John Scadding Cabin - Toronto

 Frances Rebecca and Asahel were married that September.  For some reasons Father and Mother Hamilton might have advised that they wait until spring, when the frost left the ground and they could build their own cabin.  But so much work lay ahead of the family, so much new cleared ground to be sown; for what with the seed they had raised and supplies recently come overland or by canoe, Father Hamilton was better off than he had ever hoped to be, and he welcomed the prospect of an extra pair of hands and the vigorous co-operation his new son-in-law would give him.  So it was arranged that the young people were to stay for the time being at the Hamilton homestead, and the wedding preparations went forward.

  Frances Rebecca had been more than a little interested in the production of her flax.  Two or three seasons of careful cultivation had produced quite a good crop, and she really looked forward to wearing a linen wedding dress.  But another surprise was in store for her.  Kindly Mrs. Brant, who took more than a casual interest in the Settlement's first bride, rode over one day carrying a mysterious-looking bundle.

  'I ought to tell you you should not see it till your wedding morning, my dear,' she said.  'But I am so anxious to see if it fits, so try it on now.'  So the bundle was unwrapped, and disclosed a pretty, befrilled gown of printed calico.

  'It is for you, Frances Rebecca,' said the lady, when the admiring exclamations of the rest permitted her to be heard.  'I want you to have a wedding dress you will prize.  Somehow I forsee a time when all Loyalist brides will be prouder of such a dress than if it were made of the finest silk from China's looms.'

  So one  early autumn morning a proud and happy bride was arrayed in the pretty gown, and Cynthia Elizabeth bound maple leaves into a chaplet, and placed them on the bright, brown head.  Then Mother Hamilton rummaged among her few remaining treasures, and produced a gilt-backed Book of Common Prayer, which she pressed into her daughter's hands.

  'I carried it at my own wedding, away back in dear old England,' she said, 'and I never thought then that I would count it the greatest treasure I could bestow upon my eldest daughter when her wedding day arrived.'

  Cynthia Elizabeth was not without her own treasures that day.  She had long passed the stage when she giggled at the thought of weddings, and she kept a stern eye on young Stanley James, to whose twelve-year-old imagination the occasion presented possibilities for practical jokes.  But Mrs. Brant had remembered her, too, and how she was to occupy the important position of bridesmaid, so when Cynthia Elizabeth stood beside her sister, she wore, in addition to her usual deerskin skirt and moccasins, a printed calico tunic, and a string of carved beads.

  In after years the young girl never forgot the beauty of that first wedding.  The brilliant tints of early autumn, deepening around them, the still warm sunshine, the family group on the porch, the kind friends and neighbours standing around.  A young missionary who was Captain Brant's guest performed the ceremony, and for a wedding ring, though gold or silver was not of their possessing, the bridegroom had twisted a circlet of copper wire, and by dint of much hammering and polishing had made it glean as such.

  So the promises were made that gave them to each other, and the watching company broke up into laughing, chattering groups of congratulations and advice.  Then, at a signal from the Captain, Jimmie disappeared, to return presently leading a mild-eyed, red-and-white cow, who, though untroubled by nerves, was obviously astonished at the situation in which she found herself, and was bellowing her protests with every step.

  Mrs. Brant led the bride forward, and the Chief took the halter and placed it in her hands.

  'A dower for our little bride,' he said.  'May this gentle creature be among the forerunners of herds that shall make our Canada rich!'

  So it came about that Frances Rebecca McCollum, one of the first Loyalist brides of Upper Canada, began her married life rich, from the settlers' point of view, for she was the owner of a cow!

  A few weeks later the severe frosts came, and the Indian summer was upon them.  That season it seemed particularly oppressive, and Cynthia Elizabeth, now assisting both Father and Mother, yet also teaching Pear Dew, the Indian waif, and Celista to read and write, found her time fully occupied and the work more burdensome than usual.  On one particularly oppressive day, while trudging back from taking lunch to the workers in the Indian Field, as that pasture was now called, she was forced to sit down once or twice to ease a dull, throbbing head and wrestle with a queer, sick feeling.  She rested by the side of the Pasture Trail, where the trees were cleared and there was little undergrowth, and she had a good view of their homestead, with the Nelson cabin close at hand.

  The small garden which her Mother and Mrs. Nelson had been cultivating did look pretty from that height, and so also did the rolling wooded country spreading towards the northeast, with the sparkling bay and the lake to the south.

  Cynthia Elizabeth rested there for quite a long time, watching little Celista and her close friend Pear Dew gambolling on the grass.  As far as she knew they and their two mothers were the only ones at home.  Even Rebecca had gone wild-fruit hunting, and taken Slow Deer with her, and by rights she should follow Rebecca, she knew; but her head throbbed so painfully that she balked.  She leaned back against a tree-bole, and maybe she dozed.  How long she remained there she never knew, but was startled awake by a cry.  It was a long, low, tortured cry, unlike anything she had ever heard or imagined.  She started up staring around!  Then it came again, part howl, part yelp, part scream, and nearer, too, as if it was coming up the hill beyond their house.  The children heard it, of course, and after listening for a moment laughed and began mimicking it to one another.

  Again the cry came, and nearer, then Cynthia Elizabeth leaped up and dashed down the slope, her headache forgotten, and she caught up a jagged branch as she ran, for she was certain that cry boded no good.  She was still a distance off, however, when the two mothers came running to their doors, and on that instant, over the brow of the hill IT came, the awful, screaming Thing.  Then Cynthia Elizabeth screamed as she ran, for it was a mad dog crazed with hydrophobia, its bloodshot eyes rolling, its slavering, fang-bared mouth snapping viciously to right and left.  And the two children were right in its path!

  Again Cynthia screamed, and tried to run faster, but she could never have reached them in time, and her scream became a wail of agony as she saw those two mites, with not sense enough to leap aside, stand clinging to each other staring amazed at oncoming death.

  Next instant Mrs. Nelson had leaped from her doorstep and flung herself between, with outstretched bare hands coming to grips with the awful creature, and striving to hold the writhing body and mashing jaws away!

  Cynthia Elizabeth never forgot the terrible fight; she reached the woman and the beast as they wrestled together on the ground; her mother reached them, too, but they dared not shoot, scarcely dared to strike, in case it was their friend they hit.  Suddenly the slavering jaws tossed back, and Cynthia, seizing the opportunity, crammed the jagged branch right down the gaping throat!  The dog rolled aside, and instantly Mother Hamilton's musket rang out!  Then there was only a quivering heap of foam-flecked fur lying harmless in the dust, and Mrs. Hamilton bent over their panting friend.

  'Mistress Nelson -- Jessie -- are you hurt?' demanded Mother Hamilton in agonized tones.  'No, don't worry about the children, you saved them -- but you -- O my goodness! Cynthy, look at her hands!  Run, girl; get hot water!  No, we must burn it out.  Put stone on the iron fire-dogs to get red-hot.  then run for your father and the others -- quick!'

  'Never mind burning,' interrupted Mrs. Nelson, in strange, constrained tones, as though she spoke through clenched teeth.  'But send for the others -- you'll need them!  No, I say, never mind the burning; it's too late - see!'

  She pointed to her arms, to her shoulders, and even to her neck, and when Mother Hamilton saw the cruel bites she gasped in horror, and flung to Cynthia the one word, 'Run!'

  And Cynthia Elizabeth ran as she had never run before.  Back to the Indian pasture to call the men, round by the shore road to call her sister and Slow Deer, and after that there was little she could do save take charge of Pear Dew and little Celista, who was weeping now and crying out for her mother.  But her cry was unavailing; they had carried Mother Nelson into her cabin, where they all were now, passing in and out with grave looks, though saying little, and the door was kept tight shut.  After a while Frances Rebecca came, with a strained white face, and told Cynthia Elizabeth to take the two girls and Stanley James and paddle across the bay to Brant's Castle.  There she was to tell the Chief and his lady what had happened, and remain with them until she was sent for.

  Not till years after did Cynthia Elizabeth understand the consternation of the kind-hearted pair.  She knew they were admitted promptly into the household, also that the Chief mounted immediately and rode away, and in a little while his friend, the visiting missionary, followed him.  That they rode round towards Stanley Creek, she knew, but Mrs. Brant was insistent that she and the children remain until sent for.

  That didn't happen until well through the following day.  Though from her bed at midnight Cynthia Elizabeth heard the men return, nothing was said in the morning; only the Chief and his wife were sad and quiet, and if possible more than usually kind to her.  In the late afternoon Asahel came in a bigger canoe, and telling them to come along, almost hurried them away.  Almost in silence he paddled homewards, and when Cynthia Elizabeth would have questioned, he hushed her with a look and pointed to the children.  Then she saw Rebecca waiting on the shore, and as they landed Asahel picked up Celista, caught Pear Dew by the hand, and calling to Stanley James to follow, strode away.

  'Frances Rebecca,' cried Cynthia fairly rushing on the older girl, 'what has happened?  Why are you all so strange.  Why did we have to stay away so long?  And how is Mother Nelson now?'

  Then Frances Rebecca put a steadying arm round the younger girl's shoulders.  'We had to send you to keep the children quiet.  Hush, Cynthia Elizabeth, try not to tremble so.  We did everything we had to do -- for the best.'

  But Cynthia Elizabeth was staring in frank terror.  "Mother Nelson!' she repeated.  'How is poor Mother Nelson now?'

  Frances Rebecca's grip tightened, her lips quivered for an instant, then, 'Mother Nelson isn't with us any more, Cynthia Elizabeth, Mother Nelson is dead,' she said quietly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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