The Log House by the Lake, A Tale of Canada, by William H G Kingston.
A well-to-do English family, with inherited wealth, find that this situation is challenged in the law-courts. They lose the case, and, as with Marryat's "Settlers in Canada" in a similar situation, decide to emigrate to Canada. This they do, and have enough money to settle there, but not in a grand house: it is only the Log House by the Lake.
There are various adventures with sailing and canoeing on the lake, but when the winter comes on, the lake freezes over, and the boys get themselves into a dangerous predicament, from which they only just escape.
Unlike with the Marryat story, the decision by the court was valid but the cousin who won the case was a useless administrator of his fortune, and lost it all through bad advice and dishonest acquaintances.
What do the family do about it? Read the book, or listen to it, and find out. It's a short book, only three hours to read, and there's a surprise ending for you!
One oddity about the book is that throughout it conversations are merged into single paragraphs. This made it a little hard to get the paragraphing correct in our rendition, but we think we have got it almost right now.
THE LOG HOUSE BY THE LAKE, A TALE OF CANADA, BY WILLIAM H G KINGSTON.
It was late in the afternoon when Mr Philip Ashton walked up to the door of his residence in Portman-square. His hand touched the knocker irresolutely. "It must be done," he said to himself. "May strength be given to all of them to bear the blow!" His hand shook as he rapped. The hall door flew open, a servant in handsome livery stood ready to take his hat and gloves. As he entered the drawing-room his wife and daughters rose to welcome him, with affection beaming in their eyes, as did his three sons, who had just arrived at home from different directions.
"Dear papa, you are not well," exclaimed Sophy, his eldest daughter, leading him to a seat.
"Philip, what is the matter?" asked his wife, leaning over him.
"Sit down, dears, and I will tell you," he answered, pressing her hand. "A severe trial has come upon us, but—"
"Dear Leonard, nothing has happened to him, I pray?" gasped out Mrs Ashton. Leonard was a sailor son, the only one now absent.
"Thank Heaven he is well; I had a letter from him only to-day," answered Mr Ashton. "Many mercies are granted us, and I trust, therefore, that you will all submit to be deprived, without murmuring, of the wealth we hitherto have thought our own. Dear ones, the law-suit has been decided against us!"
The young Ashtons were silent for some minutes, but presently recovered themselves.
"We can all work," exclaimed the three sons, in a breath.
"Our happiness does not consist in this," said Sophy, glancing round the room, "We will make the smallest cottage comfortable for you, mamma."
"I am sure we can, and do all the work ourselves," cried Fanny, her next sister.
"I can make a pudding, and churn, and could soon learn how to milk a cow," said Agnes, the third daughter, laughing. "I have always wished to live in a cottage in the country."
"I've arranged it," said Fanny. "Agnes shall be cook, I will be waiting-maid, Sophy housekeeper, Philip bailiff, Harry gardener, and Charley—oh, let me consider—general farm-servant: won't that be excellent?"
"But you place your mother and me on the shelf," said Mr Ashton, his spirits reviving from seeing the way in which his children bore the announcement he had so dreaded making. "What are we to do?"
"O papa, of course you and mamma are to do nothing. We are all to work for you," exclaimed Harry, a fine youth of fourteen, who looked as if there was indeed work in him.
"Of course," added Charley. "How we ought to thank you, papa, for having us taught carpentering, and that we all have such a fancy for gardening. John says, too, that I know almost as much about pigs and cows and sheep as he does; and as for Phil, he knows more about everything than all of us put together."
Philip—Mr Ashton's eldest son—had not spoken after he had first expressed his feelings with his brothers. His thoughts were elsewhere. A bright airy castle he had lately raised, had just been hurled rudely to the ground, and he was stunned by the crash.
Mr Ashton retired to rest that night with a mind greatly relieved. He had not doubted the affection of his children, and he was assured that it would enable them to bear their reverse of fortune with cheerfulness. When he rose in the morning he prayed earnestly for strength to go through the work required of him, and that is never denied to those who seek it from Him who can alone afford it. In all the work he received able assistance from his son. Philip had not left a single debt unpaid at the University, by which, under his altered circumstances, he might ever afterwards have been hampered. Mr Ashton, having never allowed household bills to run on, was comparatively free from debt.
All his affairs arranged, he found himself with an income—arising from a settlement on his wife—of two hundred pounds a-year, and about fifteen hundred pounds in ready money. Once more his family being assembled, he pointed out to them that though their plans were very good, if they were to remain a united family they must look to the future, and seek in another country the opportunity of developing their energies.
"What do you think of Canada?" he asked.
"A capital country!" cried Charley, who, as the youngest, spoke first. "I know all about the sleighing, and the skating, and the ice-boats, and the coasting down snow-hills, and the shooting huge deer, and the snow-shoeing, and the sailing on the lakes, and the fishing, and the sporting of all sorts,—not a country like it, I should say."
"It's a country for hard work, I know," said Harry. "Nothing I should fancy so much as cutting down trees, building log-huts, fencing in fields, and ploughing and reaping. Ever since I read 'Laurie Todd' I have wished to go there." Philip and his sisters expressed themselves equally ready to emigrate.
No time was lost in making the necessary preparations, after it was resolved that they should go to Canada. It was highly gratifying to them to find that several of their servants wished to accompany them. Two only, however, could be taken. Of these Mrs Summers had been the nurse of all the younger children, and had lately acted as housekeeper. "It would break my heart, marm, if you were to go out to a strange country, and I, who am still strong and hearty, not to be with you to help you in all your troubles," she said, with tears in her eyes, to Mrs Ashton. "Though you take them like an angel, marm, they are troubles."
The other, Peter Puckle by name, had been first stable-boy, then page, and lately footman. He engaged Harry to plead his cause. "The wages and the passage-money shan't stand in the way, Master Harry," he urged. "I have not been in the family all these years without laying by something, and it's the honour of serving your good father still is all I want."
The surface of the broad Atlantic was scarcely ruffled by a breeze as the steamer with the Ashton family on board rushed across it. "Well, Sophy, I declare it is worth being ruined for the sake of the fun we have on board," exclaimed Charley, to his eldest sister, who was sitting reading on deck, at a short distance from the rest of the party.
A gentleman standing by heard the remark, and finding Charley by himself directly afterwards, he observed, smiling, "Why, my young friend, you do not look as if you were ruined. I have never met a happier family than yours appears to be. What did you mean by saying that?"
"Well, I do not think that we are ruined really, sir," said Charley, artlessly; "still, my papa had many thousand pounds a-year till lately, and we lived in a large house in London, and had another in the country, and Philip was at Oxford and Harry at Eton, and I was going there; and now we are to live in a log-hut in the back woods in Canada, and that makes us all so jolly, because it will be such capital fun. Don't you think so?"
"I have had some experience of life in the back woods," answered the gentleman. "It has its advantages and its disadvantages, though I have little doubt but that you will find it pleasant."
"What, do you live in Canada, sir?" asked Charley.
"Yes; I have lived there all my life," said the stranger. "But, my young friend, you say that you are ruined, and yet I see that you have servants attending on you: how is that?"
"Why, they insisted on coming, and would not leave us," answered Charley.
"Would more have accompanied you?" enquired the stranger. "I am afraid, though, that my questions may appear impertinent,"
"If papa would have let them," said Charley.
"That fact speaks volumes in favour both of masters and servants," said the stranger to himself.
From that day Charley looked upon the stranger as an especial friend, though he could learn little more about him than that his name was Norman. At length the Saint Lawrence was reached, and the Ashton family landed safely at Quebec, the chief port of the superb province which the gallantry of Wolfe won for England, and which, mainly by the perseverance and energy of Anglo-Saxon inhabitants, has become one of the brightest jewels in the British crown.
"We have gained the day, Mrs Ashton! We have gained the day, girls!" exclaimed Mr Ashton, rushing with his hat on into the small sitting-room of a red brick house in a dull street of a country town in England. Various exclamations broke from the lips of Mrs and the Misses Ashton at this unexpected announcement. For reasons best known to himself, Mr John Ashton had not informed his wife and daughters of the law-suit going on between himself and his relative, Mr Philip Ashton. "Guess the amount!" he exclaimed. That was impossible. "What do you think of six thousand a-year? Every shilling of it, and under my management it will become ten thousand; ay, and more than that, probably." It was some time before the Ashtons could realise the fact of this good fortune, as they called it; but as they realised it their ideas expanded, their aspirations increased. Their eldest son, John, lately articled to an attorney, must be entered at Oxford; the second, apprenticed to a draper, was sent off to Germany to grow whiskers and a moustache, lest any of the country gentry should recognise him as having measured out ribbons for them from behind the counter; while the youngest was taken from the Grammar-school and sent off, much against his will, to form aristocratic acquaintances at Eton. The great ambition of the Miss Ashtons was to shine in London society. Their father boasted that money could do everything. It enabled him to obtain a handsome house, equipage, and establishment, and then to commence their career in the world of fashion. There were three Miss Ashtons. The two eldest were considered beauties; the youngest, Mary, had been absent on a visit, and did not return home till her father was on the point of setting off for London.
"Father, I wish to speak to you alone," said Mary, on the evening of her arrival. Mr Ashton led the way to his office at the back of the house. He had considerable respect for Mary, though he tried not to show it. "Father, I hope that you will not consider I have been wanting in duty in having refrained from writing what I now wish to tell you," she began. Mr Ashton looked uncomfortable, but nodded for her to continue, which she did. "While I was with Mrs Musgrave, at Scarborough, a gentleman of our name, who happened to be there with some members of his family, was introduced to me. Mrs Musgrave was much pleased with him— we saw him frequently—he at length proposed to me, and feeling sure that you would approve of him, I accepted him."
"What is his name?" asked Mr Ashton, sharply.
"Philip Ashton;—he is most worthy—most excellent," answered Mary, trembling at her father's tone. "He is all—!"
"He is a beggar!" exclaimed Mr Ashton, vehemently. "You will have nothing more to say to him; you understand me clearly; it is not a matter I wish to discuss." Rising from his seat he led the way out of the room.
Two days afterwards Mary received a letter from Philip Ashton, freeing her from her engagement to him in consequence of their altered circumstances, but couched in terms which more than ever convinced her that he was worthy of her best affections. The family arrived in London, and by dint of perseverance, managed to engage in a whirl of dissipation, which they called pleasure. Mary's cheeks grew paler than they were wont. Her sisters said that it was the effect of the London season. John, voting Oxford a bore, came to London, and without much difficulty, obtained the character of a fashionable young man about town. It might have been doubted whether Mr Ashton himself derived full advantage from his large income. Few of his guests knew him by sight, and he had often to steal off to bed fatigued with his labours as director of numerous promising speculations in which he had engaged to increase his fortune. Altogether the Ashton family were very busily employed. Some might say that they were like those who "sow the wind to reap the whirlwind." We gladly quit them to follow the fortunes of their emigrant cousins.
Canada is now traversed from one end to the other by railways, with numerous ramifications to the north and south, while steam-vessels run not only on its main artery—the Saint Lawrence—and the great chain of lakes, but also on numerous other rivers and lakes in every direction on the lines of the highway to any inhabited district. Notwithstanding this, the romance of travelling through Canada is not altogether done away with. Although several of the chief cities contain very large populations, Montreal having 100,000 inhabitants, and Quebec and Toronto not many thousands less, and possessing likewise all the advantages required by civilised communities, yet a very few miles away from them the stranger may find himself in some wild district where he might suppose that the foot of man had never trod. In the summer, steamers on water compete with locomotives on land in conveying passengers; and when time is not of consequence, the route by water is generally preferred.
A few days only were spent at Quebec by the Ashtons after their arrival, before they embarked on board one of those wonderful constructions, an American steam-boat, to proceed up the Saint Lawrence to Montreal. The entrance was in the side of the vessel, and on the main deck, which appeared lumbered up from one end to the other with casks, chests, and packages, a flight of steps led to an upper deck, which had the appearance of a long gallery, fitted up as a drawing-room, with sofas, easy chairs, and every luxury. The glazed roof was supported by pillars, but no access could be discovered to any spot where helmsman, captain, or crew might be posted. Harry, after many enquiries, found that the wheel was on a platform on the roof forward, where the captain and pilot stood. He pronounced the vessel to be constructed on two huge arches, having a vast Thames wherry below, with a superstructure of picture galleries on a wide platform extending far over her gunwale on either side.
Montreal, the head of the ocean navigation, was reached; and then by a series of magnificent canals the rapids of the Saint Lawrence were avoided; the lake of the Thousand Isles, with their rocky bases and tree-covered summits, was passed, as were several larger and thriving towns, and Lake Ontario was entered.
At Kingston they embarked on board another steamer, which was far more like an ordinary vessel than the one they had just quitted. Who should come on board, just before she left the wharf, but Mr Norman. A few hours afterwards, when Harry and Charley came on deck, they uttered an exclamation of surprise as they looked around. "What, is this called a lake, Mr Norman? Why, where is the land?"
"Out of sight," answered their friend, laughing. "North, south, east, west of us. It is rather hazy to the north, or you would see the pine-fringed shore. We shall soon again see it, as we have to touch at several towns on our way."
Several large vessels were met under all sail, with numerous crews, steering for the Saint Lawrence.
"Where can they be going to?" said Harry.
"To Liverpool, perhaps, or to some other English port, laden with wheat from the Western States," answered Mr Norman. "Vessels have sailed all the way from Lake Superior to England."
They saw, however, more things to wonder at than can well be recounted. Not the least, in the eyes of the boys, was the fine city of Toronto, with its numerous public buildings.
"Why, I thought that we were about to enter the backwoods by the time we got thus far west, and here we are in the middle of as civilised a city as any we have seen," exclaimed Harry, on their return from an excursion through Toronto.
"We have many other fine towns still further west," said Mr Norman, who had stayed at the same hotel. "If we go into the States we shall find, several hundred miles off, Chicago, which has sprung up as if by the wand of the enchanter. The secret of this rapid increase is its peculiar position at the head of a great navigable lake, with a background unrivalled in its corn-producing powers. In the course of years we may hope to see cities, towns, and villages, rising at intervals on British territory, directly across our vast continent, united to those which have already appeared in British Columbia."
Mr Ashton having made all the enquiries in his power as to eligible localities, set off with Philip to select a spot for the future abode of the family. He was advised to rent a partially cleared farm, but his sons especially entreated that he would purchase a tract of wild ground, that they might have the satisfaction of feeling that with their own hands they were bringing their own property from a state of nature into one of cultivation. He yielded to their wishes, though, perhaps, the plan he was advised to adopt would have more rapidly afforded them a return for their outlay, and some of the luxuries of civilisation. Mr Norman casually enquired the direction in which they proposed prosecuting their search, and on hearing that it was to the north, he remarked that he might possibly meet them.
We need scarcely say that the Ashton family employed their time profitably in seeing all that there was to be seen in Toronto, and that they made excursions to Hamilton, and to several other towns accessible by railway. Mr Ashton lost no time in searching for the desired locality, and he and Philip soon came to the conclusion that it was not a thing to be done in a hurry. Fortunately Mr Norman did meet them, and with his assistance they at last found a spot to suit them. "The next thing you will have to do is to get fixed" he said, laughing. "You will soon find out the meaning of that term, I guess."
Note. "Get fixed" is the American cant term for settled.
Towards the close of a bright summer day, several wheeled vehicles were progressing slowly along a broad but roughish road cut through the forest in the northern part of the peninsula of Upper Canada. In colonial phrase, they were all waggons; but some carried luggage only, and one of them human beings, with a small amount of personalities, in the shape of carpet bags and hat boxes between their feet. This vehicle was a long shallow box, or it might be called a tray on wheels, with four seats across, each calculated to hold three persons, and with a box for the driver. The baggage-waggons were of the same build, without the seats, and were heavily laden with chests, casks, bales, and bedding, with other household furniture. They must have been stronger than they looked, to withstand the violent bumpings and jerks they received as they progressed along the chief highway as yet opened up in that part of the country. The nature of the road varied very much, according to the character of the land over which it passed: now it was of corduroy—that is to say of trees laid across it, the interstices filled up with clay or sand. In a few places in the neighbourhood of saw-mills, planks had been placed diagonally across the road, secured to sleepers beneath, and over these bits the horses dragged the vehicles at a speed which made the travellers wish that the whole road was formed in the same manner. This they found was called a plank road. How the machines could hold together, or the limbs of the occupants escape dislocation, seemed surprising as they surged over the first-mentioned style of road. Now and then the foundation of the road was of rock; and this though even rougher, caused no fear of its letting the carriages sink through. Here and there gravel appeared and allowed of firm footing; but the worst parts of all were those undelightful spots called cedar swamps, across which neither plank nor corduroy had been thrown, and which caused the travellers to doubt considerably whether they and their vehicles would get across or sink beneath the treacherous surface. In such cases, however, all hands uniting with ropes and poles, the waggons were dragged across.
No one could complain that the road did not go direct for its object; on it went, up and down hill, and across bog and stream, with the same vanishing point between the dark tall thick growing trees ever a-head. Most people would have become very weary of what they had gone through and of the prospect before them, but the travellers now proceeding along the road were the Ashton family; and Mr Norman had prepared them fully for what they were to expect, besides which they were always inclined to make light of difficulties of every sort and kind.
Their last day's journey was drawing to a close. As they mounted to the top of a ridge of hills over which the road led, in the distance was seen the blue surface of Lake Huron, while below them appeared, surrounded by trees, a small piece of water, unnoted on most maps, though covering an area as large as all the Cumberland Lakes put together. In the smaller lake were several wooded islands, and there were promontories, and bays, and inlets, with hills of some height near it, adding to its picturesque beauty. A wood-crowned height separated the smaller from the larger expanse of water, except in one place, where a river, or an inlet it might be called, formed a junction, which settlers on the shores of the former would not fail to prize.
"There is our future home," said Mr Ashton, pointing to the side of the small lake nearest Lake Huron. "Philip and Peter, with the two men Mr Norman sent up, will, I hope, have made some progress by this time, and have got a roof ready under which you may creep. We shall soon be at the village, and from thence we must cross the lake in a boat, as the road round is impassable, or rather there is no road at all."
Harry, who had a small telescope slung at his back, said that he could make out a wide clearing and a shanty in the middle of it. His parents hoped that he was correct, though his younger sisters and brother declared that they should be delighted to camp out in the bush for the remainder of the summer. It was growing dusk as the travellers entered the village, which consisted of a store, three or four log-huts, and half a dozen shanties or sheds, some the abode of man, and some of beast, and some shared by both. The store being covered in with planks, and having three stories, was the building of by far the greatest pretensions. One of the shanties was the future hotel of the place, at present, however, affording accommodation to neither man nor beast. The landlord stood at the door with his arms akimbo, and the air of a man perfectly satisfied with himself and his belongings, as he watched the approach of the waggons. He was active enough when they stopped before his abode, hoping that some of the party would become his customers.
"Well, strangers, you look spry after your journey. Glad to see you. We'll become good neighbours, I guess," was his familiar but not surly salutation. Mr Ashton took it in good part. "Thank you, my friend, we have come along very well," he answered. "Can you tell me, Have my son and his servant been here lately?"
"Your two young men were up here not ten minutes ago. They've gone back to the boat, I guess. They're no great hands at liquoring. If you shout they'll hear you."
"Philip a-hoy!" shouted Harry and Charley, their shrill voices sounding clearly through the dark pine forest which shut in the settlement on either side, and sweeping over the calm waters of the lake.
"Ay, ay; all right!" was the cheerful reply, and Philip, accompanied by Peter, came rushing up in time to help his mother and sisters to unpack from their somewhat uncomfortable conveyance. "It does not do to be idle out here, and so, having our fishing gear, we were employing ourselves while waiting your arrival in catching some fish for your supper," he said, as he helped his mother to the ground. "Mr Job Judson here did not quite approve of our proceeding, as he would rather we had spent the time in his bar; however, I have brought him up some of the proceeds of our sport to propitiate him, for he is an obliging, good-natured fellow, at bottom. I wish him a better calling."
After all the family had alighted, and their affectionate greetings were over, Philip exhibited the fine white fish he had brought for Mr Judson, weighing some four or five pounds.
"We have half-a-dozen similar fish for our family supper, so we shall not starve," he said, with a tone of satisfaction. "We have not broached a cask of beef or pork since we came here."
"And we shall not, I hope, while a bird or beast remains to be shot, or a fish to be caught," cried Harry.
As there was not a hut vacant in which to store the lading of the waggons, Philip arranged to take the family across in the boat, with their bedding and other necessary articles, and to return at once for the remainder. "I am sure that if D'Arcy knew it he would help, but we shall have a full moon up presently, and I would rather get the work done now than wait for day, when the heat on the lake will be considerable," he observed.
Mr Judson undertook to watch the luggage. "Not that there's much need of that," he remarked, "for the Injuns about here is honest fellows, and there isn't a white settler who'd touch as much as a ha'porth of baccy, 'cept maybe a newly-arrived Irishman, who hasn't learnt the ways of the country."
The boat was of good size, calculated for the waters of Lake Huron, and fitted with mast and sails, though these were not now used. The lake was smooth as glass, reflecting the bright stars from the clear sky, and broken only by the fish which here and there rose to the surface, showing their size by the loud sound of the splashes they made. The irregular borders of the lake rose clear and well-defined on every side a-head, appearing to be of considerable height, almost mountains, in the doubtful light of morning. Philip, with Harry, and Charley, and Peter, with a lad they had hired, pulled, while Mr Ashton steered. "Row, brothers, row," sang out Harry. "Our home is a-head, and daylight is past. I am glad that the rapids are not near, though, for with our well-freighted craft it would be a ticklish job running them, I guess."
The moon soon rose large and clear, a brilliant globe floating in aether rather than the pale-coloured disc which it appears in England. As it shot upward in the clear sky it shed a silvery light over the scene, which became perfectly fairy-like in its beauty. "It is well worth leaving all the glare and bustle of London for the sake of enjoying such a scene as this," said Sophy, and her sisters echoed the sentiment. "I remember just such an one on Como," observed Philip, who had made a tour on the Continent during the last long vacation. "But even if the scene we have left equalled this in beauty, I should prize this far more," replied his sister. "I will tell you why. I feel that this is our own; we are at home here, and may admire it without regret, because we know that we may enjoy it over and over again."
"Hillo! what boat is that?" shouted a voice from some distance, and a dark object glided from behind a tree-covered islet they were passing, and crossed the bright pathway which the moon cast athwart the lake.
"What, D'Arcy! is that you?" shouted Philip, in return.
"It's myself, unless I happen to be changed into another gintleman," was the Irish-like reply.
"All right, old fellow, come along. I want your promised aid," said Philip. "I have some few cargoes of goods to be transported across the lake before the moon sets, and you are the very man I was wishing for."
"Why, Philip, are you not asking too much of a gentleman who must be almost a stranger to you?" enquired Sophy, in a doubtful tone.
"Not at all; we all help each other out here; I have found out that," answered her brother. "He is a capital fellow, a gentleman to the backbone, and knows that I will do the same for him with equal pleasure. We are fortunate in having such a neighbour, and from what he tells me, he hopes to have his mother and sisters out when he has got things a little square."
D'Arcy's boat was soon alongside. When he heard who had arrived, he volunteered at once to go to the settlement to begin loading his boat, that he might assist Philip when he wanted to load his.
"A capital idea, D'Arcy, just like you; do so, old fellow," was all Philip said as they parted.
In a short time the boat was alongside a small wooden pier, which afforded a convenient landing-place.
"The house is some way up the hill; I will steer you between the stumps," said Philip, offering his arm to his mother, while the rest followed in their wake. A few minutes' walk brought them in front of a plank edifice of the Swiss cottage style; the defects of which, whatever they were, were not visible by moonlight. There were four doors, and as many rather diminutive windows. "This is but a summer house, remember," said Philip, as they stood before the long low building. "We had to build our house according to our planks; your room is at one end, then comes the sitting-room, and then ours, and the girls'. Remember, five days ago the foundations were not commenced. We don't take long to raise a house in this country;—but, enter."
All were delighted, for although the cottage was but a long narrow shed, by means of three divisions and a liberal use of canvas and paper, Philip and his assistants had formed a neat sitting-room and two bedrooms, besides a rougher one for himself and his brothers. In the sitting-room was a table covered with a most attractive looking meal, though decked with neither china, glass, nor plate. A bright lamp hanging from the roof lighted up the little room, and gave it much of the appearance of a cabin. "We have only to fancy," said Philip, "that we are on board ship without the danger of shipwreck, or being tumbled about in a storm, and we may congratulate ourselves on the extent of our accommodation. We have twice as many cubic feet of air for each person as the passengers on board an emigrant ship, and can admit as much more as we please. There, make yourselves at home. Father will now do the honours, and Jem is boiling the kettle for tea in the kitchen. I must be off, and hope to be back soon with D'Arcy and your traps."
Away went Philip down to the boat, whence his father with the rest had been bringing up her lading. Who could have recognised in the energetic, high-spirited backwoodsman Philip had become, the refined and somewhat sedate and stiff young student of a year ago. By-the-bye, the kitchen of which he spoke was a lean-to of birch-bark, under which a camp stove had been placed; near it was a shed prepared for the reception of the stores, among which Peter proposed to take up his abode. Philip's plan of fitting up the cottage was much admired. To the walls and roof he had first nailed some common canvas, on this he had pasted newspapers, which he had again covered with a common cheerful-looking paper, such as is used generally for covering walls. The table itself consisted of some rough planks nailed to tressels, and the bedsteads were formed of rough pine poles with canvas stretched across them. Shelves and pegs round the rooms would enable their inmates to keep them as neat as cabins.
The voices of the rest of the party were heard sooner than was expected. "We pressed the third boat on the lake into our service and have brought everything," said Philip, entering with a slight young man, who, in spite of a very rough, much worn costume, looked the gentleman. "I have the pleasure of introducing my friend Mr Lawrence D'Arcy, my fellow labourer, who, let me tell you, made every inch of the furniture of our mansion in a wondrous brief time. He had not begun it yesterday morning, for he was helping me to paper the walls till nearly noon."
"It is the work of a self-taught artist," said Lawrence D'Arcy. "But, really, there is little to boast of in having put together a few rough poles. The plan is the only thing to merit commendation."
Of course everybody thanked Mr D'Arcy, and he at once felt himself perfectly at home. Never did the finest baronial mansion afford more satisfaction to the occupiers than did Philip's quickly-built cottage. It stood on a platform on the side of the hill, looking south over the lake, and sheltered by the ground above it from the icy blast of the north. There was not space on the platform for a larger building; but a little way off was a much wider piece of level ground, and here already logs were laid for a log house.
"The cottage was an after-thought," said Philip, showing the plan of the log house. "I knew that we could not get this fitted up in time, and planking being abundant and cheap, I bethought me of running up a plank cottage which will serve you till you can get into the more substantial mansion. With a stove and additional banking up outside it may be made warm enough even for winter." Never was a family more busy, or one more contented and happy.
"Our present abode will make a magnificent dairy when we get into the big mansion," cried Agnes, as she saw the walls of the log house quickly rising. "How clean and nice the pans will look arranged round the walls and the churn in the middle."
"Your notions are rather too grand, I fear, dear," said her mother. "We have only got one cow, and there will be room here for the milk of fifty."
"Ah! but the day will come when we may have fifty. That beautiful meadow by the side of the stream to the right will feed almost that number," said Agnes.
"I should be content with four or five, so that we may make our own butter and cheese, and have cream and milk in abundance," observed Fanny. "I should like to have time to attend to our garden, and poultry, and pigs; and then, remember, we are not to grow into savages, so we must have reading, and keep up our music and drawing, and then there will be all sorts of household work to attend to."
Sophy sided with Fanny, and Philip put an end to the discussion about the dairy, by telling them that he had calculated on using up the planks of the cottage for the flooring of part of the new house.
That building got on with wonderful rapidity. Day after day Mr Lawrence D'Arcy came over with his man Terry, a faithful fellow, born on his father's estate in Ireland, who had been his servant in the army for several years. Philip had, for the purpose of economising heat and saving roofing, resolved to make the house of two stories. The walls were formed of horizontal logs; the upper part of each log was scooped out so as to admit the round of the one above it to fit in, and the ends were deeply notched for the logs forming the walls at a right angle to it. A height sufficient for the ground floor chambers having been gained, notches were cut and the rafters placed across. Shears were erected to raise the higher logs, and shingles, which are thin split planks of fir, formed the roof. The house stood on a platform to raise it above the snow; the floor being thus some way from the ground. A verandah ran round the whole building, affording a sheltered walk when the inmates might not otherwise be able to get fresh air.
Had not the settlers been so strong handed, the work now accomplished could not have been performed before the winter; but it was the fable of the bundle of sticks exemplified. Such a building would not have been attempted except for the sake of the ladies, as the settlers would have employed all their strength in preparing the ground for cultivation. That necessary proceeding was not however neglected, and six acres were chopped and burnt off before the snow covered up the brushwood.
"Here we are, fairly settled in our log house," said Mr Ashton, as he surveyed the result of his son's architectural skill. "Let us with grateful hearts thank our Heavenly Father who has led us thus far in safety."
There were signs that the winter was about to begin. Snow-storms had appeared from over the hill and swept across the lake. Ice had formed around the edges in shallow pools, but the hot sun had come out and completely thawed it. Often among the pine woods the heat was excessive. Had it not been for the rich growing tints of the trees which fringed the lake and covered its islets, it would have been difficult to suppose that summer had passed away. There were the bright reds and yellows of the maple, the pale straw-colour of the beech, the copper hues of the oaks; and, indeed, Sophy found that she could exhaust all the brightest colours of her paint-box, and yet not give sufficient variety or brilliancy to portray correctly the gorgeous tints of the landscape spread out before the window; nor was there blue to be found equal to the blue of the lake, still less of the sky above it. She was glad that she had finished her drawing in time, for a strong north wind sprang up, and a sharp frost sent every leaf, pinched off, flying away, and the next morning a few only hanging to dead boughs gave a somewhat warm tinge to the otherwise dark green and dark brown appearance of the lake shore.
"Excellent! it would give my dear people at home some idea of the beauties we have out here," exclaimed D'Arcy, who happened to look in the day Sophy had finished her sketch. "I should be so thankful if you could make a copy for me; still more so if I might aspire to possess the original."
"What could have made Sophy blush so just now?" said Charley to Agnes, after D'Arcy had taken his leave. "There the dear thing stands looking at the lake: what a wonder to see her doing nothing."
D'Arcy leaped gaily into his boat, hoisted the main-sail, a large one for her size, cast off the painter, and hauling aft the main-sheet as she paid-off with the fore-sail, waved an adieu to his friends on shore. The lake sparkled brightly as miniature waves curled over its surface; faster and faster the boat flew amid them, seeming to delight in her freedom. The breeze freshened; a black cloud came up along the course of the river from Lake Huron; it rushed across the sky, followed by others, casting a shadow over the lake. A shriek from Sophy made Philip rush out from his workshop, saw in hand, followed by Harry. The white sail of D'Arcy's boat had disappeared, and a dark mass was alone visible on the spot where she had been.
"He is a good swimmer, and will have got upon the bottom," cried Philip; but his heart misgave him, for the cold wind had made D'Arcy put on his thick coat and heavy boots; Harry ran towards their large boat. The sails and oars were on shore. "No, no,—the canoe!" cried Philip. An Indian hunter, a friend of D'Arcy's, had left his canoe on the beach in the morning. The paddles were in her. To launch her and step gingerly in was the work of an instant; and fast as Philip and Harry could ply their paddles, the light canoe flew across the lake.
The rest of the family were soon on the shore; Mr Ashton, who saw the danger to which his sons were exposed in their eagerness to save their friend, watching their progress with the greatest anxiety. He unfortunately did not understand the management of a boat as did his sons; nor did Peter, or he would have gone after them. The canoe tossed up and down, apparently scarcely able to buffet with even the small waves, to the lashing of which she was exposed. Still Philip and Harry bravely pursued their course, their eyes straining a-head, and utterly regardless of the danger they themselves were running.
"Phil, can you see him?" cried Harry. "I think I do. Yes, surely, there's something moving on the boat's keel."
"Yes, I hope so: he's lying his length along it; he could not sit up," answered Philip. "How bitterly cold the wind blows out here."
"Yes, he will be almost frozen, poor fellow; he will lose his boat, too," said Harry. "Shall we carry him on to his place, or back to our own?"
"Certainly, to ours. In his own hut he has no one to look after him properly; while with us he will have no lack of nurses," remarked Philip. "Paddle away, Harry; he sees us."
"Hurrah, D'Arcy!" cried Harry, "we are coming to you, old fellow." A hand was seen to wave in return to Harry's cheer. "All right—all right!" cried Harry, delighted, "he is there and alive!"
D'Arcy had managed to get one of his boots off, but he had great difficulty in clinging to the keel. He did not cry out to his friends to make haste, for he knew that they were doing their utmost to reach him. They encouraged him, however, to hold on; for they judged, by the chilly blast which swept across the lake, that he must be numbed and fainting. At length they got alongside the boat; and now the greatest caution was necessary, lest, in taking him in, the canoe should be capsized. The boat likewise, on being touched, might roll up, and with her mast stave in the fragile side of the canoe. It seemed almost impossible to accomplish their object without upsetting themselves. Those who know what a birch-bark canoe is like will best understand the difficulty.
"Take me in by the head," said D'Arcy; "I'll crawl in."
They accordingly paddled round to the stern of the boat, to which Philip made the bow of the canoe fast, and he was then able to reach over sufficiently to take hold of D'Arcy's hands, and to drag him on till he could place one foot on each gunwale of the canoe, and then, by drawing himself back, he took the weight off the bow and gradually drew his friend on board. D'Arcy's knees, however, very nearly went through the thin bottom. He asked them to continue on to his clearing, that he might get off again and try to save his boat; but Philip would not hear of it.
"No, no," he answered, "she will drift on shore not far off, and we shall easily be able to find her; and you will catch your death of cold if you are not looked after immediately."
"But poor Terry will go out of his mind if he supposes that I am lost," argued D'Arcy.
"We will try to let him know," said Philip. "Besides, at our place, if we go on, they will not know whether we are all lost, or you are saved."
This settled the question. "There, lie down at the bottom, and we will cover you up with our jackets," said Philip. "Give way, Harry."
To paddle back in the teeth of the freezing wind was no easy work, and more than once Philip wished that, for his friend's sake, he had gone on to his clearing; still, he guessed rightly, that every means to prevent injurious effects would be got ready. Manfully they paddled on, but the spray from the small but quick-coming waves dashed in their faces, and the slightest cessation of exertion allowed the light canoe to be blown back again like a feather before the breeze. Nobly they persevered. Once under the lee of the land, they knew that their progress would be more rapid. At last they caught sight of their own landing-place. Philip gave a flourish with his paddle, and pointed to the bottom of the canoe. The communication was understood, and a door, with blankets, were ready to carry D'Arcy up to the house. He begged, however, to be allowed to walk up, declaring that he was well able to do so, though he did not object to having a couple of blankets thrown over his shoulders. He found, however, that he had miscalculated his strength, and without help he could scarcely move. The next morning the effects of the wetting and exposure were more conspicuous, and all the skill of Nurse Summers was required to bring him round. For several days he was kept in bed, and even when he was able to get up, the Ashtons would not let him leave them. "You are utterly unfit for work, my dear fellow," said Philip. "You will get well here much faster than sitting over the fire in your own shanty, and leave Terry more at liberty to go on with your house. He is contented enough now he knows we have you in safe keeping."
It was wonderful with what equanimity Mr D'Arcy consented to remain the guest of the Ashtons. He was not idle, for he read while the ladies worked, taught Charley to net, and took Philip's place as his schoolmaster in the evening, and imparted a large stock of backwoodsman's lore to all the family. Philip and Harry had, directly they returned after rescuing him, set off in their big boat, and arrived at his clearing in time to prevent poor Terry from going out of his mind, which he was nearly doing at seeing his master's boat drift by, and believing he was lost. They found him wringing his hands, and uttering a truly Irish lament as he contemplated the boat which had driven on shore a short distance from the cottage shanty. So occupied had he been in watching the upset boat that he had not observed their approach.
"Och! sad's the day; and I'll never more be after seeing him again, the dear young masther, barrin' it's his corpse is sent up by the cruel waves on the shore, and I'll be left all alone in this desart counthry to bury him, the last hope of the D'Arcys, instead of in the tomb of his ancestors in ould Ireland. And what'll the poor misthress be doing when she hears the news? sorrow a bit could my hand write the words; I couldn't do it even if I had the 'art, nor my tongue tell it, I'd sooner cut it out of my mouth; and sweet Misthress Katharine and Misthress Lily, they'll cry their pretty eyes out, they will." Again he set up a long, melancholy howl, not unlike that of a dog baying at the moon. The sound of the Ashtons' boat touching the shore made him look up, with an expression of hope in his countenance, as if he expected to see his master, but it suddenly changed to one of still greater sorrow when he discovered that he was not of the party.
Philip, eager to soothe his anxiety, shouted out, as he stepped on shore, "Come up, Terry, we have him all safe on shore, only rather wet and cold."
"Is it the thruth ye are spaking, Masther Philip? Arrah, an' I'm shure it is," cried Terry, rushing towards him with frantic gestures of delight. "Just say that word again, he's safe, an' blessins on yer honest face, for I'm shure ye could not desave a poor gossoon like myself." Philip repeated his assertion, and was not a little astonished to find himself seized in Terry's arms, and hugged till the breath was nearly out of his body. The honest fellow's feelings then gave way in a burst of tears, which flowed while he apologised for the liberty he became conscious he had taken.
D'Arcy's stay with his friends was prolonged over several days, and it was not till he was perfectly recovered that they would allow him to go back to his clearing. He found several subjects to ponder on when he got there.
The south wind blew softly, the air was pure and balmy, the sun shone brightly, and the waters of the lake vied with the sky in the clearness of its azure tints. The birds too were warbling forth a happy song; not, however, with the full swelling chorus of spring, but yet sufficiently to give cheerfulness to the otherwise silent woods. It is a calumny on the feathered tribes of Canada to assert that they have no song; the blackbird can sing when he is inclined, as sweetly as his brother in England, and the Canadian robin's notes are as full of glee as those of his smaller namesake in the old country.
"By turning our eyes from the bare maples, beeches, and oaks, towards the pine trees, we might fancy that summer had come back again," said Philip; "the Indian summer at all events. Should to-morrow be like this, I propose knocking up D'Arcy. It's some days since we heard of him, and he will be feeling that we got tired of him with his visit here, poor fellow."
"Oh! don't let him think that," exclaimed Sophy, earnestly.
"No, that I will not," said Philip. "Who'll go? A little recreation will do some of us good, and we'll work all the better when we come back."
Something kept Sophy from volunteering to be of the party, but her younger sisters jumped at the proposal.
"I know that you are carefulness itself, Philip," said Mrs Ashton; "but I entreat you to have but very little sail set."
"Indeed, mother, I will carry only what is absolutely necessary," answered Philip. "We need be in no hurry—if the breeze holds, we shall have a soldier's wind, fair each way."
The breeze did not hold, and towards evening a thick fog came on. During the night a curious crackling sound was heard, and when daylight returned, the whole lake appeared frozen over. The entire household was soon on foot and braving the keen frosty air, to observe the change which a few short hours had wrought. There must have been a perfect calm when the ice took, for the entire surface of the lake was smooth as a polished mirror and of the same hue; while the surrounding trees and every shrub and blade of grass to be seen was covered with a coating of the purest white. Suddenly the sun rose above the wooded hill to the east, and the whole side of the lake on which its beams were cast, began to sparkle and flash as if covered with gems of the purest water. A light breeze waved the branches to and fro, and now they flashed and shone with increased brilliancy, fresh colours bursting into sight till not a gem was unrepresented in this gorgeous display of "nature's jewel-box," as Harry called it.
"Well, Fanny," he exclaimed, "you need not regret being unable to go to court, for I am very certain that all the duchesses, and countesses, and lady mayoresses to boot, couldn't make such a display as that."
As the warmth of the sun increased, the trees began to drip, and the lovely spectacle vanished by noon.
"We need not regret it, for beautiful as it was, I believe that we may see many more to surpass it before the return of spring," said Mr Ashton. "Ah! little do our pitying friends at home guess the ample amends which nature makes to us for what we have lost. I prize the blessings we enjoyed in England; but, after all, we have only exchanged them for others which our beneficent Maker has bestowed on us of equal value."
The ice, though bearing in some places, could not be trusted, and of course the expedition to D'Arcy's clearing was given up for the present; but in the evening, when work was over, skates were unpacked, cleared of rust, and fitted to shoes. All hands set to work with increased vigour to fell the trees, that they might be burnt off before the snow should make the operation more difficult. "Another night like the last, and I verily believe we might skate across the lake," cried Harry, rubbing his hands to restore the circulation of which the cold had deprived them.
"Look out for frost-bites, my boys," said Mr Ashton; "Mr Norman charged me above all things to see that you kept your hands and feet warm."
The ladies of the family were busily employed in lining the boys' caps, and fixing flaps for their ears, and in making mittens and comforters. One point they had not discovered, and had to learn by experience, the uselessness of English boots and shoes, however thick, for the bush in winter, and that nothing can surpass, and scarcely any foot-gear equal, a light shoe or slipper, with a very thick ribbed worsted sock over it, put into an india-rubber golosh, which is kept on by a high spring gaiter. [See Note 1.] There was no longer any doubt about the ice bearing, and so, having worked hard all the morning, Philip, Harry, and Charley set off with skates on feet, the two latter in high glee at the thought of going so great a distance over the ice. They had been practising for the last three days in a shallow bay near the house, and had no misgivings as to holding out. Philip would rather have gone alone, or at all events, with Harry only; but Charley begged go hard to be allowed to accompany them that he did not like to refuse him. They expected not to be more than three hours away at the utmost. The skates were fixed firmly on the feet. Philip wisely tried his by making two or three outside edge circles and figures of eight. "Are you ready, boys? Follow your leader, and away we go." Away they went. Right leg—left leg—resting for fifteen seconds or so on each—their bodies now slightly inclined to one side, now to the other, like ships making short tacks. It was exhilarating exercise. Their spirits rose to the highest pitch as they glided on—they shouted and laughed with glee—Charley managed to keep up, but what was sport to his brothers, was rather hard work to him; still he would not beg them to slacken their speed, but kept on bravely till his legs began to ache. They had heard Philip say that they were not likely to have many such days during the winter for skating; for though there would be no want of ice, it would be soon so covered with snow, that it would be impossible to get over it. They might easily, to be sure, sweep a space in the ice clear of snow, but that would be very tame work compared to flying over miles of ice as they were now doing. Charley, therefore, would not, if he could help it, ask his brothers to stop. At last he found himself falling behind. With his utmost exertions he could not keep up with them. While he was thinking whether he should call out, his foot struck something (it was the thick part of a branch which had been floating when the lake froze), and down he came.
"O, Harry, Harry!" he cried out. Harry heard him, and circling round, skated back to his assistance. Philip had gone some way, when not hearing his brothers' voices, he swept round on a half circle to ask them why they had become so suddenly dull. What was his dismay to find that they were not near him. Both were stretched their length, as it seemed, on the ice, at a considerable distance. As he turned he was conscious of a cracking noise, which seemed to pass from one end of the lake to the other. Still he must reach his brothers, or attempt to do so, even should the ice be giving way every stroke he made.
"Oh, the ice is giving way! the ice is giving way!" cried Charley; but though the cracking sound increased, Philip did not perceive any other sign of this being the case.
"What is the matter with you, Harry?" he asked.
"Oh, I went to help Charley, and tumbled over the same log which capsized him," was the answer. "He says that the ice is giving way, and certainly the water does look terribly near to it." Such, indeed, was the case. Philip, from having kept his eyes fixed on the land-marks about D'Arcy's clearing, had not observed this so much as Harry now did, with his nose close down to it. Wisely keeping at a little distance, he advised them to crawl away from the spot where they had fallen, and then, a little apart from each other, to get on their feet and proceed. Once more they were on their course, but Philip made them keep one on each side of him, going at a less speed than before. It was nervous work, though, for the cracking noise increased in loudness till it rivalled that of thunder—seeming to pass under their very feet. Speed and lightness of tread was everything. For himself Philip had no fear. He dreaded only lest Charley should again fall, and so did his best to keep up his spirits, and to banish the nervousness from which he saw that he was suffering. As they neared the shore the noises ceased and their spirits rose, though they were not sorry to see D'Arcy standing on the beach to receive them.
His greeting was cordial. "I have been watching you for some time, and did I own a pair of skates I should have come out to meet you," he said. "When you all stopped, I began to form a sleigh to push off to your assistance, in case any one of you should have been hurt, when I observed that you were all on the move again. Instead, therefore, of going on with it, I sent in Terry to cook some dinner, which you will be wanting after your long fly."
The dinner was the usual bush fare—pork and potatoes (forming an Irish stew), fish, caught before the frost began, and a dumpling, which probably had been thought of only when the guests were first descried in the distance. The young men did ample justice to the feast, and perhaps spent a longer time over it than they intended. They had plenty to say, about their own experiences especially; and when the young Ashtons compared notes with D'Arcy, they had reason to consider their own trials far less than his. He had been left alone to fight the battle of life, or rather with a mother and sister depending on him. After a once fine property which he had nominally inherited had been sold in the Irish Incumbered Estates Court, he had found himself with the merest pittance on which to support them. With a small sum he had embarked for Canada, and was now forming a home for those he loved so well. There were numbers of men in similar positions, of whom he knew in the neighbourhood and in different parts of the province—not all, however, doing equally well—some were successful, and they were the sober, industrious, and judicious; others were in a bad way, mostly for the best of reasons, because they were idle, and had taken to drinking—not hard drinking, perhaps.
"That is not necessary to ruin a fellow," said D'Arcy. "I know several of the description I speak of,—gentlemen of birth and education. There is one especially, who, probably, begins the day after breakfast by smoking a pipe or two, then takes axe or spade in hand, and coming in to an early dinner feels his solitude, and that he must have a talk with somebody. Instead of continuing his work, he mounts his cob, after taking a glass or two of rum or whiskey grog—the more out of spirits he feels the stiffer it is—and rides off to knock up some neighbour, perhaps his equal, or perhaps utterly unfit to be his companion, as far as social intercourse is concerned. On the way he looks in at the store-house; he has an account, and takes a glass or two more, desiring that it may be put down to him. Of course he never recollects how many glasses he has had, nor how his account is swelling. He finds his friend, brings him in (probably not unwillingly) from his work, and the two spend the rest of the day together. He may find his way home at night, or he may take a shake-down, and, rising with a splitting headache, find himself utterly unable to do anything. He is going to the bad very rapidly. His friends in England send him out money occasionally, under the belief that it is spent on the farm, but it all goes to pay off the storekeeper's account. Had it not been for this assistance he would have knocked up long ago. As it is, I expect that he has already mortgaged his farm, for a small amount, may be; but it's a beginning—a second will follow—it is so easy an operation, and the end cannot be far off. Now poor Jack Mason will go back to England, his friends helping him, and abuse Canada, and say that it is a country totally unfit for a gentleman to live in—that hardy, rough fellows may subsist, but that no one can do more—no one can make a fortune."
"A man must have energy, talent, and perseverance to succeed here, as well as at home," said Philip. "The difference is, that in England, possessing them, he may not succeed; here, possessing them, he must succeed. To commence the life of a backwoodsman, he must have health and strength, with the other qualifications you have mentioned. Once having got a footing in the country, he must watch the openings which are sure to present themselves: the man of talent will take advantage of them, and rise to wealth; the man without talent will go on slowly improving his condition, and will be happy and respected. What more can a man desire?"
"I agree with you, Phil; at the same time that I intend to look out for the openings, and walk in if I can," answered D'Arcy. "When my guardians decided that I was to emigrate, or rather that they could do nothing for me at home, they liberally gave me the choice of Australia, New Zealand, the Cape, or British North America. I have an idea they cared very little where I went, so that I went away and gave them no further trouble. I had been dining the day before, in Dublin, at the mess of the —- Regiment, which had just returned from Canada, and they were all high in its praise;—such pleasant quarters, such gaiety, such sleighing, shooting, fishing, boating. Several declared that they would sell out and settle there. Naturally I chose Canada, without weighing its advantages with those of the other provinces; and though I found the reality of a settler's life very different to the fancy picture I had drawn, having made up my mind to go through with it, whatever it might prove, I stuck to it, and have great reason to be thankful that I did so. Still, I fancy that people can make fortunes in Australia much faster than one can here."
"May be so; but fortune is not the only thing desirable," said Philip. "All settlers do not make fortunes in Australia,—we hear only of the successful ones; and then I cannot help thinking, that our Canadian climate, with its wonderful changes, our varied scenery, our institutions, and our society,—I don't mean in such an out-of-the-way place as this, but such as are found at Toronto and elsewhere,—are items which may be placed to the credit of this Province, and give it a superiority over every other. I have often fancied that there must be something monotonous and depressing in Australian bush-life; the very uniformity of the seasons and of the face of the country must produce this effect. However, old fellow, here we are: and whether the land be a good, bad, or indifferent land compared with others, you and I have made up our minds to make the best of it. But it is time that we were off; we had not intended remaining so long."
Philip and his brothers started up. "You must have coffee before you go; it is a home manufacture, and so are all the ingredients." Terry poured it out of a veritable big coffeepot—hot, with plenty of sugar and milk. It was pronounced excellent. "See, Harry, you and Charley may supply your family with first-rate coffee," said D'Arcy. "We shall have a thaw before the winter sets in; dig up all the dandelion roots you can find; dry them in the sun or in your oven for keeping; roast them before use; and cut them up and grind them as you would coffee-berries. This is the result. By-the-bye, Phil," he added, "you told me that you had not caught any fish lately. It is just possible that a change may be pleasant; and if you don't mind carrying a couple each of you, will you present them to your mother with my best compliments? I have got them slung ready for you, so that you have only to throw them over your shoulders as you are starting." He did not consider that even a few pounds weight makes a considerable difference to a skater. Philip, however, did not like to refuse his kind offer, knowing that it gave him pleasure to send the fish, and would give those at home pleasure to receive them. Terry accordingly was directed to bring out the fish, which were hard frozen, and were slung with ropes of grass, and packed with pads of grass to keep them off the back.
D'Arcy assured them that the cracking sound they had heard was no sign of danger, but, on the contrary, showed that the ice had taken in every part.
Note 1. An Indian mocassin over two pairs of thick socks is good in a hard frost, but gets wet through with the slightest moisture. The most important objects are to allow no pressure on any part of the foot or ankle, to keep the feet warm and protected from fallen branches or any other hard substance rising above the snow. In thawing weather high waterproof boots worn over two pairs of thick socks or stockings. The object of having the outer sock ribbed is to allow the evaporation from the skin to have space between the outer sock and the boot; the foot and inner sock will thus remain perfectly dry. The author has walked long distances with this sort of foot-gear with the greatest comfort. Perfect freedom for the foot and toes is, it must be repeated, most essential.
As the hut was close to the lake the skates were buckled on in the warmth, and together the whole party issued forth, D'Arcy promising to come across the next day in a sleigh he had built.
During the brief period they had spent in the hut the wind had changed, and with it the weather. Thick clouds floated overhead low down, lightish in colour though dense; the air was sensibly warmer. Philip looking at his younger brother said, "Charley, I have a great mind to leave you behind; it will be harder work than coming." But Charley considered that his manliness was disparaged, and insisted on starting. "Well, we may reach home before the snow falls," said Philip, shaking D'Arcy's hand, and adding, "We shall all be glad to see you."
Away they went; but not two minutes had passed before snow-flakes began to fall, a few only settling on their faces. They were the forerunners of others; thicker and thicker they fell; now they rushed down hurriedly, covering the surface of the lake with a white sheet. Did the brothers hear D'Arcy's voice joined with Terry's shouting to them to come back? They had, however, got so far on their way that, even had they been certain of the fact, they would not have liked to do so. On they at all events went. Philip kept his eyes fixed on his own hill, but the outline soon became very dim. Thicker and thicker fell the snow; still they were in their proper course, Philip thought.
"Can you make out the hill, Harry?" he asked.
"No, Phil; cannot you?" answered Harry: "what's to be done?"
"Push on, of course; the snow may stop falling, and we may see our way again," said Philip.
The snow, however, did not stop falling, but rather came down thicker and faster. Charley held out bravely, working on his way through the snow. Skating was far greater labour than before. This should not have been: hard snow would have easily been pushed aside; a part of this melted as it fell. Philip did not express his fears to his brothers, though he became very anxious. "What can we do?" he kept saying to himself. "We must keep on; we may hit our home or some parts of the shore which we know, and from which we may reach it either walking over land, or by coasting along on skates." His greatest fear was approaching the commencement of the channel or river which communicated with Lake Huron, where, as the stream was rapid, the ice probably was not formed, and their destruction would be nearly inevitable. The dangerous point was to the right of their course; he therefore naturally inclined to the left. "I wish we were there," said Charley at length, in a doleful tone. On they went; the pace became slower and slower; the youngest brother kept very close to Philip. "Really I think we might do better without our skates," observed Charley; but Philip judged rightly that skates would still avail them most. They went on—on—on. Harry declared that they ought to have reached home long before this. Philip thought so likewise, but did not express his fears; it was important to keep up his brothers' spirits. Had there been a strong wind he might have continued to keep on a straight course; but there was not a breath, and the snow came down from all directions, as Harry observed, "just as if a flock of geese were being plucked overhead." The flakes were almost as big as feathers. In vain Philip looked out for a break in the thick woolly veil. Brave Charley kept up manfully; his legs were getting very tired, though. He said nothing; but he could not help uttering low sighs as he worked on, and wishing that he had a pair of wings to lift up his body. No one could speak except about their hopes or fears.
At last Charley felt that his knees were failing under him. "O, Phil, I must stop," he cried out.
Philip took him by the hand and cheered him up. "Hold out a little longer, dear Charley; we must be near the shore," he exclaimed. Charley said he would try, and supported on each hand by his brothers went on. He was again nearly giving in, when Philip cried out, "Land a-head!— land a-head! High land with tall trees close down to the lake. It must be near home."
They pushed on vigorously. In less than a minute they ran up against a rock; the tall trees changed into low bushes, and the high land into a clump of trees in the middle of a small island. Bitter was their disappointment. A moment's consideration made Philip and Harry certain that it was an island they had visited at the southern end of the lake, and three or four miles distant both from their own and D'Arcy's clearings. On examining the bark of the trees, and the direction in which they bent, they were convinced that they had been making a circle, as they had landed exactly on the opposite side to that which they might have expected. From the time they had been moving on, they had probably made more than one circle; if they started off again, how could they expect to steer a straighter course. It was evidently growing darker, and night would soon come on.
The responsibility resting on Philip's shoulders was very great; not that he felt very uneasy about his brothers and himself, but he was sure that the dear ones at home would be anxious about them. Had he been alone he would have made another attempt to reach home; but Charley could not go further, and Harry would very likely knock up. He determined to remain on the island during the night, unless the weather should clear up and they should be able to see their way across to the main shore. No time, however, was to be lost to prepare for the night before daylight should altogether depart. Philip was too good a backwoodsman to have left home without his axe and match-box.
"D'Arcy little thought how useful his fish would prove to us," said Philip, as he looked about for the best spot on which to put up a shed. "We shall not starve; for that we should be thankful."
"And look here, we may have a plentiful dessert," cried Charley, coming up with his hands full of brilliant scarlet berries of a long oval form. "See, I know that these are good to eat; Sophy was preserving some of them two days ago, and said so." The berries were the high bush cranberries which grow on a shrub about the height of the guelder rose. Charley had soon collected many more than he and his brothers could possibly eat, especially as they had no sugar to eat them with.
"Come, Charley, as you are able to move about, set to work and collect wood, for we shall have to keep up a blazing fire all night," said Philip, as he began to chop away at some small trees to form the posts of his proposed shed. Harry meantime was getting lighter poles and branches to form a roof. The spot selected by Philip for the hut was in a sheltered nook under some thickly matted cedars which would greatly protect it from the snow. The materials were soon brought together; and so expert had the brothers become in all handiwork, that they quickly made it habitable. The roof they covered with birch-bark, picked up under the trees from which it fell, as also the lower part of the sides, banking them up with snow. Boughs of spruce-fir formed no contemptible couches. In a very short time they had built a tolerably comfortable hut. Their fire was the next thing to be attended to. There was plenty of drift-wood just above the ice, and dead boughs sufficient to keep up a blazing fire all night: it was soon lighted. Two of the fish were held before it till they melted sufficiently to allow of being cleaned; Philip then having cut some forked sticks, forced them into the ground not yet frozen far down, and with a slender rod spitted the fish, which he placed on the forked sticks before the fire. "I wish that we could boil them Indian fashion," said Harry: "I saw an old squaw perform the operation the other day, and yet she had only a wooden bucket. She got a heap of stones heated, and then putting some cold water into her bucket she dropped in her fish and began filling up the bucket with the hot stones; the water bubbled and hissed, and the fish were soon cooked."
Their own fish did not take long roasting. They were pronounced excellent, especially seasoned with the cranberries.
"I say, this is no bad fun after all," exclaimed Charley, who soon recovered from his fatigue. "If it wasn't for those at home I wouldn't have missed it on any account."
"I begin to hope that they will not be breaking their hearts about us," said Harry; "they must have seen the snow-storm coming on, and will think that we remained with D'Arcy."
Philip hoped the same, and enjoyed the adventure nearly as much as his brothers. Supper over and the fire made up, he told them both to lie down while he kept up the fire and watched for any change in the weather. Still the snow continued to fall—not a break in the dense mass of clouds overhead appeared. Philip sat with his feet close to the fire, and his back resting against the side of the hut. It was necessary to be very watchful, to prevent the flames catching the branches on which his brothers lay. He had partially closed the entrance with boughs, but an aperture was required to let out the smoke, and he also had frequently to go out and get more fuel, and to watch for the snow ceasing. Harry and Charley quickly fell asleep. Philip felt very much inclined to do the same; he tried all sorts of expedients to keep awake. The hut was not high enough or large enough to enable him to walk about. He would have gone out, but the fire absolutely required his attendance; he did get up, and stood on one leg, then on the other, till he got tired, so he sat himself down again and raked and stirred the fire as before. There was no want of warmth in the hut. At last his hand stopped, and all was silent; if he was not asleep he was very nearly so. Suddenly he was aware that there was something moving in or near the hut. He looked up, and just at the entrance he saw a huge brown monster, his eyes looking curiously in, while with its paws it had abstracted one of the fish which had been hung up to the doorpost to keep cool. The stick which Philip had used as a poker was in a flame, so, springing up, he dashed it into the face of the intruder—a big bear—grasping his axe ready for action should the bear retaliate. Bruin gave a loud and angry growl at the unexpected attack, dropping his booty and preparing for action. The noise awoke Harry and Charley, who sprang to their feet. "Dash burning sticks in the fellow's face, while I tackle him with my axe," cried Philip. It was fortunate that he was not alone. He gave one cut at Bruin's paws, but the next instant the monster would have seized the axe and hugged Philip, had not Harry dashed a stick into his eyes, the pain of which made him spring on one side and tumble over on his back. Charley followed up the attack with another fire-brand, and Philip with his axe dealt him a blow on the side of his head which almost stunned him. Another such blow would have finished the career of Bruin, but as Philip was lifting his weapon Harry cried out, "O dear, dear, the hut is on fire!" Philip, on this, for a moment turned his head, and the bear rolling round got up on his feet, and scrambled away over the snow as fast as he could move. Philip, instead of pursuing him, had to attend to the burning hut; and, what was of still greater importance, to rescue the fish, which would have been not only cooked, but over-cooked before they were wanted. Charley had, however, thoughtfully seized them, so that Philip and Harry could attend to the hut. In vain did they pull out the part which was already blazing, the wood of the larger portion was so dry that it also caught fire, and it was soon evident that they had no chance of saving their mansion. "What a misfortune," cried Harry. "I will not say that," observed Philip. "If the bear had not awoke me we might have been burnt ourselves; besides, it has just struck me, that this blaze, which is larger than we should have ventured to kindle, may be seen by those at home, or by D'Arcy, and it will give them assurance of our safety. However, let us set to work to repair damages while the flame lasts, for if we once get chilled, it will not be so easy to warm up again."
The fire afforded light enough to enable the three brothers to cut down a fresh supply of poles and boughs, and well accustomed to the sort of work, they soon again had a hut raised of sufficient size to afford them all shelter. The younger brothers were, however, not inclined to sleep, and they intreated Philip to rest, which he promised to do if they would undertake to keep awake. At present there seemed no chance of their getting away. As soon as Philip had lain down, Harry and Charley armed themselves with long burning sticks with which to receive the bear should he return, taking care to hang their fish up inside, out of his way. He was, however, not likely to come back again, after the warm reception he had received.
"I thought bears always shut themselves up in winter, and lived by sucking their paws," observed Charley. "As to sucking their paws, I don't know," said Harry; "but I fancy that the brown bear of this part of the world shuts himself up for the greater part of the winter, and only occasionally comes out on a mild day to forage for food. I conclude that our friend had his nest somewhere near and was disturbed by the fire, and his olfactories excited by the smell of the broiled fish. I wish that we had caught him, we might have taken home something worth having."
"Do you think that he has left the island?" asked Charley. "Couldn't we hunt him up?"
"Without consulting Philip! and I should not like to awake him," said Harry. "But, I will tell you what, we will make some spears in the mean time, and harden their points in the fire, and if we can find him we'll take him, dead or alive."
There were some tough young saplings growing just outside of sufficient length for the proposed object; three of these were quickly cut, and being pointed were hardened in the fire, and then again scraped, till they became rather formidable weapons.
"Don't you think Phil has slept long enough?" said Charley, who was anxious to make trial of his spear. "I am afraid Master Bruin will be sneaking off, and leaving us to whistle for him."
"Very uncivil not to stop and be killed," said Harry; "but we need be in no hurry; if he didn't go off at first he is safe enough somewhere near here, depend on it."
The snow continued to fall, but it could not have fallen so thickly as at first, or it would have covered the ground with a thicker coat than it appeared to have done. Daylight dawned at last, and Philip woke up. He was amused by the preparations for a combat made by his brothers, for he did not believe that the bear would be found. Before going out all three knelt down and offered up their prayers and thanksgiving for the protection afforded them. Under no circumstances did they ever omit that duty. Philip then advised that they should take some breakfast, that they might be ready for any emergency. Another fish was accordingly cooked, of which Charley, in spite of his eagerness, was ready enough to partake. He was hoping all the time that Bruin would smell the savoury morsel, and would be tempted to return. Probably, however, he had already had quite enough of their company and mode of proceeding to wish again to encounter them.
It snowed still, but not the dry, hard snow of the previous evening, and Philip felt more than ever anxious on account of the warmth of the weather. Before the sun could have quite risen, rain came, mixed with the snow, and gradually there was more rain and less snow, till the rain came down so fast that they were glad to get into their hut for shelter. They well knew that nothing so rapidly causes ice to become rotten as does rain. They might be prisoners, therefore, till it had sufficiently melted to allow of a boat being pushed through it. "But it cannot be rotten yet," said Harry. "Let us look out for the shore, and, if we can see it, push across to the nearest point; never mind the rain."
They crept out of their hut, and worked their way to the shore of the little island. The land round them across the water was very faint; still, as they fancied that they could distinguish their own home, and D'Arcy's clearing, and the settlement, they determined to try to reach one or the other. The settlement was the nearest, and if they reached that they might easily find their way home. There was a nominal road, though scarcely passable, except when covered with snow in winter. They were debating whether it would be better to attempt to skate or to walk across the ice.
"We can but pull our skates off if we do not make good progress," said Philip; so they were sitting down to put them on when Charley exclaimed that he must have a look for the bear; if he was there he would find him out. Off he ran with his spear. He had not been absent half a minute when he came running back, crying out, "Here he is, sure enough, in among the roots of an old tree under the bank. Come, Phil; come, Harry, come; we shall have him, sure enough, for he does not seem inclined to move. I suspect the tap you gave him, Phil, with your axe, hurt him more than we fancied."
The latter remarks were uttered as the three brothers, with their spears ready for action, hurried towards the spot Charley had indicated. There, indeed, was a brown heap, from out of which a set of sharp teeth and a pair of twinkling eyes appeared. "There, what do you think of that?" asked Charley. The bear lay in a sort of root-formed cavern, under the bank. Some snow had drifted into it, which had been protected from the rain; on the snow were wide stains of blood. His wound would certainly make the bear more savage, and might not have much weakened him. Still, forgetting the risk they were running, they all three made a rush at him with their spears. He attempted to get up, seizing Charley's spear from his grasp, and biting furiously at it, but Philip's and Harry's pinned him to the bank. Still his strength was great, and it was not till Philip was able to get a blow at his head with his axe that his struggles ceased.
"Hurrah, hurrah! now we may live here for a week, like Robinson Crusoe," shouted Charley, highly delighted with their success.
"And leave those at home to believe that we are lost," said Philip.
"No, no, I don't mean that; only if we were obliged to stop we might contrive to be very jolly," said Charley.
They had no little trouble in dragging the bear up the bank, and it then became a question what they should do with him. They could not carry him away, that was very certain. Cutting him up was not a pleasant operation, yet they could not hang him up whole.
"We will secure his tongue, and we must come back for him as soon as we can," said Phil.
They had been so busy that they had not observed that the rain had ceased, and that instead of it a thick fog had sprung up again, completely obscuring the shores. It was so warm that there could be no doubt that the ice must be rapidly melting. Had this happened at the end of winter it would not have signified, as it would have required many days then to weaken the ice materially. Still, if it had not been for the fog they could have pushed across without fear at once.
"Why did we come without a compass?" cried Philip, not for the first time. "Remember, you fellows, never to leave home without one. You do not know when you may require it in this country." After sitting down on the bank for some time, Philip started up, exclaiming, "They will be breaking their hearts with anxiety about us. I must go. You two have plenty of food, and if you will promise me that you will not stir from the island till a boat comes for you, or till the weather clears and the ice hardens thoroughly, I will go across to the settlement and send on home overland. I know that I can hit it, as there is a breeze blowing, and I took the bearings before the rain came on." Harry and Charley were very unwilling to let their brother go, but at length, when he had persuaded them that there was no danger to himself, they agreed to obey his wishes.
Having disencumbered himself of his axe and an overcoat, as well as of the remainder of D'Arcy's fish, which he left for his brothers, Philip buckled on his skates, and taking one of the spears in his hand, away he glided; his brothers, standing on the shore, watched him—his figure growing less and less distinct, till he disappeared in the thick mist which hung over the lake. "I wish that we had not let him go," cried Charley. "Suppose any accident should happen to him, how dreadful. Couldn't we call him back? He would hear us if we shouted."
"No, that would annoy him, as we have no reason for calling him back. We must let him go," said Harry. "Well, at all events, we can pray for him," exclaimed Charley, in a tone which showed that the thought was consolatory. They did so immediately, and felt far greater confidence than before. For themselves, they had no cause to fear. They had food enough for a month or more, should the frost return, and they had the means of building a hut, in which they could be perfectly sheltered from the weather. They had abundance of fuel, and the bear's skin would keep them warm at night. There were the cranberries, and probably some other berries, and they knew of several roots which they thought they should find. "Really, we are very well off," said Charley, after they had reviewed their resources. "I don't think there is another part of the world where, in a little island like this, we could find such ample means of support. I shouldn't mind spending a month here at all."
"Ah! but we could not expect always to find a bear in such a place as this; and as for the fish, we brought them with us," said Harry, by way of argument.
"But I daresay, if we were to hunt about, we should find some racoons; and if the ice melted we should catch plenty of fish—or we might make a hole in the ice and fish through it," argued Charley. "By the by, I have got some hooks and a line in my pocket; I vote we try."
No sooner was the proposal made than executed; two fishing lines were fitted—with their spears a hole was made in the easily yielding ice— the bear furnished bait. Scarcely was a line in than a tug was felt, and a small fish was hauled up. They did not know the name, but as its appearance was prepossessing, they had no doubt that it was fit for food. Another and another followed; they were delighted with their sport, and even Harry felt that he should be sorry to have to go away. "If we had but some bread and some tea, with a pot to boil it in, we should do capitally," he observed.
"We may dig dandelion roots for coffee, we can boil water with hot stones in a wooden jug, which we can make, and there are roots which will serve us for bread," said Charley. "If we could but get a few heads of Indian corn, we might thrive just as we are."
"We might live, certainly," said Harry; "but I doubt if we could do more."
We must follow Philip in his perilous adventure. He felt more doubtful as to the strength of the ice than he had expressed; but should it break beneath him, he relied on his long pole to extricate himself. He looked back every now and then, and he appeared to be taking a straight course; he felt the breeze also always on his left cheek. This inspirited him, though he could not see the shore. The snow was yielding enough, though rather clogging about his heels; the fog, however, grew thicker than ever; it was evidently the fog caused by a warm thaw. He had seen many such in England. He pushed on boldly—faster than he had gone with his brothers—he was lightly clad and carried no weight. Did he hear sounds coming from the shore—sleigh-bells—or sheep-bells—men's voices also? If so, he was probably near the settlement. He was trying to pierce the mist, when suddenly he felt his feet sinking from under him, and before he could spring back, he was sent gliding down a slab of ice, and plunged in the water. For several yards before him there was nothing but water. Holding his pole he swam on. He reached the edge of the ice: it broke as he clutched it. It is a difficult operation to get out of water on to a slab of ice. He found it so. If he got one end of the pole on the ice the other slipped off. He saw the danger of exhausting his strength by useless struggles. He had heard voices. He might make himself heard, so he shouted—"Help! help! the ice has broken in—help!"
It was a sad fate which seemed about to overwhelm him. Life had many charms in spite of the one disappointment, which had, rather given a gravity to his manner than in any way embittered his existence. He had hoped to do something in the world—his duty, at all events. He had many too depending on him. How would they bear his loss? He looked upward. A thick veil hung over his head. Below was the dark water—on every side the wide expanse of treacherous ice and snow. His limbs were getting chilled; still he would struggle on while consciousness was allowed him. Had the hole been smaller into which he had fallen, he might have got his pole across it. It was, however, of much assistance, as holding on to it, he could rest without breaking the edge of the ice. He was certain that he heard sleigh-bells. He shouted louder than before. The bells ceased. He instantly shouted again. A voice replied, "We'll be with you directly, friend." His heart leaped within him. The voices sounded louder. He discerned objects dimly moving over the ice, here and there. They must be looking for him. He shouted again. They resolved themselves into the forms of two men. They approached him. One had a rope in his hand. "Lay hold of this, we'll soon have you out," said the man. Philip passed the rope round his pole, and then grasped it tightly. With care he was dragged out. The other person stood at a distance. "We must not put more weight than we can help on this treacherous stuff," he said. "Why, I do believe that you are young Ashton."
"The same: and you Mr Norman," cried Philip. "I am indeed thankful for your timely aid."
"Which my man rendered, and not I; and which he would have rendered to a drowning dog, so don't say anything about that," replied Mr Norman. "But we must not stop talking here. The sooner we are on terra firma, and you in a warm bed, the better."
Philip found, on reaching the shore, that he was fully half a mile north of the settlement. Mr Norman, who was on his way to pay his family a visit, was passing in his sleigh at the moment. "I hoped that the snow would remain long enough to enable me to get up to you, for your road scarcely allows of a wheeled conveyance," he observed, as they drove rapidly back to the settlement, Philip sitting covered up with furs at the bottom of the sleigh. A warm bed was, however, not a luxury to be found at the settlement; indeed, Philip assured his friend, that if he could obtain a change of clothes, he would much rather set off at once to rescue his brothers. "Not till you are more fit to go than at present," said Mr Norman. "My friend Job Judson, at the hotel, will help us; and while you are drying outwardly, and warming inwardly, we will get a boat or canoe of some sort to shove over across the ice to bring away the youngsters. They are happy enough in the meantime, depend on that; I have had many such an adventure in my younger days, greatly to my enjoyment."
In a few minutes Philip was sitting wrapped up in a sheet and blanket before the almost red-hot stove of the log-hut, y-clept an hotel, while Mr Job Judson was administering a stiffer tumbler of rum-and-water than Philip had ever before tasted, probably, though it appeared to him no stronger than weak negus. Believing this to be the case he did not decline a second, the effect of which was to throw him into a glow and to send him fast asleep. Meantime his clothes, hung up round the stove, were drying rapidly; and when the landlord at last aroused him to put them on, he found that they were, as he said, as warm as a toast; indeed they were, he had reason to suspect, rather overdone. He found Mr Norman with a large dug-out canoe on runners, with a couple of poles, one on each side, and two men who had volunteered to accompany him.
"I'd go myself, but I guess I'd rather over-ballast your craft," said Job Judson, turning round his rotund figure, such as was not often seen in the bush. Philip thanked him, and agreed that no more persons were required for the expedition.
Mr Norman insisted on going. "Do not be afraid of my being tired," he remarked; "I have always lived in so hardy a way that nothing tires me."
Philip was not aware that more than three hours had passed since he reached the settlement. The fog was still as thick as ever. The two men dragged on the canoe; Mr Norman pushed astern, and placing a compass down on the seat before him, observed, "It is necessary to take our departure very carefully, or we shall find it more difficult to hit the island than you did on leaving it to reach the shore. I do not suppose that there is a person in the settlement can give us the bearings of the island from this."
"No; but the map of the Geological Survey will," said the gentleman who kept the store in the settlement. In another instant he brought out a large map, where the island was clearly laid down. "All right, thank you," said Mr Norman: "away we go." The two men laid hold of the fore-end of the poles; Philip and Mr Norman behind. The ice was far from secure; it did not crack nor bend, but it evidently rested on the water, and such ice generally gives way without any warning or sound. The party, however, pushed dauntlessly on, steadily, but not so fast as Philip would have liked. He thought, indeed, at last, that they must have passed the island; but Mr Norman was too good a navigator for that—it rose up suddenly before them.
Philip shouted, "Harry—Charley—all right, boys—hurrah!" but there was no answer. Again he cried out; no one replied. "They are hiding to try to frighten me, Mr Norman," he said, laughing,—"the rogues." The party landed and looked about. "O very well, they cannot be here, and so we'll go away," he cried out, thinking that would make them appear; it had no such effect. Philip began to grow anxious: they would certainly not carry their joke so far. He went round the island, sometimes on the ice and sometimes on shore. As he was hurrying on, what was his dismay to see a large hole in the ice: his poor young brothers had met the fate which he had so narrowly escaped. He saw exactly how it had happened; one had gone through, and the other in trying to help him out had fallen in likewise. There had been a struggle, as there were prints of feet and knees in the snow round it; some the water had washed over.