went away weeping, and he had not the courage to detain her, or say one word to comfort her, or account for his strange conduct; yet, if I know him right, that must ha' been the most sorrowfu' moment in his life.
"Jeanie was a distant connexion of my uncle's, and she found us out that night, on her return to the village, and told us all her grief. My aunt, who was a kind good woman, was indignant at the treatment she had recieved; and loved and cherished her as if she had been her own child.
"For two whole weeks she kept her bed, and was so ill that the doctor despaired of her life; and when she did come again among us, the colour had faded from her cheeks, and the light from her sweet blue eyes, and she spoke in a low subdued voice, but she never spoke of him as the cause of her grief.
"One day she called me aside and said—
"'Jamie, you know how I lo'ed an' trusted him, an' obeyed his ain wishes in comin' out to this strange country to be his wife. But 'tis all over now,' and she pressed her sma' hands tightly over her breast to keep doon the swelling o' her heart. 'Jamie, I know now that it is a' for the best; I lo'ed him too weel—mair than ony creature sud lo'e a perishing thing o' earth. But I thought that he wud be sae glad an' sae proud to see his ain Jeanie sae sune. But, oh!—ah, weel!—I maun na think o' that; what I wud jist say is this,' an' she took a sma' packet fra' her breast, while the tears streamed down her pale cheeks. 'He sent me forty dollars to bring me ower the sea to him—God bless him for that, I ken he worked hard to earn it, for he lo'ed me then—I was na' idle during his absence. I had saved enough to bury my dear auld grandfather, and to pay my ain expenses out, and I thought, like the gude servant in the parable, I wud return Willie his ain with interest; an' I hoped to see him smile at my diligence, an' ca' me his bonnie gude lassie. Jamie, I canna' keep this siller, it lies like a weight o' lead on my heart. Tak' it back to him, an' tell him fra' me, that I forgi'e him a' his cruel deceit, an' pray to God to grant him prosperity, and restore to him that peace o' mind o' which he has robbed me for ever.'
"I did as she bade me. Willie looked stupified when I delivered her message. The only remark he made, when I gave him back the money, was, 'I maun be gratefu', man, that she did na' curse me.' The wife came in, and he hid away the packet and slunk off. The man looked degraded in his own eyes, and so wretched, that I pitied him from my very heart.
"When I came home, Jeanie met me at my uncle's gate. 'Tell me,' she said in a low anxious voice, 'tell me, cousin Jamie, what passed atween ye. Had he nae word for me?'
"'Naething, Jeanie, the man is lost to himsel', to a' who ance wished him weel. He is not worth a decent body's thought.'
"She sighed deeply, for I saw that her heart craved after some word fra' him, but she said nae mair, but pale an' sorrowfu', the very ghaist o' her former sel', went back into the house.
"From that hour she never breathed his name to ony of us; but we all ken'd that it was her love for him that was preying upon her life. The grief that has nae voice, like the canker-worm, always lies ne'est to the heart. Puir Jeanie! she held out during the simmer, but when the fall came, she just withered awa' like a flower, nipped by the early frost, and this day we laid her in the earth.
"After the funeral was ower, and the mourners were all gone, I stood beside her grave, thinking ower the days of my boyhood, when she and I were happy weans, an' used to pu' the gowans together on the heathery hills o' dear auld Scotland. An' I tried in vain to understan' the mysterious providence o' God, who had stricken her, who seemed sae gude and pure, an' spared the like o' me, who was mair deservin' o' his wrath, when I heard a deep groan, an' I saw Willie Robertson standing near me beside the grave.
"'Ye may as weel spare your grief noo,' said I, for I felt hard towards him, 'an' rejoice that the weary is at rest.'
"'It was I murdered her,' said he, 'an' the thought will haunt me to my last day. Did she remember me on her death bed?'
"'Her thoughts were only ken'd by Him who reads the secrets of a' hearts, Willie. Her end was peace, an' her Saviour's blessed name was the last sound upon her lips. But if ever woman died fra' a broken heart, there she lies.'
"'Oh, Jeanie!' he cried, 'mine ain darling Jeanie! my blessed lammie! I was na' worthy o' yer love—my heart, too, is breaking. To bring ye back aince mair, I wad lay me down an' dee.'
"An' he flung himsel' upon the grave and embraced the fresh clods, and greeted like a child.
"When he grew more calm, we had a long conversation about the past, and truly I believe that the man was not in his right senses when he married yon wife; at ony rate, he is not lang for this warld; he has fretted the flesh aff his banes, an' before many months are ower, his heid will lie as low as puir Jeanie Burns's."
While I was pondering this sad story in my mind, Mrs. H— came in.
"You have heard the news, Mrs. M—?"
I looked inquiringly.
"One of Clark's little boys that were lost last Wednesday in the woods has been found."
"This is the first I have heard about it. How were they lost?"
"Oh, 'tis a thing of very common occurrence here. New settlers, who are ignorant of the danger of going astray in the forest, are always having their children lost. This is not the first instance by many that I have known, having myself lived for many years in the bush. I only wonder that it does not more frequently happen.
"These little fellows are the sons of a poor man who came out this summer, and who has taken up some wild land about a mile back of us, towards the plains. Clark is busy logging up a small fallow for fall wheat, on which his family must depend for bread during the ensuing year; and he is so anxious to get it ready in time, that he will not allow himself an hour at noon to go home to his dinner, which his wife generally sends in a basket to the woods by his eldest daughter.
"Last Wednesday the girl had been sent on an errand by her mother, who thought, in her absence, that she might venture to trust the two boys to take the dinner to their father. The boys were from seven to five years old, and very smart and knowing for their age. They promised to mind all her directions, and went off quite proud of the task, carrying the basket between them.
"How they came to ramble away into the woods, the younger child is too much stupified to tell; and perhaps he is too young to remember. At night the father returned, and scolded the wife for not sending his dinner as usual; but the poor woman (who all day had quieted her fears with the belief that the children had stayed with their father), instead of paying any regard to his angry words, demanded, in a tone of agony, what had become of her children?
"Tired and hungry as Clark was, in a moment he comprehended their danger, and started off in pursuit of the boys. The shrieks of the distracted woman soon called the neighbours together, who instantly joined in the search.
"It was not until this afternoon that any trace could be obtained of the lost children, when Brian, the hunter, found the youngest boy, Johnnie, lying fast asleep upon the trunk of a fallen tree, fifteen miles back in the bush."
"And the other boy?"
"Will never, I fear, be heard of again," said she. "They have searched for him in all directions and have not discovered him. The story little Johnnie tells is to this effect. During the first two days of their absence, the food they had brought in the basket for their father's dinner, sustained life; but to-day it seems that the little Johnnie grew very hungry, and cried continually for bread. William, the elder boy, he says, promised him bread if he would try and walk further; but his feet were bleeding and sore, and he could not stir another step. William told him to sit down upon the log on which he was found, and not stir from the place until he came back, and he would run on until he found a house and brought him something to eat. He then wiped his eyes, and bade him not to be frightened or to cry, and kissed him and went away.
"This is all the little fellow knows about his brother; and it is very probable the generous-hearted boy has been eaten by the wolves. The Indians traced him for more than a mile along the banks of a stream, when they lost his trail altogether. If he had fallen into the water, they would have discovered his body, but they say that he has been dragged into some hole in the bank among the tangled cedars and devoured.
"Since I have been in the country," continued Mrs. H—, "I have known many cases of children, and even of grown persons, being lost in the woods, who were never heard of again. It is a frightful calamity to happen to any one, and mothers cannot be too careful in guarding their children against rambling alone into the bush. Persons, when once they lose sight of the beaten track, get frightened and bewildered and lose all presence of mind; and instead of remaining where they are, which is their only chance of being discovered, they plunge desperately on, running hither and thither, in the hope of getting out, while they only involve themselves more deeply among the mazes of the interminable forest.
"Two winters ago, the daughter of a settler in the remote township of Dummer, where my husband took up his grant of wild land, went with her father to the mill, which was four miles from their log shanty and the road lay entirely through the bush. For a while the girl, who was about twelve years of age, kept up with her father, who walked briskly ahead with his bag of corn on his back, for, as their path lay through a tangled swamp, he was anxious to get home before night. After a time Sarah grew tired, and lagged a long way behind. The man felt not the least apprehensive when he lost sight of her, expecting that she would soon come up with him again. Once or twice he stopped and shouted, and she answered, 'Coming, father;' and he did not turn to look after her again. He reached the mill—saw the grist ground, resumed his burthen and took the road home, expecting to meet Sarah by the way. He trod the path alone, but still thought that the girl, tired of the long walk, had turned back, and that he should find her safe at home.
"You may imagine, Mrs. M—, his consternation and that of the family, when they found that the girl was lost.
"It was now dark, and all search for her was given up for the night as hopeless. By day-break the next morning, the whole settlement, which was then confined to a few lonely log tenements inhabited by Cornish miners, were roused from their sleep to assist in the search.
"The men turned out with guns and arms, and parties started in different directions. Those who first discovered the girl were to fire their guns, which was to be the signal to guide the rest to the spot. It was not long before they found the object of their search seated under a tree, about half a mile from the path she had lost on the preceding day.
"She had been tempted by the beauty of some wild berries to leave the road, and when once in the bush she grew bewildered and could not find her way back. At first she ran to and fro in an agony of terror at finding herself in the woods all alone, and uttered loud and frantic cries, but her father had by this time reached the mill and was out of hearing.
"With a sagacity beyond her years and not very common to her class, instead of wandering further into the labyrinth which surrounded her, she sat down under a large tree, covered her face with her apron, said the Lord's Prayer—the only one she knew—and hoped that God would send her father back to find her the moment he discovered that she was lost.
"When night came down upon the dark forest (and oh how dark night is in the woods!), the poor girl said, that she felt horribly afraid of being eaten by the wolves which abound in those dreary swamps. But she did not cry, for fear they should hear her. Simple girl! she did not know that the scent of a wolf is far keener that his ear, but that was her notion, and she lay down close to the ground and never once raised her head, for fear of seeing something dreadful standing beside her, until overcome by terror and fatigue she fell fast asleep, and did not awake until roused by the shrill braying of the horns and the shouts of the party who were seeking her."
"What a dreadful situation! I am sure that I should not have had the courage of this poor girl, but should have died with fear."
"We don't know how much we can bear, Mrs. M—, until we are tried. This girl was more fortunate than a boy of the same age, who was lost in the same township, just as the winter set in. The lad was sent by his father, an English settler, in company with two boys of his own age, to be measured for a pair of shoes. George Desne, who followed the double employment of farmer and shoemaker, lived about three miles from the clearing known by the name of the English line. After the lads left the clearing, their road lay entirely through the bush. But it was a path they had often travelled both alone and with their parents, and they felt no fear.
"There had been a slight fall of snow, just enough to cover the ground, and the day was clear and frosty. The boys in this country always hail with delight the first fall of snow, and they ran races and slid over all the shallow pools until they reached George Desne's cabin.
"He measured young Brown for a strong pair of winter boots, and the boys went on their homeward way, shouting and laughing in the glee of their hearts.
"About halfway they suddenly missed their companion, and ran back nearly a mile to find him. Not succeeding in this, they thought that he had hidden behind some of the trees, and pretended to be lost, in order to frighten them, and after shouting at the top of their voices, and receiving no answer, they determined to go home without him. They knew that he was well acquainted with the road, and that it was still broad day, and that he could easily find his way home alone. When his father inquired for George, they said that he was coming, and went to their respective homes.
"Night came, and the lad did not return, and his parents began to be alarmed at his absence. Mr. Brown went over to the neighbouring cabins, and made the lads tell him all they knew about his son. They described the place where they first missed him; but they concluded that he had either run home before them, or gone back to spend the night with the young Desnes, who had been very urgent for him to stay. This account pacified the anxious father. Early the next morning he went to Desne's himself to bring home the boy, but the lad had not been there.
"His mysterious disappearance gave rise to a thousand strange surmises. The whole settlement turned out in search of the boy. His steps were traced from the road a few yards into the bush, and entirely disappeared at the foot of a large tree. The moss was rubbed from the trunk of the tree, but the tree was lofty, and the branches so far from the ground, that it was almost impossible for any boy, unassisted, to have raised himself to such a height. There was no track of any animal all around in the unbroken snow, no shred of garment or stain of blood,—that boy's fate will ever remain a great mystery, for he was never found."
"He must have been carried up that tree by a bear, and dragged down into the hollow trunk," said I.
"If that had been the case, there would have been the print of the bear's feet in the snow. It does not, however, follow that the boy is dead, though it is more than probable. I knew of a case where two boys and a girl were sent into the woods by their mother to fetch home the cows. The children were lost; the parents mourned them for dead, for all search for them proved fruitless, and after seven years the eldest son returned. They had been overtaken and carried off by a party of Indians, who belonged to a tribe inhabiting the islands in Lake Huron, several hundred miles away from their forest-home. The girl, as she grew into woman, married one of the tribe; the boys followed the occupation of hunters and fishers, and from their dress and appearance might have passed for the red sons of the forest. The eldest boy, however, never forgot the name of his parent, and the manner in which he had been lost, and took the first opportunity of making his escape, and travelling back to the home of his childhood.
"When he made himself known to his mother, who was a widow, but still resided upon the same spot, he was so dark and Indian-like, that she could not believe that he was her son, until he brought to her mind a little incident, that, forgotten by her, had never left his memory.
"Mother, don't you remember saying to me on that afternoon, 'Ned, you need not look for the cows in the swamp, they went off towards the big hill.'
"The delighted mother clapsed him in her arms, exclaiming, 'You say truly,—you are indeed my own, my long lost son!'"