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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XXV The Mills proposed

In two days Malachi and John returned, bringing with them the skins of three bears which they had killed—but at this period of the year the animals were so thin and poor, that their flesh was not worth bringing home. Indeed, it was hardly worth while going out to hunt just then, so they both remained much at home, either fishing in the lake, or taking trout in the stream. Alfred and Martin were still occupied with the farm; the seed had come up, and they were splitting rails for the prairie fence. About a fortnight after Captain Sinclair’s departure, Colonel Foster came in a boat from the fort, to pay them a visit.

“I assure you, Mr Campbell,” said he, “I was very anxious about you last winter, and I am rejoiced that you got over it with so little difficulty. At one time we had apprehensions of the Indians, but these have passed over for the present. They meet again this summer, but the Quebec government are on the alert, and I have no doubt but that a little conciliation will put an end to all animosity. We expect a large supply of blankets and other articles to be sent up this spring, as presents to the tribes, which we hope will procure their good-will; and we have taken up several French emissaries, who were working mischief.”

“But still we shall be liable to the assaults of straggling parties,” said Mr Campbell.

“That is true,” replied the Colonel, “but against them you have your own means of defence. You would, in so isolated a position, he equally liable to a burglary in England—only that in England you would have the laws to appeal to, whereas here you must take the law into your own hands.”

“It certainly is not pleasant to be in a continual state of anxiety,” observed Mr Campbell, “but we knew what we had to expect before we came here, and we must make the best of it. So you have lost Captain Sinclair, Colonel; he is a great loss to us.”

“Yes, he is to go to England for a short time,” replied the Colonel, “but we shall soon have him back again. He must be very fond of his profession to remain in it with his means.”

“He told us that he was about to take possession of a small property.”

“A property of nearly 2,000 pounds per annum,” replied the Colonel. “He may consider it a small property, but I should think it otherwise if it had fallen to my lot.”

“Indeed, I had no idea, from what he said, that it was so large,” said Mrs Campbell. “Well, I have a high opinion of him, and have no doubt but that he will make a good use of it.”

“At all events, he can afford the luxury of a wife,” said the Colonel, laughing, “which we soldiers seldom can.”

The Colonel then entered into conversation with Mr Campbell, and after many questions, he observed:

“I have been thinking, Mr Campbell, that it will be very advantageous to the government as well as to you, when your farm is cleared and stocked, if, with the water-power you possess here, you were to erect a flour-mill and a saw-mill. You observe that the government has to supply the fort with flour and provisions of all kinds at a very heavy expense of carriage, and the cattle we have at the fort will cost us more than they are worth, now that we have lost your prairie farm, so conveniently situated for us. On the other hand, your produce will be almost useless to you, at the distance you are from any mart; as you will not find any sale for it. Now, if you were to erect a mill, and grind your own wheat, which you may do in another year, if you have funds sufficient; and as you may have plenty of stock, you will be able to supply the fort with flour, beef, pork, and mutton, at a good profit to yourself, and at one-half the price which government pays at present. I have written to the Governor on the subject, stating that we have not the means of keeping our stock, and pointing out to him what I now point out to you. I expect an answer in a few days, and should he authorise me, I may make arrangements with you even now, which will be satisfactory, I have no doubt.”

Mr Campbell returned the Colonel many thanks for his kindness, and of course expressed himself willing to be guided by his advice. He stated that he had funds not only sufficient to erect a mill, but also, if he were permitted, to pay for the labour of any party of men which the Commandant would spare during the summer season.

“That is the very point which I wished to ascertain; but I felt some delicacy about making the inquiry. Now I consider that there will be no difficulty in our arrangements.”

The Colonel remained for some time looking over the farm and conversing with Mr Campbell, and then took his leave.

In the meantime, Alfred and his cousins went out to walk; the weather was now beautifully clear, and in the afternoon the heat was not too oppressive. As they sauntered by the side of the stream, Mary said, “Well, Alfred, what do you think of the Colonel’s proposition?”

“Yes,” observed Emma, “you are a party deeply concerned in it.”

“How so, dear coz?”

“Why, don’t you perceive that if the mill is erected, you will be the proper person to have charge of it? What a change of professions, from a sailor to a miller. I think I see you in your coat, all white with flour, coming in to dinner.”

“My dear Emma, you don’t intend it, I am sure, but you do not know that you are inflicting pain upon me. When the Colonel made the proposition, I felt the importance of it, as it would be a source of great profit to my father; but at the same time, I don’t know how it is, I have always indulged the idea that we may not stay here for ever, and this plan appeared so like decidedly settling down to a residence for life, that it made me low-spirited. I know that it is foolish, and that we have no chance of ever removing—but still I cannot, even with this almost certainty before my eyes, keep my mind from thinking upon one day returning to my profession, and the idea of becoming a miller for life is what I cannot as yet contemplate with any degree of composure.”

“Well, Alfred, I only did it to tease you a little, not to hurt your feelings, believe me,” replied Emma. “You shall not be a miller if you don’t like it, Henry will do better, perhaps, than you; but as for our quitting this place, I have no idea of its being ever possible. I have made up my mind to live and die in the Canadian woods, considering it my wayward fate that all ‘my sweetness should be wasted on the desert air.’”

“Repining is useless, if not sinful,” observed Mary Percival. “We have much to be thankful for; at least we are independent, and if we are ever to repay the kindness of our uncle and aunt, who must feel their change of condition so much more than we do, it must be by cheerfulness and content. I have been thinking as well as you, Alfred, and I’ll tell you what was in my thoughts. I looked forward to a few years, by which time, as the country fills up so fast, it is very probable that we shall have other settlers here as neighbours, in every direction. This will give us security. I also fancied that my uncle’s farm and property became of value and importance, and that he himself became a leading man in the district; not only at his ease, but, for a settler, even wealthy; and then I fancied that, surrounded by others, in perfect security, and in easy and independent circumstances, my uncle would not forget the great sacrifice which my cousin Alfred so nobly made, and would insist upon his returning to that profession, to which he is so much attached, and in which I have no doubt but that he will distinguish himself.”

“Well said, my sweet prophet,” said Alfred, kissing his cousin, “you have more sense than both of us.”

“Answer for yourself, Alfred, if you please,” said Emma, tossing her head as if affronted. “I shall not forget that remark of yours, I can assure you. Now, I prophesy quite the contrary; Alfred will never go to sea again. He will be taken with the charms of some Scotch settler’s daughter; some Janet or Moggy, and settle down into a Canadian farmer, mounted on a long-legged black pony.”

“And I too,” replied Alfred, “prophesy, that at the same time that I marry and settle as you have described, Miss Emma Percival will yield up her charms to some long-legged black nondescript sort of a fellow, who will set up a whisky-shop and instal his wife as barmaid to attend upon and conciliate his customers.”

“Emma, I think you have the worst of this peeping into futurity,” said Mary, laughing.

“Yes, if Alfred were not a false prophet, of which there are always many going about,” replied Emma; “however, I hope your prophecy may be the true one, Mary, and then we shall get rid of him.”

“I flatter myself that you would be very sorry if I went away; you would have no one to tease, at all events,” replied Alfred, “and that would be a sad loss to yourself.”

“Well, there’s some sense in that remark,” said Emma; “but the cows are waiting to be milked, and so, Mr Alfred, if you are on your good behaviour, you had better go and bring us the pails.”

“I really pity Alfred,” said Mary, as soon as he was out of hearing; “his sacrifice has been very great, and, much as he must feel it, how well he bears up against it.”

“He is a dear, noble fellow,” replied Emma; “and I do love him very much, although I cannot help teasing him.”

“But on some points you should be cautious, my dear sister; you don’t know what pain you give.”

“Yes I do, and am always sorry when I have done it, but it is not until afterwards that I recollect it, and then I am very angry with myself. Don’t scold me, dear Mary, I will try to be wiser; I wonder whether what you say will come to pass, and we shall have neighbours; I wish we had, if it were only on account of those Indians.”

“I think it very probable,” replied Mary; “but time will shew.”

Alfred then returned with the pails, and the conversation took another turn.

A few days afterwards, a corporal arrived from the fort, bringing letters and newspapers; the first that they had received since the breaking up of the winter. The whole family were in commotion as the intelligence was proclaimed; Mary and Emma left the fowls which they were feeding; Percival threw down the pail with which he was attending the pigs; Alfred ran in from where he and Martin were busy splitting rails; all crowded round Mr Campbell as he opened the packet in which all the letters and papers had been enveloped at the fort. The letters were few; three from Miss Paterson, and two other friends in England, giving them the English news; one to Alfred from Captain Lumley, inquiring after the family, and telling him that he had mentioned his position to his friends at the Board, and that there could be no call for his services for the present; one from Mr Campbell’s English agent, informing him that he had remitted the money paid by Mr Douglas Campbell for the plants, etcetera, to his agent at Quebec; and another from his Quebec agent, advising the receipt of the money and inclosing a balance-sheet. The letters were first read over, and then the news papers were distributed, and all of them were soon very busy and silent during the perusal.

After a while, Emma read out. “Dear uncle, only hear this, how sorry I am.”

“What is it, my dear?” said Mr Campbell.

“‘Mrs Douglas Campbell, of Wexton Hall, of a son, which survived but a few hours after birth.’”

“I am very sorry too, my dear Emma,” replied Mr Campbell; “Mr Douglas Campbell’s kindness to us must make us feel for any misfortune which may happen to him, and to rejoice in any blessing which may be bestowed upon him.”

“It must have been a serious disappointment,” said Mrs Campbell; “but one which, if it pleases God, may be replaced; and we may hope that their expectations, though blighted for the present, may be realised on some future occasion.”

“Here is a letter from Colonel Foster, which I overlooked,” said Mr Campbell; “it was between the envelope. He says that he has received an answer from the Governor, who fully agrees with him in his views on the subject we were conversing about, and has allowed him to take any steps which he may think advisable. The Colonel says that he will call upon me again in a few days, and that if, in the meantime, I will let him know how many soldiers I wish to employ, he will make arrangements to meet my views as far as lies in his power. We have to thank Heaven for sending us friends, at all events,” continued Mr Campbell; “but at present, we will put his letter aside, and return to our English news.”

“Dear England!” exclaimed Emma.

“Yes, dear England, my good girl; we are English, and can love our country as much now as we did when we lived in it. We are still English, and in an English colony; it has pleased Heaven to remove us away from our native land, but our hearts and feelings are still the same, and so will all English hearts be found to be in every settlement made by our country all over the wide world. We all glory in being English, and have reason to be proud of our country. May the feeling never be lost, but have an elevating influence upon our general conduct!”

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