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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 15


" What lack we here to crown our bliss
While thus the pulse of joy beats high."
—Scott.

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 will."

"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 hame."

"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 said:

"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.


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