The Lad from Pointe de Bute (Chapters (10-12)
A Historical Fiction for Young Readers 8-12
FROM POINTE DE BUTE
Esther and Richard Provencher
© 2014-17 by Esther and Richard Provencher
Dester Publications. All rights reserved.
This story, one day in the young life of John Trenholm Jr. is written for Esther, my wife born in Cape Spear, New Brunswick to the family of Thornton Ogden and Dorothy (Allen) Ogden on their 96 acre Cape Spear farm along the shores of Northumberland Strait, New Brunswick.
of the Yorkshire Trenholm(e) family
and their descendents:
John; sons, Edward, Matthew and John Jr.
sailed from Liverpool, England
March 16, 1772
on the Duke of York, arriving
in Acadia (Nova Scotia) May 21, 1772.
The setting for this novel is the
Cape Chignecto area of Nova Scotia
later called, New Brunswick.
Accurate news of the ship Hector was late in coming, and caused a stir among the farms.
A visitor who was a passenger had arrived in our community, and told of their difficult three-month passage, from England.
Da could barely contain his excitement, as he spoke about it during our sup. “189 Scots arrived in Pictou Harbor, September 15 of last year. It was good to hear more settlers were coming to this new country,“ he said.
I knew Pictou was only several days journey away, on horseback.
“And we must visit there one day,” Da had said. It was more of an interest to me as to how many children were among families. I looked forward to the day we may visit and share stories of our good adventures and hardships.
“But all was not well during the voyage,” Da said.
“They encountered a fierce gale and it is said 18 of the passengers died of smallpox and dysentery, such a fierce journey for the small ships of our time. Memories from our own blessed journey across the gales that inhabit the Atlantic still haunt the memories within my mind.”
I watched Da mop his sun-browned face with a well-worn bandana.
“What manner of sicknesses are those?” I asked, confusion showing on my face.
Mum turned and held out her arms. I moved forward and nestled within the comfort of her embrace.
“My dear son,” she said, “they are the scourge of sicknesses. Without fresh water and fruit to strengthen our bodies, the most evil intentions can ravage a human. And there is no known cure, if proper care and medicine are scarce.”
I cowered deeper into her bosom, fearing for myself, yet thankful of my own needs being met. That night, as I lay comfortably in bed, I thought about death. It was once something far distant from the world I lived in.
Now it hovered around our home as a bat.
“What must it be like to no longer laugh at the sky?” I said aloud to myself. Or, run swiftly with the wind through cornfields, chasing after Mattie. Perhaps even cry then return to the morn once again?
“Where did those new settlers provide for burials while aboard the ship Hector?” I suddenly wondered.
Those questions oft haunted my mind in the darkness of my room. Then I remembered Sheriff Allan had also spoken about death. He was sad in his expression one evening last week whilst the families had gathered in our home.
If war was about death, then it was my duty to protect my family. Beginning with the next sunrise, I promised myself to keep an extra vigil high up in my tree fortress. My imagination sought out all possibilities, and thought darkly about any enemy that might happen by.
Da said in one of his stories, “A thousand ships were launched to rescue Helen of Troy, in ancient historic times.”
Would such a horde of infantry one day try to invade our Inverma farm? I worried. And would I, a young boy, have the courage to rescue my Da and Mum, or even Mattie? Before my final closing of tired eyes, I knew I must discuss this matter with Mattie.
Da was so busy with family affairs, sometimes I wondered if he forgot I was about. I knew somehow the business of running a family was not so exciting. And somehow I knew he understand the necessity of boyhood such as I wished to be savored.
Unknown to myself during my sleep, Da, John Trenholm Senior was wrestling with torments of his own.
And he was most disconcerting to read the headlines and review some of the events happening south, in the Thirteen Colonies.
It was his blessing though to receive the Nova Scotia Gazette from travelers coming by way of Halifax.
The news was a Godsend to keep him abreast of any happenings in this part of the world. As a leader of note in this community of Pointe de Bute, he had to be aware of events. It was an unspoken fact friends who could not read depended on him for information, some of which could prove most valuable.
He did not make a man feel any lesser to ask for this assistance.
Da must have squinted with apprehension as he read about the effect of the Tea Act passed by the British Parliament on April 27 of 1773. It was no surprise that a group of Americans banded together to throw the disliked cases of produce from a ship into Boston harbor.
And John Senior was no fool.
He understood the desire Americans had for their separation from British authority. After all, wasn’t this why the Trenholm’s left Yorkshire? They forsook everything to escape unjustified taxes and earn a living in an untamed world.
“Yes, most indeed,” he would muse in the silence of the room.
John Senior placed the newspaper on the side table, and picked up another. He glanced at the Boston Observer a traveler had the occasion to pass around the village. Stories told of the need for everyone to speak against the tyranny being imposed on the population, in the south.
He yawned, stretched, and decided it was time for a nap. Should he have a talk with Johnny?
He revealed to me later, knowing perhaps it was time to chase some the foolishness from my mind. War was not a game. Men lost their lives in the anger of battle, and Da spent an occasion to remind me.
“And children too,” he must have whispered to himself, with a sense of foreboding. His two older sons had the inclination to sign on with the military, not realizing how insignificant human life was on the battlefield. Should his sons return to Yorkshire with their Grand Papa until the boiling over of men’s blood was settled? Indeed it was a proper question in his mind.
Yes, it was something he and Mum did discuss. He knew it would not go well with his offspring, who were already caught up in the events of this new land.
“We will fight for this new country,” was a battle cry all of us Trenholms held onto” We had uttered such a challenge the last time we spoke up as our family shared sup.
One worry held dear in Da’s mind. “Which side would be the proper one to fight for?” he asked us later.
A boy must become a man before he can truly be a boy.
It does sound roundabout, however I discovered a truth within this thought.
And my tears did not shame me the day I cried as I listened to Monsieur Robert Mercier’s. I was treated like a man when my older friend shared the sad tale about his family.
What torment he must have carried all those years. It was a most frightful experience to hear his words of sorrow.
Yet, it was my glory to have been able to be told these things, helping me understand the new land to which I was now firmly rooted.
And I was pleased that Da trusted this man to have an honest statement for a boy to digest. The older man spoke about the burnings, and had even showed me where some buildings once stood. I closed my eyes to that sadness when I visited old foundations and clumps of blackened beams.
Many of them were overgrown with willows and clumps of brush. It seemed a fitting way to hide memories of anger from the past.
It was a strain to think how proudly some of the farms must have stood so long ago. And I wondered how Les Acadiens felt to have wasted that work of many years.
“Mr. Mercier,” I had asked, “exactly what happened to your family?” “War is not very pleasant, mon garcon,” he replied. “I was just a simple farmer and not interested in…how you say, politics?” I motioned my head to the side as tears fell upon my cheeks. How
“You feel my pain, little one?” the man asked, placing an arm around my shoulder. Da had never given me a hug, feeling it was also not manly to shed tears nor act as a wee little child.
But, I was a child, not yet thirteen and watching two brothers ride to somewhere, perhaps a distant part of the land. We had come here to settle in a new country.
And now they were off to be trained for war.
My adult friend was telling me about a time when there was an abundance of much unhappiness.
Would such times return once more? Was a painful thought my mind had to contain?
“This is a land of peace and prosperity,” Da had said. He spoke those fine words to visiting families in our very own Inverma Farm. The same one we had taken, no ‘stolen’ from someone else.
I now knew the truth of the matter. And it was a shaking of my inner self to realize we were thieves.
Yes, an Acadian family once lived here and then barely had time to run for their lives. Everything they had worked for had to be abandoned. Or they would forfeit their very existence? And to think those rounded up were placed on ships and sent to different parts of the world.
How could any human beings do such sad things? I wondered. The despiteful idea almost burst my head. But, it was good to hear of these events from my friend. If only Da could understand the tender heart of his youngest young son.
Perhaps this was the reason he wanted this man to act as a guardian and to teach me about the history of this land.
After a few moments of time, I brushed off moistened eyes and looked squarely at Monsieur Robert Mercier.
Once again I asked, “What happened to the rest of your family?” And I knew it was a bold thrust, as a sword blade to the midsection.
“You must tell me. Did they have to go on a ship too? How come you never talk about them?” My questions shot forward as cannon balls firing from a Man-o-War.
But the man simply stood up, brushing off his shirt and trousers.
“I must go soon,” he said quietly from our back yard. I was certain my friend wiped tears from his own eyes, as he prepared to leave. “It is my will to return to the village while there is still a shaft of light. There are things I must do,” he had said.
If only Monsieur Mercier could understand how truly sorry I felt.
I was just a boy, yet his words did grieve my spirit to the very marrow of my bones.
Da surely understood the need for this older man to talk to such a young lad as I. Perhaps he already heard the tale about Monsieur Robert Mercier and knowing the man had a need to share his past with me.
“Perhaps you remind Robert of his son, Bastien,” Da whispered to me one late night.
It was a heavy burden to accept those tragic words from Monsieur Robert as I leaned against my favorite tree. Then the man sobbed quietly, retelling more tales from his troubled past.
“I was blinded by a need to escape,” he said. “To run away, anywhere there was a place to hide from English muskets.”
Listening carefully, I learned much more about the man’s son.
“Bastien was his name and just ten years of age when he died. I held him close to me as we tried to escape the soldiers,” Monsieur Mercier said.
“But then I turned, as my wife and daughter cried out in despair. I knew the musket ball had hit the boy, since he suddenly slumped in my arms. His blood was sweet tasting as it splashed against my face and down the front of my shirt.”
My pounding heart could barely listen and I had to turn away for a moment. Did Bastien even look like me? I wondered.
“What became of your wife and little girl?” I dared to ask.
Monsieur Mercier’s voice could barely be heard, as he cried out in despair. “I discovered from friends’ years later, my dear femme and child passed away during the ship’s long journey to Louisiana. It was dysentery, they said.”
“What a terrible hardship for you,” I cried out.
For a few moments, my tears came as a sky emptying itself of rain. Then Monsieur gently lifted my chin and wiped my eyes with his bandana.
“On this farm, I buried my son,” he said. “ And when it was completed, I quickly made my escape.”
“Where…where did you bury your boy?” I inquired. “One day, I promise to tell you, petit garcon,” Monsieur Mercier said. Then he stood up, waved and strode quickly towards the woods.
“Ta-Rah!” I called loudly as he disappeared from sight.
I knew there was a very old path in that direction now used mostly by deer. My daring feet had tramped the same good earth where wily hooves covered the damp ground. It could be the burial ground where Bastien lay, I surmised.
Mattie and I must explore that area, I promised myself.
And we did have a long talk about this matter.