The Settlers in Canada
Chapter I An Unexpected Fortune
It was in the year 1791, that an English family went out
to settle in Canada. This province had been surrendered to us by the
French, who first colonised it more than thirty years previous to the
year I have mentioned. It must, however, be recollected that to emigrate
and settle in Canada was, at that time, a very different affair to what
it is now. The difficulty of transport, and the dangers incurred, were
much greater, for there were no steamboats to stem the currents and the
rapids of the rivers; the Indians were still residing in Upper and many
portions of Lower Canada, and the country was infested with wild animals
of every descriptionsome useful, but many dangerous: moreover, the
Europeans were fewer in number, and the major portion of them were
French, who were not pleased at the country having been conquered by the
English. It is true that a great many English settlers had arrived, and
had settled upon different farms, but, as the French settlers had
already possession of all the best land in Lower Canada, these new
settlers were obliged to go into or towards Upper Canada, where,
although the land was better, the distance from Quebec and Montreal and
other populous parts was much greater, and they were left almost wholly
to their own resources, and almost without protection. I mention all
this because things are so very different at present, and now I shall
state the cause which induced this family to leave their home, and run
the risks and dangers which they did.
Campbell was of a good parentage, but, being the son of one of the
younger branches of the family, his father was not rich, and Mr Campbell
was, of course, brought up to a profession. Mr Campbell chose that of a
surgeon, and, after having walked the hospitals (as it is termed), he
set up in business, and in a few years was considered as a very able man
in his profession. His practice increased very fast, and before he was
thirty years of age he married.
Campbell had an only sister, who resided with him, for their father and
mother were both dead. But about five years after his own marriage, a
young gentleman paid his addresses to her, and, although not rich, as
his character was unexceptionable, and his prospects good, he was
accepted. Miss Campbell changed her name to Percival, and left her
brothers house to follow her husband.
Time passed quickly; and, at the end of ten years, Mr Campbell found
himself with a flourishing business, and, at the same time, with a
family to support; his wife having presented him with four boys, of whom
the youngest was but a few months old.
But, although prosperous in his own affairs, one Heavy misfortune fell
upon Mr Campbell, which was the loss of his sister, Mrs Percival, to
whom he was most sincerely attached. Her loss was attended with
circumstances which rendered it more painful, as, previous to her
decease, the house of business in which Mr Percival was a partner,
failed; and the incessant toil and anxiety which Mr Percival underwent,
brought on a violent fever, which ended in his death. In this state of
distress, left a widow with one child of two years olda little girland
with the expectation of being shortly again confined, Mrs Percival was
brought to her brothers house, who, with his wife, did all he could to
soften down her grief; but she had suffered so much by the loss of her
husband, that when the period arrived, her strength was gone, and she
died in giving birth to a second daughter. Mr and Mrs Campbell of
course, took charge of these two little orphan girls, and brought them
up with their own children. Such was the state of affairs about ten or
eleven years after Mr Campbells marriage, when a circumstance occurred
as unexpected as it was welcome.
Campbell had returned from his round of professional visits; dinner was
over, and he was sitting at the table with his wife and elder children
(for it was the Christmas holidays, and they were all at home), and the
bell had just been rung for the nurse to bring down the two little girls
and the youngest boy, when the postman rapped at the door, and the
parlour-maid brought in a letter with a large black seal. Mr Campbell
opened it, and read as follows:
Sir,We have great pleasure in making known to you, that upon the
demise of Mr Sholto Campbell, of Wexton Hall, Cumberland, which took
place on the 19th ultimo, the entailed estates, in default of more
direct issue, have fallen to you, as nearest of kin; the presumptive
heir having perished at sea, or in the East Indies, and not having
been heard of for twenty-five years. We beg to be the first to
congratulate you upon your accession to real property amounting to
14,000 pounds per annum. No will has been found, and it has been
ascertained that none was ever made by the late Mr Sholto Campbell.
We have, therefore, put seals upon the personal property, and shall
await your pleasure. We can only add, that if in want of
professional advice, and not being already engaged, you may command
the services of Your most obedient, Harvey, Paxton, Thorpe, and Co.
What can be the matter, my dear? exclaimed Mrs Campbell, who had
perceived most unusual agitation in her husbands countenance.
Campbell made no reply, but handed the letter to his wife.
Mrs Campbell read it, and laid it down on the table.
Well, my dear! exclaimed Mr Campbell, joyfully, and starting up from
It is a sudden shock, indeed, observed Mrs Campbell thoughtfully and
slowly. I have often felt that we could bear up against any adversity.
I trust in God, that we may be as well able to support prosperity, by
far the hardest task, my dear Campbell, of the two.
You are right, Emily, replied Mr Campbell, sitting down again; we
are, and have long been, happy.
This sudden wealth cannot add to our happiness, my dear husband; I feel
it will rather add to our cares; but it may enable us to add to the
happiness of others; and with such feelings, let us receive it with
Very true, Emily; but still we must do our duty in that station of life
to which it has pleased God to call us. Hitherto I have by my profession
been of some benefit to my fellow-creatures; and if in my change of
condition I no more leave my warm bed to relieve their sufferings, at
all events, I shall have the means of employing others so to do. We must
consider ourselves but as the stewards of Him who has bestowed this
great wealth upon us, and employ it as may be acceptable to His
There my husband spoke as I felt he would, said Mrs Campbell, rising
up, and embracing him. Those who feel as you do can never be too rich.
must not dwell too long upon this portion of my narrative. I shall
therefore observe that Mr Campbell took possession of Wexton Hall, and
lived in a style corresponding to his increased fortune; but, at the
same time, he never let pass an opportunity of doing good, and in this
task he was ably assisted by his wife. They had not resided there three
or four years before they were considered as a blessing to all around
themencouraging industry, assisting the unfortunate, relieving the
indigent, building almshouses and schools, and doing all in their power
to promote the welfare and add to the happiness of those within many
miles of the Hall. At the time that Mr Campbell took possession, the
estate had been much neglected, and required large sums to be laid out
upon it, which would much increase its value.
Thus all the large income of Mr Campbell was usefully and advantageously
employed. The change in Mr Campbells fortune had also much changed the
prospects of his children. Henry, the eldest, who had been intended for
his fathers profession, was first sent to a private tutor, and
afterwards to college. Alfred, the second boy, had chosen the navy for
his profession, and had embarked on board a fine frigate. The other two
boys, one named Percival, who was more than two years old at the time
that they took possession of the property, and the other, John, who had
been born only a few months, remained at home, receiving tuition from a
young curate, who lived near the Hall; while a governess had been
procured for Mary and Emma Percival, who were growing up very handsome
and intelligent girls.
Such was the state of affairs at the time when Mr Campbell had been
about ten years in possession of the Wexton estate, when one day he was
called upon by Mr Harvey, the head of the firm which had announced to
him his succession to the property.
Harvey came to inform him that a claimant had appeared, and given notice
of his intent to file a bill in Chancery to recover the estate, being,
as he asserted, the son of the person who had been considered as the
presumptive heir, and who had perished so many years back. Mr Harvey
observed, that although he thought it his duty to make the circumstance
known to Mr Campbell, he considered it as a matter of no consequence,
and in all probability would turn out to be a fraud got up by some petty
attorney, with a view to a compromise. He requested Mr Campbell not to
allow the circumstance to give him any annoyance, stating that if more
was heard of it, Mr Campbell should be immediately informed. Satisfied
with the opinion of Mr Harvey, Mr Campbell dismissed the circumstance
from his mind, and did not even mention it to his wife.
But three months had not passed away before Mr Campbell received a
letter from his solicitor, in which he informed him that the claim to
the estate was carrying on with great vigour, and, he was sorry to add,
wore (to use his own term) a very ugly appearance; and that the opposite
parties would, at all events, put Mr Campbell to very considerable
expense. The solicitor requested Mr Campbells instructions, again
asserting, that although it was artfully got up, he considered that it
was a fraudulent attempt. Mr Campbell returned an answer, in which he
authorised his solicitor to take every needful precaution, and to incur
all necessary expense. On reflection, Mr Campbell, although much
annoyed, determined not to make Mrs Campbell acquainted with what was
going on; it could only distress her, he thought, and he therefore
resolved for the present to leave her in ignorance.
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