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The Narrative of Gordon Sellar
Chapter XI - Mirren and Archie


A shepherd’s wage is small, and grows smaller as age creeps on. The young and active get the preference and the old have to take a lower fee at each hiring fair to secure employment. That was the experience of Archie’s father. At the best, it had been only with thrift ends could be got to meet, but as he aged it was a struggle. The children had to help. Archie hired with a farmer and in time rose to be ploughman; Mirren after learning to be a dressmaker, found to be in service was preferable. What they could spare of their earnings it was their pride to give in order to keep a home for their parents.

While still a boy Archie had shaped in his little head a plan of going to Canada, where there was a possibility of becoming independent, and had begun early to try and save enough to take him across the Atlantic. He had fixed on $50 as the sum he must have, but found, with all the self-denial he could exercise, difficult to scrape together. Emergencies arose that required his breaking in on his little hoard of savings, and spring after spring he was disappointed in being unable to sail. His sister encouraged him. Like him, she was determined to break with the conditions that bound them in the chain of poverty, On Sunday afternoons, when they met, their talk was of the future that awaited them across the sea. It was not for themselves they planned and saved. Their ambition was to give a comfortable home to their parents, for they foresaw that, unless Archie carved a farm out of the Canadian bush, they would end in becoming a charge to the parish, which was revolting to them and which they knew would break their parents’ hearts. Of all misfortunes that can overtake them, to the independent-minded Scot the acceptance of poor relief is the lowest degradation conceivable. It was in the month of March, the time when ships were getting ready for the St Lawrence, that brother and sister had an anxious consultation. Archie had $40. Would he venture to go on that amount? The risk of longer delay, the doubt if another twelvemonth would increase the sum, were considered. Archie was for risking all—he wanted to end their suspense. ‘Go,’ replied the sister, ‘father might not be able to stand the voyage if we waited two years more,' and so it was settled.

While Archie had been scraping together the money needed for his passage, his mother and sister had been doing what they could to provide his outfit. The mother span and knitted stockings, a chest was got, and shirts and other clothing cut and sewed. To eke out the ship-rations provisions must be had, and in this neighbors helped—the wife of the farmer he worked for presented him with a cheese, she called it a kebbuck, and his father’s master insisted on his accepting two stone of meal, part of which was baked into oatcakes. The step Archie was to take was not only serious but dangerous, for many ships in those days were wrecked, a few never heard of, and the fear that he might not reach Canada oppressed those who bade him good-by. The morning he left was trying. He kept a cheery countenance and was profuse in his expressions of confidence of success and that before long they would be re-united. The father, sternly repressing his emotions in parting with his only son, wrung his hand. ‘When I am on the hillside alone with the yowes I will be praying God may be with you—when you are in the bush, will you not be praying for us? ‘That I will, father.’ ‘Then,’ said the old man, ‘though the ocean roll between us we will be united in spirit.’ Taking his watch out of his pocket, the father held it out. ‘No, no,’ said Archie, ‘I cannot take your watch.’ ‘You must take it; my companion for many a year it will cheer you in the woods, and keep you in mind of the promise you have just made.’ The sister went with him to the turn of the road. She treasured his last words and they were her comfort. ‘Mirren, I have covenanted with God, that I will never forget our father and mother and will do all that in me lies to help and comfort them.’ He strode on his way to Greenock, whither his chest had gone by the carrier.

The ship made a good voyage and in time he got to Toronto, where, with some trouble, he was given, a location-ticket for a lot. Bargaining with a teamster who was taking a load to a settlement in the neighborhood of his lot, to leave his chest on his way, he started on foot. It was well he did, for from what he saw on the road he learnt much of what settlers have to do. He watched the chopping of trees, the making of potash, the hoeing in of the first crop, and the building of shanties, for in succession he came upon settlers engaged in all these operations, and he was not backward in asking questions, or slow in observing. The afternoon of the second day he reached where the local land-agent lived. There was a small gristmill, a sawmill, a blacksmith shop, an ashery and half a dozen houses, all rudely built, planted in a surrounding of stumps, with the bush encircling all. Asking at the largest shanty for Mr Magarth, the woman he spoke to pointed to a man, bareheaded and in his shirtsleeves, piling boards. On hearing his business Magarth said, ‘You're the man whose chest was left here yesterday. Well, it is too late in the day to show you what lot you have been given. Can you count?’ On being told he could, Magarth got a shingle and a piece of chalk and told him to mark down as he called out the measurements of the boards. On finishing the pile, Archie reported the number of feet. ‘Just what I. guessed,’ said Magarth, 'now come with me.’ He led to the door of an extension at the end of his house, which Archie saw was a primitive shop, there being, in a confused heap, everything settlers could call for. Explaining his daughter who kept his books was on a visit to Toronto, he handed Archie an account-book and asked him to write down the entries he would call off. Seated on an empty box and smoking, Magarth recalled all the transactions since the last entry on the book, which Archie set down, astonished at the accuracy of the memory of the man, who gave dates, names, and quantities with as much ease as if reading them from a list before him. This done, he got him to fill out his report to the crown lands department, to write several letters to the firms he dealt with in Toronto, and one to his daughter, which was original in matter and expression. Archie recognized the shrewdness and ability of this unlettered man, who carried on with ease several lines of business in addition to his farm. After supper he made Archie sit beside him and asked if he would not give up his notion of taking up land and hire with him. Finding he was determined to have a home of his own, Magarth gave him much advice as to how he should begin, not concealing, on learning he had only a few dollars, that he was sure he would fail. After breakfast Magarth told him what he could not do without, and laid in a bundle an ax, a saw, a spokeshave, an auger, a hammer, nails, and would have added a grindstone had there been any way of carrying it ‘You’ll have to come out to us when your ax needs grinding.’ In a pail he put some flour, peas, and a lump of pork, tying a frying-pan to the handle.

‘But I have not money enough to pay for all this,’ said Archie. ‘I know you haven’t,’ was the reply, ‘you are to pay me in ashes.’ Sending a man with him to point out the lot, and to stay long enough to help to raise a shelter, Archie started. Their way lay across the country, through a dense forest, for the concession his lot was on lay to the north and the side road had been opened to it. His guide, whose name was Dennis, had his ax over his shoulder and blazed the trees as they tramped on their way. Archie wondered why he should have been given a lot so far back when they were going over so much land that was unoccupied. Finally Dennis halted, and, after a little searching for surveyor’s posts, which were not hard to find, for the concession had been laid out within a year, he showed Archie his limits. ‘The road allowance is here,’ said Dennis, ‘and if I were you I would put my shanty close to it, cut the logs for it off the allowance, and kill two birds with one stone, make a beginning on your road and have a shanty.’ Archie was willing but made a poor fist in felling trees, and before an hour his hands were blistered. Dennis left to him the rolling of the logs to the chosen site and notching their corners.

At noon they rested, Dennis lighting a fire and showing Archie how to cook flour cakes and fry pork at the same time. Towards nightfall a like meal was cooked, and creeping into a thicket of cedars they were soon fast asleep. Next morning Dennis picked out ash-trees and hickories small enough to make handspikes and skids and the rearing of the shanty began. It was small, 10 by 12 feet, in front 7 feet high sloping backward. Showing how to lay poles to make a roof, and cover them with sheets of elm and basswood bark, Dennis left while there was daylight enough to show him the way. Archie was alone, buried in the bush, yet was in high spirits. The land he stood on he owned. Everything had gone well with him so far and he looked with steady confidence into the future.

When the shanty was finished he had to admit it was only a hovel, which he would replace by one fit to be the home of the father and mother whose figures were often before his mind’s eye. With hands still tender, he went on felling trees, selecting the smaller, and when he had got a heap together he set fire, for he needed a clearance in which he wanted to plant potatoes. On Saturday coming he left for Magarth’s, for he had promised to post up his accounts of the week. On finishing all Magarth had to do, Archie wrote his mother. When he landed at Montreal he had sent a letter to his father telling of the voyage and his safe arrival. Now he had to send them word of his having got a lot and that he had made a start in clearing it. Sunday the little hamlet was deserted. The hired men had gone to visit friends and had taken Magarth’s boys with them. ‘Tis the only outing they get,’ explained Magarth, who was surprised on Archie’s preparing to return to his shanty, for he expected he would stay till evening. Not wishing to be beholden too much to his kind friend, he shouldered what supplies he had bought the night before and started. Among the supplies was a hoe and a bag of potatoes to plant amid the stumps.

The routine of his daily life was monotonous—up with the sun to attack the trees which stood between him and a livelihood. It was lonely but he never grew despondent. Singing, whistling, shouting, he kept at his work. Two of the songs of Burns were his favorites—a Man’s a Man for a’ that and Scots wha hae. On coming to the line, Liberty with every blow, he drove his ax into the tree with vim, and, indeed, the trees at that time were the enemies he had to fight. Saturdays he went to Magarth’s to do what writing he might have, for his daughter was in no hurry to leave Toronto. Each Monday found Archie more handy with the ax, and neither heat nor mosquitoes caused him to slacken in extending his clearance. Wet days alone made him take rest in his shanty, in a corner of which was his bed of hemlock boughs and fern leaves. When summer waned and the nights grew cold the lack of a chimney in his shanty made living in it intolerable, for the smoke circulated round until it found the hole in the roof intended for its escape. He thought over plans to get a chimney, but could hit on none that he could carry out without some one to help him. From time to time he had burnings of brush-heaps, storing the ashes in a hole he had dug in the side of a hillock and covering them with big sheets of bark to keep them dry. The end of September, on making his customary visit to Magarth’s, he found a letter waiting for him. It was from his sister, who expressed the delight they felt on hearing of his having got a farm and built a house, and how his letter, like the one he had mailed from Montreal, had passed from house to house until everybody in the parish had read them, and they had raised quite a ‘furore’ about Canada and of emigration to its woods, for the acquisition of farms of their own dazzled all. Father and mother were well and were kept in good spirits by anticipating the day when they would be able to join him in his fine house. He read the letter a hundred times and vowed anew he would not turn aside until those it came from were beside him.

On speaking to Magarth of the store of ashes he had saved and of the slash of trees that were ready for burning, it was arranged he would send two men if Archie would clear a way through the woods by which a one ox-sled could pass. His frequent comings and goings across the lot had made a foot-path, but there were decayed logs to push aside, brush to cut here and there, and a few branches that hung low. It took three days’ work before he was satisfied a sled would have free passage. On a Monday morning the men with the sled and oxen appeared and the burning began. There had been a month’s drouth, so the burning went well, and when the men went back at nights the big box on the sled was filled with ashes. At Magarth's the ashes were measured in a bushel box and emptied into the leaches that stood beside the creek. On coming to square accounts the ashes paid what Archie was due and left a few dollars; to his credit. Taking advantage of the return trips of the sled, he had got his chest taken to his shanty, a quantity of short boards to make a door and a bed, a bag of seed wheat, and a grindstone. Elated by his progress he went to the scraping and hoeing of his clearance with a will, lifted his potatoes, pitted them, and sowed all his seed-wheat. Then he tackled enlarging his clearance and his daily task was again felling trees. The weather was now often cold. He chinked the shanty but with a gaping hole in the roof to let out the smoke it made little difference, and often he could not get to sleep for shivering. To light a fire made it worse, for, not being used to it, he could not stand the smoke, which choked him and made his eyes smart. The second week in November there came a frosty snap. Before shouldering his ax he had put the potatoes and bit of pork he intended for dinner in a tin pail and buried it in hot ashes to slowly cook. When he came back late in the afternoon, cold and tired and hungry, he opened the pail and found it full of cinders. The heat had been toe great. For the first time he lost heart, and starting up, with what daylight remained, made his way tc Magarth’s, where supper and a welcome awaited him. The daughter having been back for some time, he had given up his Saturday visits. She was big and plump, and like her father voluble and fond of a joke. When all the others had retired for the night, Magarth and Archie sat by the fire. Magarth guessed how it was going with Archie and told him he could not stand out the winter. Then, with kindly humor, he gave Archie to understand that if he and Norah would make it up, he would take him as a partner in his business, which was growing too large for him to manage alone. Archie was astounded, making no reply beyond thanking him for the hint. When he turned into a bunk in the corner of the store he was so tired that he fell asleep and dreamt not of Norah but of the daily misery he was enduring.

In the morning Archie rose and, without waking anybody, slipped out and made his way to his comfortless shanty, Those who love the forest know in how many tones it speaks, varying with the season and the force of the wind. When in full leaf and swayed by a summer breeze the sound is of falling water, of a phantom Niagara; in the winter,, when the trees are bare, the Northwest blast shrieks through their tops and there are groanings diversified by sharp cries as some decayed branch is snapped or tree falls. It was amid these doleful sounds Archie swung his ax. He was not conscious of the bitter cold for his work kept him warm, but his brain was full of racking thoughts. He had toiled like a slave for nigh six months and had accomplished little, with every imaginable deprivation he had saved nothing, and for the next six months he foresaw cold and hunger, which he doubted he could survive. Here was an offer that meant comfort, and relief from a penniless condition. Should he not accept it? Was it not selfishness that whispered his doing so? Did he not come to these woods to hew out from the heart of them a home for those he loved? Was he going to throw up his purpose to benefit himself? Would that be right? There was a whisper, You will be able to help them by sending money. Is money-help all they can claim from me? Is sending them so many dollars a month all the command to honor father and mother means? Do they not desire to be beside me and is it not my duty to sustain and comfort them while life lasts? Shall I place other cares between them and me, leaving them second instead of first? So he went on arguing mentally, until the larger consideration came uppermost, Was it justifiable to marry a woman for whom he had no special regard, because by so doing it would be to his worldly advantage? Then he, for the first time in his life, tried to define what marriage was. Was marriage for comfort and ease such a union as his conscience could approve? It was a searching question, and while he swung the ax he argued it aloud. What was marriage without love? No marriage, he shouted, as his ax delved into the side of a tree. Love alone can blend two lives, and without love marriage is sacrilege. No, he would not think of Magarth’s offer, he would cast it behind him, and go on as he was doing. Then peace came to him, and he dwelt on the communings with his sister, and the pledge he had given her on parting. For the first time that day he began to sing, and when he sat on a log to eat the bread he had brought for his dinner, he threw crumbs to a squirrel that left her hole to survey him.

Two days later he found he would have to go to Magarth’s to get the steel of his ax renewed, for it had chipped. He found only Mrs Magarth at home, her husband and Norah had left on a visit. In the store were two men, and he listened to their talk with interest, for one was telling how a thriving nearby settlement had built a school and were unable to find a teacher. Asking the name of the man who had the engaging of one, and where he lived, Archie’s resolution was made, he would go and offer himself. A tramp of over a mile brought him to the house. In five minutes he was engaged at a salary of six dollars a month and to board round. The engagement was for four months. He spent the night with the settler and left in the morning to get what clothes he needed and to set his shanty in order. Word had gone round that a teacher had been secured, and on his return in the afternoon there were several callers curious to see him. His host was a North of Ireland man, with a large family, who he was determined should learn to read and write. He had been the leader in the building of the school-house, to which he walked with Archie the following forenoon. It was a log building, about twenty feet square. There were no desks and the seats were plank set on blocks of wood. Every child able to walk was there full of curiosity as to what school was like. Archie’s difficulties began at once. Not one of the would-be scholars had a book of any kind; those who said they wanted to learn to write had no paper and no slates. Had they anything they could recite from memory? A little girl forthwith began, Now I lay me down to sleep. With great patience, Archie taught them the first verse of the 23rd psalm, and, trying if they could sing it, found there were several good voices. He felt encouraged. Telling them to bring books of any kind next day, he ended the lessons by one in arithmetic, using the fingers. The second day was better. The children came with all kinds of books except school-books, mostly bibles. One girl had a copy of the crown lands rules and regulations. Only six could read a sentence by spelling each word. They had to be started from the beginning, and Archie had provided for that by producing a smoothly planed board on which he had printed, with a carpenter’s pencil, the alphabet on one side and figures on the other. The children, with a few exceptions, were eager to learn.

Then he got them to memorize the second verse of the 23rd psalm, and taught them a simple hymn, singing both. They were strong on singing, and a boy volunteered to give them a song he had heard, which had a chorus of Derry Down. So it went on. A supply of smooth shaved shingles was got and with bits of chalk the scholars learned to write simple words and cast up sums. At the close of each day Archie told them a story and questioned to see how much of it they remembered and understood. At the end of a fortnight three of the settlers visited to see how matters were progressing and left satisfied.

Shifting his boarding-place each Saturday Archie came to know the settlers intimately, and perceived how little outside their daily toil there was to engage their minds. He proposed a singing-class for the young fellows and the girls, and set a date for the first meeting. The evening came and there was so great a crowd that the school could not hold them so a number clustered round the open door. Archie knew nothing about musical notation, but he had a good voice and a great store of songs. The difficulty was knowledge of the words, which he overcame by singing whatever any number of them knew and by repeating in concert verse by verse before he raised the tune. On the novelty wearing off a number ceased to come, but no matter how cold or stormy was the night the schoolhouse was filled by young people who heartily enjoyed those two evenings in the week.

On a preacher arranging to hold a fortnightly service, they applied themselves to learning hymns. Without knowing it, Archie had become popular. Taking pleasure in his work the winter passed quickly. As his term drew towards its close there was a move to show him some substantial token of regard. There being little money, it took the form of a donation in kind, so, on leaving the third week of March, he was driven to his shanty in a sled laden with parcels of flour, lumps of pork, butter, cookies, doughnuts, and the like. His small wage had been paid him and out of it he sent $15 to his mother.

His shanty he found buried in snow, the drift against its west end overtopping it. Everything was as he had left it, and when he had dug away the snow and got at the potatoes he had pitted he was glad to find them untouched by frost. He again assailed the trees but in a different spirit from the day when he had left. He was again hopeful of conquering and there was much to encourage him. The weather was milder and the daylight longer. More than anything else that cheered him on to his lonely task was the spring sunshine. It was awakening new life in the forest, and why not in him? On the size of his clearing depended whether he would be able to have his parents and sister join him when spring returned next year, and so, early and late, he attacked the trees. The only break in his toil was when he had to go to Magarth’s for something he could not do without and those few hours of social talk were sweet to the solitary man. Not the least interesting topic he heard was that Norah was engaged to a wealthy produce-dealer in Toronto.

On leaving the settlement where he bad taught school, the young fellows told him to send them word when he was ready to burn, and they would come and help him. The middle of May he walked to attend the preaching there, and before leaving next morning had arranged they should come the following Monday. The number who flocked into his clearance astonished him, for almost every acquaintance he had saluted him. They came with ox-sleds and chains and, what surprised him beyond measure, was three women in one of the sleds who had come to make dinner and took possession of his shanty. They worked with a will. The logs were hauled and built into heaps and fire set, and every art the backwoodsman knows was used to make them burn. As ashes were scraped they were shovelled into the boxes on the sleds and started for Magarth’s, returning with small loads of boards. With so many hands the small clearance was, late in the afternoon, put in such a shape that Archie and two men who remained could do the rest. Before the week was out, he had oats and peas sown, and a patch reserved for corn and potatoes. At Magarth’s $10 had been placed to his credit for ashes delivered.

As he was cooking his breakfast Archie was surprised by a sound at a distance which he recognized as the strokes of an ax. Listening with rapt attention, there came, in a few minutes, the familiar crash of a tree falling. ‘That means I have got a neighbor: somebody has taken a lot at the end of the concession,’ said Archie, and he set about his day’s work in high spirits. It was as fine a day as a June day can be, and there is no finer the world over. The brilliant blue of the sky was brought out by a few snowy cloudlets drifting before a gentle breeze, which tempered the warmth of the glorious sunshine. The heart of the young man was glad and found expression in song and whistling as he wielded the ax. What caused him to pause in blank astonishment? From the woods behind him, came a voice singing ‘0 whistle and I will come to you ray lad.’ It was a woman’s voice, it was a familiar voice. Dropping his ax he bounded towards the figure emerging from the bush where the sled-road entered his -clearance. ‘It is my own sister!’ he shouted in a scream of joy, and clapped her in his brawny arms. ‘O, Mirren, have you dropped from the sky? I would have as 'soon expected to meet an angel.’

‘I am just a sonsy Ayrshire lass and have come on my feet and not on wings. Eh, but you’ve changed —ye’ve worked over hard.’

‘It has been sweet work, for it was for father and mother. Nothing wrong with them that sent you here?’

‘I left them well, and hoping to join us next spring.’ ‘And how did you come—what started you—where did you get the passage money—how did you find your way here?’

‘I’ll tell you after I have seen this grand house of yours. An’ this is the shanty you wrote about with everything out and inside higgle-de-piggeldy! Ye are a great housekeeper to be sure. Why, your house has not got a lum! (chimney). ‘Did you have breakfast yet? Poor fellow, no wonder your cheeks are thin.’

‘Never mind, Mirren, I have planned a new house and with your help it will soon be built.’

‘That it will, Archie; it is to help you I have come.’ Sitting side by side on a pile of boards, Mirren told how she had come. On Archie’s letter reaching his mother with three pounds enclosed she saw the possibility of Mirren going to Canada. ‘The passage money is four pounds, mother, and there is the buying of what cannot be done without. We will have to wait for another remittance.’

‘Listen, and I will tell you what I never even let on to your father. When he had that accident six years ago that laid him up and we feared he would never go to the hills again, the thought came to me that if he died the parish would have to bury him. I set it down that no such disgrace would ever fall on our family if I could help it, and when he got better I set to put-by every penny that could be spared, and many a bank I have spun and stocking knitted to get the pennies. After thinking over Archie’s letter, I counted what I put by and I have one pound, seven shillings, and tenpence. Your passage, you see, is paid.’

‘But I dare not leave you alone.’

'Mirren, you will do as your mother asks you. Your brother needs help: go, and we will follow you a year sooner.’

‘I thought it all over' said Mirren, ‘and it was settled I should go. It was quite a venture for a young lass to go alone so far, but I was not afraid, seeing there were the plain markings of what was my duty. So we set to work to get ready, and here I am.’

‘Bless you, Mirren, you have a brave heart and God helping us, we will have father and mother with us in another twelve month, and the black dog. Want will never frighten them more.’

Mirren was curious to see what Archie had been doing, but he took her first to the rising ground, back in the bosh, where he had decided to build his house, and then showed her his crops. The rest of the day he spent in cutting and setting up poles to make a shelter that would serve as a cookhouse during the day and a sleeping-place for himself at night. At supper she told of her journey, of the voyage, the slow ascent of the St Lawrence, and the steamboat that landed her at Toronto. The mate undertook to forward her chest, and pointed out Yonge-street, at the head of the wharf. Without a minute’s delay she gained it and began her long walk. Late in the day she asked at a shanty that stood beside the road how far she was from the corner where she had to turn. The woman, on hearing where she was going, said she could not be there before dark and asked her to stay overnight. Her husband with the two oldest of the family had gone to visit his uncle and she was alone with the younger children. Mirren gladly took her offer and tarried next morning to help in cutting and fitting a dress for one of the girls. There were many wagons on the road, but all were loaded with the baggage of immigrants, who, men, women, and all except the very young, trudged their weary way behind or alongside of them. It was late in the afternoon when Magarth’s was reached. On telling her name, she was cordially welcomed. In the morning she was shown the sledroad that led to the lot of her brother. The first sign that she was near him was hearing his whistling. Of the money she had started with she had still $2.25.

With daylight next day they started .to work. Mirren insisted on taking an ax with her and began brushing the trees Archie had felled. He remonstrated that it was not woman’s work. Her reply was, she had come to help him and she was going to do so. ‘Well, then,’ he said, ‘we will go to the spot where the house is to be built and work there.' On the evening arriving on which the preacher visited the schoolhouse, they both set out to attend the service. Mirren had a welcome that astonished her, and when they heard her sing her welcome was redoubled. Archie’s friend insisted on their staying until next day. It was late that night before Mirren got to bed, for the neighbors crowded to speak with her and hear her sing. As they walked to their humble home next forenoon, Mirren expressed her amazement at the heartiness with which she had been received, remarking it was her first experience with the Irish. In reply Archie said we ought to judge people as we find them putting away all prejudices. His sojourn among them during the winter had made him ashamed of his misconceptions—you have to come close to people to estimate their worth, and he could say from his soul, ‘God bless the Irish: kinder hearts do not beat in human breasts,’ and told Mirren what they had done for him.

The ox-sled that brought Mirren’s chest also brought a crosscut saw, and they tried it at once in cutting the logs for the new shanty Archie’s saying he did not like to see her pulling the saw. brought out the retort that she would not do it for other house than one for father and mother That summer was the happiest they had ever known Their toil was exhausting but the purpose of it and their mutual company bore them up. To hear them singing and joking it would be thought felling trees and sawing them into log lengths was a recreation. Such progress was made that a bee for the raising was set for the end of August, for the season had been early and grain was harvested. It was a bee that was the talk of the neighborhood for months afterwards. Young and old came, more with a desire to help the brave lassie who had won their hearts than for Archie’s sake, well-liked as he was. With her watching them, the young men vied with one another and never did log walls mount faster nor rafters than when they had reached their height. On a green maple branch being stuck in a gable peak to indicate progress, a wild huron arose that woke the forest echoes. When the bee broke up all the rough work was done: what was left Archie could do himself with the aid of a carpenter and mason, for a regular fireplace and chimney needed the latter.

The brother and sister agreed that a less remittance than ten pounds would not do to bring their parents to Canada, and how to raise the $10 was a subject of concern to them. What produce they had to spare would fetch little. Their perplexity was relieved at the close of October by a visit from two men, who had come to find out if Archie would again be their schoolmaster. There were more families now and more scholars and they would pay $7 a month and board round. He hesitated, he could not leave his sister alone. ‘Take the offer,’ she eagerly cried, 'I will go to the settlement with you.’ ‘What would you do there?’ ‘You forget, Archie, I learned dressmaking. I will cut and fit and add a little to our savings.’ The second week in November the school was opened, this time under better conditions, for a storekeeper had brought books and slates, and Archie fetched with him a blackboard he had contrived to put together With the day-school the singing school was resumed, to which Mirren added fresh interest. She got all the work she could do, for few of the women knew how to cut clothes for their children, let alone for themselves, and were glad to pay for cutting and fitting, doing the sewing at home. The winter sped quickly and the middle of March saw brother and sister back to their clearance and to the felling of trees. On counting their earnings in February they found they were able to send to their parents the desired ten pounds, with the urgent advice to take the first ship. How they would do on arriving at Toronto perplexed them, until Mr Magarth gave them the address of his son-in-law to enclose in their letter, assuring them Norah would care for them and see to their finishing their journey.

When June come Mirren expected them each day and made every preparation for their reception. The spot in the bush where the sled-road ended and by which they must come, she watched with unflagging eagerness, but day after day passed and July came without their appearance. She was stooping in the garden cutting greens for dinner when a voice behind her asked, ‘Hoc is a’ wi’ ye, Mirren?’ With a scream of joy she clasped her father and mother. A loud shout brought Archie from the end of the clearance where he was at work with the ax. The reward of their toil and strivings had come at last, they were once again a re-united family In the evening they sat in front of their new shanty, the clearance before them filled with crops that half-hid the stumps and promised abundance. ‘Praise God,’ exclaimed the old shepherd as he reverently raised his bonnet, ‘we are at last independent and need call no man master.’ For his age he was strong and active and his assistance made Archie independent of outside help. The four working together, and working intelligently and with a purpose, speedily placed them on the road to prosperity.

One defect in the backwoods life troubled the conscience of the old shepherd, and that was the practical disregard for religious observances. He was not satisfied with occasional services and, when harvesting was over, made a house-to-house visit to see if sufficient money could be got to mend the situation. Nobody said him nay yet none gave him the encouragement he had hoped. In the Old Land the only free contributions they had made for religious purposes when the penny dropped on the plate on Sunday, so the appeal to make a sacrifice to secure stated ordinances, was to them a novelty. An Englishman asked, ‘When had the King become unable to pay the parson?’ His visits also made him aware that there were many children unbaptised and that not one of those who told him they were church members had received the communion since they had left the Old Country. His resolution was taken —he would go to Toronto and seek out a minister, he did not care of what denomination, to spend a week or more in this new but fast-growing cluster of settlements. Though they did not say so to him, the settlers thought his errand a crazy one. As chance would have it, he did happen on a man as zealous for the cause as himself and with no pressing engagement for the time being. On his arriving he started with the shepherd on a round of visits, exhorting and baptizing, and announcing he would celebrate the Lord's supper, the last Sunday before his return to Toronto. So many promised to come that it was seen the school-house could not hold them. The minister fell in with the suggestion that the meeting he held out-of-doors and there were men found who agreed to make ready. It was now October, and the trees, as if conscious of their departure for their long sleep, arrayed themselves in glorious apparel to welcome the rest that awaited them. The spot selected for the meeting was the wide ravine hollowed out by the creek that flowed sluggishly at the bottom. On the flat that edged the east side of the creek planks were laid on trestles to form the table, while the people were expected to sit under the trees on the sloping bank that rose from it. From an early hour the people began coming. Word had spread far beyond the houses visited, and there were a few who had walked ten miles and over. The solemnity of the occasion was heightened by the weather. Not a breath stirred the air and the yellow or scarlet leaves that flecked the glassy surface of the creek had fluttered downward because their time for parting with the branches had come. A bluish haze tempered the rays of the sun, which was mounting a cloudless sky.

When the minister rose to begin, he faced a motley crowd, for while all had done their best to be clean and neat, with rare exceptions, all were in their every day dress, worn and patched, for to get clothes is one of the difficulties of the new-come settlers. There were few aged, for the young and active lead the way into the bush. There were women with babes in their arms, and there were many children, gazing with open-eyed curiosity. The hundredth psalm was given out and the silence of the woods was broken by a volume of melody. The reading from St John where is told the institution of the last supper, was followed by a prayer of thanksgiving, that even in the forest-wilderness heaven’s manna was to be found by those who seek for it, with passionate entreaty for forgiveness and cleanness of heart. Then singing and the sermon, a loving call to remember heavenly things in the eager seeking for what is needed for the body; the old truth that God is a spirit and can be approached only by each individual spirit, that no man, whatever his pretensions, can come between the soul and its Maker, and no ceremony or oblation effect reconcilement. The invitation to come to the table was that all who loved the Lord should do so. Slowly and reverently those who responded moved downward to take their seats on a bench fronting the table of a single plank. Looking across the creek there faced them a luxuriant vine, clinging high on the trees that supported its mass of purple foliage. Amid these surroundings of Nature the love of Him who condemned formalism and who was simplicity’s very essence, was recalled. When the parting song was sung, and the people began to leave to attend the home duties that could not wait, the old shepherd expressed himself satisfied that seed had been sown that would bear fruit, and so it did.

THE END


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