Read Solemn Vows Online

Authors: Don Gutteridge

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Historical, #General

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows
Number II of
Marc Edwards
Don Gutteridge
Touchstone (2003)
Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Historical, General
Fictionttt Mystery & Detectivettt Historicalttt Generalttt

A search for a man armed with a rifle that hasn't been shot since the war of 1812 leads to an investigation that takes Marc Edwards from a newspaper office into the mansions of the Family Compact, and even to the local brewery, as the clues he uncovers point closer and closer to home.

Now lieutenant in charge of security at Government House in Toronto, Marc Edwards is eager for action in both his personal and professional life. His letters to Beth Smallman in Crawford Corners have gone unanswered and writing speeches for Lieutenant Governor Francis Bond Head is not the stuff of excitement. Then, during an election speech by Bond Head, a shot fells a government minister sitting just behind him and Marc on the hustings. Marc's troop gallops after an armed man who flees the scene, killing him when he points his rifle at Marc's chest. Then they discover that the rifle has not been fired since the war of 1812.

Mortified by his troop's mistake, Marc accepts the help of Horatio Cobb, one of Toronto's three constables in its brand new police force. He also accepts the affections of Eliza Dewart-Smythe, who is almost, but not quite, as beguiling as Beth. His investigation takes him from William Lyon Mackenzie's newspaper office into the mansions of the Family Compact, and to the local brewery, as the clues he uncovers point closer and closer to home.  





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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Copyright © 2003 by Don Gutteridge


Originally published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd.


All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Touchstone Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.


This Touchstone export edition January 2011


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ISBN 978-1-4391-6370-2

ISBN 978-1-4391-7267-4 (ebook)

For Bob and George Clark
and their many enthusiasms


Solemn Vows
is wholly a work of fiction, but I have endeavoured to convey in it the spirit of the period and the political tensions that led to the Rebellion of 1837. The statements, actions, and character traits attributed to actual historical personages referred to herein—Sir Francis Bond Head, William Lyon Mackenzie, Allan MacNab—are fictitious, and readers will have to make up their own minds as to whether such characterizations are consistent with the historical record. (For the record, Head did dissolve the Legislative Assembly abruptly in 1836, he did campaign vigorously in the ensuing election, and he generally ignored advice from the colonial secretary.) All other main characters are the invention of the author, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.

While Danby’s Crossing is fictitious—as are the taverns and domiciles of the characters—the streets, landscape, and public buildings of Toronto in 1836 have been depicted as faithfully as my research would allow. Of particular value in this regard were: Gerald M. Craig,
Upper Canada: The Formative Years, 1784-1841;
Sir Francis Bond Head,
J.M.S. Careless,
Toronto to 1918;
G.P. de T. Glaze-brook,
The Story of Toronto;
William Denby,
Lost Toronto;
and Lucy Booth Martyn,
The Face of Early Toronto
. Any errors of fact in the novel, deliberate or otherwise, are my own.


I would like to thank the members of my “focus group” for their encouragement and sustained support: Gene Burdenuk, Bob Clark, George Clark, John Gutteridge, Stan Atherton, Gerry Parker, Ian Underhill, George Martell, and Jean McKay.

Thanks also are due to my agent, Beverley Slopen, for her tireless effort and wise counsel, and to Jan Walter, my editor for this edition, for her sensitive reading of the manuscript.



n June of 1836, the British colony of Upper Canada was once again in turmoil.

The farmers of the province, still nursing their many unresolved grievances against the ruling Tory elite, had pinned their hopes for reform on the newly appointed lieutenant-governor, Sir Francis Bond Head. There were two important features that recommended him in their eyes: he was a Whig appointment after a long line of Tory nominees, and unlike his predecessor, Sir John Colborne, he was not a military man. In fact, he was an assistant commissioner of the Poor Laws and a travel writer with administrative experience in South America.

But their hopes were soon dashed. Head decided almost immediately that the Reform Party was the real problem, infiltrated as it was by republican sympathizers like William Lyon Mackenzie who were openly advocating annexation to the United States. Head soon offered a drastic solution to the political stalemate wherein a Reform-controlled (and elected) Assembly routinely had its reformist bills vetoed in the Tory-controlled (and appointed) Legislative Assembly. When Reform members of the Executive Council had the effrontery to resign en masse at this thwarting of responsible government, Head dissolved the Assembly. He then called new spring elections, with a view to having Tories elected in the majority in that chamber.

Moreover, he infuriated the Reformers by campaigning on behalf of the Tories, whom he renamed the Constitutionist Party. The implications were clear and were hammered home on the hustings in rally after rally: a vote for the Constitutionists was a vote for the Crown, while a vote for the Reform Party was tantamount to treason. The meddling of the lieutenant-governor in the colony’s politics was forbidden by law, but Head justified his actions by claiming that the future of British North America was in peril, especially with rumours of similar, serious unrest in the sister province of Lower Canada.

Whatever the outcome of the election, the process itself was bound to heighten tensions and invite even greater dangers.



June 1836


ieutenant Marc Edwards wiped the sweat off his brow with the sleeve of his tunic, but not before a rivulet had slid into his left eye and two greasy drops had plopped onto the shako cap cupped between his knees. The afternoon sun of a cloudless June day was pouring a relentless heat down upon the hustings and its well-fed, overdressed occupants.

Surely, Marc thought, the grandees of Danby’s Crossing (or pompous old Danby himself) could have had the foresight to erect the rickety political scaffolding under the shade
of the maple trees drooping at the northwest corner of the square, or at least close enough to Danby’s Inn for its two-storey veranda to provide some merciful relief. Such was not the case, however—here or anywhere else in the backwater province of Upper Canada, where, it seemed to Marc, elections were considered life- and- death affairs, and high seriousness and bodily suffering prime virtues. And such discomforts invariably included a shaky platform groaning with dignitaries, each of whom managed to “say a few words” in as many sentences as were consonant with their social standing or the patience of the throngs.

At the moment, Garfield Danby, the self- appointed chairman of the day’s proceedings, was droning away at what he took to be a stirring introduction of the guest speaker, Sir Francis Bond Head, lieutenant-governor of the province, who was seated next to Marc directly behind the podium. As Marc gazed out at the dusty square and the several hundred people gathered there on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon in the middle of the haying season, he marvelled at their perseverance, their dogged insistence on hearing every word offered them, as if words themselves might somehow right their many grievances against the King’s representatives, grievances that had bedevilled the colony for half a generation.

Not two days ago, many of these same folk—farmers, shopkeepers, dray men, and their wives or sweethearts—had stood in this same spot to listen to platitudes from politicians
of both parties, right-wing Constitutionists (as the Tories were now styling themselves) and left-wing Reformers. And today they had come back to hear the most powerful man in the province, King William’s surrogate in this far corner of his realm. They came to listen and, from what Marc had learned about them in the twelve months since his arrival in Toronto, to judge. Hence their willingness to stand quietly during Danby’s ill-grammared maundering. Sir Francis would speak, eventually—if the heat didn’t liquefy them all before sundown.

Marc could hear the governor shuffling the several pages of notes he had prepared with the help of his military secretary, old Major Titus Burns, and of Marc, who was now his principal aide- de- camp. This speech, like all the others over the past week, would simply repeat his unvarying themes: public order before any redress of acknowledged complaints; a stable government to assure justice and to effect lasting reforms; a purging of extremists of both left and right (Sir Francis being, after all, a Whig appointment in a Tory domain); reiteration of His Majesty’s opposition to republicanism and the “American party” led by William Lyon Mackenzie; and a direct appeal to the common sense of the yeomen who peopled the colony and whose roots lay deep in the soil of the motherland. With Major Burns’s rheumatism acting up more frequently, Sir Francis had been calling more and more upon Marc, whose days as a law student had left him proficient in English, to help him in
speech writing and, on occasion, to draft official letters to the colonial secretary in London, Lord Glenelg.

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