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- Lost in the Backwoods - 6/37 -
do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?' Surely, my brother, God careth for us as much as for the wild creatures that have no sense to praise and glorify his holy name. God cares for the creatures he has made, and supplies them with knowledge where they shall find food when they hunger and thirst. So I have heard my father say; and surely our father knows, for is he not a wise man, Hector?"
"I remember," said Louis thoughtfully, "hearing my mother repeat the words of a good old man she knew when she lived in Quebec. 'When you are in trouble, Mathilde,' he used to say to her, 'kneel down and ask God's help, nothing doubting but that he has the power as well as the will to serve you, if it be for your good; for he is able to bring all things to pass. It is our own want of faith that prevents our prayers from being heard.' And, truly, I think the wise old man was right," he added.
It was strange to hear grave words like these from the lips of the giddy Louis. Possibly they had the greater weight on that account. And Hector, looking up with a serious air, replied, "Your mother's friend was a good man, Louis. Our want of trust in God's power must displease him. And when we think of all the great and glorious things he has made,--that blue sky, those sparkling stars, the beautiful moon that is now shining down upon us, and the hills and waters, the mighty forest, and little creeping plants and flowers that grow at our feet,--it must, indeed, seem foolish in his eyes that we should doubt his power to help us, who not only made all these things but ourselves also."
"True," said Catharine; "but then, Hector, we are not as God made us; for the wicked one cast bad seed in the field where God had sown the good."
"Let us, however, consider what we shall do for food; for you know God helps those that help themselves," said Louis. "Let us consider a little. There must be plenty of fish in the lake, both small and great."
"But how are we to get them out of it?" rejoined Catharine. "I doubt the fish will swim at their ease there, while we go hungry."
"Do not interrupt me, ma chere. Then, we see the track of deer, and the holes of the wood-chuck; we hear the cry of squirrels and chitmunks, and there are plenty of partridges, and ducks, and quails, and snipes;--of course, we have to contrive some way to kill them. Fruits there are in abundance, and plenty of nuts of different kinds. At present we have plenty of fine strawberries, and huckleberries will be ripe soon in profusion, and bilberries too, and you know how pleasant they are; as for raspberries, I see none; but by-and-by there will be May-apples (_Podophyllum peltatum_)--I see great quantities of them in the low grounds; grapes, high-bush cranberries, haws as large as cherries, and sweet too, squaw-berries, wild-plums, choke-cherries, and bird-cherries. As to sweet acorns, there will be bushels and bushels of them for the roasting, as good as chestnuts, to my taste, and butter-nuts, and hickory-nuts with many other good things." And here Louis stopped for want of breath to continue his catalogue of forest dainties.
"Yes, and there are bears, and wolves, and raccoons too, that will eat us for want of better food," interrupted Hector slyly. "Nay, Katty, do not shudder, as if you were already in the clutches of a big bear. Neither bear nor wolf shall make mincemeat of thee, my girl, while Louis and thy brother are near to wield an axe or a knife in thy defence."
"Nor catamount spring upon thee, ma belle cousine," added Louis gallantly, "while thy bold cousin Louis can scare him away."
"Well, now that we know our resources, the next thing is to consider how we are to obtain them, my dears," said Catharine. "For fishing, you know, we must have a hook and line, a rod, or a net. Now, where are these to be met with?"
Louis nodded his head sagaciously. "The line I think I can provide; the hook is more difficult, but I do not despair even of that. As to the rod, it can be cut from any slender sapling on the shore. A net, ma chere, I could make with very little trouble, if I had but a piece of cloth to sew over a hoop."
Catharine laughed. "You are very ingenious, no doubt, Monsieur Louis; but where are you to get the cloth and the hoop, and the means of sewing it on?"
Louis took up the corner of his cousin's apron with a provoking look.
"My apron, sir, is not to be appropriated for any such purpose. You seem to covet it for everything."
"Indeed, ma petite, I think it very unbecoming and very ugly, and never could see any good reason why you, and mamma, and Mathilde should wear such frightful things."
"It is to keep our gowns clean, Louis, when we are milking, and scrubbing, and doing all sorts of household duties," said Catharine.
"Well, ma belle, you have neither cows to milk nor house to clean," replied the annoying boy; "so there can be little want of the apron. I could turn it to fifty useful purposes."
"Pooh, nonsense," said Hector impatiently; "let the child alone, and do not tease her about her apron."
"Well, then, there is another good thing I did not think of before--water mussels. I have heard my father and old Jacob the lumberer say that, roasted in their shells in the ashes, with a seasoning of salt and pepper, they are good eating when nothing better is to be got."
"No doubt, if the seasoning can be procured," said Hector; "but, alas for the salt and the pepper!"
"Well, we can eat them with the best of all sauces--hunger. And then, no doubt, there are crayfish in the gravel under the stones; but we must not mind a pinch to our fingers in taking them."
"To-morrow, then, let us breakfast on fish," said Hector. "You and I will try our luck, while Kate gathers strawberries; and if our line should break, we can easily cut those long locks from Catharine's head and twist them into lines." And Hector laid his hands upon the long fair hair that hung in shining curls about his sister's neck.
"Cut my curls! This is even worse than cousin Louis's proposal of making tinder and fishing-nets of my apron," said Catharine, shaking back the bright tresses which, escaping from the snood that bound them, fell in golden waves over her shoulders.
"In truth, Hec, it were a sin and a shame to cut her pretty curls, that become her so well," said Louis. "But we have no scissors, ma belle, so you need fear no injury to your precious locks."
"For the matter of that, Louis, we could cut them with your _couteau de chaise_. I could tell you a story that my father told me, not long since, of Charles Stuart, the second king of that name in England. You know he was the granduncle of the young chevalier, Charles Edward, that my father talks of, and loves so much."
"I know all about him," said Catharine, nodding sagaciously; "let us hear the story of his granduncle. But I should like to know what my hair and Louis's knife can have to do with King Charles."
"Wait a bit, Kate, and you shall hear--that is, if you have patience," said her brother. "Well then, you must know, that after some great battle, the name of which I forget, [Footnote: Battle of Worcester] in which the king and his handful of brave soldiers were defeated by the forces of the Parliament (the Roundheads, as they were called), the poor young king was hunted like a partridge upon the mountains, a large price was set on his head, to be given to any traitor who should slay him or bring him prisoner to Oliver Cromwell." He was obliged to dress himself in all sorts of queer clothes, and hide in all manner of strange, out-of-the-way places, and keep company with rude and humble men, the better to hide his real rank from the cruel enemies that sought his life. Once he hid along with a gallant gentleman, [Footnote: Colonel Careless.] one of his own brave officers, in the branches of a great oak. Once he was hid in a mill; and another time he was in the house of one Pendril, a woodman. The soldiers of the Parliament, who were always prowling about, and popping in unawares wherever they suspected the poor king to be hidden, were at one time in the very room where he was standing beside the fire."
"Oh!" exclaimed Catharine, "that was frightful. And did they take him prisoner?"
"No; for the wise woodman and his brothers, fearing lest the soldiers should discover that he was a cavalier and a gentleman, by the long curls that the king's men all wore in those days, and called _lovelocks_, begged of his majesty to let his hair be cropped close to his head."
"That was very hard, to lose his nice curls."
"I dare say the young king thought so too; but it was better to lose his hair than his head. So, I suppose, the men told him; for he suffered them to cut it all close to his head, laying down his head on a rough deal table, or a chopping-block, while his faithful friends with a large knife trimmed off the curls."
"I wonder if the young king thought at that minute of his poor father, who, you know, was forced by wicked men to lay down his head upon a block to have it cut from his shoulders, because Cromwell, and others as hard-hearted as himself, willed that he should die."
"Poor king!" said Catharine, sighing; "I see that it is better to be poor children, wandering on these plains under God's own care, than to be kings and princes at the mercy of bad and sinful men."
"Who told your father all these things, Hec?" said Louis.
"It was the son of his brave colonel, who knew a great deal about the history of the Stuart kings, for our colonel had been with Prince Charles, the young chevalier, and fought by his side when he was in Scotland. He loved him dearly, and after the battle of Culloden, where the prince lost all, and was driven from place to place, and had not where to lay his head, he went abroad in hopes of better times. But those times did not come for the poor prince; and our colonel, after a while, through the friendship of General Wolfe, got a commission in the army that was embarking for Quebec, and at last commanded the regiment to which my father belonged. He was a kind man, and my father loved both him and his son, and grieved not a little when he parted from him."
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