AN ALGONQUIN MAIDEN
.


 

CHAPTER II.

AN UPPER CANADIAN HOUSEHOLD.

 


THE breakfast-room of Pine Towers, on a bright, sunny morning, some three or four days after the death of its much-respected mistress, held a large concourse of the notables of York, and other private and official gentry of the Province.  They had come to take part, on the previous day, in the funeral obsequies; and were now, after a night’s rest and bountiful morning repast, about to return to the Capital.  Among the number gathered to pay respect to the deceased lady’s memory, as well as to show their regard and sympathy for the bereaved husband, the good old Commodore, were many whose names were “household words” in the early days of Upper Canada.  Sixty years have passed over the Province since the notable gathering, and all who were then present have paid the debt of nature.  Hushed now as are their voices, the Macleod breakfast-room, on the morning we have indicated, was a perfect babel of noise.  The solemn pageant of the previous day, and the sacred griefs of those whom the grim Enemy had made desolate, seemed at the moment to have been forgotten by the departing throng; and for a time the young master of Pine Towers, as he bade adieu to his father’s guests, witnessed a scene in sharp contrast to yesterday’s orderly decorum.  It was with a sigh of relief that Edward Macleod saw the last of the miscellaneous vehicles move off, and the final guest take the road to the bateaux on the lake, to convey him and those who were returning by water to Holland Landing, there to find the means of reaching the Capital.
     Entering the house, empty now of all but those who were left of its usual inmates, including his sister’s friend, the beautiful Hélène—whom he had hardly had an opportunity [Page 21] to more than greet on his return from England—an overpowering sense of desolation fell upon him.  Seating himself near his mother’s favourite window, the young man’s loneliness and bereavement found vent in tears.  All the past came vividly before him—a mother’s life-long devotion and tender care; her thousand winning ways and loving endearments; her pride in his future career and prospects; and the recollection of the many innocent confidences which a mother loves to pour into the ear of a handsome, grown-up son, whose filial affection and chivalrous devotion assure her that she still possesses charms to which her husband and his contemporaries of a previous generation had been wont sedulously to pay tribute.  “Ah, beautiful mother, it is not to-day nor to-morrow that I shall fully realize that I am to see thee no more on earth,” said the young man musingly, as he left his seat and strode nervously up and down the room, while his favourite hound from a rug by the large open fire-place eyed his agitated movements.
     Presently the young man’s soliloquies were interrupted by the timid entrance of his sister, Rose, followed by the more decided and stately tread of the charming Hélène.
     “Ah, Edward,” said his sister, “you are alone.  Have all our guests gone?”
     “Yes,” was the reply, “and I am not sorry to have the house again to ourselves.”
     “You, of course, include Hélène among the latter,” observed Rose interrogatively.
     “I do, certainly,” was Edward’s instant and cordial response, as he offered Hélène his hand to conduct her down the steps into the conservatory and out on to the lawn.  “Miss DeBerczy, of course, is one of us, though you told me this morning that she, too, expressed a wish to be gone.” [Page 22]
     Hélène interrupted these remarks with the explanation that her wish to take leave was owing to a mandate of her mother’s which had reached her that morning.
     “We shall all be sorry at your leaving us so soon,” was Edward’s courteous rejoinder.  “But, when you go,” he added, “you must permit me to accompany you to ‘Bellevue,’ for I wish to pay my respects to your mamma; it is a long time now since we met.  Besides, I have to deliver to her the cameos I brought her from England and the family trinkets your uncle entrusted to my care.”
     “Mamma, I know, is eager to receive them, and will be delighted to welcome you back.  In her note, by the way, she tells me that Captain John Franklin has written to her from York, asking permission to call upon her on his way north.  You know that the Arctic Expedition is to go overland, by way of Penetanguishene and Rupert’s Land, and is to effect a junction with Captain Beechey’s party operating from Hudson’s Bay.”
     “So I learned before I left England,” replied Edward. “I hope my father,” he added, “will be able to meet the members of the Expedition.  It would rouse him from his grief, and I know that he takes a great interest in Captain Franklin’s project.”
     The conversation was now monopolized by the ladies, for Hélène took Rose aside to tell that young lady that her mamma had given her some news of a young and handsome land-surveyor, of Barrie, of whom she had heard Rose speak in terms of warm admiration.
     The gentleman referred to was Allan Dunlop, who, Hélène related, had been very useful at York to Captain Franklin, in giving him information as to the route to be followed by his Expedition on its way to the “hoarse North sea.”
     Rose visibly coloured as she listened to the young man’s praises, in the extract Hélène’s mother had enclosed from [Page 23] Captain Franklin’s communication.  That young lady protested, however, that Allan Dunlop was her brother’s friend, not hers.  “Indeed,” she added, “we have only occasionally met at the Church at Barrie, and I have not even been introduced to him.”
     “Ah, and how is it that his name is always on your lips after every service I hear you have attended across the bay?” queried Hélène archly.
     The tints deepened on Rose’s sweet, bright face as she apologetically urged “that at such times there was doubtless nothing better to talk about.”
     Happily for Rose the embarrassing conversation was interrupted by the return of her brother, who rejoined the ladies to say that on the highway, at the end of the avenue down which he had strolled, a party of marines and English shipwrights, in command of a naval officer, had just passed on their way to the post, near Barrie, to proceed on the morrow by the Notawassaga river to the Georgian Bay, and on to the new naval station at Penetanguishene.  A Mr. Galt, who accompanied the party, and was on his way to the Canada Land Company’s reserve in the Huron district, had brought him letters from York, among which, he added, was one from his old friend, Allan Dunlop, condoling with him on the loss of his mother and sending his respectful compliments to his father and his family.
     “How curious!” observed Hélène, “why, we’ve just been talking of Mr. Dunlop.”
     “You mean to say,” interposed Rose, “that you have just been talking of him.”
     “Well! That is quite a coincidence, Miss DeBerczy, but do you know my friend?” asked Edward.
     “No, I’ve not that pleasure,” replied the beautiful Huguenot, “but your sister, I believe, knows him—
     “Oh, Hélène! I do not!!” said Rose, interruptingly.
     Edward turned towards his sister, and for a moment [Page 24] regarded her lovingly.  After a pause, he said, “Well, Sis, if you do know him, you know one of the best and most promising of my early acquaintances, and from what I have heard of him since my return, I feel that I want to improve my own acquaintance with him, and shall not be sorry to know that he has become your friend as well as mine.”
     “But, Edward, you must wait till I do know him,” said Rose with some emphasis.  “I know your friend by sight only, and have never spoken to him; though, I confess, I have heard a good deal of him in the recent election, and much that is favourable, though papa has taken a great dislike to him on account of his political opinions.”
     “Ah, papa’s Tory prejudices would be sure to do injustice to Dunlop,” Edward rejoined; “but, I fear,” he added, “there is need in the political arena of Upper Canada of just such a Reformer as he.”
     At this stage of the conversation the old Commodore was observed on the veranda, and Tredway approached the group to announce that lunch was on the table.
     Commodore Macleod, as may be inferred from his son’s remark about his father’s Tory prejudices, was a Tory of the old school, a member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada, and a firm ally and stiff upholder of the Provincial Executive, who had earned for themselves, by their autocratic rule, the rather sinister designation of “the Family Compact.”  As a trusted friend and loyal supporter of the oligarchy of the day, whom a well-known radical who figured prominently in the later history of the Province was wont to speak of as that army of placemen and pensioners, “Paymasters, Receivers, Auditors, King, Lords and Commons, who swallowed the whole revenue of Upper Canada”—the reference to a man of the type of young Dunlop, who aspired to political honours, was particularly [Page 25] distasteful, and sure to bring upon the object of his bitter animadversion the full vials of his wrath.
     Ralph Macleod was a grand specimen of the sturdy British seamen, who contributed by their prowess to make England mistress of the seas.  He entered the navy during the war with Holland, and served under Lord Howe, when that old “sea-dog,” in 1782, came to the relief of Gibraltar, against the combined forces of France and Spain.  He served subsequently under Lord Rodney, in the West Indies, and was a shipmate of Nelson’s in Sir John Jervis’ victory over the Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent.  For his share in that action Macleod gained his captaincy, while his friend Commodore Nelson was made a Rear-Admiral.  In 1797 he was wounded at Camperdown while serving under Admiral Duncan, and retired with the rank of Commodore.
     Early in the century, he married an English lady and came to Canada, where for a time he held various posts on the naval stations on the Lakes, and was with Barclay, on his flagship, The Detroit, in the disaster on Lake Erie, in September, 1813.  Narrowly escaping capture by Commander Perry’s forces at Put-in-Bay, he joined General Proctor in his retreat from Amherstburg to the Thames, and was present at the battle of Moravian Town, where the Indian chief, Tecumseh, lost his life.
     When the Treaty of Ghent terminated the war and left Canada in possession of her own, Commodore Macleod, with other old naval officers, retired from the service, and took grants of land in the neighbourhood of Lake Simcoe.  Being possessed of considerable private means, the Commodore built a palatial residence on the borders of that lake, and varied the monotony of a life ashore by an engrossing interest in politics and the active duties of a Legislative Councillor.  The illness of his wife, to whom he was devoted, had in the past two years almost entirely withdrawn [Page 26] him from political life, and lost to his colleagues in the Upper House the services of one who took grim pleasure in strangling bills obnoxious to the dominant faction which originated in the Lower Chamber.  His temporary withdrawal from the Legislative Council, and the lengthened absence in England of Dr. Strachan, that sturdy ecclesiastic who was long the ruling spirit of the “Family Compact,” emboldened the leaders of Reform to inveigh against the Hydra-headed abuses of the time, and sow broadcast the dragon-teeth of discontent and the seeds of a speedy harvest of sedition.
     Already, Wm. Lyon Mackenzie had unfolded, in the lively columns of the The Colonial Advocate, his “plentiful crop of grievances;” while the harsh operations of the Alien Act, the interdicting of immigrants from the United States, the arrogant claims of the Anglican Church to the exclusive possession of the Clergy Reserves, and the jobbery and corruption that prevailed in the Land-granting Department of the Government, all contributed to fan the flame of discontent and sap the loyalty of the colony.  In the Legislative Assembly each recurring session added to the clamour of opposition, and emphasized the demand for Responsible Government and Popular Rights.  But as yet such demands were looked upon as the ravings of lunacy or the impertinences of treason.  Constitutional Government, even in the mother-land, was not yet fully attained; and, in a distant dependency, it was not to be expected that the prerogative of the Crown, or the rights and privileges of its nominee, an irresponsible Executive, were to be made subordinate to the will of the people.  “Take care what you are about in Canada,” were the irate words William IV. hurled at his ministers, some few years after the period of which we are writing.  ‘By—!” added this constitutional monarch, “I will never consent to alienate the Crown Lands nor to make the Council elective.” [Page 27]
     With such outbursts of royal petulance and old-time kingcraft, and similar ebullitions from Downing Street, exhorting the Upper Canadian Administration to hold tight the reins of government, the reforming spirit of the period had a hard time of it in entering on its many years conflict with an arrogant and bureaucratic Executive.  Of many of the members of the ruling faction of the time it may not become us now to speak harshly, for most of them were men of education and refinement, and in their day did good service to the State.  If, in the exercise of their office, they lacked consideration at times for the less favoured of their fellow-colonists, they had the instincts and bearing of gentlemen, save, it may be, when, in conclave, occasion drove them to a violent and contemptuous opposition to the will of the people.  But men—most of all politicians—naturally defend the privileges which they enjoy; and the exceptional circumstances of the country seemed at the time to give to the holders of office a prescriptive right to their position and emoluments.
     At the period of which we are writing, there was much need of wise moderation on the side of the governed as well as on that of the governing class.  But of moderation there was little; and the nature of the evils complained of, the non-conciliatory attitude of the ruling oligarchy, and the licence which a “Free Press,”—recently introduced into the colony,—gave in formulating charges of corruption, and in loosening the tongue of invective, made it almost impossible to discuss affairs of State, save in the heated terms familiar to irritated and incensed combatants.  It was at this period that the young land-surveyor, Allan Dunlop, entered the Legislative Assembly and took his seat as member for the Northern division of the Home District.  Though warmly espousing the cause of the people in the ever-recurring collisions with the different branches of the Government, and as warmly asserting the rights and [Page 28] privileges of the popular Chamber in its struggles with the autocracy of the Upper House, the young Parliamentarian was equally jealous of the reasonable prerogative of the Crown, and temperate in the language he used when he had occasion to decry its abuse.  He was one of the few in the Legislature who, while they recognized that the old system of government was becoming less and less suited to the genius and wants of the young Canadian community, at the same time wished to usher in the new régime with the moderation and tact which mark the work of the thoughtful politician and the aims of the true statesman.  It has been said that one never knows what is inside a politician.  What was inside the Reformer, Allan Dunlop, was all that became a patriot and a high-minded gentleman. [Page 29]