"With future hope, I oft
Fond on thy little early ways."
GRADUALLY each family drew
about it a circle of friends, not new, but never before on terms of
intimacy. Phemie's gentle disposition, and her truly orthodox views on
relative positions in the various conditions which life presents, had made
her a favorite among the people they knew in town; but, as the two
families had always seemed sufficient unto themselves, her society had
been hard to secure. As soon as a little of the situation was understood,
the lads and lassies in other houses became importunate, and Phemie was
ofttimes carried away against her will, until presently she came to enjoy
this getting "out and away."
Ladies of the exclusive
military set began to remark "that rather nice girl of Sandy McGregor's."
The settlers of the "Line"
had not mingled with the military set—we might say, had not been received
on equal terms—although, in a matter of genealogy, most of them could show
a cleaner, longer sheet. With half a dozen exceptions, the military set
was as mixed as to quality as it was in nationality. But the glory of the
Military Colony was waning. Many, finding a settler's life not to their
taste, had departed to take up the profession of arms in the United
States, where they were afterwards employed in the war with Mexico. Those
who remained were of a better class, given to peace unless duty called
them to war. The younger generations were Canadian, with higher aims than
brewing rum punch; new men had come in, bringing with them a fresh, breezy
atmosphere from the Canada outside, where men were doing, not merely
living. Some choice spirits were growing here that, ere their calling
home, would leave an impress on the life of the nation. The Perth of
yesterday, which required twelve-foot walls to keep it within bounds and
hidden caves in which to store its bread and butter, had given way to a
Perth of seemly behaviour and culture. Bright, keen intellects rubbed
against each other in legal and political contests; women of gentle
manners and high attainments graced the homes. The infancy of this
Settlement on the Rideau was troublous and troublesome; but, to those who
watched it in its cradle-age, the fair promise of its youth was a guerdon.
Mr. Wilson came to call as
soon as he understood the situation at the McGregor's and McAl-pine's; he
visited both houses, but at Sandy's he broke bread.
"You will have to spare
this lassie to us for a week, Mrs. McGregor," he said when leaving, "she
has studiously avoided hard work in the Sunday School and we will have to
give her a course of training. Let her come to Mrs. Wilson next week,
Wednesday; she is a capital recruiting sergeant, and we need just such
soldiers as this in our work for and with the bairns," he continued, as he
shook hands with Phemie when leaving.
"I'll canna leave mither
for sae lang, Mr. Wilson, though I'm glad an' thankfu' t' ye," protested
"Tut, tut, lassie," said
Mr. Wilson, "you must not say no to your minister; you have a call to the
work now and I'll not want to mark you delinquent. Mrs. Wilson will expect
you, and remember," turning to Mrs. McGregor, "it will require at least a
week for the drill." Mr. Wilson was not the stern taskmaster the above
would seem to imply. The mild benignant gleam in his eyes told of a
thought for more than one cause.
"She'll can go," said
Elspeth, "happen we'll no hae been mindfu' eneuch o' th' lassie's place in
th' battle for the Maister."
Phemie's preparations were
not elaborate, but very pretty she looked in her second best, a light
brown muslin sprigged with white. The waist was made with long shoulders
coming half way to the elbows, the sleeves gathered full at the wrists,
and at the arms-eye, finished at the wrists with buttoned bands; the skirt
was in two flounces of the same length, one from the waist half way down
the skirt, the other beginning just under where the first left off;
prunella shoes, the color of the muslin, were seen beneath the last
flounce; a leghorn bonnet with a flare, trimmed with a brown gauze ribbon,
tied with plain silk strings, completed an attire that was all through
like an oak leaf in autumn, for her hair was a sunny brown and her eyes
were just like her hair. Elspeth was of Douglas blood (she had given
Douglas McAlpin his name) and neither of her children had Scotch blue eyes
or the hair that accompanies them.
Mrs. Wilson met her at the
door of the manse and kissed her.
"I am very glad to see you,
my dear," she said. "Mr. Wilson tells me of a great field of usefulness
open for you, and has given me the very pleasing task of enrolling your
name and guiding your first steps."
Mr. Wilson greeted her
cordially at supper time.
"Has she been a hard
task-mistress, Phemie?" he said, nodding towards Mrs. Wilson, who sat
smiling near by, just in her element with this "bit wummany" to lead and
"'Deed no, Mr. Wilson; the
Maister's wark 's ower easy gin this 's th' hairdest o't."
"Consecrated to it, the
Master's work is always easy, Phemie," said Mr. Wilson; "He never forms
his soldiers in battle line without giving them weapons, courage, and
strength; and the battle is always sure. Walls may have to be scaled,
paths made through a tangled forest growth, deep rivers crossed; but
through and beyond them all is the Beacon Light, and there, too, is our
Prince and Leader, who scaled the walls, brushed aside the thick tangle in
the forest, blazing the road for his army to follow, and crossing the deep
stream, stands signalling to us that victory is nigh."
"It's a' wunnerfu', Mr.
Wilson," said Phemie, a soft light shining in her eyes, "wi' a' th' hairt
scaulds o' waitin' when we'll no can even fecht; 'n th' fut-weariness wi'
long marches, 'n th' wiles o' th' enemy tae pit's on the wrang road: tae
ken, gin we ony look for it, we'll can see th' licht shinin' near us,
warnin's o' the pitfa's, cheerin 's in the lang tramples, an' bidin' wi's
when we'll can dae naethin' but ony bide."
"Phemie, I thought rightly
: you are well and strongly armed already, and, please God, your company
will be in the vanguard."
At Mr. Wilson's, there was
no turning over for another nap Sunday morning; rather earlier than usual
they were stirring, though, so well ordered was the household, there was
nothing to do but get breakfast over and dress for church. Phemie
carefully and quickly made her preparations, and was downstairs before Mr.
Wilson himself. This morning she wore her best dress, as was customary. It
was of lilac delaine, "poudre" with tiny golden-eyed violets of a darker
shade; thread after thread had been run in the skirt from the waist down—
these were "quilled"; the tops of the sleeves were treated the same way;
the fine, straight, close lines making a dress Quaker-like in its
simplicity; a little embroidered collar, fastened with a cameo brooch; a
bonnet of Neapolitan braid, lined with lilac silk, a trifle more flare to
the brim than the other; this time the gauze ribbon was white, with the
palest purple flowers; and the shoes were drab prunella.
Sandy had prospered. The
two children were all he had to look forward for; Rob had been laying by
for himself these many months. Phemie's wishes —always reasonable—were
gratified; she had nimble fingers—taste—and her wardrobe had the best of
care, nor was there ever more thought given it than was seemly.
Sunday school was held
immediately after church to give the families who came from a distance an
opportunity to all go home together. Phemie had a class of little girls,
who at first looked askance at their new teacher, then crept nearer,
until, finally, all who could came into the same seat. She told them the
sweet old story, of the baby cradled in a manger, mild-eyed oxen, meek
sheep, patient donkeys, quietly sharing their shelter with the Prince of
Peace; of the star which the shepherds saw; of the wise men, who crossed
mountain, river and sandy plain with their gifts. The story was not new,
even to such wee maidens, and sometimes in their eagerness they helped the
"I 'member, Jesus was a
weenty-teenty baby, like my bruvver," said one.
"'N' He came into the world
to save sinners. What's sinners, Miss 'Gregor?" said another, who never
missed a sermon.
"Sinners," said their
teacher, "will be those wha dae th' things whilk God has forbidden. Ye'll
happen dae what your mither tells ye not, an' ye ken 'tis wrang"-------
"Yes, I know my mamma told
me not to go on the fence, 'n I did, 'n tored my ampern."
"An' what did your mamma
say?" asked Phemie, trying hard to curb her Scotch tongue lest these
children of English and Irish birth should not understand her.
"She made me wear my tored
ampern to Minnie Taylor's party."
"Noo, if ye had an aulder
sister, Emily, 'n your mamma said, if someone else would wear th' torn
apron, you could have a clean new one, an' your sister would say,' I'll
wear the torn yin, mither, an' Emily may have a bonnie new ane—she's a wee
lassie, 'n happen didn't ken eneuch t' keep aff th' fence,' 'n your sister
wore the old torn one, 'n you had a new one white as snaw."
"But what for should mamma
make Kitty wear a tored ampern when she never tored it? " queried Emily.
Phemie was beginning to
fear these small women were going to tax her capabilities as an expounder
of Holy Writ, but she quietly said to this:
"Dinna ye think, Emily,
that ye 'd mind 't langer, seein' Kitty wearin' th' torn apron, 'n lang
whiles aifter thinkin' o' hoo gude she was, 'n hoo sorry you was 't you
disobeyed your mither so Kitty had t' wear 't, 'n ye wouldn't do it mair."
Emily looked thoughtful. "I
wouldn't, Miss 'Gregor; if Kitty had to wear a tored ampern to a party
'cause I went on the fence 'n 'sobeyed mamma, I'd never, never go on a
"A very prompt application
of a lesson, Miss McGregor; let me commend your trite way of instilling
Malcolm Cameron was a
visitor that day and had stopped at Phemie's seat.
"I'm weel pleased gin ye
think I'll can do ony gude i' th' wark; it's my first day wi' a class,"
said Phemie, simply and earnestly.
Mrs. Malloch came and
welcomed Phemie on their teaching staff, and invited her to meet the other
teachers at her house the week following on Saturday afternoon. Those
Saturday afternoons at Mrs. Malloch's grew to be a feature of the winter,
and Phemie to be a valued addition to the circle gathered there.
Her innate piety made the
estrangement with the McAlpin family hard to bear. Had the cause been
anything else than what it was she would long ago—for her father's and
mother's sake, as well as because she wearied for Jean, and because she
would be at peace with all—have gone over again and sought for
reconciliation, but for this cause she was held back as with a three-fold
"She'd happen flout me
again," said Phemie to herself, arguing out what was best to do. "I'll no
could staun't an' 'twould mak' a clood 'twixt me an' th' Lord. No ane's
hurted, an' we's better leave weel eneuch alane."