" What lack we here to crown
While thus the pulse of joy beats high."
FROM going to Smith's Falls
to kirk the McAlpins came to go to Smith's Falls to market. Being on the
Rideau the village had the advantage of the regular mail boats, which
Perth had not. Many sunny summer mornings in forty-one found Jean at the
wharf, and the steward of either the Beaver or Otter lifting from the
queer old buggy in which she came to town, baskets of fresh laid eggs and
"prints" of butter with a Scotch thistle in relief on each. At the boat
this brought cash— sometimes paid in Yorkers, or York shillings, eight of
which made a dollar. The money was deposited in the bank, presided over by
Captain Leslie when he had nothing else to do—half to Margaret's credit,
half to Jean's. On acquaintance, Jean grew to like Mr. Clark and Mr.
Clark's business ways better than she did Mr. Meighen. Mr. Clark was
courteous, obliging, and a dollar would go half as far again in his store
than it did at the other. Nice questions as to patronizing home
institutions had not then arisen. Where each individual could buy cheapest
there they bought, if such place were within reach; and where they could
sell best, there they sold if they could get to such market.
Jean found she could do
both best in Smith's Falls.
There was a reasonable
cause for this. Perth was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. No town
in Canada that was not a garrison town handled as much English money; what
with officers on half pay, and soldiers receiving pensions, the military
chest was filled and emptied pretty often. Men receiving fat salaries to
superintend and distribute Government "indulgences" resided there and
spent liberally; the ministers and school masters were paid by the Crown,
few of the expenses of ordinary mortals fell on them, so "what would ail"
their caterer to get all he could.
But domestic products had
no place in the high priced list, therefore who shall blame those beyond
the pale of this El Dorado for driving their pigs to a better market.
Then, Smith's Falls was a "toun
o' pairts," aside from its commercial advantages; a town where they got a
great deal of good out of life, and got it to-day. To be sure the
magnificent water power was affected with chronic litigation; but
undesirable as this was, it did not seem to have a very depressing effect
on either the water power, the litigants, or the general public.
The law couldn't do much
with either the water or the fall of land; those who finally made good
their claims were not men to cry over spilt milk; they had energy enough
to start out after breakfast and hunt up another water power before
dinner; the general public felt there were resources here which someone
would make use of, their lines were cast in pleasant places and all they
had to do was to keep a firm grip.
Thus it was that the water
tumbled over one set of rocks, dashed itself against another, got cut up
into yeast-like foam, tossed into the air in bubbles, but it was having
its own way, and had a right royal time all the day long.
As for the men who
established their claims, they were, as we have said, men whom the losing
of one location would not daunt; therefore they had no anxieties for the
morrow, and men with no anxieties for the morrow are charming people to
meet, in either a business or a social way; they enjoyed themselves after
a commendable fashion, thus contributing in no small degree to the
rational enjoyment of the community.
While, as we have also
already said, the general public was pretty sure to fall on his feet
whichever way the Lord High Chancellor jumped; he also made life pleasant
for himself and everyone else.
The greater number of the
people which made up the then village of Smith's Falls—which up to a
matter of five years before was called Wardsville —were either of United
Empire Loyalist descent or of later immigration from the United States;
they had newer views of life and newer ways of living than the Perth
people; there was less of ceremony, and more of progress ; not the
slightest disposition was evinced to hang on to the skirts of the past. In
fact the "pasts" of its settlers had been so diverse, an endeavour of each
to preserve the traditions of his ancestors would have resulted in a
municipal and social pot-pourri.
The picturesqueness of
Perth and its truly Old World solidity was wanting; Perth was built of
rock. Houses are there on which the sun may shine one hundred years hence
and find them no whit altered ; and comfortable ones—the military
settlement was not long without the "flesh-pots."
But Smith's Falls had no
leisure for posing, she went to church and singing school, spelling bees,
soirees and picnics; grew in grace and a knowledge of me, fa, sol;
learned to spell in Queen's English and to make coffee that was not picnic
coffee, cakes and pies that were pleasant to the eye and of a kind that
never induces dyspepsia.
In September they had a
picnic, and Jean was bidden. Mrs. Ward invited her to remain with them
over night, as they would stay in the woods too late to drive home. It was
an all day affair and everyone went, from the grandfathers and
grandmothers to the babies who were carried by the nurses. Abel Ward was
there, keen-eyed, square of shoulder, full of the neighborly qualities
that gave bon homme Tom Fraser his title ; Jason Gould, big, bluff,
hearty, with a rich bass voice, that was heard many, many Sundays in St.
Andrew's, and as many week evenings at Mr. Curry's singing school; James
Shaw and Robert Romaines, Dr. Burritt and Dr. Aitcheson—bye and bye we may
think of others, whose wives and daughters Jean found such good company
that delightful day in the grove.
They brought both dinner
and supper, and such a dinner and supper! Chicken pie made in deep yellow
earthen dishes that held plenty of gravy; quarters of lamb roasted ;
home-cured boiled ham; and that most delicious morsel, dressed roast pig;
big rice puddings, baked in twins of the chicken pie dishes, filled with
puffed up brown raisins big as a robin's egg; baked custards, shaky and
tender; pumpkin pies, raspberry pies, currant and strawberry pies, made of
home-dried fruit—berries were then to be had for the picking. No one who
has not tried it knows what a rich confection is made from small fruit
spread on earthen platters, sprinkled plentifully with sugar and dried in
the sun, being carefully screened from insects by netting.
The supper table groaned
with cake, some very elaborate affairs trimmed with caraways and
cori-anders, red and white ; pound cake that few housekeepers of to-day
would care to undertake—ten eggs to the pound of sugar, butter and flour,
no leaven but the eggs, and the whole beaten an hour; 'lection cake—Mrs.
Frost made that, and she knew how; Mrs. Bartlett brought crullers made of
cream. And the preserves; no wishy-washy canned stuff, but pound for
pound, sugar and fruit, and cooked until the compound acquired a new
flavour that was very rich and very good.
And how they worked,
husbands and wives both, harder than they ever did on a business day; got
in each other's way, their fingers burned and faces smudged, occasionally
emptied a coffee pot into the fire, and a custard over the boiled ham ;
but what of it, that was a part of the picnic.
"What do you think of us,
Miss McAlpin, looking at us from a Perth standpoint?" asked John Milburn,
as they were "reddin'" up after dinner.
"I'm no sure that I'll be
able to judge ye frae a Perth standpoint, Mr. Milburn, for mysel' I'll ay
like the new ways i' th' new coontry; we'll canna mak' an auld coontry
here wi' a haundfu' o' people in a muckle bush. No but that the're gude
people an' happen graun people in Pairth, aiblins I'll whiles think we're
unca happed oop."
"I'm afraid you're a Yankee
too, Miss McAlpin; here we're expecting you to contribute enough sound
British principle for the crowd to-day, and you are the worst Radical
among us. I would offer a suggestion that you and Grace Fraser settle the
question as to which country we'll belong to, with a broom contest—say,
whoever sweeps her floor quickest and cleanest to be declared victor,
entitled to tack her flag to the broomstick and lead us all whither she
"Yell needna hae ony sic
notion," dryly remarked Jean; "gin ye'll pit flure sweepin' 's a trial I'd
gang mysel' 'n helpit Grace Fraser wi' hers gin she'd no' like hae
strength eneuch hersel'. Yon was a graun thing 't Grace did tae walk oot
'n th' sicht o' th' enemy 'n warn oor troops. I'm no' for ony flag but the
auld flag 'r ony ruler but th' Queen, God bless 'r, aiblins I'll think
we'll can do oor ain hoosekeepin' wi'out muckle clack frae thae fowk ower
"It relieves me very much
to hear this, Miss McAlpin," said Mr. Milburn. "I was beginning to be very
anxious as to what we might have to do with you. We have to be awful
careful here. We assessed Mr. Bartlett two dollars (no Yorkers
accepted—straight English shillings only) for defences, and made him stay
at home from that neat little squabble out at Prescott; he might have had
an absent-minded fit, and got in the wrong ranks." Mr. Bartlett was
carrying away the dishes Jean and Mr. Milburn were washing, and arrived
just in time to hear this.
"I'm thinkin' Mr.
Bartlett's heid 's a'richt; happen ye were needin' th' twa dollars," said
Jean. "They did come handy," remarked Mr. Milburn, "we bought
fire-crackers with them, and celebrated the capture of the rebels and the
driving of the foe from our shores. No one could doubt us while those
crackers were going off, and—two whole dollars' worth!—you have no idea
how imposing and impressing it was! When you get to be an old fellow like
me, Miss McAlpin, you'll get to know there is nothing like noise to make
people believe in you."
"I'd whiles weary gangin'
roun' th' warld wi' my pockets filled wi' fire-crackers," said Jean.
Little Russell Ward came up
at this juncture. "Did you ever see a California swing, Miss McAlpin?"
"I'll no mind, laddie.
What's it like?" answered Jean.
"Just a big square seat,
with a rope at each corner, and ever so many people can swing together.
Come and see."
Away they went, and Jean
not only saw, but swung, away up among the tree tops, and forgot for the
moment all earthly care.
"Miss McAlpin, a little
bird has told me you can sing," said Mrs. Collins, coming up, breathless.
"You must help our side; please come—there's more bass than treble—the men
are having the singing all their own way."
"I'll be fine and glad to
help ye; aiblins I'm feart I'll no' ken yer tunes," said Jean, always
ready to oblige.
"You'll soon pick them up,"
said Mrs. Collins, catching her by the hand and racing off to the
platform, where, to be sure, there was more broadcloth than muslin.
However, when they began to sing, it was found that these two counted for
more than one apiece. Mrs. Collins had a trained contralto voice, and Jean
sang treble, clear and free as a bird. Song after song wakened the echoes:
"Star of the Evening," " Gentle Annie," "Nellie was a Lady;" beside
"Coronation," and "Christian, arise ! the morn breaks o'er thee." A male
sextette—Gould, Romaines, Curry, Milburn, Foster, Maitland—sang "The Red,
White and Blue," as it is not often sung. Jean found her heart beating
fast with enthusiasm. When she could get speech with Mr. Milburn, she
"Ye're richt, Mr. Milburn,
noise will mak people b'lieve in ye, 'n a' noise 'll no' be fire-crackers.
Naebody 'll can aye say, after hearin' yon, that Smith's Falls 's aething
but British as the Queen hersel'."
"It did ring true, didn't
it?" answered Milburn. "It warmed up the cockles of all our hearts. Great
thing to have a country! it's the only thing a man can brag about without
being a cad!"
The day wore to an end, as
days will, be they fraught with happiness or misery. Some of the young
people went up the river, which spread out like a sea of golden glass,
from the reflection of a September sunset; but Jean preferred going home
with Mrs. Ward and the children.
"We are going down to
father's for a week in October, Miss McAlpin; cannot you persuade your
mother to let you go too?" said Mrs. Ward, next morning at breakfast, and
the children clamored, "Oh! do, do, do!"
"I'd weel like tae gang wi'
ye," answered Jean; "th' picnic's a pleasure I'll mind mony a lang day;
but I'll no ken what mither 'd think o't."
"I'll drive out and ask her
in a few days," said Mrs. Ward.