Three days on the Trent River in the 1840's

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Three Day’s Sport on the Trent.

On Wednesday last I left Cobourg in company with three gentlemen for two or three day’s shooting on the Trent. After a three hours’ drive, we arrived at Alnwick Village at which place we left our team. I started to walk to Crooks’ Rapids, a distance of 12 miles, while the rest went round by water. The country though which I passed presented a beautiful appearance, and seemed to be well cultivated. The houses however, are not ornamental, being built of logs, and roofed with rough slabs of basswood. But this is no criterion by which to judge of the wealth of the people, for we often find, in new countries, like this, that gay houses, fanciful barns, and a luxurious style of living, are very deceitful signs by which to judge the wealth of the possessors. The fact is, in nine cases out of ten, when luxury creeps in, the Canadian farmer is undone; while as long as he keeps his primitive establishment, he makes money hand over hand. As I paused to contemplate the well cleared farms, stacks of grain and numerous stock of the new settlers, and listed to the sound of the axe and the flail, and the shrill call of the housewife to the early frugal dinner, I said to myself, how preferable is this to the scenes of vice and infamy which the large cities of the old world present. Here the rude roar of the drunkard, or the inflammatory language of the sedition-monger is never heard; but from year to year, those verdant and every peaceful groves are free from danger as from guilt; whose matrons are unblemished examples of conjugal love and duty, whose hours are employed in attending to the household affairs and the religious nurture of their children, and who are strangers to all desires but those of pleasing their husbands and promoting the happiness of their families; whose daughters are bright examples of beauty and of virtue, in whose forms the loves and rustic graces dwell, and whom innocence and carefulness attend, with social gaiety, and the sweet train of temperance and health.

But a truce to digression. After a smart walk of three hours and a half, over a very bad wagon road, I reached the bridge at Crooks’ Rapids. This is a Government work thrown across the Trent which here

“___________ Nobly foams and flows,

The Charm of this enchanted ground!” and must have cost (with the dam and slides which extend across the whole river just above it,) at least twenty thousand pounds. The bridge is uncovered and unpainted and is rotting fast. There is no great travel over it at present, but when the roads leading to it are properly opened up, it will yield a handsome revenue. The proper department should take some immediate steps to have the bridge covered in and painted. If they neglect this precaution much longer, they will sacrifice the work to the power of carelessness, the already too popular deity of the Government.

After having ordered supper for the party, at the very excellent Inn at the Rapids, I sat down like patience on a monument, and waited for them. They arrived about 9 o’clock in the evening, having been detained for some time, searching for a deer hound among the Indians. After a frugal meal and a glass of hot punch, we turned in. At 4 the party were afoot, and proceeded down the river. About a mile down, we found Mr Standley of Grafton and a party of four Indians who in three days got as many deer. The ground they occupied was originally intended for us for the scene of our operations, but as it was taken we proceeded down to Belmont landing. After catching a few fish (Maskinonge) we pitched our tent on a rise of ground (always advisable if you would escape the ague), and got our dinner. About 4 P.M. we put out our dog, or rather pup, for he was but 8 months old, and sent the three canoes to their different stations. Mr T. and Indian, and Mr C. and J. with ditto, proceeded west, which Mr. Mc and native went east. Presently “Buck” gave tongue in good style and all were on the alert.

After an hour of intense excitement, during which the dog was heard ranging along shore from west to east, a cry of exultation came from the position of Mr Mc. And all the canoes were driven at engine, or as the modern pronunciation goes, Ingin speed towards it. On turning the point I saw Mr Mc’s canoe rapidly approaching the deer, which was swimming at great speed towards the opposite side of the river; presently Mr Mc raised his rifle, and I was prepared to hear the explosion, when he turned about, laid it down in the canoe, turned up his sleeve, and made a grab at the deer’s tail, he, however, missed it, and the frightened animal jumping half out of the water, turned suddenly round, and while the canoe shot ahead, made off in an opposite direction. By this maneuvre he gained about 30 yards on his pursuers, and bid fair distance to them, but the Ingin backed water, and sent the canoe whirling about on its own axis, like a sinful polititian, jumping Jim Crow. Again the poor deer hard the fatal whiz of the boat through the water: again Mr Mc’s eyes almost startled from his head with excitement: again he tucked ups his Slieve-na-mon, but took off his coat: again he made a grab at his tail; and, although the deer considered his latter end, and plunged with as great vigor as before, he could not escape. Mr Mc this time seized him firmly by the tail. And now commenced a series of movements that would have put to shame a Militia Drill. The affrighted animal tore the water very like a whale, dragging the canoe along at a fearful pace, while the boat tripping it along on the light fantastic tow, with sudden jerks and pirouettes that would not have disgraced Fanny Ellsler, deluged Mr Mc and the Ingin with water, while the green woods sloping to the water’s edge echoed our wild laughter for miles along the shore. For myself I thought I should have burst a blood vessel, particularly when Mr Mc attempted to drown the deer by lifting his tail out of the water, for he had no sooner done it, than the deer kicked back and nearly demolished his nose and the bark canoe; down again into the water went the tail, and “away, away, on the wings of the wind” swam the deer! But all sublunary things must end. After we were all exhausted with laughter, and Mr Mc had been thoroughly disgusted with the excessive hard case, the native stepped forward and knocked the gallant animal in the head with his paddle, another canoe then went to their assistance, and the body was brought safely to camp.

We found that our camp fire had gone down, and our first business therefore was to rekindle it. When this was done and a goodly blaze ran clear and high, the supper for the party was prepared. It consisted of a bone-asked fish, fired fish, stewed ducks, and tea and coffee. The operating of boneasking a fish is as follows: - first, catch your fish and carefully clean and scale, then take out the back bone, and spread it flat in a split stick, taking care to keep it well extended with wooden skewers, set it at an angle of 45 degrees, close to a good fire and season with pepper and salt. In 20 minutes, if you are hungry, the fish will be done. The only remarkable events that occurred at supper were the abstracting half pound of butter from the fryingpan by our hound, while Mr. C turned his back for an instant, and a native sitting himself down in the frying-pan after the fish was taken out, and although it was grievously hot, he bore it with all the stoicism of a philosopher of Grease. After the supper was over and the dog had asserted his prerogative of having a lick at every thing he could come at, Mr T’s flunkey proceeded to wash up the dishes which job he executed with neatness and dispatch. He then boiled the punch kettle while the rest of the party made the bed. This was done by spreading two oil cloths on the ground to keep out the damp, then a fine large buffalo, then blankets, coats and pillows. When this was done each man took his seat in the place he was to occupy till morning, the screeching of hot punch was brought in, the front door of our large and capacious tent locked with a couple of pins, and the evening’s amusements begun. The large fire outside gave light enough through the canvas tent to enable us to see the way to our mouths, then, thus reclining I demanded of come-and -go (native) a song or a story. Come-and-go at first modestly declined, but after a little pressing he subdued his blushes and began as follows: “Once upon a time” - How long ago? Said Jeim, wasn’t it twice upon a time said George “our tribe was mighty?” Hillo? Stop said C _ I’ve got a conundrum, why was the Mohawk tribe to which Come-and-go belongs like a stale cheese? Because as he says it was Mitee! Being all in jolly good humour, this execrable pun set us off, and really such laughter I never heard. More than a dozen times did the native get as far as “once upon a time’ but he could go no further, our peals of laughter nipped his story in the bud. After we had thoroughly exhausted ourselves Mr. George Blake, a fine looking and clever fellow withal, told the following story.

Many moons ago there were two powerful chiefs in this tribe who aspired to the leadership. After a stormy council, the great Uncas was duly elected. But his opponent never heartily forgave him, and with the assistance of his brother who was the great Medicine, he determined to revenge himself on his antagonist, and at the same time if possible to usurp the supreme power. To a certain extent he succeeded. The Great Uncas fell before a treacherous arrow, and no one was left to dispute the authority with the wicked men who killed him,but his son, a mere child. The murderer, in order to cover appearances, was the first to proclaim this youth King, in the room of his father, determined as he got an opportunity to slay him also. At the ceremony of installation of the Young Chief, he was the first to do him homage, and to bespeak for him the good will of all the rest. So much did the young King think of him, and so little did he suppose that the wicked man, was the murderer of his father, that he had him placed first among his sage councillors and loaded him with honours. After the ceremony was over the young men amused themselves, in the spacious field in which they were assembled, in throwing the tomahawk, shooting the bow, and other exercises usual on such occasions. While they were in the height of their enjoyment a loud note of a trumpet was blown, and a great noise like the sudden rush of many waters, the Great Spirit stood in the midst. All were pale, and trembling, and stood as if stuck into immovable pillars, by the dreadful sight. There the Spirit stood calm and serious holding a bow of ebony in his hand already bent, and provided with an arrow. He moved, and the sound of his flowing garments as he strode majestically along, was like the rushing of a tempest. With a firm air, motionless eye, and a countenance terrible in its beauty, stood the Spirit before the young chief 0 his arrow was pointed at this breast, yet no one dared move a finger or advance a step to save him The Spirit spoke, and loud, and slow, and solemn as thunder when it rolls along the distant hills, fell his words on the petrified hearers. “Listen ye sons of dust, whose eyes are ever dazzled by appearances, by presumption, by deceit, I, the avenger of eternal justice, am come hither, armed with the never failing tow of truth, to avenge the death of the old Uncas; but let the innocent rest secure, and let only the assassin tremble, while I turn myself, first to the right, then left, till I have made the round of this whole assembly, but no sooner shall my arrow point against the bosom of the assassin, than untouched by me, the fatal bowstring shall sound, and the poisoned arrow which pierced the heart of Uncas, shall stand quivering in the murderer’s own. He was silent, and now while his eyes seemed to read the very heart, he moved his bow slowly round, till it had traversed the left half of the circle. Every one shuddered when he saw the fatal shaft directed against his own bosom; yet every one kept his position, though with difficulty, and with trembling knees. The Spirit now turned to his right, moving his bow in the same manner. Suddenly the string sounded, and though the arrow had now flown, the murderer lay dead at the feet of the young Chief.

I hope you have all clean consciences, good night.

Such was George’s tale, and after finishing our nipper-kins of grog we turned down and soon fell asleep.

I awoke about 3 o’clock in the morning, with a slight pain in my head. Thinking that the night air would drive it off, I seized my rifle and opened the tent door. On emerging into the moonlight I was for a moment dazzled by its extreme brilliancy. Luna was riding high in the Heavens, while her beautiful face was mirror’d in the clear expanse of river, which in hoarse murmurs rolled its deep waters beneath the spot where I stood; beside me rose an aged oak whose broad and umbrageous arms showed traces of the recent equinoctial storms, which had evidently levelled many of its neighbours. Around its giant form an ivy plant had wound itself, after taking root in its shade. Ah, I thought, is not this a true emblem indeed of our mother country, - standing firm amidst the periodical storms of the world, losing only a few withered leaves, while her neighbours are struck to the earth; and is not the plant which so lovingly encircles it, like this my native land, our glorious Province, taking root in Britain’s shade, and twining itself round her majestic form. And I thought Brown’s (who gets a precarious livelihood by splitting nails,) lines well adapted to the subject, and thus I repeated them:

The Ivy is weak, but its tendrils have twin’d

Round the Oak tree’s majestical form,

Whose leaf but just bows to the breath of the wind,

While its root is unmoved by the storm.

And lasting and firm is the union we see,

Together, (so close is the tie,)

The evergreen leaf and its sheltering tree,

Will flourish, and wither, and die

And we have an Oak Tree whose shadowing bough,

Has nurtured each promising shoot;

The storm howls around, but we heed it now,

For the earth has fast hold on the root.

The Oak that has sheltered yet lives to defend,

(Though centuries old) in its prime;

The beauty and strength which endure to the end,

Are mellow’d not withered by time.

And we have no Ivy, whose branches have twin’d,

Round our Oak Tree’s majestical form?

Whose leaf trembles not at the breath of the wind,

Whose root is unhurt by the storm?

If we look but around, in full vigour of youth,

Or the prime of their glory we see,

Full many a vine in unwavering truth,

Encircling our shadowing tree.

Still joined may they flourish and flourishing be,

Protection, and beauty, and shade;

The axe that is laid to the root of the tree,

Long, long, may its blow be delayed.

And when it does fall may this scion survive,

The sudden, but death-giving stroke;

Round whose growing trunk shall all other slips thrive,

Once nursed by the flourishing Oak.

Yes, said I, Britain too great and glorious tho’s she be, must in the course of nature, some day or other, like this, her representative, decline and fall, But owing to the mighty regulating and restraining influences which surround her, her decline will be more slow than that of other nations, and her fall more becoming her grandeur and greatness. Let not her contemporaries fancy that they shall ever see that day. Let them not buoy themselves up with the hope that they shall ever be able to snatch us from the mighty ruin, to make us their prey, and gorge their eglets. No, it is not intended in the designs of nature, that the American or the Gallic eagle, should ever build her nest in the branches of the British Oak, or soar over its ruins when it crumbles into dust.

“Night wanes, the vapours round the mountain curl’s,

Melt into morn, and light awakes the world.

Man hath another day to swell the past,

And lead him near to little but the last;

But mighty nature bounds as from her birth,

The Sun is in the Heavens and life on earth;

Flowers in the valley, splendour in the beam,

Health on the gale, and freshness in the stream.”

With the earliest dawn arose our chequered band of black and white. As the first rays of the sun showed themselves, we sat down to an early breakfast of rolls and coffee. While doing justice to our frugal meal, our eyes were devouring the beautiful phantasmagoria caused by the fog. Now it appeared a lovely landscape, and now a billowy silver sea, while right over our heads a little isle of light peeped out, like a lovely blue eye through a hole in a white veil.

As the sun rose rapidly above the horizon the billowy mist that hung over the river, slowly rose revealing the blue clear water, and anon, the noble hills, which formed the banks of the river, covered with oaks, and copsewood on their sides, and crowned with a deep blue could of pine. Along the woody sides of these hills the deer paths were numerous, running down to the water, and back into the country, as far for all I knew, as the North Pole. Mr C, Mr T, and Mr M each with an Indian and a canoe, left for their different watching stations on the river, while I proceeded with James in the woods to lay our hound a track. There was no wind, but the grass was at first disagreeably wet, as was also the copeswood, but soon the sun penetrated the thick foliage, and kissed away the dewy tears. After we got well into the wood we turned up against the balmy morning air, which had just begun to blow, well knowing that if we did not keep to the lea of the deer, our chances would be small indeed.

I paused on the side of the hill in a clear space which commanded a fine view of the windings of the River, while James made a circuit round its base with his dog. How calm and quiet is this place, thought I, and how preferable to the noise and tumult of the world. Little care has the free ranger of the wood when compared to the denizens of our Cities and Towns, whose projects are scarce framed, ere repented of, who are continually wishing, for that, which granted, would be their ruin. See, said I mentally, the prayers of the Revolutionists of the old world have been accepted, and look at the consequences. The Orator has had reason to curse the hour that he first rose in the Senate. The man of blood lies low in the grave he would have filled with this enemies. The rich man who prayed for his riches, and worked for them, and made them the golden calf of his idelitry, no longer dares to own himself rich, fearing confiscation - he no longer dares leave his house at night, fearing the dagger of the prowler. He starts at his shadow, and is constantly devising means to escape to a safer shore. Then the popular Idol thrown up like scum to the surface. See the chief man of these revolutionized countries. To day he rides in his state carriage, fainting under the trappings of his power, attended by a host on either side, who cheer vociferously - looks he not more like a criminal going to execution, whose ensignia of power seems but a bitter mockery put on to make his impotence more conspicuous. Tomorrow the same man is cast from ambition’s height, his statues are dragged in the dust and broken, his house is given up to pillage, his wife, his children, to tortures more terrible than death, and he himself, after suffering the mockery of the people is brutally murdered, the dead body, divested of robes and state, dragged naked thro’ the streets, cursed by the yelling fiends who hurl it swiftly along, and finally hanged on a gibbet and made to serve as a mark for the rifles of the Republican soldiery whose chief he yesterday was. Ah, my friend, soliloquised I , thou wouldst rather be here, than amid yonder scene - here.

Where many an Island rock is mirrored deep,

In those blue waters, where the sea fowl sleep,

And wouldst thou, dear readers, rather be in his place than in mine. If not, you must admit that his prayer for a revolution, for which indeed, he fought too, and worked hard day and night, was granted to his confusion and ruin. Poor Count.

And we may add poor Lamartime. Thou whose flood of genius late bore everything impetuously before it - thy sublime unrivalled talent, has but prepared for thee an early doom; the rostrum will yet reek with thy blood. But alas, continued I, what signifies isolated examples. Is not France one vast monument of the short-sightedness of mortals. She prayed for war, she obtained her prayer. She sang Te Deum for her crimes, and blashphemed the Almighty with praises for her victories. The whole nation were

“Slaves for pillage fighting,

Obdurate vassals, fell exploits effecting,

Nor childen’s ears, nor mothers’ groans respecing”



“Put armour on their tears, and on their eyes,

Whose proof, nor yells of mothers, maids nor babes,

Nor sight of Priests in holy vestments bleeding,

Shall pierce a jot.” T.A. 43.

Well might the now Orator of Peace, the late Orator of Revolution - the unhappy Lamartine - dread every descending cloud as a messenger of vengeance. Well may the common people whom he has assisted to rouse into fury - imagine the sky filled with horrible shapes, flying on the wings of the wind, destroying angels hurrying through the Heavens to pour out the vials of wrath as upon the cities of the Dead Sea.

Oh! Said I, with what satisfaction every lover of mankind must look upon the proud position of Britain, at the present crisis. He sees her rising again to her former dignity. She rouses from inactivity, she covers the ocean with her fleets and awes the continent with her armies. Bide defiance once more to the rapacious invaders of neighbouring Kingdoms, and the daring projectors of universal dominion. Once more she exerts her influence in foreign Courts, and summons the Monarchs of Europe to submit their quarrels to her arbitration. Should an inevitable war be the result of the present state of things the Army of Britain will not be idle. The veteran will see once more the plains over which he pursued the squadrons of France, will point the place where he seized their standards or broke their lines, where he trampled the oppressors of mankind with that spirit which is enkindled by liberty and justice. His heart will once more beat at the sight of those walls which he stormed, and on the eve of battle he will show the wounds he received in the mines or in the beach of Badajoz or Salamanca. Should a war ensue, France will learn that England has other armies that can hold the lines of Torres Vedras, an force the passes of the Appinines; that can break down the intrenchments of her Paris, and wresting from her the sceptre of aniversal Monarchy, confine her again within her own dominions.

“Wagh!” I sprang round at the sound and saw my friend James near me. A quiet sort of smile was lurking in the corner of his eye, which conveyed a mild rebuke to me for my want of watchfulness. He had not been able to find a deer, so I brought my rifle to the trail and followed my sable friend who led off at a quick pace.

To be continued.

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