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The Black-Sealed Letter - Or, The Misfortunes of a Canadian Cockney.
by Andrew Learmont Spedon
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Chorus.—Our country's foe we need not dread, When danger's hour appears, While guarded by those gallant braves, Our Border Volunteers.

No menial soldier fills our ranks, Nor yet a martial slave; O'er free and independent men Our banners proudly wave. They are our country's stalwart sons, Who love their home and hearth, Who honour still their Fatherland, And this which gave them birth.

Chorus.—Our country's foe, &c.

'Tis not the savage thirst for blood Which makes our heroes brave, 'Tis not for conquest and renown Their banners proudly wave. Their voice proclaims the love of peace, To all an equal right, But mercy spurn'd by reckless foes Empowers their sword of might.

Chorus.—Our country's foes, &c.

Trout River's banks and Eccles' Hill, Shall echo forth their fame, And thousands yet unborn will rise, To shout our heroes' name. They form the martial battlements Of Canada's frontiers, Those guardians of our household hearths, THE BORDER VOUNTEERS.

Chorus.—Our country's foes we need not dread, When danger's hour appears, While guarded by these gallant braves, Our Border Volunteers.

The disturbance at Red River in the North-Western Territory, by the revolt of Riel and his accomplices was also at this time attracting the attention of the Canadian government. A force, consisting of regulars and volunteers, had already been organized; and was to be despatched immediately to Red River for the purpose of suppressing the Riel-Rebellion.

The glory of warfare had aroused within the mind of Frederick Charlston a love for adventure and a spirit of Canadian patriotism: and feeling a desire to enlist as a roving soldier, he immediately, after his return to Montreal, departed for Toronto, head-quarters for the Battalions designed for Red River. A few healthy and well-disciplined volunteers were still wanted; and Fred, having passed an examination, was initiated into the ranks as a volunteer for Red River.

On the evening previous to his departure he retired to his room; and having emptied a tumbler full of hot brandy punch, he sat down gloriously happy, and penned the following letter to his parents.

"Toronto, June 7th, 1870.

"Dear Father and Mother,—As you may feel somewhat disposed by this time to relish a bit of my history in Canada, I now, for the first time, since I left home, lift my pen to address you. I shipped in the S. S. Moravian from Liverpool, to Portland, U.S., and during the voyage had to undergo the terrible ordeal of sea-sickness. However, I arrived at Montreal on the evening of Christmas last, as sound as a church bell. I found immediate employment in the city at six shillings per day. I am partially fond of this country and the inhabitants in general, with the exception of a sort of people named French Kanucks; but they are as harmless as a flock of sheep; and stand as mere cyphers in the ranks of society. Last winter I joined a company of city volunteers; and was present at an engagement with the Fenians at a place known as Eccles Hill, on the 25th ultimo, of which affair you will have heard by the London papers. I went up boldly to the Front, and fought the Fenians like a tiger. I don't know how many I killed; but I feel certain that I must have annihilated quite a large number, as I fired away every cartridge I had. I brought back with me to Montreal a Fenian-coat, knapsack and rifle, &c. Since my return I have been lionized by my officers and comrades for my daring exploits. The sun of fortune has already begun to shine upon me; and I have determined that my progress shall be in the ascendancy, until I arise to the very zenith of my glory. I have just enlisted myself as a volunteer to go over 2000 miles into the dense forests of Canada to fight the savages of the North-West at Red River. I leave to-morrow. The undertaking is gigantic, but the glory that shall arise therefrom shall be immeasurably greater. Be not surprised should you hear of me ere long being gazetted as commander of a battalion in the North-Western Territory. On my return, to England, if ever, I shall take my Fenian trophies along with me, and perhaps a few hundred of Indian scalps, &c., as curiosities for my friends and old acquaintances.

"Give my respects to none but those who inquire kindly about me. My love to the little 'chick.' He may live to be yet proud of his father. I shall write again as soon as I get the savages disposed of."

"Father, mother, sisters and brother, accept the expression of my love. Farewell, farewell."

"Fred. Charlston."

The volunteers for Red River were forwarded from Toronto to Collingwood; where they embarked on the steamers Algoma and Chigora; and proceeded 300 miles to Thunder Bay, on Lake Superior; thence by land and water through a dense wilderness, several hundred miles, to Fort Garry, at Red River. A prodigious undertaking, indeed, involving a vast amount of labor and privation; nevertheless the majority of the troops endured it tolerably well. During the first two or three weeks Fred Charlston stood the hardships and inconveniences with a brave spirit, and enjoyed with good relish the rough life of the military pioneer; so much so that he gave expression to his patriotic feelings in the following song, which he and his associates frequently sung with great gusto:—

Come now, my lads, we'll march along, And wave our banners high, The savage herds in forest wilds Shall hear our battle-cry. The distant realm before us lies, The road is rough and drear, O'er lake and stream thro' mountain wild Our martial course we'll steer.

Chorus.—Then march along, my hearty lads, And cheer your hearts with song, The nation cheers the Volunteers Who bravely march along.

No scorching sun, no torrent shower, No toil, nor want of rest, Has power to check that British pluck Which warms each loyal breast. No savage of the woods we dread, Nor death, nor danger near, We are a nation's loyal sons Who spurn a coward's fear.

Chorus.—Then march along, &c.

That savage wretch with bloody hands, Usurping in his might, Shall keenly feel a nation's steel That justifies its right. "Revenge" shall be our battle-cry, Revenge the bloody foe: Fort Garry's walls with tongues of blood, Shall echo back the blow.

Chorus.—Come march along, "my hearty lads," And shout the martial song. The nation cheers the Volunteers Who bravely march along.



CHAPTER VIII.

I will now silently pass over the space of three months, and leave the reader to follow in imagination the adventures of our hero in the Red River Expedition;—and as an essential character in the sequel of this story I will now take the liberty of introducing myself.

* * * * *

On a fine afternoon about the middle of September, 1870, I arrived at Kingston, Ontario, and took lodgings at the "City Hotel," where I intended to remain for a few days. I was then on a tour selling a poetical work which I had written, entitled: "The Canadian Minstrel." After tea, that evening, I stepped up stairs to the sitting-room, and sat down to write a letter to my friends at home. Shortly afterwards, and while seated there alone, a young man entered the room.

"I beg pardon, sir; I hope I'm not intruding," he exclaimed very politely as he entered.

"No, not in the least, sir," said I. He then walked over to the sofa, and pulling out a newspaper from his pocket, sat down and began to peruse it. I resumed my pen; and when finished with my letter, I addressed him somewhat familiarly, and we entered into conversation, chiefly about the war which was then being carried on between France and Prussia. He was apparently intelligent; and although slightly reticent at first, became gradually more conversive and familiar.

He appeared to be about 25 years of age, tall, and somewhat slender in figure; of keen a nervous temperament; with hair and moustache of a brownish color: features slightly prominent and very expressive. He was courteous in manners, and in general appearance, genteel and good-looking. His style of conversing was agreeable; his arguments pointed and logical; and his remarks, full of sympathetic sentiment, apparently the breathings of an impulsive moral nature. His countenance, although naturally expressive of energy, appeared slightly shadowed by an expression of sadness. Even in his manner and conversation there was a peculiar indication of deep thoughtfulness, tinged with melancholy. Respecting his own history he said nothing, nor did he ask anything about mine. I was however much interested in his company, and although strangers to each other, we passed a very pleasant evening together.

At breakfast on the following morning he sat directly opposite to me. We saluted each other in a friendly manner, and occasionally exchanged a few sentences. Shortly after we had retired from the table he came forward and addressed me.

"I shall bid you good bye, friend, for the present," said he, apparently in readiness to depart.

"And so you are going to leave," said I. "I'm sorry I had not the pleasure of a longer acquaintance with you."

"I leave for Toronto, where I shall remain a week or two. Should you be there shortly, please call at the 'Metropolitan Hotel,' and ask for me, I shall be happy to see you," said he, handing me a card with his name thereon.

"Thank you, sir, I will be happy to do so," said I: and having heartily shaken hands together as a mutual token of courtesy and good-will, he departed.

As I was desirous of attending the Annual Provincial Show, to be held at Toronto during the first week of October following, I passed all the intermediate towns on the line of railway, and arrived in that city a few days previous.

The evening after my arrival I strolled over to the Metropolitan to see the stranger referred to. He recognized me at once, and was apparently happy to see me. Although our previous acquaintance had been incidental and but of short duration, we felt on meeting again as if we had been old friends. He invited me to the sitting room; and we passed a few very agreeable hours together. On leaving I requested him to spend the following evening with me at the hotel at which I was staying. He complied therewith; and during his further stay of one week in the city our interviews were of daily occurrence.

During the following week the city was crowded to its utmost capacity; and the streets presented a gay and lively appearance, owing to the great influx of visitors to the Exhibition. In company with my friend I visited the "Show Grounds." Every department of the Arts and Agriculture, &c., were well represented, showing the vast progress and developments of the Province of Ontario.

The day of the closing of the Exhibition my friend specially invited me to his room to spend the evening. During our previous interviews he had said but little respecting himself. I noticed, however, that something was deeply affecting his mind; and that he was apparently desirous of making it known to me. But it was not until this evening that he, in compliance with my wishes, gave me the history of his past career: the greater part of which is narrated in the foregoing chapters of this story: the remainder I will now give in his own words; for, gentle reader, be it known that this person was none other than Frederick Charlston, with whom you are already acquainted.

"During the first part of the journey to Red River," said he, "I endured the hardships and fatigues tolerably well; but the encamping out every night upon the cold earth: the incessant labor; the hard marches over a rough road, and under a broiling sun, at length became too oppressive. Oftentimes I felt, as it were, unable to proceed a step further; but my proud spirit with a stern determination of will, exerted every possible energy, and I continued day after day to plod along with my foot-sore and way-worn companions. Our fatigues were however occasionally relieved by a general rest for a few days. But before one third of the journey had been completed I was seized one night with a severe attack of illness.

"The day had been excessively hot; the commander wishing to get forward that evening to certain grounds favorable for one week's encampment had recourse to what might be termed a forced march. Many of the soldiers suffered from the effects thereof; I was prostrated at once by a severe billious attack, accompanied with chills and fever, and also diarrhea; and when the companies resumed their march, I was unable to proceed with them.

"The evening previous to the general move the doctor made a special visit to my tent.

"'My young friend,' said he, as he entered, 'I have come to leave you some medicine as I must move with the army at an early hour to-morrow morning. Your health, although progressing rapidly, will not permit you to undertake the journey, at least for one week. However, you will be provided with necessaries, &c. The Captain has appointed a couple of honest Indians to remain and take care of you: and who will serve as guides when you are ready to depart. But my special injunction is—"Take good care of yourself," otherwise you will never reach Red River.'

"'Indeed, doctor, I'm afraid I shall never be able to resume the journey,' said I.

"'It would have been much better for you had you not undertaken it at first.'

"'Experience teaches fools,' I exclaimed.

"'Yes, and the wisest of wise men too,' added the doctor, with a sly wink.

"'I regret very much the course I have taken,' said I; 'I am now suffering the experience of my reckless folly. Were it possible to have an opportunity of living my past years over again agreeably to my wishes, I assure you, doctor, I would never make a second journey to Canada, nor go to Red River either; I would make England my home for ever. However, since I have undertaken this exodus, I hope I shall be able to complete it.'

"'It is my opinion,' said the doctor, 'that your physical constitution, inexperienced as it has been to a life like this, will not be able to stand the fatigues; and even after a month's rest, I dread the consequences, as the hardships yet to be endured are tenfold greater than those you have undergone.'

"'Then what shall I do, doctor? Must I live and die alone in this wilderness?' said I.

"'Under the present circumstances, I think,' said he, 'your resignation will be immediately accepted. If so remain here for the present under charge of your attendants. In the course of a week or so, a gang of Indians will pass here on their way to Thunder Bay for provisions. They can convey you a great portion of the way by canoe; thence you can effect your course back to Toronto, or to England if you choose, much easier indeed than going the remainder of the journey to Red River.'

"'Well doctor,' said I, 'I shall comply with your orders.'

"'Then I shall attend to the matter at once,' said the doctor, and immediately withdrew. In about an hour afterwards he returned, accompanied with several officers. The doctor's request was acquiesced with, and I received my discharge. The commander on leaving placed $30 in my hand, wishing me better health and a safe journey back to Toronto. No sooner had they left than I began to breathe more freely the air of liberty. I felt like a prisoner when liberated from his shackled bonds. I was no longer a mercenary. I was indeed exalted above the ranks, and felt myself once more as a man:—And wherefore, may I ask? Let my spirit echo the answer.

"The novelty and the romance of adventure had lost their charms. Military glory had faded under the stern reality of circumstances. Sickness had dimmed the ardor of my soul. Home-longings had clustered around my heart: and I then felt as it were for the time being a happiness in disappointment, and an independence in my liberty.

"My companions were indeed sorry to part with me: and before leaving presented me with many tokens of their affections. I felt the loneliness of a saddened heart when they were gone. The Indians were however kind, and faithful in their duties towards me. Under their care my health and vigor improved rapidly; so much so, that I felt sufficiently able to go with the returning Indians to Thunder Bay. I stood the travel much better than I anticipated. On the 27th day of August I arrived safely in this city, but much exhausted by the fatigues of the journey.

"Alas! thought I. What a change of prospects! What a revulsion in circumstances! I left here as a proud follower of Mars, clothed in scarlet and fine linen like the Kings of Babylon, and blowing up the tinsel'd bubble of military glory, amid the beating of drums, the blowing of trumpets, and the cheers of an excited populace. But alas! I returned in silence, as a simple man of experience, covered in sackcloth, exhausted in body, disappointed in mind, without friends, without a home, and with comparatively meagre funds. It was then that the last words of my dear father to me came rushing upon my soul, and adding sorrow to the feelings of my heart. Humiliating as my circumstances were, more deeply affecting to my mind was the ever-present remembrance of a dream which I dreamt on the night previous to my departure from Chipenega, the place where I remained during my illness. I dreamt that I was again residing in Montreal, that I had retired to my room for the night, and was projecting the design of going to the Rocky Mountains to dig for gold: and felt excited by the idea that when I had accumulated a million I would return to England a gentleman of fortune. But my night visions, like my day dreams, were doomed to vanish in disappointment: for at that moment when my soul was elated with the prospect, and my heart throbbing big with joy, I was startled by a light suddenly shining around me; and on looking about I beheld a woman entering the room and approaching where I lay. Her countenance, though pale, shone with a peculiar brightness. A long robe, white as the snow, hung loosely around her, and sandals were upon her feet. I was amazed at the appearance at first sight: but after a momentary gaze I recognized in her features the expression of my own mother.

"'Oh, mother! my dear mother!' I shouted as she approached, quickly raising myself up from my couch.

"'Frederick, my son Frederick,' she exclaimed taking hold of my hand in her own, and kissing me affectionately. 'I have come to take my farewell of you, my dear son, as I am ready to depart on a long journey and will not again see you on earth. Around my poor body your father, brother, sisters, and other relatives are at this very moment sobbing in tears, while in spirit I am here present with you. My time on earth is limited to seconds. My words are therefore few. My injunctions are these,—I hope you will comply with them. Repent of your wickedness and folly. Abstain from intoxicating liquors and evil company. Live a righteous life. Return at once to England, and seal those bonds of a life-union with Clara, whom you have unjustly wronged. Promise me, my son, to do these things and I shall depart in peace.'

"I was so overcome and bewildered at that moment that I could say nothing more than simply to whisper,—'Mother, I shall try to do so.' She then kissed me; bade me good-bye; and on wings of light instantly soared out of the room, leaving it in darkness again. I was so awfully impressed at this moment that I awoke suddenly. It appeared to me to be more of a waking reality than a dream. From that time until the present moment it has preyed heavily upon my feelings. Again and again have I tried to eradicate the impression, but every effort has only had a tendency to rivet it the more firmly to my mind, until it has at length assumed the aspect of a reality. I fear my apprehensions are too true; however I trust to Providence that my dream was nothing more than a baseless emanation of fancy. The evening after my arrival in Toronto from the Red River expedition I wrote a letter to my parents, and also one to a cousin of my own residing in London. I stated the circumstances which compelled me to return from the expedition; that the doctor had advised me to go back to England, as the Canadian climate was not suitable for my constitution; and that I purposed being in London to spend the Christmas holidays with my friends. Neither did I forget to mention the anxiety I felt about my child; nor did I neglect to express my intention of paying an affectionate compliment to its mother on my return. I desired my friends to reply immediately on receiving my letters. Nearly five weeks have elapsed since I wrote, but no answer has been received yet. I however expect something by the next English mail. I am living in suspense; a dreadful feeling indeed to endure. Had my health and means permitted, I would have gone directly to England on my return from the expedition. Instead thereof I sent the letters referred to, and having rested in this city a couple of weeks, I went down to Kingston to visit an old acquaintance who had emigrated thither a few years ago; but when I arrived there I discovered with disappointment that he had recently removed to the State of Minnesota. It was then, sir, that I had the pleasure of meeting with you. Your kindness and familiarity on that occasion, and also since, have been as medicine to my soul. I have considered you as a genial and sympathetic friend. I have told you the history of my past career. I trust to God that my future will be characterised with less unfortunate events, but with deeds more worthy of being told. I feel, and I know that I have been the author of my own wretchedness and folly. I have wasted my time, my money, and my energies in dissipation. I have feasted my conceited fancies upon glory as light and transient as the flying gossamer: and besides all this, I have done injustice to my parents—to my child—and to her who gave it birth. I have wronged her with cruel heart, a heart that has recoiled upon itself, and now stings its own affections in the madness of remorse. But worse than all, I have done injustice to my Maker. I have mocked at His mercy. I have insulted His dignity. I have trampled upon His laws. Oh! miserable wretch that I have been! However, I have resolved to live a better life. I trust to God that through His divine power I shall be enabled to abstain from intoxicating liquor and evil company."

"I intend returning to England in December next," continued Frederick, after a few moments silence. "Yesterday I met with a gentleman who formerly belonged to London, and with whom I was somewhat acquainted. He is now a resident of Hamilton, some 50 miles from here, and does a large business as an upholsterer. He offered me immediate employment, at $1.50 per day. I have engaged with him for two months, at the expiration of which time, if health permit, I will ship myself for England. So that no time may be lost I shall leave for Hamilton to-morrow morning, to be ready to commence work on Monday.

"Now, sir, as you intend remaining in Toronto for a week or two you will indeed favor me by calling at the Post-Office, especially when the next English Mail arrives, and any letters or newspapers addressed to me, please forward immediately."

I promised faithfully to do so:—and having thanked him for his favors I bade him good-bye for the present, expressing a wish that I would find him in a happier state of feelings at our next interview.



CHAPTER IX.

Having returned to the hotel at which I was staying I retired immediately to bed. I slept but little during the night, my fancy having been kept awake by the expressive interview of the preceding evening. The eventful narrative of Frederick Charlston's career was ever present to my mind, producing feelings akin to those of an experienced reality. But the most striking characteristic was the singular dream to which I have alluded. Dreams in general are nothing more than the echoes of the soul, or the breathings of imagination when the consciousness of the mind is in a latent state. Some dreams however, may be the productions of a spiritual agency photographing as it were through the electric telegraph of the soul the impressions of the real event upon the mind of the person who is absent, causing strange forebodings to loom up in the horizon of imagination. Be this as it may, it is a well known fact, that dreams have been occasionally verified. Thousands of them, however, are by the dreamer construed to suit circumstances. But the millions of these visions that arise nightly from the bed-chambers of the world are nothing more than the flickerings of the mind, at random, and like vapor, arising into the atmosphere of the soul, frequently assuming a variety of fantastic forms as a metamorphoses of preconceived ideas.

Immediately on hearing of the arrival of the English Mail I hurried down to the Post-Office, and inquired of the gentleman in attendance if there were anything for Frederick Charlston. Shuffling over a pile of letters he drew one out and handed it to me. It was mounted with deep mourning, and heavily sealed with black sealing wax. I was startled at the appearance thereof. I took but a momentary gaze and requested him to forward it by the next mail to Hamilton. I felt an anxious curiosity to know the contents of the Black-Sealed Letter. I felt certain that some of Frederick's relatives had recently died. The aspect of his dream more forcibly impressed itself upon my mind. But let a few days more pass away, and the mystery will be solved.

At the end of the second week after this occurrence I went up to Hamilton: and shortly after my arrival called upon the Upholsterer. He told me that Frederick had not been at the workshop during the past few days, owing to an attack of illness. He directed me to the hotel at which Frederick was boarding. I went there, and was by the innkeeper shown into a bedroom, in which he was reclining upon a couch reading a newspaper. On seeing me he sprang forward and grasped my hand affectionately in his own, and began sobbing aloud, the tears gushing from his eyes. For a few seconds I stood motionless in sad bewilderment of mind, feeling assured that something of a serious nature had occurred. At length I ventured to express a desire to know what had happened. He then drew from his pocket a letter, and handed it to me. I recognized it at once as the "Black-Sealed-Letter." I opened it with trembling hand, and read as follows:

"London, England, Sept. 20th, 1870.

"Dear Cousin Frederick.—I received your letter of the 28th ultimo on the 18th inst., and was sorry indeed to hear of your illness, from which I hope you have completely recovered. It gives me pleasure however to know that you will again be amongst us. No doubt you will feel happy to see your old friends again. But short as the time has been since you left, you will find on your return that eventful changes have taken place. Our life on earth is only a struggle with itself, too frequently surrounded with adverse circumstances, that are prolific with sad events, and gloomy with suffering and disappointment. And were it not that the Star of Bethlehem still shines in the firmament of Heaven the glory of this world would transmit but a dim light upon the soul of the Christian life. Then be prepared, my dear friend, to endure the ills of adversity with a noble heart. Although a dark shadow may fall suddenly upon your earthly vision, at once direct your eyes in faith towards the Star of Celestial Glory; and the light of Heaven will dispel the darkness, even, were it the shadow of Death.

"You desired of me to give particular information respecting Clara Hazeldon. In accordance with your request I suppose I must do so. Through disappointment, in hoping against hope, she became low spirited, and failed considerably in health; and, on hearing of your intended adventure in the Red River expedition, relinquished every hope of your return, and shortly afterwards became the wife of Charles Holstrom.

"Your child is still in your father's family, and is a bright-eyed-healthy-looking boy, resembling you very much indeed. At the request of your relatives, but with considerable reluctance on my part, I now undertake to inform you of an event which has recently occurred in your own family. They consider it better to make it known to you by letter than allow the reality unexpectedly to force itself upon your mind at your return.

"On the 20th day of July last, your mother, by a fall down the stairway, unfortunately got one of her limbs broken. It was considered necessary to have it amputated. Mortification set in shortly afterwards, eventually proving fatal. At an early hour on the morning of the 25th, only five days after the occurrence, your dear mother breathed her last, surrounded by her weeping relatives. She was sensible to within a few hours of her death. Her dying words conferred a blessing upon you. She died happy, and with full assurance of a blessed immortality.

"Striking as this announcement must be to your mind, I trust that with the help of God you will be enabled to bear up under the severe affliction. Sooner or later we must all die; and by what means we know not. Then let this event be another warning to us to prepare effectually for our exit to eternity. May God bless you, my dear friend. May Christ be your spiritual Physician, to pour the Balm of Gilead upon your troubled soul; and through Divine power may you ere long be conducted back in health and safety to your old home.

"Your friends join in expressing their love to you.

"I remain, dear Frederick, your affectionate cousin.

"William A. Thornton."

Appended to the above letter was the following note from Eliza, Frederick's eldest sister:

"London, Sept. 20th, 1870.

"My Dear Brother,—The sad events that have occurred since your departure have thrown a deep gloom over our household. The death of our dear mother has almost broken our hearts. I hope in God you will be enabled to endure the severe affliction. Call upon Christ, and he will assist you to bear up your weight of sorrow. It is some comfort however to know that mother died the happy death of a Christian. I trust her spirit is now reaping the heavenly harvest of her spiritual labors upon earth. Father is terribly changed since her death. I thought he would assuredly die under the heavy affliction. No doubt your absence has had a tendency to augment his grief. He has become fearfully melancholy, and of late has had recourse to drinking. I dread the consequences; therefore I intreat you to come home as soon as possible. Perhaps your influence may have a soothing effect upon his mind; and prevent him from further indulgence.

"Oh, how glad we shall all feel, even in our sorrow, to see you again, dear brother. Richard has turned out to be a fine boy; you will be happy to see him. Cousin William has acquainted you with other facts. Trust to God for the consolation of your mind. We all join in love to you. With a heavy heart and in tears I have written these few lines. I am, dear brother, your affectionate sister.

"Eliza Charlston."

"These are sad news indeed," said I, returning the letter to Frederick.

"Very, very sad, indeed, almost insufferable!" said he.

Having paused for a few moments he continued. "My dream has been forcibly verified. How overwhelming is the reality that my poor mother is no more. Had I been present when she died it would have given some consolation to my soul. But, oh! to think of the manner in which I fled from her presence, and also from my happy home: to think of the sufferings both mentally and physically she must have endured: to think of the unfortunate circumstances of her death; to think that I, her favorite son, was absent in her dying hours, without an opportunity of confessing my errors and asking her forgiveness: to think of these alone, is sufficient to break my very heart. Nor is this all. She to whose loving heart I pledged my affections as a bond of an eternal union, has become the life-companion of another. But I reproach her not for so doing. She was faithful; I alone was false. She had hoped against hope; and not until she had despaired of my return did she seek out a help-mate and home for herself. It is only another unfortunate circumstance of my life. I feel deeply the wound it has inflicted; but I will not avenge it. My life is apparently a life of troubles, and like Job of old I am ready to curse the day of my birth. I, myself, may be the author of it all; but it seems to me that some demon, like the evil spirit of King Saul, has taken possession of life's-citadel, and strews my pathway with pandoric ills."

"My dear sir, I do really sympathise with you in your affliction," said I. "But under such trying circumstances confide in God and he will be your friend indeed."

"But for me there is no Balm in Gilead: there is no physician there," he exclaimed. "As a fallen sinner I again sought for balm in the Vineyard of Satan. I had recourse to the demon-wizard of intoxication, and drank from his enchanted bowl. It was impossible to live and do otherwise; for elsewhere I could find no consolation for my grief. I drank deeply for two days and two nights after having received the letter. I then resumed my work: and with a saddened heart and a weakened constitution, labored until three days ago, when, I again broke the bonds of my resolutions. To-day I am sobering off myself: and when my bottle is emptied of its contents, I shall drink no more."

Saying this, he took from his trunk a bottle half-full with liquor.

"Look here," said he. "You see how short a distance is now between me and total-abstinence. But, my dear friend, I will not insult your feelings by tasting of it in your presence."

Therewith he returned the bottle to its place. In answer to my enquiries he stated that he still intended to return to England in December, and for that purpose had resolved to economise his time and means, and never taste of liquor again.

"Ah," said he, "liquor and evil company have been my ruin. Through the influence of bad companions I first broke the pledge when at Tiverton: and by doing so at that time, I upset all my projected designs. I have been re-building and upsetting ever since; but somehow my superstructure appears to have no solid basis. However, I am determined to try once more and make amends for the past."

I told him that I intended in the course of a few days to go on as far as New London, and would be absent at least a month. I would then return by way of Hamilton, and accompany him as far as Montreal, on my way home: it being about the time he purposed leaving for England. He appeared to be delighted with the idea of so doing, and heartily thanked me for the kindness I shewed towards him.

On the following morning he resumed his work apparently with renewed cheerfulness and vigor; and during the ten days I remained in Hamilton he improved rapidly in both body and spirit. We met together every evening and passed an hour or two very pleasantly, and I may add, profitably. He never once tasted of liquor during that time; but seemed more determined than ever to resist its temptation. I advised him to remove to some private boarding house; where he would be less exposed to the influence of liquor and evil company: but he seemed unwilling to comply therewith on account of his intended removal in so short a time. On the morning of that day on which I left Hamilton I called at the shop, where he was vigorously at work. On bidding him good-bye, I expressed a wish that he would remain true to the principle of total-abstinence, entreating him to supplicate Divine aid to enable him to do so.

"There may be some breakers ahead" said he, "but I think I can steer in the right course now."

Then bidding each other good bye, we parted—never to meet again on earth.

On my return to Hamilton I called at the hotel and requested to see Frederick Charlston.

"O, he's gone, sir," abruptly ejaculated the innkeeper.

"Gone, sir!" said I. "Where, and when did he go?"

"Well, all I can say about him, is that he went off to his grave about a week ago," he replied.

"Do you mean to say that Frederick Charlston is dead?" said I.

"Why, yes, sir," said he, "the fellow's as flat as a board now."

"What was the cause of his death?" I inquired.

"Drinking more whiskey than he was able to hold, so he sprang a leak and sank, cargo and all," he replied, jokingly, with a humorous grin, endeavouring to be witty at the expense of his victim.

This unexpected intelligence struck me so forcibly that for several seconds I stood motionless and bewildered. I then walked away with a sorrowful heart indeed. I could scarcely give credence to the announcement until it was confirmed by the upholsterer whom I called upon, and who related the following circumstances connected with the death of poor unfortunate Frederick Charlston.

"Two weeks ago last Thursday night," said he, "a couple of fast youths who were carousing merrily at the hotel, persuaded Frederick to take a sip with them. But one taste was sufficient to rouse up the evil spirit again within his bosom. He drank deeply that night and for two days continued his carousal; but was at length turned out upon the street by the innkeeper for disturbing the necessitated quietness of the Saturday night. He found his way to the woodshed, where he laid himself down and fell asleep. In about two hours he awoke shivering with cold; and was ultimately admitted into the hotel. Next morning he was in a feverish state, and confined to bed. Towards evening his condition became more alarming, and a messenger was sent for me. I hurried thither, and procured a doctor immediately. Had it been prudent to do so, I would have removed him at once to my own house; however, I did all for him that I possibly could do! My wife and I in turn sat by his bedside and watched over him with tender care. But all was in vain. His fever continued to increase and he became delirious. At times he would startle up wildly from his couch, shouting frantically as if in the agonies of horror, frequently calling and in pitiable and heart-rending tones upon his mother to forgive him: and to come and help him out of the horrible pit into which he had fallen, &c. &c. But the scene during those moments was too appalling to admit of further description. Finally he became calm, and sank into a peaceful slumber from which he never awoke on earth. On the morning of the fifth day of his illness, November 30th, he breathed his last, and his spirit passed away forever into the regions of eternity.

"Poor Frederick, he is gone. My heart is saddened by his death!" continued he, apparently much affected. "With all his faults he had a noble soul. Poor fellow! he is gone now. I gave him a decent burial. I wrote to his father informing him of his son's death; but modified the circumstances connected therewith; however, it will be sad intelligence indeed."

* * * * *

The history of Frederick Charlston is now told. His career was brief. It is however pregnant with unfortunate events, and contains excellent material for moral reflection. It is in itself a lesson for the young and the inexperienced, showing the sad results of a self-willed confidence, the love of vain-glory in adventure, the yielding of moral principles to gratify the desire of either oneself or that of others:—and worse than all, the sacrificing of the nobler attributes of human nature to the insidious wiles of evil society and intoxicating liquor. Millions of young men, as moral and as self-confident as Frederick Charlston, have been physically and morally ruined as he was. Once yielding a little to immoral influence gives the first impetus to a downward tendency. Continue to repeat it, and the inertia becomes stronger, and the descent more easy.

"I see no harm in a social glass with a friend," cries one.

"Let cold-water-fanatics preach until doomsday and hurl their anathemas against inebriates," exclaims another, "but they never shall prevent me from taking my occasional glass."

"Nor I," says a third. "An occasional glass with a companion is the very life-spring of social nature. It assimilates one mind with another. It dispels sadness, and invigorates both soul and body. It opens up the fountains of the heart, and joy gushes out, sparkling with wit and melody. Wherefore then should I deprive myself of those blessings, on purpose to gratify the whims of some cold-water quack? Wherefore then should I bind my liberties with a pledge as a safe-guard to prevent me from becoming a drunkard? If other men have been foolish enough to allow themselves to become drunkards by abusing one of the precious gifts of nature, is that sufficient reason that I should not drink? I think not. I am no drunkard, nor shall I become one; therefore I will do as I please with my own liberty and independence."

Such is indeed the false philosophy of too many moderate drinkers. No man is a confirmed drunkard at once. It is by degrees that men generally become inebriates. "Take but a glass," says the recruiting sergeant of Bacchus, "it will do you no harm." But one glass is but the starting point. It is the magnet that attracts material akin to itself. What a world of degradation has been generated by this nucleus of intemperance.

Intoxicating liquor is indeed the most prolific source of wretchedness and crime. It has been and still is the greatest curse to humanity. It is the curse of curses. The grave is filled with its wrecks. The fire of hell is fed by its fuel. Millions upon millions of human beings has it hurled down to the blackest regions of eternity. How daring then must that man be;—how utterly lost to every principle of morality, who would hazard an assertion in favor of intoxicating drinks as a source of benefit to mankind. The universal evidence of all ages would be against him. The horrid shrieks of suffering humanity would denounce his arguments. Millions of grinning skeletons, blackened with every crime (if permitted) would startle forth from their infernal dungeons; and in myriads of drunkards' graves the rattling of dry bones would be heard: Yea, even hell, its very self, bloated with the souls of inebriates, would groan with indignation. Nay, call it not happiness that sparkles in the eye of the rum-drinker and softens his heart and tongue into kindred sympathy with each other. Happiness arises not from the flickerings of the brain when heated by the reeking fumes of the liquor glass. Nor does it arise from the fervid impulses of the heart when excited by the steaming vapors of the rum bowl. Neither does it exist in the fluctuating feelings of animal nature when stimulated into action by the demon-spirit of the brandy bottle. Nor does happiness consist in the wild revelry of human beings, like madmen, recklessly sporting their fantastic tricks around the unhallowed altar of Bacchus. Nay, term it not happiness, call it rather by the name of insanity.

In conclusion, if any of my readers are addicted to intemperance, or take only an occasional glass, with a friend, let me entreat of you to consider this momentous subject: to crush the bottle-serpent ere its fangs have pierced you fatally to the heart; and at once and forever, to dash the accursed bowl to the earth.

Once more, I earnestly entreat of you to pause and reflect. Think of the countless millions of human beings who have been utterly ruined soul and body forever by intemperance; think of the immeasurable mass of wretchedness and crime arising therefrom. Think of your present condition and your eternal future; and remember also that every man, even in his greatest strength is but a fallable creature; and finally my dear readers I ask of you to consider seriously the life, career and death of poor unfortunate Frederick Charlston.

Finis.

* * * * *



The foregoing story is the first of a series entitled—"Tales for Canadian Homes;" the others will appear in serial form in the columns of the Canadian Garland, a Weekly Newspaper, which the author intends to establish shortly, in the Village of Durham, Ormstown, County of Chateauguay, P. Q.

ANDREW L. SPEDON, St. Jean Chrysostom, Chateauguay Co., P.Q.

* * * * *



The Poetic Wreath.

BY THE SAME AUTHOR.



LIFE'S STRUGGLE.

Our life is but a struggle here, 'Mid good and ill, 'twixt hope and fear, Thro' dang'rous channels oft we steer, With reckless force; But self-made ills make life's career A rougher course.

The world is but a human hive; To keep the varied swarm alive, Its working bees must toil and strive, While others feast. The lazy drones appear to thrive, Yet work the least.

The world appears a battle-field, The stronger rule, the weaker yield, The golden nerves too often wield The power which leads, While justice' scales are oft conceal'd By selfish deeds.

Yet still we strive midst hopes and fears, With pleasure's smiles and sorrow's tears, And tho' our bustling life appears A transient breath, It seems possess'd of endless years 'Twixt us and death.

The poor man toils for daily bread; By him the rich are clothed and fed, Yet life's to them a greater dread, Or idle pest, Their downy couch too oft a bed Of sleepless rest.

How many a life's an idle waste, Its destined glory seems disgraced, Its vile possessor has defaced The man divine, That not a single mark is traced Of God's design.

Man's but a child, a restless boy, His life a game, the world his toy, He strives for something to enjoy Unjoy'd before, Tho' vicious tastes and passions cloy He longs for more.

The lust for gold, the love of fame, The baser passions oft inflame, And blindly masks the honest name Of moral worth, When life exceeds no higher aim Than this vile earth.

Our souls the golden god inspires, And feeds the life-destroying fires, Until the fevered heart desires With selfish greed, More than it actually requires For nature's need.

Life's hardest ills its spirit braves, O'er mountain-crags and ocean-waves, Then make ourselves the worst of slaves, A slave to self, To satisfy the thirst that craves For yellow pelf.

The golden wand with magic art Throws out the power to charm the heart, But ah, we feel its bitter smart When selfish greed Has robb'd from life that better part We so much need.

Alas, when gold absorbs our cares Life's wheels get dry, the axle wears, And heavier grows the load it bears, And faster driven, Its very dust defiles the prayers We send to heaven.

Life's chariot wheels revolve with speed, Yet faster still we urge our steed, And scarcely slack the reins to feed Or ease its breath, The journey seems but short indeed, When closed in death.

We haste it on with worldly care, Oppressive toil, and meagre fare, While sin and self-indulgence wear Our chariot wheels Increasing still the load they bear, With countless ills.

How discontented life appears, By every wind its compass veers, Our hopes are tarnish'd by the fears Of fancied ill, Even tho' the sun of Fortune cheers, We grumble still.

But why complain for everything That gives our life a random sting; Altho' we shift our tether-string To please our will, We'll always find the change will bring Both good and ill.

Then why should we contract our sight When life turns down the side that's bright The blast that blows us ills to-night, With cankering sorrow. May cheer the clouds which shade the light That shines to-morrow.

'Tis better then to be content, Altho' we are not worth a cent; Our precious hours when wisely spent Are still the best, For nature's ills are never sent To be a pest.

And let it never be our creed, That when we do an evil deed, To think that penance can succeed, To cancel sin; We pluck the fruit, but still the seed Remains within.

But may we daily strive to win That happy world which knows no sin, 'Tis on the heaven we form within Our bliss depends, Where life celestial shall begin, Which never ends.



INDIAN SUMMER.

While winter in the dreary North Lies crouching ready to leap forth, In "Indian Summer" doth appear The gentle seasons of the year.

As if they came to shed their bloom Around their excavated tomb, To hold their parting interview, And bid their native world adieu.

The leaves that linger on the trees Are smiling in the sunny breeze, And chanting forth with holy breath The mournful requiem of their death.

The desert-fields, tho' bleak and bare, Seem lovely through the sun-lit air; The very shades are glowing bright Beneath the golden mellow light.

Rejoicing in their freedom still, On cultured field and pastur'd hill, The cattle crops the fading grass, And bless the moments as they pass.

The ploughman and his trusty team More happy and contented seem, From golden rays the furrow'd field A golden harvest yet may yield.

From bough to bough in yonder wood The squirrel frisks in happy mood, While searching round in hopes to find That some few nuts are left behind.

The summer-birds that yearly fly To yonder Southern sunny sky, Are hovering round on lingering wing, And fancy 'tis returning Spring.

While these sweet hours are gliding by, How calmly smiles the solemn sky, With golden hues of radiance bright, As if it were the cream of light.

It seems as if an angel's wing Had wafted back the breath of Spring, To animate the ling'ring breath Of Autumn on the bed of death.

Or from the rays of heavenly dews Had gilt the earth in rainbow hues, And o'er the sky so gently flung The air that once o'er Eden hung.

'Tis but the calm before the storm; The flush of earth's consumptive form; The hopeful smile, the fever'd breath, Before the stern approach of death.



THE SHADOW OF THE HOUSEHOLD.

There is a sympathy in love We bear for those who mourn, Whose shadows of departed joys With every thought return. 'Tis hard to stem the stream of grief That floods the parents' heart When death unvails embosom'd hopes, And throws its fatal dart.

The nursling of a mother's love, That nestles on her breast, Is but a life, celestial gift, By God's own seal impress'd. And when its prattling lips rejoice In innocent delight The parents' love and cherish'd hope, With tenfold power unite.

Anticipated prospects rise From hope's enchanted dreams, Converting life's prospective skies From shade to sunny beams, But oft, alas, those fancied hopes Are in the bud destroy'd; The cherished gift is pluckt away And leaves a lonely void.

Its lovely form returns to earth, Its spirit soars to bliss; Tho' destin'd to a happy world It oft may visit this. Perchance around the household hearth When prayer's sweet incense rise, It may return as messenger To waft it to the skies.

'Tis sweet to cherish such a thought, Even tho' it were untrue, That spirit-friends are hovering round Tho' absent from our view. But, oh! such dreams however sweet, A solace to impart, Can never fill the vacant seat, Nor yet the parents' heart.

The silent toys, the empty clothes, Those vestiges of death; Are full of mournful memories, Which spring from every breath, The active form the smiling face, In every thought appear; The prattling voice so cheering once Still lingers in the ear.

The future casts a shadow now, And hopes give place to grief, And all these things so pleasing once Can give no real relief. 'Tis only from a heavenly source That happiness can flow; There only can the heart procure A balm for every woe.

Then ye who mourn your absent ones, Those gifts by nature given, Remember tho' 'tis loss to you, 'Tis gain to Christ in Heaven, But still the wounded bosom bleeds, And cankers with its grief, For things have not their former charms To lend the soul relief.

There is no solid base on earth, On which our hopes are sure; The Rock of Heaven alone can make Our faith and hope secure. This life is full of varied ills, With pain in every breath; And everything, however pure, Contains the germs of death.

How feeble is that vital thread, Which holds us to the earth; It may be snapt at hoary age, Or at the infants' birth. We see it break in every clime, At every age and hour, And still we live as if its strength, Could match our Maker's power.

The curse of sin like Cain's mark Is stampt on every brow; And to the idols of the earth We in submission bow. Earth's things may seem as tangible To life's short-sighted eyes, But from the magic touch of death The cherish'd vision flies.

The soul itself, like Noah's dove, But flutters out its strength Around the earth, its safety ark, Then flies away at length. Perchance it may, while hovering here, Some olive-leaf procure, An emblem of a spirit-world, Whose solid base is sure.

THE END

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