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Page Index of Forest to Field Volume One
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The road which had been straight for a long stretch, swerved to the left to avoid a lake too deep and wide to be crossed by the rough corduroy road used to cross narrow or shallow sloughs, and here in the opening facing the blue waters of the lake was the answer to my question.
In the middle of a clearing of two or three acres stood the little log church where the wedding was to take place, - plain and roughy built as it was, the shape of its win dows and the cross that surmounted the little turret at the West end of the roof showed its sacred character. Here and there among the wild flowers in the best cleared part of the opening, close to the church, a wooden cross on which was carved a name and a date, marked the resting place of some child of the North who had found, not a home but a grave in these Western solitudes.
But the peaceful quiet of the church and the solitude of the graveyard were rudely broken today; instead of the little party of friends and relatives of the bride and groom which I had looked for, here was a gathering of the whole Scandinavian Colony, and the wedding was merely the central function of a national holiday. No wonder the farmsteads looked lone and deserted as I had driven by them. Long rows of wagons were drawn up on either hand of the road in front of the church, many of them bedecked with boughs of poplar and of spruce; the oxen which had drawn them tied to the fence or in the shade of the trees, were chewing their cud with that unemotional stolidity which makes the ox so useful and so exasperating an animal.
All Scandinavia was here, young men and maidens, old men and children, a mingled gathering of the picturesque and the every day; the old people and the little children were distinctly foreign in garb and speech and feature; not so much so, the young men and the young women; two or three years' work on the railway or at service had assimilated the latter in dress and speech to t~e prevailing Canadian type. The old men all wore decent suits of broadcloth full fashioned as to the coat tails and with much white shirt front and cuff. The older women mostly affected bright colored print gowns with the head either adorned with highly starched sun bonnets or with neatly folded handkerchief falling behind to shade the neck and pinned beneath the chin. Blue eyes, flaxen headed children were everywhere, - clean, neat, stolid and Norse.
As Vixen stopped at the wicket gate three of the older men separated themselves from the throng standing by the church door and advanced to meet me; two of them, gray bearded elderly men, were strangers to me, the third I met before in the village at home in his every day capacity of a stone mason. Today he was the father of the bride and the spokesman for the good people of the Colony in welcoming the "Herr Prest".
With grave and courteous greeting he hoped the Herr Prest had had a pleasant drive, might he introduce the Herr Lindeman and the Herr Carlson, the elders of the church -- much taking off hats and bowing -- the Scandinavian people were very glad to see the Herr Prest and they had all come together, not only to the wedding, but it was long since they had the Word of God preached to them and would the Herr Prest pray with them and speak to the people?
Now there is a very expressive phrase much used in the West - "I was up against it", for here were some two hundred people of whom only the young men and young women understood English readily; the older men had such a broken knowledge of it as they had picked up in the village when they came down with their loads of wood or as some of them had gathered in the summer and autumn when they had labored in the harvest fields of the English speaking people outside their Colony; and then there was a great throng of children and the married and older women who rarely or never left their own set tlement, and who did not know a dozen words of any language but their own.
It was rather appalling to a diffident young man used to the protection of the Prayer Book and a written ser mon - but the appeal was irresistible, for it was made in such simple and unaffected good faith and with such confidence that the "Herr Prest" was equal to the oc casion if he would of his goodness accede to their request. I went with the one elder who spoke English fairly well into the little vestry of the church to arrange with him the form of service and to put on my surplice while his brother proceeded to inform the waiting throng of my willingness to preach for them, and to marshall as many as could find room in the pews of the church. Of the many services, glad or sorrowful, in which I have taken part, there has never been one in which I have engaged with such mingled feelings. The church was crowded to the door and many of the men who could not find room within stood hat in hand by the open windows. In ac cordance with their custom, all the men sat on the one side of the centre aisle, and the women on the other.
The elder stood by my side to announce in their own tongue the passage of Scripture to be read and the hymn to be sung, for as there were plenty of Bibles and hymn books in the church even those entirely ignorant of English could take some part in the service and all the singing was in Swedish. With the singing of the first hymn all my embarrassment and diffidence left me. It was a paraphrase of the Twenty-third Psalm, "The Lord is my Shepherd" and the men's voices rose and fell with a full volume of sound to the evidently familiar words. Here and there among the older women there was a furtive wiping of a tear and it was not hard to guess what memories of far off scenes and other days were awakened by this "singing of the Lord's song in a strange land".
Few and simple were the words of the English prayer that followed and then the elder led the whole congregation in the repeating of "Our Father" in Swedish. A hymn of a gladder and brighter tone formed the prelude to the marriage service, and space was made for the bridal party to approach the altar and to take their places in front of the Herr Prest.
The dais on which the bride and bridegroom stood was covered with a crimson cloth on which in a regular device had been arranged the pure white blossoms of the wood anemone. The bridegroom was a fine handsome young fellow, neither self assertive nor yet abashed, simply and unaffectedly happy, with a sober reverence for the House of God, endowing his bride with an honest, cleanly manhood worthy of the race of Vikings from which he sprung. And the bride, "simplex munditiis", the pure