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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XXIV Captain Sinclair Leaves Canada

A notice arrived that the departure of the boat to Montreal would take place on the next morning. When the boat came up, it brought Captain Sinclair, to the great delight of the whole party, who had felt very anxious about one with whom they had so long been intimate and who had shewn them so much kindness. His knee was almost well, and, as soon as the first interrogations were over, he made known to them that he had obtained six weeks’ leave of absence, and was about to proceed to Quebec.

“To Quebec!” cried Emma, “and why are you going to Quebec?”

“To confess the truth, Emma,” said Captain Sinclair, “my journey to Quebec is but the preparatory step to my return to England, for perhaps two or three months.”

“To England! Oh! how I wish—” but here Emma stopped; she was going to say how much she wished that she was going also, but her uncle and aunt were present, and, recollecting that it might pain them and induce them to think that she was discontented, she added, “that you would bring me out all the new fashions.”

“All the new fashions, my dear Emma?” said Henry. “Why, do you wish to be fashionably dressed in the woods of Canada?”

“Why not?” exclaimed Emma, who felt that she must appear to be very foolish, but could not get out of her scrape.

“I can look at myself in the glass at all events.”

“I will try to bring you out something which will give you pleasure,” replied Captain Sinclair, “but as for the fashions, I know you are only joking, by your trusting a person so incompetent as I am to select them.”

“Well, I do not think you would execute my commission very well, so I will not trouble you,” replied Emma; “and now let us know why you are going to England.”

“My dear Emma,” said Mr Campbell, “you ought not to put such questions; Captain Sinclair has his own reasons, I have no doubt.”

“It is very true that I have my own reasons,” replied Captain Sinclair, “and, as I have no secrets, I will with pleasure gratify Emma’s curiosity. I do not know whether you are aware that I was an orphan at a very early age, and have been under the charge of a guardian. When my father died, he left directions in his will that I was not to take possession of my property till I was twenty-five years of age. I was twenty-five years old last year, and my guardian has written requesting me to come home, that he may be relieved of his responsibility, by making over to me the trust which has been confided to him.”

“Will it detain you long?” inquired Mr Campbell.

“It must not. It is very difficult to obtain leave of absence from your regiment in time of war. It is only through interest that I do so now. On my arrival at Quebec, the Governor will put me on his staff, and then he will give me leave. I shall not stay longer than is necessary, as I am anxious to be with my regiment again. You may, therefore, be certain that, if I am spared, I shall be with you again before the winter, if not much sooner. So now if you have really any commission for me to execute, I can only say I shall be most happy to comply with your wishes to the best of my ability.”

“Well,” observed Emma, “we really were not aware that Captain Sinclair was a man of fortune. You think now you will come back,” continued she, gravely, “but if once you get to England, you will remain, and forget all about Canada.”

“My fortune is not very large,” replied Captain Sinclair; “in England, hardly sufficient to induce a young lady of fashion to look upon me, although enough, perhaps, for a sensible woman to be happy upon. My fortune, therefore, will not detain me in England, and, as I said before, my greatest wish is to rejoin my regiment.”

“Whether you come back or remain,” observed Mr Campbell, “you will always have our best wishes, Captain Sinclair. We are not ungrateful for your kindness to us.”

“Nor shall I forget the many happy hours I have passed in your society,” replied Captain Sinclair; “but we shall be melancholy if we talk too long upon the subject. The boat cannot remain more than two hours, and Henry must be ready by that time. The Commandant is anxious that we should start for Montreal this very evening.”

“Then, indeed, we have no time to lose,” observed Mr Campbell; “Henry, get your trunk ready, and Martin will take it down into the boat before we sit down to dinner. It will be a long while before we have you to dine with us again,” continued Mr Campbell to Captain Sinclair; “but I wish you your health and much happiness till you return. Come, girls, look after the dinner. Mary! where’s Mary?”

“She went into the room a few minutes ago,” said Emma, “but I’m here, and can do all that is required without her or my aunt either. Come, Percival, lay the cloth; Alfred, come and help me, this is almost too heavy for me. Oh, here comes my aunt; now you may go away, Alfred; we can get on better without you.”

“There’s gratitude,” said Alfred, laughing.

As Henry had been in daily expectation of the summons, he was not long in his preparations, and in a few minutes, made his appearance, accompanied by Mary Percival. They then sat down to dinner, not very cheerful, for Captain Sinclair’s unexpected departure had thrown a gloom over them all; however, they rallied a little towards the close of the meal, and Mr Campbell produced one of his bottles of wine to drink success and happiness to the travellers. It was then time to start. Captain Sinclair and Henry shook hands with Mr Campbell and the Misses Percival, and, accompanied by the gentlemen of the party, walked down to the beach.

“I can’t bear parting with any one that I have been so intimate with,” said Emma, after they were left alone. “I declare I could sit down and have a hearty cry at Captain Sinclair’s departure.”

Mary sighed, but made no answer.

“I am not surprised to hear you say so, Emma,” said Mrs Campbell. “In England, when we were surrounded with friends, parting was always painful; but here where we have so few, I might almost say only Captain Sinclair, it is of course most painful. However, it’s only for a time, I hope.”

“It must be very dull to be on duty at the fort,” said Mary; “I should not be surprised at Captain Sinclair’s not returning.”

“I should be most exceedingly surprised,” replied Emma; “I am sure that he will come back, if he is not unavoidably prevented.”

“Since he has expressed so much desire to rejoin his regiment, I should be surprised as well as you, Emma,” said Mrs Campbell. “He is not a volatile young man; but, come, we must clear away the dinner-table.”

Mr Campbell, Alfred, Percival, and Martin soon returned, for Captain Sinclair was obliged to push off immediately, that he might return in time to the fort, in obedience to his orders. Malachi and John had gone out on a hunting expedition, and the Strawberry was at her own lodge. The party that sat in the kitchen in the evening was, therefore, much reduced, and the taking farewell of Captain Sinclair did not dispose them to be very lively. A few words were exchanged now and then, but the conversation drooped. Emma spoke of Captain Sinclair’s expectations and projects.

“We never know what may come in this world of change, my dear Emma,” said Mr Campbell. “All Captain Sinclair’s plans may be overthrown by circumstances over which he has no control. How seldom do we meet with results equal to our expectations. When I was practising in my profession, I little expected that I should be summoned to take possession of Wexton Hall; when once in possession, as little did I expect that I should be obliged to quit it, and to come to these desolate wilds. We are in the hands of God, who does with us as He thinks fit. I have been reading this morning, and I made the observation not only how often individuals, but even nations, are out in their expectations. I do not know a more convincing proof of this than the narration of events, which from their recent occurrence, can hardly yet be considered as history, has offered to me. Perhaps there never was so short a period in which causes have produced effects so rapidly, and in which, in every case, the effects have been directly opposite to what short-sighted mortals had anticipated. It was in 1756, scarcely forty years ago, that the French, being in possession of the provinces, attempted to wrest from us those portions of America which we occupied. What was the result? After a war which, for cruelty and atrocity, is perhaps unequalled in history, both parties employing savages, by whom the French and English were alternately tortured and burnt to death, France, in attempting to obtain all, lost all, and was compelled, in 1760, to surrender its own provinces to Great Britain. Here is one instance in which affairs turned out contrary to the expectations of France.

“Now again: At no period was England more prosperous or more respected by foreign nations than at the close of the war. Her prosperity made her arrogant and unjust. She wronged her colonies. She thought that they dared not resist her imperious will. She imagined that now that the French were driven from the Canadas, America was all her own, whereas it was because the French were driven from the Canadas that the colonies ventured to resist. As long as the French held this country, the English colonists had an enemy on their frontiers, and consequently looked up to England for support and protection. They required aid and assistance, and as long as they did require it, they were not likely to make any remonstrance at being taxed to pay a portion of the expense which was incurred. Had the French possessed an army under Montcalm ready to advance at the time that the Stamp Act, or the duty upon tea, salt, etcetera, was imposed, I question very much if the colonists would have made any remonstrance. But no longer requiring an army for their own particular defence, these same duties induced them to rise in rebellion against what they considered injustice, and eventually to assert their independence. Here, again, we find that affairs turned out quite contrary to the expectations of England.

“Observe again. The American colonists gained their independence, which in all probability they would not have done had they not been assisted by the numerous army and fleet of France, who, irritated at the loss of the Canadas, wished to humiliate England by the loss of her own American possessions. But little did the French king and his noblesse imagine, that in upholding the principles of the Americans, and allowing the French armies and navies (I may say the people of France en masse) to be imbued with the same principles of equality, that they were sowing the seeds of a revolution in their own country which was to bring the king, as well as the major part of the nobility, to the scaffold.

“There, again, the events did not turn out according to expectation, and you will observe that in every attempt made by either party, the result was, that the blow fell upon their own heads, and not upon that of the party which it was intended to crush.”

“I remember,” said Alfred, after Mr Campbell had finished speaking, “having somewhere read a story of an Eastern king who purchased a proverb of a dervish, which he ordered to be engraven on all the gold and silver utensils in the palace. The proverb was, ‘Never undertake anything until you have well considered the end.’ It so happened, that there was a conspiracy against the king, and it was arranged that his surgeon should bleed him with a poisoned lancet. The surgeon agreed, the king’s arm was bound up, and one of the silver basins was held to receive the blood. The surgeon read the inscription, and was so struck with the force of it, that he threw down the lancet, confessed the plot, and thus was the life of the king preserved.”

“A very apt story, Alfred,” said Mrs Campbell.

“The question now is,” continued Alfred, “as two of the parties, France and England, have proved so short-sighted, whether the Americans, having thrown off their allegiance, have not been equally so in their choice of a democratical government?”

“How far a modern democracy may succeed, I am not prepared to say,” replied Mr Campbell; “but this I do know, that in ancient times, their duration was generally very short, and continually changing to oligarchy and tyranny. One thing is certain, that there is no form of government under which the people become so rapidly vicious, or where those who benefit them are treated with such ingratitude.”

“How do you account for that, sir?” said Alfred.

“There are two principal causes. One is, that where all men are declared to be equal (which man never will permit his fellow to be if he can prevent it), the only source of distinction is wealth, and thus the desire of wealth becomes the ruling passion of the whole body, and there is no passion so demoralising. The other is, that where the people, or, more properly speaking, the mob govern, they must be conciliated by flattery and servility on the part of those who would become their idols. Now flattery is lying, and a habit equally demoralising to the party who gives and to the party who receives it. Depend upon it, there is no government so contemptible or so unpleasant for an honest man to live under as a democracy.”

“It is my opinion, sir, and I believe a very general one,” said Alfred.

“How far the Americans may disprove such an opinion,” continued Mr Campbell, “remains to be seen; but this is certain, they have commenced their new form of government with an act of such gross injustice, as to warrant the assumption that all their boasted virtues are pretence. I refer to their not liberating their slaves. They have given the lie to their own assertions in their Declaration of Independence, in which they have declared all men equal and born free, and we cannot expect the Divine blessing upon those who, when they emancipated themselves, were so unjust as to hold their fellow-creatures in bondage. The time will come, I have no doubt, although perhaps not any of us here present may see the day, when the retribution will fall upon their heads, or rather upon the heads of their offspring; for the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, even to the third and fourth generation. But it is time for us to think of retiring—good night, and God bless you all.”

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