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|Table of Contents|
|Start of eBook||1|
|Title: The Narrative of Gordon Sellar Who Emigrated to Canada in 1825||1|
|HOW WE GOT ON IN THE BACKWOODS||28|
Author: Gordon Sellar
Release Date: March 9, 2005 [EBook #15307]
Character set encoding: ASCII
*** Start of this project gutenberg EBOOK the narrative of Gordon ***
Produced by Wallace McLean, Martin Pettit and the
Emigrated to Canada in 1825
THE GLEANER BOOK ROOM
Copyright, Canada, by Robert Sellar, 1915.
While my mother was a servant in Glasgow she married a soldier. I have only a faint remembrance of my father, of a tall man in a red coat coming to see us in the afternoons and tossing me up and down to the ceiling. I was in my fourth year when his regiment was hurried to Belgium to fight Bonaparte. One day there rose a shouting in the streets, it was news of a great victory, the battle of Waterloo. At night mother took me to Argyle street to see the illuminations, and I never forgot the blaze of lights and the great crowd, cheering. At the Cross there were men with bottles, drinking the health of Wellington. When my mother caught me up to get past the drunken men she was shivering. Long afterwards, when I was able to put two and two together I understood it was her fear of what had happened father. She went often to the barracks to ask if any word had come, but except that the regiment was in the thick of the fight they could tell nothing. It might be three weeks after the battle that a sergeant came to our room. Mother was out working He left a paper on the table and went away. When mother came home late, she snatched the paper up, gave a cry that I hear yet, and taking me in her arms fell on the bed and sobbed as if her heart would break. I must have asked her what had happened, for I recall her squeezing me tighter to her bosom and saying My fatherless boy. Long after, I met a comrade of my father, who told me he acted bravely all day and was cut down by a dragoon when the French charged on the infantry squares at the close of the battle. My mother got nothing from the government, except the pay that was coming to him, which she told me was 17s 6d.
Mother kept on working, mostly out of door jobs, washing or house-cleaning, a neighbor being asked to look after me. When I got old enough, she would tell me, while I was in bed, where she was going, and in the evening I would go and meet her. Sometimes, not often, she got sewing to do at home and these were bright days. We talked all the time and she taught me much; not simply to read and write and cast little sums, but about everything she knew. My reading book was the gospel of John, which she said was fullest of comfort, and it was then my faith in Christ took root. There could not be a more contented or cheerful mother, and her common expression was that when we did our duty everything was for the best. She had a sweet voice, and when she sang one of Burns’ songs neighbors opened their doors to hear her. I was nearly ten when a bad time came. Mills closed, the streets were full of idle workmen, and provisions got dear. Mother got little to do, and I know she often went hungry that I might be fed. She might have got her share of the relief fund, but would not think of it. She told me time and again, to be independent. That hard winter made all the families in our close draw nearer to one another, and every hour there was some deed of helpfulness. The best friends of the poor are the poor. We were struggling on, hopeful and unmurmuring, when the word passed from landing to landing one morning that the boy who was sick in the first flat had been visited by a doctor, who said he had typhus. Mother took her turn in sitting up with him at night until he got the change and it was for the better. It might be a week after, I went to meet her on her way home from the place where she had been at work, and saw how slow she walked and the trouble she had in getting up the stair to our room. She gave me my supper and lay down on the bed to rest, for she said she was tired. Next morning she complained of headache and did not rise. Neighbors came in to see her now and then. I stayed by her, she had never been thus before. When it became dark she seemed to forget herself and talked strange. The woman next door gave her a few drops of laudanum in sugar and she fell asleep. When she woke next day she did not know me and was raving. Word was taken to the hospital and a doctor came. He said it was a bad case, and she must be taken to the hospital at once, and he would send the van. It came, the two men with it lifted her from her bed and placed her on a stretcher. A crowd had gathered on the street to see her brought out and placed in the van. I thought I was to go with her, and tried to get on the seat. The helper pushed me away, but the driver bent over and gave me a penny. The horse started and I never saw my mother again. I ran after the van, but it got to the hospital long before I was in sight of it. I went to the door and said I wanted my mother; the porter roughly told me to go away. I waited in front of the building until it got dark, and I wondered behind which of the rows of lighted windows mother lay. When cold to the bone I went back to our room. A neighbor heard me cry and would have me come to her kitchen-fire and she gave me some gruel. Sitting I fell asleep.
I was told I must not go into our room, it was dangerous, so I went to the hospital and waited and watched the people go in and out. One gentleman with a kind face came out and I made bold to speak to him. When I said mother had fever he told me nobody could see her, and that she would be taken good care of. I thought my heart would burst. I could not bear to stay on the Gallowgate, and so weary days passed in my keeping watch on the hospital. On Sunday coming, the neighbor who was so kind to me, said she would go with me, for they allowed visitors to see patients on Sunday afternoon. We started, I trotting cheery in the thought I was about to see my mother. The clerk at the counter asked the name and disease. He said no visitors were admitted to the fever-ward. Could he find out how she was? He spoke into a tin tube and coming back opened a big book. ‘She died yesterday,’ he said quite unconcerned. I could not help it, I gave a cry and fainted. As we trudged home in the rain, the woman told me they had buried her.
I had now no home. The landlord fumigated our room with sulphur, took the little furniture for the rent, and got another tenant. Everybody was kind but I knew they had not enough for themselves, and the resolve took shape, that I would go to the parish where my mother was born. Often, when we took a walk on the Green, Sunday evenings, she would point to the hills beyond which her father’s home once was, and I came to think of that country-place as one where there was plenty to eat and coals to keep warm. How to get there I tried to plan. I must walk, of course, but how was I to live on the road? I was running messages for the grocer with whom mother had dealt, and he gave me a halfpenny when he had an errand. These I gave to the woman where I slept and who was so kind to me despite her poverty. I was on London street after dark when a gentleman came along. He was half-tipsy. Catching hold of my collar he said if I would lead him to his house he would give me sixpence. He gave a number in Montieth row. I took his hand, which steadied him a little, and we got along slowly, and were lucky in not meeting a policeman. When we got to the number he gave me, I rang the bell. A man came to the door, who exclaimed, At it again. The gentleman stumbled in and I was going away when he recollected me. Fumbling in his pocket, he picked out a coin and put it into my hand, and the door closed. At the first lamp I looked at it; sure enough, he had given me a sixpence. I was overjoyed, and I said to myself, I can leave for Ayrshire now. I wakened early next morning and began my preparations. I got speldrins and scones, tying them in the silk handkerchief mother wore round her neck on Sundays. That and her bible was all I had of her belongings. Where the rest had gone, a number of pawn tickets told. I was in a hurry to be off and telling the woman I was going to try the country I bade her goodbye. She said, God help you, poor boy, and kissed my cheek. The bells at the Cross were chiming out, The blue bells of Scotland, when I turned the corner at the Saltmarket.
It was a beautiful spring-day and when I had cleared the city and got right into the country everything was so fresh and pleasant that I could have shouted with joy. The hedges were bursting into bloom, the grass was dotted with daisies, and from the fields of braird rose larks and other birds, which sang as if they rejoiced with me. I wondered why people should stay in the city when the country was so much better. It had one draw-back, the country-road was not as smooth as the pavement. There was a cut in my left foot from stepping on a bit of glass, and the dust and grit of the road got into it and gave me some pain. I must have walked for three hours when I came to a burn that crossed the road. I sat on a stone and bathed my foot, and with it dangling in the water I ate a speldrin and a scone. On starting to walk, I found my foot worse, and had to go slow and take many a rest. When the gloaming came I was on the look out for a place to pass the night. On finding a cosey spot behind a clump of bushes, I took my supper, lay down, and fell asleep, for I was dead weary. The whistling of a blackbird near my head woke me and I saw the sun was getting high. My foot was much worse, but I had to go on. Taking from my bundle of provisions as sparingly as my hunger would let me, I started. It was another fine day and had my hurt foot been well I thought I would reach my mother’s parish before long. I could not walk, I just limped. Carts passed me, but would not give me a lift. My bare feet and head and ragged clothes made them suspicious, and as for the gentlemen in gigs they did not look at me. When I came to spring or burn I put my foot in it, for it was hot and swollen now. At noon I finished the food in my bundle and went on. I had not gone far when I had to stop, and was holding my sore foot in a spring when a tinker came along. He asked what was wrong. Drawing a long pin out of his coat collar he felt along the cut, and then squeezed it hard. I see it now, he remarked, and fetching from his pouch a pair of pincers he pulled from the cut a sliver of glass. Wrapping the cloth round it he tied it with a bit of black tape, and told me if I kept dirt out it would heal in a day or two. Asking me where I was going, we had some talk. He told me the parish of Dundonald was a long way off and he did not know anybody in it by the name of Askew. I was on the right road and could find out when I got there. He lit his pipe and left me. I walked with more ease, and the farther I went the hungrier I grew. Coming to a house by the side of the road I went to the open door and asked for a cake. I have nothing for beggars, cried a woman by the fire. I am no beggar, I answered, I will pay you, and held out a halfpenny. She stared at me. Take these stoups and fill them at the well. The hill was steep and the stoups heavy, but I managed to carry them back one at a time and placed them on the bench. She handed me a farl of oatcake and I went away. It was
It was his noon-bite, but he told me to eat it for he said, we go back to the shelter to-day, and by we he meant collie. He had been lonesome and was glad of company and we chattered on by the hour. At noon, leaving collie in charge of the sheep, we went to the hut where he stayed and had something to eat. He said his father was shepherd to a big farmer, who had sent him with two score of shearling ewes to get highland pasture. We talked about everything we knew and tried to make each other laugh. He told me about Wallace, and we gripped hands on saying we would fight for Scotland like him, and I told him about Glasgow, where he had not been. A boy came with a little basket and a message. The message was from his father, that he was to bring the sheep back early on Monday, and the basket was from his mother with food and a clean shirt for the Sabbath. We slept on a sheepskin and wakened to hear the patter of rain. After seeing his sheep and counting them, Archie said we must keep the Sabbath, and when we had settled in a dry corner of the hillside he heard me my questions. I could not go further than Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect? but he could go to the end. Then I repeated the three paraphrases my mother had taught me, but Archie had nearly all of them and several psalms. A shepherd would be tired if he did not learn by heart, he said; some knit but I like reading best. Then he took my mother’s bible and read about David and Goliath. That over he started to sing. Oh we had a fine time, and when a shower came Archie spread his plaid like a tent over the bushes and we sat under it. He told me what he meant to do when he was a man. He was going to Canada and get a farm, and send for the whole family. As we snuggled in for the night, he told me he would not forget me and he was glad collie had nosed me out in the bushes. If I found in the morning he was gone, I was to take what he left me to eat. Sure enough I slept in; he was gone with the sheep. I said a prayer for him and took the road.
It was shower and shine all day. I footed on my way as fast as I could, for the cut was still tender. Towards night I neared a little village and saw an old man sitting on the doorstep reading. I asked him if I was on the right road to Dundonald. He replied I was, but it was too far away to reach before dark, and he put a few questions to me. Asking me to sit beside him we had a talk. Did you ever see that book? holding out the one he was reading. ’It is A Cloud of Witnesses, and gives the story of the days of persecution. I wish every man in Scotland knew what it contains, for there would be more of the right stuff among us. I was just reading, for the hundredth time, I suppose, the trial of Marion Harvie, and how he who was afterwards James King of England consented to send her, a poor frail woman, to the gallows’. From the Covenanters he passed to politics. He was a weaver and did not like the government, telling me, seeing where I came from, I must grow up to be a Glasgow radical. Seeing I was homeless, he said he would fend me for the night, and, going into the house, he brought out a coggie of milk and a barley scone. When I had finished, he took me to the byre and left me in a stall of straw, telling me to leave early for his wife hated gangrel bodies and would not, when she came in, rest content, if she knew there was anybody in the stable. When daylight came it was raining. I started without anybody seeing me from the house. I was soon wet to the skin, but I trudged on, saying to myself every now and then You’re a Scotchman, never say die. There were few on the road, and when I met a postman and asked how far I was from Dundonald, his curt reply was, You are in it. I was dripping wet and oh so perished with cold and hunger that I made up my mind to stop at the first house I came to. As it happened, it was a farm-house a little bit from the road. I went to the kitchen-door where there was a hen trying to keep her chicks out of the rain. There were voices of children at play and of a woman as if crooning a babe to sleep. I stood a while before I ventured to knock. There was no answer and after waiting a few minutes I knocked again. A boy of my own age opened the door. An old woman came towards me and asked what I wanted. I am cold, I said, and, please, might I warm myself? She was deaf and did not catch what I said. ’Whose bairn are you?’ she asked me. Mary Askew’s, I replied, I noticed the younger woman who had the child in her lap fixed her gaze on me. Where are you from? grannie asked. From Glasgow and I am so cold. Laying down the child in the cradle, the younger woman came to me and sitting on a stool took my hands. ‘Where did your mother belong?’ she asked in a kind voice. She came from the parish of Dundonald. ‘And where is your father?’ He is dead. ‘And is your mother in Glasgow?’ She died in the hospital, and the thought of that sad time set the tears running down my cheeks. ’You poor motherless bairn!’
The boy and girl took me to the fire, and, when grannie was got to understand who I was, she bustled round to heat over some of the broth left from dinner and while it was warming the little girl forced her piece into my mouth. The other boy came to me full of curiosity. Feeling my legs he whispered, You’re starvit. By-and-by a cart drove into the yard. It was the master with his hired man. When he was told who I was, he called me to him and patted me on the head. That night I slept with Allan, the name of the older boy. His brother’s name was Bob, and the girl’s Alice. The baby had not been christened. The name of the master of the house was Andrew Anderson.
Hating to be a burden on the family I was eager to work. Too weak for farm duties, I helped about the house and came, in course of time, to earn a good word from grannie. Tho of the same age, there was a great difference between Allan and myself. He could lift weights I could not move, did not get tired as I did, and as the stronger took care of me We were all happy and getting-on well when trouble came from an unlooked for quarter. The master got notice from the factor that, on his lease running out the following year, the rent would be raised. He did not look for this. During his lease he had made many improvements at his own cost and thought they would more than count against any rise in the value of farm lands. He remonstrated with the factor, who said he could do nothing, his lordship wanted more revenue from his estate and there was a man ready to take the farm at the advanced rent. He was sorry, but the master had to pay the rent asked or leave the place. If I go, what will be allowed me for the improvements I have made? Not a shilling; he had gone on making them without the landlord’s consent. You saw me making them and encouraged me, said the master, and I made them in the belief I would be given another tack to get some of the profit out of them. The factor replied, Tut, tut, that’s not the law of Scotland. The master felt very sore at the injustice done him. On his lordship’s arrival from London, accompanied by a party of his English friends, for the shooting, the master resolved to see him. On the morning he left to interview him we wished him good luck, confident the landlord would not uphold the factor, and we wearied for his
When he took anything in hand the master went through with it. Before the week was out he had given up the farm, arranged for an auction sale, and for going to Canada. My heart was filled with misgivings as to what would become of me. I knew crops had been short for two years, and, though he was even with the world, the master had not a pound to spare, and depended on the auction-sale for the money to pay for outfit and passage to Canada. I had no right to expect he would pay for me, and all the more that he would have no use for a lad such as I was in his new home. It was not so much of what might happen to myself after they were gone that I thought about, as of parting with the family, for I loved every one of them. I knew they were considering what to do with me, and one day, on the master getting me alone, he seemed relieved on telling me the new tenant of the farm was going to keep me on for my meat. I thanked him, for it was better than I looked for. These were busy days getting ready. Alice noticed that, in all the making of clothes, there were none for me, and I overheard her ask her mother, who answered in a whisper, that they had not money enough to take me along with them. Alice was more considerate than ever with me. To their going grannie proved an obstacle. She would not leave Scotland, she declared, she would be buried in it, she would go to no strange country, let alone a cold one like Canada, nor cross the sea. Her favorite of the family was Robbie, on whom she doted. ‘You will not leave him?’ asked the mistress. ‘Ou, he’ll gang with me to Mirren’s,’ the name of her daughter in Glasgow. ‘Oh, no; Robbie goes with us to Canada.’ It was a struggle with the dear old soul, and in the end she decided she would brave the Atlantic rather than part with her boy.
The last day came. The chests, and plenishing for the home they looked forward to in Canada, had gone the day before and been stowed in the ship at Troon, and the carts stood at the door to receive the family and their hand-bags. The children and all were seated and the master turned to me before taking his place. He shook my hand, and tried to say something, but could not, for his voice failed. Pressing half a crown in my little fist he moved to get beside the driver, when Robbie cheeped out astonished, ‘Is Gordie no to go wi’ us?’ ’Whist, my boy; we will send for him by-and-by.’ At this Robbie set up a howl, and his brothers and sisters joined in his weeping. The master was sorely moved and whispered with his wife. ’His passage-money will make me break my last big note,’ I heard him say to her. ‘Trust in the Lord,’ she answered, ’I canna thole the thought of leaving the mitherless bairn to that hard man, John Stoddart; he’ll work the poor weak fellow to death.’ Without another word, the master hoisted me on top of the baggage, the carts moved on, and Robbie looked up into my face with a smile. We were driven alongside the ship as she lay at the
In the afternoon a man came on board to see the captain about taking passage, and they agreed. He had no baggage, and as the ship only supplied part of the provisions he had to go to buy what he needed for the voyage. He asked the master to let me go with him to help to carry back his bedding and parcels. We went from shop to shop until he had got everything on his list; last of all he visited a draper and bought cloth. On getting back to the ship he was tapped on the shoulder by a seedy looking fellow who was waiting for him, and who said, ’You are my prisoner.’ The man started and his face grew white. I thought it strange he did not ask what he was a prisoner for. ’Will you go quietly or will I put these on?’ asked the man, showing a pair of handcuffs in his coat pocket. ‘I will give you no trouble,’ was the answer, ’only allow the boy to stow these parcels and bags in my berth.’
’I think the boy had better come with you; I will wait till he is ready.’ I wondered what he could want with me. He led us up the street to a large building where he placed us in charge of a man even more greasy and with a worse look than himself. It was quite a while before he returned and led us into a large room. There was a long table, at its head sat two well-dressed gentlemen, and at each side men with papers before them. ’May it please your lordship and Bailie McSweem, the prisoner being present we will now proceed.’ He went on to explain that the prisoner was a member of one of those political associations that were plotting to subvert the government of the country, even thinking they could organize a revolution and drive his majesty from the throne. He need not dwell on the danger State and Church were in from the plottings of those desperate men, and the need of all upholders of the Crown and Constitution suppressing them with a firm hand.
The gentleman who was addressed as his lordship nodded in approval, and said, ’There is no need, Mr Sheriff, of referring to those unhappy matters as we are fully cognizant of them. What about the prisoner?’
’He is a member of the Greenock union, proceedings were about to be taken for his arrest on a charge of sedition, when somehow he got wind of what was about to take place and, knowing he was guilty, attempted to flee the country. I can produce, if you say so, witnesses to prove that he skulked into Troon by back streets and secured passage to Canada on the Heatherbell, which sails in a few hours. I have one witness now present.’
His lordship remarked the Sheriff deserved credit for his vigilance and the promptitude with which he acted. ‘I suppose,’ he added, ’we have nothing more to do than order his being sent to Greenock for examination and trial?’
‘That is all we need do.’ answered the Sheriff. Just then a loud voice was heard in the hall demanding admission, a sound as if the door-keeper was pulled aside, and a sharp-featured man came in. ’What business have you to enter here?’ demanded the Sheriff.
‘I will soon show you. What are you doing with that man?’ pointing to the prisoner.
‘Leave at once, or I will order you to be ejected.’
The man, who was quite composed, said to the prisoner, ’Mr Kerr, do you authorize me to act as your attorney?’
‘Yes,’ he answered. ’Very well, then, I am here by right. Now, Mr Sheriff, hand me over the papers in the case.’
The Sheriff, who was red in the face, ’I shall not, you have no right here; you’re not a lawyer.’
Addressing the magistrates the man said he was a merchant, a burgess of the city of Glasgow, had been chosen by the accused as his attorney and was acting within his rights in demanding to see the papers. The magistrates consulted in a whisper and his lordship remarked there could be no objection. The Sheriff, however, continued to clutch them. ’You ask him,’ was the order of the stranger to Kerr, ’he dare not refuse you.’ Reluctantly the Sheriff handed them to the stranger, who quickly glanced over them. ‘Is this all?’ he demanded. ‘Yes, that is all,’ snapped the Sheriff.
‘Where is the warrant for Kerr’s arrest?’
‘None of your business where it is.’
Speaking to the bench, the stranger said there was neither information nor warrant among the papers he held in his hand. The only authority they had for holding Kerr was a letter from a clerk at Greenock, stating one Robert Kerr, accused of sedition, had fled before the papers could be made out for his arrest, and that, if he was found trying to take ship at Troon, to hold him. ‘I warn you,’ said the stranger, shaking his fist, ’that you have made yourselves liable to heavy penalties in arresting Robert Kerr on the strength of a mere letter. There is no deposition whatever, no warrant, and yet a peaceable man, going about in his lawful business, has been seized by your thief-takers and made prisoner. If you do not release him at once I go forthwith to Edinburgh and you will know what will happen you by Monday.’ He went on with much more I do not recall, but it was all threats and warnings of what would befall all concerned if Kerr was not released. The Sheriff at last got in a word. ’The charge is sedition and ordinary processes of procedure do not apply.’
’You might have said that 30 years ago when you infernal Tories sent Thomas Muir of Huntershill to his death, and William Skirving and others to banishment for seeking reform in representation and upholding the right of petition, but you are not able now to make the law to suit your ends. You are holding this man without shadow of law or justice, and I demand his being set at liberty.’
‘Quite an authority in law!’ sneered the Sheriff.
’Yes, I have been three times before the court of session and won each time. I knew your father, who was a decent shoemaker in Cupar, and when he sent you to learn to be a lawyer he little thought he was making a tool for those he despised. Pick a man from the plow, clap on his back a black coat, send him to college, and in five years he is a Conservative, and puckers his mouth at anything so vulgar as a Reformer, booing and clawing to the gentry and nobility. Dod, set a beggar on horseback and he will ride over his own father, and your father was no lick-the-ladle like you, but a Liberal who stood up for his rights.’ The bitterness and force with which the stranger spoke cowed his hearers.
‘These insults are too much,’ stammered the Bailie.
The stranger at once turned upon him. ’O, this is you McSweem, to whom I have sold many a box of soap and tea when you wore an apron and kept a grocer’s shop. Set you up and push you forward, indeed. You have got a bit of an estate with your wife’s money and call yourself a laird! The grand folk having taken you under their wing, you forget that you once sat, cheek-by-jowl, with Joseph Gerrald, and now you sit in judgment on a better man than a dozen like you.’
‘Mr Sheriff,’ shouted his lordship. ‘Remove this man to the cells.’
‘I dare you to put a finger on me,’ and he grasped a chair ready to knock down the officer who advanced to obey the order. ’I am within my lawful rights. Dod, wee Henderson would ask nothing better than to prosecute you before the lords of session were you to keep me in jail even for an hour. Release this innocent man Kerr, and let us go.’
‘You are a vulgar bully,’ exclaimed his lordship haughtily.
The stranger dropped his bitter tone, and asked smoothly, ’May I ask your lordship a question? Will you condescend to say how many of your lordship’s relatives are in government offices, and is it true your wife’s mother draws a pension, all of them living out of taxes paid by the commonalty whom you despise?’
His lordship affected not to hear him, and beckoning the Sheriff to draw near, he conferred with the magistrates in whispers. I overheard Bailie McSweem say, ’I know him, he’s a perfect devil to fight; better have nothing to do with him,’ and the Sheriff’s remark, ’He has got a legal catch to work on.’ When the Sheriff went back to his seat, h is lordship said curtly, ‘The accused is discharged,’ and he and McSweem hurriedly left. The stranger gripped Kerr by the shoulder and pushed him before him until we reached the street. ’Now, I must leave you, for I must see what my customers are out of.’
‘Tell me your name?’ asked Kerr, ’that I may know who has done me such service.’
’Never mind; you are under no obligation to me. A wee bird told me you were in trouble and I am glad to have been in time to serve you.’
’You do not know all the service you have done; you have saved more than myself from jail, and an innocent wife and children from poverty. Do let me know your name that I may remember it as long as I live.’
’Daniel M’farlane, and my advice is to quit Scotland right off, for these devils are mad angry at your giving them the slip. They will get the papers they need from Greenock and have you in jail if you are here tomorrow.’ A grip of the hand, and the stranger was gone. The whole scene was such a surprise, so novel to me, that every part of it fastened on my memory.
On reaching the brig we found the sailors stowing away casks of water. Kerr and myself had been given the same berth, and Allan and Robbie had the next one. Saying he was dead-tired, for he had been on his feet since leaving Greenock, Kerr turned in though the sun had not set. An hour or so after, a number of men came to the wharf to see him. I found him asleep. They asked if I was the lad the officer took along with him to be a witness. Gathering in a quiet corner they had me repeat all that took place. They said they were Liberals and glad to hear the black nebs had won.
The noise overhead of washing the deck awoke me, and I knew by the motion of the ship we were sailing. On getting up I saw Troon several miles behind and Ailsa Craig drawing near. Allan and myself, with Robbie between us, were snuggled on the lee side of the longboat when Kerr appeared. He was interested on hearing of the men who came to visit him and said it was hard to be hounded out of Scotland, which he did not wish to leave, for saying constitutional reforms were called for. ’I am no worse used,’ he added, ’than the man whom that county we are looking at starved when he was among them and built monuments to him when he was dead.’ The town of Ayr was in sight and he named several of the points Burns had named in his songs. ’Think, my laddies, of a man like Burns being told by the officials over him to keep his Liberal views to himself, that it was not for him to think but to be silent and obedient. And he had to swallow their order to prevent his losing the petty office which stood between his children and starvation.’
The breeze that had taken the brig so far down the firth soon died away, and we rocked gently south of Ailsa Craig. In the hold folk were busy getting things in some sort of order, while on deck the sailors were putting everything in shipshape. This breathing spell was fortunate, for at dark the wind came in squalls, and on rounding the Mull of Cantyre the ocean swells sent most of the passengers to their berths seasick. I escaped and was able to help the family and Mr Kerr, who almost collapsed, and was not himself for a week. His first sign of recovery was his craving for a red herring. The mistress was early up and bustling round to find she had to face an entire change in the methods of housekeeping to which she had been used. There was a little house between
There were 43 passengers. There were two families besides our own, and outside of them were a number of young men, plowmen and shepherds, intent on getting land and sending for their people to join them the next spring. There was an exception in a middle-aged man, brisk and spruce, who held himself to be above his fellow-passengers, and said nothing about where he came from or who he was. The only information he gave was, that he had been in the mercantile line, and that he was to be addressed as Mr Snellgrove. He waved his right hand in conversation and spoke in a lofty way, which to Allan and myself was funny. When he had got his sealegs and his appetite, he began lecturing the passengers as to what they ought to do, enlarging on organizing a committee, of which he was to be head. I think I see him, strutting up and down the deck by the side of the captain with whom it gratified him to walk. The only other passenger besides him who was not connected with farming was Mr Kerr, to whom I became much attached. He was well-informed on subjects I had heard of but knew nothing, and we talked by the hour. His companionship was to me an intellectual awakening. Among his purchases in Troon was material for a suit of clothes, which he made during the voyage, for he was a tailor. He had left Greenock in such haste that he had not time to go to his lodging for any of his belongings. Mr Snellgrove affected to despise him both for his trade and his political principles, and never missed an opportunity to sneer at him; Mr Kerr never replied.
Day followed day without relieving the monotony. At times we would get a glimpse of the topsails of a ship gliding along the horizon, but usually the ocean seemed to have no other tenant than our own stout brig. One afternoon the cook rushed out of his den with the shout ’There she spouts!’ and looking where he pointed we saw a whale cleaving the waves. We were in our third week out when we ran into a fog. The wind fell and the brig rolled in the swell, causing her tackle to rattle and sails to flap as if they would split. The second day the fog was thicker, and the ocean smooth as glass. For fear of collision with another ship, the lookout man kept blowing a horn which had a most dismal sound. The captain and mate tried to get the sun at noon but could not find the faintest trace. After dinner a gull flew past, which made the cook say he smelt danger. A few were below but the most of us were on deck when a slight bump was felt and then another. The rattling in the rigging stopped and the ocean swell broke on our stern. The mate started to the companion scuttle and shouted to the captain, that the ship was grounded. In a minute he appeared, his face white and twisted with anguish. His anxiety was not alone for the passengers and crew but for himself. He was owner of the brig and if she was wrecked he was ruined. The mate was casting the lead and when he shouted ‘We are on a sandbank’ there was a sigh of relief deepened by the carpenter’s report that the ship was not making water. Grannie, who had managed to creep up the ladder from the deserted hold, remarked ’We are sooner in Canada than I expectit.’ Her exclamation brought the reaction from our dread and we burst into laughter. ‘It is not Quebec,’ shouted Allan in her ear, ’we are aground.’ ‘A weel,’ she replied, ‘I will cling to the rock o’ my salvation.’
The order was given to get ready the boats. There were two, the yawl that had been hauled on top of the house on deck, and lay keel up. Oars were mislaid and on hanging her to the davits it was noticed in time there was no plug in the hole for drainage. The other boat, which was our reliance, was the long boat abaft the foremast. Its cover was torn off and we saw it was filled with all sorts of odds and ends that had been stowed there to be out of the way. These were pitched aside by willing hands and the tackle had been fastened to hoist her overboard, when there was a shout from the fog of Ahoy. We saw a man in yellow oil skins rowing towards us. Jumping on board, he asked ’What is keeping you here?’ ‘You tell us,’ replied the captain, who was overjoyed to see him. The fisherman said we had been drifted by the current towards Newfoundland, and had the ship not grounded she would in a few hours, have been dashed against the cliffs that line the shore and every soul been lost. It was the most wonderful escape he had ever known.
‘How are we to get off?’ asked the captain. ’You will float off when the tide makes.’ ‘And then what will we do if there is no wind?’ ’You will go on the cliffs, but there will be a capful of wind at ebb tide.’ The captain had sent for his chart, and the fisherman pointed out where the brig stood. He said if a breeze did not come in time for her to make a slant southwards we were to take to the boats and row to the cove which he covered with his thumb. ’If you can get your anchor over the side, it may help you,’ he added.
He and his comrades were out catching bait. He heard our horn and then saw our lump of a brig loom through the fog. We were sorry to see him leave and row off to his schooner, of which he had the bearings. To hoist the anchor from where it had been stowed when we lost sight of Tory island and bitt it to the chain was tedious work but it was begun. We waited hopefully for the tide and, sure enough, it lifted us gently. On feeling we were afloat once more we gave a cheer. Soon after a faint breath of air was felt, the ship got steerage way, and we slowly hauled off the dreaded coast. The breeze cleared the fog and in the rays of the setting sun we saw the cliffs against which we might have been shivered and the fishing-boats to which our friend belonged.
On gathering in the hold our talk was of our escape. The master said it was proof to him God was with us; we thought we were lost when we grounded, yet that sandbank was what had saved us. Just then Mr Snellgrove came down the ladder. ’I have just bade the captain good night,’ he said, ’and I am authorized by him to inform you all danger is past. Had an executive committee been appointed the moment the vessel struck matters would have gone on with less confusion. We are safe, however, notwithstanding we have a Jonah on board.’
Mr Kerr who was, like all of us, excited by the accident, asked, ’You mean me?’
Yes, you are a fugitive from the justice which would have punished you as you deserve for sedition. The world has come to a strange pass when tailors would dictate to the Powers ordained by God how the realm is to be governed. For one I am loyal to my King and his advisers in all they ordain. England’s glorious bulwark is her throne and the nobility who surround it.’
The little man stood on the lower rungs of the ladder, in front of the lantern that swung from a beam, so I saw him clearly. To our surprise Mr Kerr came forward and spoke slowly and quietly. ’I do not wish you, my fellow passengers, to look upon me any longer as a fugitive from justice, and will explain how it comes that circumstances give color to the charge. I have a brother, older than myself and father of a large family. One day in April, a clerk in the sheriff’s office, who is a cousin, came to me at night to tell me that a spy who had attended a meeting of the Liberal club, had laid an information that my brother had spoken disrespectfully of the
‘A plausible story,’ said Mr Snellgrove, ’but you told a lie when you answered to a false name before the Troon magistrate.’
‘I told no lie,’ answered Mr Kerr in a calm voice, ’for I was not asked to plead, but I knew I could have saved myself and have sent my brother to jail by correcting the mistake of the spy.’
Mr Snellgrove was about to say more when a murmur of disapproval caused him to slink to his berth. My master came forward and taking Mr Kerr by the hand said, ‘I respected you before; I honor you now,’ and all, men and women, pressed to shake his hand.
After breakfast next morning there was much talk over our escape from death, and the more light thrown on it in discussion the stronger grew the feeling that we had been saved by the interposition of Providence. Had the brig not struck the sandbank and done so at low tide, not a soul would have reached land, and relatives would never have known what became of the Heatherbell unless part of her wreckage was picked up. There ought to be public acknowledgment of our rescue and expression of our united thanks. The captain agreed it would be right, so, that afternoon, all hands assembled, except Mr Snellgrove, who sat at the bow pretending to read a book. The impression made on me, by the sight of the sailors joining in the psalms and the children gathering round their mothers’ skirts in wonder, has survived these fifty-five years. The master at the request of the captain, took charge. He read the story of Paul’s shipwreck and then prayed with a fervor that made me cry. To the surprise of all, he asked Mr Kerr to improve the occasion. He began by saying it was not for mortals to judge the ways of God, to complain of visitations or to condemn acts that are inscrutable, but it was the bounden duty of man, when good did befall him, to ascribe the praise to God. They had a marvellous escape from a cruel death, and without inquiring into the how or wherefore it was our part to acknowledge the hand that saved us. After a good deal more in that strain of thought he changed to the purpose of our voyage. We were
How much more the speaker would have said I do not know, for Mr Snellgrove, who had come forward on his beginning to speak, here shouted ‘Treason!’ The master to prevent a scene, for a young shepherd moved to catch hold of the offender, gave out the 100th psalm, and we closed in peace.
The hold was so dark that Mr Kerr could not see to sew, so on fine days he worked on deck. Sitting beside him he taught me how to hold a needle, for he said every man should be able to make small repairs. He advised me to seize every opportunity to learn. When a boy he could have learned to speak Gaelic and regretted he had let the chance go by. Should he get work in Montreal, he would study French. A man’s intellect grows by learning whatever accident throws in his way, and the man who, from foolish conceit, refuses to take advantage of his opportunities remains a dolt. Read and observe, he said, and you will be able to say and do when your fellows are helpless. He got cuttings of canvas from the bosun, shaped them into a blouse, and got me to sew them together. The other boys laughed at me, and called me the wee tailor, but the blouse did me good service for many a day. While so much with him, I asked Mr Kerr about his political trouble. Though a Liberal he belonged to no club and was against using other than constitutional means to bring about reforms, and these reforms must come. It could not continue that Great Britain was to be ruled by a parliament composed of aristocrats and their creatures, for the great mass of the people had no voice in it. No Methodist, Baptist, or other dissenter was allowed a seat in parliament, and there were noblemen who controlled the election of more members than the city of Glasgow. Manchester and Birmingham have no members. Half of Scotland is owned by a dozen aristocrats. Whenever you hear men shout disloyalty and claim to be the only true-blue supporters of their country, you may be sure they are selfishly trying to hold some privilege to which they have no right. He told of many of his acquaintances who had been prosecuted for petitioning for the mending of political grievances, of a few who had been ruined by imprisonment and law costs, of the men who had been banished to Australia, and the three men who had been hanged. Hundreds had fled, like himself, to escape prosecution.
After our misadventure off Newfoundland our voyage was prosperous. Coming on deck one sunny morning we saw land, which was Cape Ray, and before the sun set we were in the Gulf of St Lawrence. We were not alone now, for every few hours we sighted ships. They were part of the Spring fleet to Quebec, now on their voyage home with cargoes of timber. One passed us so close that the captains spoke, and when the homeward captain shouted he was for the Clyde there were passengers who wished they were on board her, and the tear came to their eyes when they thought of Scotland and of those who were there. The Bird Rocks were quite a sight to us, but the Ayrshire folk held they were not to be compared with Ailsa Craig. On the Gulf narrowing until we could see land on both sides, a white yacht bore down to us and sent aboard a pilot. He was a short man, with grizzled hair. Being the first Frenchman we had seen, we gathered round him with curiosity and listened to his broken English with pleasure, for the tone was kindly and he was so polite, even to us boys. He brought no very late news, for he had left Quebec ten days before, when the weather was so hot that laborers loading ships dropped in the coves from sunstroke. Each tack that brought the brig higher up the river changed the scenery, a range of forest-clad trees on the north bank, and on the south bank a row of whitewashed cottages, so closely set that they looked as if they lined a street, broken at intervals by the tin-covered roof and steeple of a church. There were discussions among our farmers as to the narrowness of the fields and what kind of crops were on them, for they looked patchy and were of different colors, which the pilot was generally called on to decide, and it was funny to watch his difficulty in understanding their broad Scottish speech. Reaching where the ebb tide was stronger than the breeze, anchor was dropped for the first time. Before the tide turned, the pilot cried to dip up water, and there was a shout of delight when we tasted it and found the buckets were filled with fresh water. Wasn’t there a big washing that day! As much splashing as the porpoises made who gambolled at a distance. Cool, northerly breezes helped us on our way, and exactly five weeks from the day we left Troon we came to anchor off Cape Diamond, which disappointed us, for we looked for a higher rock and a bigger fort. On the ship mooring, the pilot sat down, and in a frenzy of delight at his success in bringing her up safely, flourished his arms and chuckled in his own language. Darting from a wharf came a fine rowboat with four oarsmen, and an official in blue with gilt buttons holding the helm. We were so engrossed in watching it, that we did not notice Mr Snellgrove had joined us, decked out grandly in finest clothes. Before the captain could say a word to the customs-officer, Mr Snellgrove asked him whether the governor-general was at his residence, and on being told he was, said he would accompany
The intention being to weigh anchor on the tide flowing, leave to go on shore was refused to the passengers. The captain, having to report at the customs, he, however, took Mr Kerr with him, to get materials for repairs he was making to the captain’s clothes. Mr Kerr caught hold of me, and I had a hurried look at what appeared to me to be a foreign town, leaving out the street that ran along the harbor, which seemed to be lined with taverns frequented by soldiers and sailors. Mr Kerr bought a fancy basket from a squaw, as a present to the mistress, who had been kind to him. While we were gone, the ship was visited by boats offering bread for sale, and willing to take in exchange split peas or oatmeal. Black lumps were held up as maple sugar. They were so dirty that curiosity was soon satisfied. The boat that brought us a pilot, went back with Snellgrove’s trunk. On the tide beginning to flow the anchor was lifted and we were borne upwards, passing the crowd ashore, among whom were many soldiers. A gun was fired from the citadel and the flag fluttered down, for it was sunset when we got into the stream. Everything being new and strange nothing escaped us, and every passenger was on deck watching. The number of ships surprised all. There were rows of them for two or three miles, in the midst of fields of the logs which were to form their cargoes. As I sat beside Mr Kerr in the twilight, he spoke of the sights I could not help seeing in the street along the waterfront of Quebec, or hearing the language used. There was evil in the world of which a man should try to keep ignorant. It was not knowledge of the world to look into, much less to dabble in its filth. A lad who kept his thoughts clean was repaid by health and happiness, while entertaining evil imaginings led to a weak intellect and discontent with oneself. I had noticed before, when anybody began a dirty story that Mr Kerr rose and left. Another time he told me, his constant effort was to think of only pleasant things, to try and relieve what was disagreeable by looking from a sunny standpoint and to meet disappointments by searching if there was not some good in them.
On the tide beginning to turn, the anchor was dropped. The tide is felt as high as Three Rivers and it is possible for a ship to go that far by floating up with it. The second night after leaving Quebec we were startled by a loud knocking on the companion of the forecastle and an imperative shout to tumble up. An east wind had come and every minute was valuable. The anchor was lifted and sails set, and before the sun appeared we were sweeping past Three Rivers. Interest was kept up by the villages and fields we passed, and it was the decision of the farmers that it was poor land badly worked. More novel to us, was the succession of rafts we met, each covering acres, with masts and houses on them, and men along their sides keeping them in midstream by means of long oars. As we passed up lake St Peter the wind freshened, the clouds came lower and the rain poured. The captain and pilot were in great glee, for they told us if the wind held we would pass up the St Mary’s current and anchor off Montreal before dark. Strong as the wind was and with every sail set that would draw, it was found we could not stem the current without help, so the ship was brought close to the bank, a rope passed ashore, and a string of oxen appeared, who helped to draw her into calmer water. The night was dark and rainy but we kept on deck and watched the lights of Montreal.
They had not been at sea a week when the three farmers had agreed they would keep together on reaching Canada and take up land side by side. They were also of one mind in making Toronto (it was not so named then) their starting-point in search of new homes. The captain’s advice was, that one of them should take the stage at Montreal; by so doing he would get to Toronto at least a week ahead of the rest of the party, in which time he could hunt up land. This would save delay and the expense of staying in lodging while looking for a place to settle. It was arranged the master should go. At daylight he got ashore and was in time for the stage that left for Prescott. We were all up early that morning, eager to see Montreal. The clouds had gone and the mountain looked fresh and green. The town consisted of a few rows of buildings along the river. There being no wharf or dock the ship was hauled as close to the shore as her draft allowed, and a gangway of long planks on trestles set up. Nearly every passenger walked over it to say they had set foot on Canada. A number of the men went into the town to see it. In two hours one of them was brought back drunk and without a copper in his pockets. Mr Kerr told me he would stay in Montreal if he got a place. He returned in the afternoon to tell us he had got work and to take away his few belongings. He bade all good-bye. On coming to me, I went with him, for he had asked the mistress that I go with him to see the town. The narrowness of the streets and the foreign look of the houses with their high-pitched roofs impressed me less than the muddy roadways, for I had never thought
The captain having given notice that everybody must leave the ship next day, there was early bustling in finishing packing and arranging for the next stage in our journey, which was to be by a Durham boat to Prescott. Carts were on hand to haul our luggage to the canal, where lay the boat that had been hired for our party. A carter hoisted a chest on his little vehicle and hurriedly drove off. Instead of taking the direction of the other carts, he went straight up the dump that led into the town. I shouted to him to stop. He laid his whip on the horse and drove faster. It flashed on me he was a thief, and I ran after him. I could never have caught up to him had it not been market day and the street was crowded with people and carts. I jumped up beside him and pulled at his collar to make him stop. He tried to push me on to the road, but I clung to him, when he lashed me with the whip. I shouted for help, but all being French they did not know what I said, but they saw something was wrong and with many exclamations the crowd stood staring at us. Just then a little, stout man, in a black gown, elbowed his way through the crowd, and asked me in English what was the matter. I told him the carter had stolen the chest. He spoke to the carter in French. ’The man denies it,’ said the priest, for such I now guessed he was. I hurriedly narrated what had happened, and for proof pointed to the name painted on the chest. Speaking with severity to the carter, the fellow turned his horse towards the river and the priest told me he would take the chest back to where he got it. ‘But he may not do so,’ I exclaimed. The priest gave me a sharp look, as if surprised that I should be ignorant of his power. ‘He dare not disobey me.’ I thanked the priest from the bottom of my heart, and in a few minutes the carter had dumped the chest on the spot where he had taken it and drove away. On telling the mate what had happened, he said it was common for emigrants, both at Quebec and Montreal, to be robbed by fellows who regarded them as fair game.
We followed the cart that took the last of our luggage, forming quite a procession, and each one of us who was able carried something. I had a bag in one hand and an iron pot in the other. Grannie held a firm grip of Robbie, who she feared might be lost in Montreal, for the puir laddie hadna a word of French. On coming to the canal we were disappointed with both it and the boat. The canal was a narrow ditch and as to the boat, it was short and narrow and had no deck, except a few feet at either end. ‘We cannot live in that cockle-shell!’ exclaimed Mrs Auld. Her owner replied ‘She was one fine boat, new, built by Yankee.’ He was the only one of the crew who understood English, and was quick in his motions. He soon had all we brought with us stowed, and when a corner was found for the last chest, it was a surmise where the crew and passengers could find standing-room. The decked portions were allotted the women and children, the men and boys roosted on top of boxes and bales as they could. When all was ready, the conductor took the helm, the crew lined up on the bank with a tow-line over their shoulders, and off we started. The weather was fine and the country we passed beautiful. At the first locks we came to, the mistress stepped to a farmhouse beside the canal, and came back with the pail she had taken with her full of milk. It was the first the children had since we left Scotland. It was late in the day when the boat got to the end of the canal; the conductor, who told us to call him Treffle, said we would wait and have supper before going on the lake. Driftwood was gathered and fires made, pots and pans being set on stones. The crew fried fat pork, which, with bread, was their supper. We made porridge, for we had still a good supply of oatmeal, and of ship-biscuit. The sails were hoisted and we got away before it was quite dark. The wind was westerly, so we had to tack. Had it not been that the boat had a centreboard we would have made small progress. The centreboard was a novelty to us, and we could see how close it helped the little vessel to sail in the eye of the wind. The size of the lake surprised everybody and all the more when Treffle told us it was the St Lawrence. ’My, it is a big river and it is in a big country!’ exclaimed Mrs Auld. Everybody had to sleep as they best could; some slept sitting, more by leaning against one another, nobody had room to stretch himself. We were tired and glad to rest in any way. Mrs Auld said we were like herring in a barrel, packed heads and thraws. In waking at daylight we heard the sound of water dashing and roaring, and looking upwards saw the river tumbling downwards in great waves, which were, for all the world, like those of the Atlantic in a gale, except that they stayed in the same place. Treffle said these waves were due to the rushing water striking big rocks in the bed of the river, over which they kept pouring, and gave the name Cascades to the rapid. The boat was tied up, as the crew were to have breakfast
Our curiosity as to how our boat was to get up the rapid was soon satisfied. Along both sides of the boat ran a stout plank, to which were securely fastened a row of cleats, about two feet apart. The crew gathered at the bow, each man holding a long pole with an iron point. On the order being given by the conductor, who held the helm, two men stepped out and took their place on the planks, one on each side, and dropped the iron points of their poles into the river, until they struck bottom. Then, pressing the end they held against their shoulders, pushed with all their might. As the boat yielded to their thrust, they stepped backward down their planks, making room for another man in front, until there were four on each side of the boat, pushing with their utmost strength. As the men who first got on the planks reached the end, they jumped aside and made their way to the bow to begin anew the same operation, of dropping their poles into the water, tucking the head of them into the hollow of their shoulders, and, leaning forward, push as they did before, receding step by step, the cleats giving the needed purchase to their feet. The current was swifter than any millstream, yet the boat was pushed slowly up until we reached the entrance to a canal, smaller than that at Lachine, for it was only 2-1/2 feet deep and so narrow that the crew jumped it when they wished to cross. It served the purpose, however, of enabling the boat to pass the worst part of the rapid, where it foamed in great billows. Quitting the canal the swift current was again met and the setting poles again put into use. Our lads were eager to try their hands, but a few minutes was enough, their shoulders being too soft for the work. Those of the crew were calloused almost like bone, but even to them it was hard work, for the sweat rolled down their faces, as they struggled along the planks bent double.
Here I stopped. It was my youngest daughter who insisted on my telling How I Came to Canada, and I had consented on condition she would write down what I said, for I am a poor penman and no speller. Recalling what had happened in my early life, and I did so generally as I lay in bed in my wakeful hours, I dictated to Mary as she found leisure. On reading over what she had written I had only one fault to find with her work—she had not taken down the Scotch as I had spoken it. She had put my words, so she said, into proper English. She protested against my halting in my narrative with the arrival at Toronto, and insisted I go on and tell of our life in the backwoods. I cannot resist her pretty way of pleading with me when she wants anything, for she is so like my sainted mother that I often start at the resemblance. To me, in her young face and figure my mother lives again. The agreement was to tell How I Came to Canada. To that I now add, How we Got On in its Backwoods.
SEEKING FOR LAND
Leaving Mr Auld and Mr Brodie to see to the unloading of the baggage, we followed the master up the brae to the street that faces the lake, and entered a tavern. While waiting for dinner he told us of his experience in Toronto, not all, for he added to it for a week afterwards, but the substance of his complete story I will tell at once. The morning after his arrival be went to the office of the surveyor-general, and found several in the waiting-room; three he recognized as having come with him in the steamboat from Kingston. Like himself they all wanted land. Talking among themselves, an Englishman, who said he had been in Toronto four days, declared he had got sick coming to the office; he had thought there would be no difficulty in getting a lot and going to it at once, but found it was not so. The money he had to carry them to their new home was going in paying for board of his family. Unless he was assigned a lot that day, he would cross to the States. All were eager to get their lots at once; Canada invited emigrants yet, when they came to her door, there was no hurry in serving them. The master asked the reason, and got a number of answers. One was that there was too much formality and redtape, another that the officials were above their business and treated emigrants as if they were inferior animals, but the reason that struck the master most was that given by the emigrant
On returning to the store at that hour he found Mr Dunlop had been called away, but had left a letter, which he was to deliver. With some difficulty the master found the house. There was a man and woman sitting in the shade on the stoop. Reading the letter he was asked to sit down. The master described the man as short and thin and well up in years, but wiry and active. His wife was comely for her years, with a placid expression. In reply to his first question, the master addressed him as Sir. ’Use not that word again; all men are equal before God; use not the vain distinctions by which so many try to magnify themselves and set themselves apart from their fellows.’ The master was taken aback. The wife explained that they were Friends, whom the world named Quakers, and that their yea and nay meant what they expressed; they desired directness and sincerity in speech. Both took much interest in what the master told them, for they kept questioning him until they learned how he came to leave Scotland and of the voyage. They were struck by his account of the ship grounding off Newfoundland and the wife remarked ‘Thee did well to give thanks to Him who saved you.’ The address of Mr Kerr they asked for, and the master promised to get it. ’He has suffered as we Friends have and still do, for we have no voice in the government of the country and can hold no office.’ A girl came to the door who said supper was ready. The master rose to leave. ’Nay, thee must break bread with us; thee art a stranger in a strange land,’ said the wife, as she took hold of his arm. The evening passed too quickly, for the master enjoyed his company. On rising to go, the Quaker told him he had a block of land he had taken for a bad debt. ’And what is the price you put on it?’ asked the master. ’I do not sell in that way. Thou must see the land and if it suits thee, come back, and I will tell thee its price. Thee take breakfast as early as they can give it, and you will find a man whom we call Jabez waiting to lead thee where the land is.’
Next morning as the sun was rising over the lake, the master overheard a man in the barroom asking for him, and hurried from the table. He was tall and gaunt, with a set mouth that spoke of decision of character. At the door were two saddled horses and in a few minutes they were trotting up Yonge street. When they had to slow down, on account of the road becoming full of yawning holes, Jabez had much to say about backwoods farming. He had not the personal experience of a settler, but had seen much of backwoods life and had known scores who had tried it. ’Not one in five succeeds,’ he said, ’some fail from not having money to feed their families until enough land is under crop to maintain them, others from going on stony or sandy lots that yield only poor crops, and not a few from going where it is marshy and fever-and-ague prevail. Many go into the backwoods who have not the muscle for its hard work or who will not be content to live on pork and potatoes, until they can get better, yet even they might do had they perseverance and self-denial. The Scotch and the North of Ireland people, accustomed to hard work and spare living, seldom fail.’ They were riding past much land in bush, generally without a strip of clearing. Jabez remarked the curse of Canada was giving land to people who would not go to live upon it, who had no intention of clearing it, but held it to sell. A deal of that land you see was given as grants to old soldiers. A colonel could claim 1200 acres, a major 800, a captain 600 acres, and a private 100 acres. Not one in twenty who drew their lots meant to live on them, and of the few who tried most of them failed and left. Speculators had their agents round taverns and stores ready to buy soldiers’ tickets, and got transfers for a few dollars, sometimes for a keg of whiskey or a hundredweight of pork. If you want to kill a country, deal out its land as grants to old soldiers. It does the soldiers no good and keeps back settlement, for the grants they got are left by speculators unimproved, to the hurt of the genuine settlers, who want roads opened, fences put up, and ditches dug. You will find out this yourself when you begin to clear a lot. This giving away land to soldiers is well meant, but soldiers wont go on it and it is just a way to make speculators rich. No man should get an acre from the government unless he binds himself to live on the land and clear it. On the master saying he was told much land was got by politicians, Jabez grew warm in denouncing them. Whatever party was in office, used the land as a means of bribery. They bought the support of members by grants of land and, when an election came round, got the settlers to vote as they wished under threats of making them act up to the letter of their settlement duties or offering back-dues and clear titles in return for their support. No candidate opposed to the government can be elected for a backwoods county. With such talk Jabez relieved their journey until they came to a side-road,
Coming back to the horses, they found they had finished the oats Jabez had brought, and were nibbling at the leaves within reach. On regaining Yonge street, the horses were watered at a tavern, Jabez dropping five coppers on the counter, the price of two drinks. ’You are expected to drink when you stop to water a horse, but I want no whiskey, I prefer to pay for what the horse drinks.’ Arrived in Toronto the master said he would go and see Mr Bambray after supper. Jabez asked him to remember that Quakers do not dicker, so if the price was too high for him to pay to come away at once.
The master found Mr Bambray reading a newspaper, told him he was satisfied with the land and would buy it were the price within his ability. The Quaker took from a desk a sheet of paper; pointing to the figures written on it he said, ’I do not deal in land, believing it not to be agreeable with the teaching of the Gospel to make merchandize of what God intended for all his children. I do not consider it right to buy land you are not able or do not mean to make use of, but secure with a view to sell at an advanced price to the man who will cultivate it. These 400 acres were transferred to me for a just debt which the man could not otherwise pay. On this line is the amount of that debt, here are the legal charges paid by me in the transaction, and here is interest. The whole totals $472, which is the price.’ The master was surprised, for from what he had heard of the prices asked for land so close to Toronto at least double would have been sought. ’My friends and I are able to pay that sum to you and we take the land.’ The Quaker moved not a muscle. Taking up a quill he wrote out a promise of sale, and was given a bank of Scotland note for ten pounds as surety. Inquiring what steps he would next take, the master was advised to secure the services of Jabez for a month at least. ’Thee are ignorant of bush-farming and need an instructor, otherwise loss will befall thee and much trouble.’ Arranging for the final transfer of the land, the master sought out Jabez. He and two brothers carried on a cartage business. Jabez said there would not be more calls than his brothers could attend to until August, and he would go if he was willing to pay two dollars a day for himself and an ox-team. ‘That is settled,’ replied the master. ‘Now what is to be done first?’ ’To cut out a sledge-road across your lot, so that you may get your freight in.’ To help he was to hire a man, and it was arranged to start at daylight.
Next morning Jabez appeared at the door of the tavern with an ox-team, and seated beside him in the wagon was a youth. ’This is Jim Sloot, who can handle an axe with any man. You have that to learn. It is the axe that has made Canada.’ Arrived at the bridle-path that led to their lot, they had a day’s work on it brushing and prying off fallen trees. On reaching the lot master had bought, trees had to be felled to continue the path. These Jabez and Jim assailed, while master trimmed their branches off with a hatchet. On the evening of the third day they were in sight of the pond, when the master left, for the Kingston boat might arrive next morning, and he must be on hand to meet his family. How he met us I have already told.
FIRST DAYS IN THE BACKWOODS
Our freight, as Jabez termed it, filled three wagons and started up Yonge-street. A fourth wagon came to the door of the tavern for the women and children, I being left to help them. We were told to stop at Mr Dunlop’s store for supplies that had been bought. He came out to see us and in a minute was thick in talk with the women about Ayrshire. On the team starting he declared meeting them was like a visit to Scotland. The driver pointed out to us how straight Yonge-street was; runs forty miles to Lake Simcoe straight as the handle of my whip. It was a jolty, hot drive but we enjoyed it hugely; everything was new to us and we were all in high spirits at the prospect of our long journey being about to end and in coming into possession of our estates, about which there was no end of jokes. Mrs Auld was in doubts as to what name they would give their hundred acres, while Mrs Brodie settled on Bonnybraes for hers. ‘But we have not seen a hill since we left Montreal,’ remarked the mistress. ‘I dinna care,’ rejoined Mrs Brodie, Bonnybraes was the name of the farm we left and it will make the woods hamelike.’ When we spied at a distance several men standing by the roadside we gave a shout of joy and were soon reunited. The laughing and talking might have been heard half a mile away. Jabez now took the lead. As the wagons arrived he had caused them to be unloaded under a clump of hemlocks, the chests and packages being arranged to make a three-sided enclosure. In front he had started a fire, over which, slung from a pole resting on crotched sticks, was a pot, and soon the mistress was preparing supper. It was dark before we had settled for the night, which was so warm that sleeping under the trees was no hardship. Jabez covered the dying fire with damp litter, the smoke of which kept off the mosquitos, which pestered us dreadfully.
In the morning Jabez was the first to be stirring. Giving me two pails he directed me to go to a house I would find a bit down Yonge-street to get water, and, if they had it, some milk. The house I found and also the well, but how to draw water out of it I knew not. There was nobody stirring until my awkward attempts to work the bucket brought a man out. I told him who I was. ’You are an emigrant and this is the first sweep-well you have tried to work. Well, now, you have got to learn,’ and he showed me how simple it was. He was much interested when he heard of our party and of their camping out. ’Stay a minute till I tell mother.’ Coming back to the door he cried to me to go on with the water and he would fetch milk after a while. The porridge was ready when he and his wife appeared with the milk. He called his wife mother, which we thought strange. She was a smart, tidy woman and was soon deep in advice to our housekeepers about bush ways of doing things and bush cookery. After they had gone their children, three in number, came shyly round and watched us with open-eyed curiosity.
Jabez was in haste to get us moved to our own location, and to do so had provided two oxsleds. Taking charge of one and Sloot of the other they dragged the first loads over the bush track, all the men, except the master, following. On returning for a second load, Jabez reported Brodie and Auld were pleased with the land and that Allan and the children were having a wash in the pond. How to get grannie through the woods concerned the master. Jabez solved the difficulty by making a comfortable couch on his sled, on which she rested, with the master on one side, Robbie running alongside of the ox, and myself following. So slowly and carefully did the ox step that grannie was little discomposed. On stepping from her rude conveyance, she gazed in wonder on the pond and the forest that encompassed it. ‘This is our new farm,’ shouted Allan in her ear, ‘A’ this ground and the lakie?’ ‘Yes,’ answered Allan. ‘An thae trees?’ ‘Yes,’ replied her grandson, ’father is laird of it all.’ She stood for a minute or two as if dazed; and then a light came to her face as if she had suddenly comprehended it all. She stepped to the master, and laying her hands on his shoulders said, ’You have been a good and true son and weel you deserve to be a laird.’ Seeing a black squirrel jump from tree to tree Robbie darted off with a shout of glee.
Jabez cut a number of poles, and with them and blankets made two roomy tents, which were to give shelter until shanties were built. Before sites for them could be picked out it was necessary to divide the 400 acre lot. Brodie and Auld were to get each a hundred acres and they were agreed in choosing the portion of land that lay south of the road and included the pond. The master, as I found later, would have liked that part for himself, but willingly agreed to their choice. The next point was to divide
I have seen many a fine Sabbath morning but none to me like that one which was our first in the bush. The serenity of air and sky, the solemnity of the woods, the stillness sweetened by the song of birds, struck even the children, who were quieter than usual. After breakfast and things were tidied up we had worship. The master read selections from the closing chapters of Hebrews, and his prayer was one of thankfulness to the Hand that had preserved us on our journey and brought us to a quiet resting-place. Mrs Auld heard the children their questions and had a lively time in scolding and coaxing them by turns to never mind the squirrels but attend to what she was saying.
The dinner things had been cleared away when a visitor came out of the woods. He had a red, flabby face, framed in a thick whisker turning grey. The chief feature of his dress was a long surtout, that had been part of a gentleman’s dress-suit in its day and a shabby tile hat. Addressing the master with deliberate ceremony, he told how he had heard of new-comers and felt it his duty to welcome them and tender his services. He had been four years in Canada and his experience would be of high value in directing them what to do. Growing voluble he pointed out what he considered were the mistakes we had already made, ending with a plump proposal that, for his board and a certain money consideration, he would take the direction of the settlement and guarantee its immediate prosperity. He paused and asked for a drink. Mrs Auld handed him a dipper. Smelling it, he said experience had taught him the prudence of never drinking lake water without its being qualified by a few spoonfuls of whisky. ‘If you will be so kind,’ he said to Mrs Auld, ’as to bring your greybeard, I shall have pleasure in giving a toast to your new settlement.’ ’Whisky! cried Mrs Auld, ’there’s no a drop to be found here.’ Turning to the master he said, ’This will never do; you will need bees to raise the shanties, to chop, and to fallow, and not a man will come unless there is whisky and plenty to eat. A keg of Toronto’s best will be to you a paying investment.’ The master, who had remained silent, carefully measuring the stranger, now spoke. ’I thank you for your advice, as to your help we do not need it, for, as you see, we are strong in ourselves.’ The Englishman, for such he was, grew angry. ’You unmannerly Scot, you will have cause to regret scorning my services. I never had such a reception, for in the poorest shanty they greet you with a cup of welcome.’ So saying he disappeared. In telling Jabez of him next day, he said the master had done well to come out squarely. Bees had grown to be a nuisance and a loss. When they heard of one, drinkers would travel ten miles to attend and others came just for the sport of the day. The settler would run in debt to lay in a stock of food and whisky. Out of the crowd that would come several would not do a hand’s turn, but drink and eat; part would work during the forenoon and then, after dinner, join in the talk and drinking; while the remainder would put in a faithful day’s labor. It often happened that bees ended in quarrels, sometimes in fights. A settler, Jabez said, would do better to use the cost of drink and food in hiring labor.
In the afternoon the women began writing letters to Scotland, using the tops of chests to rest the paper on. The sheets were crossed and recrossed, for postage was high, fifty cents the half ounce. Allan and I walked into the bush to see what it was like. The trees were all large and well set apart with little underbrush. Fallen trees and decaying logs abounded. Whether it was jumping or going
Then let our songs resound
And every heart be love;
We’re marching through Emmanuel’s ground
To fairer worlds above.
Distance mellowed the harshness of the voices and the words sounded like a message from heaven. Their distress was that neither Allan’s voice nor my own was distinguishable. Glad they were when we emerged from the trees and joined them round the fire that had been made to blaze as a guide to us. Our visitors made themselves at home at once. ’Why do you call your son Sal?’ asked the mistress, ‘that is a girl’s name.’ The reply was, ’His Sunday came is Salvation Simmins; we call him Sal for short.’ ‘And your husband addresses you as Jedu; what name is that?’ ’I was a girl of sixteen before I was baptised, and the preacher gave me the name Jeduthan, because I was the chief musician.’ ’Jeduthan was a man, the friend of David.’ ’Bible don’t say he was a man, and for years and years I was the chief musician at the campmeetings. Guess it was the same in David’s time as in ours—the women did the heft of the singing?’ Then she began singing, husband and son helping. ’Why don’t you all sing?’ she asked, ’aint you got religion yet? My, if you heard Elder Colver you would be on your knees and get converted right away.’ The mistress said they did not know the words of the hymns she sang, when she became curious to hear us. Alice struck up Come, let us to the Lord our God, and we all joined. ‘Whew!’ exclaimed Mrs Simmins, very pretty, but that aint the stuff to bring sinners to the penitent-bench—you have to be loud and strong. Ever hear a negro hymn? No, well we will give you one, Whip the ole devil round the stump.’ As they sang they acted the words. We parted with mutual good wishes, the mistress remarking, after they left, that God spoke in divers ways and their presentation of His truths, though rude and wild to us, doubtless suited the frontier population among whom they had lived and did good. ’The ax before the plow, the ox-drag before the smoothing harrow,’ added the master.
On Jabez appearing next morning he had six bags of potatoes on the ox-sled, which were for seed as well as eating, and said he had left a load of pine-boards to be hauled through the bush to floor the shanties. They now had to decide what kind of shanty they wanted. The cheapest, he told us, for all, men, women, and children, had gathered to hear about the building,—was a house twelve feet by twelve, with basswood staves for flooring or the bare soil, an opening that served both as door and window, with a blanket to keep out the cold, basswood scoops or elm bark for the roof, in which a hole was left to let out the smoke. There were many such shanties, but living in them was misery. From that sort they varied in size and finish, all depending on the settler’s means. With $25 a good deal could be done. Size and finish were agreed on, it being understood the master, who had most money, would have a larger house. This being decided, Mr Brodie set to work to dig his cellar and I was sent to Simmins to see if he could supply shingles for the three shanties and to ask Sal if he would hire until they were finished. I took the compass and found their clearance without trouble. In returning Sal, who carried his axe, blazed the trees, so that it would be easy to know the way. The following morning his mother accompanied Sal. She came to show how they made bread in the bush, and had brought a dishful of bran-risings. Explaining what yeast was and how to treat it, she set a panful of dough. When the mass had risen, she kneaded it, and moulded it into loaves. The bake kettle having been warmed, the loaves were placed in it, and when they had risen enough, she put the cover on, and planted the kettle in a bed of glowing embers. The bread was sweet and a welcome change to the cakes made on the griddle or frying-pan. We had more than bread that day. Mrs Simmins pointed out plants, like lambs quarter and dandelion, whose leaves made greens that added relish to our unvarying diet of pork. How much more she taught I do not know, but her visit was a revelation to our women-folk. Grannie was delighted with her singing because she could hear it.
ANDREW ANDERSON’S DIARY
In Scotland it had been the master’s custom to keep a record of work done, and of money paid or received. On parting with a neighbor, a farmer who had a notion of emigrating, he was asked, as a favor, to keep notes of his own daily experience. He had his doubts as to accounts of Canada he had read being correct, and knew whatever the master set down as to climate and other conditions he could depend upon. The book in which these notes were made was never sent, the master having learnt his friend had taken a new tack of his farm. From this journal I will now quote.
June 21.—Rushing work in getting up the shanties. Four men felling trees and sawing their trunks into the desired length. Awkward in chopping, I took the job of squaring the logs with the adze-ax. Gordon notched the ends as I finished them. Digging his cellar Brodie struck clay, which Jabez tells me is worth money to us. Under Ailie’s direction, the children planted potatoes round the stumps of the trees as they were cut down, and made a garden on a bare strip of land on the pond bank. Have got all the boards drawn from Yonge-street. Slow-work with an ox-sled, having to dodge to avoid striking trees.
June 22.—Jabez helped Brodie to finish his cellar, lining it with red-cedar poles. Great heat. Oxen drawing logs for the shanty.
June 23.—Began raising today. Jabez, never at a loss in finding the easiest way, had left standing two trees at the site of the house. Placing a stout pole in their crotches, long enough to reach across from one to the other, he attached a pulley. An ox, hitched to the end of the pulley-rope, hauled the logs to the spot and pulled them up as needed. This saved much lifting and the walls went up quickly. Gordon had notched the ends of the logs so exactly that they went together without trouble.
June 24—Have got Brodie’s house up to the square and began putting up the rafters. Cloudy; heat more bearable.
June 25—Saturday; eager to get the shanty finished all hands turned to the work, got the shingling finished and the ground floor laid. Mrs Brodie moved in at dark. Though there was neither door nor windows in place, she said she was prouder of her shanty than the Duchess of Hamilton could be of her palace.
June 26—The heat of this country surpasses anything we ever knew in Scotland. All very tired and glad to rest in the shade, with a smudge to keep off the mosquitoes. Strange to say, the children do not seem to care much about the heat.
June 27—Jabez arrived with a wagon loaded with lumber. Drew on sled first the doors and sashes, which he had got a carpenter to make for Brodie’s house, which Gordon fitted in. Afternoon being wet, we helped to lay the loft floor and to chink the house from the inside. Gordon put up two wide shelves in the corners for beds, and is making a table with benches on each side to sit on. The table has crossed legs; the benches have no backs.
June 28—Everything being ready, began on my house.
June 29—Made good progress, for we have been gaining experience.
July 1—The roof being on, moved into our shanty; well we did, for it poured at night.
July 2—Had a long talk about chimneys for our houses. The right way is to have a mason build them. There may be stones on our land, but there are none in sight. Jabez says we will have to put up with stick chimneys. In the hot weather we are having, cooking out of doors is all right unless when it rains.
July 3—The Sabbath rest beneath our own roof was sweet. Mary pleased and happy and mother proud of the house.
July 4—Leaving to Gordon the finishing of our shanty, the rest of us tackled with might and main Auld’s. How quickly Jabez and Sal can hew down a tree is a wonder to me.
July 5—Auld moved his belongings into his shanty this evening, though it is not half done. Gave Jabez money to bring out with him on Monday morning the iron-fixtures for our fire-places and the lime for the chimneys.
July 6—On going out this morning saw a deer with her hind drinking at the far end of the pond; beautiful creatures. Thank God for the Sabbath. Without it we would have broken down with our hard toil.
July 7—Jabez brought word from Mr Bambray that he wanted us on the 9th to give us our deeds. Told me he could not finish out a month, as he had expected. Business had become brisk in Toronto, and his brothers needed his help. He started at once to build the chimney in Brodie’s house, so that we could see how to do the other two. In laying the floor a 6-foot square had been left uncovered for the fire-place. In a frame of heavy elm logs that fitted the spot, puddled clay mixed with sand was rammed hard. Two jambs were built with brick which Jabez had brought and across them a thick plate of cast iron, which was to support the front of the chimney. The back of the chimney and sides had the few stones found in digging the cellars, and on top of them was laid more brick until the ceiling was reached. Care had been taken to build in a crane to hang pots. From the floor of the loft squarely cut pieces of cedar, 2 inches thick, were laid in clay mortar, and as the work went on were plastered with the same mortar inside and out, until the top was two feet above the ridge-board. Jabez said there was no danger of the cedar sticks taking fire. They were so well-beded in the clay that when it hardened the chimney was all one piece. If it fell, it would not break.
July 11—Brodie, Auld, and myself accompanied Jabez on his going to Toronto. Mr Bambray had arranged everything and in an hour we had paid him and each of us had his deed. We asked him about securing a road to our lots. He said two blocks of bush lay between them and Yonge-street. Both were owned by a man who was holding to sell, and he was afraid any influence we could exert would not compel him to make the road, though that was the condition on which the government had given the land. Met in the tavern several emigrants eager to get lots, all discontented with their treatment at the government office. One said he would go to Illinois. Asked how he would get there. Told me by Buffalo and lake Erie; land sold there at $1.25 an acre and no bush to clear.
July 12—Tired and rainy. Auld and Brodie came over to square our accounts. From the time we left the ship till we got into our shanties, we lived in common. Found Brodie had least money and more mouths to fill. His wife said she did not fear—they would strachle through until they got a crop. We had a long talk about getting a yoke of oxen, which we must have. Offered, if I got them, they would pay me in days’ work. I decided to put up a stable to be ready when I bought a yoke.
July 13—Took a tramp to see rear of my lot, Gordon guiding with a compass. All of a sudden the bush ceased, and on finding I stood on the edge of a swamp, I got angry at my being fooled into paying for a cattail marsh. There is quite a stretch not very wide, angling across the width of my lot. On thinking it over, am satisfied Bambray knew no more about its existence than I did. Returning home I followed the creek, which starts from it. There was a little water flowing. Noticed, where the creek leaves the marsh, a stretch of tall wild grass.
July 14—Could not sleep thinking about the swamp. Got Gordon to make a dozen cross-staffs and started for it to take levels. Found the marsh sloped towards the creek, and between where it entered and a hundred yards down the creek there is a fall of three feet, so the marsh can be drained. Dug down in several places and found the marsh to be a deposit of black soil on top of clay.
July 17—The Simmins family spent the afternoon with us. He knew about the swamp, and called it a, beaver-meadow. The grass that grew at the head of the creek would make hay good enough for cattle. Said I would find the dam the beavers had made if I searched a while, and if I got out the logs that formed it, the water would have a free course into the creek.
July 18—Spent all Saturday cutting grass at the head of the creek. It is fine but long. Turned it today and, if rain keeps off, will be ready to cock tomorrow afternoon, the sun is so hot and the grass so ripe.
July 19—Had Sal, Gordon, and Archie come and help to find the dam the beavers had built. On a crowbar showing us where the logs were buried, shovelled off the dirt and pried them out. It was wet, dirty work but we managed it. Cleared the bed of the creek of the rubbish that choked it at its head. Sal found a turtle, which he carried home.
July 20—Brodie and Auld came early and we set to work to get logs ready for the ox-stable. Very dry and hot.
July 21—Piled the hay in two stacks and thatched them as well as we could. We had just finished when a thunderstorm burst.
July 23—Gordon, who has made furniture for all the houses, set up a cupboard for Ailie, of which she is quite proud. The lad has a wonderful knack, and can copy anything he has a chance to examine. A deluge of rain; never saw such a downfall in Scotland. Lasted six hours and then came out sultry.
July 24—Sal stepped in while we were at breakfast with the hind quarter of a deer, his father had come on during the heavy rain and shot. First fresh meat we have had. Found it dry eating. Sunday though it was, walked with Sal to head of creek and found water was running freely into it from the marsh. Coming back Sal spied bees round a tree and said he would get the honey next month. Told me the names of the different squirrels and birds we saw and he had fun with a ground hog.
July 30—Although the weather has been warm have worked steadily chopping down trees; the sound of the axe coming from the three lots. On each of them there is now quite a clearance. Jabez had shown us how to make plan-heaps, and we so fell the trees, which will save hard work when we come to burn. Except myself, all are getting to be expert with the axe, though Sal, with less exertion, can chop down two to Allan’s one.
August 1—Growth far outstrips that of Scotland, and no wonder, there is no such heat there. In thinning turnips and the like Ailie kept what is pulled for boiling; they make good greens. We had a long talk about buying a yoke of oxen at once, and Brodie and Auld agreed to help me with the stable for them.
August 3—Fixed on spot for stable and began preparing logs for it, choosing cedar and pine as being easier to handle.
August 8—Began raising stable. Gordon made very neat corners.
August 9—Had stable up to the square when we dropped work.
August 11—Got the rafters on. Having no sawed lumber or shingles, will have to cut basswood staves and scoops.
August 13—Stable finished and all proud of it. There is a roomy loft which will be useful for more than fodder, for I am told when there is no bed in the shanty for a visitor they ‘loft him.’
August 14—Had arranged to walk to Toronto, for none of us have been inside a church since we left Scotland, but the sun came out with such a blistering heat that we had to give up our intention. It is awfully lonesome in the bush, and were it not for the work you are forced to do, we would get vacant-minded. It has been a great blessing in every way that the three families settled together. I can believe the report that a family planted in the depths of the bush, without a neighbor nearer than three miles, abandoned all they had accomplished to get company.
August 15—While chinking the stable, Gordon helping, I heard a crash and a cry from where Allan was chopping. We ran to the spot, and my heart jumped into my mouth, when I saw him lying as if he were dead under a big branch. I was for dragging him out, when Gordon showed me the movement would bring down the butt of the branch on his body. He ran for help. Ailie came first and then Brodie, and while the three of us held up the limb of the tree, Ailie pulled him out. She was calmer than any of us. Carrying him to the house, we had the satisfaction of finding there was no bone broken. A blue mark above the right eye showed where he had been struck. As he was breathing easily we had hopes he would come to, but it was long before he did, and it was the most anxious hour Ailie and I had ever known. When he opened his eyes, and looking wonderingly round asked, ‘What is a’ the steer aboot?’ we never before thanked God with such fervor. Gordon had run for Mrs Simmins, and while we were keeping wet cloths on Allan’s head, she hurried in. Looking at the mark, which
Aug. 16—Allan woke this morning all right, except feeling giddy. He will never again have as narrow an escape with his life. The tree he was felling, a big maple, in falling toppled over a dead tree beside it, which was so rotten that it fell in a shower of pieces.
Aug. 18.—Went to see the swamp and glad to find it was drier. The water has got vent and is seeping into the creek. Could walk on parts that would not carry before. Looked it over to plan how to drain it. Gordon, who was with me, said, Cut a ditch up the centre. I showed him that would not do when the swamp came to be plowed. The right way was to cut a ditch across the head and have it empty into another along the south side to the creek. Looked at me in wonder as he asked if I ever expected to plow it. Said I would grow grain on it before other three years. On returning he and I did a bit of underbrushing, piling as much of the brush as we could round the felled timber to help to burn it.
Aug. 19—Kept underbrushing all day.
Aug. 20—So hot gave the ax a rest. In the afternoon a thunderstorm. The downpour tested the roof of the stable, which leaked in only one place, where a scoop had split.
Aug. 21—Quite cool with a brisk northerly breeze. Wife and myself started for Toronto, and never enjoyed a walk more. Did us good to watch the clearances as we passed along. Fall wheat all cut and stacked. Barley being cradled and oats looking extra heavy though short in the straw. The sight of gardens and patches of potatoes pleased Ailie, and we both were surprised by the Indian corn, which we never saw before. It was tasseling. The bell was ringing when we reached Toronto and had to ask our way to the Presbyterian church. The crowd was going to the Episcopal and Methodist churches. The service was dry and cold, but it did us both good to worship with our fellows once more and join in the psalms. As we were walking away I heard somebody behind us call, Andrew Anderson, and looking back saw Mrs Bambray. Told her we were going to the tavern for dinner. ‘Thee shall go to no tavern on the seventh day,’ and slipping her arm into my wife’s, led us to her house. Pointing to a door she told me to go in and I would see what I never saw in Scotland, and led my wife upstairs. Opening the door I found myself in a backshed, with Bambray rubbing ointment on a negro’s arm. The man was a runaway slave and had arrived that morning on a schooner from Oswego. Bambray
Aug. 27—A week of steady work chopping. We must get clearances big enough to raise crops for next year’s living no matter how hot the days are.
Aug. 28—The Simmins family spent the day with us. They leave for the lake Simcoe country. All three like the free life of fishing, trapping, and hunting, and spoke as if they were going on a holiday. If they did well and got a big pack of furs, they intend in the spring to try Illinois, so we may not meet again. They sang and talked all day and we parted with sorrow. The days are still hot but the nights are cool with heavy dews.
Aug. 30—Each day hard at work felling trees. When I first saw our lot and how thick the trees stood on it I could hardly believe it possible we could clear the land of them, yet we have been here scarce three months and there is a great slash. Taking the trees one by one and perseverance has done it. Burning the felled trees that cumber the ground is the next undertaking. This cutting out a home from the bush is work that exhausts body and mind, but the reward is what makes life sweet to right-minded people—independence.
September 1—Had new potatoes to-day. They are dry and mealy and abundant in yield. I may say this is the first food the land has given us.
Sept. 2—Had a chance to send a note to Jabez to look out a suitable yoke of oxen. On going to Yonge-street found a long building going up. It is a tavern. The street is lined with them all the way to Toronto and how far north they go cannot say. Being the leading outlet there is much traffic on it. Saw several parties of emigrants pass. Imprudent to come so late in the season. They will have their sufferings when winter sets in for they have not time to prepare for it. Experience has shown me emigrants should come early in spring. I spoke with one lot. They sailed from Liverpool to New York and thence by the Erie canal to Oswego, avoiding the ordeal of the St Lawrence rapids. It seems strange but it is so, the United States is Upper Canada’s market. In comparison, little freight either goes or comes by Montreal. This ought not to be. The reason given is, that Lower Canada will not help to improve the St Lawrence route as it would not be to her benefit.
Sept. 5—There is a plague of squirrels—black, red and grey. Bobby keeps killing them and we have them on the table every day. Pushing the chopping, for our next year’s living depends on the size of our clearances. Weather being cooler, work not so exhausting. Had a scare yesterday from a bear trotting to the pond. It had its drink and fled on seeing us.
Sept. 9—Had word from Jabez to come to town as he had a yoke of oxen bought for me.
Sept. 10—Walked to Toronto, taking Gordon to help. Am no judge of oxen. They cost $60. Besides them had to pay for logging-chain and an ox-sled. Gordon spent the time in the wheelwright’s shop where I bought the sled. On Jabez telling me we would need somebody to teach us how to handle oxen and to burn a fallow, I went to see Sloot, and bargained with him for a week’s work. On getting all that was needed for my neighbors and myself the sled was heaped up; we walked, Sloot driving. It was near midnight when we reached home, but Ailie and the family got up to see the oxen by candle-light.
Sept. 11—Sunday though it was, Sloot, taking the boys to clear the way, had to go to the stacks near the swamp for hay to feed the oxen. It was a work of necessity. They came back in the afternoon with a small load, for the track was rough.
Sept. 12—Sloot and all hands were up at sunrise to set fire to the brushpiles. The day was cool with a breeze that helped the fires. Burning the logs was next taken in hand, and being green and thick they were slow to burn.
Sept. 13—The weather was again favorable for our work of burning the logs but, despite a strong wind, they burned slowly and we had to keep poking and turning them to get a hot blaze. The smoke and heat were like to overcome me, but Sloot went ahead. He was born in the bush and all its work is second nature to him. Washed in the pond and got to bed late.
Sept. 14—Auld and Sloot, Allan helping, worked all night with the logheaps, which I found this morning much reduced in size. The logging-chains and the oxen today came into play, the partly consumed logs being hauled to form fresh piles. By dark there was quite a clearance.
Sept. 15—Light white frost this morning. Helping neighbors. Sun came out on our starting to burn at Auld’s but the wind blew a gale, and we had a splendid burn.
Sept. 16—Pouring rain and glad of it, for all of us except Sloot are dead-tired. He says the rain will wash the charred logs and make them easier to handle.
Sept. 17—Spent the day hauling the biggest of the partly burned logs to make a fence across the clearing. The smaller stuff we heaped up and set on fire. Allan handles the oxen very well considering. Wanted Sloot to stay another week, but he could not. He is a civil fellow and not greedy. Ailie sent a queer present to his wife. Before Mrs Simmins left she explained and showed how to secure and dry dandelion roots to make coffee. In lifting potatoes, when a dandelion root is seen, it is pulled carefully, or, if scarce among potatoes, dug up carefully in the fall so as to get the entire root. The roots are washed, dried in the sun and stored away. As wanted for use, a root or so is chopped small, roasted in a pan until crisp, then ground, and made like ordinary coffee.
Sept. 24—All week we worked at getting crop into the fallow. After clearing it of sticks, we used spade, grape, and rake to get it something near level. Gordon studded a log with wooden spikes which we dragged over the worst of it. On getting the best seedbed possible, sowed wheat. The soil had a topdressing of charcoal cinders and ashes that I thought would help. If the seed gives an average yield, will not have to buy flour next year.
Sept. 26—Rained all day yesterday; at night cleared with quite a touch of frost. Busy chopping to enlarge clearance. The young fellow who came out with us from Scotland and got drunk at Montreal, appeared at our door this morning. He had lived chiefly in Toronto and his appearance showed had done no good. Wanted a job. Agreed with him to dig ditch in the swamp, the understanding being if he got drunk he need not come back. Leaves are turning color.
Oct. 2—Sat most of the day on front step taking in the beauty of the trees that overhang the pond on three of its sides. I can compare them to nothing but gigantic flowers. Steeped in the haze of a mellow sun the sight was soothing. Nothing like this in Scotland. The birds have gone; the swallows left in August.
Oct. 9—Been a sorrowful week. On unpacking our baggage on arrival in the bush, found my mother’s spinning-wheel was broken. Gordon managed to mend it and I bought ten pounds of wool. This she washed, teased, and carded, and proud she was when she sat down and began to spin the rolls into yarn. Tuesday afternoon Ailie and Ruth went to pick wild grapes, and the rest of us were at our work in the bush. Grannie was left alone. She had moved her wheel to the door to sit in the sunshine, where she could see the brightness of the trees and enjoy the calm that prevailed. How long she span
Oct. 10—Crying need for rain; everything dry as tinder; air full of smoke.
Oct. 15—My worker at the ditch insisted he had to go to Toronto. Gave him his pay and knew he would not come back, despite his promise. There are more slaves than black men. The man of whom whiskey has got a grip is the greater slave.
Oct. 17—Closed the house on Sunday morning and all walked to Toronto to attend worship. Today yoked the sled to an ox, for our path to Yonge-street is too narrow for two, in order to find settlers who had produce to sell. Bought corn in cob, apples, pumpkins, and vegetables, but only one bag of oats, few having threshed. Was kindly received and learnt much. In one shanty found a shoemaker at work. He travels from house to house and is paid by the day, his employers providing the material. Agreed with him to pay us a visit and he gave me a list of what to get in Toronto.
Oct. 18—Spent day in trying to make everything snug for winter.
Oct 19—Went to Toronto determined to find out whether there is no way of compelling the man who owns the land that blocks us from Yonge-street to open a road. First of all I called upon him, and he received me civilly. I told him how our three families were shut in. Asked if we would not buy his lot, he would sell the 1200 acres cheap and give us time. Answered we could not, we had all we could manage. He thought we were unreasonable in asking him to make a road which he did not need. It would be of use to us but not to him. Asked him if the conditions on which the lot was granted did not require him to open a road? Replied, that was like many other laws the legislature made, and which were disregarded everywhere in the province. When I said, since it is law it could be enforced, he smiled and said there was no danger of that. Was pleased to hear of our settlement behind his land and hoped it would help to bring him customers. Turning from his door, I made straight for a lawyer’s office, to make sure whether the owner of vacant land could not be forced to open a road. The lawyer, an oldish man, listened to my story and told me to give up the idea of compelling the making of the road we needed. You are a stranger and ignorant of how matters stand. The law is straight enough, that whenever the government grants a lot, the receiver must do his part to open a road, but the law has become
Oct. 20—A real cold day; fine for chopping and the sound of trees falling was heard every hour. Wheat is growing finely. Had a talk with Auld and Brodie at night and agreed we would improve the sled-track to Yonge-street, seeing there was no prospect of the owner doing anything.
Oct. 22—Surprised by a message that there was a bull-plow waiting for me at the corner-house on Yonge-street. Jabez had told Mr Bambray about the swamp, and he sent the plow to help to bring it into cultivation.
Oct. 24—Took the plow out to the swamp, which I found pretty dry at one side. Yoked the oxen to it and I plowed all afternoon. Felt good to grip the stilts once more.
Oct. 29—Spent three days on the sledroad and the three families joined in the work. Cut a great many roots, filled hollows, and felled trees whose branches obstructed. It is now fairly smooth but far too narrow for a wagon.
Oct. 30—Surprised by a visit from Jabez, who came on horseback. Said he had a chance to give Gordon a few weeks’ training with a carpenter. He was not now busy himself, as the shipping season was over. Brought Ailie a basket of fresh water herring. Left after dinner.
Oct. 31—Gordon started early for Toronto, with his bundle over his shoulder. We shall miss him sadly. In the evening our neighbors came and we held Halloween as heartily as if we had been in Ayrshire.
Nov. 1—Bright and frosty. Took the oxen back to the swamp; found there was not frost enough to interfere and turned over a few ridges, and cast waterfurs leading to the ditch.
Nov. 2—White frosts fetch rain in this country and a cold rain fell all day. Sawing and splitting the logs we had set aside for firewood.
Nov. 3—The rain turned to snow during the night and there are fully four inches. The youngsters hitched an ox to the sled and started off, shouting and laughing, for Yonge-street to have their first sleigh drive. Came home in great glee in time for supper. Robbie says he wants a sleigh bell.
Nov. 5—Snow gone; clear and fine. Chopping down trees.
Nov. 6—A peaceful autumn day. Heard a robin and wondered how it came to be left behind by its comrades. Had a walk in the bush in the afternoon thinking of mother and the land I shall never forget.
Nov. 7—Shoemaker arrived. A great talker. Tells of families where the children had to stay in all winter for lack of boots.
Nov. 12—A week of steady clearing of the land; we shall have a great burning in the spring. Have had hard frosts every night. Going to Yonge-street to see if I could get oats for the oxen, for the swamp hay is not nourishing and they are young and growing, found provisions remarkably plenty and cheap, especially pork. Bargained for a two-year old steer which the farmer promised not to kill until steady frost set in. Thankful we did not go farther into the bush. It is a blessing to be near older settlers who have a surplus to sell. There was a smoky haze over the bush today, and the sun shone with a subdued brightness; very still with a mellow warmth. Was told it was the Indian summer.
Nov. 20—Had four days of Indian summer and then a drenching rain from the east, which stopped chopping. A black frost today, dark and bleak. Had a letter from Gordon yesterday, who is happy in learning so much that is new to him. He was at Bambray’s for dinner last Sabbath and spent an evening at Dunlop’s. He will make friends wherever he goes.
December 3—There has been nothing worth setting down. Have had a long spell of grey, cloudy days, which just suited felling trees and underbrushing. Have got our patch of wheat well fenced in, not to keep cattle out, there are none near us, but to help to keep a covering of snow on the wheat. Bobbie trapped a coon that haunted the barn and it made fine eating. He says the pelt will make a neck-wrap for his mother.
Dec. 7—Went to get the steer I had bargained for. The farmer suggested instead of butchering the beast and hauling the carcase it would be easier to drive it on foot and kill it at home, which I did.
Dec. 8—Killed the steer, which dressed well. Auld and Brodie took away their portions to salt down, but Ailie followed Mrs Bambray’s advice. After the pieces are hard frozen she will pack them in snow.
Dec. 10—Began to snow gently yesterday and continues. There are now about six inches.
Dec. 11—Bitterly cold; never felt the like. What Burns calls cranreuch cauld gets into the bones, but this frost seems to squeeze body and bones, pinching and biting the exposed skin.
Dec. 13—Ailie is never at a loss. On Mrs Brodie telling the children woke at night crying from cold, she had no blankets to give her. Having sheets we brought from Scotland she took two and placed as an inside lining the skins of the squirrels Robbie had killed. Simmins had taught him how to tan and give them a soft finish. Brodie and Auld’s houses are cold because they only half chinked them. Mrs Auld said the blankets were frozen where the breath struck them and the loaf of bread could be sawn as if it were a block of wood. Both now believe Canada’s cold is not to be trifled with and are scraping moss off the trees to caulk between the outside logs the first warm spell.
Dec. 14—The frost holds. Worked all day with Allan. Does not feel cold in the bush. The trees break the wind that is so piercing in the clearings.
Dec. 15—Milder; in the sun at noon almost warm. Got out ox-sled and went with Brodie along Yonge-street to buy pork. Bought three carcases. People are kindly. Have never called at a house where we were not invited to return and pay a family visit.
Dec. 19—Have had a three day snap of frost, Either getting used to the cold or are adapting ourselves to meet it, for do not feel the discomfort we did. Ruth going to the ox-stable without putting a wrap over her head got her cheeks and ears frozen. Robbie trapped a hare. Pleads for a gun. Ailie will give him a surprise New Year’s morning.
Dec. 24—The snow helps greatly in hauling fallen trees and logs. Give them their own time, and oxen beat horses in handling difficult loads. Gordon came walking in this afternoon, quite unexpectedly, for we did not look for him until this day week. He says Christmas is the big day in Toronto, and not New Year’s day. His master had shut his shop for a week. He gave him a deerskin jerkin as a Christmas present.
Dec. 27—Gordon has been busy making snowshoes. His first pair was for Ruth, who can now walk in them. Snowed all day; not cold. He has taught her to ride one of the oxen.
Dec. 28—A thaw, much needed to settle the snow, which was getting too deep. Youngsters shovelled a strip on the pond and made a fine slide.
Dec. 31—Made preparation to keep Hogmanay, inviting our two neighbors. Had built a big fire, with a beech back-log, so heavy that an ox had to haul it to the door, and put a smaller one on top, while in front split wood blazed, and made the shanty so light that no candle was needed. The young folk had a great night of it, and braved the frost to go to the stable door and sing their old Hogmanay rhymes. The feast was plain as plain could be, but contented and merry hearts care not for dainties.
January 1, 1826—All gathered again in our shanty after dinner, when we had a fellowship meeting to thank God for all his mercies, and surely, when I review all the dangers he has led us through, and the mercies he has bestowed on us during the year that has gone, we have good cause to adore him. Gave Star and Bright an extra feed of oats.
Jany. 2—Ailie had just sat down after clearing the dinner dishes away, when Ruth came running in crying she heard sleighbells coming up our road. I went out and was astonished when a sleigh came in sight, the horse dashing the snow into powder breast high. It was Mr Dunlop and his wife, who had come to pay us a New Year’s call. They stayed an hour and it was a happy one, for Mr Dunlop is a heartsome man. Was greatly taken with the improvements we had made. His wife brought a package of tea for Ailie. She made them a cup of dandelion coffee which, after their drive, they relished with her oatmeal
Jany. 4—Have had a heavy snowstorm with a gale of wind. The snow here is not flaky, but fine and powdery, fills the air so you cannot see ahead, and sifts through every crevice. Thankful when the blast died down. Mrs Auld declares if the summer heat and the winter cauld were carded through ane anither Canada would have a grand climate. The two extremes are indeed most trying.
Jany 5—Work in the bush stopped by the snow, is so deep that when a tree is felled half is buried.
THE EPISODE OF TILLY
Jany 7—All were in bed last night when I was aroused by a knock at the door. Thought one of my neighbors needed help, but on opening was surprised to see it was Jabez. Excused himself for alarming us by saying his errand was a matter of life or death. A negro girl, who had fallen into evil hands at Buffalo, had escaped to Canada and was followed by desperate men trying to retake her. An attempt had been made to kidnap her from the family that sheltered her in Toronto. She had to be hid until the search was given up, and he could think of no place so safe as with ourselves. Mr Bambray asked us, in God’s name, to take care of her for a while. ‘Where is she?’ I asked. ‘In the sleigh at the door.’ I told him to fetch her in, or she might freeze. He lifted her in, for she was numb. It was a bitter night. Laying aside her wraps, we saw, for Ailie and the whole family were now looking on, a mulatto of perhaps sixteen years of age. Alice and Ruth chafed her hands and feet to restore her circulation, while Ailie was getting a hot drink ready. Looking at the poor child I guessed her miserable story and told Jabez we would keep her. After getting warmed he drove off.
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Here I have to break into the master’s diary in order to give what happened afterwards, which he did not write down. The girl, who said her name was Tilly, got quite reconciled to us next day. She was from Kentucky, had been sold to a saloonkeeper at Black Rock, and rescued. She shuddered whenever she spoke of him. Passed from one friendly hand to another she reached Toronto, and was living quietly there as a servant. One evening there was a rap at the door and she went to answer. On opening it she beheld the fellow who claimed to own her. She screamed. Putting his hand over her mouth he lifted her to a sleigh, which drove off. Two
* * * * *
Jany 16—Thankful I can again bend my head without pain. The woods are a glorious sight. It snowed yesterday morning. Before dark the snow turned to rain, which froze as it fell, encrusting everything. On the sun coming out bright this morning the trees sparkled as if made of crystal and the branches of the evergreens hung in masses of radiant white. So Alice described them, and we all agreed a sight so beautiful we never saw.
Jany 17—Robbie and Allan set off on snowshoes for a day’s hunting and came back in the afternoon carrying a deer, which they had run down, being enabled to do so by the crust on the snow breaking under the poor animal’s hoofs. There are more than men hunting deer. Last night we heard the wolves in full cry as they were chasing them.
Jany. 21—Astonished by a visit from Mr and Mrs Bambray. They visited all the houses and seemed pleased by what they saw. Had a long talk with him about how the province is being governed. Mrs Bambray brought clothes for Tilly. The thaw we have had has lowered the snow, and chopping down trees has been going on.
Jany 22—The day being moderate and the sleighing splendid drove to Toronto, the oxen going faster than a man could walk. Sought to see the minister, who accepted certificates of Ailie and myself. Sacrament is March 26.
Jany. 25—Visited the farmer from whom I bought the steer. We had a hearty welcome. Ailie much taken with their stove and its oven, and curious about Canadian ways of housekeeping. Ruth was given a kitten.
Jany 27—Great snowstorm.
Jany 28—Quite mild this morning, a warm wind from the south. Snow melting. At noon there was a sudden change of the wind to the northwest, which rose to a tempest, overturning trees and making most doleful sounds as it swept through the woods, where it broke off branches by the thousand. Became piercingly cold. Such quick changes cannot be healthy.
Jany 30—More snow with strong east wind.
Feby. 9—After ten days of stormy weather, today is fine and bright. The snow is over three feet on the level. Impossible to work in the bush. Gordon is preparing for sugaring, making spouts and buckets. I have to get a kettle to make potash and will buy one now, for it will serve for boiling sap.
Feby 14—Rain, snow sinking fast.
Feby 18—Went with the three boys to Toronto
and bought potash kettles.
They cost $12.
Feby 24—Sun is gaining strength and days are lengthening. Can see the snow wasting in the sun. In the shade, freezing hard. Are doing good work in the bush.
Feby 26—Snowing thick and fast, but not cold.
Feby 28—Sky without a cloud and mild. Gordon tapped a tree or two, but there was no sap.
March 6—Roused by a hallo so hearty that nobody except Jabez could utter it. The fine weather had made him tired of the town and recalled the sugar-time of his youth. He picked out the maples to be tapped, those most sheltered and facing the sun, and quickly their bark was bored and spouts inserted. In the afternoon there was a fair run. By that time the large kettle had been slung and the fire started. It was a big play for the youngsters, and their shouting, when Jabez poured sap on the snow and it turned to candy, might have been heard a mile away.
March 11—Jabez left, taking as part of his spoil a jar of syrup and a lot of cakes of sugar. Under his teaching Ailie quickly learned to sugar off, and did it over the kitchen fire in the biggest pot. Sent cakes as presents to Mrs Bambray and Mrs Dunlop.
March 12—All tired after the week’s sugar-making. Surprising what a quantity was made, due to the Aulds and Brodies helping, who got their share.
March 18—Have had no sugar-weather this week; frosty with strong winds, and some snow. Allan, with help of Mr Auld, began hauling boards from sawmill, which we will need for barns.
March 20—Gordon awakened us by shouting ‘A sugar snow.’ There had been a light shower of it during the night, and the air was soft. Holes were rebored and there was a fine run of sap. Likely the last, for there is now hard frost.
March 25—Have made preparations for the sacrament. Weather has been fickle, sometimes snow, then rain, but always blowy with cold nights.
March 26—Fair overhead but sleighing heavy. Got to Toronto in time and had a solemn and, I hope, a profitable season. Recalling past occasions, Ailie was much affected on taking the cup in her hand. She was anxious about there being no word from Scotland. Before leaving Toronto I went to the postmaster and got a letter. It was from her sister, whose husband had a rented farm at Lochwinnoch. They have decided to follow us to Canada, and ask that I look out a farm for them. They hope to have over a thousand dollars after paying their passage. When we got home Robbie’s news was that he had seen a robin.
March 27—Gladdened, when I woke to hear the sound of birds. The robin here is not the Scottish redbreast, being much larger and with a different note. People I spoke to at church yesterday said we are having an unusually late season. I am weary of the sight of the snow, which is now wasting in the sun. Heard frogs at a distance last night. The long winter is a serious offset to farming in Canada.
April 3—Jabez with Sloot came this morning to start burning our fallow, and before dark we had made great progress. There is enough snow and ice left to make it easy for the oxen to haul logs.
April 8—By ourselves once more; the burning and the making of potash finished yesterday. There is now clearance enough on all three lots to make sure of raising sufficient crop to keep us, so it will not be so much a work of life and death to keep at the felling of trees. Chopping them is most laborious, but burning them is worse—as much as flesh and blood can bear. The burning we had in the fall was to get a patch of land cleared for sowing. This time we were prepared to save the ashes. Gordon set up three leaches on the edge of the pond, and as the logs were burned the ashes were gathered and hauled by ox-sled to fill them. Ramming the ashes into the leaches as solid as possible and then pouring water upon them fell to me and the women, the men attending to the burning, the raking of the ashes together, and hauling them. After soaking all night, or longer, the leaches are tapped, when the lye runs into a trough, made by hollowing as big a pine as we could find. From the trough the lye is dipped into the kettle, under which a fierce fire had to be kept. As the lye boiled, the water in it passed off in clouds of steam, more lye being poured in to keep it full. By-and-by a sticky mass could be felt at the bottom of the kettle, which was ladled into cast iron coolers, and became solid. This is called black salts, is barreled, and shipped to Britain, where it is in great demand. The quantity of lye needed to make a hundred-weight of black-salts astonished me. I got ten cents a pound for what we made and that will keep us in provisions until we have our own wheat to take to mill.
April 9—All glad of the Sabbath rest. Warm, the soft maples red with buds.
April 15—Been busy all week, mostly in clearing and levelling the burned land for sowing. Sowed two bushels of oats this afternoon. Drying winds and a hot sun.
April 20—The rain needed to start grain came last night. Moist and warm today with rapid growth.
April 22—Planted potatoes. Ailie and Alice getting the garden stuff in.
April 26—Wonderful growth; nothing like it in Scotland. There is no spring here; the jump is from winter to summer. Our bridle-path to Yonge-street is so soft that oxen cannot be put on it. Gordon goes back to Toronto on Monday to join the tradesman he was with in the fall, and who has sent for him. He will have to walk, for Yonge-street, I am told, is a chain of bog-holes.
May 13—Have had changeable weather; rather too dry and a few cold nights. The standing bush keeps frost off the braird, which could not look better. Busy preparing logs for building barns; we are all working together. Three will be needed. Except for the ground logs we are using cedar, which is light to handle and easy to hew. Mrs Bambray sent a bundle of apple-trees and another of berry bushes. All planted and look as if they have rooted.
June 3—Gordon along with Sloot came this evening to help in raising the barns. Planted corn today; an entirely new crop to us. The heads will be food for our table and the stalks the oxen are fond of. The winter-wheat is in the shot-blade. Went back to the swamp and found what had been plowed in fine shape. Seeded down with oats. I hope for a good return.
June 14—Barns are finished. Much easier to build than were our shanties. Using block and tackle in hoisting was a great help. Wheat is beginning to color. Robbie saw a deer browsing in the oats, got his gun, and shot it. Deer flesh is dry any time but at this season is poor eating. Potatoes and corn have got their first hoeing.
June 27—A dry hot spell. Scotland gets too much rain; Canada too little. Wheat is ripening too fast. It will be fit to cut on Monday.
July 8—Wheat is safe; drying winds and a hot sun made it quickly fit to lead. In Scotland it might have been out three weeks before fit to stack. Fine quality and abundant yield. Will not need to buy more flour.
July 12—Have had a plentiful rain that has saved the crops, for oats are filling. I answered my sister’s letter at once, with directions how to come. Have spent any time I could spare in trying to find a lot for them. Gordon walked in this morning with a letter mailed from Greenock, stating they were to take ship that week. As they may be here next week must decide quickly on a home for them.
July 15—Allan and myself have been on the trudge for three days, looking for a lot. Finally decided on one with a clearance of nearly ten acres and a shanty with an outbuilding. It is far north on Yonge-street, but all nearer Toronto were held at prices they could not afford. The owner leaves on account of sickness and sold the lot with its betterments and growing crop for $600.
July 22—Left home on Monday to wait in Toronto for arrival of my brother-in-law and family. They came on the 19th, sound and hearty. As I had directed them, they took a ship for New York and thence by the Hudson and Erie canal to Oswego, where they got the steamer for Toronto. Thus they avoided the hardships of the St Lawrence route and saved a fortnight in time. Looking at the map, I can see New York is Toronto’s nearest ocean port. The teams got started early in the afternoon, but the road was rough and the horses had to walk all the way. It was growing dark when we reached the shanty, from whose one window gleamed a light, and at the door were Ailie, Alice, and Robbie, who had spent two days cleaning and making the place as decent as possible. A table of boards, with benches at its side, was spread with supper. A joyous hour was cut short by the teamsters crying out horses were fed and they were ready to return. They dropped us at the end of our lane.
July 26—Finished cutting the oats on the swamp while green and stacked them. There is a fair catch of grass.
Aug. 4—All the grain is ripe; cutting is slow on account of the stumps. Today there were four of us busy with the hook. Oats are not as plump as in Scotland; they fill too quickly.
THE AFTER YEARS
Further extracts from the master’s diary would not help the story I am telling you, for it becomes such a record as many farmers keep,—when they sowed and reaped, what they sold and bought. Having completed the account of his first year’s experience in the bush for his friend in Scotland, he ceased noting down his daily happenings, which for him no longer had the interest of novelty. The forest had been sufficiently subdued to enable him to gain a living from the land, and his life partook more and more of the routine of Canadian farmers. He was, however, much more successful than the majority of them, due to his energy and skill. His first decided start was due to the existence of that swamp whose discovery filled him with dismay. The forage he got off it enabled him to start keeping stock long before he otherwise could have done. In the fall of 1826 he bought a cow and a couple of two-year old heifers, and the following spring there was enough milk to enable the mistress to make a few cheese. These gave the farm a reputation which established a steady demand at a paying price. More cows were got, no grain was sold, everything was fed, and the master, with the help of the mistress, led in dairying. In Ayrshire she had the name of making the best cheese in the parish and her skill stood the family in good stead in Canada. That second summer the entire swamp was brought into cultivation, and it proved to be the best land on the farm for grass. When other pastures were dried up, cattle had a bite on the swamp, for so it continued to be called long after it had lost all the features of a swamp. The clearing of the forest went on steadily, so that each fall saw a larger yield of grain and roots. In the fifth year the master was rejoiced to find many of the stumps could be dragged out by oxen, and a field secured on which he could use the long-handled plow as in Scotland. An unlooked for result of the draining of the swamp and the sweeping away of the forest in every direction was the gradual drying up of the pond. A more striking instance was told me by a settler who was led to choose a lot near lake Simcoe on account of a brook prattling across it and which reminded him of Scotland. In twenty years the brook was gone, the plow turning furrows on its bed. The one great drawback to the progress of the three families was the lack of a road to Yonge-street. In winter there was little difficulty for then snow made a highway, but the rest of the year no wheeled vehicle could go over it. At one of the sessions of the legislature, when the estimates for roads and
With the coming of these new neighbors, a school became necessary and in it services were held on Sunday. The master sought the help of a Presbyterian minister in Toronto. He came once; on finding how rude everything was, he declined to return. A North of Ireland family was no more successful with an Anglican minister. He had newly come out from a cathedral city in the south of England and was shocked to find the log school had not a robing-room. The end was that a Methodist circuit-rider took in our settlement in his rounds, which resulted in a majority of those who attended his services uniting with the Methodist church. The ministers who came from the Old Country in those early days were singularly unfit for new settlements. The Anglican on landing assumed he was the only duly accredited clergyman, and was offended at his claim being slighted, while his feelings were jarred by the lack of conditions he considered essential to the proper conducting of worship. The Presbyterian ministers were more amenable to the changes, yet their ideals were of the parishes they had known in Scotland—a church, a manse, a glebe, tiends, and a titled patron. The effects of State established churches in the Old Land were thus felt in the backwoods, which was shown more markedly in the strife to reproduce State churches in Canada. I look back with distress to the bitter controversy which went on from year to year over the possession of the revenue from the clergy reserves. The cause of strife was not altogether the money, but the proof of superiority the possession of the fund would give. With many it was as much pride as covetousness. When we recall the energy that characterized the agitation over the clergy reserves, I think of what the same effort would have accomplished had it been directed to evangelize the province.
Another agitation, less prolonged but fiercer while it lasted, was that which reached its head in the rebellion year. As was unavoidable, the rule of the province on its being organized, fell into the hands of the people who first came. They divided its public offices among themselves and managed its affairs. In time these first-comers were outnumbered by immigrants, but there was no change—the first-comers held to the reins. Had they used their power in the public interest, that would have been submitted to, but they did not—they abused their power for their own interests. They multiplied offices, increased salaries, grabbed the public lands, and laid the foundation of a national debt by borrowing money. There were instances of stealing of public funds, with no punishment following. Farmers became restless under an iniquitous administration of public lands. The discontent, which was as wide as the province, was taken advantage of by men who designed Canada should become a republic, and began an agitation to bring that about. Men, like the master, who ardently wished reforms, were repelled when they found the main object of the leaders of the agitation was the separation of Canada from Britain and would have nothing to do with them. The first time the master met Mackenzie he took a dislike to him, perceiving his overweening vanity, his habit of contradiction, and his lack of judgment. He said he was a specimen of the unpleasant type of Scot who meddled and denounced to attract attention and make himself of consequence. When he saw him shaping a rebellion he declared it would be a ridiculous failure, that no such whitrick of a creature could lead in the people’s cause. There were grievous wrongs to be righted, but he held the advocacy of the changes called for by such men as Mackenzie was a hindrance instead of a help to their being secured. Brodie’s oldest son was somewhat conceited, and had come to believe he was born to be something else than a farmer. I think the isolation of farm life conduces to develop that notion. The boy brought little in contact with his fellows, does not have his pretensions rubbed down, and comes to think he is superior to them. I have seen many such, who thinking they were business men, or would shine in some public capacity, or were fitted to adorn a profession, made shipwreck of their lives in leaving the plow. Hugh was one of those. A good fellow and a good worker with his father, he began by frequenting corner-stores at night and before long considered himself an authority in politics and was ready to argue in a long-winded and dreary fashion with any who disputed his crude assertions. Taken notice of by leaders in the agitation going on, appointed to committees and consulted as to plans on foot, he became carried away and neglected his home duties. When the explosion took place in December, 1837, he was one of those who met at Montgomery’s tavern. A decisive blow could have been struck had the men there gathered
This ridiculous attempt at a revolution had one good and one bad effect. The good, was a change in the government that made conditions more tolerable; the bad, was in giving color to fastening upon Liberals the stigma of disloyalty. The leaders in the attempted rising had declared for separation from Britain, and those of them who escaped across the frontier became avowed annexationists. What they were the Tories asserted all Liberals were and the maintenance of British connection depended upon their being kept out of office. The many years that have passed have made that pretension traditional, and whenever there is an election, I hear the charge of disloyalty imputed to Liberals and the claim to exclusive loyalty made by their opponents.
The passing years have wrought a marvellous change in the face of the country. Our drive up Yonge-street in 1825 was like a boat tracing a narrow channel of the sea. On either hand was a continuous wall of forest, and where an attempt had been made to push it back the uncarved bush projected like rocky promontories. The houses passed at wide intervals were shanties; the clearances in which they were set cluttered with stumps. How different now. Handsome residences have replaced the log-shanties, the bush has become a graceful fringe in the background of smooth, well-tilled fields. Like the ocean which keeps no trace of the keels that have furrowed its wastes, these beautiful fields are the speechless bequest of the men and women who redeemed them from savagery at the cost of painful privations, of exhausting, never ceasing toil, of premature decay of strength. They fought and overcame and succeeding generations enjoy the fruits of their labors—fruits they barely lived to taste. These were the men and women who made Canada, the founders of its prosperity, the true Makers of the nation to which it has grown. It is common for politicians and their newspapers to steal for their party-idols
I would not imply that being first is necessarily a merit in itself. There must be a beginning to everything and to magnify the man who felled the first tree or reared the first shanty is no honor if unaccompanied by moral worth. I have seen many townships come into existence and have known the men who first went into them, and my sorrow is, that so few of them are worthy of remembrance. Recognizing this, I pay no honor to a man who boasts he was the first to do this or that, and who, though first, threw away his opportunity to benefit himself and those who followed. I am tired of men who posture as pioneers and founders and who have nothing else to claim. Unless they also had moral worth, strove to give the right tone to the settlement of which, by accident, they started, they are not deserving of more than passing notice. Scores of times I have been struck by the differences in settlements, how one is thrifty, and its neighbor shiftless; one sending into the world young men and women of intelligence and high aspiration; the other coarse people who gravitate downward. If a first settler is of sterling character he moulds the community that gathers around him and he deserves honor, but the first settler of gross habits it is well to forget. The government that tries to make a selection among those who seek its land acts wisely in the interest of coming generations. To give land to all who ask it, regardless of what they are, will indeed till the country, but will be of no benefit in the long run. I know of townships where laziness, ignorance, prejudice, and gross habits prevail to such a degree that it would have been better had the land remained in bush. The bullet strikes as the rifle is pointed, and Canada has never aimed to secure the best people as settlers. We need population, has been the cry, get it and never mind of what quality it is. What is more blamable, our legislature does not even try to secure settlers who will assimilate. Business called me to a township one summer where few of the settlers knew a word of English. Is that the way to build up Canada as British?
Nature has designed Canada as an agricultural country and such it must remain. It will prosper as its farmers prosper, and languish when they are not doing well. It follows their welfare should be the first consideration, and a mistake will be made if the fact is not recognized when they work under unfavorable conditions.
The farmer in the Old Country can plow every month in the year and his flocks and herds only need supplementary rations to keep them in condition. How different it is here, where winter locks the soil in iron bonds half the year and animals must be fed from October to May. What our farmers raise in six months is consumed in the other six, so that their labor half the year is to store up food for the other half. The result is, that the earnings of our farmers are less than half of what they would be had we England’s climate. The public man who argues that because the Old Country farmer can pay heavy rent to his landlord, bear the burden of severe taxation, and yet make a living, the Canadian farmer should be able to do likewise, shuts his eyes to the kind of winter he has to fight against. That winter cuts his earnings more than half, for, during the months the land is frozen he is unable to do any kind of profitable farm work, indeed has spells of enforced idleness. The Old Country farmer can keep hired help the year round, for he has employment for them; the Canadian farmer needs extra hands only during summer. The result is that his margin of profits is so narrow that he can never pay such taxes as are collected from the agricultural class in England. When public burdens draw on his income to the extent that he is not left a living profit, the Anglo-Saxon will leave the land to be occupied by an unenterprising class of people who are content to vegetate, not to live. The pre-eminent essential in Canada’s policy is to make farming profitable and keep it so.
While the statement, that agriculture is the foundation of Canada’s life, is so often repeated that it has become a commonplace remark, is it not extraordinary that none of its public men since Simcoe’s day have acted upon it? With the words on their lips, Canada rests upon the farmer, it would be expected the welfare of the farmer would be their solicitous concern. In the first element of agricultural prosperity, the settlement of the land, they have kept back the progress of the country by bestowing it, not on the men ready and anxious to cultivate it, but upon individuals and companies who expect to make a profit by reselling to the actual settler. By making the land a commodity to buy political support, the settlement of the country has been kept back. The rule, that the land be given only to those who will live upon it and crop it, would have saved heartbreak to thousands of willing men who came to our shores asking liberty to till its soil, and would have placed an occupant on every lot fit to yield a living. The individuals and companies who have been given grants of blocks of land under the pretence that they would settle them, have been blights on the progress of the country.
As to the danger of taxation increasing to a degree that will make the working of the land unattractive to the intelligent and enterprising, that menace comes from two classes—the projectors of public works who agitate for them from self-interest, and from those who have raised a clamor to encourage manufacturers by giving them bonuses in the form of protective duties. Should a levy ever be made on the earnings of the farmer to help a favored class, there will be a leaving of the land for other countries and for better-paying occupations.
My desire is, to see Canada a land where every man who wishes may own a part of God’s footstool and, by industry, secure a decent living. Surely it is a patriotic duty to make Canada a nation where toil and thrift fetch the reward of independence, a nation without beggars or of men willing to work and cannot get it, a nation of happy homes where there is neither wealth nor luxury but enough of the world’s means to ensure comfort and to develop in its men and women what is best in human nature.
PARTING WITH OLD FRIENDS
My story of how I came to Canada and how the family which made me one of their number got on in its backwoods has taken a long time to tell, yet I must lengthen it to make known what became of some of the people mentioned in the course of it. Tilly remained with us a year, when she went to live with the Bambrays, who needed her help. When they, later on, decided to end their days in their native town, Huddersfield, she went with them to England. Once a year a letter came from Mr Bambray, with a long postscript by Tilly, overflowing with good wishes, and in each letter was a draft to help escaped slaves get a fresh start in life. The worthy couple died several years ago, making Tilly their chief legatee. She married a man for whom she described herself as unworthy and who makes her happy every day. When Ruth married she sent her a gift of $250 to furnish her house. Ruth’s husband is a capable farmer, who is doing well. They are an evenly matched team, pulling together and happy in each other. When Robbie came of age the master divided his farm equally between his two sons, and bought for himself six acres fronting Yonge-street. On this he built a commodious house and a large greenhouse, for he designed carrying on market-gardening. In an excavation deep enough to be below the frost line the greenhouse was built, and there were other devices to do with as little stove-heat as possible. Sloot, who had been left a widower, and having no family, became the hired man and made his home for the remainder of his life with the master and mistress, to whom he was deeply attached. Twice a week he drove to market the produce that was for sale, and though occupation not beyond their strength was their purpose, remarkable profits were made off these six acres. The mistress was happy in tending the greenhouse and flower-beds, and in entertaining visitors, for they had many apart from their own children and grand-children. They were honored far and wide and a drive to their house, which they named Heatherbell cottage, to have a chat and get a bouquet was a common recreation with many Torontonians. Of your mother I need not speak; you know how happy we are in each other. We never had any courtship—our lives from the first sight of her when I ventured to seek shelter in her father’s house on that rainy day has been one long dwelling in each other’s affections.
With Mr Kerr I kept up the exchange of letters he asked, and the information and advice his contained have helped to shape my character and opinions. The year after his arrival he started in business for himself and prospered. His wife is the girl whom he was courting when he fled from Greenock. Our visits to them are delightful memories and you know how we enjoy their sojourns with us. Jabez also became a Montrealer. The business of himself and brothers as carters naturally merged into forwarders. As trade grew it was found needful one should be in Montreal, and Jabez went. Levelheaded and full of resource he soon came to the front in the shipping-trade.
With Mr Snellgrove we had an unlooked for encounter. The master was on a visit to us at Toronto. On reading notices of a meeting to be held in favor of Protection and of the government issuing paper currency instead of gold, we decided to attend. The first speaker was Isaac Buchanan, who deluged us with figures about Bullionism and the balance of trade. We were relieved when he ended. Then a college professor read a paper on the Co-relation of Great Britain and her Colonies. It was difficult to follow him. He was one of those theoretical men who think forms of government and names can make a country great. We started with astonishment on the chairman saying he had pleasure in introducing Mr Snellgrove as the next speaker. It was he sure enough, older but still spruce, and resplendent in full evening dress. He did not touch on currency, but confined himself to advocating a protective tariff so high that it would shut out foreign goods. That would enable manufacturers to establish themselves in Canada, and instead of a stream of gold going to Britain and the United States the money would be spent for goods made in Canada. See what a rich country we would become if we kept our money here, he said; our great lack is capital to develop our immense resources. We had the capital in our own hands but, blind to our own interests, sent it away to Great Britain or, what was worse, to the United States to build up a country that was hostile to us. Like the Gulf Stream, which sweeping through the Atlantic enriches every country it touches, he would have a golden circuit established in Canada—the farmers would sell to the manufacturers and the money paid them would continue to flow backward and forward to the enrichment of both. The flowing of gold from our midst would
The master got on his feet and begged permission to be heard in reply. He was invited to the platform and, with his usual directness and force, at once assailed what Mr Snellgrove had advanced. He says, let us have a law that will compel us to cease buying goods abroad, for thereby the money now sent away will be kept in Canada. What right has any government to pass such a law? With the money I get for my wheat may I not buy what I need where I see fit? Such an arbitrary law as he pleads for would undoubtedly help the manufacturer, but would it help me, who am a farmer? The question I ask, is not will the money stay in Canada, but will the money I have justly earned stay in my pocket? I will be none the richer if the money goes into the pocket of the owner of a factory. In the Old Country the farmers carry the aristocracy who own the land on their backs, are the laws of Canada to be so shaped that the farmers here are to carry the manufacturers? It may not be plain to you city gentlemen, but it is to me, that under the system you have heard advocated, factories would increase and their owners grow rich while the farmers would become poor, for they would have to pay more than they now do for the goods necessity makes them buy. My family needs about $300 worth of store-goods in a year. That is what I pay now. Under Protection these same goods would cost me $400, perhaps more. The Canadian manufacturers would be the richer by the hundred extra dollars I would pay, and I would be the poorer by a hundred dollars. The point at issue, is not keeping money in the country, but of keeping it in the pockets of the men who first earned it by cultivating the soil. Canada is a farming country and always will be, and taxing each farmer’s family on an average of say a hundred dollars a year is going to discourage the farmer. Let every tub stand on its own bottom. If any commodity can be made in Canada at a profit under present conditions, I wish all success to the man who undertakes to make that commodity, but to tax me to give the man a bonus to do so is to rob me of my honest earnings. We have been told we want more population. Yes, if it be of the right kind, of people who will go, as I did, into the bush and carve out farms. These will add to our strength, but hordes drawn from cities who cannot and will not take
We saw gentlemen on the platform urging the chairman to stop the master; he seemed reluctant to make a scene. Finally he did pull him down, stating he was not speaking to the subject before the meeting. The best reply to the disloyal outpouring to which they had listened he considered was contemptuous silence. After votes of thanks the meeting ended. The master advanced towards Mr Snellgrove to renew his acquaintance. Mr Snellgrove turned his back upon him and left with a group of gentlemen. I learned he held a government office.
I have a more unexpected meeting to relate. The sixth year after my marriage, it had been arranged Christmas should be celebrated at Allan’s and New Year’s at the master’s. We had been looking for what people in Scotland dread, a Green Yule, for the ground was bare. When we rose the morning before Christmas we were pleased to see it white, and a gentle sifting of snow falling. Allan came for us early in the afternoon and we filled his big sleigh with children and parcels. We had just got into the house when the clouds lowered and it became suddenly dark. You have seen in summer a gentle rain prevail, until, all at once, a plump came that covered the ground with streams of water. Once in a number of years the like happens with snow, and a gentle fall turns into a smothering stream of snowflakes. In an hour the ground was so cumbered that it reached to the knees of those who ventured out. Supper was over and the romping of the children was in full swing when Robbie cried he thought he heard somebody shouting outside. There was a pause in the merriment as he flung open the door. The snow had ceased to fall and the air was calm and soft. A black object was seen on the road to the left, from which came cries for help. Allan and Robbie dashed
Next morning I had, of course, to visit the stables and see the live-stock, and to judge as far as was possible, with two feet of snow resting upon it, of the farm and its surroundings. Every detail told of a capable and energetic farmer, who knew a good horse and the best use that could be made of pig and cow. There were no loose ends, everything was in its place and in the best of order. The hour I was left alone with Archie’s father and mother was as refreshing as a breeze from Scotia’s heath-clad hills. On asking grannie whether Mirren and Archie were her only children she answered, ’There are two biding with the Lord.’ After listening to what they told me of how they came to Canada, of what Mirren and Archie had done for them, my heart swelled in thanking God that filial piety still cast luster on humanity. After an early dinner I left and reached Allan’s in time to share in the after-feast of the fragments of Christmas good things. Many a visit I have since that day paid to Archie, and many he has to me. It may be that neither of us having a brother we crept so close together that we are supremely happy in each others company even if we utter not a word.
MIRREN AND ARCHIE
A shepherd’s wage is small, and grows smaller as age creeps on. The young and active get the preference and the old have to take a lower fee at each hiring fair to secure employment. That was the experience of Archie’s father. At the best, it had been only with thrift ends could be got to meet, but as he aged it was a struggle. The children had to help. Archie hired with a farmer and in time rose to be ploughman; Mirren after learning to be a dressmaker, found to be in service was preferable. What they could spare of their earnings it was their pride to give in order to keep a home for their parents. While still a boy Archie had shaped in his little head a plan of going to Canada, where there was a possibility of becoming independent, and had begun early to try and save enough to take him across the Atlantic. He had fixed on $50 as the sum he must have, but found, with all the self-denial he could exercise, difficult to scrape together. Emergencies arose that required his breaking in on his little hoard of savings, and spring after spring he was disappointed in being unable to sail. His sister encouraged him. Like him, she was determined to break with the conditions that bound them in the chain of poverty. On Sunday afternoons, when they met, their talk was of the future that awaited them across the sea. It was not for themselves they planned and saved. Their ambition was to give a comfortable home to their parents, for they foresaw that, unless Archie carved a farm out of the Canadian bush, they would end in becoming a charge to the parish, which was revolting to them and which they knew would break their parents’ hearts. Of all misfortunes that can overtake them, to the independent-minded Scot the acceptance of poor relief is the lowest degradation conceivable. It was in the month of March, the time when ships were getting ready for the St Lawrence, that brother and sister had an anxious consultation. Archie had $40. Would he venture to go on that amount? The risk of longer delay, the doubt if another twelvemonth would increase the sum, were considered. Archie was for risking all—he wanted to end their suspense. ‘Go,’ replied the sister, ’father might not be able to stand the voyage if we waited two years more,’ and so it was settled.
While Archie had been scraping together the money needed for his passage, his mother and sister had been doing what they could to provide his outfit. The mother span and knitted stockings, a chest was got, and shirts and other clothing cut and sewed. To eke out the ship-rations provisions must be had, and in this neighbors helped—the wife of the farmer he worked for presented him with a cheese, she called it a kebbuck, and his father’s master insisted on his accepting two stone of meal, part of which was baked into oatcakes. The step Archie was to take was not only serious but dangerous, for
The ship made a good voyage and in time he got to Toronto, where, with some trouble, he was given a location-ticket for a lot. Bargaining with a teamster who was taking a load to a settlement in the neighborhood of his lot, to leave his chest on his way, he started on foot. It was well he did, for from what he saw on the road he learnt much of what settlers have to do. He watched the chopping of trees, the making of potash, the hoeing in of the first crop, and the building of shanties, for in succession he came upon settlers engaged in all these operations, and he was not backward in asking questions, or slow in observing. The afternoon of the second day he reached where the local land-agent lived. There was a small gristmill, a sawmill, a blacksmith shop, an ashery and half a dozen houses, all rudely built, planted in a surrounding of stumps, with the bush encircling all. Asking at the largest shanty for Mr Magarth, the woman he spoke to pointed to a man, bareheaded and in his shirtsleeves, piling boards. On hearing his business Magarth said, ’You’re the man whose chest was left here yesterday. Well, it is too late in the day to show you what lot you have been given. Can you count?’ On being told he could, Magarth got a shingle and a piece of chalk and told him to mark down as he called out the measurements of the boards. On finishing the pile, Archie reported the number of feet. ’Just what I guessed,’ said Magarth, ‘now come with me.’ He led to the door of an extension at the end of his house, which Archie saw was a primitive shop, there being, in a confused heap, everything settlers could call for. Explaining his daughter who kept his books was on a visit to Toronto, he handed Archie an account-book and asked him to write down the entries
The routine of his daily life was monotonous—up with the sun to attack the trees which stood between him and a livelihood. It was lonely but he never grew despondent. Singing, whistling, shouting, he kept at his work. Two of the songs of Burns were his favorites—a Man’s a Man for a’ that and Scots wha hae. On coming to the line, Liberty with every blow, he drove his ax into the tree with vim, and, indeed, the trees at that time were the enemies he had to fight. Saturdays he went to Magarth’s to do what writing he might have, for his daughter was in no hurry to leave Toronto. Each Monday found Archie more handy with the ax, and neither heat nor mosquitoes caused him to slacken in extending his clearance. Wet days alone made him take rest in his shanty, in a corner of which was his bed of hemlock boughs and fern leaves. When summer waned and the nights grew cold the lack of a chimney in his shanty made living in it intolerable, for the smoke circulated round until it found the hole in the roof intended for its escape. He thought over plans to get a chimney, but could hit on none that he could carry out without some one to help him. From time to time he had burnings of brush-heaps, storing the ashes in a hole he had dug in the side of a hillock and covering them with big sheets of bark to keep them dry. The end of September, on making his customary visit to Magarth’s, he found a letter
On speaking to Magarth of the store of ashes he had saved and of the slash of trees that were ready for burning, it was arranged he would send two men if Archie would clear a way through the woods by which a one ox-sled could pass. His frequent comings and goings across the lot had made a foot-path, but there were decayed logs to push aside, brush to cut here and there, and a few branches that hung low. It took three days’ work before he was satisfied a sled would have free passage. On a Monday morning the men with the sled and oxen appeared and the burning began. There had been a month’s drouth, so the burning went well, and when the men went back at nights the big box on the sled was filled with ashes. At Magarth’s the ashes were measured in a bushel box and emptied into the leaches that stood beside the creek. On coming to square accounts the ashes paid what Archie was due and left a few dollars to his credit. Taking advantage of the return trips of the sled, he had got his chest taken to his shanty, a quantity of short boards to make a door and a bed, a bag of seed wheat, and a grindstone. Elated by his progress he went to the scraping and hoeing of his clearance with a will, lifted his potatoes, pitted them, and sowed all his seed-wheat. Then he tackled enlarging his clearance and his daily task was again felling trees. The weather was now often cold. He chinked the shanty but with a gaping hole in the roof to let out the smoke it made little difference, and often he could not get to sleep for shivering. To light a fire made it worse, for, not being used to it, he could not stand the smoke, which choked him and made his eyes smart. The second week in November there came a frosty snap. Before shouldering his ax he had put the potatoes and bit of pork he intended for dinner in a tin pail and buried it in hot ashes to slowly cook. When he came back late in the afternoon, cold and tired and hungry, he opened the pail and found it full of cinders. The heat had been too great. For the first time he lost heart, and starting up, with what daylight remained, made his way to Magarth’s, where supper and a welcome awaited him. The daughter having been back for some time, he had given up his Saturday visits. She was big and plump, and like her father voluble and fond of a joke. When all the others
In the morning Archie rose and, without waking anybody, slipped out and made his way to his comfortless shanty. Those who love the forest know in how many tones it speaks, varying with the season and the force of the wind. When in full leaf and swayed by a summer breeze the sound is of falling water, of a phantom Niagara; in the winter, when the trees are bare, the Northwest blast shrieks through their tops and there are groanings diversified by sharp cries as some decayed branch is snapped or tree falls. It was amid these doleful sounds Archie swung his ax. He was not conscious of the bitter cold for his work kept him warm, but his brain was full of racking thoughts. He had toiled like a slave for nigh six months and had accomplished little, with every imaginable deprivation he had saved nothing, and for the next six months he foresaw cold and hunger, which he doubted he could survive. Here was an offer that meant comfort, and relief from a penniless condition. Should he not accept it? Was it not selfishness that whispered his doing so? Did he not come to these woods to hew out from the heart of them a home for those he loved? Was he going to throw up his purpose to benefit himself? Would that be right? There was a whisper, You will be able to help them by sending money. Is money-help all they can claim from me? Is sending them so many dollars a month all the command to honor father and mother means? Do they not desire to be beside me and is it not my duty to sustain and comfort them while life lasts? Shall I place other cares between them and me, leaving them second instead of first? So he went on arguing mentally, until the larger consideration came uppermost, Was it justifiable to marry a woman for whom he had no special regard, because by so doing it would be to his worldly advantage? Then he, for the first time in his life, tried to define what marriage was. Was marriage for comfort and ease such a union as his conscience could approve? It was a searching question, and while he swung the ax he argued it aloud. What was marriage without love? No marriage, he shouted, as his ax delved into the side of a tree. Love alone can blend two lives, and without love marriage is sacrilege. No, he would not think of Magarth’s offer, he would cast it behind him, and go on as he was doing. Then peace came to him, and he dwelt on the communings with his sister, and the pledge he had given her on parting. For the first time that day he began to sing, and when he sat on a log to eat the bread he had brought for his dinner, he threw crumbs to a squirrel that left her hole to survey him.
Two days later he found he would have to go to Magarth’s to get the steel of his ax renewed, for it had chipped. He found only Mrs Magarth at home, her husband and Norah had left on a visit. In the store were two men, and he listened to their talk with interest, for one was telling how a thriving nearby settlement had built a school and were unable to find a teacher. Asking the name of the man who had the engaging of one, and where he lived, Archie’s resolution was made, he would go and offer himself. A tramp of over a mile brought him to the house. In five minutes he was engaged at a salary of six dollars a month and to board round. The engagement was for four months. He spent the night with the settler and left in the morning to get what clothes he needed and to set his shanty in order. Word had gone round that a teacher had been secured, and on his return in the afternoon there were several callers curious to see him. His host was a North of Ireland man, with a large family, who he was determined should learn to read and write. He had been the leader in the building of the school-house, to which he walked with Archie the following forenoon. It was a log building, about twenty feet square. There were no desks and the seats were plank set on blocks of wood. Every child able to walk was there full of curiosity as to what school was like. Archie’s difficulties began at once. Not one of the would-be scholars had a book of any kind; those who said they wanted to learn to write had no paper and no slates. Had they anything they could recite from memory? A little girl forthwith began, Now I lay me down to sleep. With great patience, Archie taught them the first verse of the 23rd psalm, and, trying if they could sing it, found there were several good voices. He felt encouraged. Telling them to bring books of any kind next day, he ended the lessons by one in arithmetic, using the fingers. The second day was better. The children came with all kinds of books except school-books, mostly bibles. One girl had a copy of the crown lands rules and regulations. Only six could read a sentence by spelling each word. They had to be started from the beginning, and Archie had provided for that by producing a smoothly planed board on which he had printed, with a carpenter’s pencil, the alphabet on one side and figures on the other. The children, with a few exceptions, were eager to learn. Then he got them to memorize the second verse of the 23rd psalm, and taught them a simple hymn, singing both. They were strong on singing, and a boy volunteered to give them a song he had heard, which had a chorus of Derry Down. So it went on. A supply of smooth shaved shingles was got and with bits of chalk the scholars learned to write simple words and cast up sums. At the close of each day Archie told them a story and questioned to see how much of it they remembered and understood. At the end of a fortnight three of the settlers visited to see how matters were progressing and left satisfied.
Shifting his boarding-place each Saturday Archie came to know the settlers intimately, and perceived how little outside their daily toil there was to engage their minds. He proposed a singing-class for the young fellows and the girls, and set a date for the first meeting. The evening came and there was so great a crowd that the school could not hold them so a number clustered round the open door. Archie knew nothing about musical notation, but he had a good voice and a great store of songs. The difficulty was knowledge of the words, which he overcame by singing whatever any number of them knew and by repeating in concert verse by verse before he raised the tune. On the novelty wearing off a number ceased to come, but no matter how cold or stormy was the night the schoolhouse was filled by young people who heartily enjoyed those two evenings in the week. On a preacher arranging to hold a fortnightly service, they applied themselves to learning hymns. Without knowing it, Archie had become popular. Taking pleasure in his work the winter passed quickly. As his term drew towards its close there was a move to show him some substantial token of regard. There being little money, it took the form of a donation in kind, so, on leaving the third week of March, he was driven to his shanty in a sled laden with parcels of flour, lumps of pork, butter, cookies, doughnuts, and the like. His small wage had been paid him and out of it he sent $15 to his mother.
His shanty he found buried in snow, the drift against its west end overtopping it. Everything was as he had left it, and when he had dug away the snow and got at the potatoes he had pitted he was glad to find them untouched by frost. He again assailed the trees but in a different spirit from the day when he had left. He was again hopeful of conquering and there was much to encourage him. The weather was milder and the daylight longer. More than anything else that cheered him on to his lonely task was the spring sunshine. It was awakening new life in the forest, and why not in him? On the size of his clearing depended whether he would be able to have his parents and sister join him when spring returned next year, and so, early and late, he attacked the trees. The only break in his toil was when he had to go to Magarth’s for something he could not do without and those few hours of social talk were sweet to the solitary man. Not the least interesting topic he heard was that Norah was engaged to a wealthy produce-dealer in Toronto.
On leaving the settlement where he had taught school, the young fellows told him to send them word when he was ready to burn, and they would come and help him. The middle of May he walked to attend the preaching there, and before leaving next morning had arranged they should come the following Monday. The number who flocked into his clearance astonished him, for almost every acquaintance he had saluted him. They came with ox-sleds and chains and, what surprised
As he was cooking his breakfast Archie was surprised by a sound at a distance which he recognized as the strokes of an ax. Listening with rapt attention, there came, in a few minutes, the familiar crash of a tree falling. ’That means I have got a neighbor: somebody has taken a lot at the end of the concession,’ said Archie, and he set about his day’s work in high spirits. It was as fine a day as a June day can be, and there is no finer the world over. The brilliant blue of the sky was brought out by a few snowy cloudlets drifting before a gentle breeze, which tempered the warmth of the glorious sunshine. The heart of the young man was glad and found expression in song and whistling as he wielded the ax. What caused him to pause in blank astonishment? From the woods behind him, came a voice singing ’O whistle and I will come to you my lad.’ It was a woman’s voice, it was a familiar voice. Dropping his ax he bounded towards the figure emerging from the bush where the sled-road entered his clearance. ‘It is my own sister!’ he shouted in a scream of joy, and clasped her in his brawny arms. ’O, Mirren, have you dropped from the sky? I would have as soon expected to meet an angel.’
’I am just a sonsy Ayrshire lass and have come on my feet and not on wings. Eh, but you’ve changed—ye’ve worked over hard.’
’It has been sweet work, for it was for father and mother. Nothing wrong with them that sent you here?’
‘I left them well, and hoping to join us next spring.’
’And how did you come—what started you—where did you get the passage money—how did you find your way here?’
‘I’ll tell you after I have seen this grand house of yours. An’ this is the shanty you wrote about with everything out and inside higgle-de-piggeldy! Ye are a great housekeeper to be sure. Why, your house has not got a lum! (chimney). Did you have breakfast yet? Poor fellow, no wonder your cheeks are thin.’
’Never mind, Mirren, I have planned a new house and with your help it will soon be built.’
‘That it will, Archie; it is to help you I have come.’
Sitting side by side on a pile of boards, Mirren told how she had come. On Archie’s letter reaching his mother with three pounds enclosed she saw the possibility of Mirren going to Canada. ’The passage money is four pounds, mother, and there is the buying of what cannot be done without. We will have to wait for another remittance.’
’Listen, and I will tell you what I never even let on to your father. When he had that accident six years ago that laid him up and we feared he would never go to the hills again, the thought came to me that if he died the parish would have to bury him. I set it down that no such disgrace would ever fall on our family if I could help it, and when he got better I set to put-by every penny that could be spared, and many a hank I have spun and stocking knitted to get the pennies. After thinking over Archie’s letter, I counted what I put by and I have one pound, seven shillings, and tenpence. Your passage, you see, is paid.’
‘But I dare not leave you alone.’
’Mirren, you will do as your mother asks you. Your brother needs help: go, and we will follow you a year sooner.’
‘I thought it all over,’ said Mirren, ’and it was settled I should go. It was quite a venture for a young lass to go alone so far, but I was not afraid, seeing there were the plain markings of what was my duty. So we set to work to get ready, and here I am.’
’Bless you, Mirren, you have a brave heart and God helping us, we will have father and mother with us in another twelve month, and the black dog. Want will never frighten them more.’
Mirren was curious to see what Archie had been doing, but he took her first to the rising ground, back in the bush, where he had decided to build his house, and then showed her his crops. The rest of the day he spent in cutting and setting up poles to make a shelter that would serve as a cookhouse during the day and a sleeping-place for himself at night. At supper she told of her journey, of the voyage, the slow ascent of the St Lawrence, and the steamboat that landed her at Toronto. The mate undertook to forward her chest, and pointed out Yonge-street, at the head of the wharf. Without a minute’s delay she gained it and began her long walk. Late in the day she asked at a shanty that stood beside the road how far she was from the corner where she had to turn. The woman, on hearing where she was going, said she could not be there before dark and asked her to stay overnight. Her husband with the two oldest of the family had gone to visit his uncle and she was alone with the younger children. Mirren gladly took her offer and tarried next morning to help in cutting and fitting a dress for one of the girls. There were many wagons on the road, but all were loaded with the baggage of immigrants, who, men, women, and all except the very young, trudged their weary way behind or alongside of them. It was late in the afternoon when Magarth’s was reached. On telling her name, she was cordially welcomed. In the morning she was shown the sledroad that led to the lot of her brother. The first sign that she was near him was hearing his whistling. Of the money she had started with she had still $2.25.
With daylight next day they started to work. Mirren insisted on taking an ax with her and began brushing the trees Archie had felled. He remonstrated that it was not woman’s work. Her reply was, she had come to help him and she was going to do so. ‘Well, then,’ he said, ’we will go to the spot where the house is to be built and work there.’ On the evening arriving on which the preacher visited the schoolhouse, they both set out to attend the service.’ Mirren had a welcome that astonished her, and when they heard her sing her welcome was redoubled. Archie’s friend insisted on their staying until next day. It was late that night before Mirren got to bed, for the neighbors crowded to speak with her and hear her sing. As they walked to their humble home next forenoon, Mirren expressed her amazement at the heartiness with which she had been received, remarking it was her first experience with the Irish. In reply Archie said we ought to judge people as we find them putting away all prejudices. His sojourn among them during the winter had made him ashamed of his misconceptions—you have to come close to people to estimate their worth, and he could say from his soul, ’God bless the Irish: kinder hearts do not beat in human breasts,’ and told Mirren what they had done for him.
The ox-sled that brought Mirren’s chest also brought a crosscut saw, and they tried it at once in cutting the logs for the new shanty. Archie’s saying he did not like to see her pulling the saw, brought out the retort that she would not do it for other house than one for father and mother. That summer was the happiest they had ever known. Their toil was exhausting but the purpose of it and their mutual company bore them up. To hear them singing and joking it would be thought felling trees and sawing them into log lengths was a recreation. Such progress was made that a bee for the raising was set for the end of August, for the season had been early and grain was harvested. It was a bee that was the talk of the neighborhood for months afterwards. Young and old came, more with a desire to help the brave lassie who had won their hearts than for Archie’s sake, well-liked as he was. With her watching them, the young men vied with one another and never did log walls mount faster nor rafters span them than when they had reached their height. On a green maple branch being stuck in a gable peak to indicate progress, a wild huroo arose that woke the forest echoes. When the bee broke up all the rough work was done; what was left Archie could do himself with the aid of a carpenter and mason, for a regular fireplace and chimney needed the latter.
The brother and sister agreed that a less remittance than ten pounds would not do to bring their parents to Canada, and how to raise the $50 was a subject of concern to them. What produce they had to spare would fetch little. Their perplexity was relieved at the close of October by a visit from two men, who had come to find out if Archie would again, be their schoolmaster. There were more families now and more scholars and they would pay $7 a month and board round. He hesitated, he could not leave his sister alone. ‘Take the offer,’ she eagerly cried, ’I will go to the settlement with you.’ ‘What would you do there?’ ’You forget, Archie, I learned dressmaking. I will cut and fit and add a little to our savings.’ The second week in November the school was opened, this time under better conditions, for a storekeeper had brought books and slates, and Archie fetched with him a blackboard he had contrived to put together. With the day-school the singing school was resumed, to which Mirren added fresh interest. She got all the work she could do, for few of the women knew how to cut clothes for their children, let alone for themselves, and were glad to pay for cutting and fitting, doing the sewing at home. The winter sped quickly and the middle of March saw brother and sister back to their clearance and to the felling of trees. On counting their earnings in February they found they were able to send to their parents the desired ten pounds, with the urgent advice to take the first ship. How they would do on arriving at Toronto perplexed them, until Mr Magarth gave them the address of his son-in-law to enclose in their letter, assuring them Norah would care for them and see to their finishing their journey. When June came Mirren expected them each day and made every preparation for their reception. The spot in the bush where the sled-road ended and by which they must come, she watched with unflagging eagerness, but day after day passed and July came without their appearance. She was stooping in the garden cutting greens for dinner when a voice behind her asked, ‘Hoo is a’ wi’ ye, Mirren?’ With a scream of joy she clasped her father and mother. A loud shout brought Archie from the end of the clearance where he was at work with the ax. The reward of their toil and strivings had come at last, they were once again a re-united family. In the evening they sat in front of their new shanty, the clearance before them filled with crops that half-hid the stumps and promised abundance. ‘Praise God,’ exclaimed the old shepherd as he reverently raised his bonnet, ’we are at last independent and need call no man master.’ For his age he was strong and active and his assistance made Archie independent of outside help. The four working together, and working intelligently and with a purpose, speedily placed them on the road to prosperity.
* * * * *
One defect in the backwoods life troubled the conscience of the old shepherd, and that was the practical disregard for religious observances. He was not satisfied with occasional services and, when harvesting was over, made a house-to-house visit to see if sufficient money could be got to mend the situation. Nobody said him nay yet none gave him the encouragement he had hoped. In the Old Land the only free contributions they had made for religious purposes was the penny dropped on the plate on Sunday, so the appeal to make a sacrifice to secure stated ordinances, was to them a novelty. An Englishman asked, ’When had the King become unable to pay the parson?’ His visits also made him aware that there were many children unbaptised and that not one of those who told him they were church members had received the communion since they had left the Old Country. His resolution was taken—he would go to Toronto and seek out a minister, he did not care of what denomination, to spend a week or more in this new but fast-growing cluster of settlements. Though they did not say so to him, the settlers thought his errand a crazy one. As chance would have it, he did happen on a man as zealous for the cause as himself and with no pressing engagement for the time being. On his arriving he started with the shepherd on a round of visits, exhorting and baptizing, and announcing he would celebrate the Lord’s supper, the last Sunday before his return to Toronto. So many promised to come that it was seen the school-house could not hold them. The minister fell in with the suggestion that the meeting be held out-of-doors and there were men found who agreed to make ready. It was now October, and the trees, as if conscious of their departure for their long sleep, arrayed themselves in glorious apparel to welcome the rest that awaited them. The spot selected for the meeting was the wide ravine hollowed out by the creek that flowed sluggishly at the bottom. On the flat that edged the east side of the creek planks were laid on trestles to form the table, while the people were expected to sit under the trees on the sloping bank that rose from it. From an early hour the people began coming. Word had spread far beyond the houses visited, and there were a few who had walked ten miles and over. The solemnity of the occasion was heightened by the weather. Not a breath stirred the air and the yellow or scarlet leaves that flecked the glassy surface of the creek had fluttered downward because their time for parting with the branches had come. A bluish haze tempered the rays of the sun, which was mounting a cloudless sky. When the minister rose to begin, he faced a motley crowd, for while all had done their best to be clean and neat, with rare exceptions, all were in their every day dress, worn and patched, for to get clothes is one of the difficulties of the new-come settlers. There were few aged, for the young and active lead the way into the bush. There were women with babes in their arms, and there
Lines on the Gordon Sellar who was drowned in his boyhood
O that day of desolation!
O that hour of dumb despair!
Why, instead, was I not taken—
The fading leaf the bud to spare?
Why thy joyous life
Why wert born thus to die?
Whither hast thy spirit wended—
Here a moment then to fly?
Come, O Faith, in all
Lift me high above my woe;
Leave with God this hour of darkness,
Seeking not the cause to know.
Nevermore, my son, I’ll
Nevermore thy voice I’ll hear.
Till I scan the towers of Salem
See thee and the Saviour dear.
* * * * *
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