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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XIV Letters from England

After Alfred’s return from the fort, a few days passed away without any incident: Martin had paid a visit to Malachi Bone, who had promised that he would be on the look-out and would give immediate information and assistance in case of any hostile measures on the part of the Indians. He told Martin, that in a few days he would discover what had taken place and what might be looked forward to. When Martin returned with this communication, Alfred was satisfied, and did not acquaint anybody except his brother Henry with the information which he had received from Captain Sinclair.

The monotony of their life was, however, broken in upon by the arrival of a corporal from the fort, who was the bearer of the first dispatches which they had received since their arrival at the settlement. Letters, yes, letters, not only from Quebec but from England, were announced. The whole house was in confusion, all crowding round Mr Campbell while he unsealed the large packet. First a bundle of English newspapers from the Governor of Quebec—these were laid aside; a letter from Mr Campbell’s agent at Quebec—this was on business and could wait his leisure; then the letters from England—two long well-filled double letters from Miss Paterson to Mary and Emma; another from Mr Campbell’s agent in England, and a large one on foolscap paper with “On His Majesty’s Service,” directed to Mr Alfred Campbell. Each party seized upon their letters, and hastened on one side with them. Mrs Campbell being the only one who had no correspondent, anxiously watched the countenance of Alfred, who, after a hasty glance, cried out, “I am confirmed to my rank, my dear mother; I am a lieutenant in his Majesty’s service—huzza! Here’s a letter inclosed from Captain Lumley; I know his handwriting.” Alfred received the congratulations of the whole party, handed the official letter to his mother, and then commenced the perusal of the one from Captain Lumley. After a short silence, during which they were all occupied with their correspondence, Mr Campbell said, “I also have good news to communicate to you; Mr H. writes to me to say, that Mr Douglas Campbell, on finding the green-houses and hot-houses so well stocked, considers that he was bound to pay for the plants; that they have been valued at seven hundred pounds, and that he has paid that money into my agent’s hands. This is extremely liberal of Mr Douglas Campbell, and I certainly did not expect, as I found plants there on my taking possession, that I was entitled to any remuneration for what I left. However, I am too poor to refuse his offer from any feelings of delicacy, and shall therefore write and thank him for his generous behaviour.” Alfred had read the letter from Captain Lumley, which made him very thoughtful. The fact was, that his promotion and the observations in Captain Lumley’s letter had brought back all his former regret at having quitted the service, and he was very melancholy in consequence; but as his cousins read their letters aloud, he gradually recovered his spirits.

At last, all the letters were read, and then the newspapers were distributed. No more work was done that day, and in the evening they all sat round the kitchen fire and talked over the intelligence they had received until long after their usual time of retiring to bed.

“I have been thinking, my dear Emily,” said Mr Campbell the next morning, before they quitted their sleeping-room, “what a very seasonable supply of money this will be. My funds, as you have seen by the account of my Quebec agent, were nearly exhausted, and we have many things yet to procure. We shall require horses next year, and we must increase our stock in every way; indeed, if we could have another man or two, it would be very advantageous, as the sooner we clear the ground, the sooner we shall be independent.”

“I agree with you, Campbell; besides, we shall now have Alfred’s half-pay, poor fellow, which will help us very much; I have been thinking more of him than anything else this night: I watched him when he read Captain Lumley’s letter, and I well understood the cause of his seriousness for some time afterwards; I almost feel inclined to let him return to his profession; it would be painful parting with him, but the sacrifice on his part is very great.”

“Still it’s his duty,” replied Mr Campbell, “and, moreover, absolutely necessary at present, that he should remain with us. When we are more settled and more independent of his assistance we will talk over the subject.”

In the meantime, Mary and Emma had gone out as usual to milk the cows. It was a beautiful clear day, but there was a bracing air which cheered the spirits, and the sunshine was pleasantly warm in situations sheltered from the winds; one of the few fine days just before the rushing in of winter. They had milked their cows, and had just turned them out again, when they both sat down with their pails before them on a log, which was in front of Malachi’s lodge, now used as a cow-house.

“Do you know, Mary,” said Emma, after a pause, “I’m almost sorry that I have received a letter from Miss Paterson.”

“Indeed, dear Emma!”

“Yes, indeed, it has unsettled me. I did nothing but dream all last night. Everything was recalled to my mind—all that I most wished to forget. I fancied myself again engaged in all the pursuits of our much-loved home; I was playing the harp, you were accompanying on the piano as usual; we walked out in the shrubberies; we took an airing in the carriage; all the servants were before me; we went to the village and to the almshouses; we were in the garden picking dahlias and roses; I was just going up to dress for a very large dinner-party, and had rung the bell for Simpson, when I woke up, and found myself in a log-hut, with my eyes fixed upon the rafters and bark covering of the roof, thousands of miles from Wexton Hall, and half-an-hour longer in bed than a dairy-maid should be.”

“I will confess, my dear Emma, that I passed much such a night; old associations will rise up again when so forcibly brought to our remembrance as they have been by Miss Paterson’s letters, but I strove all I could to banish them from my mind, and not indulge in useless repining.”

“Repine, I do not, Mary, at least, I hope not, but one cannot well help regretting; I cannot help remembering, as Macduff says, that ‘such things were.’”

“He might well say so, Emma; for what had he lost? his wife and all his children, ruthlessly murdered; but what have we lost in comparison? nothing—a few luxuries. Have we not health and spirits? Have we not our kind uncle and aunt, who have fostered us—our cousins so attached to us?

“Had it not been for the kindness of our uncle and aunt, who have brought us up as their own children, should we, poor orphans, have ever been partakers of those luxuries which you now regret? Ought we not rather to thank Heaven that circumstances have enabled us to shew some gratitude for benefits heaped upon us? How much greater are these privations to my uncle and aunt now that they are so much more advanced in years, and have been so much longer accustomed to competence and ease; and shall we repine or even regret, unless it is on their account? surely, my dear Emma, not on our own.”

“I feel the truth of all you say, Mary,” replied Emma; “nay, all that you have now said passed in my own mind, and I have argued to myself in almost the same words, but I fear that I am not quite so much of a philosopher as you are; and, acknowledging that what you say is correct, I still have the same feeling—that is, I wish that I had not received the letter from Miss Paterson.”

“In that wish there can be no harm, for it is only wishing that you may not be tempted to repine.”

“Exactly, my dear Mary; I am a daughter of Eve,” replied Emma, laughing, and rising from her seat; “I will put away Miss Paterson’s letter, and I daresay in a day or two shall have forgotten all about it. Dear Alfred, how glad I am that he is promoted; I shall call him Lieutenant Campbell till he is sick of it. Come, Mary, or we shall be keeping my uncle waiting; come, Juno.”

Emma’s calling Juno to follow her, reminds me that I have not yet introduced the dogs to my little readers, and as they will have to play their parts in our history, I may as well do so at once. Captain Sinclair, it may be remembered, had procured five dogs for Mr Campbell from the officers of the fort,—two terriers, which were named Trim and Snob; Trim was a small dog and kept in the house, but Snob was a very powerful bull-terrier, and very savage; a fox-hound bitch, the one which Emma had just called Juno; Bully, a very fine young bull-dog, and Sancho, an old pointer. At night, these dogs were tied up; Juno in the store-house; Bully and Snob at the door of the house within the palisade; Trim indoors, and old Sancho at the lodge of Malachi Bone, where the cows were put in at night. Mr Campbell found it rather expensive at first feeding these dogs, but as soon as Martin and his companions brought home game, there was always plenty for them all. They were all very sharp and high-couraged dogs, for they had been born in the fort and had been brought up to hunting every kind of game indiscriminately; and I need hardly add that they were excellent watch-dogs, and considered by Mr Campbell as a great protection. For the next two days, the family remained rather unsettled; there was so much news in the newspapers; so many recollections brought up by their perusal; so much to talk about and discuss, that very little work was done. The weather, however, was now becoming much colder, and, for the last two days the sun had not shone. The sky was of one uniform murky solemn grey; and everything announced that the winter was close at hand. Martin who had been hunting, when he came home bid them prepare for an immediate change in the weather, and his prediction was speedily verified.

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