The Lad from Pointe de Bute (Chapters 4-6)
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.
Personal Diary of John (Johnny) Trenholm Jr.
Inverma Farm, Westmorland County
New Brunswick, January 3, 1827
…So long ago, the summer of my twelfth year, first day of July, year of our Lord, 1774 was filled with memories of a young boy hurrying to complete his regular morning chore.
That day, a magnificent blue sky, dotted with clouds like bits of peppermint remains locked in vivid detail within my thoughts. Carefree ramblings and the innocence of youth continue to leap with joy from the hidden spaces of my mind.
They allowed this aging and frail man many hours of joyful remembrance, and helped me to overcome difficult periods in my life. Often when I think of that enchanting day, I merely have to close this diary, lean back, shut my eyes. And…ah yes, remember.
Summer was surely a plan made in Heaven, and filled to fullness like a sail upon the wind. And such was my frame of mine on that most prosperous day of boyhood times.
It was a happy occasion to dally along and remember being in the center of a gathering of families, and listening to the latest tidbit of news. All came from the surrounding countryside to our home.
Da had much pleasure in his heart for those special occasions, as area farmers held high respect for his wisdom…and long speech. Yes, I still remember young Mattie standing by the oak tree. It was a blessing to have such a fine companion to share my thoughts. She was indeed someone who understood the adventures that ran rampant in my mind.
Mattie was like a sister I never had. Yet, she was more than a sister. And my heart acted strangely around her. Little did I know I be courting her one-day. During those long ago memories, I did not realize how quickly I must begin to grow into a man. And that my world although full of imagination and childish moments, was preparing to roar like a lion.
There were times of distress, which caused that boy of my past to turn to loved-ones in order to overcome my heart-felt fears. I also learned much from my friend, Monsieur Robert Mercier how terrible the tragedy of the Seven Years War had on everyone.
He said, “Les Acadiens tried to hide wherever possible to avoid being rounded up for deportation.” And after a period of exile, those that did return discovered English settlers on land Acadians had developed for over a century. It was a most difficult time to wonder if my home, Inverma Farm, was such a one, that we may occupy land once owned by others. Was it possible? I asked myself on many occasions back then.
But I must cease from my notations and carry on with this diary. That day from long ago began, fifty-four years ago, when…
My broad hat always remained on a peg, when company arrived.
“Ye are not a child,” mum chastised one day.
“And so mind your manners, especially with ladies present.” And aye, I not forget her most fervent desire I grow up into a man abiding in good intentions. It was most noticeable that being in the company of men required a better standard of attire.
Da had addressed the assembled men, along with their wives and several young children in that largest room in the old house. It had six wooden chairs and an old sofa.
Mum received them as a most generous gift from Lady Williams who felt a sudden need to return to England. “She could not endure those infernal mosquitoes,” Mum had said with a smile, as she surveyed her newly acquired treasure.
My attention to the room conversation was easily distracted by the smell of tobacco. It assailed my senses, and I tried to disregard the foul scent by continuing to stare out the window. Hoping Da did not notice, but the glass was in need of a major wiping.
And that meant another chore to add to the many uncompleted tasks awaiting me during sunny days.
A ring-necked pheasant strutted back and forth across the yard. Its feathery tail drooped sufficiently in order to duck between the tall hay. I was certain it was the same bird Da kept trying to capture with his musket.
“Daa…?” I had tried vainly to get my father’s attention. But he quickly hushed my interruption with an impatient arm. And Da, whom the neighbors listened to with utmost respect, continued to speak.
Yes,” father had said.
“Dear friends and neighbors, thank you for assembling in this humble room. My family is most pleased to have you visit and share a word in fellowship.
Once again it is a blessing that we, all of us here, survived the wiles of the devil continuing in fair health to raise our families. This is a newand ever harsh land, but it has the expectation of much promise.”
I marveled at how Da could speak such long sentences with barely an extra breath. My own was hard enough to gain once again, after my leap from an outstretched branch into the deepest part of the pond.
And Da continued, “It has been a fair time since we had the occasion to enter the Duke of York at Liverpool. Yet, a piece of my heart remains in Welby Parish, Yorkshire where I was born. And my father Robert, bless his dear soul remains there although eager to come and join us, soon as his health be reclaimed.”
“Amen” and “Speak it Brother John,” were words of agreement spoken in the room. These Yorkshire men were staunch Wesleyan Methodists and they respected the wisdom of Da’s words.
“I am assured by my wife and three sons this adventure was a worthwhile undertaking. Those were dirty days, and the crossing some four weeks across the Atlantic a challenge to the soul,” my Da said.
Murmurings from men and women assented to the sickness and misery that mingled with the excitement of the voyage, just two short years ago. Again, I wondered how Da could hold his breath with such long sentences. During school lessons, mine were shorter as I stood and addressed mates in answer to my schoolmarm’s question.
The truth of the matter was that my strength of spirit was not in the tongue but in my wrist. I was the champion wrist-wrestler among lads my age. Schoolmarm, Susanna Dixon reminded me of the greatness of this land. And that everything I observed was majestic.
Even her speech, uttered through bold lips, had praises for all the goodness in this new world.
“Smell the freedom of opportunity,” she often said to our admiring class.
I knew a few of the older boys had a crush on her. But it was not my concern, since I had a good friend in Mattie. Miss Dixon said I was able to write stories with flair. “One day, you will share great tales,” she confided to me one day. “Be proud of your heritage,” she too often spouted during morning lessons.
“And remember, you are the new generation of souls to tame this wilderness.”
How could I ever forget? I thought, with her constant reminding? Everyone said she had a favorite student and that it was I. Admittedly this distinction did not offer me offense, as it was indeed, in my estimation, an honor.
I tried giggling quietly, to no avail, as I noticed one of the fine gentlemen in the village, a Blacksmith, picking his nose. Poking Johnny with my elbow, I pointed at the man’s thick fingers stubbornly working at his right nostril.
“Hush, now boy,” Mum nudged, looking in the direction of my wandering eyes. I raised my head in obedience and feigned interest in Da’s words. They seem to fly about the room hither and yon, as a nest of escaping butterflies.
“What about the war, John Senior?” asked Brother Dobson, Esquire who lived in a nearby farm.
His question brought grunts and a clearing of throats. “Hear...Hear,” came from a gaggle of voices that erupted in agreement.
This was an untidy question, even though it had often been discussed in the workplace. And it cut swiftly through the smoky room like a knife slicing off a brace of cheese. The men and their families had arrived, in great anticipation for a meal of potatoes, with tea, and salt pork accompanied with cabbage. My desire for cabbage was noticeably missing with closed eyes and tight lips, lest I speak up and insult Mum’s preparation, and then be forced to accept another helping.
I acknowledge that Mum was a fine cook yet thinking about that portion of meal unsettled my tummy.
In my youthful understanding, I knew it was important for everyone to come together in friendship and hear Da speak. It was reminiscing to converse about our hardy voyage and the uncertain future facing brave souls.
And I was able to recount very well their words as I continued my journey by the shore. I eagerly watched the work-activity taking place around me. There were those in our home at the time eager to share their successes.
Some of those present tried to ignore the man’s unruly question about the possibility of armed conflict, since that evening was a night to discuss achievement. I remember my ears perking as a rabbit in anticipation of their responses. And yet other voices spoke in earnest.
Once again the question was raised, and caused a silence to descend upon the boisterous murmurings. “John Sr, sir? What about the war? Speak to it, man.”
“Do not hasten with fearful speculation,” Da answered, with renewed vigor. “Skirmishes in the outlying districts are holdovers from the deportation of the Acadians in 1755. God forbid the events of those evil days ever revisit us. If so, then we will, all of us are swept into another maelstrom of violence. Thus we should be careful and not be held captive to any idle rumors.”
Da stood tall with his words of wisdom, yet he hesitated for a moment. “Please, let us tread slowly into calm waters whilst we come together in celebration of joyful abundance.”
Ever so gently the talk was led back to a more congenial area of discussion. “Behold my sons,” he had beamed.
“And pausing for a moment, I proudly hit my chest with a triumphant Ta-rah.
“Come Robert, Matthew and my little adventurer John Jr.” Da had called out. But, he preferred ‘Johnny.’
It was my fault for insisting on the retelling of tales regarding his beloved great grandfather during my bedtime hours.
“Come my young men, and serve our guests with your youthful chatter,” Da had insisted. Listening to Da’s words made me surge with pride. And soar as an eagle. Yes, Johnny did suit me well. And if such a war-like situation did arise once again, I would rise to the occasion and protect my family. My observation post high in the tree would serve me well.
At the time of Da’s new declaration for quiet talk, there was nothing in my repertoire to imagine such things as death and destruction.
To myself, the thought of war was more like a game, as in playing ‘catch-me…if you can,’ in the back pasture. Or, like a hearty game of checkers, with the lads, trying to capture each other’s pieces.
At times we would tussle over someone’s hasty move and debate the merits of their anger at a loss. By no means was there any spillage of blood, only the wrestling and tossing about of young limbs.
And often the ending of dispute was decided by some wrist wrestling. Thoughts of death and destruction were only active in our imaginations.
“Armed conflict,” the phrase heard in the room by me meant riding a choice roan, or sitting high in the saddle, fitted with a fine uniform.
I could see myself in colorful attire as an Ensign with the local Militia. In my mind, I dared the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment in Halifax to try and send us away.
We would not allow ourselves to be as the banished Acadians who tilled the soil in this area before our arrival.
On Guard!” I suddenly spoke aloud in the quiet room, and broke into a trot within the circle of visitors.
Striking my bottom, it was to my delight to prance back and forth, a pair of Da’s old boots pounding on the wooden floor.
I was the savior of our community as I galloped towards each person, my imaginary sword pointing to a parade of ample bellies.
Loud guffaws and slapping of knees broke the tension. The men soon surrounded me, taking turns to lightly punch me on my shoulder, as a sign of their affection.
“Indeed, your son has mettle,” Sheriff Allan had said. “Do not hurry to strut in such a military fashion, my lad. Soon enough, you may feel the wind pass swiftly past your head from flying musket balls. That is, if the Yankees have their way. Words traveling ‘by and by’ tell of their desire to annex this Chignecto Isthmus land. That is, if everyone joins in rebellion against the British.”
“Hear! Hear!” a chorus of voices answered. “And our very own muskets will raise in defense of our farms and family,” the men vowed.
“May the will of King and country rise up!” others shouted.
“Hush with all this talk,” Sheriff Allan interrupted. “Remember, this is only a whisper in the wind. And do not allow your allegiance to this new country stand in the way of British interests. It is said His Majesty’s 40th Regiment Of Foot stationed at Annapolis stands ready to repeat the orders of expulsion of any dissidents, should the need arise.”
And this brought a sobering moment to the assembly. They had all heard of the terrible orders carried out most efficiently by the Officers with dedication and forbearance.
This was in spite of having married into Acadian families. Major Handfield’s sister-in-law, nephews and nieces and such, were also forced into ships since he was a military man obliged to fulfilling the orders of his King.
“No one will steal this land from beneath my feet! I’ll wager prime Yorkshire blood on that,” I heard my father vow.
“And I too will protect Inverma farm from any enemies!” My loud outburst surprised even myself as I added weight to Da’s words. Mum’s stern look glared from the doorway.
At the time I somehow sensed she did not admire this talk of strife in the farmland.
But, it was not her place to interfere with guests invited by her husband. She was simply concerned that I not get nightmares from this distressing conversation, about the risks of war. My ears had tired of all this talk about violence, and it began to finally dissolve like fog in the bay.
I remember being restless and placing my glance on Mary. She was the prettiest girl in Pointe de Bute, peeking from behind Mum’s skirt, and looking directly at me.
Her hair was yellow as hay arising in God’s glory beneath a sunny day. And a pleasant feeling continues to stir my heart, recalling happily how it trailed behind her as a kite each time we raced across the fields.
Everything we did together began by hurrying to our destination. Gasping from loss of breath each race demanded every portion of my muscles to reach their fullness of strength. And it was arguable as to which of us had the fastest set of bare feet.
Her face was filled with dusty flecks of brown, not unlike my own. And she was forever dressed in faded farm attire, ready to accept any task in the spit of a moment. She was a whole eleven years of age, and my best friend.
I called her “Mattie.”