Page images
PDF
EPUB

« Go on!" imperatively exclaimed the settler ; and his son hastened to give a tolerably clear account of Clinton's offence.

The very large apartment in which this animated scene occurred, was, as we have said, the principal room of the farm. The praiseworthy industry of the settler's wife and daughters, had kept this, and every other part of the building, in a state of thorough cleanliness. The eye could not rest upon any spot which indicated neglect. All was well ordered, shining, and regular. The commonest utensils were made to serve for ornament as well as use. The three expansive window-benches were loaded with flowers; and the white-washed walls were hung with ranks of implements of husbandry, fishing, and hunting spears, rifles, knives, shot-pouches, dirks, &c., which were kept in admirably neat array-ready for instant use—by the four sons of the settler. The fireplace, in the centre of the apartment, consisted only of a vast hearth, and a chimney; which, being without fire, afforded the inmates of the farm another spot for displaying the flowers of the season. The lower end of the room, connected with the kitchen, exhibited a goodly collection of trenchers and drinking cups, in rows, on cach side of the doorway—the upper rows being of bright inetal, the under rows of polished horn. The opposite end of the room led into the sleeping apartments, and it was at this end that the pastor sat, in a large easy chair, to decide, in his capacity of magistrate, upon the case brought before him. He was nearly seventy years of age, but his cheek was fresh and ruddy, and his frame bore not the slightest vestige of decay: his silver hairs were covered with an English clerical hat, looped up at

the sides: his figure was perfectly upright, and one leg rested horizontally over the other, neatly covered with black cloth gaiters. He retained, in these solitudes, the black dress, the white lawn ends depending from his cravat, and the silver kuce and shoe-buckles, which had together characterised liis appearance when, in former years, he resided on a benefice of the county of Suffolk, in England. His countenance expressed the goodness and mildness of his disposition ; his manners were unassuming and kindly; and his speech was particularly persuasive, affectionate, and instructive.

At his left hand, stood in an easy, careless position, the young man who was known in the farm as Nicholas Clinton, “ the scholar.” His throat had been bared on account of the heat, and its uncommon fairness contrasted the sunburnt tinge of his face, which, however, added richness to, rather than injured, his almost feminine complexion. His figure was rather below the middle height, very slenderly formed, but of most accurate proportions, making up in activity what it wanted in strength. His manners were such as might have been formed by superior education and society; and yet, to a very close observer, there was something in them not easily to be defined, which was not altogether satisfactory. On the surface, he was all that was pleasing; and no one knew better how to adapt himself to different characters in order to accomplish an object—than Nicholas Clinton.

Farmer Joshua, the Canadian settler, from the States, who was standing opposite Clinton, might be viewed in some respects, as a specimen of his class. He stood more than six feet in height--sinewy--shrunken-of great

strength--and unrefined manners. His dress was a long brown surtout, of the coarsest possible manufacture, with leggings of the same sort of cloth. His face had been exposed to the elements until it had become nearly as dark as that of an Indian, and bushy black hair, matted above it, considerably added to the uncivilised character of his aspect. A slouching stoop of the shoulders, made his height seem less than it was, and in some measure disguised the strength which he possessed. There was in his features an invincible independence, a perfect reliance on his own resources, and a patriarchal authority. The inroads of civilization into the wilds which he had penetrated, he viewed with great jealousy; and his aversion against persons from civilised parts, was easily excited, and difficult to be overcome.

The sons of the settler all more or less resembled him. The eldest, who bore his father's name, had inarried the daughter of a States frontier-man, and had built a farm and cleared some acres of land around it, at a convenient distance from that in which he had been reared up. On the present day he had joined his brothers and sisters in his father's house, to hear the charge which Dan, the settler's second son, had brought against the favourite Clinton.

The wise of farmer Joshua the elder, was in most respects a partner suitable for him. She was robust, active, and cleanly, although violent in her temper, and rough in her manners. Her daughters inherited her virtues and infirmities; but few more healthy, lively, energetic women existed, than those brought up beneathi the settlur's roof. Refinement, which so much enhances the beauty of the sex, is not without many attendant

evils, from which these persons were free. The perfection of the female condition, perhaps, would be, when, to the attainments, the softness, and sensibility of polite society, were added the advantages of the uncultivated.

The forlorn Jane dropped her netting as Dan spoke his charge against Clinton. She saw that all parties were expectant, and as Clinton had behaved to her very kindly, her sensibility was awakened for him, and she tremblingly hoped he would be cleared from the threatening dishonour. When her

When her eye turned toward the accuser, and from him to the accused, the contrast between them increased her prepossession for the latter; and, misled by fancy and by deceptory appearances, she entertained not a doubt of his innocence. Her own acquaintance with misfortune, the sense of her own solitary situation, united with inexperience, induced her to yield to first impresssions in favour of Clinton, without examination.

He had thrilled her youthful heart, when he told the pastor his brief story, and tears of pity and of sympathy filled her eyes. She had ill endured to hear and see the settler's behaviour to him ; her colour came and went; she breathed quick and loud; and shrank within herself as one violent, and, as she thought, savage speech, succeeded to another, from farmer Joshua's lips.

Her attention was now fastened upon the speech of Dan, which was to this purport : Clinton had frequently hinted to him how easy it might be to advance themselves in one of the populous cities of the States, had they but a few hundred dollars. Dan at length began to think there was more in this than met the eye; and, to try the other, pretended to encourage the suggestion, and to invite him to speak with less restraint

concerning the means by which the sum might be obtained. They were much thrown in each other's way during the floating out of a quantity of timber from the settlement, the rafts being entrusted to their care; and it was during these journeys that Clinton, by degrees, proposed to Dan to borrow from the settler, without his knowledge, a bag of dollars, which they were aware he had concealed in the farm.

“ There !-There! Pastor Wilson !” cried the infuriated settler : “ do you hear that? Hanging is too good for him! A traitor by one's own 'arth!

He has come in and gone out under this roof of mine, just as free and welcome as I who built it! He has been idle when it pleased him—and yet I call all here to witness, he has had as much of my store as any of the children of my own flesh and blood, from my eldest-born to my youngest; and there has not been one of them, though I say it, who would not have done a week's work, where he has done a day's !”

“ I acknowledge it may be so—and I regret it,” said Clinton, with calmness. “ Perhaps to you, pastor, I scarcely need say, that habits of contemplation and study, and the indulgence of reveries, for which my temper was always peculiarly fitted, are not easily overcome, especially amid scenes such as this wilderness supply. Farmer Joshua has been entirely unable to comprehend my character, and has had so often to accuse me of inattention to the rougher parts of his occupation, that I must say, I have feared for some time, an open dismission from his house."

You were formerly accustomed to a sedentary life ?" said the pastor.

« PreviousContinue »