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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XVI Reason for Contentment

The next morning was bright and clear, and when Emma and Mary went out, attended by Alfred, to go and milk the cows, although the cold was intense, everything looked so brilliant and sparkling in the sunshine that they regained their spirits. The lake was still unfrozen, and its waters, which were of an azure blue, contrasted with the whole of the country covered with snow, and the spruce firs with their branches loaded presented an alternate layer of pure white and of the darkest green. Birds there were none to be seen or heard. All was quiet, so quiet that as they stepped along the path which had been cleared away to the cow-house, they almost started at the sound of their own voices, which the atmosphere rendered more peculiarly sonorous and ringing. Alfred had his rifle on his shoulder, and walked in front of his cousins.

“I have come to prove that all your fears are groundless, my dear Emma, and that you need not have any alarm about a skulking, cowardly wolf,” said Alfred.

“Well, that may be,” replied Emma, “but still we are very glad of your company.”

They arrived at the cow-house without any adventure, let loose Sancho, who had been tied up, as it was decided that the dog should remain at home with the others, and proceeded to milk the cows. Having finished that task and supplied them with fodder, Mary Percival observed, as they were retracing their steps, “I must say that it would not only be more convenient, but more agreeable if the cows were kept nearer to the house.”

“It would be, certainly,” replied Alfred. “It is a pity that there is not a cow-shed within the palisades; but we have no means of making one at present. Next year, when my father has purchased his horses and his sheep, which he talks of doing, we are to build a regular yard and sheds for all the animals close to the house, and palisaded round as the house now is, with a passage from one palisade to the other. Then it will be very convenient; but ‘Rome was not built in one day,’ and we must, therefore, wait another winter.”

“And be devoured by the wolves in the meantime,” replied Emma, laughing.

“Why, you are getting over your fright already, Emma.”

“Yes; I feel bold, now there is nothing to be afraid of.” The remainder of the week was passed away in practising upon the snow-shoes by the males of the party, the women scarcely ever venturing out of doors, as the cold was very severe. Mary and Emma were accompanied by Alfred for the first three or four days; and after that, notwithstanding that the howling of the wolves was heard every night, they took courage when they found that the animals never made their appearance by daylight, and went as before to milk the cows by themselves. On the Saturday, they were in the hopes of seeing old Malachi Bone, but he did not make his appearance, and John, who could now get on very well in his snow-shoes, became very impatient. Alfred and Martin were also very anxious to see the old man, that they might ascertain if he had made any discoveries relative to the Indians. Sunday, as usual, was a day of rest from labour; the services were read by Mr Campbell, and the evening passed in serious conversation. Mr Campbell, although usually in good spirits, was certainly not so on that evening. Whether it was that the severity of the winter which had set in and the known long duration of it which they had to encounter had an effect upon his spirits, he was melancholy as well as serious. He more than once referred to their former residence when in England, which was a very unusual thing for him to do, and by degrees the conversation was turned in that direction, and, although no one said so, they all felt what a change there was in their present position from that which they had been forced to leave. Mrs Campbell, who perceived that a gloom was gathering over the whole party, made several remarks tending to reconcile them to their present lot, and, after a time Mr Campbell observed, “Perhaps, my dear children, it may be a divine mercy which has sent you here to this wilderness; true it is that we are removed from civilisation, and shut up here by a severe winter, deprived of the enjoyments and pleasures which were to be found in the society which we were compelled to leave; but let us also bear in mind that we are removed from the many temptations which might have there assailed us.”

“But still, papa, you would be very glad if circumstances would permit us to return to England; would you not?” said Percival.

“Yes, my child, I should, and even if I had remained here so long as to have become attached to the place and to the isolation which at first is felt so irksome, I would still return to England and to society, if I had the means. As Christians, we are not to fly from the world and its temptations, but to buckle on our armour, and, putting our trust in Him who will protect us, fight the good fight; that is, doing our duty in that state of life to which it shall please God to call us.”

“But if ever we were to return to England, there would be no chance of our living as we did before we left it, would there, papa?”

“I see none, my dear boy; but we never know what is in store for us. Should any of us ever return, I presume it would be to live in a more humble way; and for my part, I should prefer that it were so, for although I trust I did not greatly misuse that wealth which I so long supposed to be mine, I should not be sorry to have much less, and therefore less responsibility.”

“Indeed, my dear Campbell, imperfect as we all are, I do not believe that many could have made a better use of it than you did.”

“I thought so at the time, my dear,” replied Mr Campbell, “but since it has been lost to me, I have often thought that I might have done more good with it. But the fact is, my dear children, there is nothing so dangerous to our eternal welfare as great wealth; it tends to harden the heart by affording the means of constant self-indulgence:—under such circumstances, man is apt to become selfish, easily satisfied with his own works, and too proud to see his errors. Did you observe in the Litany, which I read at this morning’s service, how very appropriately is inserted the prayer for deliverance under the perils of wealth?

“‘In all time of our tribulation, in all time of our wealth, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment, good Lord deliver us.’

“Examine this, my dear children: in all time of our tribulation,—that is in poverty and distress, and perhaps famishing from want (and in few positions are people so incited to crime), then in all time of our wealth, evidently and distinctly placing wealth as more dangerous to the soul’s welfare than the extremest poverty and its accompanying temptations; and observe, only exceeded by the most critical of all dangerous positions, when all has been done and nothing can be undone,—the hour of death, followed by the day of judgment.” Mr Campbell ceased speaking, and there was a pause for a minute or two in the conversation, when Mary Percival said, “What, then, my dear uncle, do you consider as the most enviable position in life?”

“I consider a moderate independence as the most enviable; not occupied in trade, as the spirit of barter is too apt to make us bend to that which is actually fraud. I should say, a country gentleman living on his own property and among his own tenants, employing the poor around him, holds a position in which he has the least temptation to do wrong, and the most opportunities of doing good.”

“I agree with you, my dear Campbell,” said his wife; “and yet how few are satisfied even with that lot.”

“Because the craving after wealth is so strong, that everyone would have more than he hath, and few men will be content. This desire of aggrandisement overcomes and masters us; and yet, what can be more absurd than to witness the care and anxiety of those to gain riches, who have already more, perhaps, than is necessary for their wants,—thus ‘heaping up riches, not knowing who may gather them,’ and endangering the soul to obtain that which they must leave behind them when they die. Others amass wealth, not actuated by the avarice of hoarding it up, but by the appetite for expending it; who collect unjustly that they may lavish profusely; these are equally foolish, and how important is that lesson given in the Scriptures.” Mr Campbell opened the Bible which lay before him and read—

“‘And he spake a parable unto them. The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully.

“‘And he said, What shall I do? because I have no room where to bestow my fruits.

“‘And he said: This will I do; I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.

“‘And I will say to my soul: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry.

“‘But God said unto him: Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.’”

After a short silence, Mr Campbell observed, “I have often reflected since I have been here upon what might have been our position had we decided upon remaining in England. We might at this moment have been in the greatest distress, even wanting a meal; and I have, therefore, often thanked God that he left us the means of coming here and providing for ourselves as we have done, and as I have no doubt shall, with His blessing, continue to do. How much better off are we at this moment than many thousands of our countrymen who remain in England? How many are starving? How many are driven into crime from want? while we have a good roof over our heads, sufficient clothing and more than sufficient food. We have, therefore, great reason to thank God for the mercies He has vouchsafed to us; He has heard our prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Yes,” continued Mr Campbell, “‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ is all that we are taught to ask for; and it comprehends all; and yet how heartlessly is this pronounced by many of those who do repeat their daily prayers. So is the blessing asked at meals, which is by too many considered as a mere matter of form. They forget, that He who gives can also take away; and in their presumption, suppose their own ability and exertion to have been the sole means of procuring themselves a daily supply of food; thanking themselves rather than the Giver of all good. How many thousands are there who have been supplied with more than they require from their cradle down to their grave, without any grateful feeling towards Heaven; considering the butcher and baker as their providers, and the debt cancelled as soon as the bills are paid. How different must be the feeling of the poor cottager, who is uncertain whether his labour may procure him and his family a meal for the morrow, who often suffers privation and hunger, and, what is more painful, witnesses the sufferings of those he loves. How earnest must be his prayer when he cries, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’”

This conversation had a very strong effect upon the party, and when they retired to rest, which they did shortly after, they laid their heads upon their pillows not only with resignation, but with thankfulness for the mercies which had been vouchsafed to them, and felt that in the wilderness, they were under the eye of a watchful and gracious Providence.

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