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 the sweetest bite I ever got. It was not nearly dark when I climbed a dyke to get into a sheltered nook and fell asleep. Something soft and warm licking my face woke me. It was a dog and it was broad day. What are you doing here, laddie? said the dog's master who was a young fellow, perhaps six or seven years older than myself. His staff and the collie showed me he was a shepherd. I told him who I was and where I was trying to go. Collie again smelt at me and wagged his tail as if telling his master I was all right. I went with the lad who said his name was Archie. He led to where his sheep were and we sat down in the sunshine, for it was another warm day. We talked and we were not ten minutes together when we liked each other. He unwrapped from a cloth some bannocks and something like dried meat, which he said was braxie.
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!' she exclaimed, 'can it be you are the child of my old school companion? Have you any brothers or sisters?' No, I have nobody in the world. 'Did your mother leave you nothing?' In my simplicity, not understanding she meant worldly gear, I untied my bundle, uncovered the cloth I had wrapped round it to keep it dry, and handed her the bible. She looked at the writing. 'I remember when she got it, as a prize for repeating the 119th psalm without missing a word.' Putting her arms round my neck she kissed me and holding me to the light she said 'You have your mother's eyes and mouth.'
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 return. The look on his face as he came into the kitchen showed he had failed. He told us all that passed. On getting to the grand house and telling the flunkey he had come to see his master, the flunkey regarded him with disdain, and replied his lordship was engaged and would not see him. Persisting in refusing to leave the door and telling that he was a tenant, the flunkey left and returned with a young gentleman, who asked what was his business, saying he was his lordship's secretary. On being told, the young man shook his head, saying his lordship left all such matters to his factor, and it would do no good to see him. Just then a finely dressed lady swept into the hall. Pausing, she cried, 'Tompkins, what does that common-looking man want here? Tell him to go to the servants' entry.' 'He wants to see his lordship,' was the reply. 'The idea!' exclaimed the lady as she crossed the floor and disappeared by the opposite door. The master could hear the sounds of laughter and jingle of glasses. 'My, good man,' said the secretary, 'you had better go: his lordship will not see you today.' 'When will he be at liberty to see me?' asked the master, 'I will come when it suits his pleasure. I must have his word of mouth that what the factor says is his decision.' The secretary looked perplexed, and after putting a few questions, among them that he had paid his rent and wanted no favor beyond renewal of his lease on the old terms, he told my father to wait a minute and left. It might be half an hour or more when a flunkey beckoned the master to follow him. Throwing open a door he entered what he took to be the library, for it had shelves of books. His lordship was alone, seated by the fireplace with a newspaper on his lap. 'Now, say what you have to say in fewest words,' said the nobleman. Standing before him the master told how he had taken the farm 19 years ago, had observed every condition of the lease, and had gone beyond them in keeping the farm in good heart, for he had improved it in many ways, especially during the past few years when he had ditched and limed and levelled a boggy piece of land, and changed it from growing rushes into the best pasture-field on the farm. 'Gin the farm is worth more, it is me who has made it and I crave your lordship to either give me another tack at the same rent or pay me what my betterments are worth.' His Lordship turned and touched a bell. On the flunkey appearing, he said to him, 'Show this fellow to the door,' and took up his newspaper. As the master finished, he said to us, 'Dear as every acre of the farm is to me, I will leave it and go where the man who works the land may own it and where there are no lords and dukes, nor baronets. I am a man and never again will I ask as a favor what is my due of any fellow-mortal with a title.' We went to bed that night sorrowful and fearing what was before us.
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 quay. She was a roomy brig, and was busy taking on cargo. Our part of the hold was shown to us, and the mistress at once began to unpack the bedding, and to make the best of everything. 'Is it not an awful black hole to put Christians into?' asked a woman who was taking her first survey. 'Well, no, I do not think so; it is far better than I expected.' She had a gracious way, the mistress, of looking at everything in the best light.
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 the two masts named the galley, and here the cooking was done. The cook was an old man, gruff and crusty, who had spent most of his life in a Dundee whaler. In the Arctic region his good nature had got frozen and was not yet thawed out. He would allow nobody near and got angry when suggestions were tendered. He made good porridge and tasty soup, anything else he spoiled. As these alone were cooked in bulk and measured out, the passengers took to the galley the food they wished to be cooked. That each family get back what they gave in, the food was placed in bags of netted twine and then slipped into the coppers of boiling water. The mistress was a famous hand at roley-poley, and for the first Sunday after sea-sickness had gone, she prepared a big one as a treat. It looked right and smelled good, but the first spoonful showed it had a wonderful flavor. In the boiler the net beside it held a nuckle of smoked ham. The laughter and jokes made us forget the taste of the ham and not a scrap of the roley-poley was left. Our greatest lack was milk for the children, and we all resented being scrimped in drinking-water, though before the voyage ended we became reconciled to that, for the water grew bad.
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 King, George the Fourth, and his advisers. On the strength of this, a warrant was prepared for his arrest on the charge of sedition. The spy had made a mistake in the first name and had given mine instead of my brother's. My cousin said, if I would disappear the prosecution would be baffled. To save my brother, for a prosecution would ruin him, I fled at once, going to Troon, where I knew a ship was ready to sail for Canada. On the officers going to my lodging to arrest me, they found I had gone. How they came to know I had gone to Troon I cannot say. Probably they sent word to all ports where ships were ready to sail. As you know, I was arrested on board this boat and discharged, because the magistrate had no authority to hold me. It was to save my brother that I am here. What he said at the club I do not know, for I was not there.'
'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 crossing the ocean to escape conditions in the Old Land that had become a burden to us, hoping, in the New Land before us, there would be brighter surroundings. To preserve that New Land from the mistakes and evils that blast the Old was a duty. To try and reproduce another Scotland such as they had left would be to reproduce what we were leaving it for. What we ought to try is to create a new Great Britain in Canada, retaining all that is good and dropping all that is undesirable. I want, he said, to see a land where every man is free to secure a portion of God's footstool and to enjoy the fruits he reaps from it, without an aristocracy taking toll of what they did not earn, and a government levying taxes on labor to support soldiers or to subsidize privileged classes of any kind whatever their pretences.
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 his majesty's official on shore, and, so saying stepped on the boat and seated himself in silent dignity in the stern, turning his back to us who were looking on. The officer's visit was brief; the boat pushed off and we had our last look of Mr Snellgrove, transformed from a steerage-passenger into a dandy expecting to mix with the grandees of Quebec. Next day, in talking with the captain, he told the master Snellgrove had kept a draper's shop at Maybole, failed for a big sum, and had come to Canada expecting to get, with the letters of introduction he had from a number of noblemen, a government situation.
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 there could be a town with unpaved streets and no sidewalks. Mr Kerr, on his way to his boarding-house, showed me the shop where he was to begin work next morning. While we were in his bedroom a gong sounded for supper. It was all new to me, the people, their talk, and the food. I wondered to see meat and potatoes for supper, hot buns, and apple-pies. After supper we had a walk, and in going along one of the streets there was a man before us carrying a baby. Raising her head above his shoulder the child looked at us and said something to him. Without reflecting, I wondered how a child could have learned French so early in life. On turning back to the ship Mr Kerr took me into a shop and bought me a cap, and I had need of one. On coming in front of the ship, he shook my hands as if he did not want to let me go, and made me promise I would write him and tell where we had settled. For himself, he would stay in Montreal at least long enough to get his belongings by ship from Greenock.
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 before their hard work in making a passage past the rapids. I went with the mistress to a house that was not far away for milk. A smiling woman met us at the door and asked us inside; the house was clean and neat. We tried to make her understand what we wanted but failed until I put the pail between my knees and imitated milking a cow. She laughed heartily and by signs made us know she did not have a cow. Stepping to the fireplace she dipped a tin into a big pot that simmered in a corner and handed it to the mistress. It was soup. Holding out some money, she made signs to fill the pail. Having done so she picked out five coppers from the money offered, and bade good-by with many a smile and nod. The soup proved to be fine, just one drawback, its flavor of garlic. 'They use no split peas to make their pea-soup here,' remarked Mrs Auld, 'and it is an improvement.' 'No, no,' interjected Treffle, 'soup be good because all time kept boiling; pot by the fire Sunday to Sunday.' The chill in the morning air made the hot soup grateful.
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. On reaching the next rapid, Treffle asked all who could to get out and walk along the bank, as the boat was drawing too much water. Robbie wanted to go with us, but grannie clung to him. 'Should the boatie cowp, who would save him gin I was na at hand?' she asked. To help the crew, we pulled at a towline until she got to another small canal. As we went on, we had the excitement of watching boats pass us on their way to Montreal, shooting the rapids. They were heavily loaded, mostly with bags of flour, yet ran down the foaming waters safely. To us boys, was more exciting the passage of rafts, for they splashed the water into spray. Having overcome that rapid, we all got on board, and the crew had an easier time in pushing along until we got in sight of a church perched above a cluster of cottages. The mistress asked Treffle how they made the passage before the small canals were cut where the rapids were most dangerous. He explained, that at the first rapid all the freight was unloaded and conveyed in carts to the landing-place on lake St Francis, while the empty boats were poled and towed close alongside the edge of the bank, avoiding the boiling water. In those days the boats were lighter and sailed in companies, and their crews united to take them up one by one. The village, the Cedars, was to be the resting-place of the boatmen until next day, and scattering among the houses, where a few of them had their families, they left the boat to the passengers. Treffle led the way to houses where provisions could be bought and at prices so low that the women wondered. Saying nothing so good to make men strong, he bought for the mistress a big piece of boiled pork, which, sliced thin, we enjoyed either with bread or our ship-biscuit. We watched the baking of bread. It was fired in queer little white plastered ovens set in front of each house, looking somewhat like beehives placed on top of strong tables. The ovens are filled with wood, which is set on fire, and when the oven is hot enough the wood is raked out, the loaves shoved in, and the door shut. We youngsters gathered round one on seeing the woman was about to open it. When she drew out the first loaf, with a fine crust and an appetizing smell, we could not help giving a cheer, it was so wonderful to us. We went back to the boat with a lot of food, to which was added fish, bought from a man as he landed from his canoe, which we fried. That evening we had the best meal since we left home, and at night had plenty of room to sleep, for the air being hot a number of us slept beneath the trees. We safely got past the fourth and last of the rapids, floating out of a little canal into a large lake. The wind was still in the west, so we had to keep tacking, and it was afternoon when we passed Cornwall and steered for the south side of the St Lawrence. Allan was pointing out to Grannie what was British and what was American; she remarked, on comparing the houses on the two banks, 'That gin Canadians wad build houses of wood, they ocht to hae the decency to paint them.' On nearing the landing-place at the foot of the rapids, Allan pointed to a group of people and told her they were Yankees. She shook her head, she did not believe him, they were too like our ain folk to be Yankees. The Soo is the longest rapid of the St Lawrence measuring nine miles, but is not nearly so wild as those we had passed, having fewer waves and intervals of smooth water. There was no canal to help in getting to the head of it, and it was beyond the strength of our crew to push the boat up with setting-poles. There was a towpath along the U.S. bank on which stood three yoke of oxen. A stout cable was hooked to their whiffle-tree and they started. On getting fairly into the strength of the current the crew dropped their poles into the water, and it was all men and oxen, strained to the utmost, could do at times to stem the sweep of the mighty tide. It was slow work but we won to smoother water and the boat tied up for the night. It was hot when we entered lake St Francis, it was sultry now. Alongside us was a Durham boat like ours, but longer. It was packed worse than our own, men, women, and children huddled as close as captives on a slaveship, and like ourselves worn out with fatigue and facing the thunderstorm that we heard coming without covering of any kind. The quiet determination to endure much in the belief that we were coming to a country where we would better our condition sustained all in doing our best to make light of our trials. To a young woman, who was trying to get a fretful baby to sleep, the mistress sent me with a tin of milk and we had some talk. I asked if she was not sorry she had left the Old Land. 'No, no,' she replied, 'we had no prospect there; here, with hard work we have the prospect of comfort and of depending on nobody for work or help.' She kissed her babe and speaking to him said, 'Yes, Willie, you will never know in this country what your mother came through.' It was this hope that sustained us all. There was only a small house in sight and the near bush was scrub, so we did not ask to go on shore and had to wait, patiently, for the heat and mosquitoes kept us awake. The storm did not last long, but wetted all to the skin who could not creep under the decked parts of the boat. It brought great relief in freshening the air. The boatmen were astir before daylight, hoisting the sails, for the wind had turned to the north, as it often does after a thunderstorm. There were places, where the current ran so fast that setting-poles had to be used, but we got on well, and, by-and-by, sighted two towns—Ogdensburg and Prescott, the one bright and tidy, the other with a weather-beaten uninviting look. We rejoiced to see a small steamboat at the Prescott wharf. It was waiting for the stage from Montreal. A bargain was made to take our party to Kingston. On the boat we had met at the Soo coming in, she had too many emigrants for the steamer to take on board, but her captain agreed to tow her. The offer was made to let any of the women change boats, but none accepted. Like ourselves, they were travelling in families and feared to be parted. We were real sorry in bidding good-by to the crew of the Durham boat, for they had been kind and made companions of the children. As one wee tot came up to her special favorite, she pursed her lips to be kissed; the Canadian took the pipe out of his mouth and gave the queerest cry of delight I ever heard. We could not speak to each other, but in the language of grimace and expression of countenance the French Canadian excels. The Montreal stage at last appeared, drawn by four horses, and on its passengers getting settled in the cabin, the steamer began her voyage. She was not like the steamboats of later days, which are houses built on hulls. She was just a good-sized barge with an engine and two paddle-wheels, which sent her along at a slow rate, all the more slowly on account of her towing the Durham boat. Our party crowded her fore deck and our baggage, piled on the freight she had when we got on, was higher than her paddle-boxes. We stopped three times to take on wood during the passage, reaching Kingston next morning, where we were to get a steamer for Toronto, but had to wait for her arrival. She was a larger boat but of the same pattern as the one we left, having her cabins below deck. There were over a hundred emigrants, and we so crowded the steerage that we were packed as close as in the Durham boats. The prospect of being so near our journey's end made us endure discomfort cheerfully. I remember how the great size of lake Ontario impressed us all, having an horizon like that of the Atlantic. We had wondered at the width of the St Lawrence and at where all the water came from to dash down its rapids, but this great lake surprised us more, with its sea-gulls and big white painted ships bowling along. Mr Auld remarked the county of Ayr would be but an island in it, and Mr Brodie that you might stick Glasgow in a corner and never know it was there were it not for the reek. Many were the surmises as to how the master had got on, if he had got land, if he would meet us, and what our next move would be. The mistress shared in none of their anxiety. She was calm in her confidence of her husband's ability and energy. She was convinced he had secured land and that he would be waiting on the wharf when the steamer sailed into Toronto. They were what every married couple ought to be—of one mind and one heart. Our first sight of Toronto pleased us all, and we had a long view of it, sailing round the island before reaching the entrance to the harbor. Our eyes were strained as we came near the wharf in the hope of picking out master among the people who crowded it. All of a sudden Robbie shouted Father, and a man waved his hand, whom, as the boat drew closer in we all recognized. The sailors were still hauling the steamer into her berth, when Mr Brodie shouted 'Have you got land?' Yes, was the reply. 'Thank God!' ejaculated Mr Brodie, and we all said the same in our hearts; the relief we felt only emigrants, after a weary journey, to a strange country can know. Pressing round the master, with Ruth in his arms and Robbie pulling at his coat tails, he said he had got land, not far from Toronto, and had secured carts to move us that day to take possession. First of all, he said, we will have dinner.
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.
HOW WE GOT ON IN THE 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 who said this was his fourth day, which was, that if an emigrant had any money they wanted him to buy land, instead of giving him a government grant. While they were talking the headman of the office walked past them, accompanied by a gentleman in military uniform, and went into the inner room. Both gentlemen were speaking loudly. 'Yes,' said the surveyor-general, 'we are building a future empire here, and would like more recognition from the Home government of our services. We are doing a great work with imperfect means.' 'Ah!' exclaimed the officer, 'what do you need?' 'We need more money and more officials to direct the stream of immigration.' So they went on gabbling, while by this time there were over fifty of us in the waiting-room and round the door outside. Getting tired, the master asked a clerk who was passing in to see the surveyor, to tell him there were a number of emigrants wanting lots and if he would be pleased to help them. We heard the message given and the reply 'I am engaged with Colonel Rivers, and cannot possibly see them today; go and take their names and the places where they are staying.' So we gave our names, said the master, and came away sick at heart. While waiting in the tavern at a loss what to do a man came into the barroom and asked if he was Mr Anderson. He had heard he wanted land and could introduce him to a party who would supply him at a reasonable price. 'I have not come all the way from Scotland to pay for land; I expect to get a lot on the government's conditions.' You can get such a lot, replied the stranger, but when you see it you would not take it. All the government lots are in the back country, and often wet or stony. What you want is good land and near a market. He talked on, trying to persuade the master to go with him and make a purchase, but he said he would take time to think over what he had told him. The stranger pressed him to come to the bar and have a treat; the master said No. After he was gone the master asked the tavern-keeper if he knew the man. 'Oh, yes, he is a runner for the big bugs who have land for sale.' 'How came he to know I wanted land?' 'Were you not at the surveyor-general's office this morning and left your name? There is a regular machine to get all the money out of you emigrants that can be squeezed.' The landlord said nearly all the desirable land was held by private persons, who had got large grants under one pretence or another and who were selling it for cash, when the emigrant had any, or on mortgage if he had none, for if he failed in his payments they got the lot back with all the improvements the emigrant and his family had made. After dinner the master took a walk, and passing along the street the thought struck him that he should call at the post-office, for there might be a letter from Scotland. Asking a gentleman to direct him to the office, the reply was he was going that way and would show him. 'You're a Scotchman,' remarked the gentleman, 'What part are you from?' From Ayrshire. 'That is my native county.' So they talked until the office was reached. Standing at the door, the master told him of his perplexity about getting land. 'Ask if there is a letter for you,' directed the stranger. There was none. 'Now come with me and I will try to find out some way to help you.' They entered a large store, opposite the market-place, of which the gentleman was owner. The place was crowded with customers waiting their turn to be served. Taking him into a cubby-hole of an office he asked the master to speak frankly, to tell him how much land he wanted, what money he had, and the number of his family. When he had learned all, Mr Dunlop, for that was his name, said, 'You may give up your notion of getting land for the fees. All the good land, so far surveyed, is in the hands of our gentry, who live by selling it, or of speculators. The lots the surveyor-general would give you would be dear for nothing, they are so far away. You want to be as near the lake, or a town or village as you can manage, so that you can buy and sell to advantage. Many who go on remote lots have to leave them after undergoing sufferings no Christian man or woman should endure. I am busy now; come back at four o'clock and I will find out what can be done.'
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