English Literature

Five Little Starrs in the Canadian Forest by Lillian Elizabeth Roy

Five Little Starrs in the Canadian Forest by Lillian Elizabeth Roy

CHAPTER I

A LUMBER CAMP IN PROSPECT

“DADDUM, are we ‘most there?” asked Dorothy Starr, impatiently, as the uncomfortable local train creaked over its uneven tracks through dense forests in Western Ontario.

“Almost, Dot—have a little more patience and soon you will be able to exercise those active little legs,” returned Mr. Starr, as he consulted his watch.[8]

“Guess we’ll all be glad to exercise after this awful smoky, crampy ride,” grumbled Donald, Dot’s twin brother.

“Our winter in the lumber camp will have to be mighty fine to make us forget this outlandish trip ever since we left Grand Forks,” declared Meredith Starr, the oldest boy.

“We have one consolation, Mete, and that is, we don’t have to travel home in the Spring by the same route,” laughed his sister Lavinia.

“Well, children, you all have had some remark to make about the discomforts of this car and the dreadful condition of the tracks, but it is far better than riding in a springless[9] lumber wagon for the same distance,” commented Mrs. Starr, shifting the baby’s sleepy head from her shoulder to her knees.

“We’d never have come if Daddum knew we had to travel that way!” exclaimed Don.

“No, but Daddum had to travel that way, and on horseback, years ago, before this track was laid,” replied Mrs. Starr.

“Did you, Daddum? Oh, do tell us about it!” cried the restless children, as they crowded into the seat beside their father.

“It isn’t an exciting tale, but it is very appropriate at this time,” replied Mr. Starr, smiling at the eager faces. “I was a very young man[10] then. I didn’t find out until I returned to New York after that trip what a prize your mother was.”

“Oh, how does Mumzie know about the trip, then?” asked Dot.

“Because I have often told her how that trip decided for me my future business life,” replied Mr. Starr.

“Dot, please don’t interrupt Daddum with silly questions again,” said Lavinia to her little sister.

“When I got off the train at Grand Forks, on that trip, I expected to meet an old friend at the station, but he was not there. I stopped at the best hotel in the town, which would have been about sixth-rate anywhere else, and the next[11] morning my friend Dean came in. He had had to ride about forty miles out of his way on account of a flooded river and that was why he was not on time to meet me.

“Well, after he had made a few purchases in town he was ready to start back. I had a good horse waiting for me at the hotel shed, and soon we were on the return trip.

“The further north we went the more beautiful and wilder the scenery became until I thought we would be lost in the dense primeval forests. How Dean managed to find his way I could not make out, but he seemed to know every stump, every mound, and every blaze on the trees along the trail.[12]

“We stopped at noon to rest the horses and have a bite to eat. While we lay under the trees smoking our pipes and waiting for the horses to finish their oats, an old hunter passed by.

“We invited him to join us but he was anxious to meet an Indian trapper some miles further on, so we were compelled to decline Dean’s invitation.

“After finishing our pipes, we started on the last half of our journey.

“We hadn’t gone more than four miles before we saw in the trail the deep cut of a wagon-track that struck in from a side-trail that led to an eastern lumber-town.[13]

“‘Huh! Must be pretty heavy pulling for the horses,’ said Dean, knowing that it would take a heavy load to make the wheels sink down so far in the soft soil.

“‘Were they here yesterday, when you came by?’ I asked.

“‘No, and I should say the outfit wasn’t very far ahead, either,’ replied Dean.

“And so it was. In a short time we caught up with a kind of ‘prairie-schooner’ wagon, and found that a pioneer with his family had dared the wilderness of the Canadian forest to wrest a living from the earth.

“Dean rode alongside for a time, giving the man some valuable points about the country, and advising him[14] as to the best trails. The man thanked us profusely as we rode on.

“While Dean talked with the man I rode by the side of the wagon and spoke with the wife who was a very sweet woman of about thirty. She held a child about two years old in her lap while a boy of five slept upon a bundle of clothing on the rough wagon-floor.

“Now, this family had come from a town eighty miles east of the trail where we met them, and they were bound for a distant, fertile valley about a hundred miles further to the west where they intended to stop and look about for a permanent home. The woman and children were stiff and sore from the jolts of[15] the springless wagon as it bumped over huge rocks, or suddenly slid into wide ruts made by washouts. But they never complained about aching bones, for they knew the father couldn’t help them, and they were trying to keep up his spirits.

“Dean and I continued along the trail until we came to the flooded region that made him miss my coming the day before. The river seemed higher than ever, Dean said, and we had to try the roundabout way again. We traveled along the banks for at least thirty miles, but not a spot could be found where we could ford, or even swim our horses.

“Finally, we pulled rein to discuss the problem, when Dean saw a[16] thin wreath of smoke rising among the trees near at hand. As no forester ever permits the sight of smoke to go uninvestigated for fear of forest fires, he jumped off of his horse and rushed into the woods. After a short time he returned with our friend the hunter and an Indian.

“‘The men say we can’t get over to-day—we’ll have to wait about until the water recedes somewhat,’ Dean explained.

“‘Can’t we cross where you did last night?’ I asked.

“‘Not to-day—the water has risen much higher since then and it would be taking too much of a chance to risk it. We’ll stay here until it is safe,’ said Dean, as he led[17] his horse into the woods toward the Indian’s temporary camp.

“I followed the three men and wondered how the Indian ever got the name of Mike. Later I heard that his own name was so hard to pronounce that everyone who knew him abbreviated it to ‘Mike’.

“Well, we camped and hunted and fished there with the two elderly men for a week before we could go on, but it was a week of rare sport, for the hunter and trapper were experts, and they had many exciting stories to tell of narrow escapes from wild animals and other adventures.

“Dean and I finally arrived at the lumber camp where the men had decided[18] to send out a scout to trail Dean, who they feared was lost, or injured somewhere on the way. So, they were greatly relieved to see us ride along the river-road that led into the camp which consisted of a small group of huts.”

“Daddum, that story wasn’t as good as most of yours are,” criticised Don.

“Perhaps not, my son,” laughed Mr. Starr, “for I see we are nearing our destination and I only planned to keep up the tale long enough to keep you from thinking of your tired selves.”

“Get there in about seven minutes, sir,” announced the old conductor as he shuffled through the car.[19]

“Hurrah!” cried Don, jumping upon the seat to get his baggage.

“Why, I can’t see any town!” exclaimed Dot, looking out of the car window.

“Don’t bother about the town, Dot, but take your hat and jacket out of the rack,” advised Lavinia, who was busy trying to gather together the various belongings of the family.

“Babs! Wake up, little sister,” called Mrs. Starr as she gently shook the sleepy little girl.

“Is ‘t mornin’?” yawned the baby.

Everybody laughed so that Babs soon sat up and looked about in surprise.[20]

“Oh, see out there—the funny place!” exclaimed Dot.

“That’s the city where we shall stay over night,” said Mr. Starr, carrying suit-cases and grips toward the door.

A surprise awaited the Starr family as they descended from the train, for Mr. and Mrs. Latimer were there to greet them.

“Well, when did you get here?” asked Mr. Starr, after greetings were over.

“Day before yesterday, so we thought we would wait and start for the camp together,” returned Mr. Latimer.

As there were no porters or cabs in the isolated town, they had to[21] carry their own luggage. Mr. Latimer undertook to find a boy with a wheelbarrow to take the trunks to the hotel. “Hotel! Is there such a thing here, Mr. Latimer?” laughed Meredith.

“Wait until you see! You will be very proud to send home picture post-cards of the place!” replied Mrs. Latimer.

“Where’s Paul and Marjory?” suddenly asked Meredith, who had missed Jinks, his chum, on the trip from Oakdale.

“Why, Marjory is reading to an old invalid this afternoon and Paul went fishing with some boys,” explained Mrs. Latimer.

While the Starrs are following[22] their friends, the Latimers, from the station to the hotel, let us see how they all came to be in this faraway place in Canada.

When the Starrs left the island in Casco Bay in the early part of September, Mr. Latimer, who lived in Portland, Maine, mentioned a trip to the lumber regions of Canada. As Mr. Starr was interested in a large lumber deal with Mr. Latimer, and had spent his summer in Maine on that account, he decided to associate himself with Mr. Latimer in the Canadian Pine Investment Co.

Consequently, the Starr family packed up their belongings and returned to Oakwood from Maine several weeks sooner than they had expected,[23] for it was necessary that the children be completely fitted out with warm clothing, and other necessities, if they were to spend the winter in a lumber camp with the Latimers.

Of course, Mrs. Starr worried about keeping the children from school all winter, but Mrs. Latimer said that the governess, who had been with her children for several years, could so arrange her hours that all the children could study under her direction. This arrangement satisfied Mrs. Starr, and the only drawback to enjoying the novelty of life in a lumber camp was entirely removed.

The Starrs left Oakwood the latter[24] part of October and reached Grand Forks the first of November. From there they traveled by various routes until they reached their destination in the extreme southeastern part of Manitoba.

Here, the Latimers awaited them, and had made all arrangements for the further journey into the heart of the forests where the pine and other valuable timber stood.

The lumber crew, consisting of a foreman, cook and two helpers, hostlers, drivers, and most of those that felled trees, had gone on to the camp some time previous to the Starrs’ arrival, but a few of the men were still in town waiting for their foreman.[25]

The lumbermen who were waiting to start for camp stood about the small stoop of the house which was known as the “hotel,” and scanned the group slowly walking toward them. The Latimers were already known to the men, but the new-comers were a source of curiosity.

The men who were to supervise the cutting, hoisting and hauling of the timber to be cut that winter were of a rugged, good-natured type, and the Starrs were glad to note their clean-cut appearance.

Mr. Latimer had explained to the new arrivals the presence of the crew at the hotel, and also the various work the different men had charge of. Don and Dot had overheard[26] this conversation, and the moment the family reached the porch Don carefully looked over the group and whispered to Dot. Together they walked over to the men and entered into an animated discourse with them.

“I heard that one of you men was an engineer on the engine that pulls the trees out of the woods,” said Don.

“I’m the one,” remarked a tall muscular man, while his companions smiled at the two children.

“We know how to run an engine,” began Dot.

“Sh!” interrupted Don to his sister. “We didn’t come over to tell you that, but we wanted to say that[27] we are glad to meet you. We three ought to have some nice rides this winter on that engine of yours.”

This brought a laugh from all but the engineer. He looked very serious as he said, “I sure am glad to make your acquaintance. I reckon we’ll be very friendly.” And he stuck out his large hand and shook Don’s and Dot’s small hands most energetically.

“Did you say you run an engine?”

“Yep! when we were down on my grandfather’s ranch in Texas. There were some Indians always stealing and hiding in the woods and Dot and I helped catch ’em,” said Don, looking about to see if any of his family overheard his remark.[28]

“Don, that wasn’t when we drove the engine. You know—I mean the time the old thing ran away with us and everybody was so frightened!” corrected truthful Dot.

“Well, it doesn’t matter, now,” hurriedly said Don. “I haven’t heard your name yet, mister. My twin-sister’s is Dot an’ mine is Don.”

“My name is Jim—Jim Akerman, all told, but just call me Jim. An’ now I’ll introduce you to the crew if you like,” said the man, smiling at the twins. “This man is fireman on the engine and his name is Pete. We call him Pete on account of his job of piling peat on the fire.”

“Do you use peat? Why, I[29] thought you burned wood,” said Don.

“We do up here, but down in Carolina we used a lot of bog-peat, ’cause it’s so hot a fire,” explained Jim; then continued:

“Here’s Bill, the tackle man; an’ Jake, the swing-man; Ben and Johnny, there, are hook-men. Then there’s Alf, Jerry, and Mack, who have charge of the cables.”

Just as the introductions were over, Mr. Starr called from the front door telling the children to come in and dress for supper.

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