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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XXXI Percival Lost

Thus in one short day was the family of Mr Campbell changed from a house of joy to one of mourning. And true was the remark of Malachi, that misfortunes seldom come single, for now they had another cause of anxiety. Emma, by her imprudent exposure to the intense chill of the night air and the wetting of her feet, was first taken with a violent cold, which was followed by a fever, which became more alarming every day. Thus, in addition to the loss of one of their children, Mr and Mrs Campbell were threatened with being deprived of two more; for their nieces were regarded as such, and Alfred was in a very precarious state. The wounds had assumed such an angry appearance, that Mr Campbell was fearful of mortification. This accumulated distress had, however, one good effect upon them. The danger of losing Emma and Alfred so occupied their minds and their attention, that they had not time to bewail the loss of Percival; and even Mrs Campbell, in her prayers, was enabled to resign herself to the Almighty’s will in taking away her child, if it would but please Him to spare the two others who were afflicted. Long and tedious were the hours, the days, and the weeks that passed away before either of them could be considered in a state of convalescence; but her prayers were heard, and, as the winter closed, their recovery was no longer doubtful. A melancholy winter it had been to them all, but the joy of once more seeing Emma resume her duties, and Alfred, supported on cushions, able to be moved into the sitting-room, had a very exhilarating effect upon their spirits. True, there was no longer the mirth and merriment that once reigned, but there was a subdued gratitude to Heaven, which, if it did not make them at once cheerful, at least prevented anything like repining or complaint. Grateful for the mercies vouchsafed to them in having Alfred and Emma spared to them, Mr and Mrs Campbell consoled themselves in reference to Percival, with the reflection, that at so early an age, before he had lived to be corrupted by the world, to die was gain—and that their dear boy had become, through Divine grace, an inhabitant of the kingdom of Heaven. By degrees the family became again cheerful and happy; the merry laugh of Emma once more enlivened them, Alfred again recovered his former health and spirits, and Mrs Campbell could bear the mention of the name of Percival, and join in the praises of the amiable child.

The spring now came on, the snow gradually disappeared, the ice was carried down the rapids, and once more left the blue lake clear; the cattle were turned out to feed off the grass the year before left on the prairie, and all the men were busy in preparing to put in the seed. As soon as the snow was gone, Malachi, Martin, and Alfred, without saying a word to Mrs Campbell, had gone into the forest, and made every search for the body of poor Percival, but without success, and it was considered that he had wandered and died on some spot which they could not discover, or that the wolves had dug his remains out of the snow, and devoured them. Not a trace, of him could anywhere be discovered; and the search was, after a few days, discontinued. The return of the spring had another good effect upon the spirits of the party; for, with the spring came on such a variety of work to be done, that they had not a moment to spare. They had now so many acres for corn that they had scarcely time to get through all the preparatory work, and fortunate it was that Alfred was so much recovered that he could join in the labour. Malachi, John, and even Mr Campbell, assisted, and at last the task was completed. Then they had a communication with the fort, and letters from Quebec, Montreal, and England: there was none of any importance from England, but one from Montreal informed Mr Campbell that, agreeably to contract, the engineer would arrive in the course of the month with the bateaux containing the machinery, and that the water-mill would be erected as soon as possible. There was also a letter from England which gave them much pleasure; it was from Captain Sinclair to Alfred, informing him that he had arranged all his business with his guardian, and that he should rejoin his regiment and be at the fort early in the spring, as he should sail in the first vessel which left England. He stated how delighted he should be at his return, and told him to say to Emma that he had not found an English wife, as she had prophesied, but was coming back as heart-whole as he went. Very soon afterwards they had a visit from Colonel Foster and some of the officers of the garrison. The Colonel offered Mr Campbell a party of soldiers to assist in raising the mill, and the offer was thankfully accepted.

“We were very much alarmed about you last autumn when the woods were on fire, Mr Campbell,” said the Colonel; “but I perceive that it has been of great advantage to you. You have now a large quantity of cleared land sown with seed, and if you had possessed sufficient means might have had much more put in, as I perceive all the land to the north west is cleared by the fire.”

“Yes,” replied Mr Campbell; “but my allotment, as you know, extends along the beach, and we have sown the seed as far from the beach as the property extends.”

“Then I should recommend you to write to Quebec, and apply for another grant on each side of the stream; indeed, at the back of and equal to what you now have.”

“But if I do, I have not the means of working the land.”

“No, not with your present force, I grant; but there are many emigrants who would be glad of work, and who would settle here upon favourable conditions.”

“The expense would be very great,” said Mr Campbell.

“It would; but the return would indemnify you. The troops at the fort would take all the flour off your hands, if you had ever so much.”

“I am not inclined at present to speculate much further,” replied Mr Campbell; “but I shall see how this year turns out, and if I find that I am successful I will then decide.”

“Of course you will but act prudently. You can send down to your agent at Quebec, and ascertain what would be the probable terms of the men you might require. But there is another way, which is to give them the land to cultivate and the seed, and to receive from them a certain portion of corn in return as rent; that is very safe, and your land will be all gradually brought into cultivation, besides the advantage of having neighbours about you. You might send one of your sons down to Montreal and arrange all that.”

“I certainly will write to my agent and institute inquiries,” replied Mr Campbell, “and many thanks to you for the suggestion; I have still a few hundreds at the bank to dispose of, if necessary.”

About three weeks after this conversation the bateaux arrived with the engineer and machinery for the flour and saw-mills: and now the settlement again presented a lively scene, being thronged with the soldiers who were sent from the fort. The engineer was a very pleasant, intelligent young Englishman, who had taken up his profession in Canada, and was considered one of the most able in the colony. The site of the mill was soon chosen, and now the axes again resounded in the woods, as the trees were felled and squared under his directions. Alfred was constantly with the engineer, superintending the labour of the men, and contracted a great intimacy with him; indeed, that gentleman was soon on such a footing with the whole family as to be considered almost as one of them, for he was very amusing, very well-bred, and had evidently received every advantage of education.

Mr Campbell found that Mr Emmerson, for such was his name, could give him every particular relative to the emigrants who had come out, as he was so constantly travelling about the country, and was in such constant communication with them.

“You are very fortunate in your purchase,” said he to Mr Campbell, “the land is excellent, and you have a good water-power in the stream, as well as convenient carriage by the lake. Fifty years hence this property will be worth a large sum of money.”

“I want very much to get some more emigrants to settle here,” observed Mr Campbell. “It would add to our security and comfort, and I have not sufficient hands to cultivate the land which has been cleared by the fire of last autumn. If not cultivated in a short time, it will be all forest again.”

“At present it is all raspberries, and very good ones too, are they not, Mr Emmerson?” said Emma.

“Yes, miss, most excellent,” replied he; “but you are aware that, whenever you cut down trees here, and do not hoe the ground to sow it, raspberry bushes grow up immediately.”

“Indeed, I was not aware of it.”

“Such is the case, nevertheless. After the raspberries, the seedling hardwood trees spring up, and, as Mr Campbell says, they soon grow into a forest again.

“I do not think that you would have much trouble in getting emigrants to come here, Mr Campbell, but the difficulty will be in persuading them to remain. Their object in coming out to this country is to obtain land of their own, and become independent. Many of them have not the means to go on, and, as a temporary resource, are compelled to act as labourers; but the moment that they get sufficient to purchase for themselves, they will leave you.”

“That is very natural; but I have been thinking of obtaining a larger grant than I have now, and I wish very much that I could make an arrangement with some emigrants. The Colonel says that I might do so by supplying them with seed, and taking corn in return as rent.”

“That would not be a permanent arrangement,” replied Mr Emmerson. “How much land do you propose applying for?”

“Six hundred acres.”

“Well, sir, I think it would meet the views of both parties if you were to offer terms like the following—that is, divide the land into lots of one hundred acres each, and allow them to cultivate for you the fifty acres that adjoin your own land, with the right of purchasing the other fifty as their own property, as soon as they can. You will then obtain three hundred acres of the most valuable land, in addition to your present farm, and have fixed neighbours around you, even after they are enabled to purchase the other fifty.”

“I think that a very good arrangement, Mr Emmerson, and I would gladly consent to it.”

“Well, sir, I shall have plenty of opportunities this summer of making the proposal to the emigrants, and if I find any parties who seem likely to prove advantageous as neighbours, I will let you know.”

“And with such expectations I will apply for the additional grant,” said Mr Campbell, “for to have neighbours in this solitude, I would almost make them a present of the land.”

“I suspect that in a few years you will have neighbours enough, without resorting to such an expedient,” replied Mr Emmerson, “but according to your present proposal, they may be better selected, and you may make terms which will prevent any nuisances.”

The works at the mill proceeded rapidly, and before the hay-harvest the mill was complete. Alfred was very careful, and paid every attention to what was going on, and so did Martin, that they might understand the machinery. This was very simple. Mr Emmerson tried the mill, and found it to answer well. He explained everything to Alfred, and put the mill to work, that he might be fully master of it. As it was a fortnight after the mill was at work before Mr Emmerson could obtain a passage back to Montreal, Alfred and Martin worked both mills during that time, and felt satisfied that they required no further instruction. The soldiers, at the request of Mr Campbell, were allowed to remain till the hay-harvest, and as soon as the hay was gathered in, they were paid and returned to the fort. Captain Sinclair, who, from his letter, had been expected to arrive much sooner, came just as the soldiers had left the farm. It need hardly be said that he was received most warmly. He had a great deal to tell them, and had brought out a great many presents; those for poor little Percival he kept back, of course. Emma and Mary were delighted to have him again as a companion, and to resume their walks with him; a fortnight thus passed away very quickly, when his leave of absence expired, and he was obliged to return to the fort. Previous, however, to his going away, he requested a private interview with Mr and Mrs Campbell, in which he stated his exact position and his means, and requested their sanction to his paying his addresses to Mary. Mr and Mrs Campbell, who had already perceived the attentions he had shewn to her, did not hesitate to express their satisfaction at his request, and their best wishes for his success; and having so done, they left him to forward his own suit, which Captain Sinclair did not fail to do that very evening. Mary Percival was too amiable and right-minded a girl not at once to refuse or accept Captain Sinclair. As she had long been attached to him, she did not deny that such was the case, and Captain Sinclair was overjoyed at his success.

“I have spoken frankly to you, Captain Sinclair,” said Mary; “I have not denied that you have an interest in my affections; but I must now request you to let me know what are your future views.”

“To do just what you wish me to do.”

“I have no right to advise, and no wish to persuade. I have my own path of duty pointed out to me, and from that I cannot swerve.”

“And what is that?”

“It is that, under present circumstances, I must not think of leaving my uncle and aunt. I have been bred up and educated by them; I have as an orphan shared their prosperity; I have a deep debt of gratitude to pay, and I cannot consent to return to England to enjoy all the advantages which your means will afford while they remain in their present isolated position. Hereafter circumstances may alter my opinion, but such it is at present.”

“But if I am willing to remain with you here to share your fortunes, will not that satisfy you?”

“No, certainly not; for that would be allowing you to do injustice to yourself. I presume you do not mean to quit your profession?”

“I had no such intention; but still, if I have to choose between you and the service, I shall not hesitate.”

“I trust you will not hesitate, but determine to adhere steadily to your profession for the present, Captain Sinclair. It will not do for you to give up your prospects and chance of advancement for even such a woman as me,” continued Mary, smiling; “nor must you think of becoming a backwoodsman for a pale-faced girl.”

“Then what am I to do if, as you say, you will not leave your uncle and aunt?”

“Wait, Captain Sinclair; be satisfied that you have my affections, and wait patiently till circumstances may occur which will enable me to reward your affection without being guilty of ingratitude towards those to whom I owe so much. On such terms I accept you, and accept you willingly; but you must do your duty to yourself, while I must discharge my duty towards my uncle and aunt.”

“I believe you are right, Mary,” replied Captain Sinclair; “only I do not see any definite hope of our being united. Can you give me any prospect to cheer me?”

“We are both very young, Captain Sinclair,” observed Mary; “in a year or two my uncle and aunt may be less lonely and more comfortable than at present. In a year or two the war may end, and you may honourably retire upon half-pay; in fact, so many chances are there which are hidden from us and come upon us so unexpectedly, that it is impossible to say what may take place. And if, after waiting patiently for some time, none of these chances do turn up, you have yet another in your favour.”

“And what is that, Mary?”

“That, perhaps, I may be tired of waiting myself,” replied Mary, with a smile.

“Upon that chance, then, I will live in hope,” replied Captain Sinclair; “if you will only reward me when you consider that my faithful service demands it, I will serve as long as Jacob did for Rachael.”

“Do so, and you shall not be deceived at the end of your services as he was,” replied Mary. “But now let us return to the house.”

Captain Sinclair departed the day afterwards, quite satisfied with Mary’s resolution.

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