FOUR weeks after the departure of
the boys, the following letter was received from Jamie, and you may be
sure we were delighted to get it, for we were all so bound up in the lads
that we thought and talked of little else.
May 17, 1861.
My Dear MOTHER AND ALL: Willie and
Colin have asked me to write you a letter containing the general news
regarding ourselves, and they promise to write special ones. We had no
difficulty in reaching here, which we did the second day after leaving
Prescott. It was all so new to Colin and me that we enjoyed the scenery
wonderfully, and we were almost sorry when we reached this great city. Do
you know, it seems far worse to get lost in a city than it does in a bush,
for you can keep three trees in a line in the bush and so make your way
out, but you cannot keep three houses in a line here and have it help you
Mr. Rolphe seemed pleased to see us,
and he has been very kind to us all. I think he took a special notion to
Colin, for he asked him a lot of questions about himself, and he said to
Willie afterwards, "Thatís a fine boy, your second brother; he has enough
of the man in him to make his mark." He didnít say anything complimentary
to me, although he was very kind, and told me I would be sure to get along
in the railway work. He invited us to his house for Saturday evening,
remarking that Willie was quite a favourite there.
Willie and Colin were accepted by
Colonel Rolphe yesterday, and received their outfits. They look very
handsome and smart in their uniforms, and I am sure, mother, that you and
the others, including Watty, would be proud of them, so striking do they
appear in their suits of blue. They spend four hours each day drilling at
the armoury, and will continue to do so until ordered to the front. I
always stay around the armoury till drill is over, and then the three of
us go off and wander about the city until we are tired and glad to rest.
Colonel Rolphe is only awaiting orders to start.
I am often lonesome for the fields
and bush, and for the animals, and I know Colin is too, but he does not
like to admit it. Willie, who is used to it here, seems quite at home, and
it is very lucky that we have him with us during our rambles, or we would
often get lost.
We are all very much interested in a
rescue home here, óa drunkardsí rescue home, which two excellent and
philanthropic men have been conducting on Broad Street for a long time.
Willie used often to drop in, and one evening he took Colin and me. There
was a wonderful man speaking the night we were there. His name is John B.
Gough. He is a man who was once an abandoned drunkard, but was rescued
from the gutter, and he is now stirring up the people against the drink
traffic as no other man in the country ever stirred them. We boys agreed
that we never listened to such an address. It seemed impossible to hear
his burning, earnest words and not be fired with a determination to fight
the curse of drink while life lasts.
The pictures of misery, squalor, and
crime which he presented, and which we knew were true, because he drew
them from his own experience and observation, burned themselves into my
soul, and when, at the close of the meeting, the good men who conducted
the mission and who call themselves Brethren (Plymouth Brethren, some call
them) asked for volunteers for work, I promptly offered my services and
pledged myself to do what I could to uplift my fellow-creatures and try to
save them from the consequences of drink. I trust I shall prove faithful,
for there is such great need, such overwhelming need, of work in that
direction here in this great city, where hundreds and hundreds of saloons
are filled from morning till night with poor creatures who are spending
the money which should be used to clothe and feed the children at home. My
evenings and all spare time will be taken up in this work.
As Willie and Colin will be writing
in a day or two, just as soon as marching orders are received, I will not
say anything more, but will close by sending my sincerest love to you all,
and by asking to be remembered to those in the settlement who ask for me.
Tell Auld Peggy that there are
plenty of people here who tell fortunes and who profess to be able to find
hidden treasures, bring lovers together, and all that sort of thing. She
would have no chance here reading cups.
Lovingly, your son,
The widow felt grateful over her
sonís letter, and especially for his volunteering to take up the work of
A number of letters from Willie and
Colin followed. Most of Colinís letters were to Katie, and I doubt not are
to this very day stored carefully somewhere, tied in a packet with faded
ribbons, for I recall Katieís eager eyes as she took the precious missives
when they came, and went off to some quiet retreat to enjoy them alone.