It was in the year 1794, that an English family went out to settle in Canada. This province had been surrendered to us by the French, who first colonized it, more than thirty years previous to the year I have mentioned. It must, however, be recollected, that to emigrate and settle in Canada was, at that time, a very different affair to what it is now. The difficulty of transport, and the dangers incurred, were much greater, for there were no steamboats to stem the currents and the rapids of the rivers; the Indians were still residing in Upper and many portions of Lower Canada, and the country was infested with wild animals of every description—some useful, but many dangerous: moreover, the Europeans were fewer in number, and the major portion of them were French, who were not pleased at the country having been conquered by the English. It is true that a great many English settlers had arrived, and had settled upon different farms; but as the French settlers had already possession of all the best land in Lower Canada, these new settlers were obliged to go into or toward Upper Canada, where, although the land was better, the distance from Quebec and Montreal, and other populous parts, was much greater, and they were left almost wholly to their own resources, and almost without protection. I mention all this, because things are so very different at present: and now I shall state the cause which induced this family to leave their home, and run the risk and dangers which they did.
[Pg 2]Mr. Campbell was of a good parentage, but, being the son of one of the younger branches of the family, his father was not rich, and Mr. Campbell was, of course, brought up to a profession. Mr. Campbell chose that of a surgeon; and after having walked the hospitals (as it is termed), he set up in business and in a few years was considered as a very able man in his profession. His practice increased very fast; and before he was thirty years of age he married.
Mr. Campbell had an only sister, who resided with him, for their father and mother were both dead. But about five years after his own marriage, a young gentleman paid his addresses to her; and although not rich, as his character was unexceptionable, and his prospects good, he was accepted. Miss Campbell changed her name to Percival, and left her brother’s house to follow her husband.
Time passed quickly; and, at the end of ten years, Mr. Campbell found himself with a flourishing business, and at the same time with a family to support, his wife having presented him with four boys, of whom the youngest was but a few months old.
But, although prosperous in his own affairs, one heavy misfortune fell upon Mr. Campbell, which was the loss of his sister, Mrs. Percival, to whom he was most sincerely attached. Her loss was attended with circumstances which rendered it more painful, as, previous to her decease, the house of business in which Mr. Percival was a partner failed; and the incessant toil and anxiety which Mr. Percival underwent brought on a violent fever, which ended in his death. In this state of distress, left a widow with one child of two years old—a little girl—and with the expectation of being shortly again confined, Mrs. Percival was brought to her brother’s house, who, with his wife, did all he could to soften down her grief; but she had suffered so much by the loss of her husband, that when the period arrived, her strength was gone, and she died in giving birth to a second daughter. Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, of course, took charge of these two little orphan girls, and brought them up with their own children.
Mr. Campbell had returned from his round of professional visits; dinner was over, and he was sitting at the table with his wife and elder children (for it was the Christmas holidays, and they were all at home), and the bell had just rung for the nurse to bring down the two little girls and the youngest boy, when the postman rapped at the door, and the parlor-maid brought in a letter with a large black seal. Mr. Campbell opened it, and read as follows:—
Sir—We have great pleasure in making known to you, that upon the demise of Mr. Sholto Campbell, of Wexton Hall, Cumberland, which took place on the 19th ultimo, the entailed estates, in default of more direct issue, have fallen to you, as nearest of kin; the presumptive heir having perished at sea, or in the East Indies, and not having been heard of for twenty-five years. We beg to be the first to congratulate you upon your accession to real property amounting to £14,000 per annum. No will has been found, and it has been ascertained that none was ever made by the late Mr. Sholto Campbell. We have, therefore, put seals upon the personal property, and shall wait your pleasure. We can only add, that if in want of professional advice, and not being already engaged, you may command the services of
Your most obedient,
Harvey, Paxton, Thorpe, & Co.
“What can be the matter, my dear?” exclaimed Mrs. Campbell, who had perceived most unusual agitation in her husband’s countenance.
Mr. Campbell made no reply, but handed the letter to his wife.
Mrs. Campbell read it, and laid it down on the table.
“Well, my dear!” exclaimed Mr. Campbell, joyfully, and starting up from his chair.
“It is a sudden shock, indeed,” observed Mrs. Campbell, thoughtfully and slowly. “I have often felt that we[Pg 4] could bear up against any adversity. I trust in God, that we may be as well able to support prosperity, by far the hardest task, my dear Campbell, of the two.”
“You are right, Emily,” replied Mr. Campbell, sitting down again; “we are, and have long been, happy.”
“This sudden wealth can not add to our happiness, my dear husband; I feel it will rather add to our cares; but it may enable us to add to the happiness of others; and with such feelings, let us receive it with thankfulness.”
“Very true, Emily; but still we must do our duty in that station of life to which it has pleased God to call us. Hitherto I have by my profession been of some benefit to my fellow-creatures; and if in my change of condition I no more leave my warm bed to relieve their sufferings, at all events, I shall have the means of employing others so to do. We must consider ourselves but as the stewards of Him who has bestowed this great wealth upon us, and employ it as may be acceptable to His service.”
“There my husband spoke as I felt he would,” said Mrs. Campbell, rising up, and embracing him. “Those who feel as you do can never be too rich.”
I must not dwell too long upon this portion of my narrative. I shall therefore observe that Mr. Campbell took possession of Wexton Hall, and lived in a style corresponding to his increased fortune; but, at the same time, he never let pass an opportunity of doing good, and in this task he was ably assisted by his wife. They had not resided there three or four years before they were considered as a blessing to all around them—encouraging industry, assisting the unfortunate, relieving the indigent, building almshouses and schools, and doing all in their power to promote the welfare and add to the happiness of those within many miles of the Hall. At the time that Mr. Campbell took possession, the estate had been neglected, and required large sums to be laid out upon it, which would much increase its value.
Thus all the large income of Mr. Campbell was usefully and advantageously employed. The change in Mr. Campbell’s fortune had also much changed the prospects of his children. Henry, the eldest, who had been intended for his father’s profession, was first sent to a private[Pg 5] tutor, and afterward to college. Alfred, the second boy, had chosen the navy for his profession, and had embarked on board a fine frigate. The other two boys, one named Percival, who was more than two years old at the time that they took possession of the property, and the other, John, who had been born only a few months, remained at home, receiving tuition from a young curate, who lived near the Hall; while a governess had been procured for Mary and Emma Percival, who were growing up very handsome and intelligent girls.
Such was the state of affairs at the time when Mr. Campbell had been about ten years in possession of the Wexton estate, when one day he was called upon by Mr. Harvey, the head of the firm which had announced to him his succession to the property.
Mr. Harvey came to inform him that a claimant had appeared, and given notice of his intent to file a bill in Chancery to recover the estate, being, as he asserted, the son of the person who had been considered as the presumptive heir, and who had perished so many years back. Mr. Harvey observed, that although he thought it his duty to make the circumstance known to Mr. Campbell, he considered it as a matter of no consequence, and in all probability would turn out to be a fraud got up by some petty attorney, with a view to a compromise. He requested Mr. Campbell not to allow the circumstance to give him any annoyance, stating that if more was heard of it, Mr. Campbell should be immediately informed. Satisfied with the opinion of Mr. Harvey, Mr. Campbell dismissed the circumstance from his mind, and did not even mention it to his wife.
But three months had not passed away before Mr. Campbell received a letter from his solicitor, in which he informed him that the claim to the estate was carrying on with great vigor, and he was sorry to add, wore (to use his own term) a very ugly appearance; and that the opposite parties would, at all events, put Mr. Campbell to a very considerable expense. The solicitor requested Mr. Campbell’s instructions, again asserting, that although it was artfully got up, he considered that it was a fraudulent attempt. Mr. Campbell returned an answer, in[Pg 6] which he authorized his solicitor to take every needful precaution, and to incur all necessary expense. On reflection, Mr. Campbell, although much annoyed, determined not to make Mrs. Campbell acquainted with what was going on; it could only distress her, he thought, and he therefore resolved for the present to leave her in ignorance.
Categories: English Literature