Chapter 22 The winter packet—Harry hears from old friends, and wishes tha_e was with them.
Letters from home! What a burst of sudden emotion—what a riot of conflictin_eelings, of dread and joy,—expectation and anxiety—what a flood of ol_emories—what stirring up of almost forgotten associations these three word_reate in the hearts of those who dwell in distant regions of this earth, far, far away from kith and kin, from friends and acquaintances, from the much- loved scenes of childhood, and from _home_! Letters from home! How gratefull_he sound falls upon ears that have been long unaccustomed to sounds an_hings connected with home, and so long accustomed to wild, savage sounds, that these have at length lost their novelty, and become everyday an_ommonplace, while the first have gradually grown strange and unwonted. Fo_any long months home and all connected with it have become a dream of othe_ays, and savage-land a present reality. The mind has by degrees becom_bsorbed by surrounding objects—objects so utterly unassociated with o_nsuggestive of any other land, that it involuntarily ceases to think of th_cenes of childhood with the same feelings that it once did. As time rolls on, home assumes a misty, undefined character, as if it were not only distant i_eality, but were also slowly retreating farther and farther away—growin_radually faint and dream-like, though not less dear, to the mental view.
“Letters from home!” shouted Mr Wilson, and the doctor, and the skipper, simultaneously, as the sportsmen, after dashing through the wild storm, a_ast reached the fort, and stumbled tumultuously into Bachelors’ Hall.
“What!—Where!—How!—You don’t mean it!” they exclaimed, coming to a sudde_tand, like three pillars of snow-clad astonishment.
“Ay,” replied the doctor, who affected to be quite cool upon all occasions, and rather cooler than usual if the occasion was more than ordinaril_xciting—“ay, we _do_ mean it. Old Rogan has got the packet, and is even no_isembowelling it.”
“More than that,” interrupted the skipper, who sat smoking as usual by th_tove, with his hands in his breeches pockets—“more than that, I saw hi_issecting into the very marrow of the thing; so if we don’t storm the ol_dmiral in his cabin, he’ll go to sleep over these prosy yarns that th_overnor-in-chief writes to him, and we’ll have to whistle for our letter_ill midnight.”
The skipper’s remark was interrupted by the opening of the outer door and th_ntrance of the butler. “Mr Rogan wishes to see you, sir,” said that worthy t_he accountant.
“I’ll be with him in a minute,” he replied, as he threw off his capote an_roceeded to unwind himself as quickly as his multitudinous haps would permit.
By this time Harry Somerville and Hamilton were busily occupied in a simila_anner, while a running fire of question and answer, jesting remark an_antering reply, was kept up between the young men, from their variou_partments and the hall. The doctor was cool, as usual, and impudent. He had _abit of walking up and down while he smoked, and was thus enabled to look i_pon the inmates of the several sleeping-rooms, and make his remarks in _uiet, sarcastic manner, the galling effect of which was heightened by hi_abit of pausing at the end of every two or three words, to emit a few puff_f smoke. Having exhausted a good deal of small talk in this way, and having, moreover, finished his pipe, the doctor went to the stove to refill an_elight.
“What a deal of trouble you do take to make yourself comfortable!” said he t_he skipper, who sat with his chair tilted on its hind legs, and a pillow a_is back.
“No harm in that, doctor,” replied the skipper, with a smile.
“No harm, certainly, but it looks uncommonly lazy-like.”
“Why, putting a pillow at your back, to be sure.”
The doctor was a full-fleshed, muscular man, and owing to this fact i_attered little to him whether his chair happened to be an easy one or not. A_he skipper sometimes remarked, he carried padding always about with him; h_as, therefore, a little apt to sneer at the attempts of his brethren t_ender the ill-shaped, wooden-bottomed chairs, with which the hall wa_rnamented, bearable.
“Well, doctor,” said the skipper, “I cannot see how you make me out lazy.
Surely it is not an evidence of laziness my endeavouring to render thes_nstruments of torture less tormenting? Seeking to be comfortable, if it doe_ot inconvenience any one else, is not laziness. Why, what _is_ comfort?” Th_kipper began to wax philosophical at this point, and took the pipe from hi_outh as he gravely propounded the momentous question. “What _is_ comfort? I_ go out to camp in the woods, and after turning in find a sharp stum_ticking into my ribs on one side, and a pine root driving in the small of m_ack on the other side, is _that_ comfort? Certainly not. And if I get up, seize a hatchet, level the stump, cut away the root, and spread pine brus_ver the place, am I to be called lazy for doing so? Or if I sit down on _hair, and on trying to lean back to rest myself find that the stupid lubbe_ho made it has so constructed it that four small hard points alone touch m_erson—two being at the hip-joints and two at the shoulder-blades; and if t_elieve such physical agony I jump up and clap a pillow at my back, am I to b_alled lazy for doing _that_?”
“What a glorious entry that would make in the log!” said the doctor, in a lo_one, soliloquisingly, as if he made the remark merely for his ow_atisfaction, while he tapped the ashes out of his pipe.
The skipper looked as if he meditated a sharp reply; but his intentions, whatever they might have been, were interrupted by the opening of the door, and the entrance of the accountant, bearing under his arm a packet of letters.
A general rush was made upon him, and in a few minutes a dead silence reigne_n the hall, broken only at intervals by an exclamation of surprise or pathos, as the inmates, in the retirement of their separate apartments, peruse_etters from friends in the interior of the country and friends at home: letters that were old—some of them bearing dates many months back—and travel- stained, but new and fresh and cheering, nevertheless, to their owners, as th_lear, bright sun in winter or the verdant leaves in spring.
Harry Somerville’s letters were numerous and long. He had several from friend_n Red River, besides one or two from other parts of the Indian country, an_ne—it was very thick and heavy—that bore the post-marks of Britain. It wa_ate that night ere the last candle was extinguished in the hall, and it wa_ate, too, before Harry Somerville ceased to peruse and re-peruse the lon_etter from home, and found time or inclination to devote to his othe_orrespondents.
Among the rest was a letter from his old friend and companion, Charle_ennedy, which ran as follows:—
> _**My Dear Harry**_ ,—It really seems more than an age since I saw you. You_ast epistle, written in the perturbation of mind consequent upon being doome_o spend another winter at York Fort, reached me only a few days ago, an_illed me with pleasant recollections of other days. Oh! man, how much I wis_hat you were with me in this beautiful country! You are aware that I hav_een what they call “roughing it” since you and I parted on the shores of Lak_innipeg; but, my dear fellow, the idea that most people have of what tha_hrase means is a very erroneous one indeed. “Roughing it” I certainly hav_een, inasmuch as I have been living on rough fare, associating with roug_en, and sleeping on rough beds under the starry sky; but I assure you tha_ll this is not half so rough upon the constitution as what they call leadin_n _easy life_ , which is simply a life that makes a poor fellow stagnate, body and spirit, till the one comes to be unable to digest its food, and th_ther incompetent to jump at so much as half an idea. Anything but an eas_ife, to my mind. Ah! there’s nothing like roughing it, Harry, my boy. Why, _m thriving on it—growing like a young walrus, eating like a Canadia_oyageur, and sleeping like a top! This is a splendid country for sport, an_s our _bourgeois_ (the gentleman in charge of an establishment is alway_esignated the bourgeois) has taken it into his head that I am a good hand a_aking friends with the Indians, he has sent me out on several expeditions, and afforded me some famous opportunities of seeing life among the redskins.
There is a talk just now of establishing a new outpost in this district, so i_ succeed in persuading the governor to let me accompany the party, I shal_ave something interesting to write about in my next letter. By the way, _rote to you a month ago, by two Indians who said they were going to th_issionary station at Norway House. Did you ever get it? There is a hunte_ere just now who goes by the name of Jacques Caradoc. He is a first-rater—ca_o anything, in a wild way, that lies within the power of mortal man, and i_n inexhaustible anecdote-teller, in a quiet way. He and I have been ou_uffalo-hunting two or three times, and it would have done your heart good, Harry, my dear boy, to have seen us scouring over the prairie together on tw_ig-boned Indian horses—regular trained buffalo-runners, that didn’t need th_pur to urge, nor the rein to guide them, when once they caught sight of th_lack cattle, and kept a sharp look-out for badger-holes, just as if they ha_een reasonable creatures. The first time I went out I had several rather ugl_alls, owing to my inexperience. The fact is, that if a man has never ru_uffaloes before, he’s sure to get one or two upsets, no matter how good _orseman he may be. And that monster Jacques, although he’s the best fellow _ver met with for a hunting companion, always took occasion to grin at m_ishaps, and gravely to read me a lecture to the effect that they were al_wing to my own clumsiness or stupidity; which, you will acknowledge, was no_alculated to restore my equanimity.
> The very first run we had cost me the entire skin of my nose, and converte_hat feature into a superb Roman for the next three weeks. It happened thus.
Jacques and I were riding over the prairie in search of buffaloes. The plac_as interspersed with sundry knolls covered with trees, slips and belts o_oodland, with ponds scattered among them, and open sweeps of the plain her_nd there; altogether a delightful country to ride through. It was a clea_arly morning, so that our horses were fresh and full of spirit. They knew, a_ell as we ourselves did, what we were out for, and it was no easy matter t_estrain them. The one I rode was a great long-legged beast, as like a_ossible to that abominable kangaroo that nearly killed me at Red River; a_or Jacques, he was mounted on a first-rate charger. I don’t know how it is, but somehow or other everything about Jacques, or belonging to him, or in th_emotest degree connected with him, is always first-rate! He generally owns _irst-rate horse, and if he happens by any unlucky chance to be compelled t_ount a bad one, it immediately becomes another animal. He seems to infus_ome of his own wonderful spirit into it! Well, as Jacques and I curvette_long, skirting the low bushes at the edge of a wood, out burst a whole her_f buffaloes. Bang went Jacques’s gun, almost before I had winked to make sur_hat I saw rightly, and down fell the fattest of them all, while the res_ossed up their tails, heels, and heads in one grand whirl of indignan_mazement, and scoured away like the wind. In a moment our horses were at ful_tretch after them, on their _own_ account entirely, and without any referenc_o _us_. When I recovered my self-possession a little, I threw forward my gu_nd fired; but owing to my endeavouring to hold the reins at the same time, _early blew off one of my horse’s ears, and only knocked up the dust about si_ards ahead of us! Of course Jacques could not let this pass unnoticed. He wa_itting quietly loading his gun, as cool as a cucumber, while his horse wa_ashing forward at full stretch, with the reins hanging loosely on his neck.
> “Ah, Mister Charles,” said he, with the least possible grin on his leather_isage, “that was not well done. You should never hold the reins when yo_ire, nor try to put the gun to your shoulder. It an’t needful. The beast’l_ook arter itself, if it’s a riglar buffalo-runner; any ways, holdin’ th_eins is of no manner of use. I once know’d a gentleman that came out here t_ee the buffalo-huntin’. He was a good enough shot in his way, an’ a first- rate rider. But he was full o’ queer notions: he _would_ load his gun with th_amrod in the riglar way, instead o’ doin’ as we do, tumblin’ in a dro_owder, spittin’ a ball out your mouth down the muzzle, and hittin’ the stoc_n the pommel of the saddle to send it home. And he had them miserabl_hings—the _somethin’_ ’cussion-caps, and used to fiddle away with them whil_e were knockin’ over the cattle in all directions. Moreover, he had a notio_hat it was altogether wrong to let go his reins even for a moment, and so, what between the ramrod and the ’cussion-caps and the reins, he was worse tha_he greenest clerk that ever came to the country. He gave it up in despair a_ast, after lamin’ two horses, and finished off by runnin’ after a big bull, that turned on him all of a suddent, crammed its head and horns into the sid_f his horse, and sent the poor fellow head over heels on the green grass. H_asn’t much the worse for it, but his fine double-barrelled gun was twiste_nto a shape that would almost have puzzled an Injin to tell what it was.” Well, Harry, all the time that Jacques was telling me this we were gaining o_he buffaloes, and at last we got quite close to them, and as luck would hav_t, the very thing that happened to the amateur sportsman happened to me. _ent madly after a big bull in spite of Jacques’s remonstrances, and just as _ot alongside of him up went his tail (a sure sign that his anger was roused), and round he came, head to the front, stiff as a rock; my poor charger’s ches_ent right between his horns, and, as a matter of course, I continued the rac_pon _nothing_ , head first, for a distance of about thirty yards, and brough_p on the bridge of my nose. My poor dear father used to say I was a bull- headed rascal, and, upon my word, I believe he was more literally correct tha_e imagined; for although I fell with a fearful crash, head first, on the har_lain, I rose up immediately, and in a few minutes was able to resume th_hase again. My horse was equally fortunate, for although thus brought to _udden stand while at full gallop, he wheeled about, gave a contemptuou_lourish with his heels, and cantered after Jacques, who soon caught hi_gain. My head bothered me a good deal for some time after this accident, an_welled up till my eyes became almost undistinguishable; but a few weeks pu_e all right again. And who do you think this man Jacques is? You’d neve_uess. He’s the trapper whom Redfeather told us of long ago, and whose wif_as killed by the Indians. He and Redfeather have met, and are very fond o_ach other. How often in the midst of these wild excursions have my thought_andered to you, Harry! The fellows I meet with here are all kind-hearted, merry companions, but none like yourself. I sometimes say to Jacques, when w_ecome communicative to each other beside the camp-fire, that my earthl_elicity would be perfect if I had Harry Somerville here; and then I think o_ate, my sweet, loving sister Kate, and feel that, even although I had yo_ith me, there would still be something wanting to make things perfect.
Talking of Kate, by the way, I have received a letter from her, the firs_heet of which, as it speaks of mutual Red River friends, I herewith enclose.
Pray keep it safe, and return per first opportunity. We’ve loads of furs her_nd plenty of deer-stalking, not to mention galloping on horseback on th_lains in summer and dog-sledging in winter. Alas! my poor friend, I fear tha_t is rather selfish in me to write so feelingly about my agreeabl_ircumstances, when I know you are slowly dragging out your existence at tha_elancholy place York Fort; but believe me, I sympathise with you, and I hop_arnestly that you will soon be appointed to more genial scenes. I have much, very much, to tell you yet, but am compelled to reserve it for a futur_pistle, as the packet which is to convey this is on the point of bein_losed.
> Adieu, my dear Harry, and wherever you may happen to pitch your tent, alway_ear in kindly remembrance your old friend, _**Charles Kennedy**_.
The letter was finished, but Harry did not cease to hold intercourse with hi_riend. With his head resting on his two hands and his elbows on the table, h_at long, silently gazing on the signature, while his mind revelled in th_ast, the present, and the future. He bounded over the wilderness that la_etween him and the beautiful plains of the Saskatchewan. He seized Charle_ound the neck, and hugged and wrestled with him as in days of yore. H_ounted an imaginary charger, and swept across the plains along with him; listened to anecdotes innumerable from Jacques, attacked thousands o_uffaloes, singled out scores of wild bulls, pitched over horses’ heads an_lighted precisely on the bridge of his nose, always in close proximity to hi_ld friend. Gradually his mind returned to its prison-house, and his eye fel_n Kate’s letter, which he picked up and began to read.—It ran thus:—
> _**My Dear, Dear, Darling Charley**_ ,—I cannot tell you how much my hear_as yearned to see you, or hear from you, for many long, long months past.
Your last delightful letter, which I treasure up as the most precious object _ossess, has indeed explained to me how utterly impossible it was to hav_ritten a day sooner than you did; but that does not comfort me a bit, or mak_hose weary packets more rapid and frequent in their movements, or the tim_hat passes between the periods of hearing from you less dreary and anxious.
God bless and protect you, my darling, in the midst of all the dangers tha_urround you. But I did not intend to begin this letter by murmuring, so pra_orgive me, and I shall try to atone for it by giving you a minute account o_verybody here about whom you are interested. Our beloved father and mother, _m thankful to say, are quite well. Papa has taken more than ever to smokin_ince you went away. He is seldom out of the summer-house in the garden now, where I very frequently go, and spend hours together in reading to and talkin_ith him. He very often speaks of you, and I am certain that he misses you fa_ore than we expected, although I think he cannot miss you nearly so much as _o. For some weeks past, indeed ever since we got your last letter, papa wa_ngaged all the forenoon in some mysterious work, for he used to lock himsel_p in the summer-house—a thing he never did before. One day I went there at m_sual time, and instead of having to wait till he should unlock the door, _ound it already open, and entered the room, which was so full of smoke that _ould hardly see. I found papa writing at a small table, and the moment h_eard my footstep he jumped up with a fierce frown and shouted, “Who’s there?” in that terrible voice that he used to speak in long ago when angry with hi_en, but which he has almost quite given up for some time past. He neve_peaks to me, as you know very well, but in the kindest tones, so you ma_magine what a dreadful fright I got for a moment; but it was only for _oment, because the instant he saw that it was me his dear face changed, an_e folded me in his arms, saying, “Ah, Kate, forgive me, my darling! I did no_now it was you, and I thought I had locked the door, and was angry at bein_o unceremoniously interrupted.” He then told me he was just finishing _etter of advice to you, and going up to the table, pushed the paper_urriedly into a drawer. As he did so I guessed what had been his mysteriou_ccupation, for he seemed to have covered _quires_ of paper with the closes_riting. Ah, Charley, you’re a lucky fellow to be able to extort such lon_etters from our dear father. You know how difficult he finds it to write eve_he shortest note, and you remember his old favourite expression, “I woul_ather skin a wild buffalo bull alive than write a long letter.” He deserve_ong ones in return, Charley; but I need not urge you on that score—you are a_xcellent correspondent. Mamma is able to go out every day now for a drive i_he prairie. She was confined to the house for nearly three weeks last month, with some sort of illness that the doctor did not seem to understand, and a_ne time I was much frightened, and very, very anxious about her, she becam_o weak. It would have made your heart glad to have seen the tender way i_hich papa nursed her through the illness. I had fancied that he was the ver_ast man in the world to make a sick-nurse, so bold and quick in hi_ovements, and with such a loud, gruff voice—for it _is_ gruff, although ver_weet at the same time. But the moment he began to tend mamma he spoke mor_oftly even than dear Mr Addison does, and he began to walk about the house o_iptoe, and persevered so long in this latter that all his moccasins began t_e worn out at the toes, while the heels remained quite strong. I begged o_im often not to take so much trouble, as _I_ was naturally the proper nurs_or mamma; but he wouldn’t hear of it, and insisted on carrying breakfast, dinner, and tea to her, besides giving her all her medicine. He was for eve_aking mistakes, however, much to his own sorrow, the darling man; and I ha_o watch him pretty closely, for more than once he has been on the point o_iving mamma a glass of laudanum in mistake for a glass of port wine. I was _ood deal frightened for him at first, as, before he became accustomed to th_ork, he tumbled over the chairs and tripped on the carpets while carryin_rays with dinners and breakfasts, till I thought he would really injur_imself at last; and then he was so terribly angry with himself at making suc_ noise and breaking the dishes—I think he has broken nearly an entire dinne_nd tea set of crockery. Poor George, the cook, has suffered most from thes_ishaps—for you know that dear papa cannot get angry without letting _little_ of it out upon somebody; and whenever he broke a dish or let a tra_all, he used to rush into the kitchen, shake his fist in George’s face, an_sk him, in a fierce voice, what he meant by it. But he always got better in _ew seconds, and finished off by telling him never to mind, that he was a goo_ervant on the whole, and he wouldn’t say any more about it just now, but h_ad better look sharp out and not do it again. I must say, in praise o_eorge, that on such occasions he looked very sorry indeed, and said he hope_hat he would always do his best to give him satisfaction. This was onl_roper in him, for he ought to be very thankful that our father restrains hi_nger so much; for you know he was rather violent _once_ , and you’ve no idea, Charley, how great a restraint he now lays on himself. He seems to me quit_ike a lamb, and I am beginning to feel somehow as if we had been mistaken, and that he never was a passionate man at all. I think it is partly owing t_ear Mr Addison, who visits us very frequently now, and papa and he are ofte_hut up together for many hours in the smoking-house. I was sure that pap_ould soon come to like him, for his religion is so free from everything lik_everity or affected solemnity. The cook, and Rosa, and my dog that you name_wist, are all quite well. The last has grown into a very large and beautifu_nimal, something like the stag-hound in the picture-book we used to stud_ogether long ago. He is exceedingly fond of me, and I feel him to be quite _rotector. The cocks and hens, the cow and the old mare, are also in perfec_ealth; so now, having told you a good deal about ourselves, I will give you _hort account of the doings in the colony.
> First of all, your old friend Mr Kipples is still alive and well, and so ar_ll our old companions in the school. One or two of the latter have left, an_oung Naysmith has joined the Company’s service. Betty Peters comes very ofte_o see us, and she always asks for you with great earnestness. I think yo_ave stolen the old woman’s heart, Charley, for she speaks of you with grea_ffection. Old Mr Seaforth is still as vigorous as ever, dashing about th_ettlement on a high-mettled steed, just as if he were one of the youngest me_n the colony. He nearly poisoned himself, poor man, a month ago, by taking _ose of some kind of medicine by mistake. I did not hear what it was, but I a_old that the treatment was rather severe. Fortunately the doctor happened t_e at home when he was sent for, else our old friend would, I fear, have died.
As it was, the doctor cured him with great difficulty. He first gave him a_metic, then put mustard blisters to the soles of his feet, and afterward_ifted him into one of his own carts, without springs, in which he drove hi_or a long time over all the ploughed fields in the neighbourhood. If this i_ot an exaggerated account, Mr Seaforth is certainly made of sterner stuf_han most men. I was told a funny anecdote of him a few days ago, which I a_ure you have never heard, otherwise you would have told it to me, for ther_sed to be no secrets between us, Charley—alas! I have no one to confide in o_dvise with now that you are gone. You have often heard of the great flood; not Noah’s one, but the flood that nearly swept away our settlement and did s_uch damage before you and I were born. Well, you recollect that people use_o tell of the way in which the river rose after the breaking up of the ice, and how it soon overflowed all the low points, sweeping off everything in it_ourse. Old Mr Seaforth’s house stood at that time on the little point, jus_eyond the curve of the river, at the foot of which our own house stands, an_s the river continued to rise, Mr Seaforth went about actively securing hi_roperty. At first he only thought of his boat and canoes, which, with th_elp of his son Peter and a Canadian, who happened at the time to be employe_bout the place, he dragged up and secured to an iron staple in the side o_is house. Soon however, he found that the danger was greater than at first h_magined. The point became completely covered with water, which brought dow_reat numbers of half-drowned and quite-drowned cattle, pigs, and poultry, an_tranded them at the garden fence, so that in a short time poor Mr Seafort_ould scarcely move about his overcrowded domains. On seeing this, he drov_is own cattle to the highest land in his neighbourhood, and hastened back t_he house, intending to carry as much of the furniture as possible to the sam_lace. But during his short absence the river had risen so rapidly that he wa_bliged to give up all thoughts of this, and think only of securing a few o_is valuables. The bit of land round his dwelling was so thickly covered wit_he poor cows, sheep, and other animals, that he could scarcely make his wa_o the house, and you may fancy his consternation on reaching it to find tha_he water was more than knee-deep round the walls, while a few of the cows an_ whole herd of pigs had burst open the door (no doubt accidentally) an_oolly entered the dining-room, where they stood with drooping heads, ver_et, and apparently very miserable. The Canadian was busy at the back of th_ouse, loading the boat and canoe with everything he could lay hands on, an_as not aware of the foreign invasion in front. Mr Seaforth cared little fo_his, however, and began to collect all the things he held most valuable, an_hrew them to the man, who stowed them away in the boat. Peter had been lef_n charge of the cattle, so they had to work hard. While thus employed th_ater continued to rise with fearful rapidity, and rushed against the hous_ike a mill-race, so that it soon became evident that the whole would ere lon_e swept away. Just as they finished loading the boat and canoes, the stapl_hich held them gave way; in a moment they were swept into the middle of th_iver, and carried out of sight. The Canadian was in the boat at the time th_taple broke, so that Mr Seaforth was now left in a dwelling that bid fair t_mulate Noah’s ark in an hour or two, without a chance of escape, and with n_etter company than five black oxen in the dining-room, besides three shee_hat were now scarcely able to keep their heads above water, and three littl_igs that were already drowned. The poor old man did his best to push out th_ntruders, but only succeeded in ejecting two sheep and an ox. All the other_ositively refused to go, so he was fain to let them stay. By shutting th_uter door he succeeded in keeping out a great deal of water. Then he wade_nto the parlour, where he found some more little pigs, floating about an_uite dead. Two, however, more adventurous than their comrades, had save_heir lives by mounting first on a chair and then upon the table, where the_ere comfortably seated, gazing languidly at their mother, a very heavy fa_ow, which sat, with what seemed an expression of settled despair, on th_ofa. In a fit of wrath, Mr Seaforth seized the young pigs and tossed them ou_f the window; whereupon the old one jumped down, and half walking, hal_wimming, made her way to her companions in the dining-room. The old gentlema_ow ascended to the garret, where from a small window he looked out upon th_cene of devastation. His chief anxiety was about the foundation of the house, which, being made of a wooden framework, like almost all the others in th_olony, would certainly float if the water rose much higher. His fears wer_etter founded than the house. As he looked up the river, which had by thi_ime overflowed all its banks and was spreading over the plains, he saw _resh burst of water coming down, which, when it dashed against his dwelling, forced it about two yards from its foundation. Suddenly he remembered tha_here were a large anchor and chain in the kitchen, both of which he ha_rought there one day, to serve as a sort of anvil when he wanted to do som_lacksmith work. Hastening down, he fastened one end of the chain to the sofa, and cast the anchor out of the window. A few minutes afterwards another rus_f water struck the building, which yielded to pressure, and swung slowly dow_ntil the anchor arrested its further progress. This was only for a fe_econds, however. The chain was a slight one. It snapped, and the house swep_ajestically down the stream, while its terrified occupants cowered within it.
> For two days nothing was heard of old Mr Seaforth. Indeed, the settlers ha_oo much to do in saving themselves and their families to think of others; an_t was not until the third day that people began to inquire about him. His so_eter had taken a canoe and made diligent search in all directions, bu_lthough he found the house sticking on a shallow point, neither his fathe_or the cat was on or in it. At last he was brought to the island, on whic_early half the colony had collected, by an Indian who had passed the hous_nd brought him away in his canoe, along with the old cat. Is he not _onderful man, to have come through so much in his old age? and he is still s_ctive and hearty! Mr Swan of the mill is dead. He died of fever last week.
Poor old Mr Cordon is also gone. His end was very sad. About a month ago h_rdered his horse and rode off, intending to visit Fort Garry. At the turn o_he road, just above Grant’s House, the horse suddenly swerved, and its ride_as thrown to the ground. He did not live more than half an hour after it.
Alas! how very sad to see a man, after escaping all the countless dangers of _ong life in the woods (and his, you know, was a very adventurous one), thu_ut violently down in his old age! O Charley, how little we know what i_efore us! How needful to have our peace made with God through Jesus Christ, so that we may be ready at any moment when our Father calls us away! There ar_any events of great interest that have occurred here since you left. You wil_e glad to hear that Jane Patterson is married to our excellent friend M_ameron, who has taken up a store near to us, and intends to run a boat t_ork Fort next summer. There has been another marriage here which will caus_ou astonishment at least, if not pleasure. Old Mr Peters has married Mari_eltier! What _could_ have possessed her to take such a husband! I canno_nderstand it. Just think of her, Charley, a girl of eighteen, with a husban_f seventy-five!
At this point the writing, which was very close and very small, terminated.
Harry laid it down with a deep sigh, wishing much that Charley had thought i_dvisable to send him the second sheet also. As wishes and regrets on thi_oint were equally unavailing, he endeavoured to continue it in imagination, and was soon as deeply absorbed in following Kate through the well-remembere_cenes of Red River as he had been, a short time before, in roaming with he_rother over the wide prairies of the Saskatchewan. The increasing cold, however, soon warned him that the night was far spent. He rose and went to th_tove; but the fire had gone out, and the almost irresistible frost of thes_egions was already cooling everything in Bachelors’ Hall down to th_reezing-point. All his companions had put out their candles, and were busy, doubtless, dreaming of the friends whose letters had struck and reawakened th_ong-dormant chords that used to echo to the tones and scenes of other days.
With a slight shiver, Harry returned to his apartment, and kneeled to than_od for protecting and preserving his absent friends, and especially fo_ending him “good news from a far land.” The letter with the British post- marks on it was placed under his pillow. It occupied his waking and sleepin_houghts that night, and it was the first thing he thought of and re-read o_he following morning, and for many mornings afterwards. Only those can full_stimate the value of such letters who live in distant lands, where letter_re few—very, very few—and far between.