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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter III Alfred's Advice


It may appear strange that, after having been in possession of the estate for ten years, and considering that he had younger children to provide for, Mr Campbell had not laid up a larger sum; but this can be fully explained.

As I before said, the estate was in very bad order when Mr Campbell came into possession, and he devoted a large portion of the income to improving it; and, secondly, he had expended a considerable sum in building almshouses and schools, works which he would not delay, as he considered them as religious obligations. The consequence was, that it was not until a year before the claim was made to the estate that he had commenced laying by for his younger children; and as the estate was then worth 2,000 pounds per annum more than it was at the time that he came into possession of it, he had resolved to put by 5,000 pounds per annum, and had done so for twelve months. The enormous legal expenses had, however, swallowed up this sum, and more, as we have already stated; and thus he was left a poorer man by some hundreds than he was when the property fell to him. The day after the valuation the eldest son, Henry, made his appearance; he seemed much dejected, more so than his parents, and those who knew him, would have supposed. It was, however, ascribed to his feeling for his father and mother, rather than for himself.

Many were the consultations held by Mr and Mrs Campbell as to their future plans; but nothing at all feasible, or likely to prove advantageous, suggested itself to them. With only sixteen or seventeen hundred pounds, they scarcely knew where to go or how to act. Return to his profession Mr Campbell knew that he could not, with any chance of supporting his family. His eldest son, Henry, might obtain a situation, but he was really fit for nothing but the bar or holy orders; and how were they to support him till he could support himself? Alfred, who was now a master’s mate, could, it is true, support himself, but it would be with difficulty, and there was little chance of his promotion. Then there were the two other boys, and the two girls growing up fast; in short, a family of eight people. To put so small a sum in the funds would be useless, as they could not live upon the interest which it would give, and how to employ it they knew not. They canvassed the matter over and over, but without success, and each night they laid their heads upon the pillow more and more disheartened. They were all ready to leave the Hall, but knew not where to direct their steps when they left it; and thus they continued wavering for a week, until they were embraced by their son Alfred, who had made all speed to join them as soon as the ship had been paid off. After the first joy of meeting between those who had been separated so long was over, Mr Campbell said, “I’m sorry, Alfred, that I could not give your messmates any fishing.”

“And so am I, and so were they, for your sakes, my dear father and mother; but what is, is—and what can’t be helped, can’t—so we must make the best of it; but where’s Henry and my cousins?”

“They are walking in the park, Alfred: you had better join them; they are most anxious to see you.”

“I will, mother; let us get over these huggings and kissings, and then we shall be more rational: so good-bye for half an hour,” said Alfred, kissing his mother again, and then hastening out of the room.

“His spirits are not subdued, at all events,” observed Mrs Campbell. “I thank God for it.”

Alfred soon fell in with his brother and his cousins, Mary and Emma, and after the huggings and kissings, as he termed them, were over, he made inquiries into the real state of his father’s affairs. After a short conversation, Henry, who was very much depressed in his spirits, said, “Mary and Emma, perhaps you will now go in; I wish to have some conversation with Alfred.”

“You are terribly out of heart, Harry,” observed Alfred, after his cousins had left them. “Are things so very bad?”

“They are bad enough, Alfred; but what makes me so low-spirited is, that I fear my folly has made them worse.”

“How so?” replied Alfred.

“The fact is, that my father has but 1,700 pounds left in the world, a sum small enough; but what annoys me is this. When I was at college, little imagining such a reverse of fortune, I anticipated my allowance, because I knew I could pay at Christmas, and I ran in debt about 200 pounds. My father always cautioned me not to exceed my allowance, and thinks that I have not done so. Now, I cannot bear the idea of leaving college in debt, and, at the same time, it will be a heavy blow to my poor father, if he has to part with 200 pounds, out of his trifling remainder, to pay my debt. This is what has made me so unhappy. I cannot bear to tell him, because I feel convinced that he is so honourable, he will pay it immediately. I am mad with myself, and really do not know what to do. I do nothing but reproach myself all day, and I cannot sleep at night. I have been very foolish, but I am sure you will kindly enter into my present feelings. I waited till you came home, because I thought you had better tell my father the fact, for I feel as if I should die with shame and vexation.”

“Look you, Harry,” replied Alfred, “as for outrunning the constable, as we term it at sea, it’s a very common thing, and, all things considered, no great harm done, when you suppose that you have the means, and intend to pay; so don’t lay that to heart. That you would give your right hand not to have done so, as things have turned out, I really believe; but, however, there is no occasion to fret any more about it, I have received three years’ pay, and the prize-money for the last eighteen months, and there is still some more due, for a French privateer. Altogether it amounts to 250 pounds, which I had intended to have made over to my father, now that he is on a lee-shore; but it will come to the same thing, whether I give it to you to pay your debts, or give it to him, as he will pay them, if you do not; so here it is, take what you want, and hand me over what’s left. My father don’t know that I have any money, and now he won’t know it; at the same time he won’t know that you owe any; so that squares the account, and he will be as well off as ever.”

“Thank you, my dear Alfred; you don’t know what a relief this will be to my mind. Now I can look my father in his face.”

“I hope you will; we are not troubled with such delicate feelings on board ship, Harry. I should have told him the truth long before this. I couldn’t bear to keep anything on my conscience. If this misfortune had happened last cruise, I should have been just in your position; for I had a tailor’s bill to pay as long as a frigate’s pennant, and not enough in my pocket to buy a mouse’s breakfast. Now, let us go in again and be as merry as possible, and cheer them up a little.”

Alfred’s high spirits did certainly do much to cheer them all up; and after tea, Mr Campbell, who had previously consulted his wife, as soon as the servant had quitted the room, entered on a full explanation of the means which were left to them; and stated that he wished in his difficulty to put the question before the whole family, and ascertain whether any project might come into their heads upon which they might decide and act. Henry, who had recovered his spirits since the assistance he had received from Alfred, was desired to speak first. He replied:

“My dear father and mother, if you cannot between you hit upon any plan, I am afraid it is not likely that I can assist you. All I have to say is, that whatever may be decided upon, I shall most cheerfully do my duty towards you and my brothers and sisters. My education has not been one likely to be very useful to a poor man, but I am ready to work with my hands as well as with my head to the best of my abilities.”

“That I am sure of, my dear boy,” replied his father.

“Now, Alfred, we must look to you as our last hope, for your two cousins are not likely to give us much advice.”

“Well, father, I have been thinking a good deal about it, and I have a proposal to make which may at first startle you, but it appears to me that it is our only, and our best resource. The few hundred pounds which you have left are of no use in this country, except to keep you from starving for a year or two; but in another country they may be made to be worth as many thousands. In this country, a large family becomes a heavy charge and expense; in another country, the more children you have, the richer man you are. If, therefore, you would consent to transport your family and your present means into another country, instead of being a poor, you might be a rich man.”

“What country is that, Alfred?”

“Why, father, the purser of our ship had a brother, who, soon after the French were beaten out of the Canadas, went out there to try his fortune. He had only three hundred pounds in the world; he has been there now about four years, and I read a letter from him which the purser received when the frigate arrived at Portsmouth, in which he states that he is doing well, and getting rich fast; that he has a farm of five hundred acres, of which two hundred are cleared; and that if he only had some children large enough to help him, he would soon be worth ten times the money, as he would purchase more land immediately. Land is to be bought there at a dollar an acre, and you may pick and choose. With your money, you might buy a large property; with your children, you might improve it fast; and in a few years, you would, at all events, be comfortable, if not flourishing, in your circumstances. Your children would work for you, and you would have the satisfaction of knowing that you left them independent and happy.”

“I acknowledge, my dear boy, that you have struck upon a plan which has much to recommend it. Still there are drawbacks.”

“Drawbacks!” replied Alfred; “yes, to be sure there are. If estates were to be picked up for merely going out for them, there would not be many left for you to choose; but, my dear father, I know no drawbacks which cannot be surmounted. Let us see what these drawbacks are. First, hard labour; occasional privation; a log-hut, till we can get a better; severe winter; isolation from the world; occasional danger, even from wild beasts and savages. I grant these are but sorry exchanges for such a splendid mansion as this—fine furniture, excellent cooking, polished society, and the interest one feels for what is going on in our own country, which is daily communicated to us. Now, as to hard labour, I and Henry will take as much of that off your hands as we can; if the winter is severe, there is no want of firewood; if the cabin is rude, at least we will make it comfortable; if we are shut out from the world, we shall have society enough among ourselves; if we are in danger, we will have firearms and stout hearts to defend ourselves; and, really, I do not see but we may be very happy, very comfortable, and, at all events, very independent.”

“Alfred, you talk as if you were going with us,” said Mrs Campbell.

“And do you think that I am not, my dear mother? Do you imagine that I would remain here when you were there, and my presence would be useful? No, no! I love the service, it is true, but I know my duty, which is, to assist my father and mother: in fact, I prefer it; a midshipman’s ideas of independence are very great—and I had rather range the wilds of America free and independent than remain in the service and have to touch my hat to every junior lieutenant, perhaps for twenty years to come. If you go, I go, that is certain. Why, I should be miserable if you went without me; I should dream every night that an Indian had run away with Mary, or that a bear had eaten up my little Emma.”

“Well, I’ll take my chance of the Indian,” replied Mary Percival.

“And I of the bear,” said Emma. “Perhaps he’ll only hug me as tight as Alfred did when he came home.”

“Thank you, Miss, for the comparison,” replied Alfred, laughing.

“I certainly consider that your proposal, Alfred, merits due reflection,” observed Mrs Campbell. “Your father and I will consult, and perhaps by to-morrow morning we may have come to a decision. Now we had better all go to bed.”

“I shall dream of the Indian, I am sure,” said Mary.

“And I shall dream of the bear,” added Emma, looking archly at Alfred.

“And I shall dream of a very pretty girl that I saw at Portsmouth,” said Alfred.

“I don’t believe you,” replied Emma.

Shortly afterwards Mr Campbell rang the bell for the servants; family prayers were read, and all retired in good spirits.

The next morning they all met at an early hour; and after Mr Campbell had, as was his invariable rule, read a portion of the Bible, and a prayer of thankfulness, they sat down to breakfast. After breakfast was over, Mr Campbell said—

“My dear children, last night, after you had left us, your mother and I had a long consultation, and we have decided that we have no alternative left us but to follow the advice which Alfred has given; if, then, you are all of the same opinion as we are, we have resolved that we will try our fortunes in the Canadas.”

“I am certainly of that opinion,” replied Henry.

“And you, my girls?” said Mr Campbell.

“We will follow you to the end of the world, uncle,” replied Mary, “and try if we can by any means in our power repay your kindness to two poor orphans.”

Mr and Mrs Campbell embraced their nieces, for they were much affected by Mary’s reply.

After a pause, Mrs Campbell said—

“Now that we have come to a decision, we must commence our arrangements immediately. How shall we dispose of ourselves? Come, Alfred and Henry, what do you propose doing?”

“I must return immediately to Oxford, to settle my affairs, and dispose of my books and other property.”

“Shall you have sufficient money, my dear boy, to pay everything?” said Mr Campbell.

“Yes, my dear father,” replied Henry, colouring up a little.

“And I,” said Alfred, “presume that I can be of no use hers; therefore I propose that I should start for Liverpool this afternoon by the coach, for it is from Liverpool that we had better embark. I shall first write to our purser for what information he can procure, and obtain all I can at Liverpool from other people. As soon as I have anything to communicate, I will write.”

“Write as soon as you arrive, Alfred, whether you have anything to communicate or not; at all events, we shall know of your safe arrival.”

“I will, my dear mother.”

“Have you money, Alfred?”

“Yes, quite sufficient, father. I don’t travel with four horses.”

“Well, then, we will remain here to pack up, Alfred; and you must look out for some moderate lodgings for us to go into as soon as we arrive at Liverpool. At what time do the ships sail for Quebec?”

“Just about this time, father. This is March, and they will now sail every week almost. The sooner we are off the better, that we may be comfortably housed in before the winter.”

A few hours after this conversation, Henry and Alfred left the Hall upon their several destinations. Mr and Mrs Campbell and the two girls had plenty of employment for three or four days in packing up. It was soon spread through the neighbourhood that they were going to emigrate to Canada; and the tenants who had held their farms under Mr Campbell, all came forward and proffered their waggons and horses to transport his effects to Liverpool, without his being put to any expense.

In the meantime a letter had been received from Alfred, who had not been idle. He had made acquaintance with some merchants who traded to Canada, and by them had been introduced to two or three persons who had settled there a few years before, and who were able to give him every information. They informed him what was most advisable to take out; how they were to proceed upon their landing; and what was of more importance, the merchants gave him letters of introduction to English merchants at Quebec, who would afford them every assistance in the selecting and purchasing of land, and in their transport up the country. Alfred had also examined a fine timber-ship, which was to sail in three weeks; and had bargained for the price of their passage, in case they could get ready in time to go by her. He wrote all these particulars to his father, waiting for his reply to act upon his wishes.

Henry returned from Oxford, having settled his accounts, and with the produce of the sale of his classics and the other books in his pocket. He was full of spirits, and of the greatest assistance to his father and mother.

Alfred had shown so much judgment in all he had undertaken, that his father wrote to him stating that they would be ready for the ship which he named, and that he might engage the cabins, and also at once procure the various articles which they were advised to take out with them, and draw upon him for the amount, if the people would not wait for the money. In a fortnight they were all ready; the waggons had left with their effects some days before. Mr Campbell wrote a letter to Mr Douglas Campbell, thanking him for his kindness and consideration to them, and informing him that they should leave Wexton Hall on the following day. He only begged, as a favour, that the schoolmaster and schoolmistress of the village school should be continued on, as it was of great importance that the instruction of the poor should not be neglected; and added, that perceiving by the newspapers that Mr Douglas Campbell had lately married, Mrs Campbell and he wished him and his wife every happiness, etcetera, etcetera.

Having despatched this letter, there was nothing more to be done, previous to their departure from the Hall, except to pay and dismiss the few servants who were with them—for Mrs Campbell had resolved upon taking none, out with her.

That afternoon they walked round the plantation and park for the last time. Mrs Campbell and the girls went round the rooms of the Hall to ascertain that everything was left tidy, neat, and clean. The poor girls sighed as they passed by the harp and piano in the drawing-room, for they were old friends.

“Never mind, Mary,” said Emma; “we have our guitars, and may have music in the woods of Canada without harp or piano.”

The following morning, the coach, of which they had secured the whole of the inside, drove up to the Hall door, and they all got in, the tenants and poor people standing round them, all with their hats in their hands out of respect, and wishing them every success as they drove away through the avenue to the park gates. The Hall and the park itself had been long out of sight before a word was exchanged.

They checked their tears, but their hearts were too full for them to venture to speak.

The day afterwards they arrived at Liverpool, where Alfred had provided lodgings. Everything had been sent on board, and the ship had hauled out in the stream. As they had nothing to detain them on shore, and the captain wished to take advantage of the first fair wind, they all embarked, four days after their arrival at Liverpool; and I shall now leave them on board of the London Merchant, which was the name of the vessel, making all their little arrangements previous to their sailing, under the superintendence of Alfred, while I give some little more insight into the characters, ages, and dispositions of the family.


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