then Frances Rebecca, with Cynthia, appeared at the top of the hill, and a
call from their men-folk brought them hurrying down.
'How is your mother now?' inquired their father as they came within earshot.
And Cynthia Elizabeth answered, 'Sleeping quite quietly. We left Slow Deer and Pear Dew to take care of her. Did you find any spring water yet, and whatever have you got there?'
So the story of the box was quickly told, to the surprise and delight of both girls.
'Oh, Father, you'll be able to help everybody in the Settlement now!' cried Cynthia Elizabeth, clapping her hands, ' and we can buy medicine from the traders -- they'll be coming soon -- that will make Mother well again. My goodness, what a quantity, and what queer-looking coins they are!'
'They're French,' remarked Frances Rebecca, who was on her knees delving into the box. 'Louis d'ors I think they are called. I remember seeing one once, before we came to Canada.'
'Right you are, my girl,' exclaimed her father. Then, in an aside to his son-in-law, 'That tale's true all right, Asahel -- Rebecca, what is that?'
From the bottom of the box the young wife had pulled a small leather bag.
'There's something in it that tinkles,' she said, and drew it open.
From it fell a gold chain with a heart-shaped locket attached. It opened, of course, with a catch, and in it was a miniature of a lovely, dark-eyed girl.
"Why, she's like our Pear Dew!' exclaimed Cynthia Elizabeth.
Then both girls listened in astonishment to a repetition of Asahel's story, and his own and their father's suspicion. Suddenly Frances Rebecca started, then clapped her hands.
'Of course,' she cried. 'How stupid we have been! Father, Cynthy! Don't you remember that day we came, when Mother shot the wild cat and the Indian Chief gave her to us. Pear Dew stretched out her hands to Mother, with a queer clutching movement, and cried. We thought she said "Greet Pear Dew," but we were dense. She was a little French Mademoiselle, trying to tell us what happened. What she said was, "Marguerite perdu!" Marguerite is lost! and that clutching movement was her way of showing us how the Indians grabbed her and carried her away!'
They started at each other, the revelation seemed so amazingly simple.
Then, 'Let's go tell Mother,' cried Cynthia Elizabeth. 'It will do her good to hear such a strange story. And dear little Pear Dew! Won't she be amazed when I call her "Mademoiselle Marguerite"? Father, Asahel, being the box and come along. Come, Rebecca. Oh let's run!'
There was great astonishment, and in the new interest Mother Hamilton almost forgot she was sick, while the little girl, so long known to them as Pear Dew, after listening wide-eyed, suddenly flung her arms around the neck of her kind friend and clung to her.
"But you are my mother, Mother Hamilton,' she said in the excellent English that was now hers. 'I can't remember any other mother, and if that gold belongs to me, I want you to take it all?'
'But, little Marguerite --'
'No, no, don't call me that; it sounds such a long, stiff name. Let me be your Pear Dew, as I have always been,'
'And as you always will be,' returned the tender-hearted woman, hugging her tightly. 'As for the gold, some of it we must keep for you, my dear, for a dower; that is but just. But for the rest, if you will trust Father and me, we will divide it among the needy neighbours, so that these hard times may be eased and everybody made happy again.'
'Yes, yes, do. Give everybody something, and keep some for Jimmie, do!' cried the impulsive child, weeping, laughing, and embracing them all by turns.
And so they all dealt tenderly with the warm-hearted little orphan, whom they had so long protected for sheer good nature, and now felt to be more than ever their own.
Meanwhile, Jimmie had reached Cataraqui, by far less hazardous means than he experienced when leaving it. The overland trail between the Settlements was still little more than a forest path. But already Colonel Simcoe's scheme for building a road between Montrťal and Upper Canada was progressing, and the laws whereby such highways were to be maintained and kept in repair were under consideration.
The War had been over for some years now, but the aftermath affected the destinies of Loyalists and Revolutionists alike. True patriots on both sides sought mutual understanding, where old grievances might be healed. Unfortunately, however, law-breakers -- men true to no particular flag -- were rife, and used the troubles of the times to serve their own ends. Where possible, they would exploit Canadians and Americans alike, and, by cruel deeds of outlawry, try to keep alive the flames of ancient strife.
Jimmie guessed his own father and brother were very likely victims of just such people. On his arrival at Cataraqui he promptly reopened the inquiries he knew Father Hamilton had set on foot four years before.
Had either of the missing men escaped and worked their way to this Settlement, the rest would have been easy, for there were many there to direct them to the homesteads at the head of the lakes. But there was no news, and as winter closed down Jimmie was obliged to stay there, living with the good missionary, working where he could, and so preparing himself for excursions farther east and south when the ice should break once more.
He found plenty to do. By this time Cataraqui was a thriving centre, and Jimmie, what with his knowledge of sheep-raising, his skill as a builder, and his remarkable talent as a woodcarver, found himself much in demand. When the time came for him to go on, he was quite astonished at the size of his earnings, but he entrusted them to the good missionary, explaining with boyish simplicity that they would only be a nuisance when he travelled, but when he came back, he might buy a yoke of oxen, and even a wagon, and so go home in style!
But summer brought little save disappointment. Jimmie wandered far and wide, yet, though he followed one or two trails which seemed promising, he traced little of those he sought. But he couldn't make up his mind to give up, so decided to spend at least one more winter in Cataraqui and then try once more. This was distinctly to his advantage, for work was even more plentiful, and by the time the second spring came round Jimmie was really quite well-to-do, and the proud possessor of a team of oxen, a wagon, and quite a wealth of implements and household goods.
'Most of this is for Father and Mother Hamilton,' he explained to his friend the missionary when they said farewell the second time. 'And if I don't come back again, but get -- lost -- like dad and Buck, please take them over to Stony Creek, with my love, and say the oxen are specially for Cynthia Elizabeth.'
'I will, lad,' promised the sympathetic minister. 'But, please God, you will come back, safe and sound, and with the good father and brother beside you.'
'I hope so, sir,' returned Jimmie, grave eyes scanning the smooth waters of Ontario. 'It is my purpose to follow back now, over the trail by which I came with the Hamiltons. I thought such a plan silly at first, but now it seems the only hope. I am going right back to the place where we were first separated. I mean where those scoundrels took Dad and Buck prisoners.'
'And all the good angels watch over ye, lad,' returned his friend, helping him shove off the canoe.
He stood on the rim of the shore, watching while the frail craft bobbed farther and farther away, till it was lost to sight in the gleaming folds of mist. then he turned away with a heavy sigh.
Jimmie camped on Wolfe's Island, just as they had done years ago, then, rounding the point, he felt his way cautiously along the St. Lawrence south shore, threading in and out among the islands, until he gauged he had reached the place where Slow Deer hustled them into her stolen boat and he, while she tended to his sick mother, made such valiant efforts to guide it.
It was about two days later that, having concealed his canoe securely in the bush, he cut across country, still following as much as he could remember of their trail. He was an expert woodsman now, and had little fear of getting lost, but the trail they took was vague in his boyish memory, and he travelled more by instinct than by skill.
It was evening, a still evening and quite warm. Jimmie had camped beside a woodland pond for the night, for he thought it an excellent place for wild ducks, one of which might furnish him with a tasty supper. Sure enough, he sighted some, floating idly on the pond's surface, totally unaware of human presence. Jimmie had no desire for a wetting just then, so he waited, hoping that some of the birds would swim nearer the bank before he fired. With unaccountable obstinacy, however, they seemingly preferred the farther side, and Jimmie was just deciding that he would have to skirt the pond and shoot from there, when he saw a puff of smoke, and a shot rang out. The birds soared, though two dropped into the water. But Jimmie wasn't concerned about them, he was staring keenly at the spot from which the firing came, for he had believed himself to be the only human for miles around.
Then the bushes parted, and Jimmie saw a tall, lean man limp down to the water's edge, pause for a moment, then wade in and secure the ducks. Evidently he was not alone, for he called something over his shoulder to somebody hidden by the bushes. Jimmie couldn't see his face clearly, but there was something about his movements and the distant voice that stirred his memory, and the boy, supper forgotten, gun on shoulder, hurried round the pond in that direction. He still moved stealthily; long years of training made him do that. Indeed, he soon worked his way round, and was concealed in the long grass just a few yards from them without being discovered.
There were two men, and they were preparing a fire as he peered. The lean man was cleaning a duck, ready for cooking, but Jimmie almost cried aloud as he saw the face of the other man. It was thin, worn, scarred, and the hair was snow-white, but Jimmie would have known him anywhere. It was his long-lost father!
'And the other must be Buck!' thought Jimmie, struggling with the sudden choking feeling that rose in his throat. 'Buck, thin, lame, so changed that I might not have known him. But I'd recognize Dad anywhere!'
He was about to leap towards them, glad words of welcome on his lips, when something else happened. there was a scuffle and a shout, then four or five ugly-looking fellows -- quite plainly outlaws of the worst type -- sprang on the two men. The poor fellows fought with the desperation of despair, but Jimmie saw they were no match against the brutes that beset them.
He was but watching his chance, however. Steady of eye, practised hand on the trigger, musket at shoulder, he waited. Then he fired! One fellow dropped with a howl, and, while the others were staring round, Jimmie was on them like a lion, striking with clubbed gun, this way and that, shouting encouragement to his folks. It was all over in a few minutes, for the outlaws, in no mind to deal with such a young fury, made off, leaving two of their number crippled behind.
"Father! Buck!' Jimmie cried, as the two he had rescued stared at him in bewildered gratitude. 'Don't you know me? I am Jimmie, your Jimmie, and I have been looking for you everywhere!'
What a joyful reunion that was! And how much they had to tell each other during that belated duck dinner! But first they tended their two wounded prisoners, and so won from them surprised, if grudging, gratitude.
The next day they started for home, for Jimmie declared he would never feel safe till the two he had sought so long were on Canadian soil. He avoided telling more than a bare outline of his adventures till then, though he was compelled to break the news of his mother's death. Then it hurt him afresh to notice how his father's lined face seemed to grow older and more lined as he listened.
Back at Cataraqui, Jimmie turned the outlaws over to what he deemed proper authority, for he considered outlaws were outlaws under whatever flag they chose to operate, and should be stamped out wherever found, like a forest fire. Then he collected his well-earned goods, and one morning astonished both his father and brother by driving his spruce-looking ox team, covered wagon complete, up to the missionary's door, and calling them to climb on board.
'Can this be our little Jimmie?' wondered Mr. Nelson, when, having taken leave of their kind friend, they set off towards Burlington Bay and home.
'The same, and none other, Dad,' returned the lad affectionately. 'And whatever I've earned is to start you up, and pay for all those wasted years you spent in gaol.'
'No, no, lad; that wouldn't be fair. Some help I'll be glad of, to make a start with, for Buck and I will be slow workers for a time, I fear. But you must keep something you have worked for, for yourself, you know.'
'I expect you hate the Americans, don't you, Dad?' remarked Jimmie, one morning a day or so later when they were nearing their journey's end.
But the elder man shook his head. 'No I don't, lad; and I hope you never will either.'
'But didn't they cause all this? Aren't they our enemies?'
'No, they didn't cause all this misery. Your brother and I, and many more like us, are the victims of law-breakers, who reverence no country, but take advantage of international disputes to serve their own ends. As for the Revolutionists -- now the American nation -- they are not our enemies; they are of our blood. In certain matters they have seen things differently from us, and some day, when history records it all, Old England herself may be the first to declare that they were right.'
'But, Dad, you wouldn't renounce Old England?'
'No, lad, I would not. England is our Motherland. The present-day rulers may be at fault -- I think they are -- but they will pass.'
'You mean His Majesty George the Third, Dad?' inquired Jimmie, his eyes wide, and Mr. Nelson nodded gravely.
"I do, son. He's bungled matters badly, and he is responsible for all this misery, if anybody is. But some day there will arise another King -- and why shouldn't he be a George also? But he will be a gentleman, and he'll more than redeem this present monarch's foolishness. By that time the Union Jack and the American Stars and Stripes may be floating side by side, and our two nations at peace. Is that the Settlement down there, son? I seem to see some buildings, and, my! what a fine looking house that is on the plateau!'
'That's Brant's Castle,' explained Jimmie, urging his team. 'It isn't far now to Stony Creek and all the friends, and Celista, just up the trail and round the -- What was that?'
Farther along, up the hill to one side of the trail, a boy's high voice was calling for help!