"Preserve the dignity of man
With soul erect,
And trust the universal plan
Will all protect."
IN January, 1844, Sandy
McGregor received the following letter:—
Dear Sir,—I address you
with some diffidence, notwithstanding a pleasant recollection of a very
kind and hospitable reception tendered me when in Canada two years ago,
for I feel it is one thing to extend the hospitality which may be tendered
any guest and another to grant the boon for which I am about to pray.
I love your daughter, Sir, and crave your permission to address her.
Personally you are not unacquainted with me, and I dare to hope that what
you know is in my favour. Mr. Wilson will write you that from inquiries he
has made he can state that I am able to comfortably provide for a wife,
and that I come of a race whose wives and daughters are cherished, and
guarded from the cauld blasts.
I have as yet addressed no
word of affection to your daughter, feeling that away from home as she is,
it would be taking an unfair advantage and having—as I have just
acknowledged— been hospitably treated by you, I do as I would wish to done
by, and anxiously wait your reply.
I am, Sir, Your very humble
"Dear Sir,—I was waited on
this morning by Mr. Philip Maxwell, whom you will remember having been in
Perth two years ago. He has been stopping in the neighborhood, and Mrs.
Wilson and myself have made him welcome at the Manse. In many ways he has
assisted in our efforts to make Phemie's visit pleasant, in fact Mrs.
Wilson and myself are indebted to him for valuable aid to this end.
This morning he astonished
me much by preferring a request that I would write you, favoring an
affirmative reply to his own letter to you. Knowing what I do of Mr.
Maxwell I could not— nor would I wish to—refuse his request. Personally I
have found him here all that you knew of him while in Perth. As to his
means and social standing, he has demonstrated to me that they, are all
the most exacting parents could ask.
What Phemie will think of
it, of course I do not know; the secrets of a maiden's heart are well
guarded, nor would we wish to pry. Lord Kinburn has also been calling
here, and the Honorable Jack Herries, who will be Lord Jedburg. If ever
again I undertake the guardianship of a Canadian young lady I shall build
the same kind of a wall round the Manse Mr. Radenhurst built round his
grounds, and engage an Argus to watch the gate.
Now, my dear Sir, having
unburdened myself, I will hope to hear from you by return ship, as I shall
rest on nettles until I do. I do not urge the acceptance of Mr. Maxwell's
proposal; I have done all I can conscientiously, and that is to tell you
from every inquiry I have made I cannot find the slightest thing to object
Mrs. Wilson and bairns send
love to Mrs. McGregor, And I remain, etc.,
"Weel, Elspeth, what'll ye
think o' 't?" asked Sandy, when both letters had been read.
"I'll aye kenned Phemie wad
no' mak' 's ashamed," said Elspeth, which is really the highest form of
praise a Highlander ever gives anything belonging to themselves.
"We'll hae t' say aye or
nay till yon Maxwell lad b' th' nex' mail ganging oot; what'll it be?"
"What'll ye think, Sandy?"
"Nay, lass, I'll left 't t'
yersel'; th' mither suld ken best what's f'r a lassie's guid," Sandy said;
"there's th' twa lairds, what 'll ye think o' thae?"
"You'll say th' first say,
Sandy, gin I'll no' agree wi' ye, I'll quick tell ye," said Elspeth.
"Weel, I'll say 't whilk
ever ane th' lassie her-sel' 'll say aye to 'll please me. Mr. Wilson 'll
no' say what like lads yon Herries and Laird Kinburn 'll be, aiblins we'll
no' hae t' hae dealin's wi' thae 'till th'll ask. I'll wad say 't th'
Maxwell lad, wha we'll ken, 's a douce, decent, sober chiel, gin th'
lassie says aye, we'll no' object."
"It's what I'll thocht o'
Sandy," said Elspeth; "a lassie 'll hae na coomfort oot o' a leddyship gin
her hairt 's deid, 'n Philip Maxwell 's a braw lad, gin th' lassie 'll hae
a fancy f'r 'm, aiblins I'll thocht 'twas Jean he'll wanted."
"It'll be haird t' tell; th'
be canny fowk thae lads whiles th're coortin'; th'll be near 's haird t'
guess at as th' lassies themsels, an' ye'll ken, gude-wife, a mon 'll no'
ever ken whaur till fin' your kin'."
To hide a smile at this,
Elspeth arose, got the pen, ink and paper, and a letter was written the
receipt of which gladdened Philp Maxwell.
Then a letter inclosing
Philip's was despatched to Rob; this I am sorry to relate did not reach
him, the courier-de-bois, who had the mail in charge, drank too much
"whiskey blanc," and when lighting his pipe let a match fall on the canvas
mail sack with fatal results. And this was just as well, for it was
something Rob would not have understood, and in eighteen hundred and
forty-four it was more difficult than now—in the dawn of the twentieth
century—to ask a man what he meant, across a thousand miles of ocean. So
Rob went from the shanty to Boston with nothing more disturbing on his
mind than what we already know, to be sure this is enough.
But Rob was under his own
tuition, and he was an excellent schoolmaster. This compulsory
renunciation was doing him good; he was throwing all his energies into the
busiest sort of an outside life, he was seeing and hearing everything
within sight and hearing. He had schemes for extending and developing many
industrial branches, had interests in mills manufacturing wooden articles
of different sorts, from doors and shutters to toothpicks ; and had talked
with John Roach of a shipyard at Quebec.
Small business tricks found
no place in his plans, men who had been years in the business world and
who considered everything that succeeded (that is, that lined their
pockets) right, quailed before a few words from McGregor, who, though
little more than a boy in years, had a curt way of expressing himself when
a questionable transaction was broached, that caused the proposer to
shrink into such insignificance, that those listening—perhaps having
started out to endorse the scheme—dropped it very quickly, at least so far
as McGregor was concerned.
transactions we do not mean robbing hen roosts or issuing counterfeit coin
; uttering a counterfeit sixpence and stealing chickens are mild forms of
crime compared with some of the schemes floated in the forties, as
centuries ago, and as now. We of Upper Canada, in the instance of the Bank
of Upper Canada, had a taste of what Canadians are capable of formulating
and executing in this line, and of how far they will go without any sort
of punishment being meted out to them.
It was this sort of thing
that Rob McGregor discountenanced. His name could not be dragged through
the mire of a business transaction, the blocking out of which had a
Mephistophilean aroma. Very soon the class of men around whom there is an
all-pervading odor of brimstone went elsewhere with their conspiracies,
while many who had been dupes or careless about their names and
associates, dropped objectionable associates—even though they were "good
fellows"—and began to demand that the spirit of the law should be obeyed.
As a little leaven will in time leaven the whole lump, so the influence of
one righteous man will in time purify a wide business circle.
Rob's word was as good as
his bond; he was of the lineage of the "Bleeding Heart," and as Lord James
Douglas carried over land and over flood, and into the thick of battle,
the heart of his dead King, because he had so promised, so personal
considerations weighed nothing with Rob in a scale where a promise was in
In Boston he was urged to
become an American citizen, and many very flattering and alluring
prospects were held out. In a country where the Chief Magistracy is in the
gift of the people, a man has many chances to distinguish himself, and
there were certainly inducements that demanded consideration.
And Rob did consider the
case on its merits; for himself he might do well to go, for Canada it was
possible for him to do well by staying. Suppose half of her lads deserted
her, where in one hundred years would she be, this mother of stalwart
sons? Sitting in the ashes of hopes that had had no fruition. She, the
mother, had given of her best; she had nurtured them, from her they had
drawn sustenance. Should they act the part of ingrate and carry away to an
alien land this the mother had given them— sturdy robust manhood?—leaving
the mother to fill the old home with adopted children, who by-and-bye
might do what they would with her.
Others might, but no' oor
Rob, he said to those who talked to him.
"Th'll be wark eneuch 't
hame, an' th'll be places in Canada f'r a mon gin he'll hae ability,
aiblins we'll be gude friens. I like your country, an' I like your people,
tho'—exceptin' th' trips I'll mak doon till see hoo a' things 'll
gang—I'll bide at hame."
And this decision in no
wise decreased their respect for Robert McGregor.