The Lad from Pointe de Bute (Chapters 7-9)
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.
“Do you think there be some kind of war?” I asked Mattie a few days later.
Ever since Da uttered the possibility, it had been like a worm squirming around in my boot. It became a living part of my imagination each night, as some dark shadow.
Or even a shroud when the possibility of death might take place. And that frightening thought was not pleasant, for a lad such as me.
“No, not yet,” answered Mattie with the sureness and confidence that would normally bless a child older than her tender years.
“My own pappy says there are too many British regulars at Halifax, and they could be here in three days with enough cannon to blow a hole right through any Yankee top hat.”
Then she laughed with an abandon that I loved.
She could easily see the humor in anything, no matter how serious I became. I did not mind asking her the question, since I knew she would be direct with her answer. Like an arrow shot straight and true from the finest of quivers.
That was my fine Mattie.
“Why do young men always want to talk about war, and other sad things?” she had asked with a stamp of her foot on the moist grass. “I want to have a little less worry when we are together.”
Then she smiled with such vigor, it was almost like sunshine surrounding her face. And her beautiful teeth showed as white as those from a Chesire cat.
I felt honored to be referred to as a young man, since I was yet a boy.
“Are we to go fishing?” she asked. “Or have you come upon other plans?”
Her manner was direct, and it tickled my funny bone. Then she positioned herself for another run down the trail. I knew if she gathered even a short head start, it would be most difficult for me to win the race.
An answer to her remark required a proper response. I thought carefully. “Yes, I do wish to go fishing,” I said. “In truth, yes.” But I could not stop my worrying about my Da. Difficult thoughts entered my mind in an unfair manner.
Would I have to fight, if a war did come? And would my two older brothers have to join the militia? I heard it said at least one son could stay to help on a farm. Would one of my brothers be such a one, or be I?
“Are you coming, or Na?” she asked, impatient at my side.
I turned and looked at Mattie. How could anyone name her Margaret? I pondered. It was much too grown up for a little girl. Looking over her shoulder I noticed cows herding under the trees for a bit of shade.
The sun was indeed high, and my head was warming to the point of making me dizzy.
Yes, I did very much want to go fishing. It was always a joyous occasion, and a most pleasant passing of time now that chores were done.
Mattie was a child so full of laughter, and fun. And I desired to be near her, to watch her movements. And I did notice she held herself much different than boys in her manners. She was as boisterous as me, yet delicate in her ways.
On our last outing, she reached too far over the brook trying to pluck a water lily, and fell into the cool water. On that occasion, her screams startled me.
But then she drew on resources within her soul, and calmly pulled me in when I passed her my arm to help.
Her excitement was melodious and soon had me splashing alongside in the water. This was the unexpected I came to know by having a friend like her. At times, I was sure she was crazy as a bullfrog trying to outrun a deer. That was my Mattie.
She usually caught the largest brook trout, and I was anxious to gain that prize today.
“It is my wish to fish now,” I said simply. And I pulled up my sleeves in a great display of intent, and prepared to launch my feet to rush forward.
Too often, the unexpected puts a hold on the planned adventures in a young boy’s life. The preparation of food intervened at a moment when I felt certain a school of fish was most anxious to test our bait.
“Junior! Junior!” The calling of my name was boisterous as a banshee rousting out the chickens. And my spirits sank lower than a Cormorant seeking a mackerel in the watery depths.
“Com…Coming!” was my answering shout. “I have to go now, Mattie,” I remember saying.
My eyes took in her disappointment, and the knowledge that our fishing escapade would have to wait for another period of time.
“I understand Johnny,” was all she said. Then she was gone, traipsing along the rutted road, leading back to her own farm. Mattie was happily singing a tune as I watched her go.
Then she swung around and returned a quick smile.
“Ta-Rah! I shouted, turning to my own path.
At times supper was a mountainous plate of potatoes, with salt pork sharing space with a high ledge of cabbage.
The latter delicacy always gave me a grievous stomach allowing gas to escape from my frame. And Mum would then give me the evil eye. Thankfully, tea helped digest my undesirable belching.
I happened upon many such unpleasant choices in my young life. And Da would belch along with me since he said it was the manly thing to do.
Fresh fruit was not always on the menu, since it was a rare commodity around our table. However, I could barely hold myself in place, forgetting to tell Mattie about the sheets of paper I found.
Was it part of a diary? I wondered. They were just words on a page, yet they stung like a hornet’s sharp point. Was it possible we, or one of our neighbors robbed someone of their farm?
The question repeated itself once, then again. There was an odd feeling with a sameness of a pesky mosquito or two returning to a familiar place.
I could barely eat the remains on my plate before retiring to my room for the night. That day was most tiresome and a headache was coming on. After putting on my nightshirt, I lay in silence on my bed.
The words I read on those papers discovered earlier today turned and twisted inside my head.
“Les Anglais mean us harm. Mama and Papa say
we must hide. Mais mon Dieu, dans quelle place?
The English have muskets everywhere. They
hunt Acadiens down like dogs. Pere Beauchamp
is not able to have Mass for his people. He fears
he will be found and arrested. We must abandon
Inverma Farm, our ancestral home, and burn it.”
I wiped my sweaty brow with a dirty hand. It was not the gentlemanly thing to do. But it turned away the moisture before a river crossed my brow.
“Their ancestral home?” the words repeated in the dusty room.
“But it’s my home,” I said firmly, biting my lip. “And why abandon it? Robert had said Acadians usually burned down their farms, so they would not fall into other hands. It was confusing to my young mind, and I wished Monsieur Robert were here to give of his counsel.
After all, Inverma Farm our home was not burned. How could any person state this was their ‘Acadien’ home?
I remember my knees being scuffed from kneeling on the attic floor when my find was discovered. My curious nature had checked on why a loose floorboard in the attic was sufficient to trip me.
It was shortly after returning from my early morning privy visit that my discovery was made. Exploring a corner of the huge farmhouse each day before chores became a new pastime. A thick coating of dust provided an understanding no one had been in this location for some years.
My searching fingers found a ledge under the loose board, which I had the good fortune to pry open.
Imagine my surprise when rolled up sheets of papers were uncovered and then carefully read. The words were savored one at a time. I digested what looked like hastily formed letters. An excitement took hold of my tiny frame. In spite of choking earlier from the dusty floor, I could barely make out the month and day on the end of the first page.
But the year 1755 was clearly visible. When footsteps sounded on the front porch, I peered through the window. It was Da.
“Johnny? Johnny…lad!” he called, turning in several directions. Due to Da’s large frame, it was unusual for him to be walking about, except when riding his buggy.
I quickly replaced the papers under the floorboard, dusted off my trousers best I could then clambered down the stairs.
It would not do to have my Da know too soon about this treasure of information. My thoughts were quite perplexing. And I could barely contain myself as I turned the words over and over in my mind.
“Boy? Didn’t ye hear me calling?” Da asked.“
“I was upstairs, exploring the remnants from previous tenants,” I answered lowering my head. It was my hope there was no cause for any reprimand.
‘Understandable, lad,” Da had said. “In this land there is little time for a boy to be frivolous. And I not be upset with your rambling about.”
Then I became bold and playfully tried to reach around Da’s ample belly to give him a bear hug. But he roared with laughter and easily lifted my smaller frame until our faces almost touched.
“I know you better than that my mischievous one,” my father declared with a wisdom I hoped to inherit one day. “Trying to take my thoughts off your shenanigans, will you? You’ve a secret you’re not a-telling me this day. What do you think of that, my little conspirator?” my loving Da inquired.
I grinned and kissed him on the cheek. Ever so gently he let me down from what seemed like a journey to the stars.
And my own mind returned to that sheaf of papers. Quickly, I thought, I must find Mattie and tell her about the papers I found. She would place me through an inquisition, and I had better be prepared to fend off her questions.
I knew the words were important, with a meaning that was terribly important.
And I must also tell my friend, Monsieur Robert.
“Now go and fetch us six of the choicest mackerel from our Lord’s fine ocean waters!” Da had thundered.
And I did just that, in another trot down to the ocean shore. After which my daily chores captured the rest of my time. I barely hid my glee knowing the shining light that would come into Mattie’s eyes.
Her mouth would open wide then placing hands on both hips demand, “Why did ye not tell me before this, Johnny?” Yes, she would be pleased to be a part of this great mystery.
I waited patiently as Mattie walked sideways between rows of potatoes, careful not to step on their growing blossoms.
She appeared to be in a contemplative mood as she looked around, seemingly to search me out.
“Hurry!” I wanted to shout from behind my elm tree hideout. “I have great news to share. I found an old diary with worn and weathered pages, from long years ago.”
As words prepared to tumble from my lips, Mattie drew closer, then closer.
When she was almost upon me, I jumped up like a Jack-o-Lantern almost scaring her out of her wits. She gave me a playful shove and that sunshine smile sent my heart a-twittering.
Pumping my skinny arms, I began to race across the pasture towards the woods. “Follow me! Quickly!” I remember shouting.
Instead of listening to my command, Mattie sprinted towards the barn.
“How did ye ken that was my true destination?” I asked between mouthfuls of air. Now I changed my direction, trying to catch up.
“Shush,” Mattie managed to say as she seemingly galloped across the ground. “I know your trickster ways,” she quickly replied. “Now hush or I’ll best you once more. And there will be no excuses from you, this time.”
The race was close as we clambered through the open barn doors, thumped across the wooden floor and smacked the closest stall. Our many contests had a definite course with agreed upon boundaries.
Striking the side with our right hand signaled the race was over.
And Mattie won.
“My secret is over here,” said I in a hushed voice, leading her to the precise location.
“Beneath the third plank in the floor is where I placed it. Near that old table where the floor is worn from years of wear from animal hooves passing through,” I recited excitedly.
I could hardly contain myself, since it was to mysteries such as this my boyish imagination often wandered.
“Did some poor soul really think this was a good hiding place?” she asked with a shake of her head. “But Mattie,” I protested. “It was I who found this new hiding place. My prize was in the attic of our farmhouse. And changing its location will be helpful for us each time we want to look at the message.”
”But this is a smelly, forsaken barn!” Mattie complained. “And why would someone hide such a message in the house. What if someone had arrived and burned it down? If what you say is God’s truth, those words from the past are priceless,” she protested.
I began to understand her concerns. “Thankfully, it did not happen, Mattie. Monsieur Mercier had already spoken to me about ‘the burnings’ years ago.”
“Yes,” she answered more softly.
“You were kind to share those words. That was when the Acadians were hiding for fear of being expelled from the countryside. Farms were ‘fired‘so others could not use someone else’s hard toil.”
“It is noble that you remember,” I heard myself saying as we stood there in the silent barn.
And my father had also said the militia arrived swiftly and restored order to this area, in a horrendous fashion.
“And now Mattie, if what the words say are the gospel truth, then we are the benefactors of this well-tended farming property.”
“Our skills can now carry on the traditions of the displaced Acadians,” she answered.
“They use the expression, ‘Les Acadiens’ “ I corrected.
“Oh, you are so kind gentle sir,” she said in a mocking fashion.
“At least there is no danger of falling through the floorboards,” I said uneasily,” changing the subject. “Look how easily the board slides away.”
Her eyes grew wide as she carefully opened the stained diary and began to read. “Did they really think this was their farm?” Mattie asked. I could hardly speak. But I dare not say it was untrue. It wasn’t as if we had thieved these buildings and pastures.
And the woods where I spent many a fun-filled day were sights for another, I dared think.
I remember turning my head, as moisture seeped from my eyes. Chasing rabbits and searching for flighty grouse must have been here for a family before us. Even before…but I could not entertain any more thoughts. Was it possible a little boy or girl stared through our same barn door entrance towards the tree filled land beyond our fences?
“Methinks it is time to return home,” I said quickly. But not before we tramped carefully on the board, making it unnoticeable from a close distance.
To make sure it remained hidden, I bent down and pressed dust and bits of hubris along the cracks. This would ensure no one would harbor a glance down and notice anything amiss.
“We must not yet tell Da and Mum, about our findings,” I explained to Mattie. I wished to ponder these statements and discover whether or not I desired to remain on someone else’s property.
Thankfully, Mattie was noble as a Redcoat Soldier, nodding in agreement.
And so we did journey back to our own families. I watched Mattie until her retreating steps were simply a dot on the dusty roadway. I was unsettled and pondered my findings. It was painful to imagine Inverma Farm, where our family lived these past two years, belonged to someone else.
Perhaps right now their abode was in some wretched place, far from here. It was a thought to ponder if they would ever again see the tree I now leaned against.
Chapers 10-12 can be found on this ABCTales.com site.