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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Log House By The Lake: A Tale Of Canada - Chapter 5
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The Log House By The Lake: A Tale Of Canada - Chapter 5 Post by :Larry Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :2411

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The Log House By The Lake: A Tale Of Canada - Chapter 5


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.

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