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The Log House by the Lake: A Tale of Canada

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  The Log House by the Lake, A Tale of Canada, by William H G Kingston.


  A well-to-do English family, with inherited wealth, find that thissituation is challenged in the law-courts. They lose the case, and, aswith Marryat's "Settlers in Canada" in a similar situation, decide toemigrate to Canada. This they do, and have enough money to settlethere, but not in a grand house: it is only the Log House by the Lake.

  There are various adventures with sailing and canoeing on the lake, butwhen the winter comes on, the lake freezes over, and the boys getthemselves into a dangerous predicament, from which they only justescape.

  Unlike with the Marryat story, the decision by the court was valid butthe cousin who won the case was a useless administrator of his fortune,and lost it all through bad advice and dishonest acquaintances.

  What do the family do about it? Read the book, or listen to it, and findout. It's a short book, only three hours to read, and there's asurprise ending for you!

  One oddity about the book is that throughout it conversations are mergedinto single paragraphs. This made it a little hard to get theparagraphing correct in our rendition, but we think we have got italmost right now.




  It was late in the afternoon when Mr Philip Ashton walked up to thedoor of his residence in Portman-square. His hand touched the knockerirresolutely. "It must be done," he said to himself. "May strength begiven to all of them to bear the blow!" His hand shook as he rapped.The hall door flew open, a servant in handsome livery stood ready totake his hat and gloves. As he entered the drawing-room his wife anddaughters rose to welcome him, with affection beaming in their eyes, asdid his three sons, who had just arrived at home from differentdirections.

  "Dear papa, you are not well," exclaimed Sophy, his eldest daughter,leading him to a seat.

  "Philip, what is the matter?" asked his wife, leaning over him.

  "Sit down, dears, and I will tell you," he answered, pressing her hand."A severe trial has come upon us, but--"

  "Dear Leonard, nothing has happened to him, I pray?" gasped out MrsAshton. Leonard was a sailor son, the only one now absent.

  "Thank Heaven he is well; I had a letter from him only to-day," answeredMr Ashton. "Many mercies are granted us, and I trust, therefore, thatyou will all submit to be deprived, without murmuring, of the wealth wehitherto have thought our own. Dear ones, the law-suit has been decidedagainst us!"

  The young Ashtons were silent for some minutes, but presently recoveredthemselves.

  "We can all work," exclaimed the three sons, in a breath.

  "Our happiness does not consist in this," said Sophy, glancing round theroom, "We will make the smallest cottage comfortable for you, mamma."

  "I am sure we can, and do all the work ourselves," cried Fanny, her nextsister.

  "I can make a pudding, and churn, and could soon learn how to milk acow," said Agnes, the third daughter, laughing. "I have always wishedto live in a cottage in the country."

  "I've arranged it," said Fanny. "Agnes shall be cook, I will bewaiting-maid, Sophy housekeeper, Philip bailiff, Harry gardener, andCharley--oh, let me consider--general farm-servant: won't that beexcellent?"

  "But you place your mother and me on the shelf," said Mr Ashton, hisspirits reviving from seeing the way in which his children bore theannouncement he had so dreaded making. "What are we to do?"

  "O papa, of course you and mamma are to do nothing. We are all to workfor you," exclaimed Harry, a fine youth of fourteen, who looked as ifthere was indeed work in him.

  "Of course," added Charley. "How we ought to thank you, papa, forhaving us taught carpentering, and that we all have such a fancy forgardening. John says, too, that I know almost as much about pigs andcows and sheep as he does; and as for Phil, he knows more abouteverything than all of us put together."

  Philip--Mr Ashton's eldest son--had not spoken after he had firstexpressed his feelings with his brothers. His thoughts were elsewhere.A bright airy castle he had lately raised, had just been hurled rudelyto the ground, and he was stunned by the crash.

  Mr Ashton retired to rest that night with a mind greatly relieved. Hehad not doubted the affection of his children, and he was assured thatit would enable them to bear their reverse of fortune with cheerfulness.When he rose in the morning he prayed earnestly for strength to gothrough the work required of him, and that is never denied to those whoseek it from Him who can alone afford it. In all the work he receivedable assistance from his son. Philip had not left a single debt unpaidat the University, by which, under his altered circumstances, he mightever afterwards have been hampered. Mr Ashton, having never allowedhousehold bills to run on, was comparatively free from debt.

  All his affairs arranged, he found himself with an income--arising froma settlement on his wife--of two hundred pounds a-year, and aboutfifteen hundred pounds in ready money. Once more his family beingassembled, he pointed out to them that though their plans were verygood, if they were to remain a united family they must look to thefuture, and seek in another country the opportunity of developing theirenergies.

  "What do you think of Canada?" he asked.

  "A capital country!" cried Charley, who, as the youngest, spoke first."I know all about the sleighing, and the skating, and the ice-boats, andthe coasting down snow-hills, and the shooting huge deer, and thesnow-shoeing, and the sailing on the lakes, and the fishing, and thesporting of all sorts,--not a country like it, I should say."

  "It's a country for hard work, I know," said Harry. "Nothing I shouldfancy so much as cutting down trees, building log-huts, fencing infields, and ploughing and reaping. Ever since I read `Laurie Todd' Ihave wished to go there." Philip and his sisters expressed themselvesequally ready to emigrate.

  No time was lost in making the necessary preparations, after it wasresolved that they should go to Canada. It was highly gratifying tothem to find that several of their servants wished to accompany them.Two only, however, could be taken. Of these Mrs Summers had been thenurse of all the younger children, and had lately acted as housekeeper."It would break my heart, marm, if you were to go out to a strangecountry, and I, who am still strong and hearty, not to be with you tohelp you in all your troubles," she said, with tears in her eyes, toMrs Ashton. "Though you take them like an angel, marm, they aretroubles."

  The other, Peter Puckle by name, had been first stable-boy, then page,and lately footman. He engaged Harry to plead his cause. "The wagesand the passage-money shan't stand in the way, Master Harry," he urged."I have not been in the family all these years without laying bysomething, and it's the honour of serving your good father still is allI want."

  The surface of the broad Atlantic was scarcely ruffled by a breeze asthe steamer with the Ashton family on board rushed across it. "Well,Sophy, I declare it is worth being ruined for the sake of the fun wehave on board," exclaimed Charley, to his eldest sister, who was sittingreading on deck, at a short distance from the rest of the party.

  A gentleman standing by heard the remark, and finding Charley by himselfdirectly afterwards, he observed, smiling, "Why, my young friend, you donot look as if you were ruined. I have never met a happier family thanyours appears to be. What did you mean by saying that?"

  "Well, I do not think that we are ruined really, sir," said Charley,artlessly; "still, my papa had many thousand pounds a-year till lately,and
we lived in a large house in London, and had another in the country,and Philip was at Oxford and Harry at Eton, and I was going there; andnow we are to live in a log-hut in the back woods in Canada, and thatmakes us all so jolly, because it will be such capital fun. Don't youthink so?"

  "I have had some experience of life in the back woods," answered thegentleman. "It has its advantages and its disadvantages, though I havelittle doubt but that you will find it pleasant."

  "What, do you live in Canada, sir?" asked Charley.

  "Yes; I have lived there all my life," said the stranger. "But, myyoung friend, you say that you are ruined, and yet I see that you haveservants attending on you: how is that?"

  "Why, they insisted on coming, and would not leave us," answeredCharley.

  "Would more have accompanied you?" enquired the stranger. "I am afraid,though, that my questions may appear impertinent,"

  "If papa would have let them," said Charley.

  "That fact speaks volumes in favour both of masters and servants," saidthe stranger to himself.

  From that day Charley looked upon the stranger as an especial friend,though he could learn little more about him than that his name wasNorman. At length the Saint Lawrence was reached, and the Ashton familylanded safely at Quebec, the chief port of the superb province which thegallantry of Wolfe won for England, and which, mainly by theperseverance and energy of Anglo-Saxon inhabitants, has become one ofthe brightest jewels in the British crown.