Read CHAPTER III of Canadian Crusoes A Tale of The Rice Lake Plains, free online book, by Catherine Parr Traill, on

“Oh for a lodge in the vast wilderness,
The boundless contiguity of shade!”

A fortnight had now passed, and Catharine still suffered so much from pain and fever, that they were unable to continue their wanderings; all that Hector and his cousin could do, was to carry her to the bower by the lake, where she reclined whilst they caught fish. The painful longing to regain their lost home had lost nothing of its intensity; and often would the poor sufferer start from her bed of leaves and boughs, to wring her hands and weep, and call in piteous tones upon that dear father and mother, who would have given worlds had they been at their command, to have heard but one accent of her beloved voice, to have felt one loving pressure from that fevered hand. Hope, the consoler, hovered over the path of the young wanderers, long after she had ceased to whisper comfort to the desolate hearts of the mournful parents.

Of all that suffered by this sad calamity, no one was more to be pitied than Louis Perron: deeply did the poor boy lament the thoughtless folly which had involved his cousin Catharine in so terrible a misfortune. “If Kate had not been with me,” he would say, “we should not have been lost; for Hector is so cautious and so careful, he would not have left the cattle-path; but we were so heedless, we thought only of flowers and insects, of birds, and such trifles, and paid no heed to our way.” Louis Perron, such is life. The young press gaily onward, gathering the flowers, and following the gay butterflies that attract them in the form of pleasure and amusement; they forget the grave counsels of the thoughtful, till they find the path they have followed is beset with briers and thorns; and a thousand painful difficulties that were unseen, unexpected, overwhelm and bring them to a sad sense of their own folly; and perhaps the punishment of their errors does not fall upon themselves alone, but upon the innocent, who have unknowingly been made participators in their fault.

By the kindest and tenderest attention to all her comforts, Louis endeavoured to alleviate his cousin’s sufferings, and soften her regrets; nay, he would often speak cheerfully and even gaily to her, when his own heart was heavy, and his eyes ready to overflow with tears. “If it were not for our dear parents and the dear children at home,” he would say, “we might spend our time most happily upon these charming plains; it is much more delightful here than in the dark thick woods; see how brightly the sunbeams come down and gladden the ground, and cover the earth with fruit and flowers. It is pleasant to be able to fish and hunt, and trap the game. Yes, if they were all here, we would build us a nice log-house, and clear up these bushes on the flat near the lake. This ‘Elfin Knowe, as you call it, Kate, would be a nice spot to build upon. See these glorious old oaks; not one should be cut down, and we would have a boat and a canoe, and voyage across to yonder islands. Would it not be charming, ma belle? and Catharine, smiling at the picture drawn so eloquently, would enter into the spirit of the project, and say,

“Ah! Louis, that would be pleasant.”

“If we had but my father’s rifle now,” said Hector, “and old Wolfe.”

“Yes, and Fanchette, dear little Fanchette, that trees the partridges and black squirrels,” said Louis.

“I saw a doe and a half-grown fawn beside her this very morning, at break of day,” said Hector. “The fawn was so little fearful, that if I had had a stick in my hand, I could have killed it. I came within ten yards of the spot where it stood. I know it would be easy to catch one by making a dead-fall.” [A sort of trap in which game is taken in the woods, or on the banks of creeks.]

“If we had but a dear fawn to frolic about us, like Mignon, dear innocent Mignon,” cried Catharine, “I should never feel lonely then.”

“And we should never want for meat, if we could catch a fine fawn from time to time, ma belle.”

“Hec., what are you thinking of?”

“I was thinking, Louis, that If we were doomed to remain here all our lives, we must build a house for ourselves; we could not live in the open air without shelter as we have done. The summer will soon pass, and the rainy season will come, and the bitter frosts and snows of winter will have to be provided against.”

“But, Hector, do you really think there is no chance of finding our way back to Cold Springs? We know it must be behind this lake,” said Louis.

“True, but whether east, west, or south, we cannot tell; and whichever way we take now is but a chance, and if once we leave the lake and get involved in the mazes of that dark forest, we should perish, for we know there is neither water nor berries, nor game to be had as there is here, and we might be soon starved to death. God was good who led us beside this fine lake, and upon these fruitful plains.”

“It is a good thing that I had my axe when we started from home,” said Hector. “We should not have been so well off without it; we shall find the use of it if we have to build a house. We must look out for some spot where there is a spring of good water, and

“No horrible wolves,” interrupted Catharine: “though I love this pretty ravine, and the banks and braes about us, I do not think I shall like to stay here. I heard the wolves only last night, when you and Louis were asleep.”

“We must not forget to keep watch-fires.”

“What shall we do for clothes?” said Catharine, glancing at her home-spun frock of wool and cotton plaid.

“A weighty consideration, indeed,” sighed Hector; “clothes must be provided before ours are worn out, and the winter comes on.”

“We must save all the skins of the wood-chucks and squirrels,” suggested Louis; “and fawns when we catch them.”

“Yes, and fawns when we get them,” added Hector; “but it is time enough to think of all these things; we must not give up all hope of home.”

“I give up all hope? I shall hope on while I have life,” said Catharine. “My dear, dear father, he will never forget his lost children; he will try and find us, alive or dead; he will never give up the search.”

Poor child, how long did this hope burn like a living torch in thy guileless breast. How often, as they roamed those hills and valleys, were thine eyes sent into the gloomy recesses of the dark ravines and thick bushes, with the hope that they would meet the advancing form and outstretched arms of thy earthly parents: all in vain yet the arms of thy heavenly Father were extended over thee, to guide, to guard, and to sustain thee.

How often were Catharine’s hands filled with wild-flowers, to carry home, as she fondly said, to sick Louise, or her mother. Poor Catharine, how often did your bouquets fade; how often did the sad exile water them with her tears, for hers was the hope that keeps alive despair.

When they roused them in the morning to recommence their fruitless wanderings, they would say to each other: “Perhaps we shall see our father, he may find us here to-day;” but evening came, and still he came not, and they were no nearer to their father’s home than they had been the day previous.

“If we could but find our way back to the ‘Cold Creek,’ we might, by following its course, return to Cold Springs,” said Hector.

“I doubt much the fact of the ‘Cold Creek’ having any connexion with our Spring,” said Louis; “I think it has its rise in the ‘Beaver-meadow,’ and following its course would only entangle us among those wolfish balsam and cedar swamps, or lead us yet further astray into the thick recesses of the pine forest. For my part, I believe we are already fifty miles from Cold Springs.”

It is one of the bewildering mistakes that all persons who lose their way in the pathless woods fall into, they have no idea of distance, or the points of the compass, unless they can see the sun rise and set, which is not possible to do when surrounded by the dense growth of forest-trees; they rather measure distance by the time they have been wandering, than by any other token.

The children knew that they had been a long time absent from home, wandering hither and thither, and they fancied their journey had been as long as it had been weary. They had indeed the comfort of seeing the sun in his course from east to west, but they knew not in what direction the home they had lost lay; it was this that troubled them in their choice of the course they should take each day, and at last determined them to lose no more time so fruitlessly, where the peril was so great, but seek for some pleasant spot where they might pass their time in safety, and provide for their present and future wants.

“The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.”

Catharine declared her ancle was so much stronger than it had been since the accident, and her health so much amended, that the day after the conversation just recorded, the little party bade farewell to the valley of the “big stone,” and ascending the steep sides of the hills, bent their steps eastward, keeping the lake to their left hand; Hector led the way, loaded with their household utensils, which consisted only of the axe, which he would trust to no one but himself, the tin-pot, and the birch-basket. Louis had his cousin to assist up the steep banks, likewise some fish to carry, which had been caught early in the morning.

The wanderers thought at first to explore the ground near the lake shore, but soon abandoned this resolution, on finding the under-growth of trees and bushes become so thick, that they made little progress, and the fatigue of travelling was greatly increased by having continually to put aside the bushes or bend them down.

Hector advised trying the higher ground: and after following a deer-path through a small ravine that crossed the hills, they found themselves on a fine extent of table-land, richly, but not too densely wooded with white and black oaks, diversified with here and there a solitary pine, which reared its straight and pillar-like trunk in stately grandeur above its leafy companions: a meet eyrie for the bald-eagle, that kept watch from its dark crest over the silent waters of the lake, spread below like a silver zone studded with emeralds.

In their progress, they passed the head of many small ravines, which divided the hilly shores of the lake into deep furrows; these furrows had once been channels, by which the waters of some upper lake (the site of which is now dry land) had at a former period poured down into the valley, filling the basin of what now is called the Rice Lake. These waters with resistless course had ploughed their way between the hills, bearing in their course those blocks of granite and limestone which are so widely scattered both on the hill-tops and the plains, or form a rocky pavement at the bottom of the narrow denies. What a sight of sublime desolation must that outpouring of the waters have presented, when those steep banks were riven by the sweeping torrents that were loosened from their former bounds. The pleased eye rests upon these tranquil shores, now covered with oaks and pines, or waving with a flood of golden grain, or varied by neat dwellings and fruitful gardens; and the gazer on that peaceful scene scarcely pictures to himself what it must have been when no living eye was there to mark the rushing floods, when they scooped to themselves the deep bed in which they now repose.

Those lovely islands that sit like stately crowns upon the waters, were doubtless the wreck that remained of the valley; elevated spots, whose rocky basis withstood the force of the rushing waters, that carried away the lighter portions of the soil. The southern shore, seen from the lake, seems to lie in regular ridges running from south to north; some few are parallel with the lake-shore, possibly where some surmountable impediment turned the current the subsiding waters; but they all find an outlet through their connexion with ravines communicating with the lake.

There is a beautiful level tract of land, with only here and there a solitary oak growing upon it, or a few stately pines; it is commonly called the “upper Race-course,” merely on account of the smoothness of the surface; it forms a high tableland, nearly three hundred feet above the lake, and is surrounded by high hills. This spot, though now dry and covered with turf and flowers, and low bushes, has evidently once been a broad sheet of water. To the eastward lies a still more lovely and attractive spot, known as the “lower Race-course;” it lies on a lower level than the former one, and, like it, is embanked by a ridge of distant hills; both have ravines leading down to the Rice Lake, and may have been the sources from whence its channel was filled. Some convulsion of nature at a remote period, by raising the waters above their natural level, might have caused a disruption of the banks, and drained their beds, as they now appear ready for the ploughshare or the spade. In the month of June these flats are brilliant with the splendid blossoms of the enchroma, or painted cup, the azure lupine and snowy trillium roses scent the evening air, and grow as if planted by the hand of taste.

A carpeting of the small downy saxifrage with its white silky leaves covers the ground in early spring. In the fall, it is red with the bright berries and dark box-shaped leaves of a species of creeping winter-green, that the Indians call spiceberry; the leaves are highly aromatic, and it is medicinal as well as agreeable to the taste and smell. In the month of July a gorgeous assemblage of martagon lilies take the place of the lupine and trilliums; these splendid lilies vary from orange to the brightest scarlet; various species of sunflowers and coreopsis next appear, and elegant white pyrolas scent the air and charm the eye. The delicate lilac and white shrubby asters next appear, and these are followed by the large deep blue gentian, and here and there by the elegant fringed gentian. These are the latest and loveliest of the flowers that adorn this tract of land. It is indeed a garden of nature’s own planting, but the wild garden is being converted into fields of grain, and the wild flowers give place to a new race of vegetables, less ornamental, but more useful to man and the races of domestic animals that depend upon him for their support.

Our travellers, after wandering over this lovely plain, found themselves, at the close of the day, at the head of a fine ravine,_ where they had the good fortune to perceive a spring of pure water, oozing beneath some large moss-covered blocks of black waterworn granite; the ground was thickly covered with moss about the edges of the spring, and many varieties of flowering shrubs and fruits were scattered along the valley and up the steep sides of the surrounding hills. There were whortleberries, or huckleberries, as they are more usually called, in abundance; bilberries dead ripe, and falling from the bushes at a touch. The vines that wreathed the low bushes and climbed the trees were loaded with clusters of grapes, but these were yet hard and green; dwarf filberts grew on the dry gravelly sides of the hills, yet the rough prickly calyx that enclosed the nut, filled their fingers with minute thorns, that irritated the skin like the stings of the nettle; but as the kernel when ripe was sweet and good, they did not mind the consequences. The moist part of the valley was occupied by a large bed of May-apples, the fruit of which was of unusual size, but they were not ripe, August being the month when they ripen; there were also wild plums still green, and wild cherries and blackberries ripening; there were great numbers of the woodchucks’ burrows on the hills, while partridges and quails were seen under the thick covert of the blue-berried dog-wood,_ that here grew in abundance at the mouth of the ravine where it opened to the lake. As this spot offered many advantages, our travellers halted for the night, and resolved to make it their head-quarters for a season, till they should meet with an eligible situation for building a winter shelter.

Here, then, at the head of the valley, sheltered by one of the rounded hills that formed its sides, our young people erected a summer hut, somewhat after the fashion of an Indian wigwam, which was all the shelter that was requisite while the weather remained so warm. Through the opening at the gorge of this ravine they enjoyed a peep at the distant waters of the lake which terminated the vista, while they were quite removed from its unwholesome vapours.

The temperature of the air for some days had been hot and sultry, scarcely modified by the cool delicious breeze that usually sets in about nine oclock, and blows most refreshingly till four or five in the afternoon. Hector and Louis had gone down to fish for supper, while Catharine busied herself in collecting leaves and dried deer-grass, moss and fern, of which there was abundance near the spring. The boys had promised to cut some fresh cedar boughs near the lake shore, and bring them up to form a foundation for their bed, and also to strew Indian-fashion over the floor of the hut by way of a carpet. This sort of carpeting reminds one of, the times when the palaces of our English kings were strewed with rushes, and brings to mind the old song:

“Oh! the golden days of good Queen Bess,
When the floors were strew’d with rushes,
And the doors went on the latch

Despise not then, you, my refined young readers, the rude expedients adopted by these simple children of the forest, who knew nothing of the luxuries that were to be met with in the houses of the great and the rich. The fragrant carpet of cedar or hemlock-spruce sprigs strewn lightly over the earthen floor, was to them a luxury as great as if it had been taken from the looms of Persia or Turkey, so happy and contented were they in their ignorance. Their bed of freshly gathered grass and leaves, raised from the earth by a heap of branches carefully arranged, was to them as pleasant as beds of down, and the rude hut of bark and poles, as curtains of silk or damask.

Having collected as much of these materials as she deemed sufficient for the purpose, Catharine next gathered up dry oak branches, plenty of which lay scattered here and there, to make a watch-fire for the night, and this done, weary and warm, she sat down on a little hillock, beneath the cooling shade of a grove of young aspens, that grew near the hut; pleased with the dancing of the leaves, which fluttered above her head, and fanned her warm cheek with their incessant motion, she thought, like her cousin Louise, that the aspen was the merriest tree in the forest, for it was always dancing, dancing, dancing, even when all the rest were still.

She watched the gathering of the distant thunder-clouds, which cast a deeper, more sombre shade upon the pines that girded the northern shores of the lake as with an ebon frame. Insensibly her thoughts wandered far away from the lonely spot whereon she sat, to the stoup in front of her father’s house, and in memory’s eye she beheld it all exactly as she had left it. There stood the big spinning wheel, just as she had set it aside; the hanks of dyed yarn suspended from the rafters, the basket filled with the carded wool ready for her work. She saw in fancy her father, with his fine athletic upright figure, his sunburnt cheeks and clustering sable hair, his clear energetic hazel eye ever beaming upon her, his favourite child, with looks of love and kindness as she moved to and fro at her wheel. There, too, was her mother, with her light step and sweet cheerful voice, singing as she pursued her daily avocations; and Donald and Kenneth driving up the cows to be milked, or chopping firewood. And as these images, like the figures of the magic lantern, passed in all their living colours before her mental vision, her head drooped heavier and lower till it sunk upon her arm, and then she started, looked round, and slept again, her face deeply buried in her young bosom; and long and peacefully the young girl slumbered.

A sound of hurrying feet approaches, a wild cry is heard and panting breath, and the sleeper with a startling scream sprang to her feet: she dreamed that she was struggling in the fangs of a wolf its grisly paws were clasped about her throat; the feeling was agony and suffocation her languid eyes open. Can it be? what is it that she sees? Yes, it is Wolfe; not the fierce creature of her dreams by night and her fears by day, but her father’s own brave devoted dog. What joy, what hope rushed to her heart! She threw herself upon the shaggy neck of the faithful beast, and wept from the fulness of heart.

“Yes,” she joyfully cried, “I knew that I should see him again. My own dear, dear, loving father! Father! father! dear, dear father, here are your children. Come, come quickly!” and she hurried to the head of the valley, raising her voice, that the beloved parent, who she now confidently believed was approaching, might be guided to the spot by the well-known sound of her voice.

Poor, child! the echoes of thy eager voice, prolonged by every projecting headland of the valley, replied in mocking tones, “Come quickly!”

Bewildered she paused, listened breathlessly and again she called, “Father, come quickly, come!” and again the deceitful sounds were repeated, “Quickly come!”

The faithful dog, who had succeeded in tracking the steps of his lost mistress, raised his head and erected his ears, as she called on her father’s name; but he gave no joyful bark of recognition as he was wont to do when he heard his master’s step approaching. Still Catharine could not but think that Wolfe had only hurried on before, and that her father must be very near.

The sound of her voice had been heard by her brother and cousin, who, fearing some evil beast had made its way to the wigwam, hastily wound up their line, and left the fishing-ground to hurry to her assistance. They could hardly believe their eyes when they saw Wolfe, faithful old Wolfe, their earliest friend and playfellow, named by their father after the gallant hero of Quebec. And they too, like Catharine, thought that their friends were not far distant, and joyfully they climbed the hills and shouted aloud, and Wolfe was coaxed and caressed, and besought to follow them to point out the way they should take: but all their entreaties were in vain; worn out with fatigue and long fasting, the poor old dog refused to quit the embers of the fire, before which he stretched himself, and the boys now noticed his gaunt frame and wasted flesh he looked almost starved. The fact now became evident that he was in a state of great exhaustion. Catharine thought he eyed the spring with wishful looks, and she soon supplied him with water in the bark dish, to this great relief.

Wolfe had been out for several days with his master, who would repeat, in tones of sad earnestness, to the faithful creature, “Lost, lost, lost!” It was his custom to do so when the cattle strayed, and Wolfe would travel in all directions till he found them, nor ceased his search till he discovered the objects he was ordered to bring home. The last night of the father’s wanderings, when, sick and hopeless, he came back to his melancholy home, as he sat sleeplessly rocking himself to and fro, he involuntarily exclaimed, wringing his hands, “Lost, lost, lost!” Wolfe heard what to him was an imperative command; he rose, and stood at the door, and whined; mechanically his master rose, lifted the latch, and again exclaimed in passionate tones those magic words, that sent the faithful messenger forth into the dark forest path. Once on the trail he never left it, but with ah instinct incomprehensible as it was powerful, he continued to track the woods, lingering long on spots where the wanderers had left any signs of their sojourn; he had for some time been baffled at the Beaver Meadow, and again where they had crossed Cold Creek, but had regained the scent and traced them to the valley of the “big stone,” and then with the sagacity of the bloodhound and the affection of the terrier he had, at last, discovered the objects of his unwearied, though often baffled search.

What a state of excitement did the unexpected arrival of old Wolfe create! How many questions were put to the poor beast, as he lay with his head pillowed on the knees of his loving mistress! Catharine knew it was foolish, but she could not help talking to the dumb animal, as if he had been conversant with her own language. Ah, old Wolfe, if your homesick nurse could but have interpreted those expressive looks, those eloquent waggings of your bushy tail, as it flapped upon the grass, or waved from side to side; those gentle lickings of the hand, and mute sorrowful glances, as though he would have said, “Dear mistress, I know all your troubles. I know all you say, but I cannot answer you!” There is something touching in the silent sympathy of the dog, to which only the hard-hearted and depraved can be quite insensible. I remember once hearing of a felon, who had shown the greatest obstinacy and callous indifference to the appeals of his relations, and the clergyman that attended him in prison, whose heart was softened by the sight of a little dog, that had been his companion in his days of comparative innocence, forcing its way through the crowd, till it gained the foot of the gallows; its mute look of anguish and affection unlocked the fount of human feeling, and the condemned man wept perhaps the first tears he had shed since childhood’s happy days.

The night closed in with a tempest of almost tropical violence. The inky darkness of the sky was relieved, at intervals, by sheets of lurid flame, which revealed, by its intense brightness, every object far off or near. The distant lake, just seen amid the screen of leaves through the gorge of the valley, gleamed like a sea of molten sulphur; the deep narrow defile, shut in by the steep and wooded hills, looked deeper, more wild and gloomy, when revealed by that vivid glare of light.

There was no stir among the trees, the heavy rounded masses of foliage remained unmoved; the very aspen, that tremulous sensitive tree, scarcely stirred; it seemed as if the very pulses of nature were at rest. The solemn murmur that preceded the thunder-peal might have been likened to the moaning of the dying. The children felt the loneliness of the spot. Seated at the entrance of their sylvan hut, in front of which their evening fire burned brightly, they looked out upon the storm in silence and in awe. Screened by the sheltering shrubs that grew near them, they felt comparatively safe from the dangers of the storm, which now burst in terrific violence above the valley. Cloud answered to cloud, and the echoes of the hills prolonged the sound, while shattered trunks and brittle branches filled the air, and shrieked and groaned in that wild war of elements.

Between the pauses of the tempest the long howl of the wolves, from their covert in some distant cedar swamp at the edge of the lake, might be heard from time to time, a sound that always thrilled their hearts with fear. To the mighty thunder-peal that burst above their heads they listened with awe and wonder. It seemed, indeed, to them as if it were the voice of Him who “sendeth out his voice, yea, and that a mighty voice.” And they bowed and adored his majesty; but they shrank with curdled blood from the cry of the felon wolf.

And now the storm was at its climax, and the hail and rain came down in a whitening flood upon that ocean of forest leaves; the old grey branches were lifted up and down, and the stout trunks rent, for they would not bow down before the fury of the whirlwind, and were scattered all abroad like chaff before the wind.

The children thought not of danger for themselves, but they feared for the safety of their fathers, whom they believed to be not far off from them. And often ’mid the raging of the elements, they fancied they could distinguish familiar voices calling upon their names. “If our father had not been near, Wolfe would not have come hither.”

“Ah, if our father should have perished in this fearful storm,” said Catharine, weeping, “or have been starved to death while seeking for us!” and Catharine covered her face and wept more bitterly.

But Louis would not listen to such melancholy forebodings. Their fathers were both brave hardy men, accustomed to every sort of danger and privation; they were able to take care of themselves. Yes, he was sure they were not far off; it was this unlucky storm coming on that had prevented them from meeting.

“To-morrow, ma chère, will be a glorious day after the storm; it will be a joyful one too, we shall go out with Wolfe, and he will find his master, and then oh, yes! I dare say my dear father will be with yours. They will have taken good heed to the track, and we shall soon see our dear mothers and chère petite Louise.”

The storm lasted till past midnight, when it gradually subsided, and the poor wanderers glad to see the murky clouds roll off, and the stars peep forth among their broken masses; but they were reduced to a pitiful state, the hurricane having beaten down their little hut, and their garments were drenched with rain. However, the boys made a good fire with some bark and boughs they had in store; there were a few sparks in their back log unextinguished, and this they gladly fanned up into a blaze, with which they dried their wet clothes, and warmed themselves. The air was now cool almost to chilliness, and for some days the weather remained unsettled, and the sky overcast with clouds, while the lake presented a leaden hue, crested with white mimic waves.

They soon set to work to make another hut, and found close to the head of the ravine a great pine uprooted, affording them large pieces of bark, which proved very serviceable in thatching the sides of the hut. The boys employed themselves in this work, while Catharine cooked the fish they had caught the night before, with a share of which old Wolfe seemed to be mightily well pleased. After they had breakfasted, they all went up towards the high table-land above the ravine, with Wolfe, to look round in hope of getting sight of their friends from Cold Springs, but though they kept an anxious look out in every direction, they returned, towards evening, tired and hopeless. Hector had killed a red squirrel, and a partridge which Wolfe “treed,” that is, stood barking at the foot of the tree in which it had perched, and the supply of meat was a seasonable change. They also noticed, and marked, with the axe, several trees where there were bees, intending to come in the cold weather, and cut them down. Louis’s father was a great and successful bee-hunter; and Louis rather prided himself on having learned something of his father’s skill in that line. Here, where flowers were so abundant and water plentiful, the wild bees seemed to be abundant also; besides, the open space between the trees, admitting the warm sunbeam freely, was favourable both for the bees and the flowers on which they fed, and Louis talked joyfully of the fine stores of honey they should collect in the fell. He had taught little Fanchon, a small French spaniel of his father’s, to find out the trees where the bees hived, and also the nests of the ground-bees, and she would bark at the foot of the tree, or scratch with her feet on the ground, as the other dogs barked at the squirrels or the woodchucks; but Fanchon was far away, and Wolfe was old, and would learn no new tricks, so Louis knew he had nothing but his own observation and the axe to depend upon for procuring honey.

The boys had been unsuccessful for some days past in fishing; neither perch nor sunfish, pink roach nor mud-pouts were to be caught. However, they found water-mussels by groping in the sand, and cray-fish among the gravel at the edge of the water only; the last pinched their fingers very spitefully. The mussels were not very palateable, for want of salt; but hungry folks must not be dainty, and Louis declared them very good when well roasted, covered up with hot embers. “The fish-hawks,” said he, “set us a good example, for they eat them, and so do the eagles and herons. I watched one the other day with a mussel in his bill; he flew to a high tree, let his prey fall, and immediately darted down to secure it; but I drove him off, and, to my great amusement, perceived the wise fellow had just let it fall on a stone, which had cracked the shell for him just in the right place. I often see shells lying at the foot of trees, far up the hills, where these birds must have left them. There is one large thick-shelled mussel, that I have found several times with a round hole drilled through the shell, just as if it had been done with a small auger, doubtless the work of some bird with a strong beak.”

“Do you remember,” said Catharine, “the fine pink mussel-shell that Hec. picked up in the little corn-field last year; it had a hole in one of the shells too;_ and when my uncle saw it, he said it must have been dropped by some large bird, a fish-hawk possibly, or a heron, and brought from the great lake, as it had been taken out of some deep water, the mussels in our creeks being quite thin-shelled and white.”

“Do you remember what a quantity of large fish bones we found in the eagle’s nest on the top of our hill, Louis?” said Hector.

“I do; those fish must have been larger than our perch and sun-fish; they were brought from this very lake, I dare say.”

“If we had a good canoe now, or a boat, and a strong hook and line, we might become great fishermen.”

“Louis,” said Catharine, “is always thinking about canoes, and boats, and skiffs; he ought to have been a sailor.”

Louis was confident that if they had a canoe he could soon learn to manage her; he was an excellent sailor already in theory. Louis never saw difficulties; he was always hopeful, and had a very good opinion of his own cleverness; he was quicker in most things, his ideas flowed faster than Hector’s, but Hector was more prudent, and possessed one valuable quality steady perseverance; he was slow in adopting an opinion, but when once convinced, he pushed on steadily till he mastered the subject or overcame the obstacle.

“Catharine,” said Louis, one day, “the huckleberries age now very plentiful, and I think it would be a wise thing to gather a good store of them, and dry them for the winter. See, ma chère, wherever we turn our eyes, or place our feet, they are to be found; the hill sides are purple with them. We may, for aught we know, be obliged to pass the rest of our lives here; it will be well to prepare for the winter when no berries are to be found.”

“It will be well, mon ami, but we must not dry them in the sun; for let me tell you, Mr. Louis, that they will be quite tasteless mere dry husks.”

“Why so, ma belle?”

“I do not know the reason, but I only know the fact, for when our mothers dried the currants and raspberries in the sun, such was the case, but when they dried them on the oven floor, or on the hearth, they were quite nice.”

“Well, Cath., I think I know of a flat thin stone that will make a good hearthstone, and we can get sheets of birch bark and sew into flat bags, to keep the dried fruit in.”

They now turned all their attention to drying huckleberries (or whortleberries). Catharine and Louis (who fancied nothing could be contrived without his help) attended to the preparing and making of the bags of birch bark; but Hector was soon tired of girl’s work, as he termed it, and, after gathering some berries, would wander away over the hills in search of game, and to explore the neighbouring hills and valleys, and sometimes it was sunset before he made his appearance. Hector had made an excellent strong-bow, like the Indian bow, out of a tough piece of hickory wood, which he found in one of his rambles, and he made arrows with wood that he seasoned in the smoke, sharpening the heads with great care with his knife, and hardening them by exposure to strong heat, at a certain distance from the fire. The entrails of the woodchucks, stretched, and scraped and dried, and rendered pliable by rubbing and drawing through the hands, answered for a bowstring; but afterwards, when they got the sinews and hide of the deer, they used them, properly dressed for the purpose.

Hector also made a cross-bow, which he used with great effect, being a true and steady marksman. Louis and he would often amuse themselves with shooting at a mark, which they would chip on the bark of a tree; even Catharine was a tolerable archeress with the longbow, and the hut was now seldom without game of one kind or other. Hector seldom returned from his rambles without partridges, quails, or young pigeons, which are plentiful at this season of the year; many of the old ones that pass over in their migratory flight in the spring, stay to breed, or return thither for the acorns and berries that are to be found in great abundance. Squirrels, too, are very plentiful at this season. Hector and Louis remarked that the red and black squirrels never were to be found very near each other. It is a common belief, that the red squirrels make common cause with the grey, and beat the larger enemy off the ground. The black squirrel, for a succession of years, was very rarely to be met with on the Plains, while there were plenty of the red and grey in the “oak openings.” Deer, at the time our young Crusoes were living on the Rice Lake Plains, were plentiful, and, of course, so were those beasts that prey upon them, wolves, bears, and wolverines, besides the Canadian lynx, or catamount, as it is here commonly called, a species of wild-cat or panther. These wild animals are now no longer to be seen; it is a rare thing to hear of bears or wolves, and the wolverine and lynx are known only as matters of history in this part of the country; these animals disappear as civilization advances, while some others increase and follow man, especially many species of birds, which seem to pick up the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s board, and multiply about his dwelling; some adopt new habits and modes of building and feeding, according to the alteration and improvement in their circumstances.

While our young people seldom wanted for meat, they felt the privation of the tread to which they had teen accustomed very sensibly. One day, while Hector and Louis were busily engaged with their assistant, Wolfe, in unearthing a woodchuck, that had taken refuge in his burrow, on one of the gravelly hills above the lake, Catharine amused herself by looking for flowers; she had filled her lap with ripe May-apples,_ but finding them cumbersome in climbing the steep wooded hills, she deposited them at the foot of a tree near the boys, and pursued her search; and it was not long before she perceived some pretty grassy-looking plants, with heads of bright lilac flowers, and on plucking some pulled up the root also. The root was about the size and shape of a large crocus, and, on biting it, she found it far from disagreeable, sweet, and slightly astringent; it seemed to be a favourite root with the wood-chucks, for she noticed that it grew about their burrows on dry gravelly soil, and many of the stems were bitten, and the roots eaten, a warrant in full of wholesomeness. Therefore, carrying home a parcel of the largest of the roots, she roasted them in the embers, and they proved almost as good as chestnuts, and more satisfying than the acorns of the white oak, which they had often roasted in the fire, when they were out working on the fallow, at the log heaps. Hector and Louis ate heartily of the roots, and commended Catharine for the discovery. Not many days afterwards, Louis accidentally found a much larger and more valuable root, near the lake shore. He saw a fine climbing shrub, with close bunches of dark reddish-purple pea-shaped flowers, which scented the air with a delicious perfume. The plant climbed to a great height over the young trees, with a profusion of dark green leaves and tendrils. Pleased with the bowery appearance of the plant, he tried to pull one up, that he might show it to his cousin, when the root displayed a number of large tubers, as big as good-sized potatoes, regular oval-shaped; the inside was quite white, tasting somewhat like a potato, only pleasanter, when in its raw state, than an uncooked potato. Louis gathered his pockets full, and hastened home with his prize, and, on being roasted, these new roots were decided to be little inferior to potatoes, at all events, they were a valuable addition to their slender stores, and they procured as many as they could find, carefully storing them in a hole, which they dug for that purpose in a corner of their hut._ Hector suggested that these roots would be far better late in the fall, or early in the spring, than during the time that the plant was in bloom, for he knew from observation and experience that at the flowering season the greater part of the nourishment derived from the soil goes to perfect the flower and the seeds. Upon scraping the cut tuber, there was a white floury powder produced resembling the starchy substance of the potato.

“This flour,” said Catharine, “would make good porridge with milk.”

“Excellent, no doubt, my wise little cook and housekeeper,” said Louis, laughing, “but ma belle cousine, where is the milk, and where is the porridge-pot to come from?”

“Indeed,” said Catharine, “I fear, Louis, we must wait long for both.”

One fine day, Louis returned home from the lake shore in great haste, for the bows and arrows, with the interesting news that a herd of five deer were in the water, and making for Long Island.

“But, Louis, they will be gone out of sight and beyond the reach of the arrows,” said Catharine, as she handed him down the bows and a sheaf of arrows, which she quickly slung round his shoulders by the belt of skin, which, the young hunter had made for himself.

“No fear, ma chère; they will stop to feed on the beds of rice and lilies. We must have Wolfe. Here, Wolfe, Wolfe, Wolfe, here, boy, here!”

Catharine caught a portion of the excitement that danced in the bright eyes of her cousin, and declaring that she too would go and witness the hunt, ran down the ravine by his side, while Wolfe, who evidently understood that they had some sport in view, trotted along by his mistress, wagging his great bushy tail, and looking in high good humour.

Hector was impatiently waiting the arrival of the bows and Wolfe. The herd of deer, consisting of a noble buck, two full-grown females, and two young half-grown males, were quietly feeding among the beds of rice and rushes, not more than fifteen or twenty yards from the shore, apparently quite unconcerned at the presence of Hector, who stood on a fallen trunk eagerly eyeing their motions; but the hurried steps of Louis and Catharine, with the deep sonorous baying of Wolfe, soon roused the timid creatures to a sense of danger, and the stag, raising his head and making, as the children thought, a signal for retreat, now struck boldly out for the nearest point of Long Island.

“We shall lose them,” cried Louis, despairingly, eyeing the long bright track that cut the silvery waters, as the deer swam gallantly out.

“Hist, hist, Louis,” said Hector, “all depends upon Wolfe. Turn them, Wolfe; hey, hey, seek them, boy!”

Wolfe dashed bravely into the lake.

“Head them! head them!” shouted Hector.

Wolfe knew what was meant; with the sagacity of a long-trained hunter, he made a desperate effort to gain the advantage by a circuitous route. Twice the stag turned irresolute, as if to face his foe, and Wolfe, taking the time, swam ahead, and then the race began. As soon as the boys saw the herd had turned, and that Wolfe was between them and the island, they separated, Louis making good his ambush to the right among the cedars, and Hector at the spring to the west, while Catharine was stationed at the solitary pine-tree, at the point which commanded the entrance of the ravine.

“Now, Cathy,” said her brother, “when you see the herd making for the ravine, shout and and, clap your hands, and they will turn either to the ten right or to the left. Do not let them land, or we shall lose them. We must trust to Wolfe for their not escaping to the island. Wolfe is well trained, he knows what he is about.”

Catharine proved a dutiful ally, she did as she was bid; she waited till the deer were within a few yards of the shore, then she shouted and clapped her hands. Frightened at the noise and clamour, the terrified creatures coasted along for some way, till within a little distance of the thicket where Hector lay concealed, the very spot from which they had emerged when they first took to the water; to this place they boldly steered. Louis, who had watched the direction the herd had taken with breathless interest, now noiselessly hurried to Hector’s assistance, taking an advantageous post for aim, in case Hector’s arrow missed, or only slightly wounded one of the deer.

Hector, crouched beneath the trees, waited cautiously till one of the does was within reach of his arrow, and so good and true was his aim, that it hit the animal hi the throat a little above the chest; the stag now turned again, but Wolfe was behind, and pressed him forward, and again the noble animal strained every nerve for the shore. Louis now shot his arrow, but it swerved from the mark, he was too eager, it glanced harmlessly along the water; but the cool, unimpassioned hand of Hector sent another arrow between the eyes of the doe, stunning her with its force, and then, another from Louis laid her on her side, dying, and staining the water with her blood.

The herd, abandoning their dying companion, dashed frantically to the shore, and the young hunters, elated by their success, suffered them to make good their landing without further molestation. Wolfe, at a signal from his master, ran in the quarry, and Louis declared exultingly, that as his last arrow had given the coup de grace, he was entitled to the honour of cutting the throat of the doe; but this, the stern Highlander protested against, and Louis, with a careless laugh, yielded the point, contenting himself with saying, “Ah, well, I will get the first steak of the venison when it is roasted, and that is far more to my taste.” Moreover, he privately recounted to Catharine the important share he had had in the exploit, giving her, at the same time, full credit for the worthy service she had performed, in withstanding the landing of the herd. Wolfe, too, came in for a large share of the honour and glory of the chase.

The boys were soon hard at work, skinning the animal, and cutting it up. This was the most valuable acquisition they had yet effected, for many uses were to be made of the deer, besides eating the flesh. It was a store of wealth in their eyes.

During the many years that their fathers had sojourned in the country, there had been occasional intercourse with the fur traders and trappers, and, sometimes, with friendly disposed Indians, who had called at the lodges of their white brothers for food and tobacco.

From all these men, rude as they were, some practical knowledge had been acquired, and their visits, though few and far between, had left good fruit behind them; something to think about and talk about, and turn to future advantage.

The boys had learned from the Indians how precious were the tough sinews of the deer for sewing. They knew how to prepare the skins of the deer for mocassins, which they could cut out and make as neatly as the squaws themselves. They could fashion arrow-heads, and knew how best to season the wood for making both the long and cross-bow; they had seen the fish-hooks these people manufactured from bone and hard wood; they knew that strips of fresh-cut skins would make bow-strings, or the entrails of animals dried and rendered pliable. They had watched the squaws making baskets of the inner bark of the oak, elm, and basswood, and mats of the inner bark of the cedar, with many other ingenious works that they now found would prove useful to them, after a little practice had perfected their inexperienced attempts. They also knew how to dry venison as the Indians and trappers prepare it, by cutting the thick fleshy portions of the meat into strips, from four to six inches in breadth, and two or more in thickness. These strips they strung upon poles supported on forked sticks, and exposed them to the drying action of the sun and wind. Fish they split open, and removed the back and head bones, and smoked them slightly, or dried them in the sun.

Their success in killing the doe greatly raised their spirits; in their joy they embraced each other, and bestowed the most affectionate caresses on Wolfe for his good conduct.

“But for this dear, wise old fellow, we should have had no venison for dinner to-day,” said Louis; “and so, Wolfe, you shall have a choice piece for your own share.”

Every part of the deer seemed valuable in the eyes of the young hunters; the skin they carefully stretched out upon sticks to dry gradually, and the entrails they also preserved for bow-strings. The sinews of the legs and back, they drew out, and laid carefully aside for future use.

“We shall be glad enough of these strings by-and-by,” said careful Hector; “for the summer will soon be at an end, and then we must turn our attention to making ourselves winter clothes and mocassins.”

“Yes, Hec., and a good warm shanty; these huts of bark and boughs will not do when once the cold weather sets in.”

“A shanty would soon be put up,” said Hector; “for even Kate, wee bit lassie as she is, could give us some help in trimming up the logs.

“That I could, indeed,” replied Catherine; “for you may remember, Hec., that the last journey my father made to the Bay, with the pack of furs, that you and I called a Bee

to put up a shed for the new cow that he was to drive back with him, and I am sure Mathilde and I did as much good as you and Louis. You know you said you could not have got on nearly so well without our help.”

“Yes, and you cried because you got a fall off the shed when if was only four logs high.”

“It was not for the fall that I cried,” said Catharine, resentfully, “but because cousin Louis and you laughed at me, and said, ’Cats, you know, have nine lives, and seldom are hurt, because they light on their feet,’ and I thought it was very cruel to laugh at me when I was in pain. Beside, you called me ‘puss,’ and ‘poor pussie’ all the rest of the Bee.”

“I am sure, ma belle, I am very sorry if I was rude to you,” said Louis, trying to look penitent for the offence. “For my part, I had forgotten all about the fall; I only know that we passed a very merry day. Dear aunt made us a fine Johnny-cake for tea, with lots of maple molasses; and the shed was a capital shed, and the cow must have thought us fine builders, to have made such a comfortable shelter for her, with no better help.”

“After all,” said Hector, thoughtfully; “children can do a great many things if they only resolutely set to work, and use the wits and the strength that God has given them to work with. A few weeks ago, and we should have thought it utterly impossible to have supported ourselves in a lonely wilderness like this by our own exertions in fishing and hunting.”

“If we had been lost in the forest, we must have died with hunger,” said Catharine; “but let us be thankful to the good God who led us hither, and gave us health and strength to help ourselves.”