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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XXVI The Strawberry's Weddino


It was very nearly five weeks before Henry returned from his expedition to Montreal. During this time, the Colonel had repeated his visit and made arrangements with Mr Campbell. A party of twenty soldiers had been sent to work at felling timber and splitting rails, for whose services Mr Campbell paid as before. The winter house and palisade fence for the sheep were put in hand, and great progress was made in a short time, now that so many people were employed. They had also examined the stream for some distance, to ascertain which would be the most eligible site for the water-mill, and had selected one nearly half a mile from the shore of the lake, and where there was a considerable fall, and the stream ran with great rapidity. It was not, however, expected that the mill would be erected until the following year, as it was necessary to have a millwright and all the machinery from either Montreal or Quebec. It was intended that the estimate of the expense should be given in, the contract made, and the order given during the autumn, so that it might be all ready for the spring of the next year. It was on a Monday morning that Henry arrived from the fort, where he had stayed the Sunday, having reached it late on Saturday night. The bateaux, with the stock and stores, he had left at the fort; they were to come round during the day, but Henry’s impatience to see the family would not allow him to wait. He was, as may be supposed, joyfully received, and, as soon as the first recognitions were over, he proceeded to acquaint his father with what he had done. He had obtained from a Canadian farmer forty ewes of very fair stock, although not anything equal to the English; but the agent had worked hard for him, and procured him twenty English sheep and two rams of the best kind, to improve the breed. For the latter he had to pay rather dear, but they were worth any money to Mr Campbell, who was quite delighted with the acquisition. In selecting the sheep, of course Henry was obliged to depend on the agent and the parties he employed, as he was no judge himself; but he had, upon his own judgment, purchased two Canadian horses, for Henry had been long enough at Oxford to know the points of a horse, and as they turned out, he had made a very good bargain. He had also bought a sow and pigs of an improved breed, and all the other commissions had been properly executed; the packages of skins also realised the price which had been put on them. As it may be supposed, he was full of news, talking about Montreal, the parties he had been invited to, and the people with whom he had become acquainted. He had not forgotten to purchase some of the latest English publications for his cousins, besides a few articles of millinery, which he thought not too gay, for their present position. He was still talking, and probably would have gone on talking for hours longer, so many were the questions which he had to reply to, when Martin came in and announced the arrival of the bateaux with the stores and cattle, upon which they all went down to the beach to see them disembarked and brought up by the soldiers, who were at work. The stores were carried up to the door of the store-house, and the sheep and horses were turned into the prairie with the cows. A week’s rations for the soldiers were also brought up from the fort, and the men were very busy in the distribution, and carrying them to the little temporary huts of boughs which they had raised for their accommodation, during the time they worked for Mr Campbell. Before the evening set in everything was arranged, and Henry was again surrounded by the family and replying to their remaining interrogatories. He told them that the Governor of Montreal had sent them an invitation to pass the winter at Government House, and promised the young ladies that no wolf should venture to come near to them, and that the aides-de-camp had requested the honour of their hands at the first ball which should be given after their arrival, at which they all laughed heartily. In short, it appeared that nothing could equal the kindness and hospitality which had been shewn to him, and that there was no doubt, if they chose to go there, that it would be equally extended to the other members of the family.

There was a pause in the conversation, when Malachi addressed Mr Campbell.

“Martin wishes me to speak to you, sir,” said Malachi.

“Martin,” said Mr Campbell, looking round for him, and perceiving that he was not in the room; “why, yes, I perceive he is gone out. What is it that he cannot say himself?”

“That’s just what I said to him,” replied Malachi; “but he thought it were better to come through me; the fact is, sir, that he has taken a liking to the Strawberry, and wishes to make her his wife.”

“Indeed!”

“Yes, sir; I don’t think that he would have said anything about it as yet, but you see, there are so many soldiers here, and that makes him feel uncomfortable till the thing is settled; and as he can’t well marry while in your service without your leave, he has asked me to speak about it.”

“Well, but the Strawberry is your property, not mine, Malachi.”

“Yes, sir, according to Injun fashion, I am her father; but I’ve no objection, and shan’t demand any presents for her.”

“Presents for her! why we in general give presents or money with a wife,” said Emma.

“Yes, I know you do, but English wives an’t Injun wives; an English wife requires people to work for her and costs money to keep, but an Injun wife works for herself and her husband, so she is of value and is generally bought of the father; I reckon in the end that it’s cheaper to pay for an Injun wife than to receive money with an English one; but that’s as may be.”

“That’s not a very polite speech of yours, Malachi,” said Mrs Campbell.

“Perhaps it an’t, ma’am, but it is near the mark, nevertheless. Now I am willing that Martin should have the Strawberry, because I know that he is a smart hunter, and will keep her well; and somehow or another, I feel that if he made her his wife, I should be more comfortable; I shall live with them here close by, and Martin will serve you, and when he has a wife he will not feel inclined to change service and go into the woods.”

“I think it is an excellent proposal, Malachi, and am much pleased with it, as we now shall have you all together,” said Mrs Campbell.

“Yes, ma’am, so you will, and then I’ll be always with the boy to look after him, and you’ll always know where we are, and not be frightened.”

“Very true, Malachi,” said Mr Campbell; “I consider it a very good arrangement. We must build you a better lodge than the one that you are in.”

“No, sir, not a better one, for if you have all you want, you can’t want more; it’s big enough, but perhaps not quite near enough. I’m thinking that when the sheep-fold is finished, it might be as well to raise our lodge inside of the palisades, and then we shall be a sort of guard to the creatures.”

“A very excellent idea, Malachi. Well, then, as far as I am concerned, Martin has my full consent to marry as soon as he pleases.”

“And mine, if it is at all necessary,” observed Mrs Campbell.

“But who is to marry them?” said Emma; “they have no chaplain at the fort; he went away ill last year.”

“Why, miss, they don’t want no chaplain; she is an Injun girl, and he will marry her Injun fashion.”

“But what fashion is that, Malachi?” said Mary.

“Why, miss, he’ll come to the lodge, and fetch her away to his own house.”

Alfred burst out into laughter. “That’s making short work of it,” said he.

“Yes, rather too short for my approval,” said Mrs Campbell. “Malachi, it’s very true that the Strawberry is an Indian girl; but we are not Indians, and Martin is not an Indian, neither are you who stand as her father; indeed, I cannot consent to give my sanction to such a marriage.”

“Well, ma’am, as you please, but it appears to me to be all right. If you go into a country and wish to marry a girl of that country, you marry her according to the rules of that country. Now, Martin seeks an Injun squaw, and why not, therefore, marry her after Injun fashion?”

“You may be right, Malachi, in your argument,” said Mrs Campbell; “but still you must make allowances for our prejudices. We never should think that she was a married woman, if no further ceremony was to take place.”

“Well, ma’am, just as you please; but, still, suppose you marry them after your fashion, the girl won’t understand a word that is said, so what good will it do?”

“None to her at present, Malachi; but recollect, if she is not a Christian at present, she may be hereafter; I have often thought upon that subject, and although I feel it useless to speak to her just now, yet as soon as she understands English well enough to know what I say to her, I hope to persuade her to become one. Now, if she should become a Christian, as I hope in God she will, she then will perceive that she has not been properly married, and will be anxious to have the ceremony properly performed over again; so why not do it now?”

“Well, ma’am, if it pleases you, I have no objection; I’m sure Martin will have none.”

“It will please me very much, Malachi,” replied Mrs Campbell.

“And although there is no chaplain at the fort,” observed Mr Campbell, “yet the Colonel can marry in his absence; a marriage by a commanding officer is quite legal.”

“Yes,” replied Alfred, “and so is one by a Captain of a man-of-war.”

“So be it then,” replied Malachi; “the sooner the better, for the soldiers are very troublesome, and I cannot keep them out of my lodge.”

Martin, who had remained outside the door, and overheard all that passed, now came in; the subject was again canvassed, and Martin returned his thanks for the permission given to him.

“Well,” said Emma, “I little thought we should have a wedding in the family so soon; this is quite an event. Martin, I wish you joy; you will have a very pretty and a very good wife.”

“I think so too, miss,” replied Martin.

“Where is she?” said Mary.

“She is in the garden, miss,” said Malachi, “getting out of the way of the soldiers; now that the work is done, they torment her not a little, and she is glad to escape from them; I’d tell them to go away, but they don’t mind me; they know I must not use my rifle.”

“I should hope not,” replied Mrs Campbell; “it would be hard to shoot a good man merely because he wished to marry your daughter.”

“Why, yes, ma’am, it would,” replied Malachi; “so the sooner she is given to Martin, the sooner we shall have peace.”

As the boat was continually going backwards and forwards between the fort and the farm, Mr Campbell wrote to the Colonel, stating what they wished him to do, and the Colonel appointed that day week, on which he would come and perform the ceremony. It was a little fête at the farm. Mrs Campbell and the Misses Percival dressed themselves more than usually smart, so did all the males of the establishment; and a better dinner than usual was prepared, as the Colonel and some of the officers were to dine and spend the day with them. Martin was very gaily attired, and in high spirits. The Strawberry had on a new robe of young deer-skin, and had a flower or two in her long black hair; she looked as she was, very pretty and very modest, but not at all embarrassed. The marriage ceremony was explained to her by Malachi, and she cheerfully consented. Before noon the marriage took place, and an hour or two afterwards they sat down to a well-furnished table, and the whole party were very merry, particularly as the Colonel, who was most unusually gay, insisted upon the Strawberry sitting at the table, which she had never done before. She acquitted herself, however, without embarrassment, and smiled when they laughed, although she could understand but little of what they said. Mr Campbell opened two of his bottles of wine, to celebrate the day, and they had a very happy party; the only people who were discontented were three or four of the soldiers outside, who had wanted to marry the Strawberry themselves; but the knowledge that their Colonel was there, effectually put a stop to anything like annoyance or disturbance on their parts. At sunset the Colonel and officers departed for the fort, the family remained in the house till past ten o’clock, by which time all the soldiers had gone to bed. Mr Campbell then read prayers, and offered up an additional one for the happiness of the newly married couple, after which they all saluted the Strawberry and wished her good night; she was then led to the lodge by Martin, accompanied by Alfred, Henry, Malachi, Percival, and John, who all went home with them as a guard from any interruption on the part of the disappointed suitors.


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