SKETCHES AND TALES ILLUSTRATIVE OF LIFE IN THE BACKWOODS OF NEW BRUNSWICK, NORTH AMERICA,
Gleaned From Actual Observation And Experience During A Residence Of Seven Years In That Interesting Colony.
BY MRS. F. BEAVAN.
"Son of the Isles! talk not to me, Of the old world's pride and luxury! Tho' gilded bower and fancy cot, Grace not each wild concession lot; Tho' rude our hut, and coarse our cheer, The wealth the world can give is here."
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
Introductory Remarks New Brunswick—by whom settled Remarks on State of Morals and Religion American Physiognomy The Spring Freshets Cranberries Stream Driving Moving a House Frolics Sugar Making Breaking up of the Ice First appearances of Spring Burning a Fallow A Walk through a Settlement Log Huts Description of a Native New Brunswicker's House Blowing the Horn A Deserted Lot The Bushwacker The Postman American Newspapers Musquitoes An Emigrant's House Unsuccessful Lumberer The Law of Kindness exemplified in the Case of a Criminal Schools The School Mistress The Woods Baptists' Association A Visit to the House of a Refugee The Indian Bride, a Refugee's Story Mr. Hanselpecker Burning of Miramichi The Lost One—a tale of the Early Settlers The Mignionette Song of the Irish Mourner A Winter's Evening Sketch The School-mistress's Dream Library in the Backwoods The Indian Summer The Lost Children—a Poem Sleigh Riding Aurora Borealis Getting into the Ice Conclusion
These sketches of the Backwoods of New Brunswick are intended to illustrate the individual and national characteristics of the settlers, as displayed in the living pictures and legendary tales of the country. They have been written during the short intervals allowed from domestic toils, and may, perhaps, have little claim to the attention of the public, save that of throwing a faint light upon the manners and customs of that little-known, though interesting, appendage of the British empire. A long residence in that colony having given me ample means of knowing and of studying them in all their varying hues of light and shade. There, in the free wide solitude of that fair land whose youthful face "seems wearing still the first fresh fragrance of the world," the fadeless traces of character, peculiar to the dwellers of the olden climes, are brought into close contrast with the more original feelings of the "sons of the soil," both white and red, and are there more fully displayed than in the mass of larger communities. Of political, or depth of topographical information, the writer claims no share, and much of deep interest, or moving incident, cannot now be expected in the life of a settler in the woods. The days when the war-whoop of the Indian was yelled above the burning ruins of the white man's dwelling are gone—their memory exists but in the legend of the winter's eve, and the struggle is now with the elements which form the climate; the impulse of "going a-head" giving impetus to people's "getting along"—forcing the woods to bow beneath their sturdy stroke, and fields to shine with ripened grain, where erst the forest shadows fell; or floating down the broad and noble streams the tall and stately pine, taken from the ancient bearded wilderness to bear the might of England's fame to earth and sea's remotest bounds.
New Brunswick is partly settled by French Acadians from the adjoining province of Nova Scotia, but these, generally speaking, form a race by themselves, and mingle little with the others, still retaining the peculiarities of their nation, although long separated from it—they like gaiety and amusement more than work, and consequently are rather poorer than the other inhabitants; but, of course, there are exceptions. In the winter I have often seen them on their way to market, with loads of frozen oysters, packed in barrels, and moss cranberries (rather a chance crop); but they looked happy and comfortable, and went singing merrily to the ringing of their horse bells. The French were the pioneers of the province, and often had to do battle with the Indians, the ancient possessors of the soil: of these last there now remains but a fast-fading remnant—objects more of pity or laughter than of dread. Of the other original settlers, or, as they are particularly termed, "blue noses," they are composed of the refugees and their descendants, being those persons who, at the separation of England from America, prefering the British government, sought her protection and came, another band of pilgrims, and swore fealty to that land from whence their fathers had so indignantly fled—they are certainly a most indescribable genus those blue noses—the traces of descent from the Dutch and French blood of the United States, being mingled with the independent spirit of the American and the staunch firmness of the "Britisher," as they delight to call themselves, showing their claim to it by the most determined hatred of the Yankees, whose language and features they yet retain: yet these differing qualities blend to form a shrewd, intelligent, active, and handsome people—intelligence and strong sense, to a far greater amount than could be found in persons of the same class in England. A trace, albeit a faint one of the Saxon serf, still lingers with the English peasant; but the free breeze of America soon sweeps the shadows from his brow, and his sons all, proudly take their place as men, knowing that by their own conduct and talents they may work their way to fortune, or, at least, "rough hew" it, without dread that the might of custom's icy breath can blight their fate for lack of birth or fortune. This gives a noble feeling to the heart and a higher tone to the character, although a sense of the ridiculous is often attached to this by a native of the old countries, when it is shown forth by the "squire" yoking his oxen, a major selling turkies, and the member for the county cradling buckwheat. Yet all this is productive of good, and opens a path for intellect and genius, and when a colonel and member of the Legislative Council eats pancakes and molasses in a friendly way with his poorer neighbours, is it not likely (as the Persian fable tells us of the pebble lying near the rose, and thereby imbibing some of its fragrance) that some of the graces and politeness of the higher circles, to which these gentlemen belong both by fortune and education, should be imparted, in some degree, to those with whom they converse. So it undoubtedly does, and the air of refinement, native to the New Brunswicker, is never so strongly visible as when contrasted with the new-caught emigrant. Rudeness and vulgarity in glaring forms one never meets from them; odd and inquisitive ways may be thought impertinent, and require both time and patience to be rightly understood.
The state of morals and religion is fast progressing; these, of course, have all their mainspring from education, for an uneducated people can never be, rightly speaking, either moral or religious. So New Brunswick may have the apology for whispered tales that float about, of corn being reaped and wood being felled on the Sabbath-day, and of sacred rites being dispensed with. She is yet in her infancy, and when one thinks that 'tis but sixty years since they first set foot on the shore, where stood one lonely hut, on the site of the now flourishing city of St. John, we must know that their physical wants were then so many that but little attention could be given to the wants of the mind. But now, thanks to the parental care of Britain, schools and churches are rising fast throughout the country, and learning is received with an avidity that marks the active intellect it has to work upon; besides, all these old stories of failings occurred long before the tide of emigration caused them to be enlightened by the visitation of the inhabitants of the gifted climes of the olden world. Well would it be if all those showed as much desire to avail themselves of their means of improvement, as a New Brunswicker does of those enjoyed by him. Their personal appearance differs much from the English. Cooper says, "the American physiognomy has already its own peculiar cast"—so it has, and can easily be distinguished—in general they are handsomer than the emigrants—darker in complexion, but finer in feature and more graceful in form—not so strong, and fading sooner. Many of the children are perfectly beautiful, but the cherub beauty changes soon, and the women particularly look old and withered while yet young in years. Infantine beauty seems peculiar to the country, for even the children of emigrants born there are much handsomer than those born at home. Such are some of the traits of the natives—then comes the wide circle of emigrants, each (at least the older ones) retaining the peculiarities of their different countries. Many of them, although better off than they could possibly expect to be at home, yet keep railing at the country, and thirsting after the "flesh-pots of Egypt." The Yorkshireman talks of nothing but the "white cakes and bag puddings" of old England, regardless of the "pumpkin pies and buckwheat pancakes" of New Brunswick; and one old lady from Cornwall (where they say the Devil would not go for fear of being transformed into a pasty) revenges herself on the country by making pies of everything, from apples and mutton down to parsley, and all for the memory of England; while, perhaps, were she there, she might be without a pie. The honest Scotchman is silent upon the subject of "vivers," and wisely talks not of either "crowdy" or barley meal, but tells of the time when he was a sitter in the kirk of the Rev. Peter Poundtext, showing his Christian charity by the most profound contempt as well for the ordinances of the Church of England as for the "dippings" of the Baptists. He attends none of them, for he says "he canna thole it," but when by chance a minister of the kirk comes his way, then you may see him, with well-saved Sabbath suit, pressing anxiously forward to catch the droppings of the sanctuary: snows or streams offering no obstacle to his zeal. The Irishman, too, is there seen all in his glory—one with a medal on his breast, flinging his shillalagh over his head and shouting for O'Connell, while another is quaffing to the "pious, glorious, and immortal memory of King William," inviting those around him to join together in an Orange Lodge, of which community he certainly shows no favourable specimen; but by degrees these national feelings and asperities become more softened, and the second generation know little of them. The settlement from whence these sketches are drawn, was formed of a motley mixture of all the different nations—Blue Nose, English, Scotch, Irish, Welch, and Dutch.
We had been living for some time at a place called Long Creek, on the margin of a broad and rapid stream, which might well have borne the more dignified appellation of river—the land on its borders was the flat, rich "intervale," so highly prized, formed by alluvial deposits. There are, I believe, two descriptions of this intervale,—one covered with low small bushes, and, therefore, more easily cleared—the other with a gigantic growth of the butternut, the oak, and the elm. This where we lived was of the latter description. A few of the stately monarchs of the forest yet stood upon the emerald plains, spreading their magnificent branches to the sunlight, and telling of the kindly soil that nourished them. Along the fences wild hops festooned themselves in graceful wreaths of wild luxuriance. A few clumps of cranberry bushes had also been permitted to remain, notwithstanding the American's antipathy to trees or bushes is such, that his axe, which he hardly ever stirs without, is continually flying about him; but this berry, one amongst the many indigenous to the country, is a useful addition to the winter store—they grow abundantly, and, after the first frost which ripens them they have a brilliant appearance, hanging like clustering rubies, reminding one of the gem-clad boughs of Aladdin. When gathered, they are hung up in bunches, when they become frozen, keeping good till the spring. They are used for tarts and jellies, the frost neither altering their colour nor flavour. Those places are overflown in the spring; the "freshets" caused by the melting of the snow raising the waters above their ordinary level. I have often sailed over them, and 'twas strange to see each familiar footpath and strawberry bank far down beneath the shining waves. As the creek goes onward to the river the intervale disappears, and the banks become grey and steep, crowned with the tall and slender stems of the spruce and cedar. New Brunswick is rich in minerals, and veins of coal and iron abound at this place; but many years must elapse ere mines are worked to any extent. A few are in operation at present; but while the pine waves the wealth of her green plumage to the lumber-man, or the new-cleared ground will yield its virgin crop to the farmer, the earth must keep her deeper treasures. In the spring, this creek presents a busy picture. The rivers of New Brunswick are to her what the railroads are now to other countries: and richly is she blessed with sparkling waters from the diamond flashings of the mountain rill to the still calm beauty of the sheltered lake, the silvery streams, the sweeping river, and the unfrozen width of the winter harbour of her noble bay. True, much can be done on the icy ways of winter, but then the home work must be minded, and market attended. Fire-wood for the year must be hauled; the increasing clearings call for extended fences, and these also must be drawn from the woods on the snow, so that when the spring opens, the roots and other spare produce are quickly shipped off (boated would be a better expression) into large open boats, called market-boats. Another description, called wood-boats, are used for carrying deals and cord-wood, so called from the stick forming the measure of a cord, which is the mode of selling it in the city for fuel. The deals are floated from the saw mills over the shallows, and piled into the boats. One could sometimes walk across the river on the quantities of wood floating about. The larger pieces of wood or timber are floated singly down the stream nearest to the place whence they are cut. This operation is called stream-driving, and commences as soon as the rapid melting of the snow and ice has so swollen the small streams as to give them power to force and carry the huge pieces of timber, until, at the confluence of the streams, the water becomes wide enough to enable them to form it into rafts, on which raft a hut is built and furnished with the necessaries for subsistence. The gang who have been employed in bringing it so far lay themselves upon it, and allow it to float down the stream, until the breeze wafts them to their destination. These are the scenes of the spring, when all life seems awakening. The tree-buds are bursting their cerements—the waters are dancing in light and song—and the woods, before all still, now echo a few wild notes of melody. The blue wing of the halycon goes dazzlingly past, and tells us his own bright days are come; and the "whip-poor-will" brings his lay so close, that the ear is startled with the human sound on the soft damp air. The scene is changed when Sirius is triumphant, telling us of the tropics, and that we live in rather an inexplicable climate. Beneath his burning influence I have glided down this creek when no sound was heard on earth or air save the ripples of the paddle as it rose or fell at the will of the child-like form which guided the fragile bark. The dwellers on the margin of these fair waters are as much at home upon them as on land, and the children in particular are as amphibious as the musk rats which people its banks, and which scent the air somewhat heavily with what, in a fainter degree, would be thought perfume. One can hardly recall these dog-star days at that later season when the pearly moon and brilliant stars shine down from the deep blue sky on the crusted snows; when fairy crystals are reflecting their cold bright beams on the glistening ice, while the sleigh flies merrily along, "with bell and bridle ringing," on the same path we held in summer with the light canoe; when the breath congeals in a sheet of ice around the face, and the clearness of the atmosphere makes respiration difficult. To tell us that we are in the same latitude with the sunny clime of Boulogne, in France, shows us that America cannot be measured by the European standard. A quarter of the globe lies between us; they go to bed four hours before we do, and are fast asleep while we are wide awake. No one attempts to live in the country districts without a farm. As the place where we lived had but a house and one acre of land, none being vacant in that immediate neighbourhood, and finding firing and pasturage expensive, and furthermore wishing to raise our own potatoes, and, if we liked, live in peas, a lot of two hundred acres was purchased in the settlement, styled, "par excellence," "the English," (from the first settlers being of that illustrious nation,) a distance of two miles from where we then lived. Our house was a good one. We did not like to leave it. Selling was out of the question: so we e'en resolved to take it with us, wishing, as the Highland robber did of the haystack, that it had legs to walk. A substitute for this was found in the universal resource of New Brunswickers for all their wants, from the cradle to the coffin, "the tree, the bonny greenwood tree," that gives the young life-blood of its sweet sap for sugar—and even when consumed by fire its white ashes yield them soap. I have even seen wooden fire-irons, although they do not go quite so far as their Yankee neighbours, who, letting alone wooden clocks, deal besides in wooden hams, nutmegs, and cucumber seeds. Two stout trees were then felled (the meanest would have graced a lordly park), and hewed with the axe into a pair of gigantic sled runners. The house was raised from its foundation and placed on these. Many hands make light work; but, had those hands been all hired labourers, the expense would have been more than the value of the house, but 'twas done by what is called a "frolic." When people have a particular kind of work requiring to be done quickly, and strength to accomplish it, they invite their neighbours to come, and, if necessary, bring with them their horses or oxen. Frolics are used for building log huts, chopping, piling, ploughing, planting, and hoeing. The ladies also have their particular frolics, such as wool-picking, or cutting out and making the home-spun woollen clothes for winter. The entertainment given on such occasions is such as the house people can afford; for the men, roast mutton, pot pie, pumpkin pie, and rum dough nuts; for the ladies, tea, some scandal, and plenty of "sweet cake," with stewed apple and custards. There are, at certain seasons, a great many of these frolics, and the people never grow tired of attending them, knowing that the logs on their own fallows will disappear all the quicker for it. The house being now on the runners, thirty yoke of oxen, four abreast, were fastened to an enormous tongue, or pole, made of an entire tree of ash. No one can form any idea, until they have heard it, of the noise made in driving oxen; and, in such an instance as this, of the skill and tact required in starting them, so that they are all made to pull at once. I have often seen the drivers, who are constantly shouting, completely hoarse; and after a day's work so exhausted that they have been unable to raise the voice. Although the cattle are very docile, and understand well what is said to them, yet from the number of turnings and twistings they require to be continually reminded of their duty. Amid, then, all the noise and bustle made by intimating to such a number whether they were to "haw" or "gee," the shoutings of the younger parties assembled, the straining of chains and the creaking of boards, the ponderous pile was set in motion along the smooth white and marble-like snow road, whose breadth it entirely filled up. It was a sight one cannot well forget—to see it move slowly up the hill, as if unwilling to leave the spot it had been raised on, notwithstanding the merry shouts around, and the flag they had decked it with streaming so gaily through the green trees as they bent over it till it reached the site destined for it, where it looked as much at home as if it were too grave and steady a thing to take the step it had done. This was in March—we had been waiting some time for snow, as to move without it would have been a difficult task; for, plentifully as New Brunswick is supplied with that commodity, at some seasons much delay and loss is experienced for want of it—the sleighing cannot be done, and wheel carriages cannot run, the roads are so rough and broken with the frost—the cold is then more intense, and the cellars, (the sole store-houses and receptacles of the chief comforts) without their deep covering of snow, become penetrated by the frost, and their contents much injured, if not totally destroyed—this is a calamity that to be known must be experienced—the potatoes stored here are the chief produce of the farm, at least the part that is most available for selling, for hay should never go off the land, and grain is as yet so little raised that 'tis but the old farmers can do what is called "bread themselves:" thus the innovation of the cellars by the frost fiend is a sad and serious occurrence—of course a deep bank of earth is thrown up round the house, beneath which, and generally its whole length and breadth, is the cellar; but the snow over this is an additional and even necessary defence, and its want is much felt in many other ways—in quantity, however, it generally makes up for its temporary absence by being five and six feet deep in April. About this season the warm sun begins to beam out, and causes the sap to flow in the slumbering trees—this is the season for sugar-making, which, although an excellent thing if it can be managed, is not much attended to, especially in new settlements, and those are generally the best off for a "sugar-bush;" but it occurs at that season when the last of the winter work must be done—the snow begins to melt on the roads, and the "saw whet," a small bird of the owl species, makes its appearance, and tells us, as the natives say, that "the heart of the winter is broken." All that can be done now must be done to lessen the toils of that season now approaching, from which the settler must not shrink if he hope to prosper. Sugar-making, then, unless the farmer is strong handed, is not profitable. A visit to a sugar-camp is an interesting sight to a stranger—it may, perhaps, be two or three miles through the woods to where a sufficient number of maple trees may be found close enough together to render it eligible for sugar-making. All the different kinds of maple yield a sweet sap, but the "rock maple" is the species particularly used for sugar, and perhaps a thousand of these trees near together constitute what is called a sugar-bush. Here, then, a rude hut, but withal picturesque in its appearance, is erected—it is formed of logs, and covered with broad sheets of birch bark. For the universal use of this bark I think the Indians must have given the example. Many beautiful articles are made by them of it, and to the back settlers it is invaluable. As an inside roofing, it effectually resists the rain—baskets for gathering the innumerable tribe of summer berries, and boxes for packing butter are made of it—calabashes for drinking are formed of it in an instant by the bright forest stream. Many a New Brunswick belle has worn it for a head-dress as the dames of more polished lands do frames of French willow; and it is said the title deeds of many a broad acre in America have been written on no other parchment than its smooth and vellum-like folds. The sugar-maker's bark-covered hut contains his bedding and provisions, consisting of little save the huge round loaf of bread, known as the "shanty loaf"—his beverage, or substitute for tea, is made of the leaves of the winter green, or the hemlock boughs which grow beside him, and his sweetening being handy bye, he wants nothing more. A notch is cut in the tree, from which the sap flows, and beneath it a piece of shingle is inserted for a spout to conduct it into troughs, or bark dishes, placed at the foot of the tree. The cold frosty nights, followed by warm sunny days, making it run freely, clear as water, and slightly sweet—from these troughs, or bark dishes, it is collected in pails, by walking upon the now soft snow, by the aid of snow shoes, and poured into barrels which stand near the boilers, ready to supply them as the syrup boils down. When it reaches the consistence required for sugar, it is poured into moulds of different forms. Visits to these sugar camps are a great amusement of the young people of the neighbourhood in which they are, who make parties for that purpose—the great treat is the candy, made by dashing the boiling syrup on the snow, where it instantly congeals, transparent and crisp, into sheets. At first the blazing fire and boiling cauldron look strange, amid the solemn loneliness of the forest, along whose stately aisles of cathedral-like grandeur the eye may gaze for days, and see no living thing—the ear hear no sound, save it may be the tapping of the woodpecker, or the whispering of the wind as it sighs through the boughs, seeming to mourn with them for the time when the white man knew them not. But these thoughts pass away when the proprietor, with his pale intelligent face, shaded by a flapping sun hat from the glaring snow, presses us hospitably to "take along a junk of candy, a lump of sugar," or a cup of the syrup. He sees nothing picturesque or romantic in the whole affair, and only calculates if it will pay for the time it occupies; at the same time, with the produce of his labours he is extremely "clever," this being the term for generous or hospitable, and one is sometimes startled at its application, especially to women; the persons in England, to whom it is applied, are so unlike the clever women of New Brunswick, those dear old creatures, who know not the difference between Milton and Dilworth, and whose very woollen gowns are redolent of all-spice and apples.
Towards the latter part of March and April the breaking up of the ice goes on gradually—some seasons, however, a sudden storm causes the ice and snow to disappear rapidly, but generally a succession of soft warm winds, and days partly sunshine and rain, does it more effectually, and prevents the heavy freshets in the rivers, which are often destructive, overflowing the low banks and carrying away with resistless force whatever buildings may be on them. After the disappearance of the snow, some time must elapse ere the land be in a fit state for sowing, consequently fencing, and such like, is now the farmer's employment, either around the new clearings, or in repairing those which have fallen or been removed during the winter. This, with attending to the stock, which at this season require particular care, gives them sufficient occupation—the sheep, which have long since been wearied of the "durance vile" which bound them to the hay-rick, may now be seen in groups on the little isles of emerald green which appear in the white fields; and the cattle, that for six long weary months have been ruminating in their stalls, or "chewing the cud of sweet and bitter fancy" in the barn yards, now begin to extend their perigrinations towards the woods, browsing with delight on the sweet young buds of the birch tree. At this season it is, for obvious reasons, desirable that the "milky mothers" should not stray far from home—many "a staid brow'd matron" has disappeared in the spring, and, after her summer rambles in the woods, returned in the "fall" with her full-grown calf by her side, but many a good cow has gone and been seen no more, but as a white skeleton gleaming among the green leaves. To prevent these mischances, a bell is fastened on the leader of the herd, the intention of which is to guide where they may be found. This bell is worn all summer, as their pasture is the rich herbage of the forest. It is taken off during the winter, and its first sounds now tell us, although the days are cold, and the snow not yet gone, that brighter times are coming. The clear concerts of the frogs ring loudly out from marsh and lake, and at this season alone is heard the lay of the wood-robin, and the blackbird. The green glossy leaves of the winter green, whose bright scarlet berries look like clusters of coral on the snow, now seem even brighter than they were—the blue violet rises among the sheltered moss by the old tree roots, and the broad-leaved adder tongue gives out its orange and purple blossoms to gladden the brown earth, while the trees are yet all black and barren, save the various species of pine and spruce, which now wear a fringe of softer green. The May flowers of New Brunswick seldom blossom till June, which is rather an Irish thing of them to do, and although the weather has been fine, and recalls to the memory the balmy breath of May, yet I have often seen a pearly wreath of new fallen snow, deck the threshhold on that 'merrie morn'. After the evaporation of the steaming vapour of spring has gone forward, and the farmer has operated in the way of ploughing and sowing, on whatever ready-prepared land he may have for the purpose, the first dry "spell" is looked forward to most anxiously to burn off the land which has been chopped during the winter—it is bad policy, however, to depend for the whole crop on this "spring burn," as a long continuance of wet weather may prevent it. The new settler, on his first season, has nothing else to depend upon; but the older ones chop the land at intervals during the summer, and clear it off in the autumn, and thus have it ready for the ensuing spring. Burning a chopping, or fallow, as it is called, of twelve or fourteen acres in extent, is a grand and even awful sight: rushing in torrents of flame, it rolls with the wind, crackling and roaring through the brushwood, and often extending beyond the limits assigned it, catching the dry stems of ancient trees, the growth of the earlier ages of this continent, which lie in gigantic ruins, half buried in the rising soil, and which will be themes of speculation to the geologists of other days—it rushes madly among the standing trees of the woods, wreathing them to their summits in its wild embrace—they stand at night like lofty torches, or a park decked out with festal lamps for some grand gala. After this first burn, a fallow presents a blackened scene of desolation and confusion, and requires, indeed, a strong arm and a stout heart to undertake its clearance; the small branches and brush-wood alone have been burnt, but the large logs or trunks lie all blackened but unconsumed. These must all be placed in regular piles or heaps, which are again fired, and burn steadily for a few hours, after which all traces of the noble forest are gone, save the blackened stumps and a few white ashes; it is then ready for planting or sowing, with the assistance of the hoe or harrow.
And now, kind reader, if you have accompanied me thus far, will you have the kindness to suppose us fixed at last in our habitation—whitewashing, painting, and scrubbing done, and all the fuss of moving over—our fallow fenced and filled—the dark green stems of the wheat and oats standing thick and tall—the buck-wheat spreading its broad leaves, and the vines of the pumpkins and cucumbers running along the rich soil, where grows in luxuriance the potatoe, that root, valuable to New Brunswick
"As the bread-fruit tree To the sunny isles of Owhyhee."
Suppose it, then, a bright and balmy day in the sunny ides of June—the earth is now in all the luxuriant pride of her summer beauty; for although the summer is long coming, yet, when it does begin, vegetation is so rapid that a few short days call it forth in all its loveliness; nay, the transition is so quick, that I have observed its workings in an hour's space. In the red sunlight of the morn I have seen the trees with their wintry sprays and brown leaf-buds all closed—when there fell a soft and refreshing shower—again the sunbeams lit the sky, and oh! the glorious change—the maple laughed out with her crimson blossoms and fair green leaves—the beech-tree unfolded her emerald plumes—the fairy stems of the aspen and birch were dancing in light, and the stately ash was enwreathed with her garland of verdant green—the spirit of spring seemed to have waved o'er them the wand of enchantment. On this bright day, of which I now speak, all this mighty change had been accomplished, and earth and air seemed all so delightful, one could hardly imagine that it could be improved by aught added to or taken from it.
I am now just going to walk along the settlement to visit a friend, and if you will accompany me, I shall most willingly be your Asmodeus. A straight and well-worked road runs through the settlement, which is about nine miles in length. This part of the country is particularly hilly, and from where we now stand we have a view of its whole extent. Twenty years ago a blazed track was the only path through the dense forest to where, at its furthest extremity, one adventurous settler had dared to raise his log hut. The older inhabitants, who lived only on the margin of the rivers, laughed at the idea of clearing those high "back lands" where there was neither intervale or rivers, but he heeded them not, and his lonely hut became the nucleus of one of the most flourishing settlements in New Brunswick. The woods have now retreated far back from the road, and at this season the grass and grain are so high that the stumps are all concealed. The scene is very different to the country landscapes of England. There there are square smooth fields enclosed with stone walls, neat white palings, or the hawthorn hedge, scenting the breezes with its balmy "honeysuckle," or sweet wild rose—song-birds filling the air with melody, and stately castles, towering o'er the peasant's lowly home, while far as the eye can reach 'twill rest but on some fair village dome or farm. Here the worm or zigzag fence runs round the irregularly-shaped clearings, in the same rustic garb it wore when a denizen of the forest. The wild flowers here have no perfume, but the raspberries, which grow luxuriantly in the spaces made by the turnings of the fences, have a sweet smell, and there is a breath which tells of the rich strawberry far down among the shadowy grass. The birds during the hot months of summer have no song, but there are numbers of them, and of the brightest plumage. The fairy humming-bird, often in size no larger than a bee, gleams through the air like a flower with wings, and the bald eagle sits majestically on the old grey pines, which stand like lone monuments of the past, the storms and the lightnings having ages ago wreaked their worst upon them, and bereft them of life and limb, yet still they stand, all lofty and unscathed by the axe or the fire which has laid the younger forest low. The dwellings, either the primitive log-hut, the first home of the settler, or the more stately frame-buildings, stand each near the road, on the verge of its own clearing, which reaches back to where the dark woods form a back-ground to the scene. These stretch far and wide over the land, save where appears, amid their density, some lonely settlement or improvement of adventurous emigrant. Those little spots, of how much importance to their owners, yet seem as nothing amid the vast forest. Each dwelling in this country is in itself a theme for study and interest. Here, on one side, is the home of an English settler—amid all the bustle and chopping and burning of a new farm, he has found time to plant a few fruit trees, and has now a flourishing young orchard, and a garden wherein are herbs of "fragrant smell and spicy taste," to give a warm relish to the night's repast. For the cultivation of a garden the natives, unless the more opulent of them, seem to care little; and outside the dwelling of a blue nose there is little to be seen, unless it be a cucumber bed among the chips, or a patch of Indian corn. Again, the Scotch settlers may be known by the taste shown in selecting a garden spot—a gentle declivity, sloping to a silvery stream, by which stand a few household trees that he has permitted to remain—beneath them a seat is placed, and in some cherished spot, watched over with the tenderest care, is an exotic sprig of heath or broom. About the Hibernian's dwelling may be a mixture of all these differing tastes, while perhaps a little of the national ingenuity may be displayed in a broken window, repaired with an old hat, or an approximation towards friendliness between the domestic animals and the inmates. With the interior of these dwellings one is agreeably surprised, they (that is, generally speaking), appear so clean and comfortable. Outside the logs are merely hewed flat, and the interstices filled up with moss and clay, the roof and ends being patched up with boards and bark, or anything to keep out the cold. They certainly look rough enough, but within they are ceiled above and around with smooth shining boards; there are no walls daubed with white-wash, nor floors strewn with vile gritty sand, which last certainly requires all the sanctity of custom to render it endurable, but the walls and floors are as bright and clean as the scrubbing-brush and plenty of soap can make them. This great accessary to cleanliness, soap, is made at home in large quantities, the ashes of the wood burnt in the fire-place making the "ley," to which is added the coarser fat and grease of the animals used for home consumption. It costs nothing but the trouble of making, and the art is little. As regards cleanliness, the natives have something almost Jewish in their personal observances of it as well as of their food. The blood of no animal is ever used, but flows to the earth from whence it sprung, and the poorest of them perform their ablutions before eating with oriental exactness; these habits are soon imparted to the emigrants, many of whom, when they first come out, all softly be it said, are by no means so nice.
The large bright fires of the log house prevent all possible ideas of damp; they certainly are most delightful—those magnificent winter fires of New Brunswick—so brilliant, so cheerful, and so warm—the charred coals, like a mass of burning rubies, giving out their heat beneath, while between the huge "back-log" and "fore-stick," the bright flames dance merrily up the wide chimney. I have often heard people fancy a wood fire as always snapping and sparkling in your face, or green and smoky, chilling you with its very appearance, but those would soon change their opinion if they saw a pile of yellow birch and rock maple laid right "fore and aft" across the bright fire-dogs, the hearth swept up, and the chips beneath fanned with the broom, they would then see the union of light and heat in perfection. In one way it is preferable to coals, that is, while making on the fire you might if you chose wear white kid gloves without danger of soiling them. Another comfort to the settler in the back woods is, that every stick you burn makes one less on the land. Stoves, both for cooking and warming the houses, have long been used in the United States, and are gradually coming into common use in New Brunswick. In the cities they are generally used, where fuel is expensive, as they require less fuel, and give more heat than open "fire-places;" but the older inhabitants can hardly be reconciled to them; they prefer the rude old hearth stone, with its bright light, to the dark stove. I remember once spending the evening at a house where the younger part of the family, to be fashionable, had got a new stove placed in the fire-place of "'tother room," which means, what in Scotland is termed "ben" the house, and in England "the parlour." This was the first evening of its being put in operation. I observed the old gentleman (a first-rate specimen of a blue nose) looked very uncomfortable and fidgetty. For a time he sat twirling his thumbs in silence, when suddenly a thought seemed to strike him: he left the room, and shortly after the draught-hole of the stove grew dark, and a cloud of smoke burst forth from it. The old gentleman came in, declaring he was almost suffocated, and that it was "all owing to that nasty ugly Yankee critter," the stove. He instantly had it taken down, and was soon gazing most comfortably on a glorious pile of burning wood, laid on by himself, with the most scientific regard to the laws of levity, concavity, and contiguity requisite in fire-making; and by the twinkle of his eye I knew that he was enjoying the ruse he had employed to get rid of the stove, for he had quietly stopped the flue. For the mere convenience of the thing, I think a stove is decidedly preferable. In this country, where people are generally their own cooks as well as everything else, they learn to know how the most and the best work can be done with the least time and trouble. With the stove there is not that roasting of the face and hands, nor confused jumble of pots and pans, inseparable from a kitchen fire; but upon the neat little polished thing, upon which there is nothing to be seen but a few bright covers, you can have the constituents of a New Brunswick breakfast, "cod-fish and taters," for twice laid, fried ham, hot rolls, and pancakes, all prepared while the tea kettle is boiling, and experience whilst arranging them no more heat than on a winter morning, is quite agreeable. In the furniture of these back-wood dwellings there is nothing rich or costly, yet there is such an air of neatness diffused over it, and effect brought out, that they always recalled to me the painted cottage scenes of a theatre. But here is a house at which I have a call to make, and which will illustrate the "menage" of a New Brunswicker. Remember, this is not one of the old settlers, who have overcome all the toil and inconvenience of clearing and building, and are now enjoying the comforts they have earned, but it is the log-house of a new farm, around which the stumps yet stand thick and strong, and where the ringing of the axe is yet heard incessantly. In this working country people are, in general, like the famous Mrs. Gilpin, who, though on pleasure bent, had yet a frugal mind, and contrive to make business and amusement go together; and although I had left home with the intention of paying a visit, a little business induces me to pause here, ere I proceed to where I intended; and even here, while arranging this, I shall enjoy myself as much as though I were sackless of thought or interest in anything save amusement. The manufacture of the wool raised on the farm is the most important part of the women's work, and in this the natives particularly excel. As yet I knew not the mysteries of colouring brown with butternut bark, nor the proper proportion of sweet fern and indigo to produce green, so that our wool, on its return from the carding mill, had been left with this person—lady, "par courtesie,"—who was a perfect adept in the art, to be spun and wove: and the business on which I now call is to arrange with her as to its different proportions and purposes. What for blankets, for clothing, or for socks and mittens, which all require a different style of manufacture, and are all items of such importance during the winter snows. Melancthon Grey, whose most Christian and protestant appellation was abbreviated into "Lank," was a true-blooded blue nose. His father had a noble farm of rich intervale on the banks of the river Saint John, and was well to do in the world. Lank was his eldest son, yet no heritage was his, save his axe and the arm which swung it. The law of primogeniture exists not in this country, and the youngest son is frequently heir to that land on which the older ones have borne the "heat and burthen of the day," and rendered valuable by their toil, until each chooses his own portion in the world, by taking unto himself a wife and a lot of forest land, and thus another hard-won homestead is raised, and sons enough to choose among for heirs. Melancthon Grey had wedded his cousin, a custom common among the "blue noses," and which most likely had its origin in the patriarchal days of the earlier settlers, when the inhabitants were few. Sybel was a sweet pretty girl, deficient, as the Americans all are, in those high-toned feelings which characterise the depth of woman's love in the countries of Europe, yet made, as they generally do, an affectionate wife, and a fond and doating mother. Those two names, Sybel and Melancthon, had a strange sound in the same household, awaking, as they always did in my dreamy fancy, a train of such differing memories. Sybel recalling the days of early Rome, the haughty Tarquin and his mysterious prophetess, while Melancthon brought back the "Reformation," and the best and most pious of its fathers. In the particular of names, the Americans have a decided "penchant" for those of euphonious and peculiar sound—they are selected from sacred and profane history, ancient and modern. To them, however, there is little of meaning attached by those who give them save the sound. I have known one family reckon among its members a Solon and Solomon, a Hector and Wellington, a Bathsheba and Lucretia; and the two famous Johns, Bunyan and Wesley, have many a name-sake. These, in their full length, are generally saved for holiday terms, and abbreviations are made for every-day use. In these they are ingenious in finding the shortest, and Theodore, that sweetest of all names, I have heard curtailed to "Od," which seems certainly an odd enough cognomen. Sybel's bridal portion consisted of a cow and some sheep—her father's waggon which brought her home contained some household articles her mother's care had afforded—Melancthon had provided a barrel of pork and one of flour, some tea and molasses, that staple commodity in transatlantic housekeeping. Amongst Sybel's chattels were a bake-pan and tea-kettle, and thus they commenced the world. Melancthon has not yet had time to make a gate at his dwelling, and our only mode of entrance must be either by climbing the "fence" or unshipping the "bars," which form one pannel, and which are placed so as to be readily removed for the passage of a carriage, but from us this will require both time and strength, so at the risk of tearing our dress we will e'en take the fence. This is a feat which a novice does most clumsily, but which those who are accustomed to it do most gracefully.
As we approach the dwelling, the housewife's handy-work is displayed in a pole hung with many a skein of snow white yarn, glistening in the sunlight. Four years have passed since Sybel was a bride—-her cheek has lost the bloom of girlhood, and has already assumed the hollow form of New Brunswick matrons; her dress is home-spun, of her own manufacture, carded and spun by her own hands, coloured with dye stuffs gathered in the woods, woven in a pretty plaid, and neatly made by herself. This is also the clothing of her husband and children; a bright gingham handkerchief is folded inside her dress, and her rich dark hair is smoothly braided. In this particular the natives display a good taste—young women do not enshroud themselves in a cap the day after their marriage, as if glad to be done with the trouble of dressing their hair; and unless from sickness a cap is never worn by any one the least youthful. The custom commences with the children, for infants never have their heads covered during the day. At first the little bald heads seem unsightly to a stranger, but when the eye gets accustomed, they look much better in their own natural beauty then when decked out in lace and muslin. The plan of keeping the head cool seems to answer well, for New Brunswick may rival any country in the world for a display of lovely infants. Sybel has the delicacy of appearance which the constant in-door occupation of the women gives them, differing much from the coarse, but healthier look of those countries where the females assist in field labours. The "blue nose" considers it "agin all nature" for women to work out, and none are ever seen so employed, unless it be the families of emigrants before they are naturalised. A flush of delight crimsons Sybel's pale face as she welcomes me in, for simple and retired as her life is, she yet cherishes in her heart all the fondness for company and visiting inherent to her sex, and loves to enjoy them whenever opportunity permits. No excuse would be listened to,—I must stay dinner—my bonnet is untied, and placed upon the bed—Sybel has churned in the early cool of the morning, and she has now been working over the golden produce of her labours with a wooden ladle in a tray. With this ladle the butter is taken from the churn; the milk beaten out, and formed by it into rolls—nothing else is employed, for moulds or prints are not used as in England. She has just finished, and placed it in her dairy, a little bark-lined recess adjoining the house—and now, on hospitable thoughts intent, she has caught up her pail and is gone for water—in this we are most luxurious in New Brunswick, never keeping any quantity in the house, but using it bright and sparkling as it gushes from the spring. While she is gone, we will take a pencilling of her dwelling. A beautiful specimen of still-life, in the shape of a baby six months old, reposes in its cradle—its eye-lids' long and silky fringes are lightly folded in sleep on its smooth round cheek. Another older one is swinging in the rocking chair, playing with some chips and bark, the only toys of the log house—this single apartment serves the family for parlour, for kitchen, and hall—the chamber above being merely used as a store room, or receptacle for lumber—'tis the state bed-room as well, and on the large airy-looking couch is displayed a splendid coverlet of home-spun wool, manufactured in a peculiar style, the possessing of which is the first ambition of a back-wood matron, and for which she will manoeuvre as much as a city lady would for some bijou of a chiffionier, or centre table—Sybel has gained her's by saving each year a portion of the wool, until she had enough to accomplish this sure mark of industry, and of getting along in the world; for if they are not getting along or improving in circumstances their farms will not raise sheep enough to yield the wool, and if they are not industrious the yarn will not be spun for this much-prized coverlet, which, despite the local importance attached to it, is a useful, handsome and valuable article in itself. On a large chest beside the bed are laid piles of snow white blankets, and around the walls are hung the various woollen garments which form the wardrobe of the family. Bright-hued Indian baskets stand on top of each other—a pair of beaded moccasins and a reticule of porcupine quills are hung up for ornament. The pine table and willow-seated chairs are all made in the "bush," and even into this far back settlement has penetrated the prowess of the renowned "Sam Slick, of Slickville." One of his wooden-made yankee clocks is here—its case displaying "a most elegant picture" of Cupid, in frilled trowsers and morocco boots, the American prototype of the little god not being allowed to appear so scantily clad as he is generally represented. A long rifle is hung over the mantle-piece, and from the beams are suspended heads of Indian corn for seed; by them, tied in bunches, or in paper bags, is a complete "hortus siccus" of herbs and roots for medicinal as well as culinary purposes. Bone set and lobelia, sage and savory, sarsaparilla, and that mysterous bark which the natives say acts with a different effect, according as it is peeled up or down the tree—cat-nip and calamus root for the baby, with dried marigold leaves, balm of gilead buds, and a hundred others, for compounding the various receipts they possess, as remedies for every complaint in the world. Many of these they have learnt from the Indians, whose "ancient medicine men" are well versed in the healing powers with which the herbs of the forest and the field are gifted. On a small shelf is laid the library, which consists but of the bible, a new almanac, and Humbert's Union Harmony, the province manual of sacred music, of which they are most particularly fond; but the air of the country is not favourable to song, and their melody always seemed to me "harmony not understood," Meanwhile, for the last half-hour, Sybel has been busily engaged in cooking, at which the natives are most expeditious and expert. I know not how they would be in other countries, but I know that at home they are first-rate—no other can come up to them in using the materials and implements they are possessed of. By the accustomed sun-mark on the floor, which Sybel prefers to the clock, she sees 'tis now the hungry hour of noon, and blows the horn for Lank to come to dinner. This horn is a conk shell, bored at one end, and its sound is heard at a great distance. At the hours of meal-time it may be heard from house to house, and, ringing through the echoing woods from distant settlements, telling us, amid their loneliness, of happy meetings at the household board; but it comes, too, at times, when its sounds are heralds of trouble and dismay. I have heard it burst upon the ear at the silent hour of midnight, and, starting from sleep, seen the sky all crimsoned with the flames of some far off dwelling, whose inmates thus called for assistance; but long ere that assistance could be given, the fire would have done its worst of destruction, perhaps of death. I have also heard it, when twilight gathered darkly o'er the earth, floating sad and mournfully since sun-set, from some dwelling in the forest's depths, whose locality, but for the sounds, would not be known. Some member of the family has been lost in the woods, and the horn is blown to guide him homewards through the trackless wilderness. How sweet must those sounds be to the benighted wanderer, bearing, as they do, the voice of the heart, and telling of love and affectionate solicitude! But Melancthon has driven his ox-team to the barn, and now, with the baby on his lap, which, like all the blue-noses, he loves to nurse, sits down to table, where we join him. The dinner, as is often the case in the backwoods in summer, is "a regular pick-up one," that is, composed of any thing and every thing. People care little for meat in the hot weather; and, in fact, a new settler generally uses his allowance of beef and pork during the long winter, so that the provision for summer depends principally on fish, with which the country is amply supplied, and the produce of the dairy. The present meal consists of fine trout from the adjoining stream, potatoes white as snow-balls, and, pulverising on the dish, some fried ham, and young French beans, which grow there in the greatest luxuriance, climbing to the top of their lofty poles till they can grow no higher. I have often thought them scions of that illustrious bean-stalk owned by Jack in the fairy tale. We have also a bowl of salad, and home-made vinegar prepared from maple sap, a large hot cake, made with Indian meal, and milk and dried blue-berries, an excellent substitute for currants. Buscuits, of snow white Tenessee flour, raised with cream and sal-a-ratus. This last article, which is used in place of yeast, or eggs, in compounding light cakes, can also be made at home from ley of the wood ashes, but it is mostly bought in town. The quantity of this used is surprising, country "store-keepers" purchasing barrels to supply their customers. A raspberry pie, and a splendid dish of strawberries and cream, with tea (the inseparable beverage of every meal in New Brunswick), forms our repast; and such would it be in ninety-nine houses out of a hundred of the class I am describing. Many of the luxuries, and all the necessaries of life, can be raised at home, by those who are industrious and spirited enough to take advantage of their resources. Melancthon this year expects to bread himself, as well as grow enough of hay to winter his stock. Since he commenced farming he purchased what was not raised on the land by the sale of what was cut off it—that is, by selling ash timber and cord-wood he procured what he required. This, however, can only be done where there is water conveyance to market. The indefatigable Melancthon had four miles to "haul" his marketable wood; but, when the roads were bad, he was chopping and clearing at the same time, and when the snow was well beaten down, with his little French horse and light sled he soon drew it to the place from whence the boats are loaded in the spring. Dinner being now finished, and after some conversation, which must of course be of a very local description, although it is brightened with many a quiet touch of wit, of which the natives possess a great original fund, and Melancthon, having finished in the forenoon harrowing in his buck-wheat, has now gone with his axe to hew at a house-frame which he has in preparation, and Sybel and I having settled our affair of warp and woof, it is now time for me to proceed. She with her large Swiss-looking sun-hat, placed lightly on her brow, accompanies me to the "bars," and there, having parted with her, we will now resume our walk. The next lot presents one of those scenes of desolation and decay which will sometimes appear even in this land of improvement. What had once been a large clearing is now grown wild with bushes, the stumps have all sprouted afresh, and the fences fallen to the ground. The house presents that least-respectable of all ruins, a deserted log-building. There is no solidity of material nor remains of architectural beauty to make us respect its fate. 'Tis decay in its plainest and most uninteresting aspect. A few flowers have been planted near the house, and even now, where the weeds grow dark and rank, a fair young rose is waving her lovely head. The person who had gone thus far on in the toils of settling was from England, but the love of his native land burned all too bright within his heart. In vain he toiled on those rude fields, and though his own, they seemed not his home. The spirit voices of the land of his childhood called him back—he obeyed their spell, and just at the time his labours would have been repaid, he left, and, with all the money he could procure, paid his passage to England, where he soon after died in the workhouse of his parish. Yet even there the thought, perhaps, might soothe him, that though he filled a pauper's grave, it was in the soil where his fathers slept. The forsaken lot is still unclaimed, for people prefer the woodlands to those neglected clearings, from which to procure a crop infinitely more trouble and expense would be required than in taking it at once from the forest. Our way is not now so lonely as it was in the morning. Parties of the male population are frequently passing. One of the settlers has to-day a "barn-raising frolic," and thither they are bound. They present a fair specimen of their class in the forest settlements. The bushwhacker has nothing of the "bog-trotter" in his appearance, and his step is firm and free, as though he trod on marble floor. The attire of the younger parties which, although coarse, is perfectly clean and whole, has nothing rustic in its arrangement. His kersey trowsers are tightly strapped, and the little low-crowned hat, with a streaming ribbon, is placed most jauntily on his head. His axe is carried over one shoulder and his jacket over the other, which in summer is the common mode of carrying this part of the apparel. Those who have been lumbering may easily be known among the others, by sporting a flashy stock or waistcoat, and by being arrayed in "boughten" clothes, procured in town at a most expensive rate in lieu of their lumber. Little respect is, however, paid here to the cloth, (that is, broadcloth), for it is a sure sign of bad management, and most likely of debt, for the back settlers to be arrayed in any thing but their own home-made clothing. The grave and serious demeanour of these people is as different from the savage scowl of the discontented peasant, murmuring beneath the burthen of taxation and ill-remunerated toil, as from the free, light-hearted, and careless laughter, both of which characterise the rural groups in the fertile fields of England. New Brunswick is the land of strangers; even the first settlers, the "sons of the soil," as they claim to be, have hardly yet forgot their exile, a trace of which character, be he prosperous as he may, still hovers over the emigrant. Their early home, with its thousand ties of love, cannot be all forgotten. This feeling descends to their children, losing its tone of sadness, but throwing a serious shade over the national character, which, otherwise has nothing gloomy or melancholy in its composition. There is also a kind of "looking a-head" expression of countenance natural to the country, which is observed even in the children, who are not the careless frolicsome beings they are in other countries, but are here more truly miniature men and women, looking, as the Yankees express it, as if they had all cut their "eye-teeth."
But here we are, for the present, arrived at the bourne of our journey. High on a lofty hill before us stands a large frame building, the place of worship as well as the principal school-house of the settlement. This double purpose it is not, however, destined long to be devoted to, for the building of a church is already in contemplation, and will, no doubt, soon be proceeded with. The beaming sun is shining with dazzling radiance on its white walls, telling, in fervent whispers, that a shelter from the heat will be desirable; so here we will enter, where the shadowy trees, and bright stream glancing through the garden flowers, speak of inhabitants from the olden world. A frame building has been joined to the original log-house, and the dwelling thus made large enough to accommodate the household. Mrs. Gordon, the lady of the mansion, and the friend I have come thus far to see, is one of those persons the brilliance of whose gem-like character has been increased by the hard rubs of the world. She has experienced much of Time's chance and change—experiences and trials which deserve relating at large, and which I shall hereafter give, as they were told me by herself. Traces of the beauty she once possessed are yet pourtrayed on her faded but placid brow, and appear in brighter lines on the fair faces of her daughters. Her husband is from home, and the boys are gone to the frolic, so we will have a quiet evening to ourselves. The arrangement of this dwelling, although similar in feature to Sybel Gray's, is yet, as it were, different in expression; for instance, there is not such a display made of the home-manufactured garments, which it is the pride of her heart to look upon. These, of course, are here in existence, but are placed in another receptacle; and the place they hold along the walls of Sybel's dwelling is here occupied by a book-case, in which rests a store of treasured volumes; our conversation, too, is of a different cast from the original, yet often commonplace, remarks of Melancthon. 'Tis most likely a discussion of the speculative fancies contained in those sweet brighteners of our solitude, the books; or in tracing the same lights and shadows of character described in them, as were occurring in the passages of life around us; or, perhaps, something leads us to talk of him whose portrait hangs on the wall, the peasant bard of Scotland, whose heart-strung harp awakens an answering chord in every breast. The girls—who although born in this country and now busied in its occupations, one in guiding the revolving wheel, and the other in braiding a hat of poplar splints—join us in a manner which tells how well they have been nurtured in the lore of the "mountain heathery land," the birth-place of their parents; and the younger sister Helen's silvery voice breathes a soft strain of Scottish melody.
Meanwhile a pleasant interruption occurs in the post-horn winding loud and clear along the settlement. This is an event of rare occurrence in the back woods, where the want of a regular post communication is much felt, not so much in matters of worldly importance in business—these being generally transacted without the medium of letters—as by those who have loved ones in other lands. Alas! how often has the heart pined with the sickness of hope deferred, in waiting in vain for those long-expected lines, from the distant and the dear, which had been duly sent in all the spirit of affection, but which had been mislaid in their wanderings by land or sea; or the post-masters not being particularly anxious to know where the land of Goshen, the Pembroke, or the Canaan settlements were situated, had returned them to the dead letter office, and thus they never reached the persons for whom they were intended, and who lived on upbraiding those who, believing them to be no longer dwellers of the earth, cherished their memory with fondest love. Taking all these things into consideration, a meeting had been called in our settlement to ascertain if by subscription a sufficient sum could be raised to pay a weekly courier to assert our rights at the nearest post-office. This was entered into with spirit, all feeling sensible of the benefits which it would bring; they who could afford it giving freely of their abundance, and those who could not pay their subscription all in money, giving half a dollar cash, and a bushel or half a bushel of buck wheat or potatoes to the cause; and thus the sum necessary was soon raised—the courier himself subscribing a dollar towards his own salary. The thing had gone on very well—communication with the world seemed to have commenced all at once. Nearly every family took a different newspaper, and these being exchanged with each other, afforded plenty of food for the mind, and prevented it brooding too deeply over the realities of life.
The newspapers in this country, especially those of the United States, are not merely dull records of parliamentary doings, of bill and debate, the rising of corn or falling of wheat, but contain besides reviews and whole copies of the newest and best works of the day, both in science and lighter literature. We dwellers of the forest had no guineas to give for new books, and if we had, unless we freighted ships home on purpose, we could not have procured them. But this was not felt, while for our few yearly dollars the Albion's pearly paper and clear black type brought for society around our hearths the laughter-loving "Lorrequer," the pathos of the portrait painter, or the soul-winning Christopher North, whose every word seems written in letters of gold, incrusted with precious jewels. In the "New World" Froissart gave his chronicles of the olden time, and the mammoth sheets of "Era" and "The Notion" brought us the peerless pages of "Zanoni," or led us away with "Dickens" and "Little Nell," by the green glades and ancient churches of England. Little did we think while we read with delight of this author's princely welcome to the American continent, what would be the result of his visit, he came and passed like the wild Simoom. Soon after his return to England an edict came, forbidding in the British provinces of America publications containing reprints of English works. Of the deeper matters connected with the copyright question I know not, but this I do know, that our long winter nights seemed doubly long and drear, with nothing to read but dark details of horrid murder, or deadly doings of Rebeccaite and Chartist. As yet, however, this time was not come, and each passing week saw us now enlightened with the rays of some new bright gem of genius.
The postman blew his horn as he passed each dwelling for whose inmates he had letters or papers; and for those whose address lay beyond his route, places of depository were appointed in the settlement. Mrs. Gordon's was one of these, from whence they were duly despatched by the first chance to their destinations on the Nashwaak, Waterloo, or Windsor clearings. Although our Mercury would duly have signalised his approach as he passed our own dwelling, I possessed myself of my treasure here—my share of the priceless wealth of that undying intellect which is allowed to pour its brilliant flood, freely and untramelled, to the lowliest homes of the American world. Having glanced along the lines and seen that our first favourites had visited us this week, our tea seemed to bear with it an added fragrance; and this, although the walls around us were of logs, we had in fairy cups of ancient porcelain from the distant land of Scotland. And now the sun's broad disc having vanished behind the lofty pines, and the young moon rising in the blue heavens, tell us our short twilight will soon be gone, and that if we would reach home before the stars look out upon our path, 'tis time we were on our way.
The cow bells are ringing loud and clear as the herd winds slowly homeward, looking most luxuriantly comfortable, and bearing with them the spicy scent of the cedar-woods in which they have been wandering, and which they seem to leave so unwillingly. Philoprogenitiveness, or a deep feeling of motherly affection, being the only thing that does voluntarily induce them to come home. To encourage this desirable feeling the leader of the herd, the lady of the bell, is allowed to suckle her calf every evening. For this happy task she leaves all the delights of her pasture, plodding regularly homeward at the hour of sunset, the rest all meekly following in her train.
The evening is dry and clear, with no trace of rain in the atmosphere, or we would be surrounded with clouds of those awful critturs, the musquitoes, which the cattle bring home. These are often a dreadful annoyance, nothing but a thick cloud of smoke dispelling them, and that only for a time. At night they are particularly a nuisance, buzzing and stinging unceasingly through the silent hours, forbidding all thought of sleep till the dawn shows them clinging to the walls and windows, wearied and bloated with their night's amusement. Those who are sufficiently acclimated suffer comparatively little—'tis the rich blood of the stranger that the musquito loves, and emigrants, on the first season, especially in low marshy situations, suffer extremely from their attacks.
Mary Gordon having now gone with her pails to meet her milky charge, while her mother arranges the dairy within, Helen comes to set me on my way. Again we meet the frolickers returning rather earlier than is usual on such occasions; but there was sickness at the dwelling where they had been, which caused them to disperse soon after they had accomplished the "raising." Kindly greetings passed between us; for here, in this little world of ours, we have hardly room for the petty distinctions and pettier strifes of larger communities. We are all well acquainted with each other, and know each other's business and concerns as well as our own. There is no concealment of affairs. This, however, saves a vast deal of trouble—people are much easier where there is no false appearance to be kept up; and in New Brunswick there is less of "behind the scenes" than in most places. Many a bright eye glances under Helen's shadowy hat: and, see, one gallant axe-man lingers behind the others—he pauses now by the old birch tree—I know he is her lover, and in charity to their young hearts I must allow her to turn, while we proceed onward.
The fire-flies now gleam through the air like living diamonds, and the evening star has opened her golden eye in the rich deep azure of the sky. Our home stands before us, with its white walls thrown in strong relief by the dark woods behind it: and here, on this adjoining lot, lives our neighbour who is ill—he who to-day has had the "barn raising." It would be but friendly to call and enquire for him. The house is one of the best description of log buildings. The ground floor contains two large apartments and a spacious porch, which extends along the front, has the dairy in one end and a workshop in the other, that most useful adjunct to a New Brunswick dwelling, where the settlers are often their own blacksmiths and carpenters, as well as splint pounders and shingle weavers. The walls are raised high enough to make the chamber sufficiently lofty, and the roof is neatly shingled. As we enter, an air of that undefinable English ideality—comfort—seems diffused, as it were, in the atmosphere of the place. There is a look of retirement about the beds, which stand in dim recesses of the inner apartment, with their old but well-cared-for chintz hangings, differing from the free uncurtained openness of the blue nose settler's couch; a publicity of sleeping arrangements being common all over America, and much disliked by persons from the old countries, a bed being a prominent piece of furniture in the sitting and keeping rooms of even those aristocratic personages, the first settlers. The large solid-looking dresser, which extends nearly along one side of the house, differs too from the light shelf of the blue nose, which rests no more crockery than is absolutely necessary. Here there is a wide array of dishes, large and small—old China tea-cups, wisely kept for show,—little funny mugs, curious pitchers, mysterious covered dishes, unearthly salad bowls, and a host of superannuated tea-pots. Above them is ranged a bright copper kettle, a large silvery pewter basin, and glittering brazen candlesticks, all brought from their English home, and borne through toil and danger, like sacred relics, from the shrine of the household gods. The light of the fire is reflected on the polished surface of a venerable oaken bureau, whose unwieldy form has also come o'er the deep sea, being borne along the creeks and rivers of New Brunswick, and dragged through forest paths to its present resting place. In the course of its wanderings by earth and ocean it has become minus a foot, the loss of which is supplied by an unsmoothed block of pine, the two forming not an inapt illustration of their different countries. The polished oaken symbol of England receiving assistance in its hour of need from the rude but hardy pine emblem of New Brunswick. The room is cool and quiet; the young people being outside with a few who have lingered after the frolic. By the open window, around which a hop vine is enwreathed, in memory of the rose-bound casements of England, and through which comes a faint perfume from the balm of gilead trees, sits the invalid, seemingly refreshed with the pleasant things around him. He has been suffering from rheumatic fever caught in the changeful days of the early spring, when the moist air penetrates through nerve and bone, and when persons having the least tendency to rheumatism, or pulmonary complaints, cannot use too much caution. At no other season is New Brunswick unhealthy; for the winter, although cold, is dry and bracing. The hot months are not so much so as to be injurious, and the bland breezes of the fall and Indian summer are the most delightful that can be imagined.
Stephen Morris had come from England, like the generality of New Brunswick settlers, but lightly burthened with worldly gear—but gifted with the unpurchasable treasures of a strong arm and willing spirit, that is, a spirit resolved to do its best, and not be overcome with the difficulties to be encountered in the struggle of subduing the mighty wilderness. While he felled the forest, his wife, accustomed in her own country to assist in all field labours, toiled with him in piling and fencing as well as in planting and reaping. Even their young children learned to know that every twig they lifted off the ground left space for a blade of grass or grain; beginning with this, their assistance soon became valuable, and the labour of their hands in the field soon lightened the burthen of feeding their lips. Slowly and surely had Stephen gone onward, keeping to his farm and minding nothing else, unlike many of the emigrants, who, while professing to be farmers, yet engage in other pursuits, particularly lumbering, which, although the mainspring of the province and source of splendid wealth to many of the inhabitants, has yet been the bane of others. Allured by the visions of speedy riches it promises, they have neglected their farms, and engaged in its glittering speculations with the most ardent hopes, which have far oftener been blighted than realised. A sudden change in trade, or an unexpected storm in the spring, having bereft them of all, and left them overwhelmed in debt, with neglected and ruined lands, with broken constitutions, (for the lumberer's life is most trying to the health,) and often too with broken hearts, and minds all unfitted for the task of renovating their fortune. Their life afterwards is a bitter struggle to get above water; that tyrant monster, their heavy debt, still chaining them downwards, devouring with insatiate greed their whole means, for interest or bond, until it be discharged; a hard matter for them to accomplish—so hard that few do it, and the ruined lumberer sinks, to the grave with its burthen yet upon him. Stephen had kept aloof from this, and now surveyed,
"——With pride beyond a monarch's spoil, His honest arm's own subjugated toil."
A neighbour of his had come out from England at the same time he had done and commenced farming an adjoining lot, but he soon wearied of the slow returns of his land and commenced lumbering. For a time he went on dashingly, the merchants in town supplying him freely with provisions and everything necessary to carry on his timber-making—whilst Stephen worked hard and lived poor, he enjoyed long intervals of ease and fared luxuriantly. But a change came: one spring the water was too low to get his timber down, the next the freshet burst at once and swept away the labour of two seasons, and ere he got another raft to market, the price had fallen so low that it was nearly valueless. He returned dispirited to his home and tried to conceal himself from his creditors, the merchants whom the sale of his timber was to have repaid for the supplies they had advanced; but his neglected fields showed now but a crop of bushes and wild laurel, or an ill-piled clearing, with a scanty crop of buck-wheat; while Stephen Morris looked from his window on fair broad fields from whence the stumps had all disappeared, where the long grass waved rich with clover-flowers between, and many a tract that promised to shine with autumn wreaths of golden grain; leaflets and buds were close and thick on the orchard he had planted, and where erst the wild-bush stood now bloomed the lovely rose. On a green hill before him stood the lofty frame of the building this evening raised, with all its white tracery of beam and rafter, a new but welcome feature in the landscape. A frame barn is the first ambition of the settler's heart; without one much loss and inconvenience is felt. Hay and grain are not stacked out as in other countries, but are all placed within the shelter of the barn; these containing, as they often do, the whole hay crop, besides the grain and accommodation for the cattle, must, of course, be of large dimensions, and are consequently expensive. With this Stephen had proceeded surely and cautiously as was his wont. In the winter he had hauled logs off his own land to the saw-mill to be made into boards. He cut down with much trouble some of the ancient pines which long stood in the centre of his best field, and from their giant trunks cut well-seasoned blocks, with which he made shingles in the stormy days of winter. Thus by degrees he provided all the materials for enclosing and roofing, and was not obliged, as many are, to let the frame, (which is the easiest part provided, and which they often raise without seeming even to think how they are to be enclosed,) stand for years, like a huge grey skeleton, with timbers all warped and blackened by the weather. Steadily as Stephen had gone on, yet as the completion of his object became nearer he grew impatient of its accomplishment, and determined to have his barn ready for the reception of his hay harvest; and for this purpose he worked on, hewing at the frame in the spring, reckless of the penetrating rain, the chill wind, or the damp earth beneath, and thus, by neglect of the natural laws, he was thrown upon the couch of sickness, where he lay long. This evening, however, he was better, and sat gazing with pleased aspect on the scene, and then I saw his eyes turn from the fair green hill and its new erection to where, in the hollow of a low and marshy spot of land, stood the moss-grown logs and sunken walls of the first shelter he had raised for his cattle—his old log barn, which stood on the worst land of the farm, but when it was raised the woods around were dark and drear, and he knew not the good soil from the bad; yet now he thought how, in this unseemly place, he had stored his crop and toiled for years with unfailing health, where his arm retained its nerve, unstrung neither by summer's heat nor winter's cold, when the voice of his son, a tall stripling, who had managed affairs during his illness, recalled him to the present, which certainly to him I thought might wear no unfavourable aspect. He had literally caused the wilderness to blossom as the rose, and saw rising around him not a degenerate but an improving race, gifted far beyond himself with bright mental endowments, the spontaneous growth of the land they lived in, and which never flourish more fairly than when engrafted on the old English stem; that is, the children of emigrants, or the Anglo-bluenoses, have the chance of uniting the high-aspiring impulses of young America to the more solid principles of the olden world, thus forming a decided improvement in the native race of both countries. But Stephen has too much of human nature in him not to prefer the past, and I saw that the sunbeams of memory rested brightly on the old log barn, obscuring the privations and years of bitter toil and anxiety connected with it, and dimming his eyes to ought else, however better; so that I left him to his meditations, and after a step of sixty rods, the breadth of the lot, I am once more at home, where, as it is now dark, we will close the door and shut out the world, to this old country prejudice has made us attach a small wooden button inside, the only fastening, except the latch, I believe, in the settlement. Bolts and bars being all unused, the business of locksmith is quite at a discount in the back woods, where all idea of a midnight robbery is unknown; and yet, if rumour was true, there were persons not far from us to whom the trade of stealing would not be new. One there was of whom it was said, that for this reason alone was New Brunswick graced with his presence. He had in his own country been taken in a daring act of robbery, and conveyed in the dark of night to be lodged in gaol. The officers were kind-hearted, and, having secured his hands, allowed his wife to accompany him, themselves walking a short distance apart. At first the lady kept up a most animated conversation, apparently upbraiding the culprit for his conduct. He answered her, but by degrees he seemed so overcome by her remarks that he spoke no more, and she had all the discourse to herself. Having arrived at their destination, the officers approached their prisoner, but he was gone, the wife alone remained. The darkness of the night bad favoured his escape while she feigned to be addressing him, and, having thus defeated the law, joined her spouse, and made the best of their way to America, where the workings of the law of kindness were exemplified in his case. His character being there generally unknown, he was treated and trusted as an honest man, and he broke not his faith. The better feelings were called into action; conscientiousness, though long subdued, arose and breathed through his spirit the golden rule of right.
The days in America are never so short in winter as they are in Europe, nor are they so long in summer, and there is always an hour or two of the cool night to be enjoyed ere the hour of rest comes. Our evening lamp is already lighted, and our circle increased by the presence of the school-mistress.
Although in this country the local government has done much towards the advancement of schools, yet much improvement requires to be made—not in their simple internal arrangements, for which there is no regular system, but in the more important article of remuneration. The government allows twenty pounds a year to each school; the proprietors, or those persons who send their children to the school, agreeing to pay the teacher a like sum at least (though in some of the older settled parts of the country from forty to fifty pounds is paid by them); as part payment of this sum providing him with board, &c., &c., and this alone is the evil part of the scheme; this boarding in turn with the proprietors, who keep him a week or a month in proportion to the number of the pupils they send, and to make up their share of the year, for which term he is hired, as his engagement is termed—an expression how derogatory to the dignity of many a learned dominie? From this cause the teacher has no home, no depository for his books, which are lost in wandering from place to place; and if he had them, no chance for study: for the log-house filled with children and wheels is no fit abode for a student. This boarding system operates badly in many ways. The nature of the blue nose is still leavened with that dislike of coercive measures inherited from their former countrymen, the Yankees. It extends to their children, and each little black-eyed urchin, on his wooden bench and dog-eared dilworth in hand, must be treated by his teacher as a free enlightened citizen. But even without this, where is there in any country a schoolmaster daring enough to use a ratan, or birch rod, to that unruly darling from whose mother he knows his evening reception will be sour looks, and tea tinged with sky-blue, but would not rather let the boy make fox-and-geese instead of, ciphering, say his lesson when he pleased, and have cream and short-cake for his portion. Another disagreeable thing is, that fond and anxious as they are for "larning," they have not yet enough of it to appreciate the value of education. The schoolmaster is not yet regarded as the mightiest moral agent of the earth; the true vicegerent of the spirit from above, by which alone the soul is truly taught to plume her wings and shape her course for Heaven. And in this country, where operative power is certain wealth, he who can neither wield axe or scythe may be looked on with a slight shade of contempt: but this only arises from constant association with the people; for were the schoolmaster more his own master, and less under their surveillance by having a dwelling of his own, his situation otherwise would be comfortable and lucrative.
The state of school affairs begins to attract much notice from the legislature, and no doubt the present system of school government will soon be improved. A board of education is appointed in each county, whose office it is to examine candidates for the office of parish school teacher, and report to the local governor as to their competency, previous to his conferring the required license. Trustees are also appointed in the several parishes, who manage the other business connected with them, such as regulating their number, placing masters where they are most wanted, and receiving and apportioning the sum appropriated to their support, or encouragement, by the government. Mr. B. held this situation, and frequent were the visits of the lords of the birch to our domicile, either asking redress for fancied wrongs, or to discuss disputed points of school discipline.