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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XIII Captain Sinclair's Warning

In the course of a week or two, things found their places, and the family began to feel more comfortable; there was, also, a degree of regularity and order established, which could not be effected during the time that the soldiers were employed. Mrs Campbell and Percival took upon them all the work inside and round the house during the morning; the latter attending to the pigs and fowls, bringing water from the stream, etcetera. Mary and Emma milked the cows, and then assisted their mother during the day in washing, etcetera. Mr Campbell instructed Percival, worked in the garden, and assisted as much as he could where he might be found most useful; but he was too advanced in years to be capable of much hard work. Alfred, Henry, and Martin Super were employed during the whole day clearing the ground and felling the timber; but every other day, one or the other went out with Martin into the woods to procure food, bringing home with them deer, wild turkeys, or other game, which, with an occasional piece of salt-pork, and the fish caught, were sufficient for the family consumption. Percival was now permitted to accompany the hunting-parties, and became somewhat expert with his rifle. He required only a little more practice to be a good shot.

They rose at half-past five,—were all assembled to prayers at half-past seven, previous to going to breakfast. They dined at one, and had a combined tea and supper at seven o’clock. At nine o’clock they went to bed. Before two months had passed away, everything went on like clockwork. One day passed away so like another, that the time flew imperceptibly, and they wondered that the Sundays came round so quick. They had now time to unpack everything, and the books which Mrs Campbell had selected and brought with her had been arranged on shelves in the parlour; but they had not as yet much time to read, and were generally too tired before the day was over not to long for their beds. Indeed, the only interval of leisure during the whole day was between supper and bedtime, when they would all assemble in the kitchen and talk over the little matters which had occurred either during the chase or at home. But they were now in the middle of October, the winter was fast approaching, and they looked forward to it with some degree of anxiety.

John had kept his word very sacredly. He was occasionally absent for three or four days, but, if so, he invariably came to the house and remained a day or two at home. Alfred and Martin had long finished the fishing-punt, and as it was light and easily handled, Henry and Percival went out in it together, and when he was at home, John with Percival would pull half a mile out into the lake, and soon return with a supply of large fish. Mrs Campbell, therefore, had salted down sufficient to fill a barrel for the winter’s use.

One day they were agreeably surprised by Captain Sinclair making his appearance. He had walked from the fort, to communicate to them that the hay had been gathered in, and would be sent round in a day or two, and also to inform Mr Campbell that the commandant could spare them a young bullock, if he would wish to have it for winter provision. This offer was gladly accepted, and, having partaken of their dinner, Captain Sinclair was obliged to return to the fort, he being that night on duty. Previous, however, to his return, he had some conversation with Martin Super, unobserved by the rest of the party. Afterwards he invited Alfred to walk back to the fort with him and return on the following morning.

Alfred agreed to do so; and two hours before it was dark they set off, and as soon as they were on the opposite side of the brook they were joined by Martin Super.

“My reasons for asking you to come back with me were twofold,” said Captain Sinclair to Alfred. “In the first place, I wish you to know the road to the fort, in case it should be necessary to make any communication during the winter; secondly, I wished to have some conversation with you and Martin relative to information we have received about the Indians. I can tell you privately what I was unwilling to say before your mother and cousins, as it would put them in a state of restlessness and anxiety, which could avail nothing, and only annoy them. The fact is, we have for some time had information that the Indians have held several councils. It does not appear, however, that they have as yet decided upon any thing, although it is certain that they have gathered together in large numbers not very far from the fort. No doubt but they have French emissaries inciting them to attack us. From what we can learn, however, they have not agreed among themselves, and, therefore, in all probability, nothing will be attempted until next year, for the autumn is their season for sending out their war-parties. At the same time, there is no security, for there is a great difference between a junction of all the tribes against us and a common Indian war party. We must, therefore, be on the alert, for we have a treacherous foe to deal with. And now, for your portion of interest in this affair. If they attack the fort, which they may do, notwithstanding our treaties with them, you of course would not be safe where you are; but, unfortunately, you may not be safe even if we are not molested; for when the Indians collect (even though the main body decide upon nothing), there are always bands of five to ten Indians, who, having left their homes, will not return if they can help it without some booty; these are not regular warriors, or if warriors, not much esteemed by the tribe, in fact, they are the worst classes of Indians, who are mere robbers and banditti. You must, therefore be on the look-out for the visits of these people. It is fortunate for you that old Bone has shifted his abode so many miles to the westward, and that you are on such good terms with him, as it is not very likely that any party of Indians can approach you without his meeting with them or their track during his excursions.”

“That’s true, Captain,” observed Martin, “and I will go myself and put him on his guard.”

“But, will they not attack him before they attack us?” said Alfred.

“Why should they?” replied Sinclair. “He is as much an Indian almost as they are, and is well known to most of them. Besides, what would they gain by attacking him? These straggling parties, which you have to fear, are in quest of booty, and will not expect to find anything in his wigwam except a few furs. No, they will not venture near his rifle, which they fear, when there is nothing to be obtained by so doing. I mention this to you, Alfred, that you may be prepared, and keep a sharp look-out. It is very possible that nothing of the kind may occur, and that the winter may pass away without any danger, and I mention it to you and Martin, as I consider that the probabilities are not sufficient to warrant your alarming the other members of the family, especially the female portion of it. How far you may consider it advisable to communicate what has now passed to your father and Henry, it is for you to decide. As I said before, I do not imagine you have much to fear from a general attack; it is too late in the year, and we know that the councils broke up without coming to any decision. You have only to fear the attempts of small parties of marauders, and I think you are quite strong enough, both in numbers and in the defences of your habitation, to resist them successfully, if you are not suddenly surprised. That is all that you have to fear; and now that you are warned, half the danger is over.”

“Well, Captain, I’ll leave you now,” said Martin, “I shall go over to old Malachi’s to-night; for it occurs to me that any attack is more likely to be made between the fall of the leaf and the fall of the snow than afterwards; so the sooner I put Malachi on his guard the better. Good evening, sir.”

Captain Sinclair and Alfred continued on their way to the fort. They had contracted a strong friendship, and were unreserved in their communication with each other.

“You have no idea, Alfred,” said Captain Sinclair, “how the peculiar position of your family occupies my thoughts. It really appears almost like madness on the part of your father to bring out your mother and cousins to such a place, and expose them to such privations and dangers. I can hardly sleep at night when I reflect upon what might happen.”

“I believe,” replied Alfred, “that if my father had known exactly what his present position would have been, he would have decided upon not leaving England; but you must remember that he came out with much encouragement, and the idea that he would only have to surmount the hardships of a settler in clearing his land. He fancied, at least, I’m sure we all did, that we should be surrounded by other farmers, and have no particular danger to incur. When at Quebec, he found that all the good land near to civilisation was bought up or possessed by the French Canadians; he was advised to come further westward by those who ought to have been aware of what he would have to encounter by so doing, but who probably considered that the danger we now apprehend no longer existed; and he has followed that advice, which I have no doubt was conscientiously given. I think myself, even now, that the advice was good, although we are accompanied by females who have been brought up in so different a sphere, and for whose welfare such anxiety is shown; for observe now, Sinclair, suppose, without having made our acquaintance, you had heard that some settlers, men and women, had located themselves where we have done; should you have considered it so very rash an undertaking, presuming that they were merely farmers and farmers’ wives?”

“I certainly should have troubled myself very little about them, and perhaps not thought upon the subject.”

“But supposing that the subject had been brought up at the fort, and you heard that the parties had a stockaded house and four or five good rifles to depend upon, with the fort to fall back upon if necessary?”

“I admit that I should most probably have said that they were in a position to protect themselves.”

“Most assuredly, and therefore we are equally so; your feelings of interest in us magnify the danger, and I therefore trust that in future you will not allow our position to interfere with your night’s rest.”

“I wish I could bring myself to that feeling of security Alfred. If I were only with you, to assist in protecting them, I should sleep sound enough.”

“Then you would not be of much use as a watch,” replied Alfred, laughing. “Never fear, Sinclair, we shall do well enough,” continued he, “and if we require assistance, we will apply for you and a party of soldiers.”

“There would be much difficulty about that, Alfred,” replied Captain Sinclair; “if there were sufficient danger to make that demand upon the commandant, the same danger would require that he should not weaken his force in the fort; no, you would have to retreat to the fort, and leave your farm to the mercy of the Indians.”

“It certainly would be the wisest plan of the two,” replied Alfred; “at all events, we could send the women. But the Indians have not come yet, and we must hope that they will not.”

The conversation was then changed, and in half-an-hour more they arrived at the fort.

Alfred was welcomed at the fort by Colonel Forster, with whom he was a great favourite. The Colonel could not refrain from expressing his opinion that Mr Campbell and his family were in a position of some danger, and lamenting that the female portion of the family, who had been brought up with such very different prospects, should be so situated. He even ventured to hint that if Mrs Campbell and the two Misses Percival would pass the winter in the fort, he would make arrangements to accommodate them. But Alfred at once replied that he was convinced no inducement would persuade his mother or cousins to leave his father; they had shared his prosperity, and they would cling to him in his adversity; that they all were aware of what they would have to risk before they came out, and his father preferred a life of honourable independence attended with danger, to seeking the assistance of others.

“But still I cannot perceive any reason for the ladies remaining to encounter the danger.”

“The more we are, the stronger we are to repel danger.”

“But women, surely, will only be an incumbrance!”

“I think differently,” replied Alfred. “Young and delicate as my cousins are, they will not shrink any more than my mother when their services are required. They now can all of them use a rifle, if required, and to defend a house, a determined woman is almost as effective as a man. Depend upon it, if it comes to the necessity, they will do so. You see, therefore, Colonel, that by taking away our ladies, you will weaken our force,” continued Alfred, laughing.

“Well, I will press it no more. Only recollect that I shall always be ready to send you any assistance when required.”

“I have been thinking, Colonel Forster, that, as we have no horses at present, if you have any rockets, they might be useful in such a case. At the distance we are from you a rocket would be seen immediately if fired at night, and I promise you, that it shall not be fired without great necessity.”

“I am glad that you have mentioned it, Alfred; you shall have a dozen to take with you. You go back with the boats that carry the hay to-morrow morning, do you not?”

“Yes; I shall take that opportunity, to save wearing out my shoes, as we have no cobbler near to us. I presume it will be the last trip made by the boats this season.”

“Yes,” replied the Colonel, “the frost will soon set in now. In another fortnight we shall probably be visited with a heavy fall of snow, and the ground will then be covered till the spring. But I suppose we shall see or hear from you occasionally?”

“Yes; as soon as I can push along in my snow-shoes, I will pay you a visit,” replied Alfred, “but I have that art to learn yet.”

The following morning the sky was clear and the day brilliant. The sun shone upon the dark scarlet-tinged foliage of the oaks, and through the transparent yellow leaves of the maple. A slight frost had appeared for two or three mornings about a month back, and now they were enjoying what was termed the Indian summer, which is a return of fair and rather warm weather for a short time previous to the winter setting in. The soldiers were busy carrying the hay down to the bateaux, and, before noon, Alfred bade farewell to Colonel Forster and the other officers of the fort, and, accompanied by Captain Sinclair, went down to embark. All was ready, and Alfred stepped into the boat; Captain Sinclair being on duty and not able to accompany him back.

“I shall not fail to give directions to the sentries about the rockets, Alfred,” said Captain Sinclair, “and so tell your mother and cousins; and mind to shew them how to fire them off from out of the barrel of a musket. Good-bye; God bless you, my dear fellow.”

“Good-bye,” replied Alfred, as the boats pulled from the shore.

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