The Hamilton home was a long, low, roomy farmhouse, much more pretentious than the usual cabins built by the Loyalist pioneers, and it showed plainly that it had been erected by somebody by no means poor, and possessed of very good taste.  Father and Mother Hamilton, and the young folk, to, tried to learn from the neighbours, who soon came around, who the  original builders of that homestead were, and what happened to them; but they were met always by silence, grieved looks, and slow shakes of the head.  So they quickly decided to let the matter stand.  Evidently it was one of those unrecorded tragedies with which the story of Canada's birth is so full, and was best left alone. Bruce Trail ascending the escarpment out of Forty Mile Creek valley, in Beamer Memorial Conservation area.

  They set to work making the big house habitable.  It was built almost in a half square, of two storeys; the rooms were spacious, with high ceilings and many windows, and in one of these at least they found fragments of shattered glass.  Mother and Father Hamilton quickly unpacked their few belongings, distributing them to the best advantage in the two central rooms the family planned to inhabit until they could make furniture enough for more.  They felt quite rich, for Mother Hamilton possessed a workable spinning-wheel, a quaint pair of bellows, and a queer-looking pair of ornamental fire-dogs which for some unknown reason she had tumbled into her bundle before that last-minute flight.  To this Mrs. Nelson added an unexpected treasure in the shape of an ancient spindle, and this, added to Jimmie's flail and the goods they had received at Cataraqui, made them feel very fortunate indeed.

  It was the Hamiltons' desire that Jimmie and his mother live in the homestead with them, for there was certainly room enough, but Mrs. Nelson deemed it wiser to have a dwelling of their own, however small it might be, situated on their own land grant.  So the travellers were barely rested when Father Hamilton, with the help of one or two kindly neighbours and Jimmie, whose eagerness to help far out-weighed his strength, began to build their log cabin for them.  It was just a small, two-roomed affair, of one storey, and with a huge fireplace built of rough, unmortared stones and a solitary door made of timbers split into rough boards, and with even the hinges and latch fashioned from wood.  With unexpected ingenuity Mother Nelson filled in the two window spaces with oiled paper instead of glass, which very effectively let in light while protecting then from the weather.

  The floor was of well-stamped clay, over which they scattered rushes and dried grass, and above the fire Father Hamilton made a small chain from which was suspended a good-sized cooking-pot -- the only one they possessed, and which Mother Hamilton had succeeded in pressing upon them as a gift, after much friendly argument.

  No sooner was there a roof overhead than the woman of both families turned their thoughts to clothing.  In the hasty get-away, when most of them fled in whatever they wore, the clothes they had managed to retrieve were not at all suitable to their new life and they were soon in a woeful state.  For a long time Stanley James and Jimmie had been running around barefoot, and the girls soon found themselves confronted by the same necessity.  Here again, Slow Deer proved her worth, for before long she was dressing and tanning deer-skins and other hides in her ancient Indian fashion, and from them she produced some really quite respectable and comfortable garments, from moccasins and leggings to trousers, tunics, and dresses for the girls.

  'Father Hamilton,' said Jimmie one day, after their new friends the settlers had left them for the night and they were both contemplating with not a little pride the array of tables and chairs, and even beds, their tireless hands had made as furniture for the two homes -- 'Father Hamilton, don't you think I'd better go back now, before the winter sets in?  Back East, I mean, to find my father.  I was talking to Asahel McCollum and his cousin Augustus -- the good folks who live across the bay and who have been so kind in helping us.  They told me that when the trees are turning like these are doing, then the frosts are already upon us and it won't be long before we are frozen in.  I was telling them all about my father as we planed off the tree-stump in the middle of our living-room floor -- that which we plan to use for a table -- and Asahel said if he was going to look for anybody back among the Thousand Islands he'd be starting right now.'

  'I can quite believe that he would,' agreed Father Hamilton, with a grave nod.  'And he would be quite right.  But don't forget, Jimmie, Asahel and Augustus are both lads of sixteen, taller than you and, of course, stronger.  It might be all right for them to go on such an errand, but not you -- yet.'

  Jimmie stamped an impatient foot.  'But, Father Hamilton, I am willing to go; I am anxious and I am not afraid.  And if I am all that, why --'

  'I know, lad, I know; and your spirit does you credit,' interrupted the man, putting a kind arm round the twitching shoulders.  'But you would be worse than useless, lad, when it came to strength and craft -- and both must be used in such a venture.  Besides, who is to look after your mother and baby Celista when the long, cold snow-bound days come?  And what about those two lambs, which must have care if they are to grow into sheep and provide us all with wool?'

  Jimmie's face fell.  'I thought Mother and Slow Deer could manage,' he said.  'And that she would rather I go, while she waited here.'

  'All in good time, lad, but not yet,' returned his friend.  Then, drawing him down to the bench they had just finished, he continued, 'Listen, Jimmie, and I will tell you a story I read once, away back, when I wasn't more than your age and I went to school in dear old England, nor ever thought that one day I would be a penniless pioneer, wresting a living from the heart of untamed Canada.'

  'Oh, did you go to school in England -- a big school?' inquired Jimmie, all interest.

  'Yes.  I went to Eton, and you know, Jimmie, sometimes even now, when I pause for breath, leaning on my axe awhile, the old towers rise again before my mind's eye and I can see the great stone stairs, the corridors, and hear the fellows singing in the old School Hall.'

  'There was a silence awhile, Jimmie regarding his friend with awe, for the man's eyes seemed rapt and far-away.  Then he roused suddenly.  'But I am forgetting the story.   It is about a little Grecian boy who lived alone with his mother -- for his father was lost, just as yours is, also his home and all he ever owned.  But his mother never told him much about it; she just took him every week to sit beneath the shadows of a great stone, and she told him that when the day came that he was strong enough to lift the stone aside and find what lay underneath, then she would tell him where to go to find his home and all his property.

  'For years that little fellow came every week and wrestled with the stone, but he could not budge it.  And his mother would watch and smile, and then sigh, for she was always sad; but she would tell him nothing until he moved that stone.  At last came a day when he was big and strong.  He felt a mighty will and a mighty power surge through him.  He sprang at the stone, gave a mighty heave, and lo! it rolled over.  Underneath, secure in a heavy chest, he found his father's sword and shield and helmet.  Then they both knew the time had come, so the mother told the boy that he was the son of a king, but his father was imprisoned by a usurper, and the kingdom stolen.  Now that he was big and strong enough to find his father's sword, she said, he was strong enough to go and find his father and win back the kingdom again.'

  The kindly voice ceased, and the kindly face turned towards the round-eyed boy sitting beside him.

  'You are like that little Grecian boy, Jimmie.  Wrestle with your stone -- that is, make yourself strong and skilled in this strange new life to which we seem to be destined -- and the time will come when I will be the first to agree with you that you should go back again to try and find your father.'

  "I'll do it, sir!' declared the lad, springing to his feet, his face aglow, his young body very straight and taut.  'You'll teach me, won't you?  And please do you know any more stories like that?'

  'Lots of them, Jimmie,' laughed Father Hamilton as they rose to go in.  'It is part of the contribution I can make towards the cultural development of our new nation.  When the winter days are long, and there isn't much outdoors we settlers can do, we'll have a quilting bee, a barn dance or two, then sometimes, maybe, we'll gather round a glowing hearth and I will tell my tales.'

  So the winter came upon them, and they lived, as Father Hamilton had said, visiting among their friendly neighbours, making, with such materials as they could gather, clothing and utensils for their home comforts.  Often there were friendly festivals at their own or their neighbours' homesteads, where there were round dancing and singsongs, after the young men of the community had wrestled or boxed themselves tired, and one of the most popular figures in the entire community was old Angus McCollum, Asahel's grandfather, who could play a fiddle well, and so provided music for these good times.

  Then spring came again, and work started with a will: ground had to be cleared and broken, seed planted, watered, and weeded, and the lambs, now rapidly growing into sheep, led out to pasture and guarded vigilantly from the marauding beasts that lived in the nearby woods.

  Summer found both families with a great improvement in their fortunes.  The first fleece had been sheared from the lambs, dressed, combed, and spun into yarn, their first flax seed had been sown and grown, and threshed with Jimmie's precious flair, to be used again as seed for the coming planting time.

  So two years or more passed over the heads of the little group of pioneers at Stony Creek.  Jimmie, now tall and strong, and over fifteen, felt a particular thrill of pride when, one September day, he put the finishing touches to the roof of that extra room he had built on the back of their cabin, and which he had insisted upon doing all by himself, from the hewing of the logs to the ornamental carving he was learning through watching Augustus McCollum's lame father carving candlesticks on a winter's night.

  'This new room will be nice for Mother and sister Celista,' he thought, as he pocketed his precious hammer and slid to the ground.  'The winsome lassie runs around so now, and she's growing pretty.  All the day long she romps with Mother Hamilton's Pear Dew, and they're both growing fast.  But maybe that's due to the milk I was able to buy from neighbour Gage's by carving that wooden bedstead for them before the ice-jam broke.  My, but I am hungry!  It must be near supper time, and I expect Mother will soon be calling me.  I think I'll drop down the chimney and surprise her by opening the new room from the inside.'

  Suiting the action to the thought, he hurried up the ladder again, clambered over the rough stones of the new chimney, and, letting himself down with his hands, dropped lightly into the room below.  Then he crossed it quickly, silently opened the door, and signalled to Slow Deer, who promptly saw him, not to speak.

  'Well, Mother!' he said.

  Of course she was pleased; she had not expected that her son could work so quickly or so well.

  'It will make me a lovely room!' she declared enthusiastically, looking around it with shining eyes, her hand on her tall boy's shoulder.  'Yes, indeed, I will keep it for myself and sister Celista.'

  'By the way, where is the child?'

  The Indian woman had halted by the open door, uttered a choked gasp, and stood staring.  The others followed her gaze, and then the mother groaned and clutched her son's arm.  He remained as if paralysed, sweating with horror, yet never daring to move.  About twenty yards from them, on a low stone in the sunshine, sat little Celista, a bowl of bread-and-milk on her lap, and babbling excitedly.  But that was not all.  Right beside her, its sinuous length at rest, its sinister head bent over the bowl was a huge rattlesnake!  Evidently its desire for milk had overcome its vicious tendencies, and it was sharing Celista's supper, to that young lady's not unmixed joy.  The others dared not move; they could only hope the child would not become impatient, or scream and strike at the reptile.  Yet that was really too much to hope.  Celista was already missing her rapidly diminishing supper, and, with a protest and an angry jolt, she jerked the bowl away, hitting smartly at the snake's head with her spoon.  Fortunately she jerked herself off the stone on the other side, and on that instant came a shot, a girl's cry, and the sound of running feet.  The snake's body hurtled into the air, to fall a twisted, lifeless heap, and Cynthia Elizabeth, musket in hand, ran over and caught up Celista, badly frightened, but unhurt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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