tiny flotilla set off the next day. The three canoes were strung together
as before, though the company was redistributed, Father Hamilton with
Rebecca and Cynthia Elizabeth being in the first boat, Mother Hamilton and
Mrs. Nelson with baby Celista in the second, andSlow
Deer, who wielded a vigorous paddle, with Jimmie and Stanley James in the
third. To the little boy was entrusted the task of seeing that the lambs
remained safe, not attempted suicide in the watery depths of Ontario, and
quite often during that long, tedious journey the boats, as by common
consent, would draw alongside, the baggage boat in the middle, and the
company would rest, rocking on the lake's calm surface, and talk awhile.
It was then that Slow Deer came out in a new character, for she remembered some of the tribal songs of her girlhood, and though her voice quavered a little, it was still tuneful as she sang them small ditties, which Mother Nelson, who understood her language perfectly, translated. Here was one, supposed to be of an Indian maiden confiding her dreams to the great lake:
Oh, mighty lake, star-flecked, sleeping
Beneath a dreaming sky,
A secret take into thy keeping
None know save thou and I,
None know save thou, and I, and he
To whom my heart shall mirrored be.
With sweet-voiced minstrelsy to Man
Conceal it in the breast.
Enfold it in your song; you can
Yet hold it unconfessed!
That secret thou, and I, and he
Shall share in sweet community.
'Frances Rebecca, what is that you have tucked away in your blouse?' demanded little Stanley during one of these rest periods. 'See, it is fastened round your neck by a string! What is it?'
The young girl flushed self-consciously, and her hand went defensively to her breast. But looking up at the affectionate, inquiring eyes of the others, she changed her mind, and slowly drew out a small bag of dark, close-woven linen, secured around her neck with the tell-tale cord.
'One of the officers gave it to me away back at Cataraqui,' she said, looking almost apologetically at Father. 'It was that kindly man with the long grey beard. He had been talking to you about us all, and he gave you that extra bag of seed to share with Mrs. Nelson. It was after that he talked to me, so kindly, about brave Loyalist women, who will be the founders of a greater aristocracy than the world ever knew before, because they endured so much for the sake of their menfolk, whose honour would not let them leave the Empire. He said it was such women who made all the hardships, for whatever cause, worth while. And then he told me how some day I might -- I might marry, and teach my own children about it all.'
Cynthia and Jimmie broke into teasing giggles at the thought of Rebecca getting married, but their mothers checked them, each with a warning look, and Mrs. Hamilton replied encouragingly, 'Of course you may, my daughter. But what has that mysterious bag to do with it?'
Then the girl continued: 'He went on to say that in great moments of the world's development values were often reversed. The brides at our old home in Boston had silken gowns and lots of lovely flowers and jewels, but he told me that I would be too proud for that, and that this little bag contains the makings of a finer wedding gown than any worn by any great lady of the Old World or the New.'
'It is flax seed!' exclaimed Mrs. Nelson, suddenly understanding, and she smiled at the blushing girl. 'That old man spoke truly, Frances Rebecca. We Empire Loyalists who are making Canada are, and will be, prouder of our rough clothes and our worn bodies than the most pampered aristocrats of the Old World. And somehow I do believe that the day will come when the very people with whom we differ now will applaud us for our resolution, and will be proud to recognize us as neighbours and as friends.'
Then Cynthia Elizabeth, her eyes round with dawning understanding, asked, 'And is all this for England's sake?' and the two mothers, who knew and endured so much, nodded emphatically, and answered together:
'Yes, for England's sake! All we ever learned or possessed came from her, and there is nothing too big to sacrifice for her well-being.'
In the general conversation which followed, Frances Rebecca learned that the gift was indeed a precious one. Her father told her how, when their new ground was broken and prepared, those seeds when planted, would grow to tall herbs, capable not only of producing fibre for linen-weaving, but precious oil valuable as medicine, and which would help to feed their stock. He told how easily it grew, if rightly managed, and though this small quantity would have to be reproduced as other seed over and over again, yet it did contain the beginnings of much wealth, and some day, indeed, she might grow and weave her own wedding dress.
'And we have a flail all ready to thresh it!' remarked Jimmie importantly, after he had listened wide-eyed while his elders talked. 'Yes, I grabbed it when those awful men came and took my father. I think I thought I might hit them with it. But I slid down the culvert and they didn't see.'
Days passed in this fashion, and fortunately for them the weather was kind. Once, on a blue-and-gold northern shore, they noticed great jagged cliffs towering aloft, of a strange, white-seeming rock, and so shaped as to resemble ancient castles carved from the solid stone. Slow Deer shipped her paddle, and, pointing with a strong brown arm, said something in her measured Mohawk speech, which Mrs. Nelson translated:
'Slow Deer says we are not far from an old settlement, which the French people knew about.'
'Can it be the settlement of St. Victoire?' queried Father Hamilton, and their friend answered:
'She doesn't seem to know that. She says its name is now Toronto -- the Carrying Place -- and near its shore is a sacred island where -- What is that again, Slow Deer?'
The Indian woman was talking animatedly, still in her musical native tongue, and Mrs. Nelson listened, surprised. Then she turned to the rest.
'I didn't know such a tale existed! Slow Deer says that, ever since she can remember, the Indians carried their sick folk to this island, because the gods of good health lived there, and if the sickly ones were left there for just a little while the gods would breathe on them and make them well.'
'What a pretty tale!' exclaimed Mother Hamilton, while the children called excitedly:
'Oh, Father, could we camp there for the night? Perhaps we'll see one of the gods of good health, and he may breathe on us! Can we, Father?'
Father Hamilton laughed, then nodded indulgently. 'Maybe we can, if it's not too fat and we're not menaced by hostile Indians,' he said.
And they did camp there, for the long, smooth, tree-fringed beaches of the sacred islands were deserted. Their camp-fire attracted no attention, and as the summer night folded round them, and sparse lights from the settlement on the mainland began to glimmer, Cynthia Elizabeth and Jimmie wandered to and fro on the edge of the bush, peering into the shadowy interior, and wondering very much to each other whether any of the gods of good health were strolling around that evening, an what they looked like!
But the next day saw them far upon their journey, and the next day and the next. Then came an afternoon when they rounded a wooded headland, passed between spurs of land, as through an open gate, and turned into a bay of calm water, where steep banks, some of them cleared, sloped down to the very margin, and where the hills around rose green and beautiful.
'This is Macassa Water, often called Burlington Bay,' called Father Hamilton to the others. 'And yonder' -- pointing to the south-west -- 'should be our home!'
All eyes were turned towards the approaching shore, where blocks of clean-washed stones fringed the sloping land, among which the water lapped and whispered. Then they ran the canoes ashore, at a spot where a little creek trickled down to join the smooth waters, and a narrow trail led upward through partly cleared land.
'What a stony creek!' exclaimed Stanley James, picking his way from block to block, and carefully carrying one of the precious lambs, while Cynthia Elizabeth followed with the other.
'And a good name for it!' returned their father, who, gun in hand, was glancing keenly around. 'I believe some part of this land is cleared -- another family had it, not so long ago, but something happened. They either died or went away. Now it is ours, all ours, for we hold the Government title-deeds. There may be a cabin of sorts ready built, however, and if so it will do for now. Why, what in the world is that?'
The clear, still air carried sound distinctly, and though no one from the scattered but plain-to-be-seen settlers' cabins had hailed them, from behind them, away up the slope, came queer, scuffling, bumping noises and an occasional yell. Then these grew into a continued drumming and screaming, and upon the down-borne breeze came a smell of acrid smoke.
'Indians!' cried the group in alarm, and Father Hamilton, gun on the alert, ran up the trail, the others following. He did not go far, for about a hundred yards or so up, near the summit and in a little clearing, stood a deserted house. It was still in good condition, or would have been, though the shutters gaped and the door stood wide open. Evidently it had been lived in for a long time, but, as it stood on the Hamiltons' grant of land the new-comers had every right to it. Mischief was afoot, however, for a band of Indians -- wanderers apparently and more meddlesome than evilly disposed -- had chosen that time and place to do a bit of looting. As the Loyalist party came into view, they had clumped brushwood beneath the low-hanging eaves and were setting it on fire. That their efforts had met with so little success seemed due to the damp of the Lake mists, which still dripped down the walls, and Father Hamilton wasted no time, but with a shout of protest leaped upon the smoldering flames and stamped them out.
The Indians were around him in an instant, by no means pleased but apparently uncertain what to do. Unpleasant things might have happened but for Slow Deer, who, hurrying up with the others, flung herself into the middle of the groups and began to harangue them in their own tongue. Evidently her oratory convinced the Indians, in part at any rate, though they still seemed to think they had a right to finish off the house. How matters might have been settled nobody will know, however, for suddenly came an interruption. Mother Hamilton was standing a little apart from the group, watchful, and carrying the only other gun -- for she was an excellent shot -- on case of accidents. then she, too, started and stared.
Apart in the background was a group of Indian children, and among them a little girl of perhaps five years old, who seemed quite different from the rest. She did not herd with the others, but wandered up and down, with a prettily inquisitive, almost imperious, manner, and Mother Hamilton noticed that she was unusually pretty, being light of skin, well-formed, and though her hair was abundant and very dark, it was not straight, as that on the other little heads was, but wind-tossed and curly. While she was staring at the strange child, a movement in the foliage above caused her to glance up, then grip her musket more firmly.
Mother Hamilton had lived among dangers too long to take chances; she knew that stealthy movement meant no good, and she remained watchful as the attractive Indian child gambolled nearer and nearer to the threatening spot. Then the foliage rustled again and parted slightly. Mother Hamilton gave a sharp exclamation, raised her gun, and fired. There was a scuffle and a scream, and a huge wild cat hurtled out of the tree, to fall coughing and clawing in its death agony.
This changed matters entirely. the Indians, from being hostile and obstinate, became friendly and frankly awed. They stared at Mother Hamilton as if she were some sort of super-woman, and willingly agreed to Slow Deer's suggestion that they not only withdraw all claim to burn the house, but help the family to being their bundles up from the canoes and take possession of it.
The climax came when, in the evening, as the band made ready to depart, the Indian chief picked up the strange child and placed her gently in Mother Hamilton's arms, speaking very respectfully meanwhile in his own tongue. Then he stepped back, gave the Indian sign of greeting and farewell, turned, and, with the rest following, trotted silently away.
'Why, what in the world!' ejaculated Mother Hamilton, looking from the retreating Indians to her lively burden.
Then Slow Deer whispered rapidly to Mrs. Nelson, who translated: 'Slow Deer says, the Indians praise you, they wonder at you. They go in friendship and leave you your house. But they want you to keep also the little girl you saved, as she is none of theirs, but apparently a waif!'
Mother Hamilton was too astonished to reply, but the little girl suddenly stopped wriggling, and stared almost searchingly into the lady's face. Then she flung out appealing arms and whimpered, finishing her cry with a queer clutching movement.
'What does she say? -- That's not Indian talk!' said Stanley, and Cynthia Elizabeth added:
'It sounds like "Greet-Pear-Dew". Well, we do greet you, little honey-bunch; but what does it mean, Slow Deer?'
The Indian woman, shook her head. 'Not know,' she said. 'As little man say, not Indian.'
Mother Hamilton still held the child, and again the pleading, clutching hands reached out to her. Then she looked round at the others, and, noticing her husband's look of kindly interest, suddenly smiled. 'Well, we're a fair-sized party, but she's a pretty baby, and one more mouth to feed doesn't matter much.'
'Oh, then, Mother, you will let her stay with us, won't you?' cried Cynthia Elizabeth and Stanley James together, and again the mother smiled.
'Why, yes. She can grow up among us, and we will call her Pear Dew,' she said.