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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Log House By The Lake: A Tale Of Canada - Chapter 4
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The Log House By The Lake: A Tale Of Canada - Chapter 4 Post by :Larry Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :2657

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The Log House By The Lake: A Tale Of Canada - Chapter 4

CHAPTER FOUR.

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."

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